3 Shell Game–Joe Stuthard

3 shell stuthard

It appears that I spoke too soon a couple of posts ago when I said I was going to post the last picture of Joe Stuthard selling magic tricks. Well, I just found another one. He is demonstrating and selling the three shell game trick. This is quite a difficult trick to do and I am quite sure that not a single person who purchased it ever learned to do it properly. Still, at least  you can see Joe in all his glory once again! 

3 Shell Game–Joe Stuthard

More about Joe Stuthard


I promised to write a bit more about Joe Stuthard. Well here you are: I first came across him when I was 14 years old at the Schoolboys and Girls exhibition in Olympia (or was it Earls Court) exhibition centre.  Here is the tale as recounted in my memoir, “The Lives of a Showman”

I continued wandering through the exhibition, turned a corner and lo and behold, there was a magician! There was a big sign saying, “JOE STUTHARD-THE CANADIAN FUNATIC.” He had a clock sign with movable hands and another sign saying, “next demonstration at……” He had a very large crowd around him and he was in the middle of a demonstration. And what a demonstration it was! He was absolutely superb. I was stunned watching him and I remember thinking, “I want to be as good as that!” He did the magic mouse trick and it was absolutely unbelievable. It scurried across his hands, and in and out of a glass. I could have sworn it was alive. Then he demonstrated the Svengali deck. It was the greatest performance of card tricks I have ever seen. I have seen many magicians perform card tricks since, including the greatest names in magic, but I have never seen anything to equal what I saw as a fourteen year old kid, standing in a crowd at an exhibition watching a pitchman performing with a trick deck. For two hours I was enthralled.

When there was a lull in the crowd, I plucked up the courage to speak to this (to my mind) master magician. I certainly wasn’t going to go up to him, announce that I too was a magician, and offer to show him a trick like I did to the poor Thomas De La Rue man. Still, I desperately wanted the great Joe Stuthard to know that I was a conjurer. I was too shy to tell him directly so I tried to be subtle. “Do you sell fanning powder?” I asked. This is a special powder that magicians use to make a deck of cards slippery and easier to manipulate.  Of course, I knew full well that he didn’t sell the stuff but I wanted him to know that I was a fellow magician. He smiled and said, “No, we only sell the mouse and the cards.” I said, “OK” and walked away having made my point.

I never did buy anything that day, but I knew I had seen a great magician.

More about Joe Stuthard

Showmanship and Presentation—-Final Excerpt

Giant Fan.php

Now how do you combat this “defensive resentment”? One method not for everybody is to have something sympathetic about you. If you are a youngster doing magic, not too precocious, you can often bypass the adult spectator’s defensiveness. He ALREADY feels superior by virtue of age and consequently does not feel threatened. He will feel sympathetic towards you and this gives you a distinct advantage. Similarly, if you are handicapped in some way you should not feel ashamed of exploiting this to win sympathy and disarm the spectator’s natural defensiveness.

Another way is to be humble-this is very soothing to the ego of the audience. If you have an air of conceit the spectators will doubly resent you. If you are modest your audience will build you up.

One way if it suits your personality is to affect an air of dithering or even incompetence. This can take the form of absent-mindedness or naivety. This will make the audience feel superior and more sympathetic towards you. However, as I have stated this style has to suit you.

Another method is to be friendly and human. You can even offer to teach them a simple trick if the situation warrants it. Get people to like you-their subconscious resentment will vanish if you are pleasant and HUMAN. I place special emphasis on appearing human; if you can do this, even making a slight mistake without appearing too incompetent, you disarm the spectator’s defences and he will grow to like you and liking you will help him to like your magic.

I once saw two mind readers appearing on  television within weeks of each other. One seemed ot give a far more polished performance than the other, doing what seemed stronger tricks, less long winded patter, and all the telepathy worked whereas the other fellow seemed to have a high failure rate. Yet strangely the slick performer did not get half the reaction that the less polished mind reader did. The reason I think was that the first telepathist was TOO impossible, TOO perfect and TOO slick. He had to fight all that “defensive resentment”. The second mentalist on the other hand seemed to have trouble getting his clairvoyance to work. However, when something did go right it got a sensational reaction from the audience. This, I believe was because the failures generated sympathy; the “defensive resentment” evaporated and when something did work it  caused an enthusiastic audience response.

A little more advice and then we’ll pass on to the next chapter.

1. If something goes wrong-never apologise. You will look weak and audiences dislike weakness. Rather, just make a joke about it and pass on to the next trick quickly. Very often people won’t know anything has gone wrong anyway if you follow my earlier advice of not explaining what is going to happen before it happens.

2.Try and see things from the audience point of view. This is not easy but it will help you considerably if you develop the ability to do this. You will be able to entertain people more effectively if you can attune yourself to their likes and dislikes.

3.Try and involve the spectators in your tricks. With many items you can do this automatically. Sometimes, however, you will have to use your imagination. Get them to blow on a card or shuffle the deck, ask them a question-but BRING THEM INTO IT.

There is a lot more advice I could give but there is no more space and perhaps it is best to learn by experience anyway, but I do hope the preceding guidance will be of value to you.




Showmanship and Presentation—-Final Excerpt

Showmanship and Presentation–Contd

The third type of onlooker is the one who tries to see “how the engine works”. He will try hard to figure out the secret and will look upon the trick as a challenge. He will attempt to assuage his inferiority feelings by bringing all his intelligence to bear upon the method by which the mystery is worked. From this type of spectator we often find magicians in the making. Since they don’t know how the trick is done they will often satisfy their ego by taking up magic themselves. Now THEY can mystify people! I’ll let you into a secret; that’s how I became a magician! I would see magicians on television and get so annoyed that I didn’t know the secrets that took up magic myself!


Now we come to the fourth type of spectator who fortunately is reasonably rare. This you should be thankful for because he is the hardest to entertain. This delightful fellow will be completely expressionless throughout your exhibition. He will assume a poker face and there is no way of telling whether or not he likes what you are doing. His “defensive resentment” causes him to be on his guard; he will not allow you to attack his ego by fooling him. If you meet this specimen do not be put off. By persevering you can often get him to crack and show a little reaction. Even if he remains blank faced it doesn’t mean that he is not enjoying your show. It’s just that his ego won’t allow him to show it. If you do your best you could find that your applause comes afterwards. This often takes the form of old poker face spreading your reputation to OTHER people who haven’t seen you. He won’t tell YOU he enjoyed himself-that would undermine his ego-but he WILL praise you and the word will often get back.

Showmanship and Presentation–Contd