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Perverse Magic

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Perverse Magic is a term coined by Charles Waller, in the book Up His Sleeve (1920), to describe a performance in which the magician acts surprised and unaware of how the magic around him is happening. The climax is often the opposite of what the audience expects.

It takes acting but the style is appropriate for many kinds of effects including those for close-up and platform.

Gerald Deutsch, on the Genii Forum in 2002, describe several forms with examples:

  • Something just happens without the performer's knowledge and without the performer wanting it to happen.
    • An example would be Cardini's act where fans of card, cigarettes or billiard balls keep appearing to the amazement and then the annoyance of Cardini. Or when Roy Benson is catching large white billiard balls when all of a sudden a red one appears and Benson looks in a book to see what happened.
  • The performer says he's going to do a trick but something else happens.
    • An example might be coming out with a bird in a birdcage and announcing that you're going to make the cage and the bird float when, to your surprise the cage and the bird vanishes.
  • The magician says he's going to do something; that something happens by itself.
    • An example might be the untying handkerchief
  • The magician does something and is caught, and when he confesses, it's not what the audience thought - nor what the magician thought either.
    • An example might be the Egg Bag where the magician pretends to put the egg under his arm and when caught he goes for the egg and when it's not there the magician is confused (and the audience fooled).
  • The magician and the audience are on different planes as to what each sees.
    • A "whimsical" version with an example might be the Invisible Deck routine.

Deutsch has been posting for many years on the forum with numerous example effects.[1]