We’re Not The Gatekeepers…And Neither Are You

February 12th, 2008 | Team Ellusionist | Filed Under General

GatekeepEllusionist sponsorship of Celebracadabra has brought mixed reactions from the magic community. While most of the reactions have been positive, there are some negative comments as well. Here is one that was received on the blog yesterday from an earlier post about the show and reflects several similar comments:

“…someone else made this very important point that I would like to see Brad respond to:

“ALSO the fact that Ellusionist is going to have it’s name out there scares me that people are going to start massing to the website and forums and there is going to be WAY too much leakage of information.”

This show is available to everyone to watch. Of COURSE people will be flooding the site. This is just another way for E to make money, it is NOT about promoting magic FOR magicians, it’s about promoting magic TO the general public to spark an interest in LEARNING it, not experiencing it. Magic is slowly but surely loosing its magic, which is extremely unfortunate.”

There will be a number of ways we are promoting Ellusionist through the show. We are making a series of simple effects available for download on the site. There will be one a week and they will not cost anything.

The second way will be with TV commercials for Ellusionist products. Here’s what Brad has previously said about this:

“People make the mistake of thinking that someone is going to come on Ellusionist and actually BUY a $30 DVD, just to discover a few secrets! That’s a lot of money to shell out randomly for a couple of secrets! People just don’t do it. They have to have a genuine interest in magic (just like YOU did, may I remind you?) to plunk down hard earned cash. People are bitten by the magic bug because of a certain something in their personality…. they try it, and some go on to become pros and avid amateurs and others give it up. But even those ones that give it up are STILL very interested when they hear that a “magician” is at the restaurant or at the party they are going to. It’s an interest level that helps you and helps magic.”

So I have to ask these questions – if someone expresses interest in magic, wants to buy an instructional DVD on how to perform magic, why shouldn’t they be able to? The ante to become a magician is so small, what qualifies anyone to call themselves a magician? How do we know, before the TV show airs, that the people buying Ellusionist products are “qualified” to buy them? How do we know you are?

People become interested in magic for many reasons. Most never perform. Some just collect. Some become historians. Others are just interested in the social aspect and belonging to a group of like-minded people.

There is nothing we can tell you to calm your fears of your secrets being made available to the masses. Your secrets were out there long before you got into magic and will be there long after you’re gone. Those of us who are secure with ourselves and our magic welcome new people into the art. It’s a fun profession and a fun hobby. The more you know about magic, the more you understand and appreciate it and that helps all of us.


  1. I agree whole-heartedly with you. I got my start working in a magic store, and I haven’t done magic professionally since then, but who’s to judge if I wanted to buy the latest and greatest trick because I appreciate the art and not necessarily because I want to perform it in front of an audience. As a magic salesperson, I was constantly being pushed to sell Svengali decks and Tenyo magic to the uninitiated on a daily basis. If people are intrigued, let them buy and help the magic industry reach a new level.


  3. Firstly…Brad Christian is the best! We appreciate what you and team Ellusionist have done so far, what you are doing and hopefully will be doing a long time after this post.

    Secondly…There are approximately 6700000000 (for more exact info check http://www.ibiblio.org/lunarbin/worldpop) people on the planet Earth. Regardless that number, in some countries very few people do know about magic whether it is connected with cards, coins, mentalism or general tricks. There always will be so many people we can perform our magic to! Moreover, human’s creativity has no limits, and I am convinced that in future many new tricks, new routines and styles will be created. The magic and how we perform and treat it will evolve with time. And Ellusionist is doing great job to make that progress real.

    Finally… Good luck everybody!

    P.S. looking forward to watching CELEBRACADABRA

  4. I am not fully aproved of this TV show. As Brad Christain said, “People make the mistake of thinking that someone is going to come on Ellusionist and actually BUY a $30 DVD, just to discover a few secrets!”This is obviosly not the case… Personaly I’m am sure that will not happen, but the thing I am worried about is people going to this website and LOOKING at the tricks sold at Ellusionist. So when ever a magicain performs an Ellusionist trick, they will know in there mind “hey this guy just bought some trick of some website! This is bogus!” And in some cases this can result in heckling. And another concern is seeing these tricks sold here and influence them to search the explainations on youtube.
    So, what do you this of this “great idea” of “Celebra Cadabra?”

  5. Steve Pellegrino on:

    You stated:

    “hey this guy just bought some trick of some website! This is bogus!”

    You’re over-thinking this WAY too much! People do not think about this stuff – unless you’re not a very good magician and put all the focus on the effect.

    Understand this very simple fact – people don’t care about magic. They don’t care if you created yourself or if you bought it. All they care about is being ENTERTAINED. Do that and you’ve won the game.

  6. But Steve, people DO buy the secret. And then the fast-forward to the method, learn that, and go show their friends this cool trick they just learned… or worse, “perform” for their web-cam and post it to the web.

    It’s painfully obvious from a lot of the videos you see on the web from YouTube to Magic Video Depot that people ARE spending $30 for a trick and only watching the 5 minutes of the DVD that exposes the secret. THAT’S when you will have reactions like “he just learned that on a website!”

    David Copperfield did an interview with Charlie Rose about 10 years ago (you can find it on Google Video). He stated situations where he used concepts in a show that were recently exposed on national television and people didn’t care… they still applauded. Why? Because Copperfield knows how to PERFORM magic… Steve is right, people… if you can entertain someone, you can floor them, even if they know the secret.

    I just posted another post in the forums along these same lines before reading this blog, I’ll end here with how I ended there:

    Any idiot can do a trick, but it takes a magician to perform magic.

  7. David Johnson on:

    Brad, you are my hero! I am glad that you put the smack down on those elitist snobs. I get so sick and tired of people who learn something and want to be the only people on earth who know how to do it. They forget that they themselves learned it form someone else. I know that in magic you need to keep secrets from a lay audience but if someone is willing to lay down the cash then like you said who has the right to say no? It’s house the art lives and breathes, if no one ever released their secrets then no one but those few people that come up with magic effects themselves would ever be able to perform them, how stifled would this art be then? SO thanks Brad for being a rockstar

  8. i agree with goudinov. many things that appear on youtube are from the kids that buy the trick fast forward through the performance, learn the secrate and dont bother with the tips on how to actualy perform the trick to the ppl. thats the difference. if you learn how to perform the trick well, then ppl may even see it differently, as magic, and not as some kid with no practice. and for all you that are worried about tricks being recognized, find a way to perform the trick so that the dynamics are the same but the effect is just different enough to appear different or use what you know to make up your own piece of art. i know thats not easy and that it will take time, but that is why magic is an art. i do have mixed feelings about the show, but untill it airs and we see what happens, i think we should all be happy that it is keeping magic alive.

  9. I partially agree with all the stuff written in the blog. Recently one of my schoolmates that I was performing magic for found E on Google and learned almost every single sleight of hand I was using in my tricks. But you know what, he now respects me even more as he did before beacuse he is amazed not at the magic I do, but at the way I do it. He always says that I have a killer sleight of hand(I actually don’t have a killer sleight of hand!) and he is actually more amazed than the people that don’t know about the secrets beacuse he isn’t wondering how I pulled the trick off, beacuse he knows every single sleight, he is wondering how the hack can I pull of such a hard sleight and neither he or the people that I perform for don’t see what I just did. So people are amazed one way or another(I don’t know if you had such an experience but I did, and I don’t even care how much he knows, beacuse he is still always amazed) But I think that already that guy was enough and I don’t need another one like him. That is just my humble opinion.

  10. Ooo ra ra, thank you for responding to moi so publicly. 😛

    It\’s not about me or anyone else wanting to control who can and cannot learn magic. :\\ If someone is genuinely interested in learning, they WILL find sites like this, it\’s inevitable and no one has anything against that. :\\

    However… to people who are just curious how a certain thing was done, people who don\’t actually want to learn magic to perform… that\’s all I\’m talking about. Hmm… if you were performing, and someone asked you how it\’s done, just out of general curiosity, would you direct them to E, or tell them the secret? No, it\’s a performance and most people who perform magic have a false story to go along with it.

    I think just about, well, everyone with a genuine interest in magic knows of E. And people who are just starting out WILL find out about it courtesy of sites like YouTube. 😛 It can\’t be helped. I don\’t see how advertising E to the AUDIENCE is helping magicians. Advertising on sites designed to learn magic makes sense, this doesn\’t.

    But it\’s just my opinion. It\’s not like it will change anything, and I never posted my opinion with such an expectation. 😛 I love E, I love their products, and have spent probably (definitely) more than I should have on this website. 😛

  11. Let’s be honest here: the secrecy of magic has been gone a long time. Very rarely will I perform for a group and not here at least once “I saw what he did” or “I’m gonna figure out how he did it.” People seem to lack the capacity to suspend their reality and simply enjoy performance.

    Some of you will read that and say that the blame falls on me, that if I were a better performer, these conflicts wouldn’t arise. Reactions stem from the magician, not from the spectator, right? But that doesn’t explain why I meet so many people who ask “You know that trick where the magician throws the cards at the window?” or “Do you know the hamburger trick?” 2007’s Magician of the Year still meets these reactions, still has spectators who see his effects as challenges rather than entertainment.

    I see this show as potential leverage for hecklers. We’ve all run into them, and if you haven’t, you should go out and perform more. The heckler is driven by pride; they just don’t like being fooled. When they see a magician (often as a smug hustler), they can’t stand the fact that this trickster is being praised for fooling them. I had a guy making a big deal about how he knew my secrets, how he did “research” on Google. Of course everybody got a laugh at how ridiculous that claim was, but he stood by it.

    I fried him with a Shuffle Bored effect from Bannon, and what’s his reaction? Not the same as everybody else’s, a reaction of astonishment and amusement, but instead a reaction of insult, of challenge, of “do it again!”

    So what it comes down to is that this show is a chance for the heckler (and hecklers come in all varieties and come across in very varied ways, from trying to be your enemy to trying to be your friend; all are extremely irritating) to get some more leverage on the magician, on the illusionist, on the trickster. Is this reason enough to cancel the show, to shield the egos of magicians and stifle the heckler? Not at all.

    It essentially comes down to the difference between the retailer and the performer. Money is the final motive for both, so you can’t attribute the difference to greed, but the means and general principles are different. They’re actually the entire opposite; the retailer wants as many people to learn the secret because that means that more people are purchasing their products, while the performer wants absolutely nobody to learn the secret because it takes the intrigue and therefore the entertainment value out of their show. Talent abounds in both fields; some of the best magicians in the world are retailers. But there will always be a slight dispute between the retailers and the performers.

    Who knows, though? The next Blaine, Vernon, Marlo, Braue, Harris, or McBride might be hiding, waiting, until this show airs on VH1 and sparks their potential. We are in no position to attempt to stop that spark from being ignited, it’s simply unfortunate that there’s no way to filter the jokers from the kings.

  12. Brilliantly stated, Sam… Thanks for posting that.

  13. yes, thanks for sorting things out there Brad. Everyone has the right to learn magic!

  14. sam, that was almost poetic how you put that and i agree fully with every word you said

  15. I can argue either which way. The only thing that worries me is the spectator who browses the site with no intention of buying something. This would be okay if there was enough mystery surrounding a marketed effect and its components.

    If a spectator skips right through the ellisionist site and comes upon the accessories page, what then? Are we that confident in our presentations when performing coin bite or “pk” effects? It would take less than 5 minutes for someone to read the description of such accessories and know the secret whether it be rubber-band replacements, invisible thread or details of the M-5.

    Just my thoughts though.


  16. I thought it was funny that the people critiquing Ellusionist probably had a typo. “Magic is slowly but surely loosing its magic.” Did they mean, “Magic is slowly but surely losing its magic”?

    I suppose you could argue “loosing” is correct in the context of the art being released from it’s wonder. However, wonder is a part of the art, not the other way around, so techically the wonder is being released from the art. The correct sentence should be, “Magic has been loosed from magic”. I guess that means that “loosed” is the right word, not “loosing”. Confused? Me too. I think I’m losing it, but I think they’re lost.

  17. Matthew Phillips on:

    Well this is a very interesting topic. I for one am curious about this new show coming to VH1. The main thing I was worried about was exposure of tricks. Like for example I pictured behind the scenes of celebrities with magicians and the magician is explaining what moves to do at a certain point during a trick and showing how frustrated the celebrity is because the move is difficult. Well to me, I wouldn’t want that move to be exposed. It was brought to my attention that nothing will be exposed on the show which relaxed me a bit. The thing I am confused about is some of the comments on the blog. I really am tired of people complaining about how their audience don’t like to be fooled. If that is the negative vibe you get from your audience then you are completely doing the trick wrong and should not perform it for anybody until you get it right. remember there is a difference between telling your audience “hey, let me show you a magic trick” when instead you should be saying something like ” now i would like to SHARE something with you.” can you tell the difference in those two sentences? If you can’t then I suggest you don’t perform until you do. People come up to me many times telling me they know how that is done because they saw it on a website. That is why I learn many many different methods of doing the same trick. It is something we all should do. Brad/Steve is right. If people are really interested in magic, they will drop some cash to learn something, just like we all did. If they just want to know how the trick is done they are not gonna drop any cash. yes it is unfortunate that there are exposure on YouTube and other sites and I have tried to reason with them like mature adults, but it was obvious I was not dealing with mature people so that went nowhere. I will leave you with a very short story……….I was performing (close up) at a show, kid comes up to me with his brand new black, tiger, ghost, tally ho (oh hell you get the idea) deck. I do a trick. He tells me he knows how that trick is done and proceeds to pull out the deck and tried to show everyone. Well this is my show and i told him in my own little way that now was not the time. after the show i had a little talk with the boy and told him some of the rules of being a magician. Then i asked him if he really knew how the trick was done. long story short i did the trick again for him with a different method and floored him………floored him hard. that boy has never bothered me during my show again. remember PERFORMANCE IS EVERYTHING, not the secrets.

  18. I have been doing card tricks for 10+ years and have recently gotten into coins and mentalism.

    As far as the topic of discussion, you will always have people who learn a trick and feel it is their place to expose it whether on youtube, metacafe or learnmagictricks.org. This will happen even if advertising does not takes place. These sites have people explaining magic that have absolutely no respect or appreciation for the art and what it takes to create something original. Most of the “tutorials” are so poor that you can turn the sound off before the tutorial even starts, and still figure out how a trick is done because of the shoddy performance. Whether you’re professional, amateur or just a hobbyist magician, if you love magic you will not turn to these places to learn it. You would instead learn from those who create and improve illusion by listening to feedback and tips on what works and what helps a performance.

    I can definitely see an advantage to ellusionist wanting to advertise with Celabra-Cadabra. It would direct interested people to one of the best places to learn cutting edge magic, instead of people throwing magic into a search engine and learning from some 7 year old how not to perform successfully. As far as those who want to know how to do magic, fix their car or bake a cake, they will find the answers if they search hard enough. At least those who have any interest in magic will have an opportunity to learn it right the 1st time.

    On the other hand, there will also be people who may visit this site just to satisfy a spectator curiosity without the desire to perform, but just know how a trick is executed. Our job should be to make it difficult to figure out how something works without paying for it, and to allow those who are truly interested to buy and learn.

    My major concern is how we are protected. I would like to reiterate that descriptions of some tricks and accessories should be adjusted to prevent exposure to any lurkers who are not interested in learning magic. As I mentioned earlier, it would take a short period of time for anyone to figure out how coinbite/folding coin works when they see that the refills are rubber-band replacements. I know that this can be more discreet since “Box Monster” has a refill option which does not describe what the refill is. I bought the M5 about a year ago and have only been caught once in all the performances I have done. I would be pretty upset if after paying $170.00 I tried a future routine and was called out by a spectator who knew the method because of the products description. Such descriptions like “1 custom wrist strap that fits the M5 perfectly, Shimmed Shell Coin: This coin can be made to ‘vanish’ or change into another coin (the latter is accomplished by placing a smaller coin under the shell),” or even “Shimming Supplies: Additional shim foil and wire for making your own shimmed playing cards, business cards, envelopes, etc. Simply glue two surfaces together with shim material between them and you will have a shimmed item that can be detected or affected by a MAGNET”.

    These descriptions either hint to or directly give away the methods to some of your tricks.

    What are your thoughts ellusionist?


  19. I agree presentation is important, but I would just like to mention that your story contradicts your point. You used a different method the second time, a secret, and that was what floored the kid. I’m sure you presented it very well, but your secret is what ultimately fooled the kid.

    Secrets allow magic to continue and progress. They should be handled with care. My concern is mainstream public advertisement.

  20. Forty-five years ago, as a teen interested in magic, I “wandered” into Lou Tannen’s magic shop on 42nd Street in New York City, where all the pro’s used to gather on Saturday afternoons. Standing behind the counter was Dave Soh, one of Tannen’s salespeople, demonstrating a slow, deliberate, bare-sleeved coin vanish. So clean was Soh’s effect that I was certain I had inadvertently stumbled upon a “real” magician; I was in awe of him.
    The “O. Henry” ending to this story is this: A week earlier I had been practicing this SAME sleight out of the old Bobo book on coin magic — but in the hands of a master coin man like Dave Soh, I didn’t even recognize “my” trick as the same effect.
    Bottom line: When an effect is masterfully performed, it may not even be recognizable to those who have studied its secret. Truly there is a difference between a magically entertaining performance and someone who is “doing tricks.”
    “Tricks” often challenge the viewer to seek an explanation; “real” magic requires no explanation but only the suspension of disbelief.
    This is because real magic takes place in the mind of its audience, not in the mechanics of its sleights (or boxes, wires, powders, etc.). Real magicians have nothing to fear, therefore, in the casual examination of their methods.

  21. Good afternoon Steve. I was just wondering what yours or ellusionist’s response would be to the last post I submitted.