Simon is having trouble controlling spectators when he asks them to cover a pile of playing cards with their hands.
Simon writes: 'There is a card magic trick I perform that requires the spectators to hold their hand on top of a pile of cards. However, it is crucial that the spectators do not disturb the playing cards, revealing any of the backs of the cards. When the spectator places their hands over the cards, they often slide around and when the spectator lifts his or her hands, sometimes the top one will stick briefly, which reveals the cards below
The only way I can get around this is by telling the spectator to lift their hands ‘really slowly’ and ‘gently’ and almost squaring the cards as they raise their hands. When I say this, they’ll often only raise their hands only a centimetre or so which makes it really awkward for me to square the piles. I find that I appear unnaturally concerned about how square the piles are, and it probably makes the spectator question whether all four cards really are black when I follow on with the routine as the next move is to execute an Elmsley Count.
While I still get great reactions with this card magic trick, I find that this problem detracts from it. Is there anything you could suggest that would minimise this problem or solve it completely?'
How magicians control your mind when you hold playing cards
So this is quite a common problem that can be translated across many areas of close up magic. You don’t want your spectators to do something, or you NEED them to do something, but you want to be casual and magical, not neurotic and panicky!
It is all about spectator management, it is important to keep in control of your spectators but to do it indirectly. I may cover my directions with a comedic line, or I will state my direct instructions with emphasis on certain areas and my actions and body language will do the talking for me, for example, I may place someone’s hand in a certain way and step back only to correct them slightly and then say, ‘perfect, wait right there!!’
In this case, if the reason for the spectator placing their hand on top of the pile is purely to isolate the cards so that you cannot touch them, then you could use any manner of techniques to achieve the same result.
Using another object
You could place a playing card box on top of the cards, or any other small item like a glass. If there are two piles and one item won’t work or doesn't look aesthetically pleasing then you could substitute the spectator’s palm for just a finger, asking the two spectators to rest their finger on top of the pile. You can add a line like,
‘please make sure they do not spread the cards, it would ruin the climax of the trick.’
You can also simply say that you do not want to show the cards until the suspense has been built sufficiently so please do not spread them. Another method you could explore is to add a simple comedy line to it, for example,
'Please, rest your finger (or hand) on top of the cards to isolate them, this way I cannot touch them. Please do not spread the cards, we want to keep the mystery and build suspense. Should these cards spread too early and reveal the climax before the end of the trick, quite simply the universe will implode and it will be all your fault.'
This kind of line will be well recieved but also understood which is what you are gunning for in a situation like this, complete compliance.
Spectators going out of control
If a spectator tries to do something themselves that could ruin the effect, for example, demanding that they turn over a card rather than the magician, I will say something like,
'Whoa whoa whoa! Hang on! We must build suspense! We can't have you revealing the end of the trick willy nilly! These things take care and consideration, the crowd should be built up into a frenzy and anticipating this final reveal like a bunch of kids waiting to open their presents at Christmas! As you can see, neither are the crowd in a frenzy nor are they jumping up and down like kids with ants in their pants! We need theatrics!'
With this sort of sentence, I regain control of the situation, slow down or change the pace to a speed I want, and also communicate in a nice and indirect way not to do anything. Sometimes it stirs up the group and they begin jumping up and down in a frenzy for comedic effect! Which can give off a great energy in the room.
If you need something to be done in a particular way, deflect the reason for your concern towards another subject, for example, saying, ‘the universe will implode’ instead of ‘it will reveal the how the trick works’ then you can be very direct with your actions whilst still having it make sense. Instead of misdirecting their eyes you are misdirecting their mind.