SPS Magic

By Samuel Patrick Smith

Creative thinking can make your magic more fun and effective. Giving a new twist to old tricks also sets you apart from other performers. 

One example of giving a new twist to an old trick is Danny Archer's Birthday Banner, an effect similar to the old torn and restored newspaper. Separate birthday cards (like torn pieces of paper) suddenly blend into a giant banner (restored paper).

Or consider the old trick of wrapping a red billiard ball in a red silk and a white billiard ball in a white silk, then magically making them trade places, with the red ball in the white silk and the white ball in the red silk. David Garrard used some creative thinking and came up with the commercial effect, Pop Pop Poof!, using red and purple Tootsie Pops instead of billiard balls.

One reason to take a standard trick and give it a fresh coat of paint, so to speak, is to adapt it to a certain theme. Christmas shows are a good example. Here, therefore, are three twists to golden oldies which I have used in my Christmas show, "Jingle Bell Magic."

Jingle Bell Slates

Slate writing goes back many years, and it's normally not considered a children's effect. But try this out this holiday season or next:

Write the phrase "Jingle Bells" on one of the slates. Print in a large, bold hand, filling up the whole side for visibility. On one side of the flap, glue or rubber cement a very "busy" piece of Christmas wrapping paper.

You'll also need a piece of chalk and a piece of the same wrapping paper as glued to the flap. This paper should be long enough to wrap around the slates.

Show the kids the slates("little chalk boards like they had on Little House on the Prairie")and the piece of chalk. 

The wrapping paper is on your table, design side up. Show the flap slate blank on both sides. Place that slate on the wrapping paper with the flap side down, as you pick up the other ungimmicked slate and show it both sides.

Now that you've shown both sides of both slates, pick up the first slate from your table, leaving the flap on the wrapping paper. The flap will blend in unnoticed with the paper. Of course, you do not reveal the writing on the slate. Place the chalk between the two slates. Holding the slates together, tell the kids they are going to perform magic. Tell them that one of the fun parts of Christmas is the music.

"I'd like you to name a Christmas song (any Christmas song)just call one out!"

Amazingly, kids almost always call out, "Jingle Bells!" Say, "Jingle Bells? OK! We'll try it. Everybody say, 'Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells!'" The kids comply.

Now slowly separate the slates to reveal the bold handwriting. To emphasize the effect, say aloud, "JINGLE BELLS!" as you display the written words.

You will be delighted by the look of amazement on the faces of the children, and the astonished expressions on the faces of the adults present!

(We have prepared a printed version of this effect which is available free of charge with any $50 purchase from spsmagic.com before 12/31/02.)

Christmas Vanishing Wand

Remember the old style vanishing wand, the one that works with glossy paper shells and wooden tips? Well, it's still available, although the tips are now plastic! Using this principle is simple. You wrap up the wand in a piece of paper, then quickly wad up the paper and toss it away, proving that the wand has vanished. (The center of the wand is disposable, made of paper, and you must replace it each show.)

For Christmas shows, I tape a duplicate plastic wand to my back before the show. Then I introduce the magic wand, which I wrap in Christmas paper for safekeeping. After twisting the ends of the wrapping paper, I absent-mindedly crumple the paper and toss it into my prop case.

"Now, let's see . . . where was that magic wand? I had it just a second ago . . ." I look around for it, and turn so the kids can see the wand stuck to my back. They howl like a reindeer with his nose stuck in a barn door! Then I milk this for laughs, not understanding them ("On whose back?")until I finally discover the missing wand. But the search for it brings lots of fun and laughs.

Santa in a Box

I love performing my rabbit in the hat puppet routine. But Dick Williams introduced me to the idea of having Santa Claus come out of a Christmas present box. For holiday shows this is extremely effective.

You can find a Santa doll (stuffed toy type) and remove some of the stuffings to make a puppet. Or you may be able to find an actual Santa Claus puppet in a toy store. In either case, put him in a gift-wrapped box with a nesting lid, cutting a hole in the back to operate him, and you're ready to get some big laughs from those little rascals!

I say, "This morning when I was leaving the house, I found a Christmas present on the front porch." I pick up the package, and as I talk, I slip my hand into the hole on the back of the box, then into the Santa puppet.

"I would open this present, but there was a note on top which said, 'DO NOT OPEN TILL CHRISTMAS.'"

Children sometimes call out for me to open the box.
"Oh, no," I say, "I can't open it because the note said, 'Do Not Open Till Christmas.'" 

As I am talking, I start banging the puppet around inside the box. I look at the box, and the noise stops. I try to say something else, but the banging starts again and finally becomes so violent that Santa (still out of view) knocks the lid off the box. So the package gets opened, but I do not open it.

I peek down inside the box, and Santa leaps up into view. Reaction from the children is tremendous. 

Looking at the little Santa, I remark, "So that's how he gets down the chimney!"

When the reaction to Santa calms down, I talk to him. "Santa Claus, what are you doing here?" He pretends to talk into my ear. "What? You've been making a list? And checking it twice? Are there any teachers on your list? No comment!

"Well, Santa, I know you've been working very hard to get ready for Christmas. What? You've been having trouble getting to sleep? Well, I think I could help you. Just look into my eyes." I use a hypnotic voice, and Santa jumps to attention and gazes into my eyes. The kids laugh. I pause, staring at Santa.

"You are getting sleepy." Santa begins swaying in a slight circular motion."You are getting VERY sleepy." Now he swings vigorously in an exaggerated circular motion, creating more laughs from the children. "Go . . . to . . . sleep . . . sleep . . . sleep." At that, Santa falls down into the box and conks his head violently on the floor of the box with a loud thud. I peer down into the box and remark: "Look at that. He's already sound asleep! But let's give Santa a nice SOFT round of applause for coming to our show today!"

I gently place the box behind my prop case, putting the lid back softly, as if to not disturb the sleeping Santa Claus.


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