Mandan News

Hiding in plain sight

Observations of a news editor
By Dustin White

After graduating from high school, my career choice was to become a magician. I spent the entirety of my graduation money on tricks, allowing me to discover that it probably would be helpful to talk to an actual magician before wasting my money on products that were useless. I also discovered that magicians don’t do tricks, they do effects.

Recovering from my misstep, I began excelling in the “art” of illusion. My eyes also became open to the fact many people often overlook what they are seeing.

While performing, this observation opened many doors. It allowed me to produce objects, seemingly magically, that were hidden in plain sight. At the same time, it allowed me to give the impression that I was reading a person’s mind, when in fact, they were just responding to the stimuli that I presented.

One of my favorite effects to perform involved a person choosing five playing cards, at what seemed like random. After, what I thought was an amazing performance, but most likely was a horrible case of overacting, I would name off the five cards in which the individual was holding.

The only challenge was to make the effect seem believable; to give the impression that I was actually reading their mind. Unbeknownst to the participants, there was no free choice in which cards they picked, as I had made them pick the cards I previously memorized.

For those who are not aware of what is actually happening, the presentation is wonderful … or maybe even a little frustrating to that person who is trying to figure it out. Once one knows the actual method though, that wonder is shattered, as everything had been in plain sight.

Reflecting on those performances, I have come to realize that quite often, there are observations, hiding in plain sight, that can either lead to wonder, or disappointment.
For me, when I watch a movie, knowing what goes on behind the scenes, ruins much of the enjoyment for me. I don’t want to know that stunt doubles are doing all of the actual action in the film.

At the same time, it can be enlightening. When I first learned that Neil Patrick Harris, as well as being an actor, was also an accomplished magician, his performances became wonderful. It was a way for me to relate to him.

On a more serious note, the disappointment from learning what is actually going on can be worse then having a movie ruined. While I used these effects to entertain people, many have also used them to scam innocent individuals. Instead of instilling wonder, they simply drain their participants bank accounts, leaving them disillusioned.

Often, those who fall victim to such individuals are already in need of some help. They are grieving the death of a loved one, or are having financial trouble. These individuals are looking for help, and believe that they are finding such in a charlatan.

It isn’t a hopeless situation though. Becoming aware of one’s surroundings can go a very long way. Paying attention to the wrong guesses, and the mistakes possible con-artist make can save one a lot of grief in the long run.