WOW, I cannot believe how crazy-busy I've been! I slow down quite a bit in July and August, so until then, I'm just going to enjoy the ride!
On the product front, I'm happy to report that my newsest release, The Mother of All Predictions, continues to move briskly. It's an audio CD prediction, mailed in advance, that allows you to predict ANYTHING. Best part? There's NO electronic gimmckry involved!! Check it out: http://www.hocus-pocus.com/magicshop/inc/product_detail.cfm?item=13021
Also, it's nearing the end of the month and my newest issue of "Cause & Effects," my ezine for magicians, will be releasedc very soon. It's going to be David Copperfield inspired and will also incude a story I told to Penn (of Penn & Teller fame) that made Penn bust out laughing.
Join by shooting me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Best part? The ezine is FREE!
On to this week's review...
I'm tackling Dead Ringer by Tim Wisseman. It's available for $299.95 and is available at Hocus Pocus. Here's the link: http://www.hocus-pocus.com/magicshop/inc/product_detail.cfm?item=10658
EFFECT: A crystal clear bell is hung from a metal hook. Without anyone being anywhere near it, it rings! Your audience can see the clapper inside suddenly start swinging back and forth, ringing the bell. It's under your control at all times.
WHAT YOU GET: An antique-looking aged wooden box, the wooden base that holds the bell, the metal hook that sits upright in the base, the bell itself, written instructions, remote control and more.
INSTRUCTIONS: The instructions as written are sparse, but serviceable. Interestingly, they reveal the fact that when the metal hook from which the bell stands must be placed at a certain angle and it's up to the user to determine what that is and then always remember to insert the hook at that angle. If you're looking down at the base from a bird's eye view, think of the agle of the upright hook as the hand on a clock and you must remember that the BEST bell movement occurs at 1:00, for example, Truthfully, the "sweet spot" of the bell in my case was almost perfectly head-on, as pictured o the website, and I'm sure yours will too. It takes a little experimenting to find this "sweet spot" but once you do, you're golden.
QUALITY OF PROPS: I want to state up front that I'm not a collector of magic - everything I buy is bought with the intent of putting it into a show of some kind in a way that will earn me money. (Paul Gross, for example, has this thing for Ball & Vases. I don't get it.)
So, I don't collect things to put them on a shelf. That being said, Dead Ringer is a work of art. It looks gorgeous. I cut my teeth on Bizarre (Tony Andruzzi, anyone?) Magic and appreciate the look of strage old boxes, weird, arcane symbols and more. This bell fits the bill perfectly. The box really looks like it was buried in a tomb for a hundred years. The bell itself looks very old. The wooden base from which the bell hangs looks authentic.
Looks-wise, this is beautiful...something collectors would love to put on a shelf.
ANGLES: Keep the remote hidden and you can do this anywhere, from any angle.
QUALITY / DURABILITY OF OPERATION: I've flown to gigs with this thing and with careful packing it will come out just fine...as long as you pack on your carry-on. Don't let TSA near this thing - LOL! All joking aside, this prop is very hardy, with proper care. The bell is crystal, so don't drop it. However, the quality is good and the electronics are rock-solid - treat it right and it will treat you right.
AUDIENCE SIZE: This is intended for intimate settings, and in fact when I bought it, Ken at Hocus Pocus told me the bell's sound was delicate, not intended for stage work. That being said, I've used this little bugger for as many as 100 people (so far) and when the mood is right, it can clearly be heard. Focus your audience's attention and bigger audiences can hear it just fine.
The way the clapper moves and causes the bell to move is uncanny. When I first started working with this, I called Paul and exclaimed it was the most amazing thng I'd ever seen. It was so cool to just activate it and do its thing.
THE REMOTE: I can't stand toe switches. This uses a remote with a toe switch for hands-free use. I tried all kinds of things to keep the toe switch in the correct place yet still allow me to walk around. I couldn't get it to consistently work, so my feeling is this toe switch is best for a seated performance, such as a seance. Farir enough. I simply stuff the remote in my pocket and use it that way. My point is, if you're a standup performer, know that you do not HAVE to use the remote as a toe switch.
BATTERIES: This uses four AAA sized batteries, which is a standard size, meaning you can buy rechargeables, if you desire. I went to all rechargeables about a year ago and it's saved me so much money. In this case of the Dead Ringer electronics, the unit is "on" and drawing battery power as soon as the batteries are installed. Because this is intended as a closeup prop, there's no way to hide an on/off switch, so I get that. That's why I went the rechargable route - knowing this prop was going to burn through batteries (If you're doing an hour long show, the unit is "on" the entire time) using rechargables saves me a ton of cash each year.
By the way, I don't consider the lack of on/off switch to be a flaw - Tim wanted to create an authentic looking prop and so sacrificed the on/off switch to acheive that goal. If I had built this thing, I would have done the same thing.
OVERALL THOUGHTS: I love this thing. It works reliably and beautifully. About the only thing I don't love is that little matter of finding the "sweet spot." For me, this means I had to put the metal hook into the wooden base rather than let the spectator do it. It's a minor point, but a noticeable one. You can, however, let a spectator hang the bell itself, as there's no "sweet spot."
Again, it only takes a few tries to find the sweet spot and then it's consistently wonderful.
I'll give this a rock-solid 9.5. I ove it and I'm sure you will, too.
Questions? Comments? Send all thoughts to email@example.com.