Here I am with another Ben Harris review. This guy certainly has a knack for releasing material that gets the magic fraternity talking. For better or worse, his recent releases seem to have sparked serious debate. X-Ray is an interesting plot by Ben with a method by Steve Shufton. Here’s the dealer ad that describes how the routine appears to the audience.
The performer removes a deck from the case and gives it a complete shuffle. He thumbs through the deck to demonstrate that all the cards are different, and the deck is complete. Placing the deck on the table, he instructs the spectator that he will leave the room. While the performer is gone, the spectator is to cut the deck anywhere with a simple cut, turn the card cut to face up, memorize the card, and put the cut off portion back on the deck, leaving the selection face up. The spectator is then to take the deck, put it in the case and seal the case, leave the cased deck on the table, and signal the magician to return to the room. The performer leaves the room, the spectator does as instructed and the performer returns.
The performer explains that he has developed an uncanny ability to see the hidden-almost a type of X-Ray vision. Without ever touching the case, the performer focuses an intense gaze on the boxed deck. Much to the astonishment of onlookers, he reveals the name of the card that has been inverted!
But now things get even crazier. He again focuses his gaze on the box, and finally calls out a number. Again, he never touches the box. He instructs the spectator to take the cards out of the box, and deal the cards one at a time onto the table face up, counting for each card dealt. Tension builds as the spectator nears the number called. When the number is reached, there is the spectator’s face up card! Not only has the performer accurately perceived the chosen card in a deck sealed in a box, but he named the actual position of the card as well!
Many have accused Ben in the past of cleverly wording his advertisements to make you believe that the method is more revolutionary than it really is. I would have to agree that he is the master of saying just the right things to make you want to plunk down your money. This isn’t necessarily wrong, but it has caused some to think twice before purchasing his latest “miracle.” In this case, however, everything appears just as it reads.
It’s the kind of thing that you want to buy just to find out the secret. If you do, you’ll spend the first 13 or so pages reading hype for the trick you’ve already bought. While it is a little annoying, I think this is a worthwhile approach. Ben really wants you to appreciate the effect before you learn the method. After all, that’s all the audience will be aware of.
There are plenty of good things to say about X-Ray: it’s hands off, there are no complicated calculations, the deck may be used for other effects, and there are no gimmicks. The effect does require some preparation; not a lot, mind you, but it’s something that you’ll want to setup in private and not in front of the audience. There is mention in the eBook of a way to do this impromptu, but I wouldn’t make your purchasing decision based on that as it requires a large amount of “toying” with the deck as you chat. Once the trick is over, however, the cards can be used for any of your other routines, so it’s not like you have to dedicate a deck to this one trick.
The method itself is easy to do and nearly surefire, but it is possible for the effect to fail. I can’t imagine it happening often, but you need to know that the chance is there. The author suggests carrying an Invisible Deck with you whenever you perform this. That way, if the X-Ray bit doesn’t work, you can pull out the Invisible Deck and talk about having reversed a card in your own deck earlier. This makes at least some sense because the spectator has just reversed a card in the other deck.
One other caveat: you don’t simply come back into the room and name the card and number. There is more to it than that. I won’t reveal what it is here, but some may see this as a potential weak spot in the trick. If you are familiar with some of Ben’s other recent work, you may know what I’m talking about. At any rate, the application of the principle in this instance is well covered just by virtue of the effect itself. As a person who doesn’t usually like to rely on this technique, I would feel comfortable using it in this context.
Overall, I think this is a very practical approach to this kind of effect. You will have to decide on your own if this is the kind of thing that you would like to perform for your audiences. If so, I think you’ll find the method to be a good one. At the very least, this may be something you’d like to pick up to fool all of your friends at the next magic club meeting.
-Available for $16.95 from www.lybrary.com