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I'm a musician first and a magician second. Actually, that's not true. I have my day job, and after that comes music then magic.

Obviously magic can be enjoyed by deaf people and people with all sorts of other handicaps. But is there such a thing as magic for blind people? Is our entire world view regarding magic oriented toward the visual? Does this matter?

Have any of you been aware of blind people in your audience, and did you make some kind of adjustment? Did you ignore the situation or think: I should explain a bit more about what's happening?

I'm not simply curious. I think it is an important question. Is our conception of "magic" entirely visual? And if not, what is it?
Justin Style
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I'm going to guess that sleight-of-hand and close up magic will be out of the question, but I don't know? In all my years, I have never performed for a visually impaired audience...that I know of? I have performed for deaf audiences.

I would also imagine that mentalisim would be the way to go since it would have a profound affect on the person. It would make the performance more personal and one that would directly impact the person. Being blind and having something described can only reach a certain level of impact. But being able to physically feel something is beyond compare.

Just my guess...

But that's because I can see clearly now...
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A couple of years ago, I had an event for which I was hired to do walk around magic and balloons for the Tennesse Association for the Blind. I was trying to come up with effects I could do for the blind members of the audience. I bought some napkin rose packs put them into a zip lock bag with a little rose oil. I would take a napkin, and make a rose out of the napkin that also smelled like a rose to give to the nonsighted members of the event. Also would do a torn and restored napkin where I would allow the person to tear the napkin and then through a switch allow the person to show a restored napkin. That was the two things I was able to come up with on short notice.
Casey Magic
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In, I believe an NPR interview that you can find online, Ricky Jay talks about doing effects for someone who is blind and made it seem like not so much of a challenge. I recommend you find it, as to hear him speak on it is very interesting.
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The Braille Playing Cards - this must be the first..

One hundred percent of the shots you don't take don't go in - Wayne Gretzky
My favorite part is putting the gaffs in the spectators hands...it gives you that warm fuzzy feeling inside! - Bob Kohler
Whit Haydn
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There are some threads on this subject here on the Café. I published my ESP card effect, Routine for the Blind, in my book Street Magic. This routine was used by Brian Gillis in the Parlor at the Magic Castle with Stevie Wonder to great success.

The Gauci marble trick, I forget the name, in which the blind person hides a marble in one hand and the magician guesses which hand is good.

Sponge balls do not work, because the blind person will always open a hand to check what is being put in there. They are inveterate change counters and not easy to fool with sleight of hand because they have no visual cues, only touch.

I have not tried it, but I believe that the effect where the Jardin Ellis ring is placed on the spectator's upright thumb and covered with a handkerchief and then removed and brought back onto the thumb through the handkerchief would work.

I am always on the outlook for any effects that can be used in this situation.

It is much easier to work for one blind person with a group of sighted friends than for a group of blind people. They can rely to a certain extent on the trusted backup of their friends to verify what is happening.
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I did a cabaret style show at a dear friends house, and a close friend of that family was blind. During my act someone sat near him and whispered into his ear, filling in the blanks as it were.

Afterwards I asked him what he thought. He like the razor blades in the mouth, and he described it back to me in detail (you showed the blades were real, put them in your mouth, etc). He was "fooled" by it. What's helpful is that he knows the sighted people in the audience are sort of acting as his eyes, and he sincerely meant it when he told me he couldn't figure it out and it had him wondering.

Then I did a pretty straightforward cut and restored rope. I had him feel the rope, had him keep one hand on the rope the whole time, had him holding both end of the rope whenever possible, threw in a few more verbal descriptions of what he would be seeing, had him feel the loop, make the cut, verify all four ends, feel the knot etc. Again had other people looking on.

It remains to this day one of the more memorable performances I've ever done, especially watching someone in his mid thirties really experience a magic performance for the first time, presented in a way that incorporated touch as the major sense.

Afterward I grilled him for feedback, not a critique of the performance but rather what he was experiencing. That was a very enlightening conversation.
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My father is blind, so this thread is especially interesting to me. Thankyou for posting it, stoneunhinged. Years ago, I heard about braille playing cards. My father never learned braille, but I fashioned my own with beads designating value and suit, and was able to play cards with my father for the first time since he lost his sight.

I like Justin's suggestion of using mentalism. I'm reminded of the type effects Kreskin begins his show with ie. think of a number... two symbols, etc. I think they'd go over very well, as would the rest of the effects mentioned so far.
Thanks again for this topic.
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What I've been thinking since starting this thread is that there could be some cool effects for a blind person if you performed them one on one.

Take a person's right hand in your left, palm up, then their left in your right, also palm up, then place an object in one of their hands.

Again, take a person's hands while speaking to them. All of the sudden your voice comes behind them instead of the front--without letting go of their hands.

Such things would certainly be mystifying, but I can't think of any methods that wouldn't mean exposure to any third person.

And Magical Laurie, you're welcome. I think it's important to think about such things, even if it doesn't lie within the everyday experience of the average performing magician. There is currently another thread about being able to perform eight effects, anytime. But what about being able to perform them for anyone?
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Just came across this thread. It occurred to me that with suitably marked props (a Braille deck sounds like a great idea), I suspect that just about everything in "Verbal Magic," by Juan Tamariz would be appropriate. The effects in the book are meant to be performed on the radio, over the phone, etc. They can work just as easily in person. By their very nature, they allow for strong audience interaction, so someone who's blind could easily follow along.
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I would think that many forms of mentalism would work extremely well.
My own Scent of Darkness could very easily be played to a blind audience member (As it is dependant on a sense of smell more than anything)
There has to be more...
Doug Higley
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Any version of my 'Dark Museum' if the Prediction is also in Braile. This would allow them to participate and also deliver the finish.
Higley's Giant Flea Pocket Zibit
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On 2009-02-02 05:52, Doug Higley wrote:
Any version of my 'Dark Museum' if the Prediction is also in Braile. This would allow them to participate and also deliver the finish.

That's a darned good idea!
Lawrence O
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In Pabular, Fred Robinson did publish several purely tactile effects using a ring from the Chinese Rings.
Magic is the art of proving impossible things in parallel dimensions that can't be reached
Lawrence O
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Eugene Burger in his collected essays publishes the following story which I find really interesting

I received a letter some time ago from Tim Wallace, a magician who is legally blind (but is able to see things that are very close to him). Tim wrote to me because he is interested in finding magical material that he might be able to
perform for other blind individuals. It's an interesting challenge, don't you think?
I wrote to him telling him about my own experience a few years ago with a blind audience member. While I was appearing at Café Royal in Chicago in the early 1990s, a blind young man came in with a group of sighted persons. I didn't realize that he was blind until I joined the group at their table.
What did I perform? First, I performed my Sponge Ball routine. I began by giving the single sponge ball to the blind man so that he could feel it. I then started the routine narrating what was happening. I used the blind assistant for the final stage of the routine, where the spectator discovers twenty-two sponge balls in their hand. My blind helper seemed thoroughly delighted when he slowly opened his hand and began feeling the balls expanding.

I followed the Sponge Ball routine with ... (buy the book you will know)
As I was ..., a thought flashed before my mind. I forced a card on one of the
sighted persons and then asked my blind assistant whether he thought the selected card was red or black -- kicking him gently under the table with my foot on the appropriate word. He caught on instantly. Needless to say, the sighted people at the table were dumbfounded when he finally revealed the card. We did it several more times (using different card forces!) and the effect on those present became weirder and weirder.

My blind assistant became a Friday night regular at the restaurant. He would come in with different groups of friends and he genuinely seemed to enjoy fooling them when he became the magician who was able to divine their selected playing cards.
When thinking about material to present before non-sighted audiences, we must first make a basic division. The first situation would be one where ONLY blind people are present in the audience. The second performing situation would be one where both sighted and non sighted persons are present. In this second case, obviously, the range of possible effects is greater since those present who are sighted can verify certain things during the performance and keep the proceedings fair and "on the up and up."
Here's my first challenge: perhaps you would like to spend some time thinking about what you would do if you were performing for non sighted (or sighted and non sighted) audiences. If you come up with some good ideas, do send them to Tim Wallace directly. Because of my travel schedule, don't send your thoughts to me; it will only delay things. You can write to Tim Wallace at 3860 N. Electric Avenue, San Bernardino, CA 92405. Or, you can email
him at: magictim@gte.net.

Interesting isn't it?
Magic is the art of proving impossible things in parallel dimensions that can't be reached
Terry Veckey
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Slydini's "Paper Balls Over the Head". You'll love it and NEVER get caught.

Actually, my first (note: I was going to finish this sentence with " ...experience with a blind man was similar to E.B.'s.")


(Got it.)

Actually, my first performance for a blind person was in the seventies at Chicago's New York Lounge. Three at the table were sighted one not.
Like Mr. Berger I used sponges. I also did coins across, copper-silver and my coins to glass routine. Most were done in the blind guys hands or I had him holding my wrists or touching the backs of my hands. I also had his partner give
a running commentary on what everyone was "seeing". It must have worked rather well because they would come to "see" me at "Lancers Restaurant" up in Schaumburg, Ill. There, I got a lot of experience working for/with the blind. David the piano player in the lounge was blind. (May God bless him and forgive me! But I can't recall his last name.) We did many bits together, much like the ones Gene discribed. I made a blind-fold for him with a flap over one eye so he could act like he was peeking.

One year ('79 or '80 somthing) for his birthday we made a real big deal about the gift I gave him. I presented him a ring box and told him he was such a special friend that I got him a diamond pin. He goes on and on thanking me and passed the box around to the audience. When they open the box they see a safty-pin with a 1940(his year)dime attached ("Dime 'n pin"- Get it?) and a note that read "Please, don't tell David! Thanks, Terry Veckey."

My birthday was just a few weeks later and David gave me my own "Dime'nPin".
I still wear it at every performance.

Terry V.
-The Lesser Known-
<BR>Terry Veckey
<BR>-"There is no place for laughter in magic." B.Martin-
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Cut and Restored Rope:
Effect: A 5-foot length of rope is cleanly cut in two pieces. Each piece is placed into the change bag and when removed it is restored back to one solid length!
Method: Simply have a duplicate length of rope hidden inside your change bag. Cut the extra piece in half and place into the change bag. Perform the change and reveal it has been restored completely.
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From my book "Street Magic," recently republished as "Stories of a Street Performer":

I was working in a restaurant in Long Beach, California called Marie Callenders. As I went around the tables, I came up to a table with two couples. It was obviously a twenties-something couple and the parents of one or the other. I asked them if they would like to see some magic, and they enthusiastically agreed.

As I started the performance, I had the elder lady take a card and then turned to the younger lady and said, “And would you take a card…”

She did not react at all, so I repeated the request. She said, “Are you speaking to me? I’m sorry. I’m blind. I didn’t know.”

At that moment I realized that she had a seeing-eye dog lying quietly next to her.

“No, I’m sorry. I tell you what. This trick may not mean so much to you, so I will let
someone else take the card and finish this one. Then I would like to try something special with you.

Is that okay?”

She said fine. I finished the trick thinking all the time, “What am I going to do for her?”

Once before, in a retirement home I had attempted to do the sponge balls for a blind man,
thinking that he would enjoy feeling them seem to grow in his hand. What I didn’t count on was that he couldn’t see what I was doing, so every time I tried to put something in his hand he wanted to feel and check it out. I couldn’t get away with anything. He was real proud of himself. He said, “It’s harder to cheat a blind man that you’d think.” This made me laugh really hard.

Now what could I do with this blind lady? As the card trick seemed to finish on its own, I turned to Lynda and sat down next to her. Reaching for a long shot, I asked, “Do you believe in ESP?”

She said, “I don’t know.”

“You know it has been sometimes theorized that people who have lost one faculty often
make up for it in others. That blind people might be more sensitive to other influences for example.

I’d like to do something here just for fun. I want to test your ESP. It will be really easy. You are going to do things that will make everyone else at the table wonder. I have a deck of cards in my hand. Do you play cards?” She nodded.

“Good. I will spread the cards out facing me with their backs to you. I’m going to pull a card out one at a time, and you are going to call it either ‘red’ or ‘black.’ Since there is a fifty-fifty chance that you will call it correctly, we should expect you to get about half right. If you could do a lot better than that—and if we establish a certain rapport I think you can—this would explain a lot about
you to your family here.” As I talked, I squeezed her forearm reassuringly. Then I said okay, here’s what’s going to happen. I’ll pull out a card and you will call it either ‘red’ (I pressed her foot lightly once) or ‘black.’ (I pressed her foot twice). Got the idea?”

She could barely repress her smile. She said, “Got it.” Well, we went through the deck and she named the cards red and black perfectly through about twenty cards. She didn’t need to see the looks on her parents faces, she could hear them gasping and hyperventilating. When she called the suit and then the value, Lynda’s mother said to her, “I’m never going to play cards with you again!”

Lynda just laughed. I told her, “Let’s keep going…” By this time I had the deck set up for Out of this World. I’m going to put one card on the table face up here to your left, and another card face up to the right. I placed her hand on one, then the other.

“This is the red card, and this is the black card. I’m going to hand you the deck face down, and I want you to put the top card to your right if it’s red, and to the left if you think it’s black. Go by your first impression. Trust me, you are going to do really well.”

I false shuffled the deck and handed it to Lynda. She did as instructed, but without the same self-confidence as before. At the reveal, I said, “Now Lynda, you won’t be able to see how you did, but you will certainly hear how you did as I show everyone the cards. You were perfect! You didn’t miss one card!”

Now the parents and her husband were visibly shaken. Lynda was having a good time.
Luckily, I always carry Brainwave Deck when I am working close-up.

“Lynda, it’s the strangest thing. I had a dream last night that a mysterious lady came up to me and handed me a card. I dreamt that I took the card and hid it in a deck of cards that I always kept by the bed. When I woke up, I put the deck in my pocket. I’ve carried it around all day, and this is it. Lynda, what is the name of the card that the mysterious lady gave me?”

Lynda smiled. “Jack of Hearts.”

I said, “You are not going to believe this, but as I go through the deck very slowly so that I can’t do anything sneaky, one card is face-up in the pack. You can tell it’s the Jack of Hearts by the applause. But look! The Jack of Hearts is from an entirely different deck! It must have come from that mysterious lady.”

Two weeks later Lynda and her husband sent me a deck of Braille playing cards and a nice note. Her parents were still nervous around her. This was one of the most fun magic shows I have ever done, and it still warms me to think about how cool it was to fall into cahoots with a perfect stranger and pull a fast one on her family—just for fun.

I put this routine and story in my lecture notes in 1982, and it has been a part of my lecture ever since. Twice in the last twenty years similar situations have arisen in my close-up performing.

This routine played perfectly each time. Over the years more than a dozen magicians have told me how well this has worked for them, and what a great way it is to handle what would otherwise be a difficult situation.

This past summer (2001), my good friend Brian Gillis brought down the house in the Parlor of Mystery at the Magic Castle with the Routine for the Blind. He and his partner Sue have one of the most incredible two-person mind reading acts around. On this night, a blind man was sitting on the front row with a group of friends. It was Stevie Wonder. The Parlor stage is level with the first row of the audience.

Brian was able to walk up to Wonder and enlist him in the gag because the front row of seats hid their feet from the rest of the audience, and the people sitting on the front row were looking at their two faces.

When Stevie Wonder named the value of the last card, the audience cheered as he stood up and turned around and took a prizefighter’s bow.

This story of the blind girl and the magician was reprinted with my permission in a book on public speaking with magic. The author’s version of the story was a bit fanciful—he had this take place with a little blind girl named Wendy, for example—and his description of the method did not include all the psychological principles that were necessary for it to work. This would be a problem for anyone who tried to perform the routine from this description. For one thing, I would rarely try
this with a blind child, or a very old blind person.

The communication skills required and the concepts being communicated are subtle. Any
misunderstanding will spoil the whole thing, and it is probably difficult enough to communicate with a stranger secretly in front of others—especially a blind person—without having to deal with the distractions and conceptions of a child, or the focus of a very elderly person. However, each situation is unique, and the right rapport with an individual might make me give it a shot.

One has to be careful with a lady, so that the action of tapping does not seem too intrusive, and so that one is not marring or scuffing an expensive satin shoe.

Later the author submitted his version of the story to Chicken Soup for the Soul #3 without checking with me. The method was tipped along with the story. I was very miffed, and when the television series Chicken Soup for the Soul wanted to present this story, I insisted that it be done in a manner that did not reveal the secret. They were able to do this, and magician/actor George Tovar played the part of the magician.

A1 Multimedia put out the video Convention at the Capital - Live 2000. In this video is my performance of the Routine for the Blind with a volunteer from the audience and the description of the method—both from my lecture during the convention. I have to admit that my description of the routine is a bit windy, but the performance could be helpful to those interested in seeing how the agreement with the spectator is established. Print is cold. Certain nuances are better grasped from
seeing it in performance.

The description in this booklet is the most comprehensive I have made because it traces the development of the routine. I hope that by following the thinking that went into this development, the reader can get a better concept of how to go about the business of setting up rapport and getting agreement from the stooge.

When something goes wrong, it can go very wrong. I know of one performer who tried to use his knee against a blind girl’s knee. She thought he was trying to play footsie with her. This was because he had not adequately prepared her for what he was attempting to do. It must have been quite a delicate situation.

In his column Confessions of a Road Warrior in the September 2001 Genii Magazine, David Acer tells a very funny story of madcap magician David Williamson’s. David Williamson had remembered the Routine for the Blind and tried to use it with an elderly blind man. He had evidently handed the old man the deck to separate himself, and this may have been a distraction.

It is much better to do the handling of the cards as we have described so that the stooge has nothing else to think about. If Acer’s description is accurate, Williamson only tapped for one color—red—signally black by doing nothing. This makes it more difficult for the stooge to catch on to the idea. One tap for red and two for black is much more obvious, and more obviously a code, and may be safer. We want things to be clear to the stooge, and as quickly as possible.

Here is David Acer’s description:

“Now remember—place the black cards to your right and the red (tap tap) cards to your
left…black cards on the right, red (tap tap) on your left. Got it?” And Grandpa said, “Yeah, yeah—I got it. Hey, who the hell is kicking my foot?” And that was the end of that.

This is a very funny story, although I am sure it was not a lot of fun at the time. There may have been a mistake in the way the code was set up, or it could be that the old man was just not going to co-operate anyhow. Those things happen. But it seems to me it is usually worth the risk to try it.

When this connection succeeds, the magician comes away as a real hero who has surmounted what everyone in the audience can see could have been a difficult problem.

Even more important, the magician has made a star out of the blind person, and they have had a secret little game together that neither is likely to forget.
Mr. Mystoffelees
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Pop, you are hooking me on your book. Where can I find it?

Also known, when doing rope magic, as "Cordini"
Pop Haydn
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