Stuck in the Middle of Nowhere

The false-transfer or false-take is a foundation in magic. How many times do we need to place an object from one hand into the other (or take the object out of one hand), only to show it vanished a moment later? Basic stuff, for sure.

I was thinking about that for years and studied various approaches. I don’t want to go into the discussion about whether give or take is better – this is a topic for itself. What I want to give you is some food for thought, which might make your vanishes (or false transfers) look better. It is one of the very few techniques I learned in mime classes years ago, that can be effectively applied to magic.

Most of the times, a false transfer is done like this: The object is picked up with one hand, the other hand takes it (doing the fake take) and then it is ‘gone with the wind’. The problem is the two contrary movements of the hands, which most of the times occur after the take/put. The simultaneous action and movement of both hands slur the look and feel of the vanish. At least, this is what I had seen most of the times when I watched sleights for vanishing something.

In my humble view, a slightly better (and more deceptive) way is to keep the object “floating in space” and move the hands around it. Thus, the spectators will assume it is still in that position, even after the secret moves have been made.

One hand picks up the object and transfers it to a central position in front of the body (Figure 1–2). The hand and the object are held still for a second or two. The pause is important because it gives the spectators’ brains a chance to make a mental snapshot of the object (and its position).

The other hand approaches and grabs the object (Figure 3–4), performing the fake transfer. As soon as the object is secured, the hand moves away, whereas the other hand, apparently holding the object, remains motionless in the air (Figure 5–6). The hands more or less move around the object. The position and the motionless-ness of the hand suggest strongly that the object is still there. After that, the vanish of the object is revealed (Figure 6–7).

The retention of vision and psychological deception are strong because the spectator’s mind fills in the blanks as to where the object should be in the three-dimensional space in front of her. The technique is similar to what mimes use when they want to give the illusion of a fixed object in mid-air.