Thursday, December 30, 2010

My "Best Of" List for 2010

Hey everybody,

Cris Johnson here with a 'best of' list for 2010. Before I get to that, a big THANK YOU for all the new sign ups for my "Cause & Effects" free ezine! I've got a GREAT article coming out in a few days! Sign up for free by sending me an email at

On to this week's blog entry...

I debated for a while as to my criteria for my 'best of' column. First of all, realize that the following list of certainly NOT comprehensive in terms of all of the best new magic of 2010, primarily because I do not get all of the new magic releases. 98% of the stuff I review is stuff I buy with the idea of putting it into my own programs.

What I decided to do is include anything and everything I've reviewed since I started this blog and BOUGHT (or received) since I started this blog. Under that criteria, I would not include the Mind Reading Goose,for example, which I bought early in 2009, before I started the blog. I'm only doing this to make things a little more interesting.:)

I'll also go from what I feel was the BEST thing down to #5.

OK, here we go....

#1 - Sound Control by Jim Kleefeld

This is not a 'trick' per se, but for me, this is incredible. If you want to control your music and don't have a huge budget, this is wonderful. I have used a Virtual Soundman in the past and while I like it a lot, I feel Sound Control is easier to control and offers more options, including volume control and more.

The only downside? They're getting harder to come by. Jim told me he has a few left in stock, so if you want an affordable way to control your music (if you're a one person act) THIS IS IT!

#2 - Incredible Suit Jacket Escape by Anthony Lindan

I'll be favorite effect of 2010 was a tough call. I was torn between this and #3 (ALIVE by Bobby Motta). I settled on this simply because this can be done literally anywhere under nearly any condition. (More on #3 later.) I've wanted to add a funny escape to my act for something different for years and struggled to write something myself but just couldn't come up with anything. This release was truly a godsend and I couldn't be more thrilled with how this plays. After 30 or so performances, I'm sure I will feel the same way 10 years from now. Simply an awesome routine in every way that plays equally well for adults or family shows. You can also do this surrounded, from any angle.

#3 - ALIVE by Bobby Motta

In many ways, I feel this is actually the BEST thing I've picked up in 2010, but it gets bumped down to #3 only because I've found some audiences do not like rats. While other animals will fit in the box, rats are the best from a temperment standpoint. Nevertheless, this routine gets an unbelievable reaction and in most cases, I have a hard time following it. Unreal. Plus, the box itself is built incredibly well. Once the box is loaded, you can do this from any angle.

#4 - Magellan Levitation by Jimmy Fingers

I love this for so many reasons - it's practical, it's portable, the angles are very good and it's well-built. About the only negative with this is that you can't do it surrounded. That's a very mild negative and honestly I can't recall ANY levitation that looks this good with perfect angles. If you want to actually rise in the air in front of your audiences, this is awesome.

#5 - Spirit Table by Tim Wisseman

WOW is this cool!!! I bought this earlier in the year with the intent of only using it in a specific teen program that I wouldn't even start performing until summer 2011. I managed a way to work it into my corporate holiday programs and performed it 5 times in December and the reactions are incredible! The only reason this is not higher is because I've only currently used it 5 times and the prop only "fits" into two of my shows, but man, is this terrific! You can do it surrounded, close-up, parlor, whatever. Well-built and reliable, this is a dream come true for someone into the Bizarre stuff.

Well, that's my list. Again, I have a LOT of stuff I reviewed and LOVED but as far as what I bought in 2010, this is my personal top picks for this year.

As far as coming attractions, I'll soon be reviewing the following...

- Get Nyman DVD set
- Dresscode DVD
- T3 by Christopher Taylor
- Further Education DVD set by John Archer

My next blog will be a day or two after I return from vacation, on January 11. Happy New Year!!


Cris Johnson

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Celebrity Smart-Ass By Bill Abbott - Another Winner

Let's get right to the review...

Celebrity Smart Ass by Bill Abbott is available for $59.95. Here's the link:

EFFECT: The topic of celebrities and our endless fascination with them is introduced. You proceed to conduct a test of the audience's celebrity knowledge by using cards with first names on them. Going through the dozens of cards you call out each celebrity first name and the audience calls out the celebrity's last name. For example you say, "Paris!" the audience says, "Hilton!", you say "Tiger!" they say, "Woods!", you say "Britney", they say, "Spears!" etc.

To take the test to the next level you ask for the help of a celebrity expert from the audience. Someone with almost intuitive or psychic ability in their mastery of celebrity identification. A volunteer is invited on stage, shown a large envelope, is offered a chair and asked to sit down on the envelope. Now using the volunteer’s "celebrity intuition" with the help of their "psychic derriere" they will attempt to deduce the mystery celebrity whose photo resides in the envelope they are now sitting on.

The spectator is handed the pack of celebrity names and is instructed to take about half in each hand. They are asked to toss one half away and keep the other. After they do this they cut the remaining names into two piles, holding one in each hand and they once again toss one pile away and keep the other. Down to the last few names, the participant chooses one, having the opportunity to change their mind as many times as they like. Their final choice is revealed and it’s "Tom" for Tom Cruise. The spectator stands and hands you the envelope. Unbelievably they have found the needle in the haystack, as you pull out a photo of Tom the age of six months! A photo of a cute baby is revealed and the volunteer goes back to their seat to some polite applause and a lot of laughter! You unfold the photo explaining that the you hope that no one is easily offended as Tom Cruise is naked in this photo, and the baby is in fact, in the buff, when the photo is opened! You then ask the audience if they think that Mr. Cruise looks cuter as a baby, then he does now as an adult? Suddenly you turn the large tabloid-size photo over to reveal a very large (grown up) head shot of...Tom Cruise!

WHAT YOU GET: You receive the smart-ass deck ('ll need to write the names.) You receive an instructional DVD with two live performances, a sturdy envelope to protect the prediction, a large color photo prediction with the baby gag on one side and the celebrity on the other (either Tom Cruise or Julia Roberts....or both if you selected the combo-pack.)

QUALITY OF PROPS: If you're familiar with the Smart-Ass concept, you know what you're receiving. It's good stuff, designed to last. Like any deck of cards, over time it will wear out, but I've been using my standard (deck of regular playing cards) Smart-Ass deck for at least a year and the deck takes a beating and holds up well. The prediction itself is nicely printed in high-quality full-color and the envelope is extremely sturdy. If you keep the prediction in the envelope at all times, it will last for years.

QUALITY OF EFFECT: I've been using Smart Ass in one form or another for quite a while and it always plays so strong because it's so fair and clean. I use the standard Smart Ass deck in two of my motivational programs - one for teens and one for teachers. I also use Bobby Motta's Alive, which uses the Smart Ass concept to force the animal I have in the box. I actually have two different Alive Smart Ass decks for two different presentations. Therefore, with four different presentations, I get a LOT of mileage out of Bill's creation.

I believe Celebrity Smart-Ass is going to play even better than the standard deck version because the celebrity concept is so topical. It will ALWAYS be topical because people are so fascinated with famous people. Therefore, for commercial effects that working pros will use, it doesn't get any better. Bill's taken an awesome creation and ramped up the entertainment factor with some great gags, bits, comedy lines and more.

I'm not a huge fan of card effects and out of the hundreds or thousands out there, I have only come across maybe 25 or so that I really like. In terms of commercial card effects for stage, it doesn't get any better than this.

QUALITY OF INSTRUCTION: Once again, Bill Abbot has taken a simple concept and given it the 5-star treatment. When I first heard of this, I thought, "Man, do I really need another Smart Ass? I finally gave in simply because the plot is so terrific. Bill then goes into great detail explaining the psychology, why certain names are chosen, why others are left out, ways to maximize laughter and finally, a funny bit with your OWN name.

There are other bits of business and psychology presented in such detail that I get the impression that Bill has already performed this at least 500 times before releasing this. There's a lot more going on here in terms of laugh lines and details other than just the smart ass concept with Tom Cruise's picture.

Bill is someone who deeply cares about his craft and I can't imagine not buying his next release.

FINAL RATING: A 10 out of 10. In terms of instruction and props, this is flawless for what it is and from experience Smart Ass with a regular deck kills and Celebrity Smart Ass is even better. Since it's flawless, it gets the perfect score.

ADDITIONAL THOUGHTS AND RATING "RE-SET": For new readers, I base my ratings partially on the quality of the props, quality of instruction and most importantly, how the audience responds. If a prop is coated in 24ct gold but doesn't get a good response, it's going to get a lower review.

The biggest thing, though, just to stress, is the effect on the audience. I've been criticized for giving out so many 10's in my reviews, but as a guy out there using this stuff, if it plays well for me and is reliable in the venues I perform, I see nothing wrong with a perfect score.

Additionally, unlike a lot of reviewers, I get very little sent to me. With one or two exceptions, the stuff I review is stuff I buy for my own performances. I'm careful with my choices and thus do not get 'burned' by bad products very often.

I'm going to be taking some time off from the blog until after Christmas. I'll do my 'year in review' next week - I'll cover some of my favorite purchases of 2010....not necessarily released in 2010, just stuff I myself picked up. After that column (next week) I'm off to Austin, TX for vacation with my wife and will return to Niagara Falls, NY (where I live)on January 10th, so the first column of 2011 will be after Jan. 10th. As I type this, I'm in NYC for some of my final shows of the year. I'm beyond exhausted and am looking forward to a break.


Cris Johnson

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Friday, December 10, 2010

Mad Scientist by Peter Loughran

Hey everybody, Cris Johnson here with more magic & fun!

A few housekkeeping notes...folks continue to sign up for my "Cause & Effects" monthly newsletter. Next month's issue will be a good one as I debunk the narrow-minded belief that many "old school" people have that the "only" way to learn magic is by reading books. I have no problem with reading books, but as soon as a group of people arrogantly say that the only way to do something, well, it bugs me, so the next issue of the ezine will use scientific fact to explain why there is no perfect way for all people to learn. It's going to be great! Sign ups are free by emailing me at

Also, someone who purchased my Clear-View Airborne emailed to let me know that he was able to get it on his carry-on luggage when he flew to a gig. I've never tried it myself as I assumed the good folks at TSA would frown upon the little hook that most Airbornes use. This was indeed good news to me so if you've always wanted to take Airborne on a flight, you can. You can check out my Clear-View Airborne right here:

On to this week's review: It's the Mad Scientist by Peter Loughran. It's available for $350 at Hocus Pocus. Here's the ad copy:

EFFECT: The performer brings out a thin and sleek carrying tray with a large test tube resting on it on one side and a second test tube on the other side but elevated off the tray on its own mini stand. The performer introduces a handkerchief or silk and places it inside one of the test tubes, and explains that he has the ability to change and manipulate the molecules and properties of certain objects and can make them teleport short distances. He will demonstrate his Mad Scientist powers for all to see.

The performer places a large playing card in front of both test tubes and explains that the silk will teleport on his queue from one test tube to the other one that is elevated off the tray with a clear view underneath the thin mini stand. The performer makes a magical gesture and says that the silk has indeed teleported and he will prove it by checking the tubes himself. He looks down and says "Yep it has indeed teleported to the other test tube. But the hard part is to make them go back." He makes a magical gesture and this time removes the cards to show that the silk is back in its original place. The audience screams to see it again but this time they want him to remove the card.

The performer does just this, he throws away one of the cards, and places the other one in front of the test tube containing the silk and then says he will make the silk teleport once again. He then picks up the card but also secretly picks up the silk so it is hidden behind the playing card, and places it in front of the other test tube that is resting on the mini stand. He secretly places the silk into this test tube and immediately removes the card. They audience screams that they know how he did it. This time they want to see done with no cover at all.

The performer obliges but tells his audience that they better not blink or they will miss it. He makes a magical gesture and sure enough this time, the silk VISIBLY vanishes from one tube and INSTANTLY re-appears in the other tube which is isolated off the tray on its own stand. STUNNING VISUAL MAGIC, and a great sucker effect. This illusion is perfect for kids and adults alike. A guaranteed hit at your next show!

WHAT YOU RECEIVE: The thin carrying tray that gimmicked up the wa-zoo, two clear tubes, a separate little stand so one tube is elevated, making the teleportation more mystifying, written instructions and 2 identical silks.

QUALITY OF PROPS: The gimmicked tray looks like it's a pain in the rear to put together but happily, it's put together WELL. Peter puts out quality material and this is no different. The plastic tubes are thick and strong and look like you could throw them off a roof. That being said, I wrap mine in cloth to prevent scratches. Great props.

QUALITY OF INSTRUCTION: The written instructions, several pages long, are well-written so the effect is easy to understand. There are some grammatical errors, but I'm sure not the person to pick on Peter for that as my books have their fair share of screw ups! :) My only beef with the instructions is the fact that the size of the text looks to me to be around 9 or maybe 10 pt in size. It's a little tough on my eyes, so that irritated me. That being said, the information and workings is well done overall.

ANGLES: This can be done surrounded, providing no one is looking straight down onto the tray. This is not a close-up trick, but it would work very well for a parlor performance providing the audience is not right o top of you. I did it for 200 kids and it's very visible. My prop came with two purple silks which really isn't as visible as I would like as I wear dark clothes and I'm standing behind the prop. The color of silk varies from set to set, so if you wind up with dark colors, simply swap them out for brighter colors. The silks are not gimmicked, so that's not an issue.

MARKET: To me this is primarily a kids' effect, for young kids up to maybe 8 or 9 years old. It might play great for older kids, but I feel comfortable reserving it for the little ones.

DIFFICULTY OF PERFORMANCE: Although this is close to a "push button" prop, you'll still need to put in some serious rehearsal time. The technical needs of the effect is not great but timing is a bit of an issue as you'll be doing one thing with your right hand and something else with your left and the timing of each must be very smooth for the effect to look as magical as Peter makes it look on his demo video. I'd say the technical needs are basically a 1, but to really make it look magical, I spent about an hour a day for 10 days really smoothing this out.

EFFECT ON AUDIENCE: This really is a stunner. The first time I did it for a group of 200 or so kids, they just sat there, baffled. For the second performance, I altered my script and built up the effect so the kids were expecting it as it happens so fast. After the second show, a repeat client, who had seen my show about two weeks prior, noticed the addition of this effect and specifically sought out to tell me how impossible it was. In short, it got a great response.

MORE THOUGHTS: Peter has great customer service! During rehearsals, I was having trouble with the prop and a few minutes after emailing him, he emailed back with a solution. (Turns out I wasn't setting it up quite right.) I LOVE great customer service!

FINAL VERDICT: What can I say? This plays well for small or large groups, can be done surrounded and is well-made. It's not a show-closer, but I don't think it's meant to be. I'll give this a rock-solid 9.

NEXT WEEK: Bill Abbott's Celebrity Smart Ass! Stay tuned!


Cris Johnson

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Superior Hydrostatic Glass

Hi Everyone!

To my readers who live in the US, I hope your Turkey Day was fun, restful and enjoyable. To my friends in other parts of the world who do not celebrate Thanksgiving, I STILL hope your day was fun, restful and enjoyable.:)

Obviously I am a few days late with this blog. In short, being sick for nearly two months straight and traveling all over the east coast of the US all that time really knocked me on my butt, so I hot the couch and gave myself some R&R. (I spent it watching my new DVDs of "The Greatest American Hero," a 3 season TV series from the early 80's. REALLY fun re-visiting my childhood!)

The new issue of "Cause & Effects" my free monthly ezine, should go out on schedule, on or about December 1st. Those of you who recently signed up have been added. You can sign up by emailing me at This month I tackle the "too-perfect theory" in mentalism and why, for the most part, I think it's rubbish. It's an opinion piece, sure to spark debate.:)

On to this week's review...The Superior Hydrostatic Glass. It's available for $52.50 from Hocus Pocus. Here's the link to the ad:

EFFECT: You pour water (or any liquid) into a glass. You then cover the glass with a piece of paper and turn the glass upside down. The paper stays in place, so the liquid doesn't fall. Then you slide the paper off and it STILL stays in place! At your command, or an audience member's command, the liquid falls out.

WHAT YOU GET: You get the glass itself (packed in a sturdy cardboard box), the gimmick (packed into an envelope to prevent scratching)and details instructions, as in 4 pages' worth.

QUALITY OF EQUIPMENT: When I bought this, I told the folks at Hocus Pocus I wanted something good, not a 'toy' out of a children's magic set. This is the one they recommended. On the Hocus Pocus site, there are several versions - one for around $12 and even one for several hundred dollars. I feel for the money I spent this is extremely well built. The glass is sturdy and looks like a natural, normal solid glass you'd pick up in any department store. It's also a GOOD glass, not cheap looking. The gimmick is well made and fits the glass very well and is easy to 'load.' Rock-solid.

QUALITY OF INSTRUCTION: As I said, there are several pages of instructions, detailing care for the props, how the effect works, performance tips, trouble-shooting tips, alternate performance tips and more. There really is not any advice as far as scripting or presentation, so you're on your own. I however had a script already in place when I bought it.:) Good, basic info that more than covers the handling.

DIFFICULTY: Technically, this is an easy effect - a 1 out of 10. The real key to remember is prop management: where are you going to hide the gimmick until it comes into play? For that matter, where are you going to keep the glass and liquid until it's time for this effect? Most critically, where are you going to 'catch' the liquid? (If you do it at your main performance table, some splashing may dampen or even soak your other props.) What I'm getting at is while the effect may be easy, because it involves liquid, blocking and prop management becomes extremely important as well as your script.

MARKETS: Thus far, I've only performed this in schools, for kids in grades K-5. That being said, not only do the kids like it, but when the liquid is finally 'released,' it always generates spontaneous applause from the adults. My feeling is this will play well to adults as well.

ONE SORE SPOT: Because of the method, there is a small bit of 'talking' as you put the gimmick in place with the glass. For me on stage, this is no big deal because I'm talking the entire time (except when I remove the paper - gotta play that part for drama!) If you are a silent performer, you'll need some music to cover this 'talking' especially if you perform this in close quarters. I always use it on stage, so for me, no big deal.

ANGLES: You really can't do this surrounded because of the nature of the gimmick, but I will say that once the gimmick is in place, all angles are covered, so the enterprising performer may be able to pull off a surrounded performance. The angles are VERY forgiving, and besides, as I've often said, if I'm doing a stage show surrounded, I must be in hell.:)

EFFECT ON AUDIENCE: As mentioned earlier, I know this effect (and this version) has been around forever. In fact, I had a cheesy version in an old magic set that was horrible looking. I never really thought it was much of an effect until I had a critical need for a good water effect in one of my shows in schools. Well, after performing it 8 or so times for crowds of people from 200-400 strong, I can say it KILLS. I now understand why so many pros use a version of this effect in their shows!

MY OVERALL RANKING: Based on the solid workmanship and the great reaction it generates, I have to give this a 10 out of 10. If you work out the issues I mentioned above, this is a winner and a heck of a value.

Until next time...


Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Multiplicity DVD and Yet Another TASTE Update

Hey Everybody,

Cris Johnson here with more magic review goodness! I'm going to be quick because I've only got a short amount of time between shows today. Busy, busy, busy!

First of all, I'm doing something today that I don't think I've ever done - I am revising my score for a product! As the title of this week's blog suggests, it's for Bobby Motta's TASTE.

When I first reviewed it, I believe I gave it a 9 out of 10. I felt that the product was put together extremely well and from a technical standpoint it was sensational. I also wrote that while my response to the effect was quite good, I anticipated the response getting even better over time.

Well, after tweaking my script slightly, the response went through the ROOF! I can now safely say TASTE is a perfect 10 out of 10. You see, it's so easy to just judge a product by the package you receive, but I decided when I started this blog nearly a year ago I decided that the audience reaction for the effect would factor into the score.


Simple - Certain effects that look great or have cool props have (for me) sometimes fallen flat. Now I know that one man's trash is another man's treasure, which is why reviews are tricky. Nevertheless, I feel very comfortable bumping up TASTE's score to a 10 out of 10. One of the BEST releases of the year, bar none.

Now, onto this week's new review...Multiplicity by Max maven. It's available for $71.95 from Hocus Pocus. Here’s the ad copy:

EFFECT: The main thrust of this DVD is exploring the concept of Equivoque, although other mentalism tools are explored, such as the concept of multiple outs.

WHAT YOU RECEIVE: You get one DVD that they manged to cram over 3 hours onto – quite a feat! Interestly, there is a small ‘effect’ right on the back of the DVD package. Simply turn the package over, read it, and you’re instantly introduced to Max’s thinking. It’s not earth-shattering, but it’s nice that someone used the DVD case in a unique way.

QUALITY OF INSTRUCTION: It’s Max Maven so you know the instruction is top-notch. There are something like 24 effects on this DVD and almost all are practical and many can be adapted for stage or used for close up.

DIFFICULTY: There are few technical moves on this DVD. (A few, and they’re easy) The real work is going to come from your scripting and making sure you have rehearsed enough so that when using equivoque you don’t hesitate between choices. This is a concept Max spends a lot of time on.

MY THOUGHTS: Overall, this is a marvelous release. An added bonus is the presence of special guest Eugene Burger, whom I adore. I had the privilege of meeting Eugene years ago in Chicago and in my opinion, there’s no one classier than Eugene.
The effects themselves use objects and concepts like coins, famous paintings, clocks, and many more. My particular favorite was the routine in which the spectator is asked to name off several children’s songs. The person then picks one of the songs and Max plays the song on one of those little portable recorders that hold 30 seconds or so of sound.
This is a sensational idea and I immediately began thinking of ways to adapt it to stage. I should note that in this particular piece, Max does not explain one important component that makes this effect work. However, my experience in mentalism immediately gave me the solution to fill in the rest of the secret. I admit, I felt pretty proud of myself when this hit me.

Of the majority of effects using just equivoque for the solution, Max teaches some fascinating, advanced concepts regarding equivoque and then plays several routines, including the aforementioned song effect. Max himself states he deliberately did not teach each individual effect by itself, instead asking that viewers study each effect and apply what Max has given us.

Fair enough – it makes for great viewing and many of the routines show off Max’s quirky sense of humor, something that I feel was missing in some of his earlier (yet still marvelous) L&L releases). I found myself laughing out loud as Max used handcuffs in an equivoque presentation in which he handcuffs the participant! GREAT stuff, and if I was going to use any routine “straight out of the box,” that would be it.

Another high point is an effect in which Max places four cards in a spectator’s pocket and the spectator says the number 1, 2, 3 or 4 and that many cards has LEFT his pocket. A similar effect is demoed on the ad. This one fooled me badly the first 3 times I watched it.

Max really takes the concept of the audience only knowing what they see and nudging their thoughts in certain directions bit by bit using fascinating psychology.

The only gripe I have is the fact that Max does NOT explain the sensational Handout effect, viewable on the demo in which Eugene chooses a bad that does not have a brick in it. I don’t need to go further than that, as I know from reading on line that many people were most excited by this presentation. After watching it, I can be sure of at least one thing – Max is not using equivoque, as his language suggests no discernable ‘out’ before Eugene makes his choice.

This aspect of the DVD has caused some debate. Some have felt that Max has given us enough tools in the DVD to piece together a method for the Handout effect while others, such as myself, felt disappointment that this effect was used to market the DVD for sale without a “Performance Only” notation.

Regardless, this is a fantastic release that forces viewers to really think about their craft and Max, Eugene and Jeff McBride and others of their ilk are the best at doing just that.

MY REVIEW: It’s Max maven…along with a laughing, giggling Eugene Burger! How could I not give this a 10 out of 10? I didn’t describe every effect because there’s just so much, but trust me, buy this DVD and you’ll find something to add to your act. And you’ll get some great food for thought.

Until next time…

Cris Johnson

Friday, November 12, 2010

UPDATE on Taste & The End

OK, this is not something I normally do, but I wanted to give you an update regarding Taste & The End. I received a message from Bobby in which he assured me that the loose screws problem I mentioned in my review of The End would never happen again, as after reading my review, he would make sure that locktite(sp?) would be used with each screw.

Regarding Taste, he also mentioned that to prevent scratches, the cups would be shipped wrapped for protection.

Honestly, the screws were no big deal to me - I chalk it up to vibrations in travel. The cups I expect to look a little used - adds to them not looking suspicious.

I really respect Bobby for responding to me review and addressing these items.

Honestly, I really dig Bobby's stuff and can't wait for the next release. And quite frankly, customer service like this is hard to find in magic.

Thank you to Bobby Motta for being such a fantastic believer in great customer service!

And now, because it's 1:00AM, I'm off to bed...I just got back from performing a late night college stage hypnosis show and I am BEAT.


- Cris

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The End by Bobby Motta

Hey Everyone,

Well, after 3 weeks I FINALLY feel better! It's been rough being sick so much, but I've been home all week, bonding with our new little puppy, Sophie. She is SO cute! A little white puff ball, essentially.:)

Don't forget - my next issue of "Cause & Effects," the FREE ezine, comes out in December where I tackle the 'too-perfect theory' in mentalism. Sign up for free by sending an email to

On to this week's review...

It's The End by Bobby Motta. It's $695 and available from Hocus Pocus. Here's the link to the ad copy:

EFFECT: An attractive metal frame with 6 metal 'cards' is displayed. The cards are in an order that does not spell anything recognizable. The cards are removed and then the board is spun around on the stand. After it's spun around, the audience sees numbers 1 through 6, and the audience is asked to choose which card goes into which number...with the cards' letters turned around, facing away from the audience, of course.

Despite the fact that the audience simply guessed which letter went into which number, when the board is soun around, it spells THE END, signifying the end of your show.

WHAT YOU RECEIVE: The main aluminum board, the six metal letter cards, the stand, a carrying bag for the stand, and DVD instructions.

QUALITY OF PROPS: This is a GREAT looking piece! Lightweight yet durable, this thing looks like a million bucks. My only beef? As I took it on the road for a few days of shows, 4 screws came loose and fell out. (I found and replaced all but one.) This irritated me, but in the grand scheme of things, it's forgiveable. The big thing is this prop looks great on stage and while props do not make the show, a good looking show can certainly help.

QUALITY OF INSTRUCTION: Bobby always gives good instruction and he gives some good tips and presentation ideas to help the performer. The thing that I didn't care for was his idea of spreading the effect throughout the show and revealing the climax at the end. That's just me, and fortunately, there are several ways to present such an effect. As always, while Bobby's DVD production value does not match Bob Kohler or L&L, it's still really good.

DIFFICULTY: This is another effect where the technical needs are an easy 1 out of 10 in terms of difficulty, but the fact that the 'move' does 'talk,' which Bobby acknowledges, makes this effect a bit more difficult in that you must time the 'move' with another innocent 'move.' No big deal and for me, a few days of practice and I was set.

MY THOUGHTS: OK, first of all, when I first saw the effect hit the market, I thought, 'great, just what the magic community needs - a $700 version of the Spelling Bee effect.' If you're familiar with the old Spelling Bee effect, you know that you must turn the board away from the audience before you remove the board. Then I watched the THE END demo and I noticed that you can take away the cards FACING the audience and THEN spin the board around. It's a tremendous improvement over the classic effect and it's what convinced me to buy it.

As my readers know, I do a lot of middle & high school shows. For the past year, I've been using Bobby Motta's ALIVE (the rat effect) to end those teen shows. From an impact standpoint, it was and is AMAZING, but to end the show with the rat scurrying up my arm and the kids "wowing" over the animal seemed too abrupt. I want to bring the energy level down a bit to let the audience "breathe." Enter...THE END.

I've performed it 5 times and it serves nicely as an end to the show because it is a definite end to the show, but thus far, it does not blow the audience away. It's good, don't get me wrong, but it's another effect that really requires a good other words, you can't rest on the prop itself. It's a tool and if used properly, will work nicely.

MY FINAL VERDICT: I'll give this a 8 out of 10. A nicely built effect, but the screws falling out brings the score down and the (so far) muted reaction means I have more work to do and that's okay with me.

Tune in next week when I review the new Max Maven DVD "Multiplicity."



Thursday, November 4, 2010

TASTE by Bobby Motta

Hey Everybody,

Cris Johnson here with a brand new review! Before I get to it, I just received this email regarding my Clear-View Airborne:

Hi Cris.

I just received the Clear View Airborne in the mail last night. I have nothing but praise for what you and your wife Libby have accomplished here. I’ve been performing this effect off and on for quite some time. I’ve used the Coke can, 7-Up can and the Ultimate Airborne (with any bottle.) I experienced all of the frustrations that you described with the preceding gimmicks and I’m delighted to have such a well made prop.

I speak to business audiences 30 – 40 times a year. Wine bottles don’t fit my presentation. The Ultimate Airborne gimmick is so large and visible it practically gives away the secret. The Coke and 7 Up cans are not only difficult to hook up and frustrating to fill, they don’t last very long. (Yours is a bit pricey, but I’m betting it will outlast the cans by 2 or 3 times.)

I love the Airborne effect and now that I have yours, It’s going back in to the line-up on a regular basis.

Thought you’d like to know.

That was from John Tongick, a CPA out of California. thanks John!

the Clear-View Airborne magazine ad is in this month's Magic magazine and I think Hocus Pocus did a GREAT job!!

On to this week's review:

TASTE by Bobby Motta - available for $1495.00 from Hocus Pocus. Here's the link:

EFFECT: Five ordinary cups are filled with different drinks. The performer can either be blindfolded or in a different room and will always know which drink has been TASTEd. Stop reading and think about that for a second. Yes it's that amazing. You are reading senses so convincingly clean that it no longer is a puzzle, but a question of uncertainty to any skeptic. This effect will take you there! More than just a great mind reading tool but a totally unique approach to mentalism.


5 customized black steins/cups (much nicer design than the ones used in the video performance).
ProMystic Modular Receiver
Industrial finger suction cup to access the secured gimmick
5 professionally cut circular dry erase labels with Velcro
Dry Erase Marker
Full Instructional DVD with performance rights
Modern Carrying Case

QUALITY OF PROPS: The electronics are top-notch and are small and easily hidden. The cup units are removeable so you can wash the cups, but once in place, I don't think anyone will ever find them. They are designed to be invisible. The receiver (that lets you know which cup is being drank from) is tiny. You could easily palm it if you want. Bobby gives you several ways to conceal it, but it's so little, that a myriad of possibilities are there.

The receiver works like a dream - again, REALLY well-made. The cups themselves are nothing special...just 5 plastic 'mug' type cups with a little velcro to hold the white, round signs to identify the drinks. Mine came a little scuffed up, but being black, it's not a big deal. Although initially disappointed, I realized that fancy cups would detract from the effect.

the carrying case is top notch. I'm always impressed when a product comes with a case. It's a great way to transport everything and protect the investment.

QUALITY OF INSTRUCTION: there are actually two sets of instructions - one by Bobby and one by the creator of the electronics. Both are required viewing, as Bobby's way of 'installing' the electronics to the cups each use was much easier than what the electronics guy talked about, yet the electronics guy covered critical info on batteries, maintenance and details on how the electronics work.

Plus, Bobby gives you several ideas as far as routining, so you're not just saying, "Drink something and I'll tell you what it is." Of course, the fact that the dryerase signs are removeable serves as a great way to end the routine as well as throw off the illogic of having the drinks poured out of the original containers.

Details like this convince me that Bobby's been doing this routine for quite a while.

DIFFICULTY: This is easily a 1 out of 10. The hardest part is the set up and the memory of which signal signifies which drink. Although Bobby talks about using mnemonics to remember the drinks that an audience freely chooses and puts in the cups, I've (for now) opted to go with the same 5 drinks (provided by me) at every show (as Bobby himself usually does it.)

Again, the true "work" will be your scripting and routine.

MY THOUGHTS: I do have to say I was initially disappointed that there is NO performance video. Bobby included one such video on the ALIVE DVD (his stellar rat trick). I'm not sure why he did not include such a video, as it would have been very helpful in terms of pacing and routine structure. Of course, it's his right to protect his own routine, but it would have been helpful.

Nevertheless, the routine for me does play quite strong. After quite a bit of rehearsal with the props, I put together a simple 3-phase routine and have performed it 5 times thus far and I'm pleased to report it plays very strongly. I'm a firm believer that performance #5 of a new effect will not NEARLY be as good as performance #100, so I'm sure the reactions will get better.

I only mention this as a warning...the props do 98% of the physical work, so solid scripting is crucial here.

As a comparison, the Mind Reading Goose, at the same fee, gives you a rock-solid, scripted routine, a good goose prop and a not-so-hot method (messy set up), while this investment gives you INCREDIBLE props and some decent ideas of routining, but no scripting at all. Both are worthy investments, but are in many ways exact opposites in terms of what their respective strengths are.

Again, both are great, but different. Just something I noticed.

PLAYS TO AGES: As further endorsement of this purchase, I bought it primarily for my middle school shows...grades 6-8. These kids do not respond to most traditional magic (they like animals, but if you pull out a silk routine, you'll more than likely get booed off the stage. Conversey, many times this age group does not have the patience for a lot of traditional mentalism. Case in point: Bob Cassidy's 4th Dimentional Telepathy. SENSATIONAL routine, but all that envelope stuffing would die in front of middle schoolers.

I bought TASTE with the idea that it was so direct and so impossible that it would work for this difficult age group. Thus far, I'm right.:)

What does all this mean for you? I think ages 12 and up (college, teens, adults) will love this. I think a family audience with lots of little kids might not be appropriate because a 6 year old will not understand "mind reading."

MY RATING: I give this a rock-solid 9 out of 10. I think in time for me it will be a 10, but I've got to fine-tune my routine. The props are incredibly well-made and in my opinion, it's a great investment.

Next week, I tackle Bobby Motta's THE END.

Until next time...


Wednesday, October 27, 2010

White Star & Voodoo Doll

Hey Everyone,

A very SICK Cris Johnson here with more reviews. Yes, I wrote "sick." I guess it comes from being around so many sick people - I've been bombarded with shows (that's good) but since I'm in the north east part of the USA, everyone in schools is sick...including me. (Not good)

Quick housekeeping... the latest issue of "Cause & Effects" goes out next week. I just finished writing it and I have to say I am THRILLED! Good stuff, even if I do say so myself! It's all about show disasters and how to handle them. Sign up TODAY by emailing me at

On to the reviews!

Two reviews and both are SPPPOOOOOKKYY in honor of Halloween! Item number one is the Okito Voodoo Doll! It's only $10 from Hocus Pocus. Here's the link:

EFFECT: A small straw doll is placed in your palm. Eerily, the doll rises to a standing position! No threads or magnets. Ready to go all the time - zero set up.

WHAT YOU RECEIVE: You receive the doll itself which is gimmicked, along with sparse written instructions.

QUALITY OF PROP: Although it's made of straw, this little guy is pretty tough. I've been using mine for 7 years. Treat it right - I keep mine in a small wooden box, which serves to enhance the mystery as well as protect the prop.

QUALITY OF INSTRUCTION: As I said, the instructions are sparse but serviceable. Nothing fancy, and in terms of routines, you'll need to do this on your own.

DIFFICULTY: This is maybe a 1 or a 2 out of 10. This is not difficult technically, but this is a small bit of pain involved....nothing much, but you've been warned. You'll also need a bit of misdirection for the "get ready" that allows you to perform this.

MY THOUGHTS: I still remember the first time I saw this performed. I was completely blown away and years later, I was delighted to find it online and buy one for myself. I love this prop.

Again, you really need to work out a routine for it to do it justice, but this close-up levitation can be done in full light at a moment's notice. What's not to love?

I'm not much of a close-up guy, but this has been a staple in my close-up act for years. (I tip the entire routine in one of my "Cause & Effects" books available right here at Hocus Pocus....shameless plug!)

I wholeheartedly recommend this. A 10 out of 10...providing you have a strong routine.

Review #2 is White Star by Jim Critchlow. It's available for $59.95 from Hocus Pocus. The link is here:

EFFECT: The performer is seated at a table opposite two volunteers. The performer places a small article in front of each person, such as an old coin and an old fountain pen (these are to act as ‘markers').

The performer now takes out from his wallet, a small packet of old photographs which he quickly thumbs through as he mentions to the volunteers that they may recognize some of these as they have appeared in books or programs about the Titanic as they were all passengers on that ill fated liner. The packet is squared and turning to the first volunteer, the performer says that he is going to show him/her the photographs one at a time and if they feel somehow drawn to some, they should tell him and they will be placed in front of them and their 'marker'.

The performer shows the photographs, one by one to the volunteers, who either decides to take one and place it on the pile forming in front of them or reject it. The rejected photographs forming a discard pile in the center of the table.

'Look at this young lady please, what emotions do you think she is feeling.....'

When all the photographs have been chosen to be kept or rejected, the performer brings attention to the discard pile. Thumbing through the photographs the performer starts talking about specific photos (the person's name etc) stressing how absolutely any of the photos could have been retained by the volunteers.

The performer explains that what they have both just done was part of an experiment. He also explains that he has found that the best results only occur when nothing is explained beforehand and that the results are always different (quite true to a point).

The performer then states that the old coin was taken from one of the bodies found in the wreckage of the Titanic and the fountain pen was used by a clerk to write out the list of all the survivors. The person with the coin is asked to turn their photographs over and in doing so they see each photograph has printed on its back, the name of the person, a few details about them and that they DIED! The spectator holding the fountain pen turns their photographs over and sees the similar details but all their photographs have SURVIVED printed on them! The discarded pile is turned over and shown that there is a complete mix, in no sequence of both the DIED and SURVIVED photographs!

WHAT YOU RECEIVE: You get the beautifully produced photos as well as the well-produced 21-page instruction booklet which explains the basic effect as well as several offshoots. Jim clearly loves this plot.

Although the presentation mentions using 'markers' like an old coin and an old pen, they are not included. It's important to be clear about this.

QUALITY: This is first class stuff and intended for professional performers, as evidenced by the quality. First rate, all the way.

DIFFICULTY: Here's the great part: the primary Whitestar effect is dead-easy, which allows you to concentrate on your presentation. There's been a lot of marketed effects advertised as 'easy so you can concentrate on your presentation,' and this one REALLY fits the bill. Interestingly, it's even easier than the 'Out of This World" original effect upon which this is based.

What's nice about this version is the fact that there is no switching of the packets, as in "Out of This World." That, to me, is the biggest selling point in terms of method.

The difficulty from a technical standpoint is 1 out of 10. The neat thing is, although good acting skills will enhance the routine (as in any good effect) here the storyline is so strong that the effect, if presented as Jim does, really carries itself. That to me is a great selling point. I personally reject most 'Bizarre' type effects because I don't have the acting chops to do the effects justice.

Here, any competent performer would probably get a good reaction because of the subject matter. (Notice I said competent!!)

MY THOUGHTS: I bought this effect for a specific show I'm putting together for teens and as such I've been recently looking at a number of unusual effects I normally would not be considering. This was recommended to me by a friend, and after hearing the description, I was less than thrilled. I've never been a fan of "Out of This World." Not because it wasn't a good effect...quite the opposite - it's a GREAT effect, but in my closeup work, I NEVER have the kind of table space for this kind of effect.

Also, because it's a card effect, I feel it would not play as well from stage because the 'action' and revelation is on the table. So, from a visibility standpoint, for me, "Out of This World" fails miserably.

With Whitestar, the subject matter is always topical - The public's fascination with the Titanic seems to be neverending.

My whole point in bringing all of this up is to let me you know, dear reader, that I'm not a fan of table tricks like this.

Then, I was able to see a video of my friend performing this. It floored me, and for the life of me, I could not figure the method out and my friend refused to tip it, insisting that if I wanted it, I should buy it.

I'm glad I saw it performed first, because once I learned the secret, I was delighted and very impressed with the working. I suspect that buyers, upon learning the secret before seeing it performed, would be disappointed. My advice is to NOT give into those feelings! This PLAYS well.

OTHER VERSIONS: As I mentioned earlier, Jim seems to have a fascination with this plot as he offers other variations in the booklet. Each is good in it's own right. I personally prefer the main Whitestar effect, but it's nice to have alternatives.

MY FINAL VERDICT: I'm going to give this a rock-solid 8 out of 10. This plays very strong even though it's not my usual cup of tea. I'd rate it higher, but the sorting process brings it down a bit for me. Don't get me wrong, the sorting is incredibly fair and the spectators do indeed have free choices of cards. To me at least, this necessary sorting of cards (the backbone of the presentation) may drag a bit without a superior presentation.

Who knows, maybe after I've mastered this effect, I may come back and revise my rating!

Next week's review will be Bobby Motta's TASTE.

Until next week...

Cris Johnson

Monday, October 18, 2010

Shivers Book by Gary Sumpter

Hello, all!

Before I get to this week's review, just a few quick housekkeeping tidbits...

First, I performed Bobby Motta's TASTE today for the first time and I have to say, I LOVE it! That review will be coming the first week of November, after I've performed it a few more times.

Secondly, I'm still taking signups for my FREE ezine, "Cause & Effects," simply by emailing me at Next month's article will dealing with what happens when DISASTER strikes your show!

OK, on to this week's s-p-p-o-o-o-k-y review! (Hey, Halloween's coming!)

This week, I review Shivers by Gary Sumpter. It's available for $34.95 at Hocus Pocus. You can check it out here:

EFFECTS: All of the effects are off shoots of the touching-without-being-touched-by-anything-you-can-see popularized by Banachek's "PK Touches." I've been captivated by this plot for years. I've used the PK Touches basic effect for stage around 500 times and I like it so much because it's so unique - it's not a vanish, it's not a levitation, etc. When done properly, people are in awe. They don't know what to think, and they often do not know how to react or how to process what's happened!

WHAT YOU RECEIVE: A well-produced booklet of about 20 pages.

DIFFICULTY: As with many products of a 'spooky' nature, the technical needs of the effects are easy, but the real work comes from your scripting, mood, quality of your vocal tonality and more. Therefore, the technical needs of these effects range from a 1 out of 10 to maybe a 3 out of 10.

QUALITY OF INSTRUCTION: Some of the instructions/secrets are rather sparse in terms of length, but everything is more than adequate.

I'll now walk through a few of the effects (though not all) and give my thoughts on the ones I have experimented with and/or performed...

Susceptible - The spectators eyes are covered with your fingertips. Despite them being able to feel your fingers, they feel touches on the back of their neck and head.

MY THOUGHTS: This is only useable for one on one performances. To do it in the daylight is silly, in my opinion, but if you're working with just one person while doing a reading by candlelight, this can play very creepy if you work your way into the right mood. I don't think most people will be all that amazed, so you'll have to pick your volunteer carefully.

Relax - A spectator sits down and closes their eyes, you are watched by a group of other spectators. You stand well away from the spectator on the chair and you ask the spectator to remain quiet and in a moment you will ask them a very important question. You silently stroke your shoulder a few times. You then ask the spectator if they felt anything, the comments that they felt you stroke their shoulder, despite you being nowhere near them.

MY THOUGHTS: This is terrific and it uses the original PK Touches concept in a slightly different, more subtle way. It's terrific and is a worthy off-shoot of the original effect. Probably my favorite of the booklet. I've done this and it plays incredibly strong. EASILY worth the price of the book.

Distant Touch - Standing well away from the spectator, you gesture towards them and they feel you touch them.

MY THOUGHTS: This is one of the strongest effects in the booklet in theory. I feel it's only for stage, mostly due to the lighting concerns you must be aware of with this effect. Since this is only for stage, one might wonder why this effect, which uses a common magic prop that requires special lighting, is superior to the original PK Touch effect. I like it because it happens in 'real time,' with no timing delays. I prefer the original PK touches, but this might be a good version to try with the right lighting conditions.

Focus - One on One, the spectator feels something pushing them from behind, despite your hands being in full view.

MY THOUGHTS: Unless you have a VERY compliant volunteer, I can see the person jerking away during the touching, looking around and spotting the gaff. In my opinion, the weakest effect in the booklet.

Connected - An ‘experiment’ in paranormal communication that takes an unplanned turn. A lighthearted attempt at making contact with the spirit goes off on a diagonal as things leave the performers control.

MY THOUGHTS: While I have not tried this yet, it reads as VERY strong - the kind of effect that can really send shivers down the audiences' back. It's one of those effects that you can use sparingly but will 'stick' with an audience a LONG time, Potentially VERY creepy.

The Crying Child - A disturbing performance, centered around the spirit of a young girl.

MY THOUGHTS: While technically very easy, the main issue with this is the fact that you must have superior acting skills. Again, this reads as very powerful and the technical needs are relatively 'easy' but the true test is the acting.

The rest of the book has other practical, spooky effects but the ones I covered here are my favorites. Nevertheless, the remainder of the book has some great psychology.

The big 'takeway' with books of this sort is the necessity of good acting. I've mentioned that several times in this entry so far and it's been deliberate. I've performed 'Bizarre' type magic in years past and it is indeed fun, but these days, I don't do it much any more mostly because of the acting required to really give these effects their due.

I'm more of a comedic performer, and while I do some serious stuff, the vast majority of my work is geared toward 'the funny.'

So, in closing, if this type of stuff is your cup of tea, I can certainly recommend it.

My rating: 8 out of 10.

Until next week, with more s-p-o-o-o-o-k-y reviews....


Cris Johnson

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Harry Anderson's Improved Needle Thru Arm

Hey everyone!

Cris Johnson here, back with a SPPOOOOOOKKY review! (Yes, the cheesiness continues!)

I'm on limited time (October is CRAZY busy!) so no house keeping this week - other than I'm still taking sign ups for my free ezine, "Cause & Effects," which features articles each month for the professional performer. Sign up today by emailing me at

OK, off to this week's "Halloween - themed" review! I'm tackling a REALLY old product, one that's been out forever - Harry Anderson's Improved Needle Thru Arm! It's available for $34.95 from Hocus Pocus and the ad copy is here:

One quick note: the reason why I love this month's Halloween theme is that it allows me to delve deep into some older products. Just because it's been around for a while doesn't mean it's not still relevant and that's the case with this product.

EFFECT: You show a long needle and shove it into your arm! The spectators can see your skin stretch and then the wound bleeds! To finish, you wipe the stage blood off the wound and show you have no lasting hole in your skin!

WHAT YOU RECEIVE: The needle and bulb (which is removeable to contain stage blood), written instructions and suggestions. The package comes in a sturdy cardboard box to protect the needle.

QUALITY OF PROPS: The needle is very well made and looks great, even up close. Due to the nature of the prop (the needle is hollow) it is somewhat delicate. I've kept mine in the box between performances for about 13 years and my needle still works great.

DIFFICULTY: From a sleight of hand standpoint, I'd rate this around a 1 or 2, but the crucial 'move' needs some serious 'motivation' to cover and unfortunately, the instructions give you ZERO help here. Over time, I've come up with sufficient motivation in my scripting, but be aware that it will require work on your part. This brings me to...

QUALITY OF DIRECTIONS. Eh. It tells you how to do the trick and there are some good tips as far as getting into and out of the effect, but overall, the instructions are rather sparse. Additionally, two 'secret substances' are recommended. The first, which many of you probably know, is found easily. The second is something I was never able to find. Granted, I never tried the Internet, but initially, no such luck. I'd rate the instructions as a 5.

MARKETS: Do I even need to mention this? Adults or teens ONLY, please! I only perform this effect once or twice per year, usually at a night time teen event and ONLY after I clear it with my client first. This is NOT something to break out for 99% of gigs out there, ESPECIALLY in this PC era!

OVERALL THOUGHTS: Despite the lack of decent instructions and despite the lack of me being able to find the second 'substance,' I still like this effect. It packs a wallup and is something that looks incredible, even up close. I know Harry has put out a deluxe version for nearly three times the amount of this, but quite frankly, I don't do the effect enough to warrant spending the money.

This is best as a parlor effect, (maybe 50 people) as from stage, (100+) not everyone would be able to appreciate the illusion.

The funny thing is, if you don't know how it's done, when you first hear the secret, if you're like me, you'll immediately think, 'there's no way that's going to work,' but the fact is, it does! People are blown away by this effect. It looks so real...and disgusting.:)

I'll rate this as an 7 out of 10 - great of my all time favorites... hampered only by insufficient instructions and (at the time) my inability to find the necessary 'something' that allows you to clean up the effect and show your arm unmarked at the end of the routine.

Until next time...

Cris Johnson

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

In Lizzie's Hand

It's October! Time to review some SPPOOOOOOKKYY products!

Okay, that was weak, even for me.:)

Nevertheless, I will indeed be devoting every review column this month to items of a 'spooky' nature.

Oh, housekkeeping first...

Next month's ezine topic was originally going to be my take on mentalism's hallowed "too perfect" theory, but that's going to get pushed back a month. Why? Today's show had the power go out!!

350 kids...and no power! How did I handle it? Also, in August, I had a gig for Verizon Wireless - a three hour workshop where I spoke to 150 I said, for 3 hours. Two SECONDS after I hit the stage, the facility's mic dies! How did I handle it?

the issue will be about handling things when DISASTER strikes YOUR show! My solutions weren't dramatic or any deep 'secret...' more of a mindset thing.

It's going to be a GREAT issue! sign ups are free by emailing me at (By the way, in the end, both shows kicked ASS!)

Now, on to the reviews...because I've been sleeping on a crappy hotel bed and my back is killin' me.:)

Today I review...In Lizzie's Hand by Bruce Kavlar. It's available for $35 from Hocus Pocus. Here's a link to the ad copy:

EFFECT: While reading a copy of a letter supposedly written by Lizzie Borden (who was accused of murdering her father and step-mother), the performer is 'possessed' by something and slams his hand down on the paper. After he takes his hand away, there is a bloody handprint on the paper...and NO marks of any kind on the performer's hand.

WHAT YOU RECEIVE: 25 sheets of special paper with Lizzie's 'letter' printed on each. You are receive a special something used to make a something which is used to make something....which enables you to leave the hand print. how's THAT for cryptic?? You also receive a thorough booklet of instructions and background on Lizzie Borden.

QUALITY OF PROPS: The paper looks and feels like regular paper (unlike flashpaper, which NEVER passes for 'regular paper.') Good stuff. My only quibble is the fact that you need to buy refills....I don't have an issue with purchasing refills, but my fear is I will fall in love with an effect and find it's no longer produced. Fortunately, the first time I bought this effect was 5 years ago. I just re-bought it again a few weeks ago and Voila! It's still around. Whew!

QUALITY OF INSTRUCTION: Bruce does a good job giving you the basics needed for the effect in addition to other ideas. The Borden background info is a nice bonus. 10 out of 10.

DIFFICULTY: Depending on when you perform this, this can either be a 1 out of 10 or a 10 out of 10. Let me explain...if you open with this effect, the physical requirements of the effect are simply slamming your hand down on the paper...or just resting your hand....slamming is NOT necessary, so to me, not being forced to 'act possessed' was most welcome indeed!

However, the requirements of the effect dictate that you must put something on your hand. It's invisible to the eye, does not have anything to do with heat, and leaves no marks on your hand. However, finding the justification to do this in the middle of your show will require some scripting, choreography, and planning on your part.

It's not terribly difficult, but it's one of those things I can see some performers not putting any thought into and therefore subjecting the audience to seeing the performer 'doing something behind the curtain' and not being too subtle about it.

The time you DON'T need to spend practicing any moves for this effect would best be spent working on scripting and motivation. I'm just sayin'.

EFFECT ON AUDIENCE: This does not get the type of effect that a dove steal gets, nor is it necessarily supposed to. I myself do not perform spirit magic, but I did purchase this effect for use in a more...'scholarly,' educational type of show, and effects in such a setting (seance, spiritualism, bizarre magic performances, etc) are often more subdued.

This effect plays well, but the biggest thing to work on is your acting skills, especially if you want to use the 'possession' plot that Bruce advertises. I have, in my lifetime, seen exactly ONE magician with the acting chops to really pull this off. And no, it wasn't anyone you've ever heard of.

I sure as hell don't have that kind of acting ability and therefore will be using the effect in a more subdued fashion, as my friend Jim Kleefeld recommends in his wonderful "Tales From Beyond" package.

MARKET: Don't do this for little kids' birthdays, OK? Can we all agree on that? LOL Otherwise, I think this will play best for high school, college or adults' groups...again with the proper PRESENTATION. (Yes, I'm stressing that a LOT. This effect NEEDS a good presentation. It will DIE if you try to simply let the effect play itself. Trust me.)

I can recommend this effect for the simplicity, but the practicality leaves it a little wanting - unless you're opening with this, some planning will be necessary to plan on how you will do the 'dirty work' as discussed in the instructions.

RATING: I'll give this a solid 7 out of 10.

Until next time....more s-p-o-o-o-o-k-y magic next week!

Now I'm off to rest my back. More shows tomorrow...I'm grateful for the work, just wish my back would ease up....:(


Cris Johnson

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Motorized Growing & Shrinking Head Illusion

Hey everyone, Cris Johnson here with more magic & fun!

Quick housekkeeping...

This week's blog will be a bit shorter - partially because of the item I chose and partially because I'm slammed this week - I soon embark on my October run, in which I only have ONE weekday when I'm NOT performing. Whew! Fortunately, I'm not doing much on weekends so I can catch my breath.

Which reminds open note to my pal Paul Rohmany: how in the WORLD do you stay sane??? I know your travel/performing schedule is a HECK of a lot crazier than mine.:)

On another note, I know Bobby Motta's new release "Taste" has attracted a lot of attention. I just ordered mine this week and I know Paul did, too. Soon we can compare notes - LOL!

The latest issue of my Cause & Effects ezine is going out early next week and will feature a simple booking tip that I know a lot of magicians are not using, so this simple tip is really worth your attention. Sign up for free by emailing me at

Next, a BIG thanks to all of you who have made my Clear-View Airborne a big seller! Hocus Pocus just ordered another batch two days ago. My wife & I are waiting on the shipping tubes so they will go out as soon as the tubes get here, probably on Saturday, if I had to guess.

Another HUGE thanks to those who continue to make my latest book, "Cause & Effects Vol. 2" a GREAT seller! I just sent a batch out to Hocus Pocus yesterday. It seems a lot of people see the value in obtaining real-world, polished performance routines. I make no bones about it - my Arm Chopper routine alone slays every time. With 22 laugh lines/bits (10 of which before the prop is even brought out) I lay claim to it being the FUNNIEST arm chopper routine for kid or family audiences ever.

You can still get the book here:

On to this week's review!

It's...The Motorized Growing & Shrinking Head by Bruce Kavlar. It's available for $59.95 from Hocus Pocus. The ad copy is here:

EFFECT: A spinning black & white disk causes the audience to see the magician's head SHRINK! An audience member appears to have a GROWING head! Incredible!

WHAT YOU RECEIVE: The plastic spinning disk, a small electric drill, hardware to mount the disk on the drill and written instructions

QUALITY: The disk itself is made of thick, good quality plastic. That said, if it bangs around in your case, it will get scratched, so I advise you to do as I did - sew a fleece bag to house the disk, keeping it away from harm. The electric drill is a simple black & decker model (or similar) that is rechargeable (it comes with a charger) so this device allows you to do the effect and "go green," and save money by NOT needing new batteries. I know there's a cardboard version of the disk, but I advise against it as I doubt it would hold up.

VALUE: For sixty bucks, this thing is a STEAL. Good quality and the effect is amazing.

DIFFICULTY: There is NO sleight of hand, so from the technical standpoint, this gets an easy "1" out of 10. The challenge with any self-working prop, there fore, is your presentation.

MARKET: I've done this for elementary audiences, teen audiences and family audiences and it kills. I haven't done it yet for adult audiences, but due to the optical illusion nature of the effect, I'm sure it would play. The ONLY age group I could see this NOT working for is the daycare/pre-school age. I've done it in schools of K-5 grades and occasionally, a kindergarten age kid will cry when I talk about my head shrinking, or such. To me, it says the kid took me literally. I feel daycare age kids would too, and besides, for the optical illusion to work, the person must stare at the spinning disk for 15-30 seconds and many daycare age kids can't sit still that long for something like this. (I used to perform 60 or so daycare shows a year.)

MY THOUGHTS: Another consideration: at least in my experience, at a birthday party, the kids would not 'get' the effect to work. I partially chalk this up to the kids being too close for the optical illusion to work. That doesn't make sense when I think about it, but I do maybe 3 birthdays a year and I've tried it at all of them and this effect falls flat, as the kids claim "it didn't work on them." Beats me, maybe I'm doing something wrong.

That little problem aside, I've KILLED with this for audiences of 100-500 people. They REALLY get into it. I've booked more than one show on the strength of this: "Oh, we HAVE to have you at our school and you HAVE to make our principal's head shrink!"

There's no sleights and the only angles to worry about is making sure your audience is facing you. If your audience is on "three sides" of you, two thirds of the won't see this. If you're surrounded, even more people won't see it.

However, if you have an audience in front of you, it's hard to go wrong with this. Since it's an optical illusion and not really a "trick," it can give your show a unique break in the middle.

HIGHLY recommended - a perfect 10 out of 10. I've used it about a hundred times at schools and it always plays great.

Until next week...


Thursday, September 23, 2010

Star Tradeshow Act by Docc Hilford

Hey Everybody, Cris Johnson here with more magic and fun!

I'm writing this week's blog in a hotel in NJ. Earlier today, I was performing in Shoreham, NY. Well, to get to my hotel in NJ in preparation for tomorrow's shows, my Garmin GPS took me straight through New York City, right down 34th Street.


I am NOT a big city guy. People who live and succeed in those big towns really have my respect, which sort of influenced my decision on what to review this week. But first, some housekkeeping...

Thank you for those of you who have supported my product releases. In fact, I was just told a few days ago that Paul Gross will be putting an ad for my new Clear-View Airborne in one of the big magic magazines!! The lead time for those publications is at least a couple of months, but as soon as I find out what issue, I will let you know.

In fact, Paul recently had a new photo taken for the ad. Check it out under "new releases." Right now it's #2 on page 1.

The next issue of my free ezine, "Cause & Effects" will feature a very simple booking strategy that I know for a fact not many magicians are using. If you are using it, that's great - this little tip has nabbed me some big shows. It's very simple yet very effective. The new issue comes out the first week of October.

If you're not on the list yet, send an email to:

On to this week's review...

It's The Star Tradeshow Act by Docc Hilford. It's available for $19.95 from Hocus Pocus and the ad copy can be read here:

EFFECT: Docc explains his own tradeshow act that he's used for years. The act consists of a fire wallet, a few card effects and some good psychology with money, albeit a weak money effect.

WHAT YOU RECEIVE: A stapled 36 page booklet.

DIFFICULTY: First, let's get one thing out of the way. The effects Docc uses in his tradeshow act are not difficult from a sleight of hand point of view...The most complex effect is maybe a 2 or 3, depending on your skill level.

The REAL difficulty comes from the show environment. Therefore, the majority of this review will focus on the tradeshow environment.

I do want to look at the act itself and offer thoughts on some of the effects, at least the ones I tried. Throughout, I will weave my thoughts on tradeshows (from my beginner's standpoint) throughout.

EFFECTS OVERVIEW: I've performed at a few tradeshows, so I'm no expert, but it does allow me to make some general observations regarding Docc's act.

The opening effect is a fire wallet, which Docc uses as he claims he will be giving away a $100 bill. I don't care what Docc claims in his book - if you use a fire wallet in a trade show, you'll be in DEEP TROUBLE. Docc claims he sidestepped fire marshals by claiming it was just "trick fire." It may have worked for him (although I have my doubts) but after I tried it, I almost got thrown out by the fire marshal.

So much for the opening.

The next effect is Docc's work on the old 52-on-1 card gag, which he uses to increase the size of the crowd. It reads as very charming and the psychology is good.

The problem here is you truly must have a magnetic personality and really need to hook people for this to work. I believe Docc used this successfully. I really do. For me, it was just "eh." When I finished using the 52-on-1 gag as Docc outlines to increase the size of my crowd, I had roughly the same size group...only a few people had left and others joined it.

Again, I'm sure it worked for Docc. For the 6 or 7 performances I tried, not so much. I blame myself, and that's the problem with an act like this - it's designed for probably the most demanding type of magic out there.

Think about this - at a birthday party, the kids are usually very much looking forward to your show. A school assembly program" Even more, because it gets kids out of class. A corporate holiday party? A little tougher, but yes...providing you engage them.

With tradeshows, you're dealing with people who are VERY busy and really don't want to stop. Most are there because they have to be and are searching out a specific product or booth.

If it sounds like tradeshows are tough (from my point of view) it's because they are. Even tradeshow masters talk freely about how tough it is. I'm NOT saying don't do them, only that it's good to know your strengths.

Back to Docc's act.

It gets better with Docc's handling of the Brainwave Deck, which he uses to finish up the 52-on-1 gag and bring that routine to a close. Docc's psychology and handling of this classic effect is quite good.

From there, he moves on to a spelling effect with cards. He talks a lot about blocking, good theatre and more during this routine. It reads quite good and listening (reading) Docc's thoughts on the psychology of performing is breathtakingly awesome. He thinks a lot about his craft. as to the effectiveness of this routine, I cannot say, as I never tried it.

I didn't care for it for a number of being that I don't like spelling tricks. I know there are great ones out there - I just don't like them. Plus, the effect read as though it would drag in less competent hands - mine, from a tradeshow standpoint.

It's very weird to be captivated by the psychology of an effect yet dislike the idea of performing an effect!

Docc's closer for his tradeshow act (the act runs about 15 minutes) is a variation on the old "3 and a half of Clubs" gag prediction. Again, Docc uses good psychology, especially in regards to his handling of the $100 bill he promises to give away to spectators if he gets the next effect wrong. I've tried it and it does play, but my big problem is that adult audiences, as a whole, see the 3 and a half of Clubs at the end of a routine and groan. It's like filling your show with puns - it's not truly funny...rather the laughs are more of a series of groans.

This is the one effect I pulled from the booklet and ran it through a series of family shws in preparation for an upcoming tradeshow I had a couple of years back. Viewing it as Docc's closer, I really wanted my handling and script to be polished. After a few dozen performances, I abandoned it as too corny for my liking.

Also included in the booklet is a mention of "turning a stack of $100 bills into a deck of cards that are shuffling." It's a pitch for a $15 product sold by Docc. I ordered it...and really wanted to ask Docc for my money back.

After a couple of weeks, I gave up on this. Besides the fact that it really does not work as smoothly as Docc promises, the set up is a pain in the butt, a big no-no in tradeshow work.

A brief interlude: Of the 6 or so tradeshows at which I've performed, I can tell you without a shadow of a doubt that when a crowd gathers, your client will expect you to perform - that's what you're being paid to do. Experienced tradeshow workers have told me they have scheduled performances, such as every 30 minutes, or once an hour, etc.

If you can work that kind of a deal with your client, that's great. I know I had a heck of a time trying to convince my clients of this during the booking process. This gets back to knowing yourself as a performer - I can sell myself to an elementary school for fantastic fees - much higher than what some experts tell me they get. I'm not bragging or knocking them, it's just I have a knack for schools.

Here's where tradeshow work is best for people who are truly passionate, have the right personality, etc. The booking process is tough, which, to get back to Docc's dreadful "$100 Bills to deck of cards trick," is only going to work if you have A) a place to re-set in private - not gonna happen at most booth tradeshows, and B) the time to re-set.

So out of the act, for my experience, 3 of the 5 effects got a good response...the fire wallet, the Brainwave Deck, and the 3 and a half of clubs (groans meant it got a good response, not a great response.) Of those 3 effects, I could continue to use only two effects...the fire wallet CANNOT be used in a tradeshow! TRUST ME on this!

THE REST OF THE BOOKLET: Docc is one of those infuriating writers in magic. I LOVE his deep thinking in magic, yet I find most of his stuff either unworkable or, the majority of the time, simply not suited for my personality.

That being said, Docc's understanding of tradeshows appears to be good. He offers some basic advice on getting the gig, but for 20 bucks it's not realistic to expect much more than the few paragraphs he offers.

Nevertheless, despite the apparent negative review thus far, I did find Docc's book helpful to me in understanding tradeshows so I had a good idea of what to do (and what not to do) once I got the gigs.

I took a lot of his advice and psychology and developed my own act which served me well. Tradeshows are NOT a venue I would ever pursue full-time myself, but you may feel differently.

FINAL THOUGHTS: I'm going to give this booklet a 5 out of 10. Fantastic psychology and deep thinking of his act, but for me, most of the actual routines just did not pan out. Your experience may be better than mine.

Until next time...


Cris Johnson

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Clear-View Airbornes IN STOCK! and SPECIAL Columns Coming Up!

Hey everyone,

A very weary Cris Johnson here...whew, school's back in session and therefore I am busy as heck once again. As many of you know, I am primarily a school guy. I do some corporate and some private parties, but at heart it's all about schools with me.

Here on the east coast of the U.S., schools started back up a few weeks ago after the summer break and I've been SLAMMED ever since, which is a great thing. It's just a little difficult to get back into the 'swing' of things after having a slow summer.

Some housekkeeping notes...

The new Clear-View Airbornes are NOW IN STOCK! I just checked in with Ken a few days ago and they all arrived safe and sound. I'm sure that those of you who ordered it have either received yours or will in the next couple of days. Don't let the simplicity in appearance fool you...several months of experimentation went into this to make sure that not only does the trick work great but it's also reliable and durable. We also tested different ways of packing it so it would ship safely.

In addition, if you've ever bought a floating glass effect of this type before but were put off by the crappy instructions, never fear because this comes with a CD-ROM for your computer so you can see it in action and it comes with an 11 page booklet outlining the history, development and performance of the effect.

Finally, the little rascal comes with a sturdy tube to keep your investment safe and in great shape for years!

You can read all about it here:

I also want to thank all of you who have made my Mother of All Predictions CD prediction effect and both volumes of Cause & Effects books of routines continued hot sellers. I'm truly touched.

You can check all three books out here:

Cause & Effects 2:

Cause & Effects 1:

Mother of All Predictions:

Finally, I'm going to use my blog space today to let you know of a few 'special events' with this space.

For the month of October, each week will be devoted to reviewing items of a 'spooky' or 'geek' nature in honor of Halloween! That's when so many of us tend to gravitate toward the strange and bizarre, so that's where I'll heading as far as effects that I plan on reviewing.

The last week in December, marking my one-year anniversary of this blog, will feature my 'best of' column. It will be a recap of the BEST stuff that I reviewed in 2010. This will obviously be highly subjective, as in the stuff I loved the most.

In the interest of giving myself a challenge, I will also restrict myself to stuff that I actually purchased in 2010. I bought a LOT of cool stuff this year, as I had a need for stuff due to developing new show themes as well as needing more effects for repeat audiences, which I'm doing more of.

Just as an FYI, next year I don't plan on buying nearly as much new stuff, so as a result, I will need more input from YOU, loyal readers, as to what you'll want to see reviewed.

Finally, I still plan on reviewing an item this week, but I am getting caught up o taxes...three weeks ago, BOTH my desktop AND my laptop computer died, so I've had to re-enter ALL of my receipts and financial information.

Before writing this blog, I've been at my desk working on taxes for about four hours and that was after I did a motivational show across the border in Canada, so I'm BEAT.:)

Check back here in the next few days as I'll try to get a new item reviewed.

Oh, and next month's free ezine of "Cause & Effects" will feature a really neat yet simple technique to drastically increasing the likelihood of getting hired for that gig. I'll outline how I used it to land an obscure gig recently and I will detail why it worked, what not to do and much more.

If you haven't signed up already, send an email to:

Until next time...

Cris Johnson

Tuesday, September 7, 2010


Howdy folks!

I'm in my hotel in Hammond, IN, getting ready for tomorrow's shows and I've just cleaned bird guts off my windshield! Yup, poor little bird went SMACK! into my windshield as I was doin' 70 barreling down the I-80. Yuck!

The Clear-View Airbornes have SHIPPED OUT TODAY! I sent them UPS to Hocus Pocus and they said they will arrive next Tuesday, the 14th. At that point, Ken assures me ALL pre-orders will be sent out.

I appreciate everyone's faith - I know some pre-order magic items never materialize, but I'm glad this one worked out. My wife & I did extensive testing of the packing method to ensure the product reaches you safe and sound.

The newly designed gimmicks work REALLY well and I know it's going to work GREAT for those of you who truly desire a modern day, real-world version of Airborne...performed with a clear water bottle!

By the way, I'm still amazed at how many people sign up for my free ezine, "Cause & Effects," each week! It's a monthly ezine devoted to performing philosophy, business help and more. To sign up, shoot an email to:

On to this week's review!

It's the Mikame Craft Deluxe Arm Chopper. It's available for $380.00 from Hocus Pocus. Here's the link:

THE EFFECT: An arm chopper will slice a carrot or other food item, but a spectator's arm is totally unharmed when the blade is pushed through.

WHAT YOU RECEIVE: The beautiful deluxe arm chopper and a sheet of poorly written instructions.

QUALITY OF PROP: This is without a doubt the most well-made arm chopper I've ever used. It's not perfect in terms of operation (more on that later) but it's gorgeous. If you take care of it, it will serve you well. That being said, it's made of wood and therefore I recommend wrapping it in a cloth or padding to protect the finish from getting chipped up. This is NOT particle board with wood finish "graphics" stuck to the outside.

I believe an audience, at least on a subconscious level, can sense a crappy prop from a good prop and from a pure looks stand point, this one is unmatched. Granted, there are bigger, more impressive choppers, but this one is the perfect size to play big (about 14 inches or so high) yet packs down nicely.

The base that keeps the chopper standing upright is also removable, held in place with a nut. I've sewn fleece bags for each piece, to protect both and allow each to truly pack flat.

INSTRUCTIONS: As I said, they are sparse, poorly written, and do not tell users of what I feel is a severe design flaw. (More later.)

This is not supplied with any routines - it's sort of like a claw hammer...buying one doesn't mean you're a carpenter and buying an arm chopper doesn't mean you're a comedy magician, either. (Shameless Plug: follow this link to find a KILLER comedy arm chopper routine: )

MARKET: You've got to be real careful with this one. Many schools will not like use of this prop. I've got a carefully structured routine that allows me to "side step" all of that. With that in mind, I never perform the chopper for ANUY audiences below third grade. I also don't use it for adult shows, as it's not the kind of audience interaction I want. Kids enjoy being in it, adults, not so much.

DIFFICULTY: I'm not going to rate this in terms of difficulty, as the working is simple enough but your success or failure with this prop is highly dependent on your routine.

MY THOUGHTS: I've own other crappy versions of the arm chopper and this one is by far the best. The "chopping" action is smooth, the prop is well-built (mine's gone through something 350 performances) and it still looks like new. Still, a few considerations...

1. After you cut a piece of food, like any chopper, you need to "set it" to a 'safe mode.' If you have a brain fart and forget, you could hurt someone. The blade is not sharp enough to actually slice someone's wrist off, but I guarantee it would hurt like hell.

2. Most arm choppers allow you to do this 'safe mode' setting by strategically placing one finger in a proper place and you yank the blade upwards. Not so with this model - here you must insert SEVERAL fingers in to set it to safe mode. This, to me, is odd as hell. It means you'll need a bit of added misdirection or a well-timed laugh to do the split-second 'move.' I've done it for years - not a huge deal, but be aware of it.

3. When doing the trick, you need to have a wrist in the chopper that is of suffficient diameter. I was doing the trick a couple of months ago and as I chopped down, the chopper...stopped. The kid looked at me blankly. I took his wrist out, ad-libbed a few lines, thinking the unit has broke, then eventually put my own wrist in and it worked great. I've since done it another 30 or so times after numerous careful tests at home.

Trust me - this kid had SKINNY wrists.

This means you'll need to be on the look out for wrists of a certain size. Odd, but not a deal-breaker, at least to me.

FINAL THOUGHTS: As I've said, the craftsmanship is stellar. I've used it for a few years and if it ever breaks, I'll buy another. It has held up better than any other version. Nevertheless, the business with the necessity to use wrists of a certain size coupled with the need to put several fingers in to set it to safe-mode is a tad worrisome.

I'll give this an 8 out of 10 - rock-solid, but keep in mind a few considerations.

Until next week...

Cris Johnson

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Baxt Better Newspaper Tear & Another Airborne Update


Cris Johnson here, with some more magic talk on this fine September day!

This week has been my first week back performing in schools, and I gotta say, I've MISSED schools tremendously. I performed my first school assembly in two months today and it felt like re-visiting an old friend.

I was also able to meet Jim Kleefeld today in person. Jim came to my show and gave me rave reviews on my educational assembly. I was nervous, as Jim has 30 or so years' experience AND he's a former teacher, so I was sweatin' bullets, but Jim praised me.

If you're interested in kids' shows, Jim has some GREAT products right here at

CLEAR-VIEW AIRBORNE UPDATE: The glasses have arrived!! My wife has gimmicked all 24 glasses. She is basically now re-doing the gimmicks on the bottles to make them stronger and resistant to shipping damage. When I get home this weekend, I am also going to checking and double-checking our packaging method. (I'm throwing a few down the stairs of our basement to simulate the abuse they'll get at the hands of UPS!!)

We're taking these extra steps on the advisement of Paul & Ken at Hocus because we REALLY want everyone to be pleased with their purchase. This is our first "physical" product (I usually release books) so we want to get things right out of the gate. We have more releases planned, so we want to build a good name.

The bottles, barring disaster, should ship early next week, probably Monday, and they'll take a week to get to Paul at Hocus Pocus. Paul will then get them out ASAP, so we will still make the mid-September deadline with plenty of time to spare.

Oh, speaking of products, my stuff has suddenly spiked in sales - both Cause & Effects Volumes 1 & 2 and The Mother of All Predictions continue to fly off shelves. I sent an order to Ken last week and the day it arrived he ordered more stuff. THANK YOU ALL!!

Now, for the BAD news...My October is REALLY swamped, so it's going to be very difficult for me to get products out. If you're on the fence on any of my stuff, I HIGHLY recommend you order during the month of September.

Oh, and the newest issue of my FREE ezine, "Cause & Effects," will go out tomorrow. Sign up by emailing me at Thanks!!

OK, on to this week's review - Baxt's Better Newspaper Tear. It's available for $95.00 from Hocus Pocus and can be found here:

EFFECT: It's the classic newspaper tear - Newspaper sheet is shown, opened and finally torn...only to INSTANTLY restore in a flash!

WHAT YOU RECEIVE: The ad copy states you get a actually receive three. No, it's not the same gimmick, but all three are required for the effect. You also receive the performance/instructional DVD and a pictorial step-by-step 'map' to make rehearsal easier.

QUALITY OF GIMMICKS: This will last a lifetime, even if you abuse it! Great stuff, and perfect for working pros.

QUALITY OF INSTRUCTION: Robert Baxt is a funny guy. There were a few times I busted out laughing while watching this DVD. First, he honors Gene Anderson several times in the DVD, lavishly heaping praise on him...gushing, in fact. Oh, and he does a super job teaching the effect. It's not Kohler or L&L quality, but the picture is crystal clear and as I said, Robert does a great job teaching it.

DIFFICULTY: The difficulty really comes from learning the Gene Anderson folding process, which this effect is based on and Robert credits - over and over. (Again, it's funny!)

Mastering the folding isn't too difficult. The actual performance is quite easy. I've never performed the original Anderson Tear, but I have a friend who does so I know how it works. I'd say in terms of performance, Robert's version is probably just as easy if not easier. I'd rate this a 3 out of 10 in terms of difficulty.

ANGLES: You can't have anyone to the extreme sides with this method. I perform a lot in schools, so I never have to worry about my sides. If you're a performer who works on those risers in hotels (corp gigs) and people are on three sides, you will have to watch this. You could probably cover by holding the paper closer to your body, but buyer beware. I also wouldn't recommend it surrounded, but then again, this is a stage trick and if you're surrounded on stage, you're in hell. Just my two cents.

MARKET: With the possible exception of child care centers (and I know someone's gonna send me an angry email tellin' me just how wrong I am) this will play for anyone over the age of 5. It's a classic effect.

MY THOUGHTS: OK, get ready for an overly positive review. I've been using this puppy for two-three years (I forget) and have performed it at least 300 times. I LOVE this. I've always wanted to add a newspaper tear to my act but was put off by other methods. One method involves gluing and creating pockets for the torn pieces to hide plus that method is a slow restoration - I prefer the instant, flash restoration.

I considered the classic Anderson method, but as I'm banging out up to 10 schools a week (two schools a day, a total of 4 performances a day) I didn't want to fuss around with Anderson's glue-wire-construction method. It looks great, but I just wanted something easier.

I bought Baxt's effect because the demo video looked just like the Anderson tear and it promises a 30-second set-up once you understand the method and have rehearsed it. I can say that the ad copy is correct - I burn through a 30 sec rest and love it. I've bought a second Baxt Better Newspaper Tear for those crazy 4-show days and I'm considering getting two more to make my days even easier. I LOVE this.

The only quibble someone might make with the ad copy is that you can't do this "right out of the box." There is some practice involved. It's a minor quibble - one I don't care about, but others who take things literally should know this will require rehearsal.

The only other thing I'd say is that purists who love to, after the newspaper is restored, lovingly and carefully show the inside pages may not care for this method. With a bit of preparation on your part (which simply involves being a tad fussy with which page you set up for the restoration and nothing more) you'll be able to casually flash open the pages, but it won't be as pure as the Anderson tear.

To me, this is NOT a big deal. I don't ever flash the inside pages after the restoration. I present the effect (I have a few different scripts) and after the restoration, I put the paper away and move on. I personally feel too much is made of over-proving things to audiences. To me, over-proving makes sense for Bill in Lemon or a bullet catch, but is less necessary for a newspaper tear.

To me, this effect is EASILY worth the high asking price because the set-up is so easy. For a trick that plays so big, if you fly to gigs, you can stick the gimmicks in your pocket and buy a newspaper (or two) at your gig. What could be simpler?

10 out of 10 for working pros who love the Anderson Restoration but want a faster method.

Until next week, direct any comments to:


Cris Johnson