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Machinations - Explorations Through the Trapdoor - Ben Harris

The Hype:
"The Trapdoor Card" is one of the most unforgettable, yet often overlooked, plots in card magic. Popularized by Martin Gardner and Bob Neale, this effect features a small card with a "door" cut out, just off-center. Someone is invited to hold the card by this makeshift tab. The magician is then able to turn the card inside out while it is IN the spectator's hands. This an unbelievable and impossible topological illusion that you can watch over and over and over again without ever figuring it out.

With Machinations, Ben Harris has taken "The Trapdoor Card" puzzle and pushed it to the limit. With over 20 new effects, Harris has broken this trick out of its card magic background to explore new routines with paper, ticket stubs, schematics, and more. The legendary Bob Neale even contributes his own amazing impromptu handling.

If you love origami or are looking for something unusual and memorable, Machinations is for you.

Learn mind-boggling effects like:

Zoo Ticket - A zoo ticket printed with donkey images changes into a ticket with penguin imagery.

The Wishing Paper - A spectator blows out the candles on a piece of paper in their hand which is then unfolded to reveal their "wish" on the other side.

Houdini's Escape - Help Houdini perform his world famous trapdoor escape with a "paper" padlock.

And more than 15 others!

Every effect in Machinations is easy to perform and requires almost no practice.

The book itself is a slim, handsome, and fully-illustrated, 100-page volume with detailed plans for each effect.

My Take:
Karl Fulves' Epilogue was a magic publication that released a ton of great magic in its pages. In Issue #1, November 1967, some of the magicians featured were Dan Tong, Bruce Cervon, Ed Marlo, Roy Walton, Dai Vernon and a few others. This issue also introduced to the world, "The Trapdoor" by Robert Neale, a trick that would go through different incarnations in the next few years, such as the Wonderland Bill by Nick Brown. "The Trapdoor" was also reprinted in Karl Fulve's book, "Self Working Paper Magic". I first became aware of the principle years ago with Wonderland Bill. Years later, I still carry this in my wallet wherever I go and it never fails to kill.

I have always been fascinated by topological creations. Is there any of you unfamiliar with the Mobius Strips? Easy to do and no one can explain just how it works. And thank you Mr. Gardner for introducing me to the fascinating hexa-hexa flexagon. If you enjoy origami, this should be a real treat for you.

Now, Ben Harris has published an entire book on the principle introducing some entirely new ideas. You learn the main guiding principle plus he shows how it can be used with multiple sheets of paper and even multiple holes. The forward is written by Robert Neale where he says he was influenced by a Martin Gardner effect in the book "Mathematics, Magic and Mystery". It was called "Reversing the Vest" where a vest is removed while being worn by a spectator with his hands clasped in front. Robert says his version was done with a spectator putting his hands through a pair of men's white cotton underpants before clasping his hands. Of course, this begs the question, What venue could this be performed in? Certainly not a Boy Scouts' Blue and Gold Banquet, but it does give you an idea of just how creative Neale is.

Now comes Ben Harris' work on the effect. I have been a fan of Ben's for years. Along with Steve Shufton he created what I feel is one of the more deceptive pieces of card magic mentalism, X-Ray. And if you have ever owned the matchstick that floats over a card you are using one of the most ripped off effects ever, Cosmosis. But I feel that "Machinations" is his best effort to date.

Beautifully printed by Vanishing Inc., this is a book you will be proud to display on your shelf (if you can ever put it down long enough to place it on your shelf!)

Ben walks you through beginning creations right up through some most impressive. The colors used are gorgeous and you are welcome to scan the illustrations for your use. However, there is a download available of every graphic used in the book and they print fantastically well. It did take me a while to figure out just what settings I needed on my printer to print the 2-sided graphics in the proper alignment but once you get it, it is a breeze to do. The more gimmicks I make the more little steps I found to make it easier. I am sure you will have the same thing happen to you.

More than a book, this is a veritable toy chest of wonders. The gimmicks look so innocent but they will fry your spectators. There is nothing to be seen and the magic works itself. In my view, this is one of my favorite all time effects and Ben has greatly enlarged the scope of the magic that can be done using it. He also shows a new move called the Roll Display which makes it much more deceptive.

Starting with just a basic version to show you how the gimmick works, he quickly moves onto colorfully designed versions. One has Houdini wrapped in chains with a little door tucked through the chains and held by your spectator. Without letting go of the door, Houdini is freed from his chains. I also like one called Upside. Your gimmick is shown to have the word Upside printed on both sides. Both are shown to be oriented upright. Your spectator once again holds the little door and without letting go the gimmick is turned so the word is now upside down on both sides.

In Treasure Trove the spectator tries to get into a cave to claim the treasure. He is shown a number of identical maps and the spectator picks one which turns out to hold the treasure. Here a classic card move is used to great effect. And in Safe Cracker he breaks into a vault to claim the riches there. The printable props used for these are colorful and very attractive. The Twin Paradox offers a version that features two doors.

And, at the very end, a special treat. A new effect from Robert Neale, the creator of the method. In "The Wad of Paper", his idea actually makes doing the effect easier. He suggests using things besides the printed props in the trick such as dollar bills. I am carrying one made with a playing card right now. I am sure you can come up with some presentations of your own. If you do trade shows or corporate work, you could show a paper with a number of product photographs. Your volunteer will hold the little door and without him letting go, it turns into the company logo. The uses and presentations on something like this are just about endless

Conclusion: In case you haven't already figured this out, I love this book. I have not had such fun with a book in a long time. It is beautifully produced, the graphics are stunning and you will fool yourself doing it. I still am not quite sure why it works and neither will your audience be. Make up one with a bill and carry it in your wallet. You will always have a piece of mystification to show anyone who might ask. This is not going on my shelf for a while. I am having too much fun making and using the gimmicks. Without reservations, I would say this is a must have.
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