The 12 Inch Concept

Here is an exciting concept that can help in many routines in close-up. The idea is to make certain moves invisible to the spectator by the position and distance of the hands. The working behind this: if two things are about 12 inches apart — about the breadth of the shoulders — you can not decide on which one to focus only.

When you perform in close-up and hold the hands too far apart, the spectator can make an active decision on which one to focus his attention. He can even swing his attention from one hand to the other. In case you have something palmed in one hand, and the spectator follows it, this could be problematic.

After a false transfer, it is a common sight that performers try to get the “dirty” hand out of the play by moving it near the body or to the side. This habit is a natural and understandable one because it follows an internal logic. We must bring the hand hiding the object out of view because it holds the evidence of the “cheating”. This reaction is human and understandable — but fatal for the magic.

If the hands are held apart from each other by a distance of about the breadth of the shoulders (therefore the 12 inches, which serve as an approximate distance), there will be no chance for the spectator to switch his focus between the two hands. He can observe both hands but the brain cannot concentrate on two things at the same time in one spot. The hands are observed, but it is impossible to focus on one only. You can test this and see what the best and exact distance is. The right length is when you can no longer shift your gaze from one hand to the other. It is fascinating to see how this principle works.

I use this in my Scottish Coins Routine, which is a Coins Across routine with multiple phases. Coins travel from one hand to the other, and repeatedly. During the routine, the hands are always about 12 inches apart. The spectators can observe both hands and appreciate the effect, but they cannot fix on one hand only. Because of this, my moves (thumb palming and transferring them) are better covered in this routine.

Whenever you must hide an object in your hands, apply this concept, and arrange the routine in such a way that your hands are that distance apart when the move is made.

How It Can Be Applied

In a routine using a copper and a silver coin, one of them being a double-sided coin, both coins can be turned over on the table, without the false side of the c/s coin being noticed. For this, you need to do a false turnover of the trick coin (well described in Kaufman’s Coin Magic or other coin books). Both coins are lying on the table about 12 inches apart from each other. Both hands now reach for the coins and turn them over. One hand performs the fake turnover, while the other hand turns over the coin. The actions happen at the same time. Because of the distance, the spectator sees you turning over both coins, but he cannot focus his attention on one coin. So he observes two actions, and the distance prevents him from examining the activities. Therefore, he is forced to watch two things and in the same spot — which makes it impossible him from noticing the details of either action.

The principle is perfect for a Cups and Balls routine. The placement of the cups on the table right from the beginning sets the stage. The cups should have a distance of about 12 inches,. When you have two of the little balls on the table, cover them with two cups and steal one ball from under the cup (the old and well-known steal with the little finger curling under the cup and fetching the ball), the 12 inches rule comes in handy here. The spectator sees both hands covering the balls with the cups, but he cannot focus on either hand and therefore, he cannot detect the motion.

The same holds not only for moves but with objects. If you don’t want an object to be inspected too close, arrange it with another object in the 12-inch distance on the table. The spectators have to split their attention, and some details might go unnoticed.