X-Ray by Steve Shufton and Ben Harris

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X-Ray by Steve Shufton and Ben Harris

Postby CalebWiles » Nov 23rd, '10, 19:00

Here I am with another Ben Harris review. This guy certainly has a knack for releasing material that gets the magic fraternity talking. For better or worse, his recent releases seem to have sparked serious debate. X-Ray is an interesting plot by Ben with a method by Steve Shufton. Here’s the dealer ad that describes how the routine appears to the audience.

The Effect:
The performer removes a deck from the case and gives it a complete shuffle. He thumbs through the deck to demonstrate that all the cards are different, and the deck is complete. Placing the deck on the table, he instructs the spectator that he will leave the room. While the performer is gone, the spectator is to cut the deck anywhere with a simple cut, turn the card cut to face up, memorize the card, and put the cut off portion back on the deck, leaving the selection face up. The spectator is then to take the deck, put it in the case and seal the case, leave the cased deck on the table, and signal the magician to return to the room. The performer leaves the room, the spectator does as instructed and the performer returns.

The performer explains that he has developed an uncanny ability to see the hidden-almost a type of X-Ray vision. Without ever touching the case, the performer focuses an intense gaze on the boxed deck. Much to the astonishment of onlookers, he reveals the name of the card that has been inverted!

But now things get even crazier. He again focuses his gaze on the box, and finally calls out a number. Again, he never touches the box. He instructs the spectator to take the cards out of the box, and deal the cards one at a time onto the table face up, counting for each card dealt. Tension builds as the spectator nears the number called. When the number is reached, there is the spectator’s face up card! Not only has the performer accurately perceived the chosen card in a deck sealed in a box, but he named the actual position of the card as well!

Difficulty: 1/5

Many have accused Ben in the past of cleverly wording his advertisements to make you believe that the method is more revolutionary than it really is. I would have to agree that he is the master of saying just the right things to make you want to plunk down your money. This isn’t necessarily wrong, but it has caused some to think twice before purchasing his latest “miracle.” In this case, however, everything appears just as it reads.

It’s the kind of thing that you want to buy just to find out the secret. If you do, you’ll spend the first 13 or so pages reading hype for the trick you’ve already bought. While it is a little annoying, I think this is a worthwhile approach. Ben really wants you to appreciate the effect before you learn the method. After all, that’s all the audience will be aware of.

There are plenty of good things to say about X-Ray: it’s hands off, there are no complicated calculations, the deck may be used for other effects, and there are no gimmicks. The effect does require some preparation; not a lot, mind you, but it’s something that you’ll want to setup in private and not in front of the audience. There is mention in the eBook of a way to do this impromptu, but I wouldn’t make your purchasing decision based on that as it requires a large amount of “toying” with the deck as you chat. Once the trick is over, however, the cards can be used for any of your other routines, so it’s not like you have to dedicate a deck to this one trick.

The method itself is easy to do and nearly surefire, but it is possible for the effect to fail. I can’t imagine it happening often, but you need to know that the chance is there. The author suggests carrying an ID with you whenever you perform this. That way, if the X-Ray bit doesn’t work, you can pull out the ID and talk about having reversed a card in your own deck earlier. This makes at least some sense because the spectator has just reversed a card in the other deck.

One other caveat: you don’t simply come back into the room and name the card and number. There is more to it than that. I won’t reveal what it is here, but some may see this as a potential weak spot in the trick. If you are familiar with some of Ben’s other recent work, you may know what I’m talking about. At any rate, the application of the principle in this instance is well covered just by virtue of the effect itself. As a person who doesn’t usually like to rely on this technique, I would feel comfortable using it in this context.

I think this is a very practical approach to this kind of effect. You will have to decide on your own if this is the kind of thing that you would like to perform for your audiences. If so, I think you’ll find the method to be a good one. At the very least, this may be something you’d like to pick up to fool all of your friends at the next magic club meeting.


-Available for $16.95 from http://www.lybrary.com

For more reviews and information on my magic, visit http://www.CalebWilesMagic.com

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Postby Mr_Grue » Dec 7th, '10, 09:31

I broadly agree with the above. Following the Crossroads/Run Silent, Run Deep controversy it would be a shame for people to overlook this effect thinking it's... um... similarly procedural.

There's nothing new under the sun, and there's certainly nothing new in the elements of the method. I doubt many cardies or mentals will buy this and be astounded by what they're getting in terms of method, but it's all about the effect, baby, and the effect is impossible. I bought this the moment I saw it come up on Wizard Product Review, had some inkling of the method (I got close to the solution), and none of it disappointed.

As Caleb says, the effect isn't surefire, but it's close, and a perfect effect for that "one last thing". I've not started performing it yet (so take whatever I say with a necessary pinch) but I'm considering adding the safety net of a memorized stack so, should I miss with the card, I can still follow through on the position. I'm sure people will be able to come up with outs to suit if out and out failure is not an option. Personally I find failure kind of liberating. :D

Simon Scott

If the spectator doesn't engage in the effect,
then the only thing left is the method.

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Postby Lenoir » Dec 8th, '10, 11:15

Rather than shell out for this straight away I theorized some possible methods and arrived at one that works quite well. I'll buy it tonight and see if we are on the same wavelength.

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Postby Demitri » Dec 9th, '10, 20:54

Like Grue, I also purchased this immediately after watching the Wizard Product review.

It's a very strong piece, and while I think it's priced just a tad high, I think the purchase was definitely worth it.

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Postby Dominic Rougier » Dec 9th, '10, 21:11

Just to hijack this to mention another Ben Harris product:

Mr_Grue wrote:I broadly agree with the above. Following the Crossroads/Run Silent, Run Deep controversy it would be a shame for people to overlook this effect thinking it's... um... similarly procedural.

Based on your recommendation earlier in the year I've performed CRACAAN an awful lot, and indeed used the Silent Running method with it.

Magician's hate it. So far at least, reactions from real people have been either good or great - it's never fallen flat, despite the apparent weirdness of the method.

In fact, because of Crossroads, I'm now unhappy with any ACAAN that doesn't allow you to hand out the cased deck before you start - and I'm willing to put up with a lot of compromises to get to that condition.

It's not perfect, it's possibly over-priced, it's certainly over-hyped, but it doesn't, in my opinion, justify the bile and hatred spewed towards it.

Back to your regularly scheduled review.

Your reality, sir, is lies and balderdash, and I'm delighted to say that I have no grasp of it whatsoever.
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Postby Shufton » Dec 11th, '10, 01:38

Many Thanks. X-Ray was devised by yours truly - Ben thought of the magnificent plot, which he had already solved as a stage effect. This has become one of my all-time favorite performance peices - it hits hard.

I must also give thanks for the kindness regarding CRACAAN, as that was the contribution I gave Ben for the publication of CrossRoads - utilizing his CrossRoads technique. It's another favorite, and a true killer. One lovely thing about both of these effects is that they are completely hands-off. Once the deck is handed to the spec, you don't touch it again. That makes for some strong stuff.

Thanks again for the good words! You never know, when releasing a product, how the general community will receive it. I receive email almost every day from those performing X-Ray - and it feels very good.

Happy holidays to all-


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Postby CalebWiles » Dec 16th, '10, 14:57

Lenoir wrote:Rather than shell out for this straight away I theorized some possible methods and arrived at one that works quite well. I'll buy it tonight and see if we are on the same wavelength.

Just curious, Lenoir. Was your method similar?

I, too, have done this with a few effects. Sometimes what you come up with is BETTER than what you just bought.


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Postby me_simon » Jul 31st, '11, 10:25

I was procrastinating yesterday and watching old Wizard Product Reviews and came across the one where they reviewed X-Ray. I was impressed, bought it and here's my review - my first review for Talk Magic. :)

by Ben Harris & Steve Shufton
$16.95 (~£10 as at July 2011)

The Effect
The performer shuffles the deck, squares it up and tells the spectator to cut the deck, look at the card on top of the cut pile, turn that card over, return the top cards to the deck and put the cards back in the case. The performer leaves the room (or turns around) whilst the spectator does this. With the cards out of sight, the performer returns and using their new-found x-ray ability not only identifies which card was selected but at which position in the deck the card is.


Because there is still part of my brain that believes magic is real and the key to magical abilities is hidden somewhere in a book, when I started reading through the method I was a little sad. "But..... I wanted x-ray vision! :cry:" I sobbed.

I also wasn't convinced it would work (again because I'm 2% idiot and believed only real x-ray vision would be the answer). Well, after reading through the ebook, I got myself ready with cynicism oozing through my pores and started testing it.

Sure enough, it didn't work. At all. Failure after failure. Then I realised I am in fact 4% idiot as I'd misread the method. So I took a deep breath and went through the routine again. HIT. Tried again. HIT. Tried again. HIT. Again. HIT. Again. HIT. I started giggling like a school girl. Even when I tried to deliberately sabotage it, it worked.

The only time it didn't work was when my 4% idiot came into play again and I'd mucked about and forgot how to count. With my numeracy back to normal, it was working smoothly again. I'm still at the stage where I'm amazed by it even though I know the method.

The ebook also comes with alternatives from Richard Busch which offers different ideas if you hadn't already set your mind racing with the possibilities.

Overall = 9 / 10
X-ray has the potential to fail and no doubt when it does it's a bit of a shame but I like the tricks that aren't guaranteed every time. I like to look forward to the end as well. :) And the joy of mentalism is you can always fall back on the "this doesn't work with everyone" excuse if you modify the narrative a little. But I would like to stress, it's not a 50/50 gamble. I'd say there's a 2% chance of failure. If that. For the last 24 hours I've kept the deck on my desk and every time I've walk passed, I've done the routine and so far not a single fail.

What I love about X-Ray is that it's so simple yet can be used in conjunction with a couple of other mentalism card routines so you achieve the same(ish) result but with different methods to really crush any possible theories the spectator might have.

When you break down the cost as £10 for the ebook and £2 for a deck of bicycles, you're laughing. £12 for a killer routine is a bargain. Not to mention you've still got a deck of cards to be used for other routines too!!

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