From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
This article is about the technique. For the
album by Joan Armatrading, see Sleight
of Hand (album). For the song by The Sinceros, see Pet
Rock (album). For the song by Pearl Jam, see Binaural
of hand, also known as prestidigitation
("quick fingers") or legerdemain
(from Middle French léger de main,
literally "light of hand"), is the set of techniques used
by a magician
(or card sharp)
to manipulate objects such as cards and coins secretly.
Sleight of hand is not a separate branch of
magic, but rather one of the means used by a magician to produce an
effect. It can be contrasted with the flourish,
where the magician intentionally displays skills, such as the
ability to cut cards one-handed, which is akin to juggling.
Advanced sleight of hand requires months or years of practice before
it can be performed proficiently in front of spectators. Sleight of
hand is mostly employed in close-up magic, but it can also be used
in stage magic. There are hundreds of different sleights at the
performer's disposal, but they can generally be classified into
groups such as switches, changes, and others.
There are several
stories about magicians using sleight of hand in real life, such as
when American illusionist
Copperfield said he used sleight of hand to fool a mugger
into thinking he had nothing in his pockets while carrying a
cellphone, passport and wallet.
Sleight, meaning dexterity or deceptiveness, comes from the
meaning cleverness, cunning, slyness.
Sleight of hand is often mistakenly written as slight of
hand or slide of hand.
Younger, in the 1st century CE, famously compared rhetoric
techniques and illusionist techniques.
of hand in close-up magic
Sleight of hand is often used in close-up
magic, performed with the audience close to the magician, usually
within three or four metres, possibly in physical contact. It often
makes use of everyday items as props, such as cards and coins.
The guiding principle of sleight-of-hand, articulated by legendary
close-up magician Dai
Vernon, is "be natural." A well-performed sleight looks
like an ordinary, natural and completely innocent gesture, change in
hand-position or body posture.
It is commonly
suggested that sleight of hand works because "the hand is
quicker than the eye" but this is usually not the case. In
addition to manual dexterity, sleight of hand depends on the use of
psychology, timing, misdirection, and natural choreography in
accomplishing a magical effect. Misdirection
is perhaps the most important component of the art of sleight of
hand. The magician choreographs his actions so that all spectators
are likely to look where he or she wants them to. More importantly,
they do not look where the performer does not wish them to look. Two
types of misdirection are timing and movement. Timing is simple: by
allowing a small amount of time to pass after an action, events are
skewed in the viewer's mind. Movement is a little more complicated. A
phrase often used is "A larger action covers a smaller action."
Care must be taken however to not make the larger action so big that
it becomes suspect. Another common misconception is that close-up
magic must utilize either sleight of hand or some kind of rigged
apparatus. However, as Henry Hay's Cyclopedia of Magic
"Many small tricks, especially card tricks, require
neither apparatus nor sleight of hand; much apparatus of the
"gimmick" type does not require sleight of hand. Illusions,
because they deal with objects too big to hold in the hand, are one
class of magic that seldom require sleight of hand – though
even here sleight of hand "forcing" may be called into
play. There are successful illusionists and apparatus conjurers who
can do no sleight of hand at all, but their difficulties and
restrictions deserve our sympathy rather than our scorn."
of sleight of hand
The magicians Penn
& Teller have been known, as part of their act, to explain
sleight of hand while demonstrating it with a performance by Teller,
appearing merely to dispose of an old cigarette and light a new
cigarette. Teller is, in fact, simply hiding and replacing the same
cigarette without ever putting it out. While Teller performs, Penn
describes what he is doing, and explains the eight principles of
sleight of hand.
The eight principles are:
Palm - To hold an object in an
apparently empty hand.
Switch - To secretly exchange one
object for another.
Ditch - To secretly dispose of an
Steal - To secretly obtain a
Load - To secretly move an object
to where it is needed.
Simulation - To give the
impression that something has happened that has not.
Misdirection - To lead attention
away from a secret move.
Display - To demonstrate an object that is really another.
This concept of eight principles of sleight of hand was created by
Penn & Teller for their effect and routine.
In The Trick Brain (1944), Dariel
Fitzkee identifies 19 fundamental effects in magic (p. 25).
Production (Appearance, creation,
Transposition (Change in location)
Transformation (Change in
appearance, character or identity)
Penetration (One solid through
Restoration (Making the destroyed
Animation (Movement imparted to
Anti-Gravity (Levitation and
change in weight)
Attraction (Mysterious adhesion)
Sympathetic Reaction (Sympathy
Invulnerability (Injury Proof)
Physical Anomaly (Contradictions,
Spectator Failure (Magicians'
Control (Mind over the inanimate)
Thought reading (Mental
perception, mind reading)
Thought Transmission (Thought
projection and transference)
Prediction (Foretelling the
Extra Sensory Perception (Unusual perception, other than
Fitzkee groups the 19 types of effects into 3 main divisions:
1.-12. belong to the physical group
13.-14. carry a suggestion of mind dominance
15.-19. are entirely mental in character
techniques can also be used to cheat in gambling
games, in street con
games such as the three-shell
game, or three-card
monte to steal, or, in some cases, to claim supernatural powers,
as in the performances of some 19th- and early 20th-century spirit
For this reason, the term "sleight of hand" frequently
carries negative associations of dishonesty and deceit, and is also
used metaphorically outside the above contexts. The techniques used
by gamblers, however, are often very different from those employed by
magicians; similarly, the techniques used by some psychics
or spirit mediums
are often different from those found in "straight" close-up
magic and mentalism.
The differences, however, are due to the different working conditions
and the different degrees of proximity between spectators and
performer; the same basic techniques and approaches are common in all
the areas of deception mentioned.
Performers often encourage their audience to believe they have
used sleight of hand when they are actually using another principle
or gimmick as the means of misdirecting the audience. For example, if
one is performing something as simple as the appearing/disappearing
coins using a thumb
tip, the trick lies in the gimmick, but the audience is led to
believe that the performer has done something very complex to hide
the coins. This directs them away from thinking of a method as simple
as the thumb tip.
collectione persuaseris. Sic ista sine noxa decipiunt quomodo
praestigiatorum acetabula et calculi, in quibus me fallacia ipsa
delectat. Effice ut quomodo fiat intellegam: perdidi lusum. Idem de
istis captionibus dico - quo enim nomine potius sophismata appellem?
-: nec ignoranti nocent nec scientem iuvant.
...persuade him by
means of subtle argumentation. Such quibbles are just as harmlessly
deceptive as the juggler's cup and dice, in which it is the very
trickery that pleases me. But show me how the trick is done, and I
have lost my interest therein. And I hold the same opinion about
these tricky word-plays; for by what other name can one call such
sophistries? Not to know them does no harm, and mastering them does
Hines. (2002). Pseudoscience and the Paranormal.
Prometheus Books. ISBN