The Coin in the Bottle
Posted by Pop Haydn
“One of the strongest magic effects from before the turn of the 20th century is the Coin in the Bottle. The story of this trick is that the performer takes a beer bottle from a spectator at the bar and empties it, and then lets the spectator examine it again. The performer takes back the bottle and hands the spectator a half dollar to examine.
He hands the empty bottle to the spectator so that the spectator is holding the bottle tightly by the neck. The performer takes the half dollar from the spectator’s other hand and then slams it against the bottom of the bottle.
It visibly jumps inside the bottle!
The spectator can look at the coin in the bottle and see it clearly. It won’t come out the opening of the bottle because it is too big! It rattles and is obviously real metal. The performer takes it back and gives it a shake, and the coin falls out of the bottom of the bottle and onto the table.
Everything can then be examined again.
To witness this done well for the first time is to have the mind completely blown apart. It is truly stupefying. The reason for this is that the argument for the impossible is so clear and strong—when the witness tells the story, he will be easily able to defend it. It is so clear from the memory, from the visuals of the effect itself what the argument for the impossible would be.
The clear violation of everything the spectator believes about how solid objects behave makes the event truly remarkable. Truly astonishing.
The above description is totally accurate to what the spectator will remember he has seen.
The performer has given the spectator everything he needs to give the following description and defense of his story of the impossible from the challenges of those to whom he tells it.
He starts to tell his story about meeting the magician and immediately begins to get challenged:
“I was at the bar last night and this guy put a half dollar in a beer bottle!”
“No way! It must have been a trick bottle.”
“I drank a beer out of that bottle! I examined it afterwards, too!”
“Maybe it just looked like it was in the bottle.”
“It was really in the bottle! I was holding the bottle by the neck! I could see it inside plain as could be and it was too big to even come out of the bottle! I could shake the bottle and hear it in there!”
“Then it must have been a trick coin.”
“I examined the coin. It was just a fifty-cent piece.”
“Maybe he switched coins on you.”
“Maybe he did, but the coin came through the bottom of the bottle—I was holding the other end. What kind of a trick coin could go through the bottom of the bottle?”
“I’d have to see that…Do you think it was real magic?”
“Of course not! It was some kind of a trick! But you tell me—what kind of trick was it—what could it possibly have been?”
That is the magic story—the story of what the magician did—and that is the real point of magic as art. The goal is to create a false argument for the impossible so that the spectator feels he has witnessed something impossible, even though he knows it isn’t true. Then we must give them the evidence they need to defend their story.
The spectator knows that somehow, he is the victim of a trick, but that trick must really be amazing and wonderful! That is because the spectator isn’t just unsure how the illusion may have been accomplished, he can’t think of any possible way for it to have been done! Not any way at all!
It is this personal experience of the impossible that is the story the spectator will tell others. It is the point of magic.
The spectator will consider it a remarkable experience that he witnessed, not a story being enacted for him as it would be had he watched a play about Harry Potter. It will be his experience—one that he feels to be remarkable and that he will want to tell others about.
It exists as a false memory in the spectator’s mind, for every time he goes over the experience, he will run head on into the false premises the performer has planted for him—the argument of the trick.
The conclusion of that argument is always the same thing: NO POSSIBLE WAY!”
~ from Pop Haydn’s Magic Castle Lecture Notes
About Pop HaydnI am not originally from the 21st Century myself, but have been stuck here by accident--not entirely my fault--with a bunch of other maroons from another very different time and place... Nevertheless, my companions and I love it here and just like everyone else we are just trying to get by in this exciting and progressive era. With a variety show of steampunk-oriented magic, comedy and music, Pop's company entertains and sells a few bottles of Amazing Miracle Oil, Wonder Elixer, or Magnetized Water.
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