Magicians and Their Tricks

Magic has mesmerized people over the ages. Since the Greco-Persian Wars of 499-492 B.C when Persian priests used unorthodox rituals to mesmerize both Persians and Greeks, hence performing the first ritual magic, till 1845 when the illusionist, Houdini, used magic tricks and illusions to popularize magic as a form of magic entertainment; magicians have kept their tricks a secret and their audience have sometimes happily accepted the illusions without questions. However, starting from the 1950s, there have been concerted efforts by scientists, thinkers, and curious freethinkers to understand how magicians perform the magic, and their findings have demystified the niche of magic. So, how do magicians create their tricks? In a nutshell, magicians tweak around with human psychology, as they understand human psychology and how humans tend to automatically fill in details, or gaps, when presented with certain puzzles in social situations. Central to manipulation of human psychology are the following three key elements that magicians use to create their magic; illusion, distraction, and control. The following example will suffice to show how these three elements are concertedly used by magicians when they perform their magic.

Double Bullet Catch

In 1996, two magicians Teller and Penn mesmerized their audience with their performance which included a person firing a live gun, and the bullet blasting a hole through a glass pane, before it is caught in the mouth of either one of the magic duo. The magic duo even asked members of the audience to sign on some of the bullets so as to further lend credence to their magic. So, how is this magic trick performed?

The answer lies in careful use of illusion, distraction, and control to pull off this stunt.


First of all, after the audience sign on the real bullets, the performer distracts the audience by looking intensely on the signed bullet, which automatically forces the audience to also stare on the signed bullet without paying much attention to what the performer is doing with the other hand. In the other hand, the performer retrieves as bullet made of wax, and conceals it in the palm of his hand. When loading the gun, the magician loads the wax bullet and in turn conceals the signed bullet in the palm of his hand, before hiding it and handing it over to his partner, who is supposed to catch the bullet in his mouth.


Next, the gun is fired and this melts the false bullet. Because the bullet is made of wax, a hot projectile made of molten wax is shot from the gun, and it is this molten wax that creates a hole in the glass pane, hence creating an illusion that the real signed bullet has blasted its way through the glass pane. After the molten wax pierces the glass, it loses its momentum and falls to the ground behind the opaque table on which the glass pane was mounted. Surely, the audience cannot see the molten wax on the floor and most are transfixed on the magician with an open mouth ready to catch the fired bullet.


Control involves misdirection, and the magicians supposed to swallow the bullet does this by rocking his head as if the bullet has gone right inside. It is this misdirection that amazes the audience. However, the magicians who has purportedly swallowed a bullet has in fact done nothing but only only shut his mouth momentarily so that that real signed bullet that is hidden under the tongue can be moved and place between the teeth. Thereafter, he opens the mouth to reveal the bullet caught between his teeth, and a dumbfounded audience break out in astonishment. The magician even shows the audience the sign on the bullet to prove that the real signed bullet was shot.

In conclusion, the aforementioned example shows that magicians do create magic by using the element of distraction and misdirection to make their illusion look real.



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