Magician Scares The Masses By Sneezing His Head Off His Shoulders
Jay Dawson May 31st 2017 Entertainment
It's probably not a headline you'd read every day, but then again, this unbelievable stunt really only comes once in a lifetime. As this insane video shows, true magic is still alive and well, and it's stalking the streets of sunny California. From one of the world's most incredible magicians, we're going to take you through one performance you won't want to miss...
Not Your Usual Halloween
It was a Halloween that few of these innocent bystanders would ever forget. In the streets of San Luis Obispo, California, on Halloween, the city was terrorized by a new and never-before-seen phantom: a man whose head, when he sneezed, completely fell off. It could have been dismissed as just another act of Halloween prankery, but it was broad daylight. And the monsters were only supposed to come out at night.
Of course, it was all the work of one very dedicated trickster, a magician by the name of Rich Ferguson. Originally born in San Luis Obispo, he had taken to the streets of his hometown to show off his latest trick. And boy, was it a crowd-pleaser. It was also a crowd-rib-tickler, and a crowd-jumper, and a crowd-terrifier. See if you can work out from the following video how it was really done...
Who Is This Guy?
The names Ferguson... Rich Ferguson. His start to life in the town of San Luis Obispo was not an auspicious one - his father was in and out of jail for most of his life, and his mother was murdered when he was just four - he has risen to become the city's darling, and one of the most successful magicians in California.
Also known as "The Ice Breaker", Rich studied Engineering at college then worked for United Parcel Service. In 1997, he quit to become a full-time entertainer and has never looked back. Renowned for his sleight-of-hand, mentalist skills, and proficiency at poker, he's been the recipient of dozens of awards, including from the famous Magic Castle, and even featured on Ellen and The Today Show. Not only that, he's a motivational speaker for troubled youths, helping them overcome life's obstacles and stay on track in life. In short, he's more or less the best guy in the world.
From the time of Houdini and even before, magicians have constantly battled to outdo each other's stunts, tricks, and illusions. For decades, it seemed that every year brought a new and more elaborate ruse, designed at astounding and baffling the world. Without fame, of course, magicians are nothing. So they set out to grab more and more of the audience's hearts and minds, and perform a trick that no-one has seen before.
No-one who was alive in the eighties would forget the stunning moment when the megafamous David Copperfield made the Statue of Liberty disappear. Or even when he topped himself, three years later in 1986, by walking through the Great Wall of China. Then there's David Blaine, who spent 44 days suspended above London, without food, in a glass box. That was really only to one-up Criss Angel, who spend 24 hours chained underwater in 2002. There's never any rest when you're famous.
Making Money Appear
But all of these tricks are making magicians millions upon millions of dollars. Unlike many celebrities these days (we're not going to name names), to be a magician, and to have the stage presence required to destroy an audience, requires real talent, a talent that only a handful of people across the world really have. True magicians - true entertainers - are in short supply, making them worth their weight in gold.
Want to know exactly how much you can make being a magician? Forbes has done all the digging. The top three earners - David Copperfield, Penn & Teller, and Criss Angel - earn between $19 million and $64 million per year, thanks to TV, internet, and show earnings, alongside advertising and merchandise. It's a lucrative industry, and despite the internet's best efforts to debunk the tricks, it's still something that people are wowed by.
Trick Or Treat
Another industry that just keeps on growing is Halloween. In fact, Rich Ferguson's idea to pull his particular stunt on Halloween was probably his best move of all. Halloween, in one form or another, stretches back as far as 500BC, celebrated in a similar manner by Celtic pagans as a way of marking the transition between the end of summer and the start of winter. Known as Samhain, some of the traditions, like the wearing of costumes, still survive to this very day.
Christian influence brought with it a kind of religious mingling: they kept part of the old rites, but added their own spin with the notion of "All Hallow's Eve" - the root of the current name, Halloween. This was brought over by the Anglican and Catholic settlers of the now-United States of America, and when mass migration of Irish and Scottish people occurred in the mid-19th century, the holiday's fate - and popularity - was sealed forever.
The Holiday That's Getting Wackier
Nowadays, Halloween has taken a tone that's far removed from the original pagan rites. Apart from the wearing of costumes, it's become a purely commercial affair. Only the carved pumpkins really serve to remind us that this was once a celebration of the end of a bountiful harvest season. Even the costumes have gone far off track from ghosts and ghouls, as people just use it as an excuse to dress up as whatever they like. Sexy cat, anyone?
At the same time, the trick-or-treat tradition that was a staple of every American kid's life in the past few decades is slowly dying out. Candy's bad for you, in case you didn't know. It rots your teeth. And while you're at it, it's really not that safe to walk around after dark as a young child. So people are turning to weird, wonderful, and wacky ways to pass this national holiday. Oh, and that peeled-grape as eyeball thing is so 1990s.
Secrets Of The Magicians
The thing about magic tricks is that as much as the audience might try, it's still incredibly hard to figure out how it's all done. Magicians spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on some of their more elaborate ruses, sometimes licensing them to other magicians, and to lose that revenue thanks to audience disinterest would be a terrible blow to their performances.
Because of that, there are a strict set of ethics surrounding magicians and what they disclose to the public. Although technically not enforced, contravening these rules (made up by the International Brotherhood of Magicians and Society of American Magicians) is heavily frowned upon by other magicians, and may result in the offender being shunned from performing for a very long time. In a famous case, Val Valentino, performing as The Masked Magician, revealed the mechanics behind several tricks in the Fox series "Breaking The Magician's Code". For years he was essentially blackballed by other magicians and struggled to find work.
How Was It Done?
With all that in mind, it can't hurt to speculate how exactly this amazing trick was done, right? Of course, we don't know exactly - and we wouldn't tell you even if we did - but we do have a pretty good idea. Keep this in mind when you watch the video, or you might be just as shocked and fooled as the rest of the crowd.
So, one possibility is just that Rich Ferguson is simply ducking down into his jacket. The jacket itself would have to be a rigid structure - so it stays up when his head "falls off" - and through a cut in his shirt, his head could be seen to "fall", even though he is merely lowering it very quickly. This doesn't explain everything, but it's a pretty good guess. Besides, it's good to leave a bit of mystery for the audience.
What He's Doing Now
In the years following this incredible Halloween stunt, Rich Ferguson's star just keeps on rising. He followed up the next year with a memorable punking involving a human coffee shop chair, and has also produced a mentalist smartphone app that can actually read your mind. Not only that, he's also appeared on The Today Show a further three times, as their regular "prank expert".
Coupled with his side business in what he calls "creative consultancy", as well as speaking for businesses and performing across the world, Rich Ferguson is one busy boy. It's all part of what makes him such a great magician, though. The enthusiasm he brings to every project, and the sheer energy, will always keep him a crowd favorite. No matter what he does, and no matter how much money he's already made, he's not going to stop giving joy to us.
The YouTube Sensation
Alright: now for the video you've all been waiting for. Now to watch people scream, cry, laugh, and flee in absolute terror at this insane trick. And now to scratch your head, sit back in the chair for a couple of hours, and think: how in the hell did he do that? And why am I not a flippin' awesome magician, instead of an investment banker?
In the hours after it was uploaded, this video had already racked up close to five million views and made him instantly world famous. Since then, and with multiple reposts and copies, he's racked up a cool 20 million views. People can't get enough of this one weird trick. It'll never get old. Just watch it and see if you can be a magician too. See if you can do the impossible, and keep the smile off your face.