Magicians Teach Us Three Tricks So Simple, Even a Kid Could Pull Them Off
“If every single person on the planet knew one simple magic trick, the world would be a happier place.” Such is the philosophy of Joe Diamond, a professional magician who regularly boggles minds at The Magic Cabaret, a show held Wednesday nights at Chicago’s Greenhouse Theater Center. Diamond is joined on stage by David Parr, another magician who agrees that the world could use an extra dose of mystery. “As we become technologically more sophisticated,” Parr explains, “we think we know everything there is to know. Magic is a little reminder [that] we can still be surprised.”
Anxious to be surprised ourselves, we asked Diamond and Parr to teach us some of their favorite simple magic tricks.
Trick 1: “Full of Holes”
This optical illusion turns an ordinary piece of paper into a clever x-ray tube. With this trick, the secret is inside your own mind.
How it works:
- Roll up the paper to form a small tube, then hold this tube in front of your right eye.
- Close your right eye and hold your left hand against the tube, with the palm facing you.
- When you open your eye again, there will appear to be a hole in your hand that you can see through. As Parr explains, “binocular vision is a wonderful thing.”
Trick 2: “Double Your Money”
If this were anything more than a trick, laughs Diamond, “the US Treasury would get mad at me.” That’s because this one involves borrowing a dollar from a friend and magically duplicating it.
How it works:
- To prep the trick, ball up a dollar bill and hide it under the collar of your shirt. Needless to say, do this out of the sight of your audience.
- To start the trick, borrow another dollar bill from a friend and ball it up in your hand.
- Rub the borrowed bill against your elbow (Diamond likes to tell his audience that this “heats up the molecules”). This distracts your friend while you subtly reach back to grab the hidden dollar under your collar.
- When you bring your arm back down, bring your fists together.
- With your fists joined, push the crumpled bills together and “pull” them apart to complete the trick.
Trick 3: “A Million to One”
The key to this classic card trick is misdirection. Working with an audience member, you sort out four equal piles of cards and mix them up while forming a fifth pile. Then, you spread out that fifth pile to show that, magically, it contains no kings.
At this point, Parr likes to add some verbal flourishes to really astound his audience. He starts by saying, “You seem unimpressed,” and pauses for effect. Then comes the real kicker: “Remember, you cut the deck. The odds of this happening are a million to one,” as he flips over a king at the top of each of the four original piles.
How it works:
- Prep the deck by sorting all of the kings to the top in advance.
- Have a friend create four even piles of cards by dropping cards from the bottom of your deck. (To ensure that the kings stay on the top of your deck, you need to be clear in these instructions.)
- Sort cards from each pile into the existing piles, as well as a new fifth pile.
- While you’re sorting the cards, only sort one card from each pile onto the pile with the kings.
- When it’s time to sort that fourth pile—the pile with the kings—sort the first three cards onto your fifth pile, then sort one of each king onto the first three piles.
- Display the fifth pile, showing that there are no kings.
- Turn over the first card in each of the original piles to reveal the kings.
Stephanie McDaniel is a political theorist-turned-novelist from South Carolina. On the rare occasion she’s not writing, she spends her time folk dancing, singing, and adding sea salt to Lake Michigan.