Believe it or not, this random person was never a hired audience plant or 'stooge' and they were genuinely chosen at random. However, when they claimed they could not see the secret, this was a lie. As the audience member walked up the stairs to the stage, the magician would whisper in their ear, “please don't tell the crowd the secret and please don't touch the wires”. The lady was suspended with an array of 50 very fine wires and a special mechanical device which allowed the hoop to apparently pass around her body. From a distance and behind the dazzling footlights of the stage, the wires were invisible. However, close up, they could be seen.
At the time, magicians who new the secret of this levitation were outraged by Thurston exposing the trick to a layperson, especially Howard's old friend and mentor Harry Kellar, who had given him the secret of the levitation. However, this was a compromise, by covertly revealing the secret to one person, the whole trick was much stronger and impressive for the rest of his audience. Bizarrely, even though Thurston performed the trick multiple times a day, most days of the week, for more almost a quarter of a century, there are no known examples of any audience member refusing to play along with the magician's request not to reveal the secret.
Surely, there must have been at least a couple of people who had this experience who found the magician's claim to be the “World's Greatest”, pretentious, and therefore wanted to hurt him. Among these audience members must have been a great variety of people with different personalities, some jerks, some kindhearted. Thurston made himself very vulnerable and gave these spectators a huge amount of power, they could have easily embarrassed him, right at the climax of the show. You might expect that after the huge number of performances that there would have been at least one newspaper article titled something along the lines of, “America's Greatest Magician humiliated during his Grand Finale”. Such a juicy headline would have been too irresistible for any Journalist to ignore. In fact, Thurston was not taking a huge gamble, there was absolutely no risk. When he showed the audience member the wires, he was not merely exposing the secret of an illusion, but also his humanity. The magician was non-verbally communicating the idea that, “I think of you as an equal. If you don't believe me, go ahead and destroy my reputation. I need your help in order to create something incredible”. The inconvenient truth that all magicians (including myself a Sydney Magician) must face is that the secrets behind our performances are almost always much less impressive than the illusions they create and are often very simple to understand. Mostly we are just guarding an empty safe. This is not to say that magicians don't work hard or spend a great amount of time studying and practicing their performances, rather that this skill is not a very profound rare talent beyond the reaches of mere mortals. For audiences to enjoy a magic show they must voluntarily give the magician power. If an audience member does not like the performer and has decided that they cannot be fooled by the magician's tricks, then they may be much harder to deceive, but even if the person is, there is little chance they will enjoy the experience. For people to enjoy a magic act, the magician must not let them think he (or her) believes he is superior to them. Under the veil of being the “Greatest Magician”, Thurston just an ordinary man who wanted to make his audiences happy. The exaggerated claims in his advertising were simply a means to this end. Surely if someone believed they were seeing the “World's Best Magic Show”, they would enjoy it much more than they would otherwise. Perhaps the magician's advertising seems quite narcissistic and socio-pathic but such behaviour was a necessary moral compromise in the highly competitive and anarchistic live entertainment industry, with literally all acts using such tactics. His fame undeniably allowed him to entertain enormous numbers of people. While he was incredibly famous for many decades, when Thurston eventually passed away, he was not a wealthy man because he made numerous unfortunate investments. His exposure of the levitation illusion, combined with the fact that literally everybody played along with his ruse, demonstrates that voluntarily giving other people great power over you is a formidable force for generating trust. It is a means of creating mutually beneficial relationships with an equal balance of power. It is also just as effective for restoring broken relationships. On the other hand, this is only true if power is given from a position of authority, otherwise, power cannot be voluntarily given up, as it was never possessed in the first place. Someone may be powerless and genuinely desire to help the people around them, it will simply be difficult for them to persuade others of this fact. For this reason, the powerless are very entitled to be selfish, nobody should settle for being treated as less than innately equal to the human beings around them and everyone deserves to love themselves. It is also important to remember that in this situation, you are not just acting egotistical for your own benefit, but for the gain of the people around you.
Deep down, we all want to work together for our mutual benefit. Some people just have more trouble trusting the people around them, perhaps because they are used to being exploited and misunderstood and they therefore interpret kindness as weakness. Thurston understood this fact and therefore went to great lengths to demonstrate the sincerity of his generosity and the fact that he was not giving from a position of superiority although he was certainly a powerful individual. How much power someone possesses tells us nothing about their innate worth as a human being. If we can trust those around us, generosity undeniably makes us all stronger than we could be individually.
Julian is a magician in Sydney helping you make the most of your special events. He has performed many hundreds of magic shows over the last 11 years. Call him on 0437896344 or email firstname.lastname@example.org