Friday, December 13, 2013

Holiday SALE on ALL Cris Johnson Products!

Starting TODAY (December 13, 2013) until NEXT FRIDAY (December 20, 2013), you can take 25% off of ANY of my (Cris Johnson) products!

Simply email me at and let me know what you're interested in. I will then email you your discounted total along with shipping charges.

You can then Paypal me the total to and I'll rush your goodies right out to you. Take advantage of my holiday madness now.:)

A New Look and A New Mindset

I'm back!

Earlier this year I wrote the final review of Trick Talk, my review column for Hocus Pocus. At that time, I was buying magic just for the sake of doing reviews. that was never the spirit of what this blog was supposed to be as I only wanted to review tricks and routines that I used in my professional work.

Since then, I've had a lot of cool ideas, my mindset has shifted and more. While I am relaunching the blog, it will not be strictly as a review blog. As the new subtitle suggests, it will be encompassing a whole lot more. I will indeed be doing reviews, but they will not be weekly as I do not want to lock myself into that format. The stuff I review will only be the material I buy for my own work.

Also, I've changed the name of the blog to avoid confusion with the current incarnation of the Hocus Pocus blog. Nevertheless, ALL of my reviews from the Trick Talk blog are still archived and are immediately accessible.

As far as new reviews go, some of the upcoming reviews include:

MIB - Message in a Bottle by Puck and Scott Alexander
The Final Cut by Bob Kohler and Scott Alexander
Cue The Magic
Mentalities 2-DVD set
The 100th Monkey
5-Card Box by Bill Abbott

All of these are items I purchased for my own shows and most of them have already made their way into my paid shows.

Other times, this blog will contain thoughts of a philosophical nature, business building tips, and more.

Stay Tuned for my next post which will cover my thoughts of Criss Angel's show BeLIEve and David Blaine's recent TV special.

Finally, this blog is now attached to, which is my new product site, containing all of my releases to the magic community as well as products from other working pros including:

Paul Romhany
Peter Loughran
Bobby Motta
Jim Kleefeld

To make this site stand out from many other sites, I'm implementing a store policy of rewards points: simply put, each time you make a purchase from this site, ANY purchase, you'll receive 1 Store Point for every $5 you spend. Points never expire and once you accumulate enough points, you can have ANY product of MINE (Cris Johnson) absolutely FREE. And my product site includes items no longer available anywhere else, including Murder By Magic!

So bookmark this blog and stop by often!

- Til next time


Wednesday, March 27, 2013

The Final REVIEW: Mental Deceptions Vol. 2

Hi all,

Welcome to the LAST installment of my blog, at least for the immediate future. In the last installment, I outlined my past with Rick Maue and the positive influence he’s had on my career.

With that in mind, I cannot even pretend to be objective in last week’s review or this one. If you ever read this, Rick, thank you. And as you always say (and I remember the origin of the reference) I will indeed keep the change.

My review of volume 2 of Mental Deceptions DVDs starts after the ad copy…

AD COPY: Despite over four decades of magic and mentalism experience, Rick Maue has always managed to remain a bit elusive...until now! On this DVD set, Rick presents a number of his signature pieces, as well as several unreleased items, with many of the effects coming from his working repertoire.

Mental Deceptions is loaded with strong mentalism for stand-up or close-up performances and remarkably, none of the effects require expensive gimmicks or props - just everyday items such as envelopes, poker chips, paper, playing cards, etc. (It's why Michael Weber dubbed Rick "OfficeMax Maven.")

What's more, no sleight of hand is required. Rick calls it VdM Magic - material that's so technically easy that the Venus De Milo could perform it! In other words, everything is well within the technical reach of every performer.

You'll also be able to step inside the mind of Rick Maue during informative interview segments conducted by magician Francis Menotti. You'll see for yourself why Marc DeSouza once asked Rick, "Why is it that when I see you lecture, I feel like I am watching a mad scientist at work?"


* Beyond The Witching Hour – A bit of Spirit Communication that also teaches a very useful utility move for the everyday worker who wants to move the hands of a watch.

MY THOUGHTS – I remember Rick showing this to me at a lecture in Pittsburgh, PA. Despite doing it super slowly, as my eyes burned him, I could not catch the move. This is so brilliant, and so impossible to catch. One of the best methods of covertly moving the hands of a watch ever created.

* The Final Picture – Whether on stage, doing close-up, performing a séance, or working impromptu, this is the piece that Rick has performed more than all of his other creations combined.

MY THOUGHTS – as with all of Rick’s creations, this is super simple in terms of technical work. The way Rick does a lot of the stuff in this routine will make you feel like a Jedi by the way he uses non-verbal deception and simple hand gestures to influence the volunteer in certain ways.

* Animal Instincts – A close-up prediction effect that relies on human instincts.

MY THOUGHTS – The end of this routine came as a complete surprise, a cool kicker type ending people just don’t see coming. That being said, this is a somewhat lengthy routine so this is NOT something you can do table to table or strolling. It’s a routine in which you’d need a table. Consider it a routine for formal closeup sessions, such as a private party for a small group of people, less than 10, for the best venue for this routine.

* In The Neighborhood – A simplistic version of “Out of This World”…but it doesn’t use playing cards!

MY THOUGHTS – This is a fun “Sorting” type routine, as the title suggests, and is slightly similar to Out of This World. The best part is the fact that this routine uses poker chips rather than playing cards and the way the routine unfolds is a complete surprise. The working is exceedingly simple and the working is similar to Rick’s terrific Fate? Routine. I really like this.

* Abstract Extraction (Francis Menotti) – A strange effect that make brainwaves visible to the human eye.

MY THOUGHTS – I remember reading Penn & Teller’s “How To Play In Traffic” book and reading about a similar effect. This is fun, easy and most assuredly something different which is always nice in a collection of mental effects. Francis Menotti presents this, and though I’d never heard of him before watching this DVD set, he’s definitely someone I intend to keep an eye on for future releases.

* Defining The Difference – A strong bit of mentalism that demonstrates the difference between a magician and a mentalist.

MY THOUGHTS – Shades of Annemann in this routine and wow, what an effect! I was blown away by the mentalism part of the routine. As past readers of my blog know, I’m not big on card effects in either magic or mentalism, so it takes a lot to make me sit up and take notice. It’s not that I’m against cards in mentalism, but merely that many card effects bore me. This routine, however, is one I may add to my set list!

* Focus / Sixth Sense Symbols – A three-phase routine that looks and feels like real mindreading. It appears impossible, because it almost is…unless you know the secret.

MY THOUGHTS – This routine was really the only disappointment on the entire 2-disk set. The routine itself was incredibly powerful and very cool, but the method, while easy like Rick’s other stuff, is not something I am able to use due to the nature of how I do my shows. I have to be intentionally vague due to avoid exposure.

* The Journey –  A stand-up piece that has fooled some of the best minds in mentalism. It’s strong and versatile, and like almost all of Rick’s creations, everything that you need comes from a regular office supply store.

MY THOUGHTS – This routine is one of the best pieces for stage mentalism I’ve ever seen. It was stunning, and was so strong I could only think of stooges as a way for the solution to work…happily, I was wrong and I can’t wait to add this to my set. Trust me, the DVD set is worth the price for this one routine.

Thank you all for the support over the years! As always, if you have any questions about anything, email me at

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Special Announcement & REVIEW: Mental Deceptions DVD 1 by Rick Maue

Hello readers!

This is going to be a memorable blog entry for one particular reason. First, a few updates on what I’ve been doing lately…

First, I had a GREAT stage hypnosis show this past weekend in Nebraska for a repeat client – actually it’s the third time I’ve served this client. It was great fun! Then disaster struck as my flight was canceled going home, but the airline put me up at a Hilton because I was not going to be able to fly out til the next day. Stressful but at least the hotel was nice!

Also, the hypnosis clinic that I opened is doing more and more biz – on average, I’m now seeing 12 clients a week which is pretty good considering I just opened the doors in January. Honestly, it’s incredibly rewarding work because I get to help people overcome unhealthy habits.

While I certainly do not expect to ever STOP performing, as I LOVE performing, I really feel that in the next few years I will be transitioning to a part time performing career and devoting more of my energies to hypnosis.

Partially it’s because the work is so rewarding and partially, after 10 years living out of hotels and suitcases, I’m tired of the travel. While I LOVE performing, I’m tired of the crappy hotels and the endless hours of driving. The loneliness on the road. I want to be home and while there is a good healthy amount of repeat clients I do close to home that do not involve hotel stays or airport travel, the fact is I find hypnosis to be endlessly fascinating…

And that leads me to the special announcement…next week will probably be my LAST review for some time. As I get my hypnosis biz up and running, it’s a juggling act between serving both my performing career as well as my hypnosis. Couple that with the fact that I simply don’t NEED new magic in my life. That’s not to say that I don’t WANT new magic…like many of you, I still get that thrill when the new package arrives in the mail, the flutter of excitement when, after the appropriate amount of practice, that I feel “This is ready for an audience,” and so on.

However, I currently have 6 elementary school shows, 4 high school theme shows, 4 corporate motivational/educational shows, 3 corporate holiday party shows, 2 stage hypnosis shows, a few themed day care shows, a family night show…and probably a few shows I’m forgetting about…what this means it’s hard keeping track of all of that stuff. It’s also hard pulling something out of a given show that works and taking a chance replacing it with something you’re not sure of. This is a subject Doc Dixon wrote about in one of his books and it really rang true for me.

What this means is with all the different shows that I do, I have a massive list of effects I need to ‘stay up’ on – making sure any sleight of hand is sharp, stage blocking, scripting etc is all sharp in mind and muscle memory. In short, because of all the different shows I offer, I don’t relish the idea of learning new material. As a full timer, I have never understood how some part timers and even some full timers can create a new lineup of effects for one specific audience…the transitions between effects and the overall ‘arc’ of the show must be considered, at least to me. I understand even less how some full timers (many of whom I respect)create a brand new library show each year for the summer, as that’s only three month run of anywhere from 50 -150 shows. To me, after I do a show 50-60 times, I feel I’m just starting to get really COMFORTABLE with the show. But that’s just me.:)
I only mention all of this because when I started writing this blog, my goal was to review effects & releases that I had actually used in my show and thus could comment on from a real world perspective. As time has gone on, I have not been able to do that nearly as much as in years past. So I feel like I’ve been giving less than 100% to this blog.

So, at least for now, I’m stepping away.

This week I shall review DVD #1 of Rick Maue’s Mental Deceptions from L&L. I’ll finish up with DVD #2 next week. Before I get into the review, I must also mention that it’s kind of appropriate that my last review is of Rick Mause’s DVDs. I first met Rick Maue when I was living in Jeannette, PA, which is about 30-45 minutes outside of Pittsburgh, PA, where Rick lives.

I went to a local gathering Rick was hosting – a series of lectures by several great performers, such as Alain Nu. But even with some of the “A” listers present, I was captivated most by Rick’s lecture – his explanations revealed that he intended his stuff for the real world and had fine-tuned everything in the real world. It felt authentic.

I got to know Rick a little bit at a few other events, including a great lecture by Paul Gertner that was a lot of fun. I also bought his Haunted Magick book and a few other things over the years.

Eventually, Rick wound up inviting me to his house for a tour of his Haunted Tour built into his house. It was breathtakingly cool for someone who first got into magic because of weird and Bizarre magic. Rick also shared some great business advice with me – stuff I’ve carried with me to this very day, and I feel like he’s part of the reason why I make over $100,000 per year in magic.

I owe Rick a lot, but mostly I’m thankful to him for his kindness and generosity and frankly, he was one of the first magicians who taught me that not all magicians are to considered untrustworthy!! (True I’ve met others, but 15 years ago in Pittsburgh, I hadn’t met any by that point!!)

I know of and understand the reasons why Rick no longer performs. I’m just SO thankful some of his best stuff is preserved on a great 2-disk L&L set. I won’t even try to remain objective with these reviews. Thank you, Rick, for being such a great performer, creator…and mostly for being a great human being. This week I’ll cover DVD #1 and next week, obviously, DVD #2.

AD COPY: Despite over four decades of magic and mentalism experience, Rick Maue has always managed to remain a bit elusive...until now! On this DVD set, Rick presents a number of his signature pieces, as well as several unreleased items, with many of the effects coming from his working repertoire.

Mental Deceptions is loaded with strong mentalism for stand-up or close-up performances and remarkably, none of the effects require expensive gimmicks or props - just everyday items such as envelopes, poker chips, paper, playing cards, etc. (It's why Michael Weber dubbed Rick "OfficeMax Maven.")

What's more, no sleight of hand is required. Rick calls it VdM Magic - material that's so technically easy that the Venus De Milo could perform it! In other words, everything is well within the technical reach of every performer.

You'll also be able to step inside the mind of Rick Maue during informative interview segments conducted by magician Francis Menotti. You'll see for yourself why Marc DeSouza once asked Rick, "Why is it that when I see you lecture, I feel like I am watching a mad scientist at work?"


Heads & Tales – This is Rick’s opener. As the name would suggest, it revolves around the toss of a coin. But besides the 50/50 shot, there is so much going on here. Rick has woven so much great stuff in this routine that it’s breathtaking. Additionally, Rick uses this opener to set up his closer, which is truly poetic. The idea of a 50/50 decision between two possibilities may not sound like much, but what is so impressive is the way Rick has added possibly severe consequences to the idea of getting this simple choice “wrong.” Also, this is really great as it gives me a possible opening to a theme show for colleges I’ve been thinking of putting together for years.

Group Dynamic – This in some ways is a chair routine but the method and structure of the routine goes beyond a chair routine and despite the use of a well-known concept in mentalism, Rick nonetheless camouflaged it and the method flew right past me. The best thing? Once you do just a few minutes of prep work, you can carry the materials for this routine in your pocket for an anytime, anywhere chair routine.

Reverse Roulette – FINALLY, a completely safe “danger” type routine! This routine, despite being so easy from a technical standpoint, is camouflaged so well and fooled me completely. No angle problems, no danger…it’s awesome. I should point put that this routine does not involve knives or spikes but rather household products! Additionally, there is no ‘acid’ used like in some routines so there is no ‘proving’ phase which can slow down so many routines of this type.

The Hole Card – A stand up routine with 5 cards using again a well-known classic of mentalism in terms of methodology. Completely fooled me. Simple and worth a look.

Mixed Emotions – this is strong, mainly because it uses emotions as the hook for the whole routine. Very cool routine.

Body Language – This is THE ultimate chair routine! I categorized Group Dynamic as a chair routine because volunteers sit in chairs, but this routine is a true chair routine in that the positions of ALL the participants is involved for the routine’s climax. This routine is just so good, and once again, this routine is something you can do anywhere, anytime with any chairs. There’s no angle problems, no preparation of the chairs themselves and the ‘work’ is almost automatic.

In short, what happens is several volunteers are given a free choice of several envelopes. Each envelope has a slip of paper in it that says “stand” or “sit.” Despite the envelopes not being marked (and they truly are NOT marked), a second group of volunteers sits down in a second row of chairs. The mentalist touches those volunteers he wishes to stand and others he has remain seated. The volunteers who selected envelopes open their envelopes and those who have the “stand” envelopes stand…and the pattern of volunteers standing and sitting is exactly matched by the second group. It’s extremely visual, different and very cool!

Focused Thoughts / Dichotomy – two very card effects that show viewers some cool techniques. Good stuff.

FATE? – This effect was released as a stand-alone piece years ago, and I’ve been using it to great effect for years. Like Group Dynamic, you can see Fate? Performed in its entirety in video previews on Youtube. It’s a multi-phase prediction routine involving volunteers and what color poker chip each selects and the kicker ending just brings everything up another level. No angle issues and technically very easy. The multi-revelations adds several moments to the routine as opposed to just one payoff as with other routines. Very cool.

There are also interviews on performing philosophy, utility moves and so much more. Honestly, this 2-DVD set could have been easily expanded to a 3 or 4 DVD set. GREAT value and sooooooooooooooooooo underpriced.

15 out of 10!


Wednesday, March 6, 2013

REVIEW: Mugged by Rich Marrotta

Hello, all!

Before I get into this week’s review, I wanted to touch base on a few effects that I reviewed in the past and how things are fairing now that they are in my active performing sets.

The first is Peter Loughran’s Splattered which is an updated, more modern looking Square Circle. I had the opportunity to use it for seven performances in New York City this past week. Using it for grades K-4, I had a unique opportunity to perform for different age levels. In other words, I did one show for grade 1, another show for grade 2 and so on, meaning I was really able to pinpoint how certain ages of kids reacted. Fortunately, they all loved it.

While Splattered can enable users to produce a multitude of different things, I went with simplicity – I produced a 6 foot colorful streamer and then produced a 6 foot square dragon silk.
So, after several uses and several months of performing, culminating with this past week, Splattered remains a helluva keeper.

The next relatively new effect that I reviewed a while back that I want to touch upon is another Peter Loughran effect, Creature Shock. This effect is SO fun! At the aforementioned school, I performed at, I was able to perform Creature Shock four times. I did not perform it for anyone younger than grade 2, because I was worried about scaring the little guys.:)

Once again, the effect ROCKED. I was able to perform it several times over the last few months, but performing it multiple times for one client in one day was really cool!
OK, now on to this week’s review: Mugged by Rich Marrotta. It’s available for $89.95 from Hocus Pocus.

AD COPY: Mugged by Rich Marotta is finally back on the market after a lengthy absence. And boy, are we glad. It's always been a HOT SELLER, because it's contemporary, it's surprising and, quite frankly, it's hilarious!

Straight out of Rich Marotta's comedy act comes the story of a mugger's efforts to rob a magician and how the robber's attempt is foiled due to the magician's skill.

The performer relates a story of how he was robbed on the way to his performance. He shows the audience the mugger's ski mask, then proceeds to reenact the crime. He drops his money, watch, and ring into the mask. But of course, the mugger didn't know that his victim was a magician!

The performer turns the ski mask inside out - and WHAM, it's completely EMPTY!

Suddenly, the ring is seen to be back on the performer's finger, the watch is on his wrist, and the money is back in his wallet, thus averting a potential calamity!

This newly updated version of Mugged by Rich Marotta comes complete with everything you'll need to perform this audience-beloved effect, including detailed instructions and updated accessories, including the hand-made, specially constructed ski mask, watch, ring and instructional DVD!

DIFFICULTY: This effect is really easy, probably one of the easiest versions of this effect out there. I saw Tommy Wonder’s version on the L&L videos and also loved it but the ‘how-to’ of that version is challenging to put together, putting it mildly. This version is VERY simple.

QUALITY OF PROPS: The mask is well-built but my biggest issue  is the fact that Rich no longer makes them in red, but instead makes them black. From a staging standpoint, this means from a distance it may be difficult to see that it is in fact a black mask and not just a black hat.
The supplied watch and ring is perfectly fine for the purpose of the effect. The supplied wallet is better in quality than the old plastic billfold-type one Rich used to sell with the effect, but by supplying a hip wallet with this routine, my opinion is that from a staging standpoint, it may not be as visible from a slight distance.

Knowing the reputation of this effect and in particular the supplied wallet from years ago, I ordered a superior wallet just for this routine…mostly because I like nice props.:)

QUALITY OF INSTRUCTION: The supplied written instructions and supplied DVD is adequate, but barely. Honestly, the instructions are skimpy to say the least. Fortunately, the effect is very easy to do, so adequate instructions will serve you.

ANGLES: With the exception of one move, the effect can easily be performed surrounded. The one move can also be masked (no pun intended) quite easily so angles are good for most parlor or stage situations.

MY THOUGHTS: This is one of those effects I wanted 15 years or so ago when I first saw it advertised in the magazines. The simple description sounded so impossible, with the money, ring and watch “instantly” reappearing in the magician’s possession. Years later, with several years experience under my belt, I still enjoyed watching Rich’s demo of the effect on the video.
For the asking price of the effect, you get a well-constructed routine that is organic and makes sense. All of the props fit the routine and there is motivation for everything.
The props and the instruction are not of the highest quality, but they will serve you just fine.
9/10. A good value for what you will pay.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

REVIEW: Blank Night by John Archer

Hi all,

Whew! The last week has been CRAZY - I had 6 school shows scheduled in Michigan, with 2 schools a day, Monday thru Weds this week. Monday went off without a hitch, but then the weather reports said the town I was in was going to get covered in snow. The school contact was concerned about getting hit with a "snow day" so we came up with a revised schedule to cram 4 schools in one day...which is something I've never done before. My show usually requires 30 minutes to set up and break down, and factoring in the performances, travel time between buildings, lunch periods at schools...anyway it was an adventure!

On to this month's review:

It's Blank Night by John Archer! It's available for $24.99 from Hocus Pocus.

AD COPY: We are so excited to be able to offer John Archer's Blank Night!

Penn and Teller's hit show Fool Us had a simple premise: perform an effect that the duo couldn't figure out. Only two magicians fooled Penn & Teller in the initial show, and one of those was John Archer. He did so with a smart, simple routine called "Blank Night," and Vanishing Inc. Magic is proud to release it.

"Blank Night" comes complete with everything you need to add it to your next show. Five envelopes are shown and you explain that one of them contains a prize of $100 (use any amount or currency). Audience members choose four of the five envelopes but discover they have only won small consolation prizes (such as a $0 bill, or nothing at all).

Without any suspicious moves, the final envelope is clearly opened to reveal $100 inside! The bills are not folded and are seen clearly being pulled from inside the envelope. No body loads, envelope switches or thumb-tips. "Blank Night" left both Penn and Teller speechless!

Comes complete with detailed, fully-illustrated instruction booklet, specially-manufactured envelopes and gimmicks. Envelopes come blank so that you can write whatever words you would like on them.

QUALITY OF INSTRUCTIONS: The instructions are well-written, with some good humor slipped in by Archer. He has a unique writing style and best of all, it's easy to understand.

ANGLES: The routine is best for audiences in front of you. If you're 3/4 surrounded, you can pull it off but its going to be tough. And if you're surrounded completely? As I have said in other reviews, if you're surrounded performing magic, you're in hell.:)

MY THOUGHTS: The first time I saw this routine was when I bought Archer's Further Education DVDs. I was blown away and feel it's probably the best Bank Night method I've ever seen, because the image of the full stack of unfolded bills coming out of the envelope left at the end is not only a real magician-fooler but also a great visual display for a lay audiemce, giving them more to look at than a tiny folded up bill in a teeny pay envelope.

Additionally, Archer's method is simple to do so with a bit of practice, you'll have this down in no time. To me, the best commercial stuff out there (as in commercial - performing to make money as a pro) is usually technically easy, which gives the performer the freedom to concentrate on performance. At least, I know that's what I prefer.:)

Archer's script is not included, meaning if you buy this product, you're on your own in terms of presentation.

So, the question is - if you already have the Further Education DVDs, do you need this? My opinion is yes, as this saves you the hassle of making the gimmick yourself. I've been told the envelopes required for this are hard to find. I've never tried locating them as I'm really lazy when it comes to building my own props. With this release, I'm ready to go and I love it.

HIGHLY recommended - 10/10


Friday, February 15, 2013

Bill Abbott's Pack Smart Table and REVIEW: Rubik's Nightmare by Michael Lam

Hello all,

Before I get to the Hocus Pocus review, I want to mention a killer item from Bill Abbott - his Pack Smart Table.

Basically, The Pack Smart Table has a telescoping stand, is very sturdy, and looks great on stage. Additionally, both the stand and table top will easily fit into a briefcase, making travel a cinch!

What can the table be used for? Well, I myself use it currently for my Pro Viper. It's set up on the table back stage and is ready to go. You could use it for a Zombie routine or just about any routine where you need a flat surface. You can use it for close up work too. The sky's the limit!

In a nutshell, I LOVE this. Additionally, Bill's customer service is unreal. My table came with a scratch on the underside and despite the fact that I would be the only one who ever saw it, Bill replaced it at no charge.

Check out Bill's site -

OK, on to this week's review - Rubik's Nightmare by Michael Lam. It's available for $45.00 from Hocus Pocus.

AD COPY: Michael Lam, an Asia star of magic, frequents on Major CCTV channels among Asia regions. For the very first time in ten years, he is revealing the full work of his Rubik's Nightmare routine.

Rubik's Nightmare is a two-phase professional routine directly from Michael's TV repertoire. Gimmickless. Angle proof. NO you do NOT need to know how to solve a Rubik's cube to learn this. Michael has done his work to sand it down and simplify the process. With multi-angle step by step instruction, you'll be performing Rubik's Nightmare in no time.

Rubik's Nightmare is not a trick. It's a professional routine that's designed to kill even in the toughest live TV environment. A great addition to your repertoire and for TV exposure.

If you are looking for a polished material that packs small, and proves to play HUGE, Rubik's Nightmare is your answer!

Full TV routine included.

WHAT YOU RECEIVE: You receive an extremely well produced DVD and a black cloth bag to transport the cubes. Yes, this means you’ll need to purchase the Rubik’s Cubes needed for the routine.

QUALITY OF INSTRUCTION: The well produced DVD does an exceptional job of teaching the routine, especially the somewhat complex second ‘instant solve’ phase, and includes over-the-shoulder camera shots to make learning the routine easier.

DIFFICULTY: The first phase of the routine, where the audience volunteer mixes a cube and you rapidly match it with a second cube, is very easy and very practical. I was stunned by the ease of this and very excited.

The second phase of the routine, the ‘instant solve’ phase, is fascinating because it looks so damn good! This phase is definitely more complex in terms of difficulty. It does require memory work. It’s not a lot, but consider yourself warned. In terms of how this part of the routine is accomplished, it’s similar to another method out there, though not exactly the same.

Additionally, both phases utilize ungimmicked cubes, meaning once you know the secret, you can put the routine together anywhere, meaning if you ever lose your gear, you can run to a store and put together this routine…and yes, despite what some folks on the Café have said, I have recently seen the mini cubes in stores.

SIZE OF AUDIENCE: Because the first phase of the routine relies on seeing the nuances of the cube colors in different orders, and because the routine handling requires the use of a min Rubik’s Cube, the routine is really only suited for very small parlor situations. I would say it’s not applicable for strolling because of the re-set (at least for the second, instant-solve phase).

ANGLES: Angles are pretty well covered, so if you are doing a casual living room style show or similar situation, you should be fine.

MY THOUGHTS: I really like this release! It’s practical, well thought out and in terms of the unique nature of the first phase of the effect, it’s something very different. Really, the only drawback is finding a venue, as it’s really designed for only up to a dozen people and not really great for strolling magic.

FINAL REVIEW: I’ll give this an 8 out of 10…I’d rate it a perfect ten, but due to visibility and the fact that it’s not really good for a traditional ‘strolling’ closeup gig, the routine has some limitations….but it really is super.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Cool New Music Controller and REVIEW: Hanky Panky by Scott Alexander & Puck

Greetings, loyal readers!

Before I get to this week’s review of a stellar trick, I also want to let you in on a REALLY cool way to control your music remotely. Long-time readers of this blog know that I’ve been using Sound Control for the last few years. It was a great little device put out by Jim Kleefeld and was an economical way to control your music, as it was essentially a remote control for your iPod. I love mine and still have two units.

Jim recently tipped a new music controller to me and at first I resisted, as Sound Control was working so well for me, but the more I read about this new unit, the more intrigued I became as it offered several details that Sound Control didn’t, and a few of the little bugs in Sound Control have been worked out.

It’s called Ultimate Control and it includes an mp3 player and remote and once you understand how this little guy works, you’ll see it ROCKS. It is NOT an off-the-shelf product re-worked for entertainers…it was designed and built from the ground up for one-person entertainers like me.
I’ve used it in 25 or so shows so far this year and I LOVE it. Brian offers killer customer support as I had some trouble with it at first…because I didn’t watched the instructional videos all the way through! Brian is a class act and was very patient with me. This gets my highest recommendation and at $450, is very reasonably priced for the working professional. I don’t make a dime off of this but simply want to pass the word along.

You can check it out at

On to this week’s review…it’s Hanky Panky by Scott Alexander & Puck. It’s available for $175 from Hocus Pocus. Here’s the ad copy:

This trick packs small and plays HUGE!

Hanky Panky utilizes a classic premise that has stood the test of time, but Scott and Puck have updated it for a modern audience. It's the 20th Century Silks on steroids!

The five minute routine not only features stunning visual magic, but also has a kicker finale that involves hilarious audience participation and comedy. It is the perfect opener to music, which then evolves into an audience interactive piece, allowing you to showcase your wit and personality.

With the added bonus of the killer Prisoner's Silk Ending, this is a complete package that can easily find its way into any working pros arsenal.

The kit has everything included. The DVD provides a detailed explanation of our routine, as well as some tips for effective audience management when performing this visual magic and its killer finale.

WHAT YOU GET: Several very high quality silks, including about the best set of 20th Century Silks I’ve ever seen. You also receive the instructional DVD with a live performance of Scott performing this in front of a cruise ship audience.

QUALITY OF INSTRUCTION: Simply the best. Both Scott and Puck are on here, each teaching different elements of the routine. What I like most about this (besides the clear directions of the effect itself) are the professional touches…the little tips, tricks and techniques that shave months of the ‘learning curve’ of a new routine. They’ve honed this through hundreds of performances and it shows. Any time I receive this kind of instruction for a single effect, I feel as though I’m attending a master class in magic.

QUALITY OF PROPS: As I mentioned earlier, the silks included are all of the highest quality.

DIFFICULTY: One of the reasons why I did not jump on this when it first came out is because, while watching the demo video, I was convinced that the set up for that killer finale had to be something insanely impractical for a guy like me...Iean, come on – Puck and Scott are on cruise ships with fancy lighting, etc.

Boy was I wrong.

Not only is the set up much easier than I thought (I never read Rices!) but there are no complicated body loads, sleeving or anything like that. To be sure, this is NOT a close up effect, but even a school show performer who has horrendous lighting conditions (like me) will be able to do this. Additionally, the re-set does not look to be too bad, either.

MY OTHER THOUGHTS: I’ll be honest…another reason why I dismissed this release is because the first part of the routine was the tired old 20th Century silks. I’d quit performing that effect years ago when I went pro…it was a tired old effect, right?
No way…I actually got very good reactions for the 20th Century Silks years ago in my birthday party shows, but I guess along the way to becoming a full-timer, I got jaded like a lot of magicians and abandoned the classics. Shame on me!!

RATING: I’m delighted with this release and though it came out last year, I freely admit I’m a ‘johnnie come lately’ and will put this on the short list of my ‘fav effects of 2013.’
10 out of 10 – a steal!

Monday, January 28, 2013

Lots of Catching Up and REVIEW: Black Box by John Kennedy

Hi all,

I know its been quite a while since my last post and I apologize for that. It's been crazy here...first of all, I was sick as hell right before Christmas and then again in the beginning of the new year.

I also have been seeing a lot of people in my hypnosis clinic which is where I'm putting a lot of my effort into as I'm just too worn out anymore to travel.

That being said, the new year has already brought a few interesting stories worth mentioning. In the first week of the new year, I was booked in a school for one of my educational assemblies, and I was sick as hell, and as it turned out, I forgot two props and then as I was setting up, another prop broke, so I thought I was SOL, but with an adjustment in how I set things up, I was able to fulfill my allotted time and the audience was none the wiser. There's a pretty cool lesson there.:)

I also recently had the opportunity to Skype with Paul Romhany. It's funny because he and I have been friends for years but that was the first conversation I'd ever had with him.:) It was the first of what I hope will be many...especially considering my wife Libby & I are taking a cruise to Alaska and we'll be In Vancouver near where Paul & his family live so hopefully we'll be able to meet up for dinner or something.

Paul also shared with me the details of a really cool prop I'm thinking of getting, that I've had my eye on in a long time.

On to this week's review - The Black Box by John Kennedy. It's available for $350 from Hocus Pocus.

Here's the ad copy:

Make things move, jump, and fly around anywhere in the room! There's no clue to the mystery because Black Box is hidden away from the action!

Black Box is an advanced RF remote control device for magicians. The electronics are designed and manufactured exclusively for John Kennedy Magic, enabling the unit to operate in four different modes: manual, timer, remote, and hands-free remote. There are no toe switches or body wires of any kind!

It's sleek, only 4.8" L x 1.4" W x 1.1" H (12.1 x 3.5 x 2.9 cm). Small enough to carry in your pocket and hide just about anywhere in the room you're working in.

A standard 9V battery powers the unit. The automatic sleep mode circuitry makes it literally impossible to drain the battery, even if you leave the unit turned on for weeks!

You will receive the Black Box, transmitter, and instructions. Several applications are explained, and once you start playing with it you will be inspired!

EASE OF OPERATION: Just one push of the button on the included remote is all that is needed to trigger the Black Box. I didn't experiment much with the timer aspects of the unit, as for my style of performing, I prefer to ad lib based on the response of the audience so some audiences, I may just stick to my script but other audiences, responses may be different and I may choose to go 'off script' and ad lib a bit...therefore, I'm not likely to use any kind of timer.

INSTRUCTIONS: The instructions for this prop are adequate, but by being written on a teeny tiny brochure was rather irritating. The instructions also give some routine ideas, but the instructions were so simplistic, like "You can use the Black Box to knock objects down," things like that.

BATTERIES: The Black Box operates with one 9V battery, and this was a point of contention with me because the manner in which the battery is installed pulls on the wires a bit, which would always concern me in that in time, the wires may be pulled loose, so to me, this is a design flaw.

NOISE: This is the biggest issue I had with this device. It has a LOUD buzzing sound, making this almost completely useless for my purposes - I had bought this with the idea of using it in seances, and with the way I'm planning to perform seances, I'll be in peoples' home and such and do not plan on having music on loud enough to mask the sound. For stage work this would be OK, but it's not what I bought it for.

OVERALL THOUGHTS: So, with a design flaw in how the battery is secured and an extreme loud motor, I cannot recommend this at all in close-up or even parlor situations. It'd be fine onstage assuming you have control of lighting issues, but for living room work (as depicted in the demo video) you're really out of luck unless you can think of a reason to have LOUD music playing.

5 out of 10.

Next week I review Hanky Panky by Scott Alexander & Puck.