Levels of Fooling

Logically speaking, being fooled by a trick should be binary. It either fools us or it doesn’t. Talking of one thing being more fooling than another is like saying that Mozart is more dead than John F. Kennedy. However, looking at it closely there are far more levels than at first sight.

To my mind, there are five levels of being fooled:

1) Not fooled. You watch a trick, and can see immediately how it is done.

2) Fooled in the moment, but thinking it through afterwards leads us to the secret.

3) After repeated views you can eventually piece together how it works.

4) Even after repeated views no idea without seeing the explanation.

5) Even after seeing the explanation you are still fooled


It takes a rare piece of magic to enter level 5. However, one clear example is “Matrix Express” by Luis Olmedo. Here it is:

What the what? That was my first reaction. And my second, third and fourth.  Some time later I was asked by Luis to translate his whole Pigmallion project from Spanish into English. It was only after painstakingly translating the entire thing that I finally learned how it worked. I then watched it some time later and was fooled all over again. The layering of different principles makes the routine so deceptive that even when you know what’s happening behind the scenes, your brain simply can’t keep up.

This is not a standard we can (or indeed should) strive for in all of our magic, and in fact most of the time, level two or three should suffice, particularly for lay audiences. However, when we are able to move it up a few more notches, the results can be quite special.