The Loop

David Copperfield was forced to explain a famous magic trick in court because apparently we have to know everything now

April 20, 2018

On its face, yes, David Copperfield being forced to hand over the dark secrets of a decades-old magic trick in a courtroom setting sucks. Magic is fun! Magic is one of the only reliable express lanes back to your sweet-eyed childhood, back to belief, back to wonders and delight and the inability to believe what your senses are showing you. I watched every David Copperfield special NBC produced in the ‘80s, and I watched my grandfather make four jacks mystically travel to the top of the deck, and I smiled every last time. I love Penn and Teller, but not for a minute did I want to watch them pull the curtain back, never wanted to give over one lousy ratings point to that jackass Magician Who Explains Everything on Fox. There’s so little to blow us away in our daily travels — why would I want some jag on Garbage Network to blow holes in my beliefs? I choose to believe the show, the wonder. It’s why I liked this guy so much.

But then you read what really happened in Copperfield’s trick, and how the trick is truly achieved, and the aggressively practical means by which Copperfield does all of his tricks, and another thought hits you. Not, “Oh no, magic is fake!” but something stronger, something stranger: “How the f**k else would 13 people transport themselves to a different part of the theater?”

OK, so first, here’s the trick, which is called Lucky 13:

Pretty cool, right? Real-life spacetime-bending, live and in your face. Smoke and misdirection, and a trick Copperfield has been doing for literal decades. (Related, David Copperfield is 61, which is a lot harder to process than someone getting carved in half by a lousy saw.)

OK, here’s the spoiler part. If you clicked on a “David Copperfield magic reveal” headline and didn’t want to know the secret for some reason, please click away now. Might we suggest this piece on the making of Caddyshack or the apparent reality of golf-inspired weed.

OK, hi to everyone who’s still there. Turns out the participants in Lucky 13 aren’t broken down into their cellular components and redistributed Mike Teevee-style to a distant part of the arena. Sorry. The participants are— wait for it — directed to run through a bunch of secret tunnels that have been built throughout the arena for this express purpose. It’s not Apparation, it’s telling everyone to look this way while everyone runs that way, the fundamental basis of all magic.

So while it’s a little depressing to see the curtain pulled back, it’s not what you might call shocking. Or surprising. Orrrrrrr something that could have gone any other way. Physics still work on Earth, which is actually probably good news.

At this point, I suppose we should mention why Copperfield had to spill the beans in the week’s second-weirdest courtroom revelation (waves to Hannity): One of the participants in the Lucky 13 trick, a clumsy British 58-year-old by the name of Gavin Cox, injured himself during the magic-sprint through the tunnels, falling and dislocating his shoulder and suffering chronic headaches and etc., etc., etc. According to the suit, he’s spent more than $400,000 on medical bills.

Also according to the suit, he is the only man in decades of Copperfield doing this trick to dislocate his shoulder while jogging through a well-lit tunnel. Cox says the passageways were dangerous, Copperfield’s people say they weren’t, it goes on like this forever, everyone ruins everything. The fact that so many people had participated in the Lucky 13 trick already was one of the judge’s reasons for making Copperfield explain it, which makes sense. I haven’t tried, but I imagine if you Googled for an explanation, one would not be terribly hard to find. But that’s not the point of magic — the point is to decide beforehand whether you’re buying into the premise or not. The point is decide what you’re there for: hard cold reality, or a few temporary hours of escape.

The point is also to watch where you’re going.