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“Is that your card?” Trying magic with MagicSoc

Image credit: Wikimedia
Image credit: Wikimedia
Image credit: Wikimedia

When you’re next sitting in a big lecture hall on campus, have a look above. Is there a playing card on the ceiling?

If you find yourself staring at a ten of spades, chances are that members of MagicSoc are responsible. Founded in 2011, MagicSoc brings together student magicians, teaching various tricks to novices and experts alike.

I’ve marvelled at magic for some time, but my previous attempts at it have been so bad that my audiences have been more mesmerised by my decision to continue the performance without giving up than by the trick itself. However, at Freshers’ Fair this year I was bowled over by the display of magic on show from MagicSoc: Rubik’s cubes solved in seconds, pens appearing from thin air, finding cards from invisible decks and more. I decided to start again and give magic a proper go…

The first day’s agenda: three tricks using props, cards and your bare hands. I began with a coin trick, something that turned out to be a struggle. I discovered that, in comparison to the others, I have very tough skin on the palms of my hands. For a moment, I wondered that my magical exploits were over before they had even begun. Tom, the leading magician of the society, was reassuring. “Anyone can do magic,” he told us. There’s no ‘magic gene’ with which a lucky few are born. It’s accessible to everyone, whether you can already pull rabbits out of hats or you’ve never held a pack of cards before.

A key element of magic is misdirection: making the audience look at one thing while you are doing another. This point could not have been better proven when Toby, the chairman of the society, fooled ten people in ten seconds with just his hands (I’ve managed to fool everyone with the same trick since!). A lot of magic relates to psychology. Learning magic tricks, you get a better understanding of how easily the human mind is distracted and how, by acquiring our concentration and interest, magicians can do all manner of things without us noticing.

Second to this is nerves. In the Courtyard afterward, despite Toby’s encouragement, I couldn’t muster the strength to perform my first card trick to an assembly of Nouse‘s finest journalists before us. Like many other skills, magic tricks don’t come immediately. Even the rudimentary tricks require careful practice. But most magic tricks don’t require the elaborate preparation that would turn beginners away. Like the other first-timers, I left the session flexing my hands and shuffling my new deck, eager to learn the next tricks next week.

So how did those cards end up on the ceiling? Magic.

The Magic Society meets weekly at 8pm in the Physics block.