My Favourite Effects in Machinations

By Ben Harris - Friday, May 29, 2020


In the book Machinations we explore variations with Robert E. Neale's Trapdoor card. By adding graphic elements and new handlings, I've been able to create a range of interesting performance-orientated material. There are many effects with the Trapdoor architecture in the book, but I have three favourites: UpSide, The Wishing Paper, and Houdini's Escape.

I think I like UpSide so much for selfish reasons. It was the first effect I wrapped around the realisation that the piece of paper (or card) could be turned 180 degrees while being restrained by the spectator. It was a breakthrough moment---one that opened up the other avenues and procedures described in the book.

UPSIDE
The effect of UpSide is simple, clear, repeatable, and allows you to give the spectator an awesome souvenir. You introduce a card with the word UPSIDE printed boldly across its face. The spectator holds the trapdoor that's cut in the card, preventing you from turning the card upside down. To do so, with the spectator holding the trapdoor will rip the card. Despite this, you magically do turn the card 180 degrees without tearing anything. The effect can be repeated, turning the word back right way up. For a finale, you execute the procedure just half way, leaving the spectator with a "talking point" souvenir. I actually like to perform this effect with a blank card and the spectator's signature (instead of the printed card). Inverting the spectator's signature really makes an emotional connection.

THE WISHING PAPER
Again, it is the emotional connect that makes this variation so strong. A card is introduced with birthday candles printed on both sides. A birthday child holds onto the little flap and makes a wish while imagining to blow out the candles. Magically, her birthday wish appears written on the card! The message can be anything, and this effect is great for adults, too. Can be used anytime you want to reveal a secret wish in a "birthday" setting.

HOUDINI'S ESCAPE
This is the first two card version of the Trapdoor card that I created. It is also a lovely little performance piece tanks to the wonderful Houdini portrait executed by the book's artist, Ever Elizalde. In effect, two cards are displayed. One is a portrait of Houdini, the other is card showing chains and locks. The Houdini card is wrapped within the confines of the chain card and magically escapes, even when held firmly by the spectator. It's easy, self-working, and quite "Tenyo-ish" in it's cuteness.

There are many other effects in Machinations, most accompanied by printed, die-cut performance cards. Everything fits in your pocket and is easy to perform!


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