Deceit! Deception! Illusion!
Celebrate these and all other types of trickery with Smoke And Mirrors Day, a festive time dedicated to the art of fraudulent cunning.
The phrase, “it’s all smoke and mirrors” refers to the way in which magicians use all manner of distraction to make sure the audience fails to see what’s really going on. The more complex the artifice, the more successfully the magician will get away with it!
One of the really fun things about magicians is that some of what they do is sleight of hand, while other parts of their work are based simply on science and mathematics. No matter the case, it’s all about making sure what happens is hidden from the viewer.
Although in a rather different context, another interesting example of smoke and mirrors is ‘legalese’. This constitutes that incredibly convoluted language that attorneys and other legal professionals use to make sure that no-one else understands what’s happening. Politicians have been known to try that sort of thing as well.
But National Smoke and Mirrors Day is more about magic and illusion!
History of National Smoke and Mirrors Day
The magical arts, while developed over time, have been around for thousands of years. Evidenced by cave drawings from Ancient Egypt that depict performance of the still-used “cups and balls” trick, the history of illusionist tricks can be traced through the Greeks and Romans, through the Dark Ages, and eventually into the 18th century where magic developed rapidly as it moved from a circus sideshow to its own stage.
In comparison to this history, the term “Smoke and Mirrors” is fairly new, having been used for only two centuries or so. First documented in 1770 when used by German charlatan and Mason Johann Georg Schröpfer, this trick of illusion used the obvious and expected tools: smoke and mirrors.
In addition, a hidden projector (originally called a “magic lantern”) was typically involved in the trick, as light shining in just the right place bounced off of the mirrors through the smoke, creating a fantastical form. In the case of Schröpfer, the illusionist was trying to fool the audience into believing that they were seeing conjured “spirits”.
The trick caught on from there and was used in a variety of ways to fool people for various reasons. Today, the term smoke-and-mirrors can be applied to almost anything that turns out to be a fraud or a misrepresentation of what is actually happening.
And it has developed into a day that is used to celebrate the very trickery and cleverness of magic.
How to Celebrate National Smoke and Mirrors Day
In honor of all things illusionary and magical for National Smoke and Mirrors Day, consider these fun activities:
Learn Some Magic Tricks
How best to celebrate this auspicious day? Go back to its roots! Try a bit of magic. There are lots of easy magic tricks that will amaze your friends.
While learning actual tricks that include smoke and mirrors might not be quite so simple for a beginner, it doesn’t hurt to try some of these tricks (YouTube videos are a helpful tool for learning). See what tricks can be used to leave friends and family wondering how they were done:
- Cup Through the Table. It’s a trick of the eye and only requires a cup, a piece of paper large enough to cover it, a table, and a coin or small ball. Just a bit of practice, and the cup secretly moves from on top of the table underneath it.
- Rubber Pencil. Not really a trick at all, this just involves shaking a normal pencil carefully from the end to make it look as if it is bending like rubber. This simple trick doesn’t involve anything more than a bit of practice.
- Instant Ice. More science than magic, this little trick uses a bottle of purified water that has been frozen for 2 hours and something cold to pour it onto (such as an icepack). Simply pour out the cold water onto the ice pack and see how quickly the water forms into an icy mountain!
Watch a Film About Magic
For those who don’t feel so keen about learning magic tricks themselves, plenty of illusions and magic are available through documentaries and films, old and new, such as:
- Now You See Me (2013). An action drama featuring a team of heist-worthy illusionists that keeps the viewer on the edge of their seats and wondering the whole time. The all-star cast includes Jesse Eisenberg, Mark Ruffalo, Isla Fisher, Morgan Freeman and many more. The film also has a sequel, Now You See Me 2.
- The Prestige (2006). Christian Bale and Hugh Jackman (and David Bowie!) team up to tell the story of two rival magicians who work to complete their finest tricks in 1800s London.
- Houdini (1953). With Tony Curtis playing the title character and sharing the screen with Janet Leigh, this film dramatizes the story of Harry Houdini from when he was a carnival act until he performed his most famous escape artist tricks for the world.
- The Illusionist (2006). With Edward Norton and Jessica Biel, this film tells the story of a lovestruck magician in early 1900s Vienna.
Visit a Magic Museum or Show
In honor this magical and scientific day, consider visiting a museum that specializes in the art of Smoke and Mirrors. Small or large, these types of museums can be found in various cities and towns the world over, including:
- The House of Houdini, Budapest, Hungary. Claiming the largest collection of Houdini artifacts in Europe, this museum doubles as a performance venue for the illusionary arts.
- Museum of Magic Art and Illusionism, São Paulo, Brazil. With a large collection of books, art, and videos, as well as devices used by illusionists, this place offers a fascinating insight into the culture of magic for children and adults.
- American Museum of Magic, Marshall, Michigan, USA. Housing the “largest collection of magical paraphernalia and illusions” in the United States, this museum showcases an extensive collection by the famous Harry Blackstone, Sr.
- Ripley’s “Believe It or Not” Odditorium or Museum. A popular place to find the weird and amazing, these Odditoriums and Museums can be found in places such as London, UK; Copenhagen, Denmark; Pattaya, Thailand; Surfers Paradise, Australia; Dubai, UAE; and many other places in North and Central America.
Whatever way is chosen to celebrate, paying heed to National Smoke and Mirrors Day is a fun way to give a lighthearted nod to those who engage in illusions and magic.
David Copperfield’s Guinness World Records
Known particularly for his illusions that go hand in hand with his stories, David Copperfield is an American magician who holds 11 different world records, including: Most magic shows performed in a year; Largest illusion ever staged; Largest magic work archive; and Largest international television audience for a magician.