The Pain Game

Instead of mentally projecting your mentalism thoughts, type them here.

Postby John Archer » 03/18/09 04:26 PM

I thought I would give you guys the heads up on a new effect form Jon Allen. I admit from the start that I am biased, he's a friend (Yes I'm the one) but it is a true and honest little pre-release review... I promise. Since I don't think this is getting advertised anywhere, well not at the moment anyway, you can at least start asking questions and checking it out for yourselves. If I am not allowed to do this then I'm sure Mr Kaufman will quickly delete the post and I apologise in advance if that is the case.

The Pain Game Jon Allen.
Reviewed by John Archer.

I admit to never having been a fan of the spiked trick. You know the one I mean where a spike or knife etc is placed under a bag or cover with a few similar empty bags/covers, and then a hand, or worse still the hand of a spectator is slammed down onto them, leaving just one. The idea being that the magician skillfully avoids the said spiky thing. Oh if that were only true.

There are several things wrong with the many versions of this effect on the market. Up until now I think Scott Alexanders Shattered was the closest thing to a good solution, avoiding the following observations but for me still not looking quite right.

Firstly it can so easily go wrong, as You Tube will so joyously attest to, on numerous occasions. No matter how careful some people are, there is still a chance of brain freeze and suddenly the voice in the head that is saying avoid that one is unwittingly translated to thats the one and bam, coins through the hand has suddenly become an easier option.

Secondly, the prop appears to be what it is, a prop. Namely it is something manufactured specifically to be used to perform the effect. So doesnt that tell us that perhaps it was made for the purpose of deception?

Finally, or thirdly for those who are counting, the method seems to be obvious. Since the magician chooses which bag or cover to avoid, the obvious answer is the right answer; the magician must know which bag or cover has the spike under it. The spectators may not know exactly how the magician knows but they know that s/he knows.

So along comes The Pain Game by Jon Allen. I can honestly say that it is the first and only version of this type of effect that I would consider using. It avoids all of the above issues. Here is a brief outline of the effect. The magician shows a thin rectangle of wood with a hole in the centre through which a 6-inch nail is passed making it stick up in the air (A makeshift spike if you like.) This is placed into a bag and the top folded over. Three other bags are shown to contain just a block of wood. The bags are mixed by the magician and a spectator so that no one knows where the nail is. A spectator then selects bags for the magician to slam his or her hand upon. The magician successfully avoids the pain until one bag remains. This bag is opened and the nail and block are fairly removed.

Things to note are:

THIS IS 100% SAFE. Ill say that again THIS IS 100% SAFE. Nothing can go wrong. It is impossible to spike yourself or indeed a spectator if you chose to use that slightly sadistic presentation. While other versions claim to be 100% safe they are not accident-proof. This is.

The items look perfectly natural. A 6-inch nail, four blocks of wood and 4 bags.

The spectator chooses the bags that you slam your hand on. So the idea that you know where the spike is becomes redundant. There is mystery.

The nail is a solid six-inch nail and can be shown as such before and after the effect.

It really is a great effect. It is certainly not cheap for a few reasons: you get a lot of prop for your money; you wont have to cancel any gigs through injury or face any lawsuits; its not going to be an effect that every magic club rookie is going to be performing. I dont think anyone will be disappointed with their purchase. This is also not something you will look at and think Oooooh, I could have made this up myself.

The DVD is professionally shot and everything is explained in detail. There is a studio performance along with a live performance (stay tuned till after the credits). There are subtleties to enhance the effect and a variation on the basic routine. Jons inimitable sense of humour appears throughout without detracting from the explanations.

I thoroughly recommend it. The Pain Game - ironically titled since the one thing there will never be is pain. Take a look at an early performance of the effect by Jon on youtube here

Name: The Pain Game
Price: 299 / $499
Comes with: Everything needed to perform the routine plus an instructional DVD.
Available SOON from and astute magic dealers.
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Postby Dick Christian » 03/18/09 06:43 PM

I assume that everything you have said is true re: it being 100% failsafe. And after watching the video agree that the mixing by both performer and audience member and subsequent selection of the bags to be smashed overcomes the presentational weaknesses noted in other such routines. Ergo, for those who favor such routines, this version beats the others I've seen -- with the single exception of the guy who is among those who first popularized such effects in the 1960s or 70's, Larry Becker with his Russian Roulette with real pistols and live (albeit blank) .38 caliber ammunition, which even sans bullets could easily kill him if he should put the wrong gun in his ear. I must admit that when I saw Larry do this in the early 1990s, like everyone else, I was on the edge of my seat.

All of the foregoing notwithstanding, IMO there is something inherently wrong with all such effects. While no one will deny that they have elements of both suspense and fear about them, they still lack what, at least to me, is the essential ingredient of all mentalism; i.e., that the effect must retain at least some degree of credibility so that the audience continue to believe that it just MIGHT be "real" -- even after the thrill of the performance is over. Admittedly, the use of a spike/nail will only result in serious injury to the performer rather than death as in the case of a loaded gun. Nevertheless -- even despite the fact that some idiots have actually screwed it up and put a spike through their hand -- unless something goes wrong and that happens, the audience is drawn to the inescapable conclusion that it is nothing more than "a trick." A thrilling one perhaps, but still just "a trick," because who but a fool -- no matter how large his fee -- would really risk death or serious harm just to entertain the onlookers. And it seems to me that doing something that can ONLY be preceived as "a trick" is the very antithesis of what a mentalist hopes to achieve. Even though no claims of "special powers" are made, and despite the fact that a certain percentage of the audience will assume that the demonstrations were accomplished through trickery it seems to me that, absent specific disclaimer, the goal should be to at least leave them wondering whether or not it just MIGHT be real after all.

At least that's what I hope to achieve in my performances and I neither make any claims, nor do I offer any disclaimers. I prefer to just do it and let the observers come to their own conclusions.

Just my $0.02.
Last edited by Dick Christian on 03/18/09 06:48 PM, edited 0 times in total.
Reason: correct typos
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Postby John Archer » 03/18/09 08:11 PM

I agree with that I think Dick. With many danger type routines the challenge is to give it credibility or believability. I have thought about doing this as a control type of effect in as much as I maybe do know where the spike is but affect their choices so as to avoid the spike. But then I suppose the question becomes, would I have slammed my hand down on the spike if I had failed to control the choices correctly?
Alternatively it could be simple presented as a trick but then as you say, do the audience feel cheated out of a real danger?

Food for thought.

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Postby Jon Allen » 03/19/09 05:49 AM

The routine in the video was rushed as I was overrunning in the lecture. My normal presentation is about fate and how every day we rely on others for our safety. Whether it is driving in a car,eating in a restaurant, dealing with electrical applicances, or just walking down the street. No matter how safe we think we are, it is other people's actions that dictate our safety.

With this in mind, I say that I will put my safety in the hands of someone else or maybe three other people.
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Postby Dick Christian » 03/19/09 09:25 AM

Both John and Jon make valid points. The fact remains that when all -- and no matter what -- is said and done, the thought in the minds of the audience is, inevitably, "TRICK!" -- and mentalism, mind control or whatever goes right out the window. (Unless of course the performer DOES stab himself, in which case the thought is "IDIOT!")
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Postby Ross Johnson » 03/21/09 12:36 PM


Your two-cents is worth more than the price of any of these routines.
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Postby Dick Christian » 03/21/09 06:49 PM


That comment from one of mentalism's living legends is the probably the highest compliment I've received lately. Thank you.
Last edited by Dick Christian on 03/21/09 06:50 PM, edited 0 times in total.
Reason: remove redundancy
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Postby Brad Henderson » 03/22/09 09:31 PM

While I agree there are many reasons not to perform this kind of effect, I can attest that - having performed it for at least 8 years now, for select audiences - that you can present it in a manner which does not lead audiences to think it is a trick.

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Postby John Bowden » 03/31/09 11:25 AM

Having read this thread, watched the video and reread the thread I wasn't inspired towards the effect UNTIL I witnessed Jon Allen perform the routine LIVE in Ireland last weekend. Now I am converted and the proud owner of "The Pain Game"

It was peformed during his Gala show appearance using a woman from the audience who was not in any way involved in magic and whose concern about the outcome was genuine and sincere.

Jon orchastrated the whole senario with the directional skills of "Alfred Hitchcock" and most audience members, (myself included ....who knew there wasn't any real danger...........or was there?) thought this just could go wrong and Jon might get hurt.

There was an additional emotional involvement present on the night that hasn't been explore by anyone here yet and that is the empthy that the audience felt with the female volunteer and how she would feel if through her descion Jon had an accident.

Reasuring her of no blame or responsibility may actually have added to her having those feelings.

I would urge anyone who want to see this routine LIVE to get Jon for a lecture and performance and it will change the way you look at these type of routines for the rest of your life.

Get him for a lecture and it will change the way you look at magic for the rest of your life.

Cheers from the Emerald Isle
John Bowden...................the Irish Magician
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