Excellent magicians can make ordinary things seem extraordinary. They can make objects disappear or wow the audience with some classic card tricks. The shows put on often seem impossible and magical! Many think that they are actually working with real magic, but that’s not the case. They’re usually just executing carefully planned out illusions. These are some classic tricks debunked and revealed.
In 1983, David Copperfield seemingly made the Statue of Liberty disappear on a live CBS special. After raising two scaffolds to cover the statue and giving a short speech about cherishing freedom, the curtains dropped, lights flashed, and the monument was gone. How did this happen? It was simple. The platform rotated. With the vibrations of its movement masked by the loudness of the music, the platform had moved, so the statue was blocked by one of the scaffolds. With the lights turned so bright, ensuring the statue couldn’t be seen behind the fabric, viewers were left shocked.
A trick everyone wishes they had is levitation. For his first TV special aired in 1997, magician David Blaine walked away from a crowd, stood with his back to the audience, lifted his feet, and floated in the air. Blaine successfully tricked the audience by proving he was not wearing any special shoes and the area where he was levitating was nothing special.
Was this pure magic or an illusion? He had performed something called Balducci levitation (an illusion). He had stepped 10 feet away from his audience, so when he rose up on the toes of one foot, it appeared like he was floating because from the angle the audience was viewing, they couldn’t see his other foot touching the floor. Wearing long pants also further obstructed the view of the magician’s feet.
A final magic trick many people have probably seen before is “halving the assistant.” How does one cut someone in half on a table and put them back together in a matter of minutes? Well, it turns out that there are actually two assistants involved, who both have different roles. One assistant remains hidden inside a box and sticks their legs out when it’s the right time, while the other person gets inside a box and only reveals their head. When the magician appears to be cutting the one assistant in half, each assistant flails their arms or legs in order to scare the audience.
A simple illusion one can try at home is the “rubber pencil.” The first step is to hold a pencil nearly at the tip of the eraser side, gripping it loosely between the thumb and index finger.
Shaking the hand up and down and letting the pencil flop up and down will fool the eyes by making it seem like the pencil is effortlessly bedding and wiggling. If asked how this was performed, well…magicians never reveal their secrets!