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Perverse Magic

Posted: December 17th, 2002, 7:36 pm
by Gerald Deutsch
I've long ago come to the conclusion that presentation is the most important ingredient in any effect and presentation involves choosing a style that fits the perfomer. I've come to recognize that the style that best fits me is what I call "Perverse Magic". Perverse Magic is magic that happens by itself against what the magician wants to happen.

Perverse Magic usually takes one of the following forms:

1 Something just happens without the performer's knowledge and without the performer wanting it to happen

An example would be Cardini's act where fans of card or cigarettes or billiard balls kept appearing to the amazement and then the annoyance of Cardini. Or when Roy Benson is catching large white billiard balls when all of a sudden a red one appears and Benson looks in a book to see what happened.

2 The performer says he's going to do a trick but something else happens.

An example might be coming out with a bird in a birdcage and announcing that you're going to make the cage and the bird float when, to your surprize the cage and the bird vanishes.

(It's VERY important in this situation that what happens is stronger than what you say will happen.)

3 The magician says he's going to do something; that something happens by itself.

An example might be the untying handkerchief

4 The magician does something and is caught and when he confesses it's not what the audience thought - nor what the magician thought either.

An example might be the egg bag where the magician pretends to put the egg under his arm and when caught he goes for the egg and when it's not there the magician is confused (and the audience fooled).

(This of course is a "sucker effect" but instead of the audience being the sucker the magician is the victim.)

5 The magician and the audience are on different planes as to what each sees.

An example might be the invisable deck routine or David Roth's "Legendary Four Coin Trick"

(This is "Whimsical Perverse Magic")

With Perverse Magic the magician does not appear to be "better than everyone" (as is the case with so many performers) but plays the part of an ordinary guy who gets caught up in what happens. It does take acting but the style is appropriate for many effects including the classics - both close up and platform.

Re: Perverse Magic

Posted: December 21st, 2002, 6:08 am
by Gerald Deutsch
Let me give some examples of how Perverse Magic can be used in card magic.


Re: Perverse Magic

Posted: December 21st, 2002, 6:22 am
by Gerald Deutsch
Let me give you some examples of how Perverse Magic can be used in card magic:

1 Homing Card

Actually there are 2 "Homing Card" effects, the effect where a black card continues to appear in a decreasing fan of red cards as done so well by Fred Kaps and the effect where a selected card goes into the performers pocket as published by Francis Carlyle in the Stars of Magic. I do this routine by having the card go to my pocket twice and when I try for a third time the entire deck goes except the selected card and I'm surprized and frustrated.

It was a delight to see the frustrated look on Fred Kaps face as that black card kept reappearing.

2 Ambitious Card

I have a card selected and say it will come to the top and it's not there - another card (say 4C) is there. I bury the 4C and try again but again the 4C is there. I spell the selected card but at the end it's the 4C. Finally I say I'll do the trick with the 4C and say it will go to my pocket but when I reach into my pocket it's the selected card. I'm surprized and frustrated.

3 Multiple card selection

I have a card selected and try to find it but find instead the same value card but a different color. I try again and find the mate of the selected card and finally the third of that value. In disgust I throw the deck at the ceiling and the selected card sticks.

Note that this type of magic makes the performer human and not superior - and, if done right can be very entertaining.

Re: Perverse Magic

Posted: December 27th, 2002, 4:07 pm
by Gerald Deutsch
Zeke Hammer (he lives in Woodstock and Sarasota) makes wonderful trick coins. I once asked him to merely split a coin in two pieces. I use these pieces for several "Perverse" effects:

1 Coin through the table

At the conclusion of a coins through the table routine I say I'll do it one more time. One half of the split coin is on the chair and the other half is classic palmed in my left hand.

I pretend to place a regular quarter in my left hand but retain in in my right. I bring my right hand under the table where I leave the quarter and pick up the half of the split coin. I bang my left hand on the table and bring out my right hand with the split coin and then, confused, I lift my left and show the other half.

"Darn it - only part of it went!"

2 Two Bits into Two Bits

I have both halves of the split coin clasic palmed in my left hand. I borrow a quarter and spin it on the table. Then I explain that I'm trying to learn to drop a quarter and have it spin. I pretend to put the quarter in my left hand but classic palm it in my right hand as I drop the split halves to the table.


3 Partial Coin Vanish

Half the split coin is classic palmed in the left hand and I borrow a quarter and say I will cause it to vanish.

I pretend to put the quarter in my left hand but keep it classic palmed in my right. I snap my fingers of my right hand (which is a very deceptive thing to do with a coin classic palmed and give the impression that the hand must be empty) and when I open my left hand half a coin is still there.

"Darn - I need more practice!"

Re: Perverse Magic

Posted: December 28th, 2002, 8:32 am
by Guest
Although I don't agree that presentation is the most important ingredient in an effect (I believe it is important but an effect should be a nice blend of many ingredients working cohesively together - presentation along with masterful technique, timing, audience management, etc.) but I do like the magician as the victim angle. It certainly played well for Cardini and others and I think that acting like magic is happening and you are the victim of it is a nice approach.

It certainly is a great start in defining your persona.

I don't know that "perverse" magic is a suitable term. (I always found the term to mean something negative. Perhaps "accidental" magic?).

Re: Perverse Magic

Posted: January 2nd, 2003, 6:13 pm
by Gerald Deutsch
I gave an example above of an impromptu Ambitious Card Routine as Perverse Magic. Here is another Perverse Ambitious Card Routine that is not impromptu.

It is based on a routine by Norman Houghton called "A Study in Frustration" that appears in the November 1948 issue of Hugards Magic Monthly.

The only preparation is having a double back deck matching the deck being used which is placed out of sight to your right, crossways over the cardbox. The cardbox of the regular deck being used is dropped near the double back deck when the cards are taken out to be used.

This will summarize the routine:

1 Your patter is something like explaining how magicians find selected cards. Some magicians find more than one - you've seen some find four or five but what you're going to do is find 51 cards. You give the deck to a spectator and tell her to take out any 51 cards and give you the rest of the deck. The spectator realizes what's going on and gives you one card.

2 You tell the spectator to remember his 51 cards and help you remember yours (the one card not taken).

The plot is going to be that as much as you try to find one of her 51 cards you keep finding the one card she didn't take.

3 You shuffle "your" card in with her 51 (controlling it to the top) and ask the spectator to name one of her cards. Let's say she names the 5D. You say you will make the 5D come to the top but when you turn over the top card it's "your" card. You look puzzled.

4 Now you switch the deck for the double back deck as follows. Hold the deck in your right hand with the thumb on the inner end and the fingers on the outer end (the short sides) and you go to the double back deck, leaving the regular deck and picking up the double back and the cardbox. The deck has been switched and it looks like you only went for the cardbox.

5 "Your" card is put on top of the double back deck and shuffled (keeping it on top) and the deck is put into the card case and when it's closed the flap goes between "your" card and the rest of the cards. You ask the spectator to name another card and when she does you hold the deck in your right hand with your thumb on the half moon of "your" card. You then toss the deck into the air holding onto "your" card. This is Milbourne Christopher's idea in the August 1948 issue of Hugard's Magic Monthly.

6 The deck is taken out of the case and "your" card is placed face up on top and then a double lift is performed as the card(s) is turned face down. The top card (presumably "your" card) is dealt to the table.

Now comes something that works only because you're using a double back deck.

"Your" card is face down on top of the double back deck but the audience thinks it's on the table (which is another double back card).

Hold the deck in the right hand as before, thumb at the inner end and fingers at the outer end. The right index finger lifts about half the deck at the outer end and swings it to the left and that half is taken in the left hand. the right hand drops it's half to the table as the left hand with its half drops to your side. The right hand puts the card on the table on top of the tabled packet and then the left hand comes up with its packet and as it does, the left thumb turns the packet over and it is taken with the right hand and then placed on the tabled packet.

Because it's a double back deck it looks like nothing happened. "Your" card which was face down on top of the packet goes to face up on the bottom of that packet and right above the card that was on the table when the packet is placed on the tabled packet.

You ask the spectator to name another card saying you'll make the card she names turn face up. She does and when you spread the deck "your" card, which a second ago was put face down is now face up.

7 To end you say you'll leave "your" card out of the deck and then ask for another card and when it's called you reach in and pull out a card and are surprized when it has no face and are more surprized then the whole deck (which had previously been handled by the spectator) is all double backed.

You give up in frustration.

Re: Perverse Magic

Posted: January 5th, 2003, 7:24 am
by Gerald Deutsch
Webster's Dictionary defines "perverse" as:

"willfully determined not to do what is expected or desired; contrary"

Re: Perverse Magic

Posted: February 2nd, 2003, 6:11 pm
by Gerald Deutsch
Edward Victor's Eleven Card Trick is a wonderful Perverse Magic efect. The performer wants to do a trick with eleven cards but keeps getting ten.

The routine has been published in The Chronicles 14 and Derek Dingle has his "Fabulous Jumping Card Trick" in his "Complete Works".

The only problem I saw with the routine is that I didn't think the ending strong enough and so I came up with a version where, at the end the performer has, not ten cards but twenty or more.

The routine is as follows:

1 I hand the deck to a spectator and ask her to deal 11 cards into my cupped hands.

After she deals 3 cards, my left pinky is inserted so that the remaining cards go on top of the pinky. When she's done, I transfer the break to my right thumb as I pick up the packet in my right hand.

2 I ask for the deck which is taken in my left hand and, using a gesture that Slydini calls "timing" I transfer the cards below the break to the top of the deck. It's a gesture where the hands come together for a second in a rest and then move away. The deck is then given to the spectator to hold.

3 The 8 cards in the packet are "false counted" as 10 using one of 2 false counts I use in the routine.

The top card is pushed off the packet and taken in my right hand but as it is I allow it to flick off my left thumb as I count "one". The second card is done the same way and taken under the first card as I count "two".

The third card is pushed off the same way but the left thumb pulls this card back to the top of the packet but as it does it flicks off my right fingers as I count "three". This move is repeated on the count of "five" and when done the eight cards have been counted as 10.

4 I ask the spectator for another card (now I have 9 but they think 11) and false count the packet as 10 making the false count only on the count of "three"

5 Again I ask for another card and count the 10 cards as 10.

6 I look confused and give the packet to the spectator to count as I take the deck back from her.

7 While she is counting I palm a packet of 10 or so cards from the top of the deck in my right hand

8 The spectator confirms there are 10 cards. I hand the deck to another spectator and ask her to give the first spectator 3 cards.

While this is happening, I put BOTH hands in my trouser pockets and assume a casual pose. I leave the palmed cards in my right pocket.

Explaining that 11 cards are needed and since the spectator has 13 I ask her to give back 2 cards.

9 Now I ask for the packet of 11 cards and count them to be sure.

Using the same false count I count the 11 as 13.

Looking confused, I return 2 cards to the spectator holding the deck. I now have 9 cards but the audience thinks 11.

10 Again I say I will make sure and now I count the 9 cards as ten. Here I use a different false count done very slowly and deliberately as follows:

I push one card off the packet with my left thumb and take it in my right hand, raising my right hand to the audience as I count "one". This is repeated for the second card as I count "two but as that is taken in front of the first card, the right thumb pushes the first card to the left so that it overlaps the second card about a quarter inch to the left.

As the third card is taken the first card goes under the left thumb and is left there as the right hand comes away with two (the audience thinks three)and I count "three". The count is completed as I count the nine cards as 10.

11 Asking for another card, I count the 10 as 10.

12 I give the 10 cards to a spectator to check and while she is counting I again put BOTH hands in my pockets and palm the cards in my right pocket in my right hand.

13 After the spectator verifies that there are 10 cards I take back the packet and add the palmed cards from my right hand to the packet.

14 I then say that I give up and will do a trick with 10 cards. I say I will make them vanish one at a time. I snap the packet and say "Now there are nine" and I start to count them one at a time in the spectator's hand and when I pass fifteen I drop the rest of the cards on top and say "I quit!"

Good Perverse Magic!

Re: Perverse Magic

Posted: March 9th, 2003, 7:07 am
by Gerald Deutsch
The Perverse Egg Bag Routine

This was one of the first effects I've used to express "Perverse Magic". It is a strong routine for audiences of children.

The only preparation is having a "blown egg" - which is an egg that has the insides "blown out". I make a hole in each end with a pin, shake up the egg and then blow out the contents. I let water run into the hole, shake the egg again, blow out the water and allow the shell to dry.

The blown egg is put into my left pants pocket. I put a small horn or "kazoo" in my right pants pocket and I use a standard egg bag and a hard boiled egg.

Here's the routine:

1 I show the egg, put it into the bag with my right hand (the pocket) and make a suspicious move as I put my closed right hand into my right trouser pocket.

2 "I know you think the egg went into my pocket - nope." And I reach in and take out the horn and blow it. "The egg is back in the bag." I let the egg fall from the pocket and back into the bag and produce it.

(Note that this sequence is not perverse - that's OK - it comes now.)

3 "Let me show you how it's done." I say this as I again take the egg and put it into the bag (the pocket)

"What I do is pretend to put the egg in the bag but I really keep it in my hand and put it under my arm."

I pretend to put the egg - which is in the pocket of the bag - under my left arm.

"I can then show the bag inside out showing the egg has vanished and whenever I want the egg I just reach under my arm----"

I put my right hand under my left arm, lift my left arm expecting the egg to drop into my right hand and when nothing falls I look confused. I then consult a book on my table.

(Note that it's me that's surprized - I don't make any spectator a sucker.)

(I got the idea of looking in a book from Roy Benson - who was my hero when I was starting out in magic.)

I then start looking for the egg and find it (the blown egg) in my left pants pocket. I scratch my head - very confused.

4 "Well, I'll show you one of the best possible tricks with the egg and the bag. I'm going to put the egg back into my pocket, make it vanish from my pocket and appear back in the bag."

I put the blown egg back into my left pants pocket and hold the egg bag in my right hand with the right hand extended to the right.

"At the count of 3 - 1 - 2- 3---" and at the count of 3 I smash the blown agg against my leg with my left hand and immediately have a look of horror on my face. I look down at my leg - I shake my leg - and then I start pulling pieces of the shell out of my pocket as I shake my head.

Re: Perverse Magic

Posted: April 16th, 2003, 6:02 pm
by Gerald Deutsch
I contributed an effect called "For a Change" to Apocalypse (see pages 1486 and 1925) the effect of which is that a borrowed quarter changes to two dimes and a nickle.

Sometimes I do this as a "perverse" effect by borrowing a quarter and telling the spectator that I just learned a new trick but it's not perfected but I'll try it anyway. Then, instead of changing the quarter to two dimes and a nickle I get only ONE dime and a nickle and I shake my head in disappointment and reach into my pocket and find a dime and give all the change back to the spectator.

Re: Perverse Magic

Posted: May 20th, 2003, 8:19 am
by Gerald Deutsch
Perverse Discovery (my presentation of Peter Kane's Kabbala Aces)

I've always felt that planning magic and presentation of magic are as important, if not more important as technique. It's important to perform magic that fits the magician's style and, as I've noted, perverse magic is my style.

About 20 years ago, in the first issue of The Almanac Richard Kaufman published Peter Kane's Kabbala Aces. I changed the presentation to fit me (and changed some moves with Peter Marshall's help) to make this into a "Perverse Magic" routine.

Instead of finding the 4 aces I have 4 cards selected and have them returned to the deck and they are controlled to the top (Spectator 1's is on top, followed by Spectator 2's 3 and then 4).


1 I tell spectator 1 I'll find her card and double cut and then double lift and turn over spectator 2's card. Spectator 1 says it's not her card but spectator 2 says it's hers. I look confused. I turn the card(s) face down and put the top card (spectator 1's but they think it's spectator 2's) in my pocket.

2 I say I'll try again.

I run the top card and then the next and put both back on top. This has th effect of reversing the two 2 cards and avoids the need for a triple lift.
I then get a break under the top card, undercut half the deck from the bottom and
turn it face up and put it on top. I take the remaining deck under the break, turn it face up and put it back on the bottom. This sequence was Peter Marshall's idea and has the effect of setting the deck so that:

* Spectator 1's card is in my pocket
* Spectator 2's card is on top
* Spectator 3's card is reversed in the center
* Spectator 4's card is 2nd from the top

Again I double lift and show Spectator 4's card to spectator 1 and again she
denies it's her card. Spectator 4 says it's hers. Again I look confused.

3 I say "you want to see something weird?' and I turn the card(s) face down and put spectator 4's card (really spectator 2's face down on spectator 4?s left palm then move it to spectator 2's palm and turn it face up and it's now spectator 2's card. With that misdirection I palm the top card
(Spectator 4's) and pull spectator 4's card out of my pocket. "Isn't that weird?" I look confused.

4 Back to finding spectator 1's card. I ask what it was and then say I'll make it turn face up. I spread the deck but the face up card is not the
card named. I look at spectator 3 and she's nodding. It's her card. I shake m head in confusion.

5 "Wait a minute," I say to spectator 1, "I don't think your card is in the deck," I spread
the deck and show her it?s not and then take her card from my pocket and shake my head and say "I quit!"

Re: Perverse Magic

Posted: May 26th, 2003, 4:20 pm
by Necromancer
Don't forget Carl Ballantine's entire act.

Re: Perverse Magic

Posted: May 26th, 2003, 8:14 pm
by Brian Marks
Unfortunately it reads alot drier than when you perform it Jerry. People need to see you do some of this stuff to fully appreciate it.

Re: Perverse Magic

Posted: May 27th, 2003, 3:47 am
by Gerald Deutsch
---but whenever I do this stuff something goes wrong------

Carl Ballantine was one of my favorite performers but what he did wasn't really "Perverse Magic" because when things went wrong, they just went wrong and it was a riot but magic didn't take place, just comedy. (Like when he found out that the stage hands didn't load what he expected to produce).

Re: Perverse Magic

Posted: June 1st, 2003, 3:48 pm
by Pete Biro
Ballantine's act was not Perverse Magic... Carl explained "what I did was to do things the way layment think they are done.. like the thread to raise the basket lid, with the punch line... 'how else?'"

You want a secret book I have told few about that is incredible for describing perverse magic?

"Comedy Magic" by George Blake. There is material in that book I have used for years and never tipped the source.

Re: Perverse Magic

Posted: June 12th, 2003, 7:12 pm
by Gerald Deutsch
Roy Benson was one of my favorite magicians and I think he appreciated "Perverse Magic".

The only example I've seen him do was the sudden unexpected production of a red billiard ball while he was producing white balls. Benson looked in a book to see what went wrong.

Bruce Elliot gives another example of Benson's ideas of "Perverse Magic" in his book "Classic Secrets of Magic" (page 90) where he describes Benson's idea for an egg bag routine where the magician attemps to perform the classic version of this effect when something goes wrong and the bag becomes filled with eggs.

Many years ago I attended a lecture given by Senator Crandall and he explained his version of the "Six Card Repeat" (See Tarbell Vol 6 page 78) and as that was many years ago my memory is hazy but I believe he mentioned a Roy Benson routine which I either learned then or reinvented but at any rate I've been doing it for many years.

The effect is that I'm going to pass six cards through a plate and as I explain this I drop several cards without being aware of it but I still have six until once when I count I have only five and I look around at the cards on the floor and say "Oh I must have dropped one," and pick one up. Then when I count I have seven and I keep throwing one away and I still have seven and I get disgusted.

(If anyone is interested let me know and I'll send you the routine.)

Re: Perverse Magic

Posted: June 18th, 2003, 9:16 am
by Guest

Thank you for your contributions. I'm very interested in Benson's routine.

Is anybody writing a book on Roy Benson? I knew one of his students, but as far as I know, he kept nothing in writing.

How about Bobby Baxter? I've heard some great stories, and read a short biography written by Zolotow (I think). It's about time a book should be written about him.

Re: Perverse Magic

Posted: July 3rd, 2003, 10:39 pm
by Pete Biro
Roy gave me a set of his lecture notes. Recently, on ebay, his props were all sold. I didn't find out about it until it was too late.

He, along with Jay Marshall and Carl Ballantine were my personal favorites.

Saw Ballantine walking to lunch the other day... he's still lookin' good.

He said, "I had a physical recently and the Doc told me to keep doing what I'm doing and I should live to be 80."

I said, "Doc, I'm already 83."

Re: Perverse Magic

Posted: July 12th, 2003, 6:46 am
by Gerald Deutsch
Perverse Dinner Table Interlude

Much of my magic is done impromptu at a dinner table with new friends or at a business lunch.

(It's always important to know when it's appropriate to do magic in that setting, especially if it's a business lunch where the purpose is to do business. A good time for this effect is at the end when the check has been signed for and either you - or if you're lucky the guest has finished with the pen.)

"This looks like a rubber pen," I say and do the following:

1 Shake the pen loosely, holding it in the right hand showing it seems like rubber.

2 I take the pen in both hands and try to bend it more but it vanishes.

3 "I hate when that happens," I say as I start to look for the pen in my pockets.

4 I find the pen and shrug with confusion as I put the pen away if it's mine or give it back to my guest if it's his and apologize.

The routine is simple:

1 This is the old trick of holding the pen LOOSELY between the right thumb and first finger and moving the hand up and down and at the same time making a small circle with the tight hand clockwise toward the spectator.

2 Of course the pencil is lapped.

What I do is hold the pencil between my palm down hands which are together so no part of the pen is seen and with my fingers I roll the pen back to the tips of the fingers. I then let my hands come to rest at the edge of the table but since the pen is so far back, the rest of the hand is away from the edge. The pen is lapped.

I then pretend to "bend" the pen and become surprized when it's gone.

3 I believe Slydini taught me much of what I do to retrieve the pen from my lap. I described this to Harry Lorayne and it appears in the July 1988 issue of Apocalypse on page 1521 where I discuss "lapping without a table" under "Thighing".

(If anyone needs details let me know.)

4 Just two notes here:

* By using "Perverse Magic" in this setting the magician is not showing off - the magic just happens.

* By doing the magic when you're ready to leave you insure that (i) it will be remembered and, more important, (ii) it won't distract from the purpose of the meal (especially if it was a business meal).

Re: Perverse Magic

Posted: October 2nd, 2003, 4:19 am
by Gerald Deutsch
Perverse magic can be great in an impromptu situation.

My wife and I were vacationing in Salem Mass - witch city and we wandered into a "occult witch shop" that sold mysterious things like rings etc.

Well I always carry one of those squeakers (that you can get at most magic conventions) and, in front of the salesgirl, I touched a few rings and then "squeaked" one of them and I jumped back in fright. "What's that?" I asked her looking alarmed. She looked confused. I touched a few other rings and nothing happened and then touched the sqeaked ring and it squeaked again. Again I jumped back and said to my wife, "Let's get out of here!"

Then, as I left I smiled at the salesgirl to let her know I was not serious.

But the situation was "perverse" - it seemed to be happening out of my control.

Re: Perverse Magic

Posted: October 2nd, 2003, 4:54 pm
by Guest
Mr. Deutch:

This has been a nice thread you've supported, with a number of valuable tips and ideas floating around.

I agree with Mark Ennis, however, that the contemporary connotation of perverse lends an unsavory and ultimately confusing meaning to the concept of which you are championing. Popular use renders the word kind of creepy, in spite of your claim of its dictionary propriety.

And by the way, my Merriam Webster Online reveals the following:

1 a : turned away from what is right or good : CORRUPT b : IMPROPER, INCORRECT c : contrary to the evidence or the direction of the judge on a point of law <perverse verdict>
2 a : obstinate in opposing what is right, reasonable, or accepted : WRONGHEADED b : arising from or indicative of stubbornness or obstinacy
3 : marked by peevishness or petulance : CRANKY
synonym see CONTRARY
Although the prevalent humor of self-deprecation allows millions to buy "______ for the Complete Idiot" books , I venture few would frequent a bistro called "Fatso's" or a salon called "Grossly Bazaar." At minimum you're swimming against the name.

I suggest another handle, one without the attendant baggage, which would elegantly sum up the characteristics of your favored performing style.

--Randy Campbell

Re: Perverse Magic

Posted: October 2nd, 2003, 7:53 pm
by Guest
Don't forget all the negative sexual connotations the word 'perverse' brings to mind in most folks... The Bouton brothers did an act early on called "Straight and Crooked Magic", where Harry would do traditional magic and his brother Pete, as a clown, did the 'perverse' stuff.

Re: Perverse Magic

Posted: October 4th, 2003, 5:41 pm
by Jonathan Townsend
Originally posted by Asrah:
'perverse' brings to mind in most folks...
What would you call it when you know how to make some things happen, and sometimes what happens is not what you wanted or expected?

Suggesting "when queer things happen to gay people" is probably not going to fly as some folks need to take a sexual interpretation to words, and make such intercourse unsafe. ;)

Re: Perverse Magic

Posted: October 4th, 2003, 7:15 pm
by sleightly
Umm... meant to post this some time ago, but lost the thread...

I believe you guys are searching for the phrase "absurd magic."

Which, really, is what most magic is. Particularly when the "magic" happens of its own accord, in direct contrast (one might say in spite of) the intended actions of the performer...

Now that I've posted, the thread will likely die (they don't call me the "thread killer" for nothing), but I love to perform this type of magic, as it provides the most opportunity for character & conflict!


Re: Perverse Magic

Posted: October 5th, 2003, 7:32 am
by Jonathan Townsend
Originally posted by Andrew J. Pinard:
...believe you guys are searching for the phrase "absurd magic."
One might interpret 'absurd' as relating to the resulting effects when the magic occurs as intended by the magician.

I suspect Gerry is looking at magic as events which while caused by the magician... do not occur in accordance with the will of the magician.

imagine magic as accomplished by invisible imps. the magician has these creatures doing what he wants, when he wants. Now imagine one or more imps who can't read their to-do lists. Or are dilligently doing their work... just reading the wrong list.

What would you call that?

Re: Perverse Magic

Posted: October 5th, 2003, 9:51 am
by sleightly
Actually Jonathan, you describe my intent with fair accuracy!

I refer to absurd as in the absurdist theatre of Samuel Beckett, Eugene Ionesco, Jean Genet, Harold Pinter. This notion of absurdity was originally expressed by the French philosopher Albert Camus. In his 'Myth of Sisyphus' (1942), Camus first defined the human situation as basically meaningless and absurd. The playwrights above explored this notion in their theatrical works. Their shared explorations all exibited a view that man is inhabiting a universe that operates without regard for his existence. Its meaning is indecipherable and his place within it is without purpose. He is bewildered, troubled and obscurely threatened. The plays often deal with characters struggling to find meaning through their existence and the rituals that they adopt to retain their "self."

In our world, the magician is the catalyst, the focal point from whence the action stems... The "imps" are those creatures which do the actual work (kind of like box-jumpers) but are occasionally resentful and express their displeasure through small acts of rebellion that, while contrary to the original intent, actually fulfill the dictate in an unexpected way (to the consternation of the performer).

The performer appears to be at the mercy of forces outside of his control, often exacerbated by the mistaken belief that he has supreme control. It is this act of hubris that necessitates the unfortunate situations he finds himself in. The "imps" conjured by the performer to exert his will often ultimately prove to be his downfall, a lesson that one can not operate alone and expect to retain control of his existence. Occasionally, with all the odds stacked against them, the magician succeeds and re-affirms the strength of the human spirit to transcend the impossibility. The question of success should always be in doubt, a major factor often too much dismissed by the contemporary performer.

The experiences of the character and the conflict of will versus situation (and occasional resolution in an unusual way) leads to the amusement, entertainment, and enrichment of the audience.

Presented in unexpected surroudings adds to the absurdity of the experience, and contributes enormously to the sensual pleasure that is derived from an unanticipated magical experience.

What do you think?

I should also thank Gerald for starting this thread and for selflessly contributing examples of his own work.

Your efforts are sincerely appreciated!


Re: Perverse Magic

Posted: October 5th, 2003, 10:31 pm
by Jonathan Townsend
Originally posted by Andrew J. Pinard:
...a view that man is inhabiting a universe that operates without regard for his existence.
Here we come to a question of perspective;

From the perspective of the magician the situation would involve a thwarting of expectations.

From the audience perspective they are attending a demonstration of absurd effects.

What Gerry is asking of the audience seems to be a suspension of disbelief that 'magic acts acording to the expectations of the magician' where this belief is replaced by a sense that 'the magician is somehow able to manage some degree of comfort in situations where magic is action out of sync with expectations'. This 'out of sync' seems a good candidate for the label 'perverse'. This seems appropriate to me in that there are clearly stated expectations, even in the context of the magic routines.

I feel that the results of disorganized imps are perverse, while the world where imps get disorganized is absurd.

My semantics. What are your thoughts?

Re: Perverse Magic

Posted: October 25th, 2003, 6:30 am
by Gerald Deutsch
Perverse Bill Tear

I've used Jim Ryan's Bill Tear (see Apocalypse page 175) for many years and found it to be very entertaining for small groups both at meetings and in doing walk around magic. The way I present it is not the way a bill tear is normally presented - "watch me tear your bill and restore it". I tear it in disgust.

I use a half of a stage bill folded in quarters with the black side out (I think it was Richard Kaufman that once told me that Derek Dingle suggested using a half bill which makes it easier to tear). The folded half bill is in my wallet in a compartment and I put it into right finger palm position as I seem to be looking for a $20 bill and then I ask to borrow a $20 bill. (I find $20 the best - it's no big deal with a $1 and not many people have $100). When I get the $20 I lay it over the finger palmed half bill black side down and put my wallet away.

I explain that I just learned a new trick with a $20 bill but I'm not sure about it. I pick up the $20 and the the half bill with my left thumb below and left fingers above and my right thumb then slides the half bill to the lower right corner of the $20.

I fold the bill longways twice and then I pause and try to remember what to do next. I'm thinking, I shake my head, I'm really trying to remember. I then fold the $20 down so that it's now the same size as the folded half stage bill which is behind it. Again I pretend to be thinking about what to do next.

My right thumb then slides the stage bill to the right while my left fingers takes the $20 in finger palm position and the thumb and first fingers of both hands grip the folded half stage bill and it is immediately torn into pieces and thrown away as I say, "I'm sorry. I just don't remember."

Both hands go into my pockets as I apologize and then, after a few minutes I reach into my wallet and give back another $20 that had been folded the same way and then opened.

(I'm not telling them it's the same bill. I say nothing. I'm just giving them a $20 bill in return for what they gave me but you'd be surprized at how many times the fact that there are fold marks in the bill makes them think it's the same bill.)

(I know that above on this thread I said that Ballantine didn't do perverse magic because, while it was great entertainment when things went wrong, there was no magic. Here, there is magic - a bill switch under their noses.)

Re: Perverse Magic

Posted: October 27th, 2003, 8:43 am
by Michael Jay
I LIKE it!! :D Good stuff, Mr. Deutsch. Problem that exists now, though, is the colored 20 dollar bills. They are becoming more prevalent, at this point. Still, soon enough, they will be the rule rather than the exception. Any ideas of how to deal with it? Also, will the coloration effect this, even when using two colored bills?

As for the debate on "perverse" as a moniker for this kind of presentation, I kinda like the thought of "perverse" magic. I have gleaned a few other words that may work (countervailing, recalcitrant or oppugnant), but perverse fits the bill!

Thank you for taking the time to work through this thread. I've been watching it for a while and wanted to tell you how much I appreciate the work that you are putting in.


Re: Perverse Magic

Posted: October 27th, 2003, 9:49 am
by Pete Biro
Scan the new bills and print your own piece to do the above routine.

Re: Perverse Magic

Posted: October 28th, 2003, 2:03 am
by Gerald Deutsch
Perverse Bill Tear - New $20

In answer to the comments about the new $20 (which I haven't seen yet):

1 As far as the stage bill is concerned - it doesn't matter - it's really never seen. It's behind the borrowed bill until the moment it's torn and at that time it's covered with my fingers. As a matter of fact, I want the stage bill to look unlike the real bill so that, at the end, when pieces are discovered on the floor, they KNOW that a bill switch took place.

(I've even used a piece of newspaper in a pinch.)

2 The only thing that must be considered is the return of the bill.

I mentioned that I give them back my own bill which had been folded and unfolded so they think it's their bill. I could, of course give them back their bill (which is folded in eighths and in my left trouser pocket) but for perverse magic it's important to avoid the attitude "Here's your bill - look how good I am".

My attitude with this trick is to shake my head in failure and just give them a bill (which I let them think is theirs).

Thinking about this now I guess I could have some of my bills folded in half and either in my left trouser pocket or, if I'm wearing a jacket, in the inside breast pocket. At the end of the trick I could look for money in my right trouser pocket, not find any, then reach into my left pocket, unfold their bill from eighths to half and come up with it together with my bills and hand them what appears to be one of mine but is, of course, really theirs (and if my bills are in my inside jacket pocket, it's a simple matter to finger palm their bill, reach into my inside jacket pocket with it, unfold it from eights to half and bring it out with my bills.)

Re: Perverse Magic

Posted: October 28th, 2003, 7:44 am
by Michael Jay
Personally, I like the idea of taking it out of the wallet, with the folds suggesting that it is their bill, much more. I really believe that adds a psychological twist to this effect that goes beyond simply removing it from a pocket and hitting them with a hammer, so to speak.

After thought, you only need to carry one regular bill and one colored bill in your wallet, with the folds, and use whichever one that they had initially given you (plain or colored). Then, of course, you do have the replacement for the bill in your wallet, as if it was colored, you'll replace the colored for colored. Okay, I'm rambling, but I hope you take the point.

I like the original handling the best.


Re: Perverse Magic

Posted: November 23rd, 2003, 6:20 pm
by Gerald Deutsch
The Pen Coin Routine

At the beginning of this thread, in defining "Perverse Magic" I gave five forms. For the fifth form I said:

5 The magician and the audience are on different planes as to what each sees.

An example might be the invisible deck routine or David Roth's "Legendary Four Coin Trick"

(This is "Whimsical Perverse Magic")

With Perverse Magic the magician does not appear to be "better than everyone" (as is the case with so many performers) but plays the part of an ordinary guy who gets caught up in what happens. It does take acting but the style is appropriate for many effects including the classics - both close up and platform.

I call this "Whimsical Perverse Magic" because it's more "whimsical" than "perverse" in that the magic doesn't happen against the performer but seems to appear to be magic to the spectators but something ordinary to the magician.

(I thought of starting a new thread called "Whimsical Magic' but I'm having enough trouble satisfying people with the title "Perverse Magic" so I'll just keep this thread.)

As I noted, much here depends on the acting of the magician to fit the part of an ordinary person - not a person with magical powers as is the usual case for magic performances. Other examples of this type of magic would be The Invisible Deck or my Invisible Card (Apocalypse January 1993). This Pen Coin Routine is another example.

The effect basically is that I approach a receptionist or a cashier in a restaurant and curiously pick up their pen and say with surprise, "There's a quarter in here." And I pull out a quarter. I give back the pen and look at the quarter, take the pen again and push the quarter back into it. Again I take the quarter from the pen and again put it back into the pen and then give back the pen. Finally, I take the pen pull off the cap, shake the cap and out falls the quarter. I give back the pen and say, "I guess I can keep the quarter since I found it."

The routine is as follows:

1 A quarter is classic palmed in the right hand. The pen is taken in the left hand with the cap in the palm and the bottom in the face down fist pointing to the right. The right hand fist runs along the pen and produces the quarter.

2 As the pen is returned with the left hand the right hand classic palms the quarter. There is good misdirection for the palm here.

3 As a sort of "second thought", the quarter seems to be placed into the left hand, but kept in the classic palm in the right hand as that hand takes back the pen pushes the pen into the left hand - (which apparently has the quarter) putting the quarter back into the pen.

4 The pen is now held in the right hand at the end between the thumb and forefinger pointing down - sort of just hanging. (The quarter is classic palmed in that hand).

As the left hand comes up to take the pen at the other end the index finger of the left hand momentarily touches the pinky of the right hand and the coin is released from the right classic palm and falls into the left finger palm. Immediately the left hand closes around the pen, draws it into a horizontal position and moves to the left pulling the quarter from the pen.

5 The quarter is in the left hand, the pen in the right. The left hand closes into a fist, the fingers up. The left hand turns a bit to the right and the quarter is worked into a Han Pin Chen position (so that it can fall from the left fist through the space between the left palm and closed left little finger). The right hand with the pen makes a circle around the left hand going around the fist and when it gets to "6 O'clock" the quarter is allowed to leave the left hand and fall into the right where it is caught in the right fingers as the right hand pushes the pen into the space where the quarter came out of the left fist. The left hand is opened to show the quarter has gone back into the pen.

Again give the pen back as the quarter is taken into classic palm in the right hand.

6 Finally, take back the pen once more, pull off the cap and hold it in the right hand between the thumb and forefinger (opening face down) and shake it, allowing the quarter to fall from the palm to the table below. "I guess I can keep the quarter since I found it." (I don't know whose idea it was to shake to quarter from the pen cap but it's a perfect ending for this routine.)

This routine always leaves the spectators laughing and takes only maybe a minute
(the way I work) or two. It fits my style.

(I began to develop this routine with Slydini in July of 1976 while he was trying to
get me to perform his "One Coin Routine" and I kept insisting that as wonderful as
that routine was it just didn't fit my personality.)

Re: Perverse Magic

Posted: November 25th, 2003, 8:16 pm
by Guest
Wonderful stuff, all of it, Gerald.

I especially like the ambitious card with double-backers. Very, very clever -- and logical, in a perverse sort of way.

And, speaking of perverse, who cares what anyone calls it, just so long as it is entertaining (which all of this is!).

After all, if your cat has kittens in your oven, you don't call them "biscuits"!

Peter Marucci

Re: Perverse Magic

Posted: November 26th, 2003, 10:52 am
by Guest
Marvelous thread, Gerald! Thanks for your hard work and willingness to share your wonderful ideas!

One version of my kid show is built around the "sprite who lives in my wand." He does all of the magic, I assert, and the magician really doesn't know how to do anything. Sometimes the sprite will not do the trick until the kids shout "please" to him. Sometimes he suggests other climax ideas in mid-trick. Sometimes he deliberately messes up the trick until the kids shout loud enough. This theme runs through the entire show.

Just my kid version of your "perverse magic". I have done this type of show on and off for several years. You have given me some more ideas for it here.

Michael Jay and I have similar ideas on this type of work, probably built around our reading of Henning Nelms' book, Magic and Showmanship: A Handbook for Conjurers", in which he advocates, and illustrates with suggested routines, such perverse "imp-driven" magic.

Thanks again for your excellent and detailed routines, and your take on doing perverse magic for adults.



Re: Perverse Magic

Posted: December 6th, 2003, 1:06 pm
by Gerald Deutsch

As great Perverse magic, I used to think of doing the Card Sword - having a card selected and telling the audience I would throw the deck into the air and stab their card. Then, when I thrust the sword at the falling cards all the cards are impaled on the sword EXCEPT the selected card. I would pick up the selected card and say "Damn! Missed." Of course this can't be done. (Or the card on the ceiling where all the cards EXCEPT the selected card stick to the ceiling.)

Inversion - by James Lewis which is on page 263 of "The Magic of Michael Ammar" is the next best thing.


The effect is that a card is selected and put into the deck face up but left protruding for half its length. The performer says he will make the card turn face down but instead the card stays as it is and the deck VISABLY turns face up. "Damn - it didn't work!" says the magician.


1 To begin, the bottom card of the deck is reversed and face up without the audience being aware.

2 A the deck is spread and a card is selected.

3 It's now necessary to turn the deck over so that it is face up with the card at the top (the former bottom card) the only card face down.

The way I do this is to have the deck (which is face down with the bottom card face up) in my left hand.

I point to the spectator (saying something like, "Look at the card") with that hand (which turns the hand palm down) and with my hand palm down, the deck is now face up (except for the former bottom card), telling the spectator to remember that card.

4 I take back the selected card and turn it face up and inset it in what appears to be the face down deck but protruding for abut half its length from the left corner of the pack. (That is, it's not inserted directly from the front but halfway between the front and the left side - the left corner).

5 I tell the spectators to watch as I will make the card turn face down and then, as they are watching, I perform the one hand top card palm, palming off the top face down card.

It's a startling revelation - a visible change of a face down deck to a face up deck.

"Damn! The whole deck turned face up!!!"

6 To "clean up", I turn my right hand with the palmed card face up while at the same time I spread the cards so that the spread cards immediately cover the palmed card which is deposited under the deck.

Great perverse magic.

Re: Perverse Magic

Posted: December 23rd, 2003, 5:05 pm
by Gerald Deutsch
The Gizinta Coins

This is another quick routine that falls into the category of "Whimsical Perverse Magic.

I recently was in a hospital waiting room with a bunch of children and I did some coin tricks to keep them busy. One routine was what I call "The Gizinta Coins".

The routine goes like this:

* A borrow or use my quarter and I pretend to see a dime inside.

* I pull the dime out of the quarter - as if that's the most natural thing in the world.

* I put the dime back into the quarter - and them pull it out again.

* I explain that it's even possible but a little harder to put a quarter into the dime and I do.

* Then I try to get the quarter out of the dime but the dime disappears. I look confused but shrug my shoulders and if I borrowed the quarter I reach into my pocket, pull out a handful of change, select a quarter and give it back.

It's simple and just requires a classic palm of a dime in the right hand. Take the
quarter in the right hand between the thumb and index finger so the dime isn't seen
(Kaps subtlety) . The left hand takes the quarter in the same way (thumb and index
finger) and then the right hand lets the dime fall to its fingers.

The hands come together and the dime goes in front of the quarter and the hands
separate as if you were tearing the quarter and you show the dime.

The dime is again classic palmed in the right hand as the extended index finger of
that hand points to a position on the quarter where the dime came out. Then bring
the fingers of the right hand together as if it is holding the dime there and the left
hand puts the quarter at the right finger tips. The left palm then slaps the quarter
and the right hand shows the quarter at the fingertips, the dime in classic palm
being concealed by the Kaps subtlety.

Again take the dime from the quarter.

Toss both coins into the right palm and take the dime in the left hand and show it
while the right hand palms the quarter. Explain you can even put the quarter into
the dime and repeat the moves above to show you did.

Take the dime into the right hand and put that hand into your right trouser pocket
getting rid of the palmed quarter but as an afterthought remove your right hand
with the dime on its palm but as the hand starts to come out of the pocket the dime
is let to drop back in.

Say you have to get the quarter out of the dime and try and then act surprised when
the dime vanishes.

Re: Perverse Magic

Posted: January 7th, 2004, 12:35 pm
by Gerald Deutsch
The All Backs Routine


This is a routine is a great example of " Perverse Magic".

It is credited to Dai Vernon and was published in "Hugard's Magic Monthly" in June 1949 and it appears on page 459 of "Expert Card Technique". I use Jerry Mentzer's opening that appears in "Card Cavalcade Four" and finally, it was Jonathan Townsend that gave me the suggestion of using the one hand top palm to end the routine as a visible change of a back to a face. (Jonathan suggested this to me in June of 1985. It is used in "Inversion" which I found in Mike Ammar's book published, I believe in 1991.) (Also see my thoughts on Inversion above.)

Effect and Patter

I do the routine when someone hands me a deck of cards and in front of a group of people, asks me to do a trick. The reason is that this way they know it's not my own double back deck.

I riffle the deck and ask a spectator to say "stop" and when she does I lift the right hand portion to show the face of the bottom card of the top half to the spectator. Her bewildered look puzzles me and I curiously turn the packet to face me and I'm surprised to see a back instead of the face. I look through the deck and see only backs.

I say that this must be one of those trick decks you by in a magic store as I keep showing backs. Then I remark that I read that by squeezing the deck you can get the faces and I do squeeze the deck and I'm surprised when the top back card visibly changes to a face card.

The Routine

1 When handed a deck I play with it and while talking to the group I set up the deck as follows:

* I palm the top card in my right

* I push the next card to the right with my left thumb and with my right thumb beneath it I turn it face up but before the face can be seen I cover it with my right hand releasing the palmed card and square the two as one.

* I openly transfer the card(s) to the bottom

* I repeat the steps above with the next 2 cards but instead of transferring them to the bottom, I riffle the pack and insert the card(s) into the center and as I push it in with my right fingers, I lift up and hold a break under those cards which is transferred to my left little finger.

So at this point there is a face up card on the bottom and another as the
bottom card of the top packet separated from the bottom by a break.

2 I ask a spectator to say "Stop" as I riffle the cards with my left thumb and when she does I lift the top packet for her to see the card. She sees a back and when I notice the peculiar look on her face I look confused and turn the top packet to myself to see what she was seeing. I see a back.

Then I put my left thumb under the lower packet and it turns over showing a back on the bottom.

I turn my left hand palm down showing the back that was the top of the lower packet. And then palm up again showing the back of the bottom card.

I put both packets together holding a break between them.

The position is the top packet is face down with a face up card on the bottom and the bottom packet is face up with a face down card on the bottom.

3 Now I spread the cards of the top packet showing backs being careful not to go to the break or a face will show.

I close the spread keeping the break which I pick up with my right thumb in the rear.

I then outjog the entire top packet. I can now release the break.

I bring my right fingers to the front of the deck, thumb on top and fingers below and turn my hand face down turning the deck over. There is still an outjog of the top portion and an injog of the bottom. I get a break between the two by pressing down on the top injogged card.

Again I spread, showing now the backs of the bottom half but the audience thinks that I've showed backs on both sides of the deck.

4 It's important to remember that I'm not trying to prove anything. I know and I assume the audience knows that the deck has only backs so I start talking about how magic shops sell these and while I'm saying this I'm just casually showing the cards, again, not to prove anything.

5 Again I repeat what I did in step 2. I break at the break and show backs at the bottom of the top packet and then my left thumb goes under the lower packet and turns it (now face down with a face up card on the bottom) then palm down to show another back then palm up again.

Both packets are now face down with a face up card on the bottom.

6 I put the packets together but the top packet is sidejogged about half the width of the deck.

With the fingers of my left hand I push the bottom card (face up card) to the right. I then take all the cards of the bottom packet EXCEPT the sidejogged card in my left thumb and fingers and cut it to the top.

There is now a face down deck with 2 face up cards on the bottom.

7 The Hindu Shuffle is now used to show backs (again, not to prove backs but as a casual way of showing the cards as you explain how magic shops sell trick cards).

A few packets are pulled off the top in the classic Hindu Shuffle and periodically the right hand packet is lifted to show a back on the bottom (there are 2).

Then the left thumb pulls the top card of the right hand packet onto the left packet. The right hand turns palm up showing a back on the bottom of it's packet and the left hand pulls that card to the top of the left hand packet. The right hand again turns palm down and the right hand again pull the top card to the top of the left hand packet.

8 `Put the packets together and hold a break. Undercut half of the bottom portion and bring it to the top.

Cut to the break and turn the right hand face up showing a back and put this portion on the bottom.

As I square up I get a break over the 2nd card from the bottom.

9 Now I spread the cards from left hand to right showing all backs but I take care not to let the bottom two cards (held together with a break) spread.

When I get to the last tow cards (held as one) it is alone in my left hand, the rest of the deck having been spread to my right. I put my index finger on the bottom and press which causes the card to buckle and I hold the card between my left thumb on the left and my left fingers on the right. I release my thumb and the card(s) "flips" over showing what appears to be a double back card.

Immediately I put the right hand cards on top (just in case the 2 cards start to spread).

10 I then lift the pack so it is perpendicular to the floor (vertical) and spread the cards. To me I see the bottom face down card but the spectators see the backs. (Be careful that they don't see the top card or they will see the face.

11 I now hold the deck (face up with a face down card on top) in my right hand for the one hand card palm.

I explain that I read that by squeezing the deck you can get the faces. I then perform the one hand top palm and it's a VISABLE change of a back to a face.

To end and clean up I grab the deck in my left hand as my right hand with the palmed card turns palm up as it goes under the deck and adds the palmed card to the back of the spread deck.

This might be considered "Whimsical Perverse Magic" because the magician and the spectators are on a different plane as to what happens. The magician assumes he has been given a trick deck but the audience (or at least the host) knows better.

Re: Perverse Magic

Posted: February 1st, 2004, 10:18 am
by Gerald Deutsch
Rocks in Shoe

This is a quick stunt that falls into the category of "Whimsical Perverse Magic". It's done outdoors, walking in a field or the woods and is very amusing. And like most "Perverse Magic", takes some acting.

The effect is that you give out a cry of pain and look at your right foot as if that's the cause of your pain. You pull your shoe off with your left and dump out a rock the size of a strawberry. The right hand then reaches into the shoe and pulls out another rock, this one the length of a playing card.

The basic effect is described in Martin Gardner's "Encyclopedia of Impromptu Magic" and by Paul Harris in "Supermagic". Bob McAlister suggested the production of the second large rock to me.

It's done as follows.

1 Wear loafers - or a shoe that can be easily removed with the opposite hand (that is - here, the left hand will remove the right shoe) by pulling it off from the bottom.

2 Beforehand have the smaller rock in the shoe.

3 Palm the large rock in your right hand.

4 Pull off the shoe and let the rock fall

5 Reach into the shoe with the right hand (and the palmed rock) and produce the large rock.

6 Throw the rock to the ground, replace the shoe and shake your head as you limp along.

Re: Perverse Magic

Posted: February 23rd, 2004, 8:12 am
by Jonathan Townsend
Originally posted by Gerald Deutsch:
...Perverse Magic is magic that happens by itself against what the magician wants to happen. ...
Would the Fred Kaps Chinese Coin trick, and perhaps the 11 bill trick fit into this catagory?