So how deceptive is the balloon swallow, really?

Discuss your favorite platform magic and illusions.

Postby Ross Welford » 02/11/12 07:20 PM

I did this in a show for a large audience recently. My nine year old son was in the audience. His friends told him that the balloon had deflated as it went into my mouth and I had either swallowed it or spat it out secretly.

Guess that one isn't staying in the show.

Are people really mystified by this or is it just too impossible, thus leading even nine year olds to the right conclusion?
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Postby Brad Henderson » 02/11/12 07:50 PM

I was at a faire that Johnny fox performed it at. It's the only thing people were talking about. I saw bro Paul do it at a mystery school and it looked great. Maybe it's one of those tricks like the zombie or linking ring, Simple to execute in one sense, but hard to make look convincing without a lot or practice and evaluation? I tried it a couple of times and knew it to look unconvincing when I did it.
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Postby Ian Kendall » 02/11/12 08:05 PM

I know a lot of people who do this on the street, and I've seen it many times. Most of the time it gets a fantastic reaction, but it's one of those things that is easy to do badly.
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Postby Ross Welford » 02/11/12 08:39 PM

Well I certainly put in the practice! I wonder what makes the difference between doing it well and poorly (as I am prepared to admit I may well have done!). I too have seen it done very well and when I saw it done, while I knew he wasn't actually shoving it down his throat, the mechanics of it eluded me. I was fooled I loved the trick and encouraged me to put it in the act! Once.
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Postby Jeff Haas » 02/11/12 09:41 PM

Lots of tricks can be busted by smart nine-year-olds. Then they grow out of it.
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Postby Dustin Stinett » 02/11/12 10:37 PM

Like anything, it's about the performer. John Archer and Mark Kornhauser kill with it.
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Postby Steven Keyl » 02/12/12 12:26 AM

Brad Henderson wrote:I was at a faire that Johnny fox performed it at. It's the only thing people were talking about. I saw bro Paul do it at a mystery school and it looked great. Maybe it's one of those tricks like the zombie or linking ring, Simple to execute in one sense, but hard to make look convincing without a lot or practice and evaluation? I tried it a couple of times and knew it to look unconvincing when I did it.


I've seen Johnny Fox at the MD ren faire at least a dozen times and the balloon swallow looks very convincing, which fits right in with the rest of his act which is equally compelling. He's a great performer.
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Postby Brad Henderson » 02/12/12 02:25 AM

I think maintaing a straight 'line' from the visible balloon down the esophagus helps. When it looks like the balloon is bending at am angle, no so convincing. Maybe.

I think speed is also important. Fast enough so it seems like it is sliding. I've seen guy take too long with each 'slide' and the rythym of the alleged motion seems off.

The physical handling should convey that the leading edge of the motion is traveling down the esophagus. A lot of times it feels like the performers energy is directed to 'getting it in the mouth'. That may not make sense. It's a mime ish thing I'm trying to convey. I think the actions of the hands "pushing something into your mouth' would look different than those needed for 'sliding something
Down your throat.

And I don't think a lot of performers consider how they want their audiences to feel about/react to it. Suspense? Grossed out? Laughter? Uncomfortableness?

While the effect is clear: the performer swallows an inflated balloon - the intention behind the effect - the desired feelingful response - is often unclear. Usually from the performing sending mixed signals.
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Postby Tom Stone » 02/12/12 02:30 AM

It also depends on how you end the trick. This is one way that is seldom seen:
http://www.metacafe.com/watch/3179/amaz ... n_swallow/
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Postby Jonathan Townsend » 02/12/12 02:50 AM

Any way to get a duplicate out of ones sleeve afterwards?
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Postby Q. Kumber » 02/12/12 06:35 AM

It fooled the heck out of me the first few times I saw it.

Jeff Haas wrote:Lots of tricks can be busted by smart nine-year-olds. Then they grow out of it.


I've done the centre-tear thousands of times and once had a ten year-old describe the principle. It was the Koran tear I was using then. Whether he was extremly bright or had read it somewhere I don't know. In case some wag points out that perhaps I fluffed it, I didn't. The kid spoke of the principle, not the sequence.


Steven Keyl wrote: I've seen Johnny Fox at the MD ren faire at least a dozen times and the balloon swallow looks very convincing, which fits right in with the rest of his act which is equally compelling. He's a great performer.


I can see how balloon swallowing would fit in with a renaissance set, considering how popular it was back then. ;)
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Postby mrgoat » 02/12/12 07:31 AM

I always thought it was a gag. I didn't think anyone actually ever thought the balloon was swallowed. But if anyone *could* do it I could get them a lot of work in my industry.
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Postby Jeff Eline » 02/12/12 09:44 AM

mrgoat wrote:I always thought it was a gag. I didn't think anyone actually ever thought the balloon was swallowed. But if anyone *could* do it I could get them a lot of work in my industry.


I think THIS was on the Playboy Channel.
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Postby Richard Kaufman » 02/12/12 02:04 PM

That video clip is just what everyone else is doing: NOT swallowing the balloon. But I have seen this genuinely done.

Decades ago, I was watching the Robyn Bird show on a Manhattan Cable channel. It was amazing the stuff they let go through when public access cable first started. Anyway, there was a stripper--a petite blond named "Candy Kiss"--who swallowed the balloon except for a few inches, then brought it back out again. You could clearly see her throat swell when the balloon passed through it.

The only way you can prove it's not a deflation gag is by bringing the whole balloon back out. Somewhere, someone is doing it.
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Postby Tom Stone » 02/12/12 02:35 PM

Richard Kaufman wrote:The only way you can prove it's not a deflation gag is by bringing the whole balloon back out.

As seen in the link I posted on the previous page...
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Postby Richard Kaufman » 02/12/12 03:01 PM

Ah! Tom, I missed your post with that link, but that's exactly what I meant.

Of course, bringing the balloon back out turns it from a trick into a demonstration not unlike sword swallowing. I guess.
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Postby Jonathan Pendragon » 02/13/12 03:39 AM

The first time I saw it I realized what was happening, but then my arrow through the heart accident made me better acquainted with the capacity of my internal organs. Even if you reproduce the balloon, I think the more important question is can you (and your audience) deal with the overt sexual symbolism. The Pendragons could never be accused of avoiding sexual symbolism, but this is so in your face (NPI). I have watched the audience during performances by several different magicians and they are clearly uncomfortable, so much so that I doubt they care how it's done. This isn't because of suspension of disbelief, but rather shock. When performed by a female magician the shock is more like lewd appreciation. I don't think either "quality" is something one should strive for.
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Postby El Harvey Oswald » 02/13/12 03:25 PM

"Like anything, it's about the performer."

Like anything, it also has some inherent qualities that aren't performer-contingent.
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Postby Brad Henderson » 02/13/12 06:34 PM

I have mixed feelings about reproducing the balloon.first, I don't think the question 'do they really believe' is fair. Do they really believe the coin disappeared? No - but we can get then to believe that the coin was placed into the hand. When it is then shown empty, they have possibilities to entertain and a smart magician tried to lead then away from the 'its a trick' response

As the balloon is being swallowed, I think a good performance can convey the illusion that the ballon is being swallowed. And if the audience is famiar with sword swallowers, or Linda Lovelace, there is the possibility for belief. Thrusting a balloon down one's throat is possible.

Up until that moment, the audience is theoretically with you and witnessing a side show stunt.

When you simple stop there and show your mouth empty - the audience is put into a weird state which if intentional can have merit. Is he just going to leave it down there? Did he swallow it? Will he poop it out? Did he really do it? Did I really see what I think I saw?

All of these are valid magic feelings to leave someone with.

If you were to pull it out of one's mouth, then you have demonstrated sword swallowing. Also not a bad feeling.

But I wonder if any other production doesnt leave the audience thinking 'oh, it was a trick.'

That, to me, is a less than satisfactory feeling with which to leave an audience.

I would rather intentionally leave them in a state of 'wonder' than leading them to 'trick.'.
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Postby Christopher Lyle » 02/14/12 12:01 AM

I use this all the time and I always get a great reaction with it. Here I am doing this on KHOU's morning show in Houston last year:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yv-ebKbrkdU

As you can hear, the anchor's were blown away...
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Postby Richard Kaufman » 02/14/12 12:19 AM

If the balloon disappears into your gullet, then it's a trick.

If the balloon is withdrawn from your mouth, then it's a sexual joke.

If you're a magician, you don't pull the balloon out.
If you're a stripper, pull the balloon out.
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Postby Dustin Stinett » 02/14/12 01:58 AM

Note to self: Add pulling the balloon out to the bit.
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Postby Bill Duncan » 02/14/12 03:11 AM

The first time I saw this I was taken in by the illusion.

The problem is that the deception isn't deep. There is only one secret, and if that veil is lifted all is revealed.

It suffers from "how else?" syndrome.
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Postby Brad Henderson » 02/14/12 12:18 PM

If you pull it out from your mouth, you are a sword swallower (or performing a sexual act, which may not be that much of a difference.)

If you pull it out from anywhere BUT the mouth, the entire process Is a trick.

If you don't pull it out, the audience will be left to wonder if it was real or a trick.

(and this is based on observing audiences reactions after seeing fox and other well executed performances).

People believe the needles are real. Which is a harder idea to swallow - a man swallows a balloon (We know sword swallowers exist, and kids swallow objects all the time which eventually pass) or the someone swallows needles and threads and can thread them inside the body?

First time i was around the balloon swallow I heard several people express that they thought jt was real, and assumed once inside he had a way of popping the balloon and just swallowed it. They bought it.
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Postby Steven Keyl » 02/15/12 10:21 AM

Johnny Fox handles it by swallowing the balloon and then takes a sword and starts to swallow it at which point the balloon pops. Granted, it is an indirect proof that the balloon was legitimately swallowed but it resonates with the spectators. Based on the reactions I doubt even 1 in 100 would say he didn't really swallow the balloon.
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Postby Jonathan Townsend » 02/15/12 10:28 AM

Well at least so far it's not coming back up containing a selected card or the previously swallowed water and goldfish.
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Postby Richard Kaufman » 03/04/12 01:24 PM

It's really not much different than sword swallowing, is it? I have done neither.
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Postby chipper35 » 03/18/12 12:06 AM

I don't think I get a vote: the only way I've ever seen it done was badly.
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Postby goochelaarjan » 07/24/12 07:54 AM

"If you don't pull it out, the audience will be left to wonder if it was real or a trick.

First time i was around the balloon swallow I heard several people express that they thought jt was real, and assumed once inside he had a way of popping the balloon and just swallowed it. They bought it."


When I saw it the first time I found it pretty interesting. I took Brad's third option: not getting it out again for multiple reasons. So it it goes in, what's the audience thinking? Exactly! That's what I used as 'part 2' and added a gag to make it comedy.

Here is my first TV-performance with this (bare with me, it's 10 years old...) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2hVDyMUZxGA
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Postby Alan Bursky » 04/02/13 06:09 AM

See Fielding West do it!
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Postby John LeBlanc » 04/02/13 08:10 PM

I second Alan's suggestion. (The two DVD set by Fielding is one of my favorite magic DVD sets.)
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Postby John LeBlanc » 04/02/13 08:40 PM

goochelaarjan wrote:Here is my first TV-performance with this


Funny.
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Postby Steve Bryant » 04/02/13 10:42 PM

I have only seen it done well, I have always enjoyed it, and it has always fooled me. I don't know *exactly* how it is done.
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