Test your memory

Jason Bourne never let a spot of amnesia stand in his way.

Can you touch-type, snowboard, or play an instrument without really thinking about it? Most people who repeat the same movements regularly in their work will know about slightly spooky ‘muscle memory’.

As a magician, I spend a lot of time practicing tricks until certain muscle movements feel natural.

Even when people forget everything else, they can often remember things they’ve ‘burned into’ their bodies through repetition.

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How to overcome stage fright

I saw a study recently that said the thing most people are most afraid of – more than getting ill or losing a loved one – is public speaking! Nerves can set in anytime, whether you’re an aspiring comic trying your first open mic gig or you’re a seasoned performer. Even professional performers get nervous sometimes. But when your heart starts racing and your throat tightens up, there are some things that really help.

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Can you explain this picture?

Spontaneous human combustion” (SHC) is the term for people catching fire without any explanation. Some people just seem to go up in flames in their sleep, leaving the bed or chair and rest of the room unburnt. It’s a scary idea, but a two-year research project in the 80s found that there are natural explanations for a lot of these – victims were drinkers and smokers, or fell asleep near fireplaces and candles. Other people believe methane in the body might be sparked by enzymes to start a fire inside the body, or that static electricity is to blame. Some even say that fat in the body works like a candle, the ‘wick effect’, burning through the hot parts of the body and leaving hands and feet untouched. It’s pretty gruesome and thankfully, extremely rare. Have a look at Larry Arnold’s book on the subject, and do a Google image search, if you have a strong stomach!

Haunted theatres

Actors are a superstitious and imaginative bunch, so it’s not really surprising there are so many stories of ghosts sightings in theatres. Some theatre folk even think it’s good luck to have a resident ghoul.

The Theatre Royal on Drury Lane in London supposedly has several spooks: the floating head of a decapitated clown, a pantomime dame who manifests as a smell of lavender, and a ‘man in grey’, who often appears on the opening nights of successful shows, and disappears into a room where a body was once found!

Haymarket’s Theatre Royal has a ghost actor that can be heard rehearsing his lines (witnessed by Dame Judi Dench, among others).

The pic above is the most recent, and possibly freakiest appearance of all, though. The Dominion theatre was built on the site of a brewery disaster that claimed many lives in 1914. Here’s closer view – he’s looking at you… Continue reading

How to control your dreams

Lucid dreaming techniques will help you fight back when Leonardo DiCaprio comes to steal your dreams

Have you ever gone through the whole process of getting ready for school or work only to realise you weren’t even awake?! If you want to check if you’re dreaming or even control what happens, you need to learn how to dream lucidly. Here’s how to improve your chances of having this amazing experience… Continue reading

How to perform surgery on your friends

It certainly looks gruesome, but remember folks: it’s NOT REAL!

Would you let someone operate on you with their bare hands, even if you were totally relaxed and told you wouldn’t feel a thing? Nor me – but weirdly, some people believe ‘psychic surgery’ is real. It’s one of the few daft practices that is genuinely dangerous; if the patient believed the practitioner really had removed a tumour, for example, they could miss out on life-saving surgery and get very ill indeed.

It can look quite convincing. But as realistic as the blood and guts might seem when the ‘surgeon’ apparently plunges their hand deep into the subject’s abdomen, I can assure you it’s all sleight of hand!

And it can make a powerful impression even if you know it’s faked. Watch the effect I had on some of the onlookers in this video:
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How to beat the house

Everyone knows the house always wins – but it doesn’t always play fair!

It’s not so common these days, but in the past corrupt casinos have attempted to rig roulette tables by putting magnets under certain numbers. If the dealer wanted to ensure no one won, he could swap the ball for a steel one to force it to land on his magnetic numbers. If bets were then placed on his magnetised numbers, he could simply swap the ball back! Other dealers would ‘spring’ the ball by creating a diversion and blowing it or ‘springing’ it off certain numbers, using tiny spring-loaded pins built into the wheel.

You can even buy devices that time the spin and predict where the ball will fall. (There’s a really cool book about how this was invented, called The Eudaemonic Pie).

But if you really want to beat the house, check this out – this is why people like me aren’t allowed in casinos!