Best-Selling Parlor Magic Tricks

Sometimes referred to as salon magic, parlor magic is a unique style of magic popularized in the late 19th century. During this time, wealthy individuals would often host large gatherings or parlor parties and invite various artists such as magicians to entertain their guests.

Today, parlor magic is just as popular as ever. You can find amazing parlor magic shows everywhere from Morgan & West’s “Parlour Tricks” in the UK to Steve Cohen’s “Chamber Magic” and Noah Levine’s “Magic After Hours” at Tannen’s Magic Shop in New York City.

UK magicians Morgan & West perform a parlor magic trick using a blindfold

What is Parlor Magic?

Parlor magic is performed for larger groups than the close-up street magic you might see from David Blaine, Dynamo, Michael Carbonaro or Justin Willman. The audience is also typically seated in a more formal environment.

However, this is not a large theater like the one at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas where you can see David Copperfield perform. As such, you won’t see large stage illusions like sawing a woman in half or Houdini’s water torture chamber in a parlor magic show.

Parlor magic should be designed so everyone in the back row can see and enjoy it as much as everyone in the front row. This is why you’ll often see magic tricks like the linking rings or mentalism in a parlor magic show instead of a close-up card magic trick like the ambitious card trick or a basic coin trick.

Here are the best-selling Parlor Magic Tricks that you can learn right now:

Thought of Cards Across

Cards Across is one of the best parlor magic tricks you can do. As the suits and values of the card aren’t important parts of the trick, it’s a great card trick for larger audiences.

In its most basic form, two volunteers are invited to hold two small packets of cards (usually 10 cards each). A certain number of playing cards then disappear from one pile and reappear in the other pile.

“Thought of Cards Across” is one of the easiest and most powerful variations of cards across. It was developed by Morgan & West, an acclaimed british magic duo act and authors of one of our best-selling magic books of all time Parlour Tricks.

It uses special gimmicked cards manufactured by Card Shark. One packet of cards is black, the other is red. A spectator mentally selects one of the black cards. Then, without you needing to perform any difficult sleight of hand, their thought-of card disappears from their pack and reappears in the cards held by the other spectator.

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Out of Sight

This incredible effect was used by Joshua Jay to fool Penn & Teller on their hit show Penn & Teller: Fool Us. It uses an intriguing presentation based on what it would be like to perform magic for a blind person.

While you are blindfolded, a spectator simply thinks of any playing card. Using telepathy and mind reading, you are then able to tell them what card they thought of before finding it in a deck of cards with your vision still blocked. As a surprise ending, you then show that every other card in the deck besides their selected card is actually blank.

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One Question

This is a practical and easy parlor magic trick to do for beginners. Created by Ollie Mealing, “One Question” combines card magic with mentalism. While it’s best done in a formal parlor magic show, it also works well in a casual close-up magic setting.

A spectator writes down any playing card on a sticky note that is then placed on your head where you can’t see it. There are no card forces or equivoque used. Yet, you are able to tell them what card they freely selected by asking just one question. And, no, that question is not “what card did you think of?”

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In the first book in his iconic Books of Wonder series, an [essential magic book that all magicians should read, Tommy Wonder presented his amazing “Ring, Watch, Wallet” routine. This quick, visual and direct magic trick is the perfect opener for any parlor magic show.

You take your watch, ring and money from your wallet and seal it inside an envelope. This envelope is then quickly torn up to show it’s now completely empty and the watch is back on your wrist, the ring back on your finger and the money back in your wallet.

While the method Tommy Wonder used was clever, it was also too expensive for many magicians—particularly beginner magicians and amateur hobbyist magicians. That’s where Jack Wise, an Irish stand-up comedian and magician, comes in. By making some noteworthy changes to the method, his amazing routine “Heist” is an affordable and practical version of this classic effect.

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World-renowned Magician Joshua Jay makes his second appearance on this list with his top-selling parlor magic trick “Balance”. This impossible suspension effect took nearly a decade to develop and has been performed around the world, including during Joshua’s appearance on the national TV show “Masters of Illusion.”

“Balance” was inspired by a magician serving time in prison who had to get extremely creative with the props he used for his magic tricks. A variety of common objects—a Gatorade bottle, a pencil, a toothbrush, a crayon box and a playing cards box—are all stacked and left to hang impossibly in the air. This impossible sculpture defies the laws of physics and will leave a lasting image on the minds of every spectator.

“Balance” is one of the best closers for a parlor magic show.

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Using two innocent-looking magazines, “Glance” does not look or feel like a magic prop. Yet, hidden inside, is a similar mentalism technique to what is used in the popular “Mother of All Book Tests” book test. With this secret method, you’ll learn how to read minds in just a few minutes.

A spectator chooses either of the magazines. They then open to any page and choose a long word on that page. Without any stooges, secret assistants, sleight of hand or wild guesses, you’re able to accurately guess what word they chose each time.

“Glance” is super easy to do. You can even modify the cover to be any magazine you like.

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Cups & Balls / Chop Cup

One of the most famous magic tricks in history, the cups and balls is the perfect parlor magic trick. It’s been regularly performed by professional magicians for 1,000s of years. Even when iconic magic duo Penn & Teller famously exposed the secret to the cups and balls in their Las Vegas magic show and on national television, the popularity of this classic of magic didn’t fade.

So, how has The Cups And Balls withstood the test of time? The answer is simple: audiences love this magic trick.

Watching as balls, and other surprising objects, impossibly appear and vanish under opaque cups is one of the most pure forms of magic you can experience. Even if you know that the magician is using sleight of hand or misdirection, it’s still a joy to watch the flurry of action. With so much room for creativity, each Cups & Balls routine also offers its own unique surprises.

The Chop Cup, a Cups And Balls variant using one gaffed cup, has also long been a favorite of close-up magicians and restaurant magicians because it’s essentially a compact and portable version of the cups and balls. Yet, the chop cup can also work well in a parlor magic setting. In fact, Joshua Jay used a chop cup routine to close his smash-hit off-broadway parlor magic show “Six Impossible Things” for the entirety of its 18-month run.

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