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James Randi Educational Foundation

An Encyclopedia of Claims, Frauds, and Hoaxes of the Occult and Supernatural

Introduction | "R" Reading | Curse of the Pharaoh | End-of-the-World Prophecies

Index | A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | Y | Z

compass trick This simple trick, in which a magnetic compass is caused to deflect from its normal north-south orientation, can be traced back in the literature to the seventeenth century, but is obviously much older. It probably was one of the tricks discovered at just about the time the device was first constructed, much prior to Marco Polo's return from Cathay in about 1300.
      The trick is accomplished by introducing almost any magnet or sufficiently massive magnetic metal (the metal need not be itself magnetized) into the proximity of the instrument. Conjurors have done this by concealing a magnet on the knee, in a shoe, or in the clothing and bringing it close to the compass. The hands are frequently waved about during such a demonstration, and since the movement of the needle does not correspond directly to such movements, the spectator is led to believe that a magnet is not being palmed. This is known in the trade as misdirection.

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