If you had the chance to meet the man who recreated one of the world's most baffling illusions, would you demand to know the secret behind it—one that took him three decades to discover?
Would you try to beat the chess master automaton, a "thinking machine" known as "The Turk," even though you knew the odds were so stacked against you that the Turk never loses?
Would you crawl inside the cabinet below to inspect its mechanisms, looking for false bottoms and collapsible hinges? Would you want to find out that it's not just an automaton, but a false automaton—with an adult, full-sized human operator hiding inside of it?
Or, would you rather think of it as something mystical, magical, spiritual, supernatural or evil?
You may watch incredibly closely, but do you really want to catch a ventriloquist moving his lips?
If you could ask Houdini for his autograph...
...would you investigate how the inert could possibly come alive long enough to sign a piece of paper for you?
This is the dilemma I faced the other night.
I couldn't help becoming a detective when faced with department store amusements that could make a red ball disappear and reappear...
...even though I'd rather it remain a mystery.
But this is a lesson about myself I've only learned recently.
One night when I was at The Magic Castle with a magician friend of mine, he gave me a sealed envelope to take home. The choice of whether or not to ever open it was mine, as long as I waited until I got home.
Inside were the instructions of how to perform a classic sleight of hand magic trick, the kind that so convincingly bewitches audiences, they can't figure out the secret—even if they never take their eyes off the magician, and even if they're sitting directly across from him.
After all, when a skull is talking to you, it's hard to figure out how it could not be talking to you if you can see it plain as day—as implausible as it may seem.
In the case of the secrets of the card trick that my friend had given, I tore the envelope open and began to read its contents as soon as I got home. And before I could finish it, I shoved it back into its envelope, which I hid from my view and got rid of the next day.
I'm not an aspiring magician. I have no plans to perform this or any bit of close-up magic.
And, as it turns out, I have no business knowing how to fool other people—because I want to be fooled.
I don't want to know how I'm being tricked. I don't even want to know that I'm being tricked. I want to believe that there are some things in this life that can't be explained and I'll just never fully grasp.
If there's a God, I don't want to meet him. If there's a Heaven, I don't want to go there.
If I ever find out that true love is just a ruse to get us to ensure the survival of the species, I'll clamp my legs shut and rue the day I ever posed the question.
If I've been fooled, let me never find out.
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