The Sixth Annual Shalom Blog Magic Contest

It’s time once again for this blog’s annual magic contest!

So here is the challenge this year:

What are the two (three is optional) most memorable magical effects you’ve ever seen? Tell us the circumstances, and why you were so impressed by those effects. That’s it. In your entry, see if you can put the reader in your place, and see if you can transmit some of that feeling that you experienced.

First prize is first choice from the terrific grab bag of magic books I’ve put together; second prize is second choice from the grab bag; and third prize, in a parallel, numerically pleasing manner, is third choice from the grab bag. The items in the grab bag are all commercial books, at least one of which, I guarantee, you will be very happy to have.

All are welcome to participate. And even if you were a past winner before, feel free to participate again as long as you were not a 1st, 2nd, or 3rd place winner last year.

And in the spirit of everyone being a winner, I’ll ask all entrants to allow me to make up a pdf file which includes their entry. This pdf will NOT BE SOLD, but will be offered only as a free download to all those who entered.

Send your entries please to

Make sure to put the word CONTEST in the subject line

Deadline Monday,  November 1, 11:59 PM. In case of a tie, earlier entries get preference.

I’m looking forward to hearing from you!

Fifth Annual Contest Results!

standing man figurine

Photo by Engin Akyurt on

And drumroll, please. Here are the names of the winners of the Fifth Annual Shalom Blog Magic Contest. The contest this time was a repeat of the very first one: describe three actions or ideas that have most improved your magic.

The first-place winner was Dennis Mayne. Dennis’s entertaining entry described a trio of intriguing, uncommonly referenced mindsets and preparations that help him get ready  as a working street performer. Dennis chose The Vernon Touch as his prize.

David Kaplan was the second-place winner. David spoke of the wisdom he acquired along the way to becoming a part-time professional, and what it took him to get to the next level. He chose Blomberg Laboratories as his prize.

Third place went to John Allen. John talked about some of the realizations he came to when trying to integrate his magic interests with the rest of his life, and what helped to make that transition less bumpy. He chose Maximum Entertainment as his prize.

And finally Honorable Mention to Rick Benstock for his iconoclastic advice for amateurs.

Thanks again to all who entered. It’s always a treat for me to read what you have to say.  Sometime next week, everyone who participated will receive a pdf compilation of all the entries that were sent in.



Contest Update

bookcase bookshelves chairs empty

Photo by Ingo Joseph on


I came home after four days of being away and The Horror, The Horror!

Whole shelves of my magic items were completely empty.

“Stop, thief!” I cried. “Someone’s stolen my very best magic books, DVDs and tricks.”

Just then my wife appeared. “Jack, stop having a cow. Everything’s all right. You’re having a magic contest, right?”

“Uh, yes,” I said confused.

“Well, I know how much you respect the readers of your blog, so I put the best stuff aside for your contest.”

“But, but, but…” I stuttered. “That’s my favorite…best…”

“No complaining. I’ve got your prize grab bag set up for you. And who knows there may be even more to come. Now tell everyone to enter soon, timeliness counts and the contest is ending soon. And make sure you tell them that they can find out all the details here:

Anyone can enter. See, I’ve done you a great favor.”

I nodded half giddy, as I went through the list. Bye, bye, favorite magic items, it’s been good to know ye.

The contest magic prize grab bag includes:


Milo & Roger
The Vernon Touch
Blomberg Laboratories
The Collected Almanac

John Luka’s L.I.N.T
Korem Without Limits

Tricks and DVDs

Charlie Justice’s Prohibition
Sanders’ Tagged
Jon Allen’s The Vanishing
Duvivier’s Magic Vol 3
Striving’s Sight Unseen Case
Scott Alexander’s The Needles
Peter Eggink’s Phantom

with more to come!

Enter now at

Fourth Annual Contest Results!

art backlit dark dawn

Photo by Matheus Bertelli on


A big thanks to everyone who participated in the contest. It was really enjoyable reading the entries. The assignment was to elucidate what you considered the three greatest tricks in Our Magic.

At first, I wasn’t exactly sure what my criteria was going to be in judging the entries, but as I was reading them, it soon became clear that the best ones were the ones whose descriptions were so compelling that they made me say to myself, “Hey, that’s a trick that I want to go out and perform right now.”

The first-prize winner was Sean-Dylan Riedweg whose entry described exactly why he thought each of the three tricks he nominated were winners, and he also provided meticulous citations for each effect. Sean-Dylan chose Semi-Automatic Card Tricks Vol III by Steve Beam as his prize.

The second-prize winner was Abe Carnow. Abe made a very strong case for a trick which most of us have in our drawers, but disdain to use during performance. Sometimes we forget how good some of the most common ideas in magic are. He  chose Stewart James: The First Fifty Years as his prize. We advise Mr. Carnow to get into good physical shape with a few bench presses before attempting to lift that weighty tome.

Third Prize went to Steven Go. Steven also advocated for a trick that most would consider very commonplace, but Steven provided a very wonderful description of the effect of the trick on his young daughter. He really brought to life what a special moment was created between the two of them because of that trick. He chose the DVD Time is Money by Asi Wind as his prize.

And finally Honorable Mention to Steven Bryant for his incredible poetic entry, which was part of an even larger Magic Castle New Year’s magical poetic ode.

Thanks again to all who entered. Sometime next week, everyone who participated will receive a pdf compilation of all the entries that were sent in.

Okay, rest up and if there’s enough demand, we’ll do this again next year.


Magic Contest Results!

A few weeks ago I proposed a contest (you can read about it here), and to my surprise people actually entered it, just like in the old cereal box-top days. Anyway, the contest was really just an excuse to hear people’s thoughts and drum up a little interest, but actually, it was quite a pleasant (if exhausting) experience. The premise of the contest was this: write about three things that changed or improved your magic…

The entries covered an eclectic and diverse range of ideas, and it was ridiculously hard to choose the winners. After much cogitation, I reached a decision and here are the names of the winners:

First Prize: Joe McKay of Durham City, England. He chose Worlds Beyond by Paul Curry from the magic grab bag for his prize.

Second Prize: Danny Doyle of Missouri and parts South. From the magic grab bag he chose The Lost Works of Bro. John Hamman DVDs

Third Prize: David Jelinek of Ye Olde Upper East Side in New York City. He chose Harry Lorayne’s Deck-Sterity.

And really, Honorable Mention to everyone else who entered! My choices were necessarily the ideas that, selfishly, would improve my own magic. But there were lots of great ideas that could benefit many. Everyone who entered will be sent today a pdf compilation of all the entries. I think this is the best prize of all.

Some readers expressed profound sorrow, regret, mental anguish, and weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth over not getting their entries in on time; so in the spirit of something or other, I have the following proposition: Go back and check the contest rules, submit an entry, and I’ll put you in the next edition of the pdf. You’ll be on the email list to get a copy of the new compilation whenever I bring it out again. You won’t be eligible this time for the other prizes, but you’ll enjoy the pdf. You’re on your honor to submit something that you’ve spent some time thinking about, and that you think could be valuable for others, not just something dashed off. Of course, those who already entered will get a copy of the new edition as well.

Here’s a bonus for readers of this blog: The following is just the first part of Joe McKay’s winning entry:


Most magicians perform tricks and not miracles.

What is the difference? Well, the real miracles in magic often taken quite a bit more preparation.

For example you may have to plan the miracle a few days in advance.

Or perhaps the miracle doesn’t even take much preparation. But in these cases, it may not work every time. So some other effect will need to be ready as an “out”.

Or perhaps the miracle cannot be performed all the time, but only when the conditions are just right.

Attempting miracles does have drawbacks. But they are not drawbacks that should bother the 99% of magicians who do not perform professionally. Since you have total control over your performing conditions.

And even for those who do perform professionally—it is worth it for that special occasion. I remember reading about Ricky Jay making a named card appear inside a wine bottle at a dinner party when asked to do “something special” for an unimpressed guest. He also once made a giant block of ice appear when discussing his obsession with the magic of Malini with a newspaper journalist who was equally fascinated by the work of Malini. That trick reduced the woman to tears.

‪I often wonder why magicians are so lazy? For some reason, most magicians are just too lazy to tear up a dollar bill and post it to a friend abroad in order to do attempt a miracle. (See The Jerx).

‪Magicians are often more concerned with the practicalities of the method than with the effect that will be created in the spectator’s mind. As such, whenever a trick requires a bit too much “work” they shy away from it in order to find a trick which is easier, simpler or more fun to perform, even if it means performing a trick that is not as strong.

‪This is a trap many magicians fall into. I will mention some more “miracles” so as to give some pointers to those rare effects scattered through the magic literature that attempt something truly miraculous.

Some examples of effects I like would be an impossibly clean bill divination that Oliver Meech published. It is an adaptation of the legendary “bill in cash register” scam. When the stars are aligned, you can walk up to somebody, ask them to pull out a five-dollar bill, and tell them the serial number without ever coming close to the bill.

Or take a trick like “Angel Cake” by Paul Harris. You take a five-dollar bill off a spectator and turn it into a twenty dollar bill. And you let them keep the money. Plus, the magician is none the poorer thanks to the sneaky method involved.

Then again why should this matter?

Personally, I think it is worth giving away nineteen bucks in order to create the impression of real magic when performing for somebody special. Take a one-dollar bill—turn it into a twenty-dollar bill. Hand it back. And then walk off. An investment of nineteen dollars to create a memory that will last a lifetime.

John Kennedy has a wonderful floating matchbox routine in which a match lights itself on the box as they float in mid-air. The match then floats up to light the cigarette. Yeah, you say, but I don’t smoke and the method is awkward and rather annoying.

So what? Why should you let irrelevant concerns get in the way of a miracle?

David Harkey has an incredible close-up effect involving a torn up dollar bill reappearing inside a light bulb inside a lamp. The light bulb is then smashed open to reveal the dollar bill. Remarkably the light bulb is then restored and placed back inside the lamp—and the lamp is switched back on and shining light again. A true miracle. Yet most magicians looking at the method will have sighed and then turned the page in search of something simpler.

Or take an effect like “Freak Out” which was published a couple of years ago in MAGIC Magazine. You lay a card face down on the table, and have the spectator name any card.

You then show that the card on the table is the freely chosen card. It really is that clean.

However the method is so bizarre (and shocking and offensive) that most magicians will shy away from ever performing the trick, even though it will bring them closer to a genuine miracle than just about any other trick in magic.

Or take “Murder By Mail” by Kenton Knepper. You predict the death of somebody. It is that simple. This effect is so strong you run a fair chance of being questioned by the police.

TA Waters has a wonderful effect where the image of a spectator vanishes from a Polaroid photograph that she herself posts to her own house.

Lubor Fiedler has an effect where a spectator disappears whilst looking in a mirror. Paul Harris has a trick where you convince somebody he is now invisible. Strange effects with methods that just might not work. But what if they do? Isn’t it worth having at least one ‘moon shot’ in your repertoire?

If you have a miracle that may only come off one time in ten, isn’t it worth having that on hand? Since if you perform a hundred times—that means ten miracles! And you can be sure that the story of such miracles will spread to many of those who never saw it.

Most magicians would rather work on the next trick involving that sleight they just mastered, rather than try and capture some of the inspiration that made them want to be a magician in the first place, back when they thought anything could be possible with magic.

And so, if I had a piece of advice for you to take away, it would be for you to find a strong piece of magic that has a method which is so inconvenient or so “location dependent” that you may never get a chance to perform it. But in doing so, you will give yourself a chance of one day pulling off a miracle. And having that possibility in your repertoire will act as a constant reminder as to why it is you fell in love with magic in the first place.

Joe McKay

Thanks again to all who participated! Again, for those who would like to be part of the next edition, and get a copy of the pdf in the process, here are the contest rules.