Deceiving the Eye with Magic Tricks

Posted on 2014/06/17 at 5:40 pm by LASIK MD

Magic shows have delighted audiences for centuries. Many of the best magical illusions are those played on the eyes. We like to trust that our eyes give us an accurate view of the world around us, so a convincing magic trick can be quite surprising and unsettling. Check out how a few classic magic tricks are performed.

Sawing a Woman in Half

To start this trick — which is traditionally referred to as sawing a woman in half, but has been performed with men as well — a person climbs into a box on a table. The box is then cut in half, opaque dividers are placed in the cut, and the box halves are pulled apart. Obviously no people are actually physically dismembered in the act. Instead, the lower half of the assistant’s body is hidden somewhere, as demonstrated in this Penn and Teller video.

The table beneath the box is often deeper than it appears to be, allowing the assistant to curve at the waist down below the reach of the saw. However, what they actually do in the video remains a mystery — perhaps the assistant is also a contortionist, with her legs twisted behind her.


Another of the best perennial magic tricks is levitation. It can be performed with pretty much anything, and the key is to deceive the eye by hiding whatever is holding up the object. A simple yet convincing version involves nothing more than a simple foam or paper cup. Jab your thumb into the back of the cup, then hold the rest of that hand and your other hand about an inch away from the cup, moving them up with the cup.

On the other end of the spectrum, levitating a human takes serious equipment. In some levitation acts, the assistant lies on a couch, is covered in a blanket, and is seen to rise slowly into the air — then vanish. In these acts, the assistant actually hides in the couch, which is rolled away mid levitation. All that is lifted is a thin wire support under the blanket, held by fishing line or the like.

In the more impressive levitation magic tricks, in which you can actually see the person levitate, heavy machinery like a forklift is needed. The real trick then is convincing the eye that nothing is supporting the person. In this video, the magician uses clever sleight of hand to make the audience believe that he has passed a ring around the floating person.

All magic tricks are deceptions of one form or another and the best create optical illusions. Get your vision checked and consider laser corrective surgery with LASIK MD to make sure you can fully enjoy the visual tricks of magic shows!

Do you have a question about LASIK? Ask one of our experts!

Related Posts

« »