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Creating Chaos – Ideas & Methods for Magicians


Magicians try to manage each element of a efficiency, but the extra you management, the weaker the magic turns into. What occurs once you let extra chaos into your displays? How are you going to make your course of really feel extra random?

Right here is episode three of the Principle & Ideas for Magicians podcast:

Episode Transcript

Magical results are both unattainable or unbelievable. They both break the bodily legal guidelines of the universe, or bend them towards the percentages. We have a tendency to consider magic tips as at all times being unattainable, however a superb quantity of them are simply various levels of unbelievable.

Most card tips, the place a selected card is discovered on high, or on backside, or anyplace else within the deck, principally boil right down to a 1 in 52 probability. One of many playing cards needed to be in that spot, and it simply occurs to be yours.

Discovering 1 out of 52 is a protracted sufficient lengthy shot to entertain audiences. Nevertheless, there are various magic tips, significantly in mentalism, which have profitable odds of 1 in 6, decided by a roll of a die, 1 in 5, a selected ESP image, and even 1 in 3 possibilities of getting it proper.

When you take an goal step again, it’s not significantly spectacular.

And but, the subjective proof, audiences who gasp and scream when the one-in-three chosen envelope is opened to disclose the $100 invoice, suggests it’s, in actual fact, each spectacular and magical regardless of the numbers. However… why?

Welcome to Principle & Ideas for Magicians. I’m Ryan Pilling. On this episode I’m speaking about creating chaos and the way it can shift viewers reactions from “OK” to “OMG!”


Think about you and I meet within the hallway of a magic conference. I ask to borrow 1 / 4, you oblige, and I say “I predict it will land heads aspect up.” I flip the coin within the air, catch it and slap it onto the again of my hand. I slowly elevate my fingers to disclose… heads!

Okay, not significantly superb.

Nevertheless, I supply to repeat the trick. “I predict this coin will land heads up!” I pronounce as I whip the coin in the direction of the wall with all my may.

Nevertheless, the coin bounces off the wall and lands in a water jug on its method into the lecture corridor the place it’s poured right into a glass and drank by a magician within the third row. As he feels the coin hit his tongue he coughs in shock, propelling the coin upwards the place the shine attracts a close-by parrot, having lately appeared from underneath a bundle of silk.

The parrot snatches the coin and takes off in the direction of the sellers room the place your quarter slips by means of its claws and falls right into a coin ladder – tink, tink, tink, tink, tink, tink, tink annnnd tink right into a chop cup which had been positioned there momentarily whereas it was paid for, then carried away, together with the coin clinging to the within. (it was a Canadian quarter, in fact)

Because the excited magician was exhibiting off his buy, demonstrating how he might reveal the ultimate lemon with a dramatic flick of the wrist our coin dislodged sending it, as soon as once more, tumbling skywards, arcing in the direction of the hall, the place it come across a paddle transfer in progress, bouncing once more, rolling alongside the crown molding for a time till it fell in the direction of an older gentleman snoozing in a chair, hitting his reclined identify badge and rolling throughout the ground again in the direction of us the place it slowed, curling round our ft and touchdown… heads aspect up.

Wow! What are the percentages of that!?!

Taken individually I had the identical probability of predicting the result of both coin toss; fifty-fifty odds. By way of the sensible magic trick, every little thing was the identical besides the second toss, with all its twists and turns, appeared extra chaotic.

The chaos was irrelevant to my prediction, but, my potential to foretell the result of the second toss feels extra spectacular than the toss underneath my very own management. The chaos made it really feel extra magical.

We might think about that very same one-in-two probability in one other, extra dramatic, scenario.

You’re standing beside a spike, pushed deep into the bottom. There are two ropes tied off round this spike. Each ropes are stretched tight main in the direction of the identical pulley, which hangs out over the sting of a canyon cliff. A type of two ropes is weighed down by an anvil. The opposite is weighed down by me, dangling over the precipice.

Then you definately’re given scissors, and I ask you to chop one rope. I’ve dedicated to my prediction, with a fifty-fifty probability of being proper.

This stunt isn’t any totally different than calling the result of a coin toss, but the dramatic influence is amplified by the looming sense of a spectacularly chaotic failure.


Magic, from the attitude of the magician, is about management. We discuss card management, viewers management, controlling your angles, distant controls, and managed outcomes.

We spend an unreasonable period of time creating, engineering, and training magic with a purpose to take away variables and improve management. We obsess over the end on taking part in playing cards, and ridges on the sting of a coin.

In some instances, being off by a single millimeter would be the distinction between an ideal phantasm and a botched trick.

Any phantasm is dependent upon a point of exact management to drag it off. The magic carried out by amateurs is commonly extra forgiving in its precision, to account for the abilities of an informal magician. Nevertheless, our historical past is stuffed with individuals like Dr. Hooker and well-known rising playing cards, magicians who dedicate their life to creating the last word phantasm. Working to manage each potential variable.

The chaos should be wrangled for a magic trick to work. Like skipping stones throughout a pond, the magic is dependent upon lots of components being inside an appropriate vary of “excellent” to stop an disagreeable sploosh!

The water’s floor should be nonetheless, a easy, flat stone fastidiously chosen. You get your grip excellent, lean down low, wind up, and launch. Oooh, 9 skips, not unhealthy.

If I watch you do that, and observe your attentiveness to every step, I see the method. I see how each little bit of it issues to the result. I understand a practiced talent.

But, we might flip this course of right into a form of magic trick by eradicating that spotlight to element. Or, making it appear that method.

Say we’re strolling alongside a fast paced river. You ask me to choose up any small rock. I hand it to you. With out breaking your stride, and even turning your head, you fling it in the direction of the river and it effortlessly skips throughout to the opposite aspect.
Now that feels oddly magical. Identical stunt, identical approach, however it simply occurred. All of the approach was hidden from me. You managed all of the variables, but it felt like randomness to me.

The river is usually tough water, however you knew we had been coming as much as a easy spot on a large bend. You had been carrying the right pre-selected skipping stone in your proper pocket, which you palmed whereas I used to be choosing up a random rock. You had been strolling on my proper aspect, so I needed to place the rock in your left hand. You’re a right-handed thrower, so that you wanted to switch the rock simply earlier than throwing, and also you timed your speech to be on the proper spot on the trail to make the right throw.

All this stuff which simply so occurred to be simply what you wanted. I by no means had a sense you had been in management. You’re a sneaky wizard!

You’ve created a way of magic not by eliminating chaos, however by discovering small pockets of management inside it, like a relaxed spot on a raging river. That is the way in which. A efficiency which is made for the second, or maybe a second which was crafted for the efficiency. It looks like it might by no means be repeated the identical method twice, for it’s not the identical river, and also you’re not the identical individual.


Most magic performances aren’t impromptu, natural, happenings. Moderately, the viewers simply so occurs to be sitting down to observe a magic present, and also you simply so occur to be the magician on stage. The entire expertise is contrived, and performs out based on a schedule.

There may be not an entire lot of pure chaos on this scenario, so I take it upon myself to stir the pot. I would like extra insanity to go together with my methodology. My aim is to bury any sense of management underneath a mountain of chaos.

Think about: you decide a card, put it again on the deck. I elevate it up once more. Ta Da! There’s no magic there. It’s all management, no chaos.
Do this: You decide a card, put it again, the playing cards are lower. Ah, now it’s a bit of more durable to search out your card. I appear to be dropping management. I shuffle the playing cards. Higher. Now you shuffle the playing cards. Every step provides extra chaos, and chips away at any sense of management.
However, similar to the well-known card trick… let’s go additional than that.

I stuff the deck inside a balloon, blow it up, we toss it across the room, you shake it up, and toss it again, I burst the balloon with a fork and leaping by means of the cloud of playing cards I discover one caught to the duct tape hooked up to my elbow and, would you have a look at that… it’s your card!

This chaotic journey was a part of my present for a few years. It was a deliberate train in how far I can lean over the sting in the direction of chaos with out breaking my security line of management.

Whereas it did nothing to vary the percentages of discovering your card, it certain appeared harder, and extra superb, to drag off this stunt.

The broader the hole between your perceived management, and the obvious chaos makes for extra spectacular magic.

That is what makes Simon Aronson’s Shuffle-Bored such a tremendously robust impact. Not solely is all the sequence of random shuffling carried out by the viewers, however the ensuing prediction is made to look considerably extra particular than it really is. The chaos feels extra chaotic, and the ultimate order extra ordered.

In order for you your arrival to look extra miraculous, it’s essential to make the trail extra treacherous.


Versus the unbelievable, really unattainable magic results don’t depend on viewers interplay to combine issues up. No one wants to call a quantity, level to an object, or affect the method in any method. For probably the most half, the routine proceeds precisely as rehearsed, the identical method each time.

Instilling a way of chaos makes all of the distinction between the viewers watching a chilly, robotic automaton or an actual reside magician.

We spend a substantial amount of effort to make very exact actions seem informal. Haphazard. A contact of chaos. When a stack of cash vanish, it appears extra actual if the stack is barely askew slightly than completely aligned.

Within the ABC Blocks, why is there a dowel rod operating up by means of the center of the blocks? I’ve by no means seen an actual toy like that. It’s clearly a magic prop. The pole is there for the magician to raised management the blocks, to take away any dysfunction, to make the tactic a bit of simpler. Would the vanishing block really feel extra magical if it was simply three abnormal blocks stacked casually?

The most effective DeKolta Chair phantasm I ever noticed was constructed by John Gaughn. The chair seemed like another wood chair, sitting on high of a beaten-up wood pallet, on a platform stretched throughout two sawhorses, as if all the factor was assembled from discovered objects. Every bit was akimbo, they usually all moved freely. It was an amazing quantity of effort invested to look as no effort in any way.

The pursuit of disguising magical props as unassuming objects is supposed to introduce a sense of randomness to the proceedings. An impact introduced with “any outdated” cardboard field lands very otherwise than the identical impact with a “magic” field coated in mylar and sparkles. The extra abnormal the props, the extra particular the impact.

You possibly can improve the looks of chaos by avoiding proper angles, use ragged tears as an alternative of unpolluted cuts, carry out exact actions without having to have a look at your palms, as if it doesn’t matter in any respect. Take your magic and kick it down the metaphorical alley. Tough it up a bit.

Take any trick in your repertoire and ask, how can I make this really feel extra random? How can I make it appear much less rehearsed. Make your magic completely imperfect.


I’m a proponent of chaos on this planet. I discover issues which run based on plan slightly boring. I a lot favor the thrill of uncooked improvisational theatre to the polish of a rehearsed play. I measure the standard of a efficiency by how a lot it appears as if it’s all occurring for the primary time.

The other of “phoning it in,” I desire a performer who’s listening, and responding, to the viewers, making a efficiency tailor-made for this second, on this area. Spontaneously delivering one thing by no means to be seen once more. That is the spark of reside efficiency. An expertise for which you needed to be there.

For magicians, it’s an phantasm on high of illusions, that all the present is simply understanding by probability, that every one the chaos is effortlessly transferring in formation, with no coercion. That is the last word suspension of disbelief. Not that the fictional magic is actual, however that the fictional magician is just not making any specific effort. That all of it simply… occurs.

The final word management over chaos is to make the chaos assume it’s in management.


I’m comfortable that, on this second, my podcast simply so occurred to fulfill your ears, and hopefully this random assortment of sounds simply so occurred to be organized with a purpose to make phrases, and people phrases flapped their wings excellent that throughout the ocean of your thoughts an thought sparked into existence.

That is Principle & Ideas for Magicians, my aim is to get you considering, and yow will discover extra magical randomness from me at www.MagicTipsAndTricks.com. Thanks for listening.

Might the percentages be endlessly overwhelmingly towards you.

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