"Too Perfect" Revisited with Faucett Ross

Discuss the historical aspects of magic, including memories, or favorite stories.

Postby Guest » 02/17/02 05:39 PM

While looking through the Faucett Ross book tonight, I ran across this good story from the chapter "Faucett Ross Remembers", pp 160 - 161:

STILL TOO GOOD

I remember doing a show in a rural High School some years ago and one of the tricks I featured was the familiar 'Coin in the Ball of Wool'...

On this particular occasion, I asked for the loan of a half-dollar. A gent volunteered, so I asked him to mark his half dollar with his pen knife, look at the date on it, etc., so he would be sure to know it again.

I wrapped the coin in a handerchief, asked him to hold it, then caused it to vanish...

I asked him to unravel the ball of wool, at which time I walked away from him.

So he unravelled the ball of wool and on the inside found two nested little nickel-plated boxes. The innermost one was locked and I handed him a key so that he could unlock it himself.

I said, "Will you look inside the box, Sir?...Do you find a half dollar in the box?" He said, "I do."

"I want you to look at that half dollar carefully, then tell the audience if it is the same half dollar that you lent me."

Well, he removed the coin from the box, looked at it very carefully and said, "I'm sorry, brother, but it's not the same half."

I said, "What do you mean?" He said, "Well, there was a half dollar in the box but it's not the same one I lent you." [As much as I tried, he would not admit it was the same coin.]

[After the show, I asked him why he said that.]

He looked at me and said, "Look, I'm not going to argue with you but I know positively that it wasn't the one I lent you. My commonsense tells me that you do not have supernatural powers and are not a miracle man...that half dollar vanished out of the handkerchief - you walked completely away. I unravelled the ball of wool with my own hands - you weren't even close. I picked up the boxes, unlocked the inside box with my own hands. You had no opportunity of doing any sleight of hand and, brother, it would take a miracle to have my coin inside that box! My commonsense and logic tell me it couldn't be the same coin, so I could not conscientiously admit that it was. Furthermore, I won't argue about it!" And he walked away.

That was the end of that!

I remember an old timer once told me, "Never make tricks look too marvellous." Well, if that experience meant anything, the old timer must have been right!


[Steve H]
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Postby Guest » 02/17/02 11:51 PM

This is a great ancedote but I've always thought the story was a poor argument against "Too Perfect" effects.

The man was a perfect example of someone who is surer of everything than he ought to be of anything. The coin was his and yet he would rather lie than admit to being fooled.

An honest man would have said "This can't be possible but this coin appears identical to the one I marked!"

Some people believe what they believe and refuse to be bothered with facts.

It's not an arguement for the Too Perfect Theory it's an arguement for choosing helpers more carefully. We should all look for helpers who aren't so threatened by simple magic tricks.

The phrase "common sense" I think, says it all. Common sense is what tells you the sun revolves around the earth!


;)

[ February 17, 2002: Message edited by: Bill Duncan ]
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Postby Larry Horowitz » 02/18/02 10:01 AM

There is a lesson here about audience response to a question. To get the needed results, you must frame your question. Instead of,Is this your coin? The question should have been is this your mark or signature on the coin? It gets the same point across to the audience, with an answer the spectator can give regardless of what his commen sense tells him.
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Postby Brian Marks » 02/18/02 11:37 AM

I agree with the replies. The man refused to admit it was his coin is not an argument for the too perfect theory. Either pick someone more cooperative or present it better.
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Postby Guest » 02/18/02 04:48 PM

This anecdote, aside from its obvious lessons about choosing volunteers from the audience, may also contain less obvious lessons about how much of a trick's impact we leave to those volunteers in the first place.

Even if the person had said "Yes! It's my coin? Oh my god that's impossible!" this trick may still not gather the desired response. Think of what the audience sees: A man comes from the audience. Marks a coin. It vanishes. He opens a box and tells the audience that his coin is inside it.

Virtually everything that is important in this trick is communicated to the audience by the volunteer simply saying it. No audience member can see the coin clearly. None can see the mark he made clearly. No one can see that the coin that came out of the box has the same mark. Even if they could see it clearly they probably couldn't tell that it is for sure the same mark.

And so, in this trick, all you and your volunteer do is TELL the audience that a miracle has occured. What the audience actually sees is nothing miraculous at all.

This is, for these reasons, a very poor trick for anything other than the most intimate close-up venues where everyone can see the coin and/or knows the volunteer personally.

In any other conditions, even if the volunteer does everything you wish, which will be easier for your audience to believe: that the coin passed into the impossibly locked box, or that the volunteer is a stooge?
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Postby Ruben Padilla » 02/19/02 04:25 PM

For those of you who just skimmed over Pete's post, please read it again. There's a lot of lessons in them thar' paragraphs. Thanks Pete. Aside from being a good guy, you're consistently one of the brightest posters (posters?) on this site. (Now if only I would post more... ;)
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Postby Guest » 02/19/02 08:07 PM

As proof that there is, indeed, a Too-Perfect issue lurking within this story, see Tommy Wonder's discussion of methods for the "Watch in the Nest of Boxes" and the too-perfect theory in "The Books of Wonder". There, he relates almost the same story about a man who refused to believe it was his watch.

The scary thing is, Tommy suggests that one solution would be to have the spectator mark his watch in some way. What you're telling us is even that isn't enough.

If they held the watch the whole time, and in the end, they were inside the smallest box, too, would that be "too perfect"?
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