The Amazing Lighter Trick
everything you need to know about my trick, “Warning!”
WHY I CREATED THIS MAGIC TRICK…
I love this trick and I created it so I could perform it at all the time. I carry it with me to every professional show and it’s the only trick that’s in my pocket when I’m not working. If I have 10 seconds to show a magic trick to a client, a new friend, or a celebrity, “Warning” is the one I’m going to perform.
Below I’m going to tell you about the history of “Warning!”, how I created, manufactured and sold it to magicians around the world, how one time 70,000 sheets of flash-paper exploded, and much much more. But first, if by chance you’re not a magician and you stumbled onto this page, let’s start with this question:
Magicians sell their tricks?
Yes, some do. Just as there are performers of magic, there are also inventors, consultants and creators of magic. There are manufacturers, illusion builders, magic shops, dealers and distributors. Some magicians create exclusively for other magicians. That’s not what I do.
I’m a full time, professional magician. I get paid to perform magic, not sell tricks. At its highest, 15 years ago, selling magic books and videos to magicians was 15-20% of my business. These days it is 0.25% of my annual income.
During that time, in my twenties, I spent about one-third of my year traveling to lecture to professional and amateur magicians. I went to magic clubs, rings, circles, IBM & SAM clubs, private and public clubs in most major European cities, in South America, Europe, Australia and Asia. Teaching magicians became an amazing way to see the world and learn from some of the best magicians in each of those cities.
At that point, all of the magic I created was sleight-of-hand magic with cards, so I wrote small booklets — called lecture notes — and would sell those books after my lectures. Eventually came videos.
The reason I wrote books on magic and published videos was because I learned from books and videos. The reason I lectured to magicians was because growing up I learned form lecturing magicians who would come to town. My life was transformed because other magicians shared their knowledge. So it was a no-brainer: teaching others was what I could do to give back to the community that taught me so much.
While selling books and lecture notes is a great way to share knowledge with other professionals, it’s not as profitable or sustainable as performing. Only professionals value reading and know that it can be difficult and that’s part of the process of becoming a great magician. Everyone else wants the easy way, they want to buy tricks, gimmicks, anything involving custom gaffs, trick deck of cards or mechanical apparatus. Hobbyist magicians love props. Beginning magicians love gimmicks. Magicians whose gig becomes selling stuff to magicians end up creating magic specifically to sell magicians.
I didn’t want that. So I made a promise to myself that I would never release a trick or gimmick just for the sake of selling it. The only kind of magic I would ever release would be my own, professional material, for the sake of contributing to the art of magic.
So far I’ve released 3 tricks to the magic community. “Who Killed The King,” “Test of Perseption” and “Warning.” In all cases I decided to share these because in order to get the highest quality production that I wanted, I had to get not one, not ten, but thousands of each trick manufactured. I figured if I’m making it for myself, I’m more than happy to share with the community.
Below, I’ll tell you more about how the trick was printed. But first, let me tell you about how I created “Warning!” in the first place.
How do magicians create their own magic tricks?
No matter how astonishing a trick may be, it suffers from one major fault - it has no point. Suppose you could work miracles. Suppose that, without coming near me, you simply gestured toward my pocket and told me to put my hand in it. I did so and took out a ham sandwich. This would no doubt amaze me, but after I had recovered from my surprise my only feeling would be, "So What?" But suppose I say, "I'm hungry," and you reply, "I can fix that. Look in your left coat pocket." When I do so, I find a sandwich. This has a point. It makes sense. You cannot work that sort of miracle, but you can add meaning to your conjuring.
When I was starting in magic, a mentor of mine, Eric Henning, told me I always had to ask myself a similar question about each one of my magic tricks: “Who cares?” And if I can’t answer that question, it’s not a trick worth doing. Because of this I’ve always strived to create magic that is meaningful in the moment.
Good magic should begin with believability before moving into impossibility.
Good magic requires justification. If the audience can connect to whatever you are doing or trying to do; if they can connect to your reasons, motivations, or efforts, the magical experience becomes that much deeper. One way to start making your magic feel justified in the moment is to use familiar props. While this helps to make the effect believable, it doesn’t yet make it meaningful (like the example of the ham sandwich above.) To make it meaningful, the magic has to satisfy some kind of wish, need or desire. So the next step is to identify what those needs could be.
If you’re performing magic at a bar or a restaurant, people will ask you EVERY NIGHT if you can make their check disappear, their spouse disappear, make them younger or make them thinner. My friend, if you could do what they asked for, you would be a MIRACLE WORKER.
Putting those effects aside, what else would be magical AND satisfy a need:
A customer drops their napkin on the floor and the magician makes it levitate back to their hand.
A customer asks for a drink. The magician shows an empty glass, covers it up with a napkin and it’s instantly filled with their drink.
A customer asks for a straw. The magician takes one straw and splits it into two.
This is a simple brain storming exercise that magician do. We think of the magic effects without worrying about a method. We do this until we find a magic trick that is meaningful, justified and answers the question: “who cares?”
This is one way you can come up with your own magic tricks.
So how did I come up with “WARNING!” ?
Around 2007 I had been hired by a marketing firm in Orlando, Florida to help them launch and promote their product with live magic shows. (I had done something similar in 2005 with other magicians for Absolut Vodka.) Our job was to take a limousine to a nightclub or bar and walk around performing close-up magic for the people in each venue.
These venues were loud. And at the end of each night I’d find that I was losing my voice from having to introduce myself to groups and tell them to check out the magic. After weeks of doing this, I needed a better solution. I needed a trick that was visual and powerful.
While sitting at a bar and watching someone peel the label off of a beer bottle, I thought: “wouldn’t it be great to peel the label off of a lighter and make it re-appear?” The effect and the method were created within seconds of each other. And thus, “Warning” was created.
How do you manufacture a magic trick?
Once the idea was there, I needed all the pieces. This trick required custom printed flash-paper and matching stickers. I reached out to my magic friend, Gabe Fajuri, who was working at magic wholesaler, Fun Inc, in Chicago, and he pointed the way to a number of flash-paper manufacturers in Asia, Europe and South America. Contacting them took months, dozens of difficult to understand emails and many confusing uses of Google translate. But eventually the first printing was completed and released to magicians around the world through a number of magic shops and wholesale distributors. But not without adventures…
The company that printed the first set of flash-paper labels said that the first minimum order was 100,000 sheets. But when I received the first box, the dimensions were completely wrong. I had 100,000 GIANT warning labels, perfect for a giant lighter. It was comical and frustrating all at the same time. I ended up having to pay for that printing and wait another month until the right labels arrived. Once those were in hand, I shared the trick with my closest magician friends and started performing it professionally.
One night I was back at a local bar as part of the marketing promotion. As usual, my voice was struggling to be heard over the loud music. But that night was different. That night I had “Warning” with me. I remember it like it was yesterday. I walked up to the first group and yelled, “Magic! Watch!” And with that, I pulled in a few people to get closer and performed the lighter trick. The reaction was phenomenal! I went to the next group. “Hey, magic! Watch!” I did this all night, performing the trick 20 times. In fact, that night it was the ONLY trick I did. The marketing manager came over to me at the end of the hour and said: “I don’t know what you’re doing tonight, but this is the greatest response we’ve had to the magic!” And it was also the easiest night for me. I didn’t lose my voice. I made a huge impact and made the client happy. I knew that night that the trick was a real winner.
Over the next few months I put the finishing touches on the trick to release it to the magic community. To the right is the original trailer for “Warning” with footage filmed by Jeff Kaylor in downtown Orlando. The first set of video instructions were filmed with my friends, Dan and Dave. My friend, Phil, designed the first logo and packaging. He also designed the stickers and helped me locate a manufacturer.
The trick became a big hit right away, with loads of reviews coming in from top professional magicians. This was the first official review written by John Lovick for MAGIC Magazine:
Reviews for “Warning” from professional magicians:
"Visually Stunning!" - David Williamson
"...The impossible in a nanosecond." - David Regal
"So off the wall and visual - what a great idea!" - Chad Long
"Fun, fantastic, f@$&!#% unbelievable!" - Daniel Garcia
"Generate waves of excitement without saying a single word!" - Gregory Wilson
"Kostya has come up with the most visually stunning trick I've seen in a long time." - David Williamson
"Organic and Logical. It's as perfect for a dark, loud bar as for an elegant dinner party." - Michael Ammar
"!WARNING is visual, direct, easy to do and looks like magic. It's going into my repertoire right now." - Joshua Jay
The Night of the explosion
The two large boxes, holding 70,000 sheets of flash-paper went into my climate controlled, air-conditioned storage unit, where they were safely kept for nearly 2 years until one night, after a big thunderstorm, static electricity traveled through the pipes and caused a spark to land inside one of the boxes. It was a Wednesday night, 1 am when I got the call from the manager of the storage units.
“We need you to come down here right away, there’s been an incident.” When I arrived there were policemen and firemen all around my storage unit. There was a hole in the wall where the bricks were missing that they had taken out. There was water everywhere on the ground, which they had used to douse the fire. Inside the storage unit were my lecture notes, DVDs and magic, all now destroyed.
The Sheriff arrived and suspiciously questioned me. They must have thought I was cooking meth. I presented my insurance certificate, stating explicitly that I had been storing nitrocellulose paper.
I couldn’t believe that the worst possible thing that could have happened, did. I had kept the paper stored safely for two years. The news of the incident traveled fast through the magic world. And magicians everywhere were saddened that the trick was now off the market. The remaining units were in the hands of magic shops and magicians were asking me if I was going to bring it back.
I opened up my own freezer where I had kept my personal storage of flash-labels. I had enough to last me many years. But now that the trick was available to the marketplace and thousands of magicians were using it, I knew I had a responsibility to bring it back to the market.
For the second printing, I decided to get new packaging and more detailed video instructions. I reached out to Jeff Pierce, who had produced my Roadrunner Cull DVDs to film the video instructions and I used a local production house to duplicate the DVDs. Working with my friend, Kris Sheppard, I updated the design and packaging which ended up winning a design award.
Wanting to avoid any more explosions, I contacted a major magic distributor out of California and made a deal for them to get delivery of the sheets and be the main distributor to magic shops around the world. A year later, when I visited their location for the first time I asked them to bring out the box. It took them half an afternoon to find it in their warehouse. Because they mislabeled the box, it had been stored in a hot corner and the paper had been completely destroyed. (For long-term storage, the paper should be stored in a fridge or freezer.) They refused to admit their mistake and refused to pay for the re-printing. $30,000 of product had been destroyed and I learned the lesson that they were not a professional or reputable company to deal with.
Online magic retailer, Ellusionist, sold “Warning” from 2015-2018.
FOURTH AND CURRENT PRINTING
While I was lecturing in Blackpool, England, at one of the world’s largest magic conventions, I was approached by a magic shop that specialized in selling flash-paper, PropDogUK. The owner, David, was professional and courteous and asked if they could work with me. He purchased my remaining stock and then we worked together to order the next printing.
David helped communicate with the flash-paper production company to ensure the paper was thicker and better quality than ever before. We also changed the dimensions slightly, by just one or two millimeters, so that the flash-paper would match the stickers identically. (Before, the sticker was a bit bigger).
The moment that I received the package and opened it up, I knew this was the best printing yet. I asked my Orlando magician friend and film-maker, Ryan Schlutz, to film a package opening video, which is the video you see at the top of this page.
With the package of flash-paper and matching real stickers, you get a web link to access the instructions in my online “Learning Center” for magicians. There’s lots of other freebies and video lectures there as an added bonus.
So that’s where we are now, as of August 2019. The fourth printing of “Warning” is here and magicians around the world are rejoicing at the news. It’s become a staple in many professional magician’s repertoires. Those that know, know. It’s an easy trick. Really simple method. But the POWER of the effect is unmistakable.
For a long time I’ve had trouble reconciling the fact that I have two distinct audiences: laypeople that hire me to perform and magicians that want to learn my magic. I’ve recently come to the realization that it is highly unlikely that anyone who watches a magician perform this trick will actually find this page. And if they do… if you’re not a magician, but a curious person who searched the internet for the “trick with the lighter” well, I can only hope that in reading this long post you’ve come to appreciate the thinking and work that goes into producing a magic trick.
And since you may now know how it’s done and have the ability to purchase it yourself, I hope this trick will be your first (and positive) entrance into close-up magic.
And if you’re a professional who loves this trick as much as I do, THANK YOU. Thank you for your continued support, for the messages and e-mails asking “When will WARNING be back?” And thanks for posting your videos on social media so I can see you performing it!
Videos of “Warning” in action
Send me a link to your video and I’ll post it here!
Thanks for reading. Questions, thoughts, comments?
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