Monthly archives for August, 2010

Floating Sunglasses Reviewed & CLEAR-VIEW AIRBORNE UPDATE

Hey, folks!

Cris Johnson here with a review of an older effect that’s been out for quite a while, but before I get to that, some housekeeping…

First, I’m THRILLED that so many of you are taking advantage of our pre-sale for my new product, Clear-View Airborne. Here’s the update: ALL of the bottles have been gimmicked and are ready to ship. I have personally tested each one and with a little practice, you’ll have a GREAT version of the “glass floats in the air while you pour water into it” effect. The gimmicks are built to last. It’s not a fancy, complicated set-up with microchips or anything…the design is great because of the simplicity.

The CD-ROMs, instruction booklets and storage tubes are also ready to go. My wife & I are just waiting on the glasses. Our UPS tracker says they should arrive at our doorstep on August 30th. It will take my wife only a day or so to gimmick all of the glasses, so the product should ship out to Hocus Pocus on August 31st or September 1st at the latest. That means Paul & Co. should receive them by September 6 or 7, well ahead of our mid-September deadline.

Now for the bad news…last time I checked, half of this shipment has been bought & paid for, meaning if you don’t order right away, you’ll have to wait for the next batch.

You can read all about it here:

Second point of housekeeping: The newest issue of “Cause & Effects,” my FREE ezine, is due out next week. This will feature a really fun article in which I explore how movie sequels can serve as a blueprint to designing a show for a repeat client. It’s not the only way to structure a show for a repeat client, but it’s served me well in the past and you may find it useful.

Send me an email to if you have not done so before.

Third and final housekeeping note…I’ve performed Anthony Linden’s wonderful Incredible Suit Jacket Escape three times. The first time, I put it in the middle of the show, in case it didn’t go over with the crowd. Second time, second from last. Last time, closed with it. That should tell you a LOT. This is definitely a “Top 10″ item for me when I put together my “Top 10 Purchases of 2010″ list in December.

On to the review!

This week, I take on Floating SUNGLASSES by Yigal Mesika. It’s available for $70.95 and is available at Hocus Pocus. You can read the sparse ad copy here:

I know this has been out a while, but I do like to re-visit older stuff as often you can find the COOLEST items.

EFFECT: The magician takes off his sunglasses and they float in the air, from hand to hand, through a ‘hoop’ made from his arms, up and down and more.

WHAT YOU GET: The gimmicked glasses, invisible thread (how else?), wax, a case for the glasses, written instructions, video instructions.

QUALITY OF PROPS: I admit, I was skeptical when I bought this effect. Knowing a little about invisible thread, I thought that either the glasses would be flimsy pieces of trash, or the thread would be fragile or something. Truthfully, the glasses are more or less regular sunglasses, meaning they will hold up. You can wear them as regular sunglasses. The ‘gimmicked’ part comes from the fact that the arms will open on their own for a little bonus effect. I never bothered with it when I performed this.

The other ‘gimmicked’ aspect of the glasses are places where you tie the invisible thread. (By the way, I know the ad doesn’t state the effect uses thread, but really, other than REAL MAGIC, to expect otherwise is silly, so I don’t mind tipping it here…besides, it impacts my final review.)

The thread dispenser is very cool and is designed to to make getting the perfect length fast & easy. The thread itself is quite strong – when I was doing this effect, I was able to hook-up the thread to the glasses and keep using the hook-up over and over. This thread is not suited for closeup work, however.

The wax is, well, wax. Good stuff.

QUALITY OF INSTRUCTION: The written instructions are a joke – not that they don’t help, because they are all right, but more because they’re so small, like 6pt type. REALLY hard on my eyes.

The video instructions are better. The picture is clear and Yigal demonstrates everything clearly, including the set-up and performance. In the video, he uses thick, bright string so you can see what he’s doing. Obviously you wouldn’t want to do that unless you want to look silly.:)

The video is all visual – no speaking at all, so you just watch Yigal’s hand motions. It’s clear enough, but I wish they’d selected a different music track, as I kept thinking that it sounded like porn music!

Not that I know what porn music sounds like….I’ve just heard stories from people while I was donating my time helping the needy…yeah, that’s it.

The product I bought had the video on a VHS tape. The current ad copy still lists it coming with a videotape, so you may want to check into that before purchasing unless you still have a VHS player.

DIFFICULTY: This effect does not rely on any intricate sleight of hand, but it does require a good amount of patience, both in terms of set up and in performance. You must have a steady hand and be extremely aware of every movement as even the slightest off kilter movement of your body will throw the effect way off. I’ll give it a 6 out of 10 – not insanely difficult, but it will require patience to master.

QUALITY OF EFFECT: Honestly, when done properly, this is a thing of beauty. When performed and set up correctly, the glasses balance horizontally and this looks absolutely incredible. It’s one of the few effects I kept practicing even after I took it out of my actual performing set lists.

It’s one of the most incredible, astonishing effects I’ve ever performed….which is why the rest of this review is so tough. Read on…

MARKETS: I first performed this for a group of families and the adults went absolutely crazy for this effect. I thought I had a winner. Then, each time after that, I performed it in schools, which is where I perform the most. From there, all down hill.

Despite the fact that the kids could not see anything, they still whispered “it’s a string” over and over. I video taped my performances and honestly, it looked great, but kids are skeptical and much more savy about magic these days.

With regret, I can’t recommend this effect for kids based on my own experiences. Family shows? Perhaps. Adult shows? A definite maybe…but there’s one BIG flaw still to discuss…

THE BIG FLAW: This effect uses a variation of Steve Fearson’s hookup for his floating cigarrette. I won’t tip it here, but if you know what I’m talking about then you know that with the sunglasses used in such a hookup means that when you’re done performing the effect, you have two chooses: either break the thread as you’re putting the sunglasses away as you transition to your next effect or finish your show with the sunglasses perched on your forehead.

Because of the pain-in-the-butt factor of thread setup, I didn’t want to break the thread and I didn’t care for the idea of doing the rest of my show with sunglasses on my forehead.

With that, I sadly dropped the effect from my show.

FINAL THOUGHTS: Honestly, if my reviews were based on nothing more than sheer beauty, this would be a 10 out of 10. And if you’re the kind of performer who works gigs where you’re only doing 5-15 minute spots, this may be for you. For me, I typically do 45-60 minute shows with the occasional 90 minute show as well.

Adding that in to the fact that kids completely rejected it when I performed it (despite ideal lighting & distance conditions) I can only give this effect a 5 out of 10.

It’s a stunning, workable effect, but not the best for real-world, working pros who perform onstage for longer than 5 minutes!

Until next time…

Send all questions, comments and REVIEW REQUESTS to


Cris Johnson

Spirit Table by Tim Wisseman & My NEW Product!!!

“Hi Everybody!”

I’ll give a prize of some sort to the person who FIRST emails me the name of the fictional character responsible for that opening line.:)

I’m back…and I’ve got BIG news!!

First, BOTH my laptop AND my desktop DIED last week, so I’m still learning my way around my shiny new computer! Woo-Hoo!

Last week, I hinted at something new on the horizon and after first making sure I was able to get the items to produce this product in quantities, I’m proud to announce the new Clear-View Airborne!!

You know the effect: it’s where the magician floats a glass in the air while pouring liquid into it from a bottle. This has ALWAYS been an audience pleaser and I LOVE the effect…

The problem? Most marketed versions SUCK! (A few weeks back I reviewed what I felt was the WORST one!)

This new version was developed by my wife Libby after hearing me complain for years!

First of all, I’m a kids’ performer most of the time and most Airbornes use a wine bottle. THIS version is built into a regular, store-bought water bottle! Due to some changes we’ve made, we can actually do the effect with a CLEAR water bottle! The method to hook to the glass as it floats is improved, too.

Since this was first designed for me, I can say that this will work GREAT for professionals! Put in some practice and Voila! Float a glass with a CLEAR water bottle!

In short, this is a WINNER! Each of these is handcrafted by my wife and I’m thrilled to say the bottles are already stacking up! We’re just waiting on the actual glasses to come in from our supplier. Once they come in, my wife will modify each glass and they’ll be ready!

The BEST part? By ordering BEFORE mid-September, you can save $10! Check out the ad description here:

Or simply check out the HOT NEW ITEMS at Paul is REALLY excited by this and I’m thrilled that Paul has been so supportive over the years…after all, I’m not famous.:)

Oh, once again, feel free to sign up for the “Cause & Effects” monthly ezine with performing tips, philosophy and more. Shoot me an email:

On to this week’s review…

This week, I tackle Spirit Table by Tim Wisseman. It’s available for $549.95 from Hocus Pocus. Here’s the info:

THE EFFECT: Objects LEAP off of a wooden table! There’s no clothe on the table, no strings, and the effect can be done VERY close-up…you could have a spectator rest their NOSE on the table and they wouldn’t see a thing! (But don’t let them, because they might get smacked in the face by a flying object!)

WHAT YOU RECEIVE: You get the gorgeous wooden table that breaks down flat for easy transport – just bring a flat-blade screwdriver. You also receive about three pages of written instructions, complete with full-color photos so you understand exactly how to install the batteries. You receive a bell, Ouija Board & planchette, and a coin. Finally, you receive the remote control, which you can either drop in your pocket or set up for use as a toe switch.

QUALITY: The table is gorgeous – other than the screws to hold the legs on, I could see this passed off as a legit table. The remote & electronics all work perfectly. Within seconds of opening the table, I was making the bell ring, the coin fly off the table and the Ouija planchette fly off the table.

Interestingly, I bought the table in great part because of the Ouija planchette, but I was nervous about the lack of movement of the planchette in the demo video online…well, the video does NOT do it justice as the planchette FLIES!

I was literally giggling like a little kid.

MARKET: If there is a drawback to this wonderful prop, it’s the markets in which it will play. Why? With a kids’ show, it’s going to be hard to justify dragging a wooden table to a birthday party. Let’s face it – this prop does not fit with a roll-on table or next to balloons.

This is intended for spooky performances, such as a seance recreation or, as I’m working on, an informational program for teens that explores historical figures such as Lizzie Borden and the Titanic.

So, consider your markets carefully before you invest. In my opinion, this prop is best served for teens or adults.

Or you can have it sitting innocently in your house as a piece of furniture and freak out your friends.:)

ROUTINES: There are no routines supplied, and that’s OK. In my eyes, this is an effect that is best served with a story to really build it up with the “kicker” to the story being the object moving.

MY THOUGHTS: I love this, but it does have…I’m not going to say ‘weaknesses,’ but rather some characteristics to be addressed. (To me they are NOT weaknesses, but I want to cover all bases.)

First, the object that will move must be placed at the center of the table. In my eyes this would make doing multiple effects with the table in one show a tad bit suspect. Therefore, in my case, I’ll only be making one object move per show…but to me, that’s GREAT.

Here’s why….The table is sturdy enough to serve, in the CORRECT setting, as a small performance table. Do a Tarot card effect. Do a Living/Dead test, all on this classy looking table…then at the end, with your audience in the right frame of mind, primed, as it were, make the object jump as a great ‘kick’ to end your performance!

Another consideration: for MAXIMUM power, the electronics inside need to ‘recharge’ for 10 seconds or so before the next ‘trigger.’ This is NOT something you need to do – hit your remote to make the bell ring or another object LEAP off the table, wait 10 seconds and hit it again and you’ll get the same effect. This is good to know in the case of the bell ringing…you can in fact make the bell ring multiple times, but there’s going to be a pause in between. To me, that means that answering yes or no questions is out because you really can’t have two or more rings right on top of each other. (I did find that after only 5 seconds, I could still get the bell to ring or an object to move, just not as much – still VERY impressive.)

Again, I don’t see any of this as a weakness. To me, the first time something moves by itself, it’s surprising or shocking or magical. Each time after that, the effect is diminished, until it becomes a curiosity. To my thinking, making four or five coins fly off the table would kill this effect. As Eugene Burger said in regards to ‘spirit or spooky’ presentations, less is more.

Another reason why I like the idea of using the table as an innocent platform throughout the show before the ending PK movement is the table then becomes invisible. The LAST thing you want to do is call attention to it – I think if your story refers to this “old, mysterious haunted table,” you’re in deep trouble from a presentation standpoint.

The only reason I mention any of this is because I am so excited by this piece. At the end of December, I plan on doing a “Top Ten” list of my favorite items that I’ve reviewed and this is definitely on the list.

My highest recommendations and a perfect 10 out of 10.

Until next time, send all thoughts, comments or questions to


Cris Johnson

Dead Rap by Tim Wisseman

Howdy, folks!

I’m writing today’s blog from sunny, scenic Phoenix, AZ. To show you how LITTLE I grasp geography, it’s been two years since I last performed in AZ so I was surprised to see mountains as I drove through the city! (Hey, everybody talks about the fact that AZ is in the desert!!)

Quick housekeeping…

First, I’m REALLY excited about a new product release! My wife Libby has come up with the most innovative design of a classic piece of magic. I’ve already talked to Paul about it and he’s REALLY excited! I still have to shoot a quick instructional video for it, get the prototype packed up and ship it to Paul to look over. This is gonna be GREAT!

Secondly, for my corporate gig today, I debuted Anthony Lindan’s Incredible Suit Jacket Escape. I’m pleased to report that all of the laugh lines Anthony promised were on the mark indeed delivered as promised. I gave this product a great review and I stand by it. It’s a great routine with all the room in the world for you to add your own stamp of originality.

Next, once again I’m gratified at how many people continue to sign up to my “Cause & Effects” FREE ezine! If you haven’t signed up yet, shoot me an email to It’s FREE!

Third, my newest book, “Cause & Effects Volume 2” continues to sell like hotcakes! Thanks to all of you for your support. Writing magic comedy routines is TOUGH work and often takes years, so this book, at a platry $24.95, has MASSIVE value for those who use it.

Now let’s get to this week’s review…

Today I’m tackling “Dead Rap” by Tim Wisseman. It’s available for $299.95 from Hocus Pocus. Here’s the link:

EFFECT: At any point in your spooky show, séance or creepy gathering, you can cause a mysterious ‘rapping’ sound to be heard, similar to how mediums and spiritualists used to manifest decades ago!

WHAT YOU RECEIVE: The main ‘dead rap’ prop, remote control and instruction sheets.

QUALITY OF INSTRUCTIONS: The instructions are sparse but serviceable. With a prop like this, you’re really paying for a tool and it’s up to you to make the prop “sing.” It’s similar to buying a hammer…it doesn’t make you a carpenter. Therefore, elaborate instructions are not needed.

QUALITY OF PROPS: Tim makes REALLY cool stuff. I’ve been using his Spirit Bell for about 2 years now and it’s beautiful. I’ve also ordered his Spirit Table and it’s due any day now…I’m excited! Dead Rap is intended to never be seen by the audience, therefore this time Tim has built the prop into an everyday object with the idea that it can, if needed, “hide in plain sight.” When I used it, it was completely out of sight, but that’s just me.

The prop works reliably each and every time. If I am considering an electronic product and I see Tim’s name on it, I rest easy, knowing the prop is going to be reliable. Dead Rap is no different.

DIFFICULTY: Since you are literally just pushing a button, this rates a 1 out of 10 on the ‘difficulty’ scale. That being said, if you use the toe switch option, this is best used in a seated performance. If you are a one person show (as I am) you won’t have the opportunity to turn the unit on during the show, so the unit must be left on throughout your show. Since I always stand and walk around when I perform, I found that by using the toe switch, I was in constant danger of triggering the thing. It’s not a problem with the device, only my style of performing. Use the toe switch while you’re seated and you’ll be fine.

Happily, you can also use the remote traditionally – in your pocket. This is also reliable as can be.

MARKET: This is intended for séances or other ‘spooky’ kinds of performing, so in that respect, this is really only intended for teens or adults. However, the creative performance could simply mount the prop into another container or prop and use it in a ‘lie detector’ kind of comedy presentation, so the possibilities are there for kids’ shows, too.

MY THOUGHTS: Despite all the good things I have to say about Tim and his creations, I feel Dead Rap is slightly off the mark. While it’s reliable and well-built, I feel it has one flaw: whenever I trigger my device, right before the rap, I can hear (as loud as can be) an electronic triggering of a relay. This sounds like a sharp click. (For many years I installed car alarms and electronic door locks in cars, so I am very familiar with this kind of technology.)

To me, this clicking noise before the actual rap really takes away from the effect. Granted, I know most other people are not going to be familiar with the electronic clicking of relays and their origin, but even without knowing WHAT it is, to their subconscious minds it will sound familiar and once it sounds familiar, it’s not going to be spooky but rather a curiosity.

You may get one good ‘scare’ or ‘jolt’ with one rap, but repeated raps (such as yes/no answers) are going to diminish the effect.

I feel Tim has done the best job possible with the technology currently at hand and I’m sure as technology advances, so will this effect.

MY RATING: I’ll give it a 6 out of 10 mostly for incredible reliability. I’ll also end this review by stating that again, I love Tim’s stuff and look forward to getting more of his products in the future.

Until next time, send any questions or comments to:


Cris Johnson

TWO Banachek Items Reviewed!

Hey Everyone, I’m back!

Before I get into this week’s blog, I want to publically thank Paul Rohmany for his kind words to me. Last week was NOT fun and Paul (along with his wife Natalie) was incredibly kind. I also want to thank those of you who emailed me your best wishes – it realy means a lot.

Secondly, I want to thank those of you who have invested in my latest book, “Cause & Effects, Volume 2.” I’m preparing the fourth shipment to Hocus Pocus today and I’m thrilled that so many people (including a world famous performer) have seen the value of this collection of real-world, polished-over-two-decades presentations.

My personal two favorites in the book are: 1) my presentation for the old Split Deck and 2) my incredibly hilarious arm chopper presentation – it’s suitable for Disectos, Arm Choppers, etc. There are nearly TWO DOZEN laugh points in the script, many of which occur before the prop is even introduced! It’s gold, I promise.

My friend Cody Fisher, upon hearing this presentation (I told him over the phone) has been nudging me to hurry up and finish this book for months.:)

You can read all about it here:

Also, the August issue of my FREE ezine, “Cause & Effects,” will be going out later today. I’m going to be taking care of it today, after I finish this blog. To join, shoot me an email –

One final note…I’m going to be changing up the blog a bit. I’m going to start adding a 1-10 scale of two categories: difficulty of physical handling and difficulty of psychological handling.

The first one of physical handling is self-explanatory, but the psychological handling can refer to necessity of scripting, such as in an effect that needs good verbal handling for, say, a psychological force. It may also refer to a Bizarre magic effect in which mood is crucial. On the other hand, an effect like Kevin James’ Bowl-A-Rama does not necessarily require a great deal of scripting. I myself walk out to music and just ‘do it.’ (Not to say a good script could not greatly enhance it…)

Of course, I will continue with my overall 1-10 scale rating of the effect itself.

Now, onto this week’s reviews – TWO items by Banachek!

First, Psychkinetic Time. It’s available for $19.95 from Hocus Pocus. The details are available here:

THE BASIC EFFECT: While holding his/her own watch, a spectator names a number. Amazingly, the watch’s hands move that exact number of minutes!

WHAT YOU RECEIVE: A very detailed booklet with clear, concise instructions and very helpful photographs that detail the physical handling.

MY HISTORY WITH THE EFFECT: I’ve been doing this effect for years. I know it’s been out for years, but I chose to review this item this week because it made a difficult situation better for me. Let me briefly explain…

My father-in-law’s viewing & funeral was this past week. I don’t particularly care for my wife’s side of the family so I was completely lost during the viewing. The funeral director and I got along very well and he really got a kick out of what I do, so while my wife was surrounded by family members, I sat with Jeff, the funeral director. I wound up performing Banachek’s PK Time twice that night, flooring both him and his partner.

While I’ve used the effect for years, because of this past week, this effect now holds a special place in my heart.

MARKETS: I’ve done this for high school audiences, corporate audiences, family audiences, etc. I personally only do it for family audiences where teens or adults are actively engaged. I have found that young kids (10 and younger) don’t get into this as much.

ANGLES: As long as your spectator management is solid, you can do this surrounded, as I feel it’s best as a close-up effect anyway.

INSTRUCTION: There are several pages of instruction in which Banachek really stresses the necessity of following his script and why it works so well due to the psychological handling and convincers. The close-up black and white photos really help convey the positioning of your fingers for ease of handling.

PHYSICAL HANDLING: You are doing a bit of manipulation of the spectator’s borrowed watch, but the physical handling is not difficult…maybe a 2 out of 10. While the handling is critical, you are dealing with very minute, tiny movements and in my experience, these are easily covered by a bit of motion – keeping your hand moving during critical moments.

PSYCHOLOGICAL HANDLING: Here is where this routine shines. As Banachek details, people may or may not believe you did something “tricky” in order to get the watch hands to move, but the fact that the person chooses how many minutes the watch will move…while the watch is in their OWN hand…is what really brings this into ‘miracle class.’

Now, in the interest of full disclosure, I will say that the added bit of having the watch move exactly the number of minutes that they say while the watch is in their hand is not going to work 100% of the time. Banachek explains in detail just how to maximize your number of ‘direct hits’ and even how to ‘massage’ the results so it seems you have a direct hit when you really didn’t.

I personally have a 75% – 80% success rate, but even when I’m way off, the effect on the spectator is incredible – THEIR watch’s hands moved in THEIR hands! It’s unreal.

You’ll need to put some work into fine-tuning your approach and that’s the investment that will pay off in this effect. I’ll give it a psychological handling rating of 7 out of 10. It’s not that it’s difficult, but it is crucial to the success of the effect.

OTHER NOTES: Banachek offers alternate handling tips for “difficult” watches, such as Rolexes or certain Fossil watches – the kind where the stem must be unscrewed before the time can be changed. Personally, I simply skip over those watches – there are enough people wearing a variety of watches…still, it’s nice that Banachek included this.

MY OVERALL RATING: There’s no way I can give this anything other than a 10 – it’s the perfect mentalism effect – it has a visual component, can be done surrounded, involves a borrowed object and there’s evidence of the ‘magic’ after the event is over. It’s perfect…really. And the price? WAY too low.

I know it’s been out for a while, but I do know that as many of us (myself included) gravitate toward the new effects, it’s important to remember the great stuff that’s come before.

Now, as promised, I am going to cover another effect. I decided to stick with another effect by Banachek, so I’m going to reveiew Psychokinetic Touches, released by Steve Shaw (Banachek’s real name.)

This is another effect that has been around the block, but others have offered different methods and variations on this theme. I myself offer a presentation (no secrets) in my “Cause & Effects Vol. 2″ book.

EFFECT: A spectator feels the physical sensation of being touched, despite no one being anywhere near the person. The effect is totally impromptu and uses NO props.

WHAT YOU GET: A comb-bound booklet that details the effect along with a somewhat macabre presentation.

INSTRUCTIONS: This is another effect in which the physical handling is revealed in detail, despite the fact that the actual ‘moves’ are minute. Banachek does a good job detailing the physical aspects of this routine…and I have a soft spot for comb-bound books as that’s what I typically release.:)

ANGLES: If you are careful, this can be done surrounded. There is a ‘move’ of sorts, but the timing of the move is done during the off beat and besides, this effect involves your entire body, so as a result, keeping the dirty work hidden is not too tough.

MARKET: I’ve done this for 12 year olds all the way to senior citizens. Everyone loves it, but I would NOT do this for very young kids. Why? Consider the effect and what the child is going to perceive…

“Mommy! I saw a magician today!”

“What did he do?”

“Well, he told me to close my eyes. Then I felt something touch me.”

Need I say more? LOL Keep this for tweens, teens, and adults, please.:)

Also, I should point out that this is intended for a stage or parlor piece, not for strolling.

PHYSICAL & PSYCHOLOGICAL HANDLING RATING: I could almost cut and paste what I said about PK Time – the physical handling is not difficult – a 1 or 2 out of 10 – so the real work comes from the psychological handling. Scripting with this routine is critical – I personally did not care for Banachek’s supplied script/presentation, but that’s OK…at a recent lecture, he explained that he provided a handling that he never intended to be viewed as the definitive handling, preferring instead to encourage buyers to come up with something original.

Aside from the scripted presentation, there are some critical aspects of the routine to keep in mind regardless of your script, which Banachek covers. I’ll give the psychogical handling an 8 – this is even more crucial than PK Time in that spectator management is more important.

OVERALL RATING: I’ve been using this for around 6 years. I’ve read on message boards that the effect is “ballsy” and requires “nerves” to pull off. Frankly, I’ve never understood that view. I’m not criticizing it, only pointing out that I have a hard time empathizing. Currently, this effect, with various presentations, is in 5 or my theme shows, so I get a LOT of use out of it. The rating? A perfect 10.

A guy like Banachek realizes he has a good reputation and thus doesn’t release crap.:)

Until next week, send any questions, comments, etc. to


Cris Johnson