Review: Naked Strange (Paul Harris)

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EndersGame
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Review: Naked Strange (Paul Harris)

Postby EndersGame » May 10th, 2018, 9:21 pm

The Vault - Naked Strange (Paul Harris)

An ungimmicked version of David Blaine's popular Strange Travellers `card across' routine

Overview

David Blaine is of course a household name in magic courtesy of his many TV specials. One of his all time favourite effects in card magic, is a routine called Strange Travellers. You can see Blaine perform it in a video clip here. It's a streamlined version of a classic effect that apparently a favourite for magician Nate Lepzig already more than 75 years.

Strange Travellers is a cards across style routine which employs something from the classic Princess Card trick to produce a true miracle. A spectator merely thinks of a card from a packet of 10. But when counted a second time, the packet now only has 9 cards and the thought-of card is gone - only to reappear in a second packet. This packet previously also had 10 cards, but now is counted to have 11 - including the merely thought-of card! This stunning routine was available commercially with revised gimmicks and routines from Paul Harris, and is a highly regarded packet trick, considered to be one of the very best.

But Paul Harris want to refine the routine even further, by creating a version that didn't require any gaffed cards. So as part of his amazing True Astonishments Boxed Set, and inspired by a Larry Haas handling, he created "Naked Strange". The ad copy rightly describes it as: "A simple un-gimmicked version of Paul Harris's legendary Strange Travellers effect!" The basic concept remains the same: a card that a spectator is merely thinking of, invisibly travels from one packet of cards to another. Considering that the full 9 DVD True Astonishments set costs around $300, it's good news that this wonderful effect is now available for purchase separately, courtesy of "The Vault" series by Bro Gilbert.

Here's the official trailer for the effect, with some introductory remarks from The Vault with Bro Gilbert, who also performs the routine in this particular clip here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fz_BVj14EG8

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Effect

Here's how the ad copy describes the routine:

"Using a normal deck, you'll be able to achieve the following miracle. Spectator #1 mentally notes ANY card in a group of cards, and never tells anyone what it is. The packet is handed to Spectator #2, and the cards are counted to be sure there are exactly ten cards. Spectator #1 is handed a separate group of cards.

The magician makes a magic gesture, and now Spectator #2 counts the cards, only to find that one is missing! The exact card that Spectator #1 merely thought of is now in Spectator #1's OWN packet of cards!
"

As you can see from the performance by Bro Gilbert in the video trailer above, that's entirely accurate, and exactly how the trick looks when performed. And yes, there really are no gimmicks or gaffed cards used!

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Video

What you get for around $10 is an instant digital download of the video, which demonstrates and teaches the routine. You can play the video via streaming, or download it in *.mp4 format to view on your computer with any video program. The entire video is around 10 minutes long, and the downloaded file is about 100MB in total size.

The video consists of the following:
3 minutes: introduction
5 minutes: explanation
2 minutes: performance

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Teaching

Those who are already familiar with the Art of Astonishment video set will be aware that Paul Harris uses a rather unorthodox style of teaching. First there's an introductory monologue from Paul himself, in which he talks about the general idea of the effect, and offers some suggestions about its mechanics. It probably makes most sense to watch this "PHoote Note" from PH (Paul Harris) after you've watched the performance and explanation.

The performance actually comes after the explanation. But there is a good reason for that, and that's because the video (including the performance) doesn't include any patter. Instead, it features background music, while the trick is demonstrated and taught with the help of written captions on the screen. As a result, it would be hard to follow the silent performance without having had the benefit of the explanation first. The explanation itself however is very good, and there are multiple camera angles to cover exposed views, while the written text covers everything you need to know.

If I had a complaint it would only be that it's easier to make sense of the explanation if you've first seen the routine performed in a real world setting, complete with spectators and patter. Fortunately, that's exactly what you get in the video trailer, with Bro Gilbert performing the trick to several groups of spectators, so I highly recommend you watch that first. His patter and presentation are excellent. Perhaps a better format for a video download like this would be to include Bro Gilbert's performance as the opening segment of the video, then go into the explanation from Paul Harris, and end with his PHoote Note in which he gives tips about the moves and talks about its origin.

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Difficulty

A small amount of set-up is needed to perform, but an experienced performer could even accomplish that impromptu and on the fly if absolutely necessary.

While beyond the scope of a beginner, you certainly don't need to be an expert with cards to pull off this routine. With a borrowed deck in hand, the main sleight you'll need to manage is a certain steal, which is well within the capacity of intermediate magicians (and likely already in their grasp). And of course everything is fully taught on the video, so if you don't know it already, you'll learn it quickly. This trick is obviously not a self-working wonder, and you will need to master all the moves carefully so that you can focus on the presentation, which is especially important for making a strong impression with this routine. But it's really not a difficult routine to do overall.

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Impressions

I've personally never had opportunity to try the original Strange Travellers routine, although I do know how it works and the gimmicks it uses, and I do love the strong impact of the routine as performed by David Blaine and others. But it does have an obvious weakness - you have to protect those cards, because you're in real trouble if the spectator starts grabbing cards and examining everything, because it won't take much to tip the method. With Naked Strange, this difficulty is completely avoided, because you're genuinely using a normal deck of cards. The handling of Naked Strange is perhaps not as clean, nor is the presentation quite as tidy as Strange Travellers. But wow, considering what it accomplishes, Paul Harris has come up with something very clever to produce a very similar effect without the help of gimmicks.

What makes this routine so powerful is the fact that your spectator merely thinks of a card - they never pick a card, remove it, or state what it is. They have absolutely no need to think that a Princess Card concept is being employed, whereas when the Princess Card Trick is performed in its pure form, that method is much more likely to get noticed. But here the fact that a card appears to disappear from one pile and move to the other (confirmed by the counting) actually helps disguise the method, thus making the overall effect even stronger. The plot is very simple to understand, and the idea of a card impossibly and invisibly moving from one pile to another is already impressive. The fact that it is the very card that a spectator merely thought of makes it appear a true miracle, and it really does have potential to blow people away.

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Endorsements

To give an idea of some of the positive responses this effect has generated, here is some of the praise others have given to Naked Strange - these are mostly quotes I found from scattered places online:

"If you’ve wanted to do David Blaine’s Strange Travelers but missed out buying it this is the best alternative. In some ways it’s better - because it requires no gaff/gimmick so can be done with a borrowed deck." - R. Unu
"Naked Strange is a modern classic based on well established card technique." - Magicsquared
"This is a really nice routine. I remember fondly from the original and performed regularly back then when I was doing more card work. It fits nicely into mental magic sets since you work with a thought of card. I definitely recommend it." - DynaMix
"This effect is really interesting, simple to perform and impromptu." - organicmagician
"Paul's immaculate gimmickless, impromptu version of Strange Travelers. Simple, powerful and true." - Review King
"I really liked this effect. What makes it especially powerful is that the spectator's card is never named. Only the spectator knows it, and watching their reaction when it disappears is priceless!" - Katie D.
"This one is an instant classic, its super easy and practical to performe and really gets great reactions." - Wallmott
"Strange Travellers... so good! Now it's gimmickless... Every magician should own this." - Mason J.
"Wow, that was actually a rather beautiful take on that effect!" - Makros the Black
"I'll still keep my gimmicked version handy, but I'm glad to have this new one in my arsenal for those times where I don't have the gaffed one on me." - Kevin Reylek
"Naked because it is a gimmick-free version of PH’s strange traveler’s, made famous by David Blaine. Very cool." - Lyle Borders
"Strange Travelers ungimmicked! There are some things that you can do with Strange Travellers that you can not do with Naked Strange, but this is about as good as you will ever get in my opinion with an ungimmicked pack. To the spectator, I think it would appear to be the same. Strong ungimickked magic right here." - Jay Buchanan
"I was skeptical as to how clean this was going to look compared to the original with the gimmick cards. If you're a bit skeptical yourself, don't be. This looks great." - Exitmat
"Naked Strange is awesome and I love it. I`ll be using it often." - Patrick Gregoire

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Recommendation

It's true that there is some competition in the `cards across' niche, with a number of effects to choose from. The original Strange Travelers routine is brilliant, and really has the potential to stun people. But it does require gimmicked cards, and to my knowledge it's not been readily available for some time. That's where Naked Strange comes in. It does basically the same job, and while there are some things you can do with Strange Travellers that you can't quite do with Naked Strange, the overall routine is pretty close to the original, and can pack the same punch when performed well.

I'm especially pleased that Bro Gilbert has released this as part of The Vault series, for a couple of reasons. Firstly, this means that now you can pick up Naked Strange as an independent digital download, and learn how to perform this routine with ungaffed cards. But secondly, as a special bonus you get to see Bro Gilbert perform this routine in the video trailer, which is a welcome addition not included with True Astonishment set. This addition does a good job of giving the effect the final polish it needed, showing us what good presentation of this routine looks like, and the impact it can have on spectators. So an all round big thumbs up from me!

Want to learn more? Paul Harris' Naked Strange is available as a digital download from your favorite Murphy's Magic retailer:
Murphy's Magic: https://www.murphysmagic.com/product.aspx?id=61774
Vanishing Inc Magic: https://www.vanishingincmagic.com/magic ... ul-harris/

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Richard Kaufman
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Re: Review: Naked Strange (Paul Harris)

Postby Richard Kaufman » May 11th, 2018, 3:33 am

The original version of this trick was created by Theodore DeLand.

And this statement is simply not true: "I've personally never had opportunity to try the original Strange Travellers routine, although I do know how it works and the gimmicks it uses, and I do love the strong impact of the routine as performed by David Blaine and others. But it does have an obvious weakness - you have to protect those cards, because you're in real trouble if the spectator starts grabbing cards and examining everything, because it won't take much to tip the method."

It is not a weakness on the part of the effect--it is a weakness of your ability to adequately present the trick. If you have any ability as a magician, and even the smallest bit of ability in your presentation, this is a non-issue. Spectators only grab cards if you give them the chance, and if you don't give them something else to think about.
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Re: Review: Naked Strange (Paul Harris)

Postby EndersGame » May 11th, 2018, 4:15 am

Thank you for your comments, Richard Kaufman. You are of course right that what I mentioned as a "weakness" is really all about the magician's ability to manage his spectators. A good magician will certainly find ways to overcome this, and ensure that it isn't a problem.

But I wonder if it is overstating matters to say that "If you have any ability as a magician, and even the smallest bit of ability in your presentation, this is a non-issue." Take for example David Blaine's performance of Strange Travellers which you can see here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2a8AcYyQvPY

Especially notice the final two seconds - starting at around 1:45. You can see that the spectator does actually start grabbing the cards, and David Blaine has to act quickly to prevent this. Is the fact that this happened a weakness in his presentation? Perhaps. But even though Blaine has his critics, I'm sure we can all agree that he does have some ability as a magician, and yet this still came up as a problem in his particular performance, and he had to deal with it.

The one advantage of Naked Strange over Strange Travellers is that you don't have to worry about this concern at all, and you don't have to tailor your presentation in such a way to prevent this. Instead, you can even use a presentation that does have the spectator handling and examining the cards at the end, and thereby emphasizing the mystery. In that respect the method of Naked Strange opens possibilities for a type of presentation that Strange Travellers wouldn't allow, due to the need to manage your spectators in the way that you describe. Thank you for raising this matter, and emphasizing the importance of presentation here.

I also appreciate your mentioning Theodore DeLand as the original source of the Strange Travellers routine. I had tried to find sources beyond the Nate Lepzig mention, but without success, so I'm grateful to learn that DeLand came up with this orginally. I believe that Henry Hardin had a method for a similar effect that used double-ended cards, whereas DeLand's method in his version Cagliostro Cards used double-faced cards, and it is this method that Paul Harris adopted in Strange Travellers. You are of course an authority on DeLand, so I welcome that clarification.

Out of interest, what was the clever addition to DeLand's routine that Paul Harris added, to develop it into Strange Travellers?
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Re: Review: Naked Strange (Paul Harris)

Postby Q. Kumber » May 11th, 2018, 4:46 am

Thank you for the review. Those interested in this type of effect might also want to check out Gary Jones' version

Thought of Cards Across Plus

Effect: A spectator shuffles the pack and counts off twenty cards. Ten are turned
face up and ten face down. The spectator thinks of ANY of the ten face up cards.
They are then given these ten cards to hold onto. Another spectator holds the
other ten cards. Just a magical gesture and now the spectator who thought of
card counts their packet, there are only nine cards! The other spectator counts
their packet, eleven cards! For the first time the thought of card is named and
shown in the eleven card packet!

What’s that, someone else thought of a card, just a snap, no moves. There are
now eight cards and twelve. The second thought of card has also jumped across!

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Re: Review: Naked Strange (Paul Harris)

Postby performer » May 11th, 2018, 8:08 am

I have seen a video of Doug Henning on a TV show where the host tried to grab the silk he was using. Doug backed away so the guy couldn't get it but the very fact he backed away ruined the effect as it was perfectly obvious to millions of viewers that there was something wrong with the silk because he wouldn't allow it to be examined.

So, sure you can"manage" spectators so they don't examine your props but you can't manage what they are thinking. And they will often think, "he doesn't want me to examine that thing. There must be something wrong with it so my suspicions are correct." And not only will he think that so will everyone else who sees the interaction. You can indeed perform with such an air of authority that it can intimidate an audience member from even asking to examine something but you can't do a thing about what they are thinking if you don't let it happen.

For a formal show this is not a big deal but it certainly is if you are performing informally. You should be prepared to let things be examined if you are working impromptu. If you refuse or make some excuse you will be the loser and they will be the victor. They will know your prop is faked in some way if you decline or try and waffle your way out of it.

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Re: Review: Naked Strange (Paul Harris)

Postby Jack Shalom » May 11th, 2018, 8:33 am

Similar non-gaffed versions from Edward Brown, Bruce Bernstein, and Greg Chapman, though I don't believe any bikinis were involved.

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Re: Review: Naked Strange (Paul Harris)

Postby Richard Kaufman » May 11th, 2018, 12:31 pm

The original version of Strange Travelers combines two different Theodore DeLand tricks into one really good routine. (Paul Harris's idea, and a brilliant one.) This is an excellent routine, and better for close-up (where the faces of the cards can be seen) then methods with sleight of hand. It's not some undistinguished method of many.
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Re: Review: Naked Strange (Paul Harris)

Postby Bob Farmer » May 11th, 2018, 1:54 pm

In my next book, The Bammo Book of the Gypsy Queen, there will be a similar effect. 7 cards are counted into the first spectator's hand face down and he holds them.

A second spectator scans the ENTIRE remaining deck and THINKS of a card. He does not reveal it.

Deck is fanned and the three mates of the thought card (whatever it is) are there but the thought card isn't.

The first spectator counts his cards: there are now 8--and the thought card--now revealed for the first time, is one of them.

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Re: Review: Naked Strange (Paul Harris)

Postby Jack Shalom » May 11th, 2018, 4:27 pm

Ricky Jay, Thought Card Across (Warning: none of the spectators are wearing bikinis):

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BgqXdnwIoQM

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Re: Review: Naked Strange (Paul Harris)

Postby Brad Jeffers » May 11th, 2018, 6:21 pm

Ricky Jay's methodology in this trick, is arguably superior to the others.
If one however, were to make the claim that it is definitely superior, they would get no argument from me.

What is definitely not debatable is that Mr Jay's performance is far superior to the others, be it Blaine, that guy on the beach, or anyone else.

While others are presenting a card trick in the hopes that it will be entertaining, Ricky Jay is himself the entertainment. The card trick, although very good, is incidental.

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Re: Review: Naked Strange (Paul Harris)

Postby EndersGame » May 11th, 2018, 7:35 pm

To Mr Jack Shalom: Thanks for sharing that video clip. A great performance from Ricky Jay indeed - a true entertainer and showman!

To Mr Richard Kaufman: Do you happen to know the names of the two different Theodore DeLand tricks that Paul Harris combined to create the original version of Strange Travellers? I seem to remember reading somewhere that one was Cagliostro Cards, but wasn't aware there was another DeLand trick involved as well, so I'm glad to learn that.
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Re: Review: Naked Strange (Paul Harris)

Postby Richard Kaufman » May 11th, 2018, 11:45 pm

I have a long chapter in my book about this trick.
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