I was eleven years old when my Dad took my brother and me to a small magic shop in London called International Magic. It was a tiny hole in a wall store packed with shelves and a small glass counter. The owners filled the shelves with strange props, boxes and envelopes. I bought two tricks with my pocket money.
The first trick the lovely man behind the counter showed me was an impossible prediction effect. I chose one of three colours, and the magician revealed he had predicted it perfectly with a written prediction. I bought it immediately, and unlike most magic tricks, I was delighted by the method.
The method employed was something called multiple-outs. It’s a principle that is often more impressive than the trick itself. Which is rare for magic—most methods are utterly disappointing. Multiple-outs give you this gobsmacked feeling of wonder for the effort that goes on behind the scenes and admiration for just how simple the method truly is.
What are multiple-outs?
You can label any method with “multiple-outs” if the trick has more outcomes than the audience perceives. The most common application of multiple-outs might be for a prediction. You might keep a prediction in your wallet, and the audience has no idea you have multiple wallets on your person, with predictions for each possible outcome.
This principle isn’t limited to prediction and mentalism effects. You might use multiple-outs to enhance a magic appearance or change, perhaps. Making a car appear on stage is impressive. What if an audience member freely names a colour and a vehicle of a corresponding colour appears on stage? They’ll never know about the twelve cars of other colours parked backstage.
You can also use multiple-outs as a force, but we’ll discuss this in a future article. I would perhaps say certain forcing apps and colour match effects employ elements of the multiple-outs principle. I’m not sure most magicians would immediately label them the same. Think about it, and you’ll realise they both rely upon multiple-outs in their unique ways.
I will often employ multiple outs behind the scenes to enhance a trick. You might not want to rely on a printer and so instead, pre-print out all of the possible outcomes for your prediction. You place them into a folder for your assistant to flick through during the show. Maybe you prefer a handwritten prediction but do not want to rely on an assistant writing it down in a rush during the routine—so you choose to handwrite all of the possible outcomes before the show beautifully.
The tricks described in this article are not always the most practical and fooling of examples, but they do work well to illustrate the principles effectively. When writing magic for television, I think about multiple-outs in two categories.
Alluded-outs are perhaps the most clever version of multiple outs. The best way to tell if a trick uses eluded multiple-outs is to watch it twice. The outcomes of the trick are often wholly different while delivering the same effect when relying on eluded multiple-outs.
Say, for example, you ask a spectator to name a number between one and six. If they say number one, you unlock your phone and reveal a photo of a rolling die as your wallpaper with number one facing upwards—a miracle.
But then, if someone sees you perform the trick again and a different spectator names the number two, they’ll see you go into your wallet and open a prediction with the number two written upon it. A miracle for the new spectator, but not for the first.