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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » The spooky, the mysterious...the bizarre! » » Witchboard - Review (1 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

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ddtoronto
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Hi everyone--longtime lurker here, first-time poster, blah blah blah. I've been lucky enough, mostly because of geography, to be one of the first recipients of Peter Loughren's and Sean Bogunia's Witchboard. I thought it would be good to write a detailed but spoiler-free (well, as much as possible) review for others who are considering breaking the bank to buy this effect.

The short version:
This is a Grade "A", well-crafted, thoughtfully devised and assembled effect that offers impressive flexibility and versatility. It's complex but not overly complicated--and comes with two instructional video (one overview, one nitty-gritty) to guide you. It's a serious effect that requires practice and preparation--you'll get out of it as much as you put into it.

The long version:
Witchboard is a very modern update of a great old effect, the mysteriously animated talking spirit board. Longtime followers of Witchboard's development or of Peter's and Sean's other animated effects already have a strong sense of how the effect is achieved. If you're new to the effect or just nosing around for an explanation, I won't be offering it here, so you'll have to look elsewhere.

Witchboard comes in a custom ATA case--so the first thing you'll notice is that the case is large and heavy. This is not something you'll be slinging over your shoulder as you run out the door. It's portable, but it's substantial. You'll definitely want some kind of transportation, even if you're only taking it up the block.

When you open the case, you'll be confronted with the Witchboard itself surrounded by an inch or so of grey foam on every side. On the underside of the lid you'll find a DVD containing two video files and some supplementary documentation. There are two other discs as well that contain multimedia files for supplementary effects.

When you lift the Witchboard out of the case, you'll notice immediately how well crafted and persuasive it is. It definitely looks like a restored antique witchboard from the early days of talking boards. Some may want to further age it to give it an even more lived-in look--the only caution is to make sure that the surface of the board remains as smooth as possible for the planchette to glide on.

The first thing to do is to immediately watch the two instructional videos. I had several questions about the way the board was designed and why things were done a certain way--the video answered them all, and all of the design choices made perfect sense.

The second video, by Sean, explains the workings of the effect in detail and outlines how to develop and test a number of different routines. As one would expect, the core effect is the animation of the planchette to spell names and words and to point to Yes and No and Farewell, all without visible or tangible gimmicks and, if desired, with no physical contact with the planchette or the board. Additionally, the workings of the effect can turn on or off other electrical devices in the room, such as lamps, a television and a DVD or CD player. Up to three outlets can be controlled, though with extension cords a greater number of devices can be manipulated. Plus the board can be configured to rock, rattle and shake on the table even as the planchette continues to move around the surface.

As handsome as the board itself is, the price of the effect is clearly all in the workings, and their quality is immediately apparent. However, as one should expect with an effect this complex, there is a definite learning curve. Don't expect to pull it out of the case in the morning and be ready for a show that night. I've never owned one of Peter's or Sean's effects before, so I found that I'd landed in the "Advanced class" as far as these effects are concerned. That said, the information you need to operate the Witchboard is all right there in the two videos and is easily followed along with your own board.

I found it was best to create and run several short, simple routines, first with the workings visible so that I could watch how it operated, and second with the workings concealed so that I could see the final effect. For me, the effect was most successful when I started with a combination of slow, 'realistic' planchette movements and sudden short sharp movements designed to startle. Making the planchette careen around the board is amusing but it shouts "Fake! Fake!" pretty much from the get-go.

As you might suspect, watching the Witchboard toss off a litany of letters, numbers, Yeses and Nos can subject the board to a lot of heat from the spectators. This is where the supplementary electrical effects really come in handy. Just as your audience starts to think about what makes the board operate, you can really throw them by having the lights suddenly turn off. If you want to go further, the TV can suddenly turn on, and a blast of static appear on the screen and through the speakers. As a disturbing shadow passes across the screen, your onlookers will stop thinking and start panicking.

Needless to say, this effect is not for the mentalist/spiritualist/medium whose seances are carefully composed emotional/psychological journeys. Nor is it for the traditionalist recreating Victorian seances with period methods and effects. This is definitely seance-as-theatrical-entertainment. You won't be whipping it out at restaurant tables--it is best suited to parlour events or small theatres with good sightlines for the board's top surface.

This effect also rewards extensive thought and preparation. You will want to develop a script for yourself and the board, and you will want to memorize it. It is easy to get lost and confused in a dialogue with the board and find yourself getting a No when you should be getting a Yes. Luckily there are ways for the workings to store a routine in progress and even create a new routine while retaining the first one. It is also possible to pause a routine and to create a routine made up of two separate subroutines.

All in all, the Witchboard is an excellent, high-quality premium effect that offers remarkable flexibility and versatility. If you're looking to create a dramatic impact for a small group or within a small space--and perhaps an experience your audience has never been part of before--this effect can certainly do the job. It's like having an entire roomful of theatrical seance effects in a single box.

Some of the questions you may have:
Are the workings noisy? No, not if you're careful in how you compose your routines--and Sean's video tells you explicitly how to avoid excess noise.
Can the board be thoroughly examined? The sides and surface can be examined--and in fact can be tested for magnets, as Peter demonstrates in the first video--but the bottom surface should remain concealed from view. With careful handling, this is easy to achieve.
Are the board and the workings durable? Well, my Witchboard was shipped to me via Canada Post and it arrived in one piece. The components of the board are high-quality and clearly built to last--but it's not a football. Some of the elements are easily defaced--including the board's surface, edges and corners--so it's better to be careful just the same.
Is it foolproof? No, nothing is foolproof. Witchboard is a complex effect that requires patience and practice and preparation. It's not a wind-it-up-and-watch-it-go effect, and it would be disappointing if it was. Your success with this effect will depend very much on the time and energy and creativity you invest in it. If you want an effect that does all the work for you, you should probably spend your money on something else. But if you want a high-quality high-impact effect that you can use as the centrepiece for your own distinctive and creative theatrical seance, this is an excellent choice.

I should note that this is also a labour of love for Peter and Sean, and that they offer terrific customer service and support--quick and responsive--if you have any questions or encounter any problems.

And that's it for me,

David in Toronto
Magnalucius
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Thank you very much for your review. Is very deep in the questions I had. I am going to order one some day... some day. The price is the only obstacle, but I will have one... some day.
Lux In Tenebris
Eddie Garland
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Thanks David! Great Review!
Peter Loughran
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David,

When you told me you would write a review I had no idea it would that detailed and thought out. Thank you for taking the time to write the review. Yes this was a labour of love for me and Sean, and I appreciate you taking the time to write about all aspects of the prop in a very detailed platform.

Peter.
Brand New: - SNAKE BITE ILLUSION
www.masterofillusions.ca

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Chance Wolf
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Peter,
Congrats on the awesome review!!
It is nice when the countless hours of hard work pay off and are appreciated.
It really is an incredible creation. Pat yourselves on the backs peter and Sean.
Keep the great products coming!
Chance
Creator of Wacky Wolf Productions & Fine Collectibles

A DECADE of building Magic and we're just getting started!

http://www.wolfsmagic.com
chmara
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Great review for what appears to be a professional well thought out prop. Now if I just hit the lottery -- or give up eating for a year or two --

One question comes to mind -- since there are TV and light controls -- does the board itself run unattached to a cord (battery included?) and are the outside light/tv controllers plagued with an X-10 clunk while in action?
Gregg (C. H. Mara) Chmara

Commercial Operations, LLC

Tucson, AZ



C. H. Mara Illusion & Psychic Entertainments
ddtoronto
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The board has no cords or attachments while in operation. I don't recall any clunk--the floor lamp in my living room was clicking on and off wildly with no sound coming from either the board or the outlet.

And Peter, you're most welcome!

I'm glad all of you have found the review to be helpful. The more I practice with the board, the more possibilities that come to mind. I'm now looking at combining it with other effects, like From Hell v.3 and possibly Luna or The Witches' Almanac.
Eddie Garland
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David's review above was completely accurate and detailed so read it again!

These are just some of my early rushed thoughts as I begin to learn this device.
Forgive the puppet references but we are talking about an animated piece of wood...so I do relate Smile

The WitchBoard is an advanced technological puppet capable of triggering multiple animations
and the sensation of the supernatural. The device allows for the performer to really give personality to the "spirits" upon the board.

Robert Houdin would have enjoyed exploring this labor of team love. Peter's beautiful craftsmanship on the aged board itself is astounding and so well thought through in design. His work on this is remarkable.
Sean like a master puppet builder has created an electronic marvel that while fun to manipulate must be studied and practiced. Subtlety will be rewarded.

Much like in puppeteering the manipulator must study and perform these delicate movements that are translated to the WitchBoard giving it life. Unlike a marionette the WitchBoard is a wireless wonder and these movements are remarkably recorded for later performances.

There is much to learn and practice here and what a joy that is.
Giacomo Moretti
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Hi David -

Excellent review. Where can I order it and how much will it cost? The posts above already suggest that it is not a tool for the casual performer but does not get specific on price.

Best,
G.
Clifford the Red
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It is available on Peter Loughran's website (yes that Peter that posted!) on
http://www.masterofillusions.ca/

Peter is an excellent vendor of unique effects and a good friend to the Bizarre.

The Witchboard is on my wish list. Not for the curious or casual performer, this is something that could get you burned on a pyre (trust me, you don't want to know), if they still did such things. The price is 2 and a half G's. Far less than the Bank Bailout and much better magic. The workmanship more than warrants it as it is not only beautiful but contains Sean Bogunia's tech wizardy inside. Yes, THAT Sean.
"The universe is full of magical things, waiting for our wits to grow sharper." Eden Philpotts
Giacomo Moretti
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Thanks for the quick response. Is it 2,500 in Canadian dollars or US dollars? While not inexpensive that would be doable.

I certainly hope that you did not quote the price in British pounds ...


G.
Clifford the Red
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Canadians have their own currency? 8-O

Hehehehe just kidding!

Actually these days the exchange is just about the same, but I think his prices are in US dollars. Yes, I just looked, it says it on the page.
"The universe is full of magical things, waiting for our wits to grow sharper." Eden Philpotts
Giacomo Moretti
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Dear Clifford -

Thanks for anwering. I overlooked this info on the website. Sorry for that. So US$ 2,499 (plus shipping) is the price.

Best,
G.
Evilstalkerhorne
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Ok, I bought the bottle trick from PL. Although this board looks like it is very cool that *** bottle sucks! $100 bucks for some crap any welder can create and then what happens if the spectator drops the bottle?! Or insists on keeping it or better yet, hands you another one and says to their friend "Do that Xhit agaiN dude!" I was sooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo ****ed about the bottle I swore that I would not buy from him again. It has sat in the box because of two things 1. The performance issues above 2. The method (I will not devulge secrets) is really bad! I MEAN REALLY YOU CAN SEE THIS COMMING!! If you bought this for $100 dollars you would be ****ed also! You sure as hell are not gonna get over $2000 of my hard earned dollars. Take it from me, if you wanna get this thing try one of PL's other cheaper illusions first then judge what two grand would buy. I don't mean to hate Peter but man that bottle thing REALLY sucked!!!!!!!! If I were you I would pull it off the site. But then again, I only give people what they pay for. When my stuff is released I will include not just the gimmicks but a great trick with a powerful method. Out of the hundred or so I have bought there are only a few I REALLY did not like. Twisted Bottle or whatever was one. This Ouija board seems like a bigger mistake although I really wish it were as cool as it seems to be.
stoneunhinged
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Evilstalkerhorne:

And your post is a Witchboard review...HOW?

I'm confused.
Dr Spektor
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I think he/she/(it?) has a grudge with Peter based on an issue from a pervious product therefore is slagging WB based on that without owning it, understanding it, or any other factor that could be applied for a proper balanced useful comment?

I apologize, ESH, if I am in error?
"They are lean and athirst!!!!"
Peter Loughran
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I am sorry you didn't like Bottle Twister. Not every trick will be for everyone. I certainly hope you were not expecting real magic either. However there are lot of professional magicians who use the trick in their show such as Nathan Kranzo, Steve Dela, and Dynamo performed in on his UK television show here: http://masterofillusions.ca/bottle_twist_demo.htm which is great to know that yes while not everyone magician will perform the same thing, there are reputable professionals who love the prop and get great reactions from the audience, and as a creator that makes it all worth it for me in the end. In a perfect world everyone would Like/enjoy every magic product ever made by me or someone else, but that simply will never be the case. I have over 30 products and for me to think that everyone will like everything I create is just not realistic, nor is thinking that people will all like the same products.

Now while you are certainly entiled to your opinion, just a couple of facts, a welder or glass blower or what have you cannot make this and the reasons are listed in the booklet. This product was created by using computer controlled ovens, and the manufacturing process is listed in the instructions that explains the process and how difficult and precise it is. And two, this is not the witchboard.


Peter.
Brand New: - SNAKE BITE ILLUSION
www.masterofillusions.ca

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Check out my new movie:
www.plasterrockmovie.com
www.globaluniversal.com

Also visit: www.l2fireworks.com
Destiny
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Quote:
Take it from me, if you wanna get this thing try one of PL's other cheaper illusions first then judge what two grand would buy


I have paid my money for two of Peter Loughrans cheaper illusions (The Black Hole and Rainmaker) and based on those two purchases would not hesitate to buy from him again.

Evilstalkerhorne has a very interesting website which I recommend anyone considering his opinion in this matter should peruse.

Destiny
stoneunhinged
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Destiny, do you mean stuff like this?

http://www.evilstalkerhorne.com/Who%20Suck.htm

I read that earlier today. Found it interesting.

But then again, if you go to my websites, you wouldn't even think that I'm interested in magic. So I'm the real impostor here, not Evil f*ing Stalker Horny.
beverage
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Hey DD

thanks for taking the time to write such an extensive review. Hard work and much appreciated. (and back on topic)
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