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Exposure in magic refers to the practice of revealing the secrets of how magic tricks are performed.

The practice is generally frowned upon as a type of spoiler that ruins the experience of magical performances for audiences.


Exposures are performed by both professional and amateur magicians. Some exposures have been performed as part of stage shows, or in other public media including television,[1] the Internet, certain video sharing interfaces, discussion forums, and blogs.

One notable case of exposure using network television involved Val Valentino, performing as the Masked Magician in the Fox series Breaking the Magician's Code which ran between 1997 and 1998. Valentino was ostracized by the magic community and received much criticism from magicians for contravening the joint International Brotherhood of Magicians and Society of American Magicians ethics statement.[2]

In contrast, Penn & Teller performances often include exposing their own tricks for purposes of entertainment. Penn Jillette has said that while the duo show the audience how a trick is done, it is often done so quickly or with different mechanics, that while the audience learns it is a trick, they cannot follow. As a result, the duo will repeat the trick fooling the audience even after the audience knows how its done.[3][4] This highlights the need to distinguish apparent exposures performed by magicians during an act, which invariably turn out to be illusions in their own right.[citation needed]


Supporting exposure

Reason Argument Counter Argument
Education New magicians need to learn somewhere. Exposure enables young magicians to develop their skills across a wide range of magical methods. There are many accepted methods of teaching magic that targets those who want to perform, rather than those who just want to know the secret.[note 1]
Innovation Exposure of old tricks forces magicians to develop new ones.[note 2] Exposing magic tricks is a very easy process. Developing new tricks is a difficult, time consuming process.[5] Rather than encourage innovation, exposure may discourage the process as magicians may fear the possibility of their hard won secret being revealed.
Appreciation of skill Exposure allows spectators to fully appreciate the range of skills involved in performing magic tricks. The entertainment provided in magic is heightened by not knowing how the "trick" is achieved - unlike, eg., juggling, where appreciation of the "skill" of the juggler adds to the experience.
Earn respect When done correctly you will earn respect for the art of magic Magicians should develope a new approach to secrets which are by far not the most important part of a show. Magicians proof themselfs wrong by saying secrets are the only reason to create wonders. Magicians watch other magicians over and over again although they know every bit of secret of those acts.

Opposing exposure

Reason Argument Counter Argument
Devaluation of tricks Exposure devalues magic tricks by removing their potential to surprise audiences.[6] Exposures are over-simplified to the degree that they cheapen the art. The dangers of exposure are easily exaggerated.[1] Many magic tricks which have been exposed in the past remain popular with audiences. In addition, many members of the public are indifferent to exposures and will neither seek them out nor remember the details for long. Finally, there exist strategies that allow a magician to continue to fool an audience even if they've been exposed to secrets for similar, or even identical, effects.[7]
Intellectual property Exposure violates the intellectual property rights of the creator of the trick. Whilst magical secrets cannot be protected by the law, the moral code of practising magicians[5] respects the innovator of any particular secret. In most cases, Intellectual Property law does not protect magic methods. Most tricks rely on sleight of hand and knowledge of psychological principles, neither of which are patentable in the capacity that scientific methods and processes are.
Potential for disruption Exposures provide ammunition for hecklers and saboteurs at the point of performance. These individuals will damage performances either way. A good performer should be able to cope with this.
Harms new magicians It is the simpler, cheaper tricks that young magicians rely on, which are most likely to be exposed. Exposure also encourages experienced magicians to avoid discussing methods with newcomers for fear that their methods will be revealed. Exposure aids new magicians by providing them with an easy, cheap source of new tricks.
Magic and criminality The skills and secrets of a magician can be used to harm the public, by creative cheats and emotional persuasion. Exposure may furnish those with criminal intent the skills needed to attempt such deception. Exposure allows members of the public to become more keenly aware of the possibility of deception, and how it works.

See also



  1. There are more books about magic than any other field of entertainment.[citation needed]
  2. Including the Masked Magician[citation needed]


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  1. 1.0 1.1 Peter Lamont, Richard Wiseman (2005) Magic in Theory: An Introduction to the Theoretical and Psychological Elements of Conjuring pp xiv. Univ of Hertfordshire Press ISBN 1902806506 Accessed 2010, May 20
  2. Young Magician Practices Abracadabra
  3. Penn & Teller Expose..., Inside Magic, Nov 1988
  4. Penn and Teller Exposed, Genii 1995 May
  5. 5.0 5.1 Popular Science (Feb 1926) My Rope Escapes - By Houdini Vol. 108, No. 2, pp 23. Bonnier Corporation ISSN 0161-7370 Accessed 2010, May 20
  6. Paul Curry (2003) Magician's Magic pp. 76. Courier Dover Publications ISBN 0486431762 Accessed 2010, May 20
  7. Exposure Essays Retrospective