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Skeptical Analysis of the Paranormal Society

"Le doute n'est pas une condition agréable, mais la certitude est absurde."

—Voltaire

Misdirection and Sleight of Hand

An essay on magician's tricks

Sleight of hand and misdirection work together in any magician's tricks. Sleight of hand is simple - it uses the dexterity of the hands to hide what one is doing. But in close quarters, or in analyzed footage, another element is needed - the element of misdirection.

Misdirection comes in many forms. Quite simply, it is drawing attention to one thing so you can perform a trick unobserved. There are various ways of achieving this effect. The human eye is drawn toward motion. Let's say that with your left hand you are going to pull a coin, seemingly out of nowhere (really out of your pocket). You can wiggle your right hand to draw attention to it. The audience will believe that the trick is being done with the right hand, so they will look at it. Grand gestures are another method, like sweeping your right arm in front of the crowd. Now that their attention is on the right hand, you can pull the coin out of your pocket with your left hand, and with a little sleight of hand, transfer it to the right. This is elementary magic.

You can see these methods in paranormal footage. Let's say we have a group of people standing in a library. All of them are gathered in one spot, observing some small phenomenon that can't be felt or noticed by the viewer. But the people have our attention. They are very excited about their small find, which might be a strange draft coming out of nowhere. Suddenly, in the background, a book flies off one of the shelves. We haven't been paying attention to the book until now, so the method of making it fly off the shelf could be paranormal, or it might not be. It's difficult to say. We were watching the guy waving his arms around trying to figure out where the draft was coming from. They don't show us the footage again immediately. They walk over to the book and look at it and exclaim over it, and say how no one could've manipulated it from where they were standing (which may or may not be true, but it lends credence to their claims). They don't show the footage again immediately for an excellent reason. See the essay on False Memory Implantation for the outline. In summary, they will tell us what must've happened, so that when we see the footage again, we are biased towards their explanation.

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