Thank you for purchasing Absence! Please read the following live guide carefully before performing Absence for the first time.
PLEASE NOTE: TELEVISION AND BROADCAST RIGHTS ARE RESERVED. You are free to use Absence in any of your live performances. For use on any social media platforms, tag me in the post, as well as use the #absence.
Inside your Absence kit, you will get:
-your Absence matchbooks
-2 blank duplicate matchbooks
-2 false covers
-paper false cover sheets
A CLOSER LOOK
Absence matchbooks –
The Absence matchbooks are gimmicked (obviously, the silhouettes are already cut out). The matchbooks have also been treated to be fire resistant, so the silhouettes don’t burn away during the performance.
PROTIP – The matchbooks, while fire resistant, are not indestructible, and although the details will remain, they can become quite brittle, and subject to warping if exposed to fire for too long. Please follow the directions on burning them closely.
Blank matchbooks – The blank matchbooks allow you to have a duplicate you can have the spectator examine prior to the effect, before switching it for the Absence matchbook.
False covers – these are the same card stock as the matchbook, and are primarily used to protect the silhouette prior to performance.
Paper false cover sheets – these are what hide the silhouette prior to burning, and these are what actually burn away during the performance.
Striking paper – these self adhesive strips let you light the matches…
In addition to your Absence package, you will need a few other items:
-a book of matches
-a pair of scissors
-a stapler remover
THE SET UP
Start by removing the staples from the book of matches carefully, using the staple remover.
Separate the two rows of matches.
Crease your Absence matchbook along the score lines.
Place ONE row of matches inside the Absence matchbook, stapling them in place.
PROTIP – trim the bottom millimeter off of the matches, so the matches sit better in the Absence matchbook.
PROTIP – staple the matches in place about 2-3 millimeters from the bottom, allowing you more room to ‘tuck’ the matchebook cover.
Do the same, this time stapling the other row of matches into the duplicate blank matchbook.
Take one of the paper cover sheets, and apply a very light layer of repositionable glue all over one side.
Stick this sheet to the outside of your matchbook, covering the silhouette, aligning it with the crease. Trim off any excess paper with a pair of scissors.
Apply the striking paper, by peeling away the paper, the striking surface has an adhesive back, and lining it up across the back of your matchbook, about a centimeter from the bottom. Trim off any excess with scissors.
PROTIP – wipe the striking paper with a paper towel a few times before handling/applying it, to get rid of any loose particles that can get on your fingers, and leave a mess on your matchbook.
Fold the matchbook along the score lines, and tuck the cover.
Tuck a card stock false cover in the front. This keeps the silhouette safe before use.
The handling of Absence really breaks down to 4 simple steps:
-Forcing the celebrity
-Switching the matchbook
-Burning the matchbook
-Revealing the silhouette
Let’s start with…
First of all, feel free to use whatever force you like. However, I developed the following force with Absence in mind. I wanted a force that was 100% sure fire, didn’t require a lengthy procedure, used the items already involved in the routine, and worked just as well on stage for 1000 people, as it did one on one. This one fits the bill. I call it the MK Ultra Force.
You have already seen the MK Ultra Force in action; it is the force I use in the demo. Essentially, a series of photos flash by, and the spectator is asked to think of any famous person. The person they ultimately think of is forced. How? Simple. None of the photos that flash by are of recognizable celebrities, except one easily identifiable, iconic person. Given that is the only person they recognize, it is the only person they can think of! Dirty? Yes. Effective? Absolutely.
I have each of the videos saved on my phone, so I can play whichever force I need, without needing to be connected to the internet. I have also in the past, converted one of the force videos to animated GIF, and saved it as the wallpaper on my phone, endlessly looping… Now all I need to do is show someone my phone, and have them think of a celebrity…
I know not everyone is going to be into the MK Ultra Force, which is why I started by saying feel free to use any force you like. Below are a few other forces I have used and can honestly recommend:
Below are the links to the MK Ultra Force videos for you to use.
In any event, you ultimately force the required celebrity. Now lets move on to…
This is COMPLETELY optional, and I don’t always do it. Often, I just introduce the gimmicked matchbook, and don’t bother having it examined, after all, it is just a book of matches that have hopefully served some other, relevant purpose prior to this trick, such as lighting a candle, or cigarette, etc.
However, in those situations where I do have the matchbook examined, I use the following switch by Juan Tamariz. It is called ‘Crossing the Gaze’, and is very well known, in fact I am pretty sure you already know how to do it, but below is a brief description of how I use it in context of Absence. Keep in mind, I am left handed, if you are right handed, adjust accordingly.
To start, I make sure I have a Sharpie pen in my left pocket, the Absence matchbook in my right pocket, and the duplicate matchbook already in play.
At some point, I tell the spectator I want them to sign the matchbook, so I can’t do anything sneaky. As I say this, I hold the duplicate matchbook with my left hand, and I look down toward my right pocket just a half a beat before my right hand enters the pocket looking for the pen. When the right hand is in the pocket, it secretly finger palms the Absence matchbook, and comes out seemingly empty.
I then look towards the left pocket, again just a half a beat, and in this half a beat, I switch the matchbooks. Both hands turn over at the same time, my left hand finger palms the duplicate matchbook, and the Absence matchbook in the right hand is brought into view. The left hand doesn’t stop though, as soon as the switch is done, the left hand immediately goes to the left pocket, leaves the duplicate there, and comes out with the pen, and I uncap it and hand it directly to the spectator, as I position the Absence matchbook back towards them, and instruct them to sign right above the striking paper. I usually hold the matchbook for this, but I have also tossed it on the table if the situation to do so presents itself. There is nothing for them to suspect at this point, they’ve examined the matchbook moments before, and are now signing it. There is literally NO reason for them to be suspicious of anything!
This is such an incredible switch, that when done well flies by even the most eagle eyed spectators. It isn’t a technical switch, rather it is a psychological one. The mechanics are basic, but the psychological aspect of YOUR distraction as you look for a pen is perfect. It looks like you are looking for a pen, and pass the matchbook from one hand to another to facilitate the search. It is invisible to both the eye, and more importantly, the mind.
You have now forced the celebrity, and switched the matchbook. Next up is…
Burning the matchbook is the most crucial step in the whole routine. It is also the easiest to mess up. It isn’t hard to do at all, but it does require care to ensure consistent success with Absence.
The Absence matchbooks, regardless of celebrity, all have a similar design. They all ensure that one corner of the matchbook is missing, and there is substantial empty space in the middle of the silhouette. This design allows for a quick, thorough burn.
As mentioned earlier, the matchbooks are fireproof, but not indestructible. If they are on fire for too long, the finer details will begin to warp, which is why we want the matchbook to burn as quickly as possible.
PROTIP – If you over burn the matchbook during performance, all is not lost. MOST of the time, the smaller details curl out, and by tilting the matchbook, you can still get the details in correct perspective.
Light a match, and tilt the matchbook over the flame, so it is perpendicular to the flame, parallel with the ground, and light in the MIDDLE of the matchbook, in the biggest empty space. Don’t worry about flashing the silhouette, they can only see the edge of the matchbook, it is white paper on white card stock, and it is on fire…
PROTIP – Light the match and hold it IN FRONT of the matchbook before/as you light it. This will prevent any back lighting from the match before the matchbook is lit.
As soon as it fully catches on fire, and you can see the paper is completely on fire, bring it up in front of you and blow the flame out, and continue to gently blow on any remaining embers, to ensure the silhouette is completely visible. Shake the matchbook gently, to shake off any loose bits.
PROTIP – Sometimes if there is too much glue, the paper won’t burn completely away. Don’t sweat it. If it doesn’t impede the silhouette, leave it, you can peel it off secretly later. If it does impede the silhouette, light another match and burn it away.
In the spectators eyes, you have just burnt a matchbook beyond recognition, all that is left to do is shift their paradigm, and blow their minds with…
This is where it all comes together. You can reveal the silhouette using any available light source, to varying effect. In bright or direct light, you can simply hold the matchbook in front of their hand, so the natural light casts a shadow on their palm. In indirect lighting and intimate one on one performances, you can place the matchbook on its edge, allowing the light to cast the shadow right beside the matchbook on the table.
The method I use the most, because it is the most practical, convenient, reliable light source available; the flashlight on my phone. The flashlight is bright and direct, so the shadow will be crisp and visible in virtually all lighting conditions, and my phone has already been used (the force) so it is an established, logical prop.
PROTIP – Shadows 101 – The closer you hold the matchbook to your phone, the bigger the silhouette will be, but it will lose sharpness and contrast.
PROTIP – Counteract the loss in sharpness and contrast by lowering the lights for the revelation. The darker the room is, the silhouette will appear to be sharper.
Introduce the matchbook.
Switch matchbook, have it signed if you like.
Force the celebrity.
Burn the matchbook.
Reveal the celebrity silhouette in the shadow.
That is really all performing Absence boils down to technically. How you perform it is up to you. However, here are a couple of alternate ideas for handling Absence.
This is probably the handling that many of you will use the most, and one I use quite often myself if I am using Absence in a walk around situation, as lighting a book of matches on fire at every table might be frowned upon in certain venues. It also allows you to get multiple uses out of each matchbook if prepared and handled carefully.
You will need a smoke gimmick of some sort, such as VAPR by SansMinds.
To prepare for the Flameless Absence, take one of your Absence matchbooks, and set it up as described earlier, however DO NOT glue the paper cover sheet on.
You are now going to PRE BURN the matchbook, but HOW you do it is CRUCIAL to your success.
Because the matchbooks become fragile after being burnt, we need to burn them carefully so they don’t break between or during performance.
The secret is to use indirect heat. A heat gun set on low is perfect, but an electric stove works well too. In either case, hold the matchbook a few inches over the heat source, keeping it moving, just until the details start to turn brown. If the details turn BLACK, they will likely be too fragile to withstand handling. I recommend blackening the outer edges and corners, as they aren’t integral to the silhouettes integrity. You can also go around the edges with a Sharpie, to ensure they look burned. You can even color all the the details black to the same effect.
If you don’t have access to a heat gun, or electric stove, a small butane torch works as well, you just have to be careful around the details. You can pre burn the matchbook with just a lighter, however a great deal of care is required to keep from over doing it.
Once you have burned the cover, burn out all the matches. Fold and tuck the cover carefully, and carefully tuck one of the cardstock false covers over the silhouette, protecting it. Remove it by sliding it out just prior to performance.
Place the prepared matchbook in your right pocket, your phone and duplicate matchbook in your left.
Introduce the duplicate matchbook under whatever pretense you like. Have the spectator examine it, and remove a single match. Execute the Crossing the Gaze switch as described earlier, ringing in the Absence matchbook, silhouette towards your palm. Place the matchbook directly onto their hand, asking them to cover it with their other.
Display the force on your phone, having them think of a celebrity. Ask them to focus on that celebrity as you take the single match from them, and have them open their hand, so you can take the prepared matchbook, and strike the match, immediately putting it back in their hand, other hand on top as before. Be cautious to to flash here.
Stare intently at the flame, as you gently touch the back of their hand, keeping their attention on the flame. Suck in sharply, extinguishing the flame. As you do this, you trigger your smoke gimmick, secretly (to them) enveloping their hands in smoke… Blow gently towards their hand, as if you were sending the flame from your mouth to the matches, directing their attention to their hands, which are now enveloped in smoke… Have them slowly open their hands, and look at the matchbook. They will notice the matches are all burned out, and the cover is burnt beyond recognition. Combined with the visual cue of the single match flame, and the smoke from the smoke gimmick, they will believe that somehow you caused the matchbook to burn in their hand! Now all that is left to do is turn on the flashlight on your phone and reveal their thought of celebrity!
This is my preferred handling when working walk around at corporate events.
This is a handling I worked out to get TWO revelations out of the routine… I don’t use it often, as I find the effect feels more powerful with just one revelation; adding the second seems like it actually diminishes the effect, but I belief that someone out there will absolutely slay with this handling.
Start by sticking the 2nd celebrity to the back of your phone with a small piece of putty or wax. just a tiny bit to hold it in place when you get your phone. Position it so it is naturally covered by your hand as you hold it.
Force 2 celebrities on 2 people via your preferred method. I have just swiped between them in my photo album as a show different people the force video.
Perform either Absence or Flameless Absence for the first spectator. The beauty here, is you are secretly getting the 2nd revelation in play on the back of your phone, during the revelation of the first one, before they even know whats going on! After the revelation, bring your hands down and together, performing the ‘Down & Under’ switch as you transfer the phone from one hand to the other, as you point out that the 2nd spectator is ALSO thinking of a celebrity. Simply transfer the phone from one hand to the other, covering the first matchbook, and removing the 2nd matchbook from underneath. This switch is old as the hills, and likely already in your lexicon of sleights.
Place the 2nd matchbook in the 2nd spectators hand, and trigger your smoke gimmick, making it look as though another burn is happening… Pick up the matchbook, and reveal the 2nd spectators celebrity as well!
You can ditch the first matchbook as you put your phone away; just drop it in the pocket with your phone.
Thank you for your purchase, and I do hope you get as much out of Absence as I do! Breathtaking, showstopping, there is no shortage of superlatives I can use to describe Absence; it really is the finest piece of magic I have ever created. I have opened my stage show with it. I have closed my stage show with it. I have used it for walk around. I have used it for camera. This is my go to piece of ‘special’ magic’; this is what I use when I want to leave an impression.
I want to take the time to thank a few people who have helped me in immeasurable ways during the process to bring this to you:
Carey Lauder – The man behind so much of what you see, and what you don’t. Your contributions are deeply appreciated. Thank you.
Darcy Oake – My partner in crime. My left hand. My ride or die. I could not have done this without all you have done for me. Thank you.
Terry Williams – My little brother from another mother. It pisses me off you are so much smarter than me. But I learn so much from you. Thank you.
Courtney – Words cannot express my love and gratitude for all you do for our family. Thank you.
THE OTHER STUFF
Here is the link to a quick tutorial video I made for Absence.
Wait, what? Tutorial video? Why did I make you read through all of this when there was a video available?
The reason is simple, I can convey more information through text, and you can find and digest the information you need easier. There are details and finer points that I did not make in the video, and I felt they were important enough to warrant writing them out in such a way that you would learn them.
It also allows me to continually update this manual, with new photos, new ideas, and yes, new videos for Absence. It is like a ‘live’ instruction manual.
If you have any questions, comments, or just want to say hi, get at me @ Sean@masteryofmystery.com