Book the Shock Doc Show

Monday, September 3, 2007


So now you have left the ten-in-one and out of the blue, you hear some terrifying screams. Not the screams of people cresting the top of a roller coaster and not the recorded screams of The Haunted House….what you are hearing are the screams of real fear—people trying to get away. It is the screaming of people who are running for their lives. “Is there a fire?”, you ask yourself.

You follow the noise until you have reached the back end of the lot at the carnival. You don’t see the people running as you expected but you know the screams must have come from somewhere nearby. Just as you turn to leave, a loud voice comes over a speaker. “Yes, indeed, she was the victim of a cruel medical experiment. He father was a biologist who dabbled in genetics and experimented on his innocent daughter. She is now forever cursed. See Zabora the girl who turns into a gorilla. You will see the clothing fall away from her breasts as her skin sprouts hair and fur. Slowly you will see this poor girl become an uncontrollable fierce, wild gorilla right before your very eyes as she descends back down the evolutionary chain.”

You say to yourself, “What? Really? This has to be some trick. A girl who will turn into a gorilla?! Did he say ‘clothes fall away from her breasts’? Wait, ok. It’s a dollar. Genetic mutant? Come on who experiments on their daughter? Ok. I’ll bite”

As you walk into the already crowded tent, you can see that the “stage” is really just an elevated cage with iron bars. Sure enough there is a bikini-clad girl who walks right out on stage and behind the bars. “No gaff here”, you say to yourself. “There is a girl on stage…where is a box”. You are surprised when the girl who is just standing there seems to be commanded by an offstage voice who is putting her into some sort of trance.

“Sleep Zabora. SLEEP. Go deeper, back in time….back thousands of years ago….back”. Wait. Did you just see something? She walked right on stage, is standing right there in front of you and she closed her eyes. But now her bikini is getting a little transparent or…disappearing. But you can’t see anything. It is as if she is fading out and slowly on that very spot a gorilla is…is…appearing. “Whoa!” You say to yourself, “The gorilla is moving!”

Sure enough, the girl is gone…she has slowly transformed into a gorilla. No box. No curtains. No nothing…and the gorilla is moving. Clearly it is alive and jumping up and down, wiggling back and forth. As your mind just settles into becoming comfortable with what it just “saw”, you are snapped out of your visual trance by the voice overhead. “WAIT. Something is wrong!”, the voice booms.

The gorilla is starting to look pretty aggressive by beating its chest, bearing its teeth and threatening the audience. “Back Zabora! BACK!” shouts the voice as the gorilla begins rattling the bars of the cage—the very cage that separates the audience from this wild beast. “Back”, shouts the voice. “RRRAAAAAARRRR”, roars the gorilla as the massive animal shakes the cage, which can just barely contain the animal. “BACK ZABORA!” you hear, as the animal rips the door off of the cage. Everyone in the audience screams in terror. The gorilla is loose and as it leaps into the audience, people scatter, running from the tent in all directions. They scream in terror. The very terror that attracted you to the back end of the lot….

In a recent discussion on a popular magic bulletin board, there is a discussion of “what is the greatest illusion of all time?”. Although it wasn’t mentioned, there is no doubt in my mind, that the Girl-to-Gorilla is one of the greatest illusions if not the greatest illusion. Not only is it a portable money making machine, but the showmanship of this illusion cannot be topped.

First, the fantastic psychology makes is an almost irresistible attraction. Hearing the screams of others, people are attracted to the tent. Then, there is the recorded voice that makes a pitch about an attraction so unbelievable, it demands to be seen. (Besides, who can resist seeing a girl whose clothes are going to fall away?!)

Then, there is the illusion itself. Based on Pepper’s Ghost, the transformation is beautiful—a live girl becomes a live gorilla in plain view. It all happens right before your very eyes. There are no boxes or curtains. There is no mylar. The illusion is beautiful in its simplicity. Finally, there is the drama of the escaped gorilla, causing the audience to scream running from the tent. Thus, the cycle begins again. In itself, this is a thing of beauty. But the Girl-to-Gorilla takes it further than that. The Girl-to-Gorilla gives the experience few illusions do. It is the experience of believable magic.

Magic, by its very nature is saying, “Look, the world works in rational ways and when something doesn’t work that way, it is called ‘magic’”. Magic is when things can levitate unsuspended, objects can appear and disappear. When things don’t follow the rational rules we have come to expect, we call it “magic”. So magic requires the audience to be convinced that all rational explanations are absent.

When you saw a magician fly on stage, did you think to yourself “Wow! That man can really fly!” or did you think, “Wow. That is beautiful. I don’t know how he did it”. Probably, you thought the latter. Rationally, you know the magician can’t fly. Nor can he make an elephant disappear; walk on water or up the side of a building. At no time were you convinced the mage could do it for real. You may have left the theater amazed, but unconvinced. A real wizard would have left the audience both amazed and convinced. Effective mentalism accomplishes this feat all the time. So much so, that there is often a debate regarding disclosure of trickery.

Now clearly, you know that a girl cannot turn into a gorilla either. But unlike levitations or signed dollars appearing inside of lemons, for a very short period of time this illusion does something few others accomplish. For a few moments, the audiences’ senses of reason and rationality have gone out the window and they actually believed what they saw. They believed it so much that they ran from the tent fearing that they had just narrowly escaped being torn apart by a wild animal. They were amazed by the illusion, convinced of the danger and of the reality of the gorilla. It is only after they stopped running, and their pulse has slowed back down to a normal rate that their reason kicked back in and they realized that they were duped. That is the moment the magic fell away, leaving them just amazed and amused.

But at that point, it is too late. Their screams were like the calls of the Sirens, beckoning others to the tent. Others who will, if only for a few moments, get a chance to experience real magic.