Fooling Houdini And Memory Secrets With Magician Alex Stone

Optimized-108188-105946Alex Stone Shows You How Magic And Memory Can Heighten Your Sense Of Reality


Go on, admit it. The idea of being a magician has haunted you since childhood. Who hasn’t at some point wished they could perform miracles and win the admiration of the masses?

The truth is, anyone can, but not everyone has the time, energy or discipline.

But the good news is that in Fooling Houdini, magician and outstanding author Alex Stone takes you into the world of Magicians, Mentalists, Math Geeks, and the Hidden Powers of the Mind. And the best part is that you learn about using your memory better too.

So tune in to this episode of the Magnetic Memory Method Podcast and enjoy the full transcript below. 🙂

Anthony: Alex thank you so much for being on the podcast today. It’s a real honor and exciting because I myself have a relationship to magic and the whole world. So I hope to touch on that a little bit. The book Fooling Houdini is an absolute marvel I think. Not just because of my interest in magic, but it’s about learning as such.

One of the themes, and you can correct me if I’m wrong about this, seems to be self-acceptance as being kind of the best thing we can do for ourselves, and that going through the process of self-acceptance is kind of like “fooling” around with yourself a little bit as if life is kind of a game. Would that be a fair assessment?

Alex: I think that’s a wonderfully nice way of saying it, yes.

Anthony: With all that said, what’s your first memory of being interested in magic?

Alex: It was definitely when I was 5 years old and my father went on a trip to New York for an academic conference of some sort. He was a professor and he bought me a magic kit at that famous store FAO Schwartz. It’s like a famous toy store, which closed, I believe, recently.

It was just like one of these little kids kits, but he brought me back, and I was 5 years old in just remember like being enchanted by it. I couldn’t stop playing with it, and I learned all the tricks and went around just showing them to everyone every time. We had guests over and to my friends.

Honestly from there on, I was interested in it and it became like a thing that my father and I kind of bonded over and did together. But that was very vivid memory. Gosh, come to think of it, it probably is up there with some of my earliest memories actually. Because I was only 5.


Can Kids Be Fooled?


Anthony: One group of people that tend to be very difficult to fool is young people because they don’t know the cues of Mr. Action so to speak. So it’s kind of a fascinating age. What experience do you have doing magic for kids?

Alex: You are absolutely right. I learned that at my first show when I was 6. It was my own birthday party. I performed for my friends and it was a disaster. They were trying to touch everything and yelling at me and heckling me. I remember crying and going to my room and being really upset.

But you know, it’s a fact that children are very difficult to perform for. I mean not just because, I mean obviously they have a hard time sitting still and they can be rambunctious. It’s hard to do anything with kids because of that, but they’re also, I talk about this a bit in the book, psychologically I think quite good at figuring out magic tricks. You know there could be a lot of reasons behind that, but I think part of it is that they don’t have quite so many assumptions going in.

They have a way of thinking about things where they’re kind of testing out new ideas, and on some level, they’re better at figuring out tricks than adults are. I’ve seen this time and again. If you talk to magicians, they’ll say the same thing that kids can be remarkably difficult to fool. They often figure out tricks that fool some of the smartest adults.

Anthony: It’s always interesting performing for kids. I wonder, you started at a young age with that interest. How did you manage to combine throughout your life and particularly once you got into university and so forth, physics and magic and journalism. Is there a common thread between all those three things that the more you see a connection or is it just happenstance?

Alex: Well the short answer is yes. I absolutely think there’s a nice connection. I was very fortunate because I had these three interests of writing, journalism, magic, which I’ve been into since I was 5, and physics and science, which I’d also been into for years and was studying. It was this wonderful moment of realization when I sort of saw that, well first of all as a writer, this world, these concepts and ideas hadn’t really been written about.

Secondly, that there were all these beautiful connections between magic and science. Especially psychology and neuroscience, but also mathematics and physics. To see that there was this science to the magic and that a lot of the literature in psychology were essentially applied to magic tricks and to see all these connections, that’s what really kept me fascinated and took me along this kind of quest, if you will, to understand magic.

That’s the basis of the book. It is exploring, not just this great world with amazing characters and amazing stories, which as a writer was you know just a wonderful gift to be able to share this world with other people that I’d already been immersed in. But then to also be able to incorporate my love of science, my interest in in scientific mysteries and to see all the overlap and to see all the magicians who are interested in science and all the scientists who are interested in magic, that to me was just this blessed confluence of all my geeky interests. It was just like a nerd trifecta.

Anthony:  I think one of the things that I also really loved about your book is that it, kind of for me, is the magician version of Joshua Foer’s Moonwalking with Einstein, where he takes you deep into the world of memory competitions and memory techniques. You’re doing that with the magical community. I wonder, for people who aren’t familiar with magic and this world of circles, brotherhoods, personal mentorships and the lineages, how would you describe the magical community?

Alex: Well, first of all thanks for that comparison. A great book Moonwalking with Einstein and a wonderful story. I’ve always loved those kinds of books where it takes you and pulls aside the curtain and takes you behind the scenes.

Magic, I think like a lot of subcultures, is filled with brilliant obsessives. People that really are single-mindedly devoted to this craft. I think magic in particular because it’s so wrapped up in secrecy, by definition you’re not supposed to tell how it’s done, etc. It lends itself to an even more extreme version of this kind of hermetic community of people.

You have these societies with these initiation rituals and these codes of secrecy. You have a very curious form of information exchange. Whereas, like with the memory book Foer wrote, he went into this fascinating subculture, and I think it was probably easier to learn these techniques than it might be if you are a newcomer to the world of magic where not everyone wants to share. You have to become much more imbedded to then benefit from this exchange of ideas and information. So that’s part of it too.


Magic Is Weird …


Then I think it’s just a very weird place. Magic is weird. A lot of people who do magic are kind of nerdy and bizarre and wonderfully so. But it’s honestly like the kind of thing it is almost hard to believe that it’s real in some cases when you meet some of these people and some of these characters. Then the fact that magic also has all these sort of hubs, or whatever, that connect to the science, but also there are connections to crime and scams. Then you have branches mentalism which ties into psychics. You have all of these overlaps with other kind of allied groups and that is something pretty incredible.

In many ways it’s a fairly narrow thing because it’s just magic, but just in the way that I imagine that the memory community ties into mathematics and public speaking or whatever various other pursuits, so does magic and it’s intersections are fascinating. You are able to kind of go between these different worlds. It grants you access to all these other kind of worlds or communities. It is just incredibly rich and it’s filled with wonderfully interesting and often very brilliant people. Like nothing else I’ve ever encountered.

Anthony: Absolutely. There is a bridge with memory and magic as well on multiple levels I can think of such as memorizing tricks, like the actual routines, memorizing the scripts, memorizing the moves in performance and then remembering to execute certain moves while you’re performing. So I wonder if you have any thoughts on how those things are part of magic as you have had in performance, in studying with a mentor and in actually competing as part of your career as a magician.

Alex:  Yeah, I mean that’s a great question. So you’re absolutely right. There is quite a bit of overlap. In fact, there are magicians in the past who have used the mind power, the memory power as a kind of magic or as a kind of performance technique. More specifically, there are a lot of magic tricks that rely on memory techniques and memory and memorizing decks. I mean some of my favorite tricks, honestly, are tricks that require you to memorize an entire deck of cards.


If I can just make a little tangent. If I can just rewind for a second. Probably the most famous or one of the most famous magicians who was also kind of a memory expert was Harry Lorayne. He was a magician but he did these memory shows and these mind power shows. He was the kind of the embodiment of this this connection between magic and memory. He was a memory training specialist, he wrote books on it. He would perform on the Johnny Carson Show and do these remarkable mnemonic demonstrations. You know he’d go to parties and memorize everyone’s names. He was also a magician who pioneered some wonderful tricks and sleight of hand and whatnot. So that’s kind of the embodiment of this connection.

But more broadly, they intersect throughout magic, and just know, you’re not the first memory person I’ve talked to. Actually, through this book I’ve met a lot of people in this community. In terms of my own practice, I would say that some of the most beautiful tricks out there, card tricks especially rely on being able to memorize strings of cards and numbers. Juan Tamariz –

Anthony: Mnemonica, yeah.

The Most Important Book On Card Magic Published In Decades


Alex: Mnemonica is, I believe, probably the greatest, most important book on card magic published in in decades. It’s absolutely revolutionary. I mean my favorite tricks are from that book. Honestly, that stuff is incredibly powerful. You know, you combine memory techniques with a few other basic magic techniques like false shuffles, card controls, and double lifts, it’s almost like you can do anything.

I’ve also created another trick that relies on also memorizing a deck that’s organized in a very special sequence that is basically a binary code that allows you to determine what order of the cards, where you are in the deck based on the color configuration of like a group of six cards. It’s a little bit hard to explain. That also required me to memorize the entire deck. In particular for that one, because I had to learn to map a six-card configuration of red and black to a number that corresponded to the first card in that sequence, I had to use the Memory Palace, the method of loci – is it loci or loci?

Anthony:  I’ve just replaced it entirely with “station.” A station in a Memory Palace.

Alex: A station in a Memory Palace, that’s better. So anyway for this trick, which is one of my favorite tricks of all time, it was really first developed, the idea was first developed by Persi Diaconis, a guy at Stanford, for that I use the Memory Palace technique. Like Joshua Foer actually kind of explained to me. I also use that technique where you assign letters to numbers. What is it called again?

Anthony: The Major Method or Major System.

Alex:  The Major Method. That’s right the major system, right. So for this trick what I do is I have six people take cards. I figure out what the red black configuration is, that’s a binary number, which I can turn into a digit, a regular base ten number. I use the major system to turn that into a word, that word corresponds to a station, an image in my Memory Palace, which in turn corresponds to the first card in that sequence. Because I memorized the deck, I then just walk through my Memory Palace, and I see all the cards so I know where I am.

It sounds very complicated but using the memory techniques it was actually fairly easy because I was able to memorize the deck quickly and it’s so robust that it just sticks in your head for a long time. All you to do is revisit it once in a while and it’s there.

I was really shocked when I did this. I’d never done this kind of technique before and I was so impressed by how powerful it is. There’s not, when you’re kind of a grown up, there aren’t too many times when you continue to amaze yourself at what your mind is capable of. You have kind of seen it all at that point. This was one of those rare instances which I was like wow I didn’t know that I could do that. That’s pretty cool I think.


Memory Techniques Are Real Magic


Anthony: I think it’s one of those things that really borders on, if not entirely, is real magic. If I can put real beside magic, because there’s lots of things that are real magic, but this is almost alchemy in some sense in terms of creating knowledge and reliably so

Alex:  Yeah I agree. I think that’s why people like Harry Lorayne you know he used it in his shows because it really felt like, wow, this guy has superpowers.

Anthony: I’m really glad that you mentioned Lorayne and Juan Tamariz. There’s a Penguin Live lecture where Darwin Ortiz talks about how he worked for Harry Lorayne, teaching in one of Lorayne’s schools or programs that he had. I guess it would have been in New York.

Alex: I didn’t know that.

Anthony: I’m not sure if he’s done more than one Penguin lecture, but if he’s just done the one then that’s it where he talks about it. He talks about the importance of like memorizing the names of your participants that you use in routines. He tells quite an amusing story of working for the Harry Lorayne. Lorayne is not really well known as a magician, but he was a huge contributor in terms of literature. Publishing other magicians apparently giving them work has memory trainers. It is kind of fascinating. About Tamariz, did you ever try his suggestions for memorizing the deck?

Alex: Yeah, I did. In fact, when I memorized Mnemonica the first time around, I used the technique that he recommends in the book, which is to basically draw faces on the cards if I recall. At that time, I didn’t know the Memory Palace technique so I used his technique.

For the other trick since then, whenever I’ve had to memorize a deck, I’ve used the Memory Palace technique. I thought about going back and making the Mnemonica into a Memory Palace, but I have it now and I use it so often that I’ve got it. Also, his technique is nice because it’s really easy, it’s very bidirectional. It’s very easy to remember the card and then say oh that’s number fourteen, or if you hear fourteen oh that’s this card. Whereas the way I had memorized this other deck, I didn’t index it.

But yes, so I used his method up front, which was, again, I mean really based on the same concept right? Which is to turn it into an image to make it visual. Each card you draw some image of something fanciful and it links it to the number in an interesting way, in a visual way. So what you’re basically doing is you’re linking the card and the number in an image. I didn’t install it the Memory Palace at the time because I didn’t know that. But it seems to me like it’s kind of the same idea, right? It’s turning numerical or verbal memory into visual memory which we know is far more powerful.

Anthony: I think too, if you don’t mind me inserting this, for anyone who’s listening to this and they don’t know Tamariz, they should not just think of him necessarily as a guy who can teach you to memorize a deck of cards and do all kinds of routines with them, but he’s also a very good person to read for things you should be remembering about how to be a memorable performer. Five Points in Magic is one of his great books.

Alex: That’s a great book. He’s a wonderful mentor and also he’s talks about so much more than magic. How to become kind of a complete performer and a complete person. He’s got so much insight and wisdom.

Anthony: You have a really interesting discussion of shuffling which you sort of have mentioned just now. It’s one of the, I think, most fascinating parts of the book and you make the math very clear. But could you say a few words about the mysteries of shuffling, and what it means to shuffle a deck of cards from a mathematical sense?

Alex: Yeah sure. I mean shuffling stuff is pretty cool I have to say. There’s two basic ideas that I talk about. The first is the question of how much you have to shuffle a deck for it to become truly mixed. So what does it mean when you shuffle a deck? You basically, and I’m talking here about a riffle shuffle, you basically split the deck roughly in half, then you sort of riffle them together and the cards mix.

So there’s the question of how many times do you have to do that before the decks are truly random. Meaning you can’t really recognize the original order. The more formal definition, actually, would be – well let’s just leave it at that – to where they’re perfectly random.

So anyway this question was posed in a formal way by Dave Bayer and Persi Diaconis. Dave Bayer is a professor of mathematics at Columbia and Persi Diaconis is now at Stanford though at the time I believe he was at Harvard. Persi was also a magician who trained under Dai Vernon, the great master of sleight of hand. The man who fooled Houdini. Persi was interested because he’d read about a trick that would been published in a magazine or journal in an obscure place and suggested that someone could shuffle and then find a card even after it’s been shuffled.

Anyway, a long story short they did an analysis. They found it takes about seven shuffles to completely mix the deck, to fully randomize it. Which is surprising in a way because it’s a lot or it seems like a lot. More interesting was that it’s not a very linear process. It doesn’t really happen incrementally. You don’t really get much randomness out of the first four or five shuffles, and then right around six and seven is what you could call a phase change. So it very rapidly becomes random. Basically it’s an exponential decay, which is pretty cool.

So that’s an interesting result, and it had implications for casinos and whatnot stuff like that. It also means you could do some pretty cool tricks where you have someone pick a card and put it back in, shuffle and still you can find their card because there’s still patterns that are recognizable sequences.

Now that’s a shuffle that randomizes the deck. The reason why shuffling works is because it’s sloppy. When you shuffle you don’t cut the cards precisely in half. You riffle the cards together but it’s not one after another you know you get groups of two and three and four. That’s what introduces the randomness. It turns out that if you shuffle perfectly, and by perfectly I mean you cut the deck precisely in half and then you interleave the cards so they thought they mesh exactly one, one, one, one, one, that isn’t random at all and after eight of those shuffles, they’re called pharaoh shuffles, the deck returns to its original order.

What’s perhaps even cooler is that this is true for any number of cards. Only the number of shuffles required is different depending on how many you have. There’s a simple mathematical formula that tells you given N number of cards how many shuffles you need to do in order to get the deck to reset itself.

This is tied to something in mathematics known as group theory which is essentially is a language for symmetry. Group theory underlies the standard model of physics. Granted those are very different types of groups, but it’s a similar mathematical structure. To me that relationship, that connection is very beautiful. Something very beautiful and rich. Also, when applied, can create some of the coolest magic tricks you’ve ever seen.

Anthony: It’s quite incredible to think about, and, again, I highly recommend reading your book because of that entire passage. Actually, it’s more than a passage. It’s quite an adventure. It’s one of the show pieces of the book I would say, the discussion of shuffling. You mentioned practicing remembering names. Persi Diaconis was it?

Alex: Yeah that’s right.

Anthony: That he was a student of Dai Vernon. I have never know – sometimes it’s Dai and sometimes it Dai Vernon. I know he was a Canadian which, of course, gives me lots of pride being a Canadian myself. For people who don’t know the story, who is Dai Vernon and how did he fool Houdini.

Alex: Dai Vernon is widely considered one of the greatest sleight of hand magicians of all time. His influence is a towering influence on magic. He was a Canadian. That’s exactly right. Although he came to the states and cut his teeth in Chicago. He rose to become this master of close up magic and sleight of hand. He eventually became sort of the dean, sort of the patriarch of the Magic Castle, lived there for a long time and died in his ninety’s. He was this legendary figure who fooled Houdini.

The story behind that, it’s a true story. It’s kind of grown into almost mythology. But the gist of that was that he was – well Houdini had this very famous bet. He said no magician could fool him three times with the same trick. Because in magic you’re famously not supposed to repeat a trick. The saying is once it’s a trick, twice is a lesson. Because magic relies on surprise, right. If we’re watching it again you know you might notice certain things.

Anyway, apparently as the story goes Houdini his bet or his boast was out there for a while and no one had beat him. Finally, one night at a dinner, I believe it was in Chicago, in Houdini’s honor, it was at the Society of American Magicians dinner, which Houdini was president for a while, Dai Vernon does a version of the ambitious card, which is this classic trick where you put a card into the deck it rises to the top over and over again.

Vernon did a version of it for Houdini, and as the story goes, he did it seven or eight times and Houdini was totally stumped. As a side note, he was actually using a gimmick that was invented by Hofzinser, an Austrian magician. That sealed his fame as the man who fooled Houdini and the ambitious card, or this version of it, as the trick that fooled Houdini.

But even if it weren’t for that, Dai Vernon deserves his station because he was a great master who invented dozens and dozens and dozens of moves, and not only that, pioneered this philosophy of magic that emphasizes naturalness above showmanship. Dai Vernon grew up on reading Erdnase, and because of that, because of his connection to the gambling rooms and to the card tables, for him it was all about being understated and not revealing a great technique or flourishes, but really just being natural and making it look like nothing is being done. That magic is really just coming out of nowhere. So anyway, that’s the long winded version of the story.

Anthony: Well it’s a very good one. For anyone listening to you have got to check, if you’re interested in magic, check out Dai Vernon on YouTube. There’s some great footage of him performing that is exactly as you describe very natural, and he’s quite a character. Speaking of repeating things seven or eight times, one of the tragic comedies in your book is something that I’ve certainly experienced, which is going to lead into a question, which is why do girlfriends hate our magic so much after the first trick or two?

Alex:  Yeah, right. Well I think, that’s a good question. Man, I wish I had a good answer. That would have saved me a lot of heartache. I think the thing is this. Like anything if you’re obsessed with it, well let me say one thing. First of all the thing with magic is you can have to practice it on people. I mean you can practice a trick on your own a million times and you have to, but eventually the only way to practice magic is on someone else.

Unfortunately, those closest to us are the ones that are hit the hardest by that. So I think often, whether it’s your family or friends, in my case it was definitely my friends and my girlfriend, were at first you know this is great. Some magic tricks and then after a while it was like wow there’s a lot of magic tricks, and then eventually for the love of god no more magic tricks. I think it’s partly that.

I also think, you know let’s face it, magic is kind of geeky. I mean that in the greatest way possible. You know nerd power, but it is a little nerdy. Maybe if you’re not into that that, that could also maybe get old for some people. I think magicians are obsessive people often. Very much so in the way that anyone, whether it’s music or magic or whatever, standup comedy, you know you have to practice it. Doing the same thing over and over again and become very obsessive about it. That might not be the easiest thing to live with all the time.

Also once you figure out how it’s done, it’s not always this fun for ten more times. At this point my girlfriend knows pretty much how everything is done, and she now thinks like a magician. So it’s very hard to fool her. I really have to figure out something, because she knows all about horses and double – like she knows all the techniques. So even if I do a new trick and it’s based in techniques that she understands and she can figure it out, reverse engineer it. So I really have to try hard to fool her. That’s actually fun to do, but you know I think that might also be part of it.

Anthony: In my experience if I could fool a girlfriend that I’ve had for a year and a half, then I think I’m on to something.

Alex:  That’s right. No, it’s absolutely true. It’s kind of, in some ways, the best audience.

Anthony: One thing that I find really interesting is the nature of competition. I was watching an older lecture from Shawn Farquhar. He said that he’s met some of his best friends at magic competitions. I was just wondering what your experience has been like that when it comes to friendship and competition, and also in the context of mentorship because another big part of the book is your relationship with a mentor and how that develops.

Alex: Yeah that’s a good question. I mean I was amazed when I first discovered that there were all these magic competitions, national ones, local ones and then there’s international ones like FISM. The world championships also known as the Magic Olympics every three years, which Shawn Farquhar won. He’s probably one of the great living competitive magicians. He’s won at everything basically.

When you go to these competitions you definitely see the same faces over and over again. In terms of mentorship, a lot of the magicians who compete have mentors. In some cases, not so much in the in the US, but in like Korea, for instance, there are coaches really at magic schools. So the mentorship relationship there is very strong. But it’s true everywhere. In Spain too, there is a kind of a legacy of students and teachers. So that’s very big and competing for your country is very big in these places.

I mean the end of the day, magic is still a fairly small community. It’s not like musicians you know. It’s magicians. I mean it’s maybe bigger than you would expect and that it’s everywhere. It’s in every city, there are these magic societies and they have hundreds and hundreds of local assemblies, but it’s still the kind of place where after a while everybody kind of knows everybody. Which is one of the things that I think makes it so charming.

At these competitions you definitely see, I mean I probably have been to a dozen of them or so, the same people over and over again in the audience and also on the stage. I think it lends itself even to these very friendly rivalries were people know each other. They also worked in the same industry from a more business standpoint. Everybody knows the challenges of that. So I think there is this camaraderie in the business itself. Yeah, you definitely see people who are just lifelong friends in the art. I think that’s pretty cool

Anthony: I’m wondering given your interests in physics and journalism and in magic, I wonder, just as some rapid fire questions, what would you say is the most important thing to remember about each of those fields about journalism, about writing as such, about magic and about physics and math?

Alex: If I were going to try to make a generalized statement, and again, this is only as true as it is general. It’s only as true is that a very general statement can never be. That’s what I really meant to say. To me there’s this underlying mystery to it all.

What attracts me to all of them is this thrilling sense of mystery. What I mean by that is in physics you’re dealing with the most fundamental mysteries in science. Really you’re looking at the irreducible bits of matter. You’re looking at the nature of space and time, the origins of the universe, the end of the universe. These to me are, I’m not a religious person, but they are almost spiritual questions.

They’re so profound that I don’t know what’s deeper than those. It’s so mysterious when you start to study physics, and obviously when you get into quantum physics and relativity, when you realize how far from common sense and from what we’re used to nature behaves in this incredibly magical mysterious way. I think Einstein said the most incomprehensible thing about the universe is that it’s comprehensible. So I love the mystery of that. That just blew my mind from the moment I learned about it.

Obviously, magic is the same way. I’m not going to suggest that doing a card trick is this lofty is studying the big bang, but when you see a magic trick and you don’t know how it’s done there’s this wonderful beautiful sense of mystery. The kind of mysteries that you have experienced all the time when you were a kid, and you were seeing the world for the first time.

That is a pleasure to me. It’s something that the never gets old. Even when you know how it’s done, there is this mystery to how the mind works and why we’re able to be fooled by these things. That taps into the mysteries of the brain and these foibles that we succumb to that are really innate. The way our brain works and what makes us human and what makes us so adept. That’s beautiful so it gets into the mysteries of the mind.

Then writing too. Writing is a way to search for meaning and to find meaning and to essentially capture meaning and put it down on the page and to communicate. Writing is such a mysterious process because so much of the time you really don’t know where it’s going. It’s just digging and you’re really just feeling around in the dark. The creative source is just ineffable. You hope it’s going to come.

You work really hard at all of these things. It’s work, work, work, work, work. You sit down and you do the work. Then you hope that the mystery and the inspiration comes to you. But in the end there’s just this unknown. It’s just these very bizarre and mysterious things that underlie them. I guess that to me is what’s the most exciting. Maybe that a little cheesy but that’s sort of how I think of it.

Anthony: The book ends with you finally getting a bit of a smile from the from one of your assessors after you complete your journey and it’s a great ending to the book. But I wonder, outside of competition, is there one magician living today, maybe other than Penn and Teller, who you would be over the moon if you could fool that particular magician. Who would that be?

Alex: This is probably the cheesiest answer I could probably give. But I would love to fool David Blaine. I’m sorry. I know that’s terrible.

Anthony: I don’t think that’s cheesy at all. Say more.

Alex: I think we maybe could. I don’t know. I mean he knows a lot about magic. He does. Sometimes he gets a bad rap, but he’s actually an expert. He knows a ton. So I think fooling him would be tough but fun. His street magic, his earlier stuff was inspiring to a whole generation of magicians. I really appreciate that about him. So I think that’s cool. I guess if I had to pick another person it would probably be Tamariz just because I think of all the magicians in the world he’s the one I find to be the most inspiring. If I could fool him that would be like epic.

Anthony: That would be amazing. I’ve never understood the, whatever you want to call it, the Blaine bashing because I think he’s really quite a character and very good at what he does.

Alex: Yeah is he really is.

Anthony: Well so Fooling Houdini is an excellent book and thank you again for being on the show and for writing such a such a great exposé of your experience in that world and tying it together with math and all these other elements of the of the human psyche and your own personal journey.

Alex: Thanks, Anthony. I appreciate it. It was a pleasure.

Further Resources

The Amazing Doctor Who Wanted to Cure His Patients By Memorizing A Deck of Cards

How to Memorize Zodiac and Horoscope Info (For Entertainment Purposes Only)

4 Responses

  1. The fascinating thing about magic is, you watch a trick and you KNOW it can’t be real, but you can absolutely not explain how it works. So on some level your mind tells you, well, it IS magic. That brings us back to a child-like state of wonder.

    Watching magic is one of the very few occasions that lets us adults be kids again for a moment.

    I remember going to the Magic Castle in Hollywood and feeling like a kid there. Truly a world of wonders and a place with a very special atmosphere.

  2. Hey Anthony,

    I really enjoyed listening to this podcast episode and reading the interview. I’m still fairly new to the Magnetic Memory Method and memory palaces, but I find them to be very interesting and I’m eager to learn all I can!

    I’m also very interested in learning magic. Alex seems to be one of the top magicians in the world and I feel like he gave some great advice and resources in this podcast episode! I’m really looking forward to reading his book “Fooling Houdini”!

    Anthony, I know you are an awesome magician too, so I’m pretty sure I could learn a few things from you! ! You are a great teacher who knows a lot about many different things. I guess you could say you are a jack of all trades being that you are a magician, writer, musician, memory expert, speak many languages, and I could go on and on, but I’ll leave it at that!

    I was searching around on google for some additional information on Alex, but could not find much. Do you know if he has a website or is there anyway to contact him? I’d like to talk with him more about how I can become I good magician. Maybe he can give me some advice and resources.

    Thanks for all your hard work, Anthony! I’m looking forward to many more of your podcast episodes in the future!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

I accept the Privacy Policy


Enter your email below to get instant access to my FREE course that gives you a proven step-by-step process for remembering anything you want. You'll discover how to:

  • Speak any language fluently
  • Recall complicated formulas, math equations, or numbers.
  • Master the technical terms for your field of work or study.
  • Recite poetry, jokes, and even long speeches word-for-word
  • Quickly absorb the most important ideas from books, textbooks, or lectures...

Unlock your natural ability to learn and remember anything 3x faster now!


Anthony Metivier is the founder of the Magnetic Memory Method, a systematic, 21st century approach to memorizing foreign language vocabulary, names, music, poetry and more in ways that are easy, elegant, effective and fun.

Dr. Metivier holds a Ph.D. in Humanities from York University and has been featured in Forbes, Viva Magazine, Fluent in 3 Months, Daily Stoic, Learning How to Learn and he has delivered one of the most popular TEDx Talks on memory improvement.

His most popular books include, The Victorious Mind and… Read More

Anthony Metivier taught as a professor at:

Lifelong learning feature image with Anthony Metivier in a library with books

This Is the Secret to Remembering EVERYTHING Better

Enter your email below to get instant access to my exclusive course that will show you how to use memory palaces to MASSIVELY improve your memory so you can learn new skills, retain information, and stay sharp.

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.