Salem Mishap

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Postby Guest » 07/21/06 04:38 AM

Charles Spencer is a well-known theatre critic for the Daily Telegraph (UK). He recently witnessed a magical impalement trick that backfired.

Are these mishaps rare ?
I recall Chris Angel performing a similar routine on an American Morning show. He did a very convincing job as his hand smashed down on the polystyrene cups. He made it look real. As if he could be risking injury.

What might have gone wrong for Marc?
Or is it all part of the show?

The night it went painfully wrong
Charles Spencer reviews Marc Salem: On Second Thoughts at the Tricycle Theatre
"The astonishing mind-reader Marc Salem may well be having second thoughts about his first night at the Tricycle Theatre in Kilburn. Though the auditorium was air-conditioned, the audience seemed stupefied with heat, and things didn't go with their customary zing.
Salem, a plump, bearded professorial American who, making no concessions to the weather, was dressed in a dark, double-breasted three-piece suit, was repeatedly turned down when he sought volunteers. Worse still, several of those who did mount the stage seemed unable to follow the simplest instructions.
Nevertheless, Salem still pulled off some amazing stunts. He memorises a whole deck of cards in seconds, splits it in two, and is able to tell each of the two volunteers exactly what cards they are holding.
He is also able - merely by mental suggestion and the non-verbal communication in which he is an acknowledged world expert - to thwart the contestants in their ambition to pick a briefcase which holds the combination to a safe containing 20,000.
He also has a nice line in dry humour and performs many similar tricks to the more famous Derren Brown without the tedious self-glorification and showbiz hype of the latter. He can stop his own, and other people's, pulses apparently at will, move the hands on someone's watch without touching it, and predict the headline a punter will choose, apparently entirely randomly, from a newspaper.
But things went badly wrong when Simon, a cognitive therapist, volunteered to go on stage. There seemed to be an instant antipathy between the pair, perhaps because Salem gave the impression that he didn't have a particularly high regard for this branch of psychology. Simon seemed miffed, sullen and slow on the uptake. Unfortunately this was the moment when Salem chose to inject an element of danger into the proceedings.
"People sometimes say my show doesn't have enough edge," he confessed, and if you compare his tricks with the stunts of, say, David Blaine, you might think they have a point.
So Salem has a new trick up his sleeve - a sharp kitchen knife which the volunteer fits, blade upwards, into any one of three slots on a block of wood. The three slots are then covered with numbered styrofoam cups. Salem then repeatedly asks whether the knife is under cup 1, 2, or 3.
The volunteer has to answer "yes" in each case, but presumably our mentalist can deduce by manner of delivery and tone of voice which cup contains the knife. He then smashes the other two cups with his fist, before triumphantly revealing the knife underneath the third.
Only on this occasion it didn't work out like that. Cup one was satisfactorily crushed, but with the second, the Salem fist encountered cold sharp steel. Ouch! He took it bravely, went off stage and bandaged up his bleeding hand, then his producer came on and bandaged it up some more while a sweet young boy in the audience volunteered a plaster.
But suddenly the fun seemed to have gone out of the proceedings, and Salem's grand finale routine, which seemed downright miraculous the last time I saw it, lost its pace and point.
It all just proves, I suppose, that it's not always easy to read human minds, however skilled you are, especially if they have been out in the sun all day.
Nevertheless, I retain a high regard for Salem. Not only does his best work make the brain boggle, but he's also a trouper when things go wrong."
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Postby Richard Kaufman » 07/21/06 08:20 AM

Same thing happened to Gary Kurtz many years ago.
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Postby Guest » 07/21/06 08:38 AM

Same thing happened to another magician in Toronto as well.

If I recall the story, the host was asking him who was going to pay for the cleaning of the carpet instead of calling 911.

I don't understand why people would put themselves in any kind of danger that could potentially ruin their livelihood.

David.
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Postby Guest » 07/21/06 10:29 AM

I don't understand why people would put themselves in any kind of danger that could potentially ruin their livelihood.
Or create financially beneficial publicity. I don't want to appear insensitive, but if Mr. Salem plays this correctly, greater success is inevitable.
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Postby Guest » 07/21/06 10:37 AM

Originally posted by audioslave:
I don't understand why people would put themselves in any kind of danger that could potentially ruin their livelihood.
Or create financially beneficial publicity. I don't want to appear insensitive, but if Mr. Salem plays this correctly, greater success is inevitable.
I went to see the show last year, differnt show, and I am sure *sure* that he had a plaster on one hand, due to an injury the night before. I rem a running joke about the band-aid.

Is it possible he did this solely for the publicity?

It was a damn good show. One particular highlight was I went with my Uncle that got me into magic and my fairly new ladyfriend. Salem did the mother of all book tests and as soon as he got the letter, said Uncle leaned to the ladyfriend and whispered the word a few seconds before Salem revealed it.

I have never seen such a shocked look on her face! It was wonderful.

Also, now, flashback, that night Uncle performed Slydini's One Coin routine. Wow. I cannot remember the last time I saw something so, well, magical. I didn't know the routine and was convinced it was a massively gimmicked coin, with specially prepared shirt, all sorts of magnets and stuff going on. I was gobsmacked.

Off topic, but a nice little memory...
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Postby Guest » 07/21/06 12:27 PM

Does your Uncle go to the movies and tell the ending to those around him before it happens, too?

- entity
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Postby Guest » 07/21/06 04:06 PM

Marc Salem and his mishap achieved a brief publicity spot on the arty-farty Newsnight Review which is broadcast late Friday night on BBC 2.
I quite like this high-brow show even though it has a nationwide viewing audience of approximately nine people.
Every now and then it even allows my favourite sit-down comedian Germaine Greer (somewhat faded Aussie feminist icon) to come on and cause a bit of late night trouble , eg by misconstructing Bruce Willis movies.
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Postby Guest » 07/21/06 04:21 PM

I have always favored "Death Trap" over other methods -- and loss of attention would be the best way to injury. BUT - I have bee in situations where I HAVE HAD TO WALK AWAY from the trick after set-up to avert potential injury.

Trouble with fool-proof methods -- magicians are rarewly fools.
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Postby Jon Allen » 07/21/06 04:27 PM

I was in the audience on Press Night. It is true that the audeince did not warm to Marc.

The main talking point is, of course, the knife routine. After placing the knife under a cup, the person was asked to number each cup either 1, 2 or 3. At some point, Marc wrote a prediction. He passed his hand over each cup and thrust it down onto one of them. It should be noted that the cups didn't flatten but rather he had to 'chip away' at it by hammering his fist down several times. Even so, only about a third of the cup was damaged.

Marc then went over to the prediction, looked at it then went back to the cups. More moving over them thewn he went back to the prediction. He turned it round to show the number 3. He went back to the cups and started to hammer his fist down on..... number 1. If the cups were able to be flattened in one push, he would have seriously hurt his hand. Maybe that's why he uses those cups instead?

Whether it was a hardware problem, pilot error or a publicity stunt (which I doubt very much) he did seem pretty thrown by it. The person who was helping did originally write the numbers on the tops of the upturned cups and Marc asked him to write on the side so we could see. Maybe he changed the numbers around and Marc was confused momentarily because he could see the numbers on top.

Whatever the reason, he really did hurt himself but carried on with a bandaged right hand to the end of the show.
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Postby Bob Farmer » 07/21/06 04:42 PM

I think I prefer the drinking acid trick since there is absolutely no possibility of being injured.

Basically, you have several glasses of water, one of which apparently contains sulphuric acid This is demonstrated by dropping something into that glass which immediately dissolves with lots of bubbles (it's an Alka-Seltzer tablet).

I think it was published in the Phoenix.
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Postby Richard Kaufman » 07/21/06 04:53 PM

Several version in Swami and Mantra as well of the Acid-drinking trick.

The difference between them, of course, is that there is no acid involved in the Acid-Drinking trick, while there are real knives or spikes involved in the trick which keeps injuring people. I think Kurtz lost the feeling in part of his third finger after that. Is it worth it?

And if that kind of thing really interests you, then make sure to stop by Hakan Varol's booth at FISM. He sells a version that's a wonder to see (and he will only sell it to you in person, not by mail).
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Postby Guest » 07/21/06 04:57 PM

I didn't mean to imply that the mishap was intentional, just that Mr. Salem can use the incident to his advantage.

Traditionally in magic, calculated 'mishaps' appear contrived and artificial. Audiences are more than aware that the saw 'breaking' on the magician, therefore, slicing him in half, is preconceived. These attempts at greater drama go nowhere.

Imagine if Mr. Blaine's oxygen supply 'broke' and his glass bubble had to be shattered to remove him. A different event entirely. Audiences don't perceive any element of danger in these stunts.

Even though I hadn't witnessed Mr. Salems show, I FEEL the agony of the pain.
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Postby Guest » 07/21/06 06:19 PM

There are LOTS of guys that have impaled themselves with dangerous versions of this effect. I did a tradeshow last year with a guy from Montreal who was telling me about the microsurgery he was to undergo the next week to try to repair the damage. None of these guys turned it into big, favorable publicity did they? The truth is, there are far easier, less permanantly damaging ways of getting press. Just visit your local library or bookstore if you are not sure. Bob Sheets was doing the "spike" for a while and had a very interesting theory about why so many guys (I haven't heard of a woman stabbing herself yet - maybe they don't want all the favorable publicity) have "stigmatized" themselves. He felt that after doing the trick until it becomes autopilot, the performer looks at the "dirty" bag (or cup) says to himself "that's the one." He is giving himself a positive mental affirmation regarding the one cup he wants to avoid. Eventually, during some performance, he will slip, say, "that's the one" and make the unfortunate mistake. I think that Scott Alexander's Shattered is by far the best method if you want to do this effect. The spectators examine the bottle beforehand, and it is totally safe. With a little thought, they can examine it afterwards too. Incidently, Sheets no longer does the effect. Not because of the danger, but because of the way it made his audiences think about his performance character. He doesn't want them to think he is either a geek, or mentally unstable, and that was the feedback he was getting from audiences.
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Postby Guest » 07/21/06 09:45 PM

Too bad Marc blew that one. It also happened on THEM, with a version that is supposedly foolproof.

Mark Twain said, "Nothing is foolproof, because fools are so ingenious."
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Postby Ian Kendall » 07/22/06 01:34 AM

While stuck in an airport yesterday I read another review of the show in which the paper sided with Marc, and was more scathing of the unfriendly spectators. The wee boy with the plaster got a very good write up!

Last year there was a programme on UK TV about magic effects going wrong. In this there was a segment on various people getting spiked with the different versions of the effect. There seemed to be quite a few...

Personally I take a leaf from Penn and Teller who, when talking about their Bullet Catch, mentioned that there are several checkpoints during the routine.

Take care, Ian
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Postby Guest » 07/22/06 05:05 AM

Hmm, a new book on the horizon: "Thirteen have been Impaled."

John R
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Postby Guest » 07/22/06 09:50 AM

In a recently aired UK TV documentary on mishaps in magic, one clip showed a horror impalement accident. An unnamed magician, apparently performing at his club, held a clearly apprehensive female spectator's hand, and slammed her hand down on the polysterene cups. The inevitable happened, and she screamed in pain as her hand crushed the wrong cup. I can't imagine how everyone present must have felt - including the mortified performer, who made a stammering and flustered apology. In a short post-event interview, the woman complained that the magician had not even behaved as a gentleman should - by sending her flowers or chocolates! There was, surprisingly, no mention of legal action.
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Postby Guest » 07/22/06 12:49 PM

I'm sick of this trick.

Who ever thought that it would be a good idea, from the audience's point of view?

Especially if it is a spectator's hand at risk, but even if it is the idiot magician who must be indulged?

Here's a better variation:

Magician hands a kitchen knife to spectator to examine and wield.

Magician holds up a newspaper page for cover (otherwise it would be too sick).

Magician: "okay, stick me hard in the gut"

Yeah, yeah, I know that "defying death and injury" are part of the magical tradition, but I personally do not enjoy sick, gruesome effects, part of whose effect is to make the audience nervous or queasy, no matter what the outcome.

P.S. -- and why has it been so overplayed? I've seen three different people do it on TV and now it seems it had been done all over. Buzz-trick of the year? Lemming mentality?

:whack:

OK, rant over
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Postby Ian Kendall » 07/22/06 02:47 PM

There are a couple of points there. The woman who got impaled is now a professional magicienne! Aparantly it was that event that inspired her...

When I first started doing the routine almost every magician who came to the show mentioned that event. In the documentary the culprit is not named, and in a later forum post the lady mentioned that she is not allowed to name him for legal reasons (which I assume is due to a settlement of some kind). The irony is that three or four people told me his name is passing (but I've now forgotten it).

I agree that it seems to have been overexposed on TV (which is a shame for those of us not on TV) but there is a plus side - with all the publicity of the times it goes wrong, there is a much more heightened atmosphere in the room...

Take care, and don't lose your concentration!

Ian
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Postby Pete Biro » 07/22/06 02:54 PM

I would bet that faking the injury wouldn't be that difficult... fake blood, etc. Great way for publicity.

Kaufman mentioned the one at FISM last time... I was one he had DO IT... and even though I trusted him, as I thrust my hand down I was still nervous.
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Postby Guest » 07/22/06 04:46 PM

There is of course a broken bottle method (I don't recall the name of the effect) where it is impossible to be injured.

After reading this I'm wondering if it might be possible to routine in a begging off the second choice - averting disaster - then a second successful attempt.
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Postby Jon Allen » 07/22/06 05:35 PM

I know the magician who implaed the lady's ahnd. I alsdo know that he borrowed the prop for that night's show at a local magic club. I'm not aware of any legal action but it's proabbly best not to name him!

The bottle version isd Scott Alexander's excelletn 'Shattered'. It looks just as dangerous as any other version yet it is impossible to injure yourself, unless you slam your hand down to hard. The interestign tyhing is that instead of you, the master magician, making all the choicesas to which bag to crush, it is an audience member. It's more about fate than 'reading' someone. This changes the whole presentation and rationale for doing the effect. pPersonally, I don't know why people risk injuring themselves when there is a perfectly safe version!
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Postby Guest » 07/22/06 05:57 PM

Originally posted by Terrence:
There is of course a broken bottle method (I don't recall the name of the effect) where it is impossible to be injured.

After reading this I'm wondering if it might be possible to routine in a begging off the second choice - averting disaster - then a second successful attempt.
That is, unless the magish does indeed put the real broken bottle into play...
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Postby Pete Biro » 07/22/06 08:43 PM

He'd have to be pretty lame to do that... :eek:
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Postby Guest » 07/23/06 05:55 AM

Thanks for all the responses to the Salem posting.
It's given me a greater appreciation of the dangers involved in performing this trick.
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Postby Guest » 07/23/06 10:35 AM

I have never seen this trick performed --indeed -- had never heard of it prior to this thread. However, it is somewhat reminiscent of guillotine effects. In the halcyon days when I lived in Los Angeles Milt Larsen always warned me when there was a guillotine act on the It's Magic Show. I could then leave the audience during that act. I had seen a man cut into two pieces during my Navy days and the simulation thereof did not appeal to me. I have avoided magic shows since the early nineties as at the last one there were three performers who emulated Indian fakirs by piercing various anatomical bits as toungues and arms. I do miss the days of Cardini, Channing Pollack, Silent Mora, and the like.
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Postby Guest » 07/23/06 12:58 PM

Thanks for your post Kevin, I believe you are supporting Bob's conclusion that the audience doesn't want to indulge the performer in what is either a reckless act or a staged reproduction of what was once a dangerous or death-defying act. Some examples of the latter would be a straitjacket escape or a head chopper illusion. Is there still a time and place for these effects? Escapes in particular bother me because I assume that a large part of the audience thinks they are faked and cannot be impressed even if there is real danger. In cases where there is real danger, the result is often a real accident with someone getting hurt. Illusion shows with big cats seem to have diminished in number since Roy's tragedy. With regard to effects like the head chopper, does anyone in the audience think it is a real guillotine with a genuine ability to chop off someone's head? I know the "volunteer" involved in the trick is often afraid, but I believe it is because he/she is worried the prop may malfunction and accidently hurt him/her.

I'd be interested in the thoughful reflections of others on this topic and, in closing, believe Penn & Teller may have found the time and place for these effects. They portray eccentric characters on stage, and often use "accidents" as the climax of these "dangerous" effects. The card stab and bunny in wood chipper are two examples. I'm still not sure about the bullet catch though. I don't know if anyone is convinced they are really shooting and catching bullets in their teeth and I know I am worried that someday there will be an accident. Is that anxiety I feel when I watch them perform it - "I hope nothing goes wrong this time" - the reaction they are looking for?
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Postby Richard Kaufman » 07/23/06 02:30 PM

The effect of catching a bullet in your teeth is so absurd, so preposterous, and so unbelievable that even though it appears that P&T catch the bullets, I don't think any sane person in the audience could actually believe a person can catch a bullet in teeth. Otherwise all the people who've had the backs of their heads blown out would simply have caught the bullets instead.
Real problem with the trick.
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Postby Guest » 07/24/06 04:21 AM

The absurdity to which you refer pervades much of magic.

Who truly believes that an elephant can disappear or someone can be cut in three ?

Suspension of disbelief is needed for most things in magic.
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Postby Guest » 07/24/06 05:58 AM

I've always been of the opinion the BBS (Believable Bull [censored]) plays better than UBS (Unbelievable etc.)


All the best,
John
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Postby Guest » 07/24/06 07:18 AM

I have always been skeeved out by this trick. I can't even stand to watch it. About a year ago, however, I saw the absolute worst version I've ever witnessed.

The magician (to remain nameless, but a name you would probably recognize) attempted to make it a comedy effect. He called a woman up on stage and had her inspect the spike in the piece of wood. He had her face the back of the stage with him while another person from the audience was to put the spike under one of three styrofoam cups. What the woman didn't know was that the 2nd audience member was a stooge who openly removed the spike from the wooden base and put it in the magician's hand.

The magician and woman turned around and he asked her to "sense" a cup that was safe. She indicated it and he smashed the cup. He asked her about the next one. She indicated and then he smashed it. Up to now it was ok, but there was no real magic. It was more of a "ha-ha-you're-the-only-one-not-in-on-the-joke" against the assistant. Then it went south. For a totally unexplained reason the magician then grabs the woman's hand and says "That just leaves one cup." and he starts slamming her open hand down on the uncrushed cup. The terror on her face was sincere - she was trying to pull back her hand as he repeatedly forced her hand down on the last cup. The audience was stunned. The only good thing that happened was he received a very chilly audience response to his bullying.
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Postby Guest » 07/24/06 10:29 AM

Originally posted by Brian Davey:
In a recently aired UK TV documentary on mishaps in magic, one clip showed a horror impalement accident. An unnamed magician, apparently performing at his club, held a clearly apprehensive female spectator's hand, and slammed her hand down on the polysterene cups. The inevitable happened, and she screamed in pain as her hand crushed the wrong cup. I can't imagine how everyone present must have felt - including the mortified performer, who made a stammering and flustered apology. In a short post-event interview, the woman complained that the magician had not even behaved as a gentleman should - by sending her flowers or chocolates! There was, surprisingly, no mention of legal action.
I was at that performance, at my club, sitting at the front. Both the peformer and the female spectator were members of the club, as was (fortunately) another conjuror who used to be a nurse.

It was not a happy evening. But until the mishap, his performance was tremendous, I really enjoyed it. He's a conjuror whose performances I always enjoy ..... 'cept that once.

Dave
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Postby Guest » 07/24/06 10:33 AM

Originally posted by Ian Kendall:
The woman who got impaled is now a professional magicienne! Aparantly it was that event that inspired her...
Apologies for correcting you, Ian, but she had been a professional magicienne for several years before that incident.

Dave
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Postby Richard Kaufman » 07/24/06 11:07 AM

Why do all the anecdotes here involved "unnamed" magicians?
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Postby Guest » 07/24/06 11:46 AM

Originally posted by Richard Kaufman:
Why do all the anecdotes here involved "unnamed" magicians?
Because they are the easiest to criticize.
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Postby Guest » 07/24/06 11:50 AM

Originally posted by Richard Kaufman:
The effect of catching a bullet in your teeth is so absurd, so preposterous, and so unbelievable that even though it appears that P&T catch the bullets, I don't think any sane person in the audience could actually believe a person can catch a bullet in teeth. Otherwise all the people who've had the backs of their heads blown out would simply have caught the bullets instead.
Real problem with the trick.
And yet Ralph Bialla managed to make a career of convincing folks that he did just that... in a non-magical setting, no less.
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Postby Guest » 07/24/06 12:07 PM

Originally posted by Richard Kaufman:
Why do all the anecdotes here involved "unnamed" magicians?
I would be happy to name the magician to whom I referred. Dunno whether he'd be happy, though.

He's a really really nice guy and he's a great performer. If anybody wants to know who he is, feel free to e-mail me. But if you're not in the UK, you probably won't have heard of him anyway.

Dave
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Postby Guest » 07/24/06 02:02 PM

No one who'd be dumb enough to do something like that to a spectator or assistant could be THAT nice a guy.

This reminds me of a local magician I saw doing an outdoor gig some years ago. He'd been hired for some sort of outdoor festival and did fire eating (at least) in downtown Palo Alto. Afer the usual balloon animals and so-called comedy magic he did some genuine fire swallowing. THEN he gets a little boy up to "help" him. Part of the act was to teach the kid how to swallow fire. So picture this: he has the terrified kid, pulling his head back to its limit, slowly lowering a flaming ball on a stick closer to the kids face, the kid trying to crouch down to get away from the fire. Of course the, ha ha, gag here is that ultimately the magician swallows it instead of the kid.

As I watched this several thoughts went through my mind:

- what if a drop of flaming naptha fell onto the the kid?

- what planet was the parent from that she stood there not ten feet away and didn't go up, snatch the kid back, and stuff the flaming brand in the magicians chest?

No wonder people often "don't like magicians."
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Postby Guest » 07/25/06 01:51 PM

"Too bad Marc blew that one. It also happened on THEM, with a version that is supposedly foolproof."
____________________________________________

>>>>Bill, you may be thinking of the accidental injury that was shown on A&E's "MONDO MAGIC" series (in the year "BC", that is - "Before Criss"). I don't recall the incident occurring on "T.H.E.M.")

Magi Paul Ruben also stabbed the palm of his hand while performing HIS own expensive marketed version of this effect - at the Magic Castle, during a private gathering. Accidents do & will happen.
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Postby Guest » 07/25/06 04:26 PM

The mind is a curious thing. In order for the effect to succeed the performer MUST pay attention to the cup/bag he must NOT squash. He focusses on this and, with a lapse of attention that can happen to anyone in a split second, he smashes his hand down on the very thing he was trying to avoid.

Sooner or later, everyone who does the trick will find a spike, knife, or scalpel sticking through their hand.

I'm willing to sacrifice for my art, but not the loss of hand mobility thanks to a severed tendon. There must be other ways to be "edgy."
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