As Seen On

The Elephant In the Sleeve

Why does everyone always think it’s in the sleeve? And even then, why do they write it off as no big deal? It’s something all magicians hear, both from kids and adults. And I’m not about to say it’s a bad thing for someone to say or think, or that there’s anything wrong with it at all. It’s just that it often surprises me how casually it’s said!

First, let me say something that I often preface my shows with. You can think it’s a trick, or you can think it’s magic. You can believe that what the magician is doing is actually on a supernatural level, or you can think it’s all sleight of hand or illusion. Maybe it’s a bit of both. While I’ll never try to convince anyone I’m doing these supernatural things, I do remind people how much better life is when they just let it be magic.

Okay, back to the sleeves. The magician holds something. You see it’s there. Suddenly you realize it’s gone. Where did it go? Did it vanish? Or is it hiding? If it’s hiding, where? The sleeve? That’s what so many people think, but why?

This is something that’s been adopted into our way of thinking. It’s basically a cliche, and so it’s easy to fall back on. We’re told as kids that this happens, and we accept it, and somehow cling to it. Of course, when kids say it, it often defies all rationale.

As mentioned in an earlier post, kids will often think that anything can vanish in the sleeve. However big it is. I perform in short sleeves most of the time these days, and still the kids say it’s in my sleeve. Not always. Not even often. But, if they are going to call out their explanation, that’s what it is more often than not.

When performing in a suit, either professionally or socially, the “sleeve” explanation is given by a lot of people. Normally it’s said as an aside and not really meant for me to hear. But, when appropriate, I’ve started to respond to it.

“Wait, wait, wait. You think that someone I’m getting an object to go all the way up my sleeve at will? You think I then continue to do things and then retrieve that object later on from my sleeve? And you think I do this all completely undetected? And this doesn’t impress you???”

From my point of view, I feel like that’s akin to saying “All the juggler is doing is catching the balls at tossing them back up before they hit the ground,” or “All the musician is doing is hitting the right keys at the right time with the right amount of pressure.”

I suppose the lesson I take from this is that context is everything. The juggler wants you to realize he’s doing that. The musician wants you to know she’s doing that. The magician, on the other hand, wants you to think it’s magic. Still, I think it’s better that way!

Book WonderPhil Now


Please, enter a valid value

Please, enter a valid value

Please, enter a valid value

Incorrect values!