Josie Has a Secret - The Page With All The Answers

The Page With All the Answers

Finger Math

Josie solved the division problems with Chisanbop (pronounced chee-sen-bop) a method for using your fingers like an abacus invented by Korean schoolteacher Sung Jin Pai. Expert Chisanboppers can add, subtract, multiply and divide faster than a person using a calculator. To learn more, read The Complete Book of Fingermath by Ed Lieberthal.


Engaño (pronounced en-gan-yo) is a Spanish word meaning "deception." Josie invented a game in which whoever goes first loses, and then she pretended that Todd was "lucky" to go first. She appealed to Todd's sense of pride by implying that if hadn't heard of the game, he wasn't cool. Once Todd realized that the game was rigged, he couldn't quit without admitting that he had lied about having played before.


J.P. pre-taped the Action Weather Report at the local cable TV station, with her friend Skip Droober posing as a weatherman. She carefully timed her lesson so that Josie's trick would end at the same time as the videotaped Skip announced the "disappearance" of El Bambino. Having the trick fail the first time made it seem even more magical when it finally worked.

Little Joker

The Little Joker is a brilliant safecracking device invented around 1860 by George Leslie and George Bliss. They would break into a bank and slip the Little Joker behind the combination knob. After that, every time the safe was opened a little wire would wear a groove into the device. Later they would examine the grooves and try the three numbers where the grooves were deepest in every sequence until the safe opened.

Number Transference

Write the numbers 1 through 10 down and hide them in various places in a room. Then ask someone to guess a number and tell you what it is. Then tell them to look in the place you hid that particular number. The sense of magic is increased if you have them reveal the hidden number rather than doing it yourself.

Fortune Telling

Fortune telling is the art of predicting your subject's future, usually combined with a bit of occult knowledge about their present to "prove" your magic powers. Fortune-telling is usually easiest using some kind of prop, such as tarot cards or a crystal ball. A prop helps you distract your subject, amplifies the sense of occasion, and gives you something to fiddle with while you're preparing your next "insight."

There are three primary ways to convince a subject that you have magical fortune-telling abilities:

Research: If you can get some true gossip on a subject before a session, that may impress them, especially if you've never met them before. Even mundane, well-known information will seem magical when skillfully combined with Fishing and Flattering Generalities.

Fishing: Recite a list of possibilities, and pay close attention to your subject's reaction. Most people will react slightly when you say one of their secrets out loud, even if you were guessing.

Flattering Generalities: Predictions like "Sometimes you like to be around other people, but other times you need alone time" apply to everyone, but because people are self-focused they tend to think such predictions are about them specifically. Also, because people want to believe that they are kind, intelligent and talented, they will tend to be impressed with the insightfulness of any fortune-teller who tells them they are kind, intelligent and talented.

Fortune-telling probably works best for people who truly believe they have magic powers to see the future.

Wishful Thinking

Everyone holds at least a few beliefs which are contradictory. For instance, you might know someone who thinks of themselves as an avid skier, even though if they looked at a calendar they would realize they haven't gone skiing for years. Usually the dissonance exists to protect our pride. Who wants to think they've become too out-of-shape or lazy to be a skier? So our mind lets us paint a flattering self-image even though it contradicts facts we're aware of.

A skillful magician can take advantage of the gap between what we like to believe about ourselves and what we know to be true. This is a very dangerous area of magic, because deflating a person's flattering self-image is a sure way to make them angry with you.

Faith Healing

Josie hid a bag of cow blood up her sleeve (she got the cow blood from the butcher's). When her hand seemed to go into Amanda's stomach, she really just hid her fingers from the knuckle down and popped the bag of cow blood. When she withdrew her hand, she also produced a sliver of meat she had hidden behind her hand. Everything else was either to amplify the sense of occasion or to make it harder for Amanda to get a good look at exactly what was going on.

Faith healers are still common in some parts of the world. Although sometimes discredited as "fakes," many of their patients really do get better, probably because of the placebo effect. J.P.'s book calls faith healing "real magic" because it can have a lasting effect on the subject.

Deflating Your Own Myth

Josie was beginning to discover the price for doing real magic -- if people think you're a witch, sooner or later you'll be in big trouble. She intentionally botched up the turning-a-drawing-of-a-dove-into-a-real-dove trick to prove to Amanda that she didn't really have any supernatural powers.

At the same time, Josie had to be careful that Amanda didn't think there was anything fake about her recovery. Josie needed to convince Amanda that a sort of magic was at work, and it was inside Amanda herself.

The Invitations

Josie and Darla changed the date on an old invitation and photocopied it 14 times: one for each of them in all seven colors. Darla stayed up past her bedtime that night drawing 14 copies of Majik the Magpie -- one on each invitation.

How to Saw Someone in Half

Remember the painting of Darla inside a box that Officer Droober admired? When Josie opened the side of the box to prove that Darla was still inside, the audience saw that painting. (Darla finally learned to paint realistic people, thanks to Aunt Leslie's help.) Darla had fallen through the secret panel in the floor the moment after she entered the box. By the time Josie sawed the box in half, Darla was already in the basement.

Channeling the Dead

Channeling is like Fortune Telling: It combines Research, Fishing, and Flattering Generalities. A good channeler can imitate the voice or at least the mannerisms of the person they're channeling. And a great channeler usually believes that they're really somehow in touch with the spirits, which is why this is sometimes considered real magic.

How Did Darla Cure Her Loneliness?

Real magic.

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