Magician stabs TV presenter’s hand!

Aractus 05, July, 2016

Marcin Poloniewicz
Marcin prepares to stab TV presenter with magic prop.

Well, there’s a wonderful video of this incident, as it happened live on Polish television. I have embedded the video at the end of the blog post if you wish to view it. The Magician is Marcin Poloniewicz, reportedly a semi-finalist of “Poland’s Got Talent”. Ironically this is exactly the same magic trick that was performed in 2014 on America’s Got Talent in the semi-finals by magician duo David & Leeman. The trick itself was created by magician Jon Allen, it is a commercial trick called “The Pain Game”, he himself performed the trick on the first season of Penn & Teller Fool Us, and to quote the description of his trick verbatim: “once set there is categorically no chance of you impaling your hand on the nail”.

I will give a basic description of this trick. It is a Russian-Roulette style trick where a dangerous six inch nail is placed through a piece of wood, and then put inside a paper bag. There are three other identical paper bags, each with their own palm-sized block of wood inside, and they get mixed up, and crushed one-by-one by the magician until there is only one left, which is revealed to contain the block of wood with the nail in it. It is a variation of an older trick involving paper cups and spikes (personally I think it’s a much better trick because the props are quite a bit larger).

This is how the trick is supposed to look, performed by Allen himself on Fool Us (I have edited the video to remove some of Penn’s comments at the end). If the video does not play smoothly for you in your browser then feel free to right-click and save the video and then play it in Media Player Classic or your player of choice. I have actually tweaked my blog theme and converted it from XHTML to HTML5 in order that I can embed this directly for you. Video copyright ITV (2011):

As you can see it’s a pretty good trick, and I think a very good performance. Notice he says this: “There are videos online of people doing this type of effect and getting it wrong and badly injuring themselves. And because of that I have to say a couple of things. First of all check out the videos because some of them are quite funny, but also please do not try this at home.” Well. Until now that was true. There are videos online of magicians doing a similar effect with paper or Styrofoam cups and injuring themselves, and injuring themselves, and they are indeed funny. But until now there was no one that had performed his trick that went wrong, and the video is not funny because the magician’s incompetence injures an innocent aide.

Here it is performed by David & Leeman on America’s Got Talent. You’ll notice they have presented it in their own way, and have used their own props (in particular they have used a fat stumpy spike instead of a six inch nail), but they are presenting Allen’s Pain Game. I think their presentation is very good, I think Jon Allen’s presentation above was also very good.

So what went wrong and how did it go wrong? Well here’s the video for those of you who wish to view it, but otherwise I’ll explain what happens in the video in a moment (video copyright Fairfax, 2016):

Firstly let me say that this is Allen’s trick (Pain Game), and you will notice the props are identical (in particular the blocks of wood and the nail, Połoniewicz might be using different bags). Now to describe what happens for those of you who are squeamish: Połoniewicz begins the trick as usual and places the block & nail in one bag, then mixes them up, then plunges his hand down on the first one. Then, and this is where it goes wrong, he takes the female presenter’s hand and plunges it down on a bag and straight onto the nail. She screams in pain (and shock), Połoniewicz realises the trick has gone wrong and he pulls the nail out of her hand. She was not seriously injured, and just required having her hand bandaged.

Now, if you’ve been paying attention you’ll note that Allen himself in the description of his trick guarantees the safety of his trick. So what’s going on? Well, Allen clearly designed the danger in the trick to be a cleverly crafted illusion. What Połoniewicz has done has taken Pain Game, and made an otherwise safe trick dangerous. Now I actually found a video of yet another magician (which I won’t name or share here) performing Pain Game in a dangerous way (but without it going wrong). So Połoniewicz is not the only moron to “tweak” the effect to make a safe trick dangerous.

Why would they do this you might wonder? Well in a nutshell it’s because Połoniewicz is an asshole, and a complete moron. Not only does he have no regard for the safety of others, but as if that wasn’t bad enough, he also disrespects the trick’s creator Jon by using his props and his trick in a way that is not intended! It would be life if I loaned a friend my car and he drove it drunk – that would be disrespectful, regardless of whether anything “went wrong”. Połoniewicz would rather face a real risk then perform a risk-free illusion. Now of course, when it comes down to it he has decided he didn’t want to be burdened by safety procedures that impact on the way they he wants to present the illusion. Other magicians are going to see this failure and may think that Jon’s safety guarantee is worthless, and that may give them doubts about the quality of his other illusions as well. At the very least it does make his illusion look less appealing to prospective buyers. The other video also does this – if I can spot an unnecessary risk introduced into the act, then I’m sure professional magicians would see a red flag for safety if they saw that particular performance, and they might then believe the illusion is “designed to be dangerous”. I guess I shouldn’t speak for Jon since I don’t know him, and I’m not a magician: but what I can say firmly is there are certainly other magicians that design illusions who would be outraged and furious if they saw their illusions being used improperly by others.

I just wanted to go a little bit beyond the “news story” here, and look at how and why this happened, and how people in the magic community might feel about this. And of course, I love calling out assholes, and I think Połoniewicz deserves every bit of ridicule I’ve thrown his way. The media thinks he “made a mistake”, I think what he did was far worse than that. A mistake is where a magician accidentally reveals an illusion or otherwise “stuffs up”. But this is much worse than that because he chose to perform Pain Game wrong: Jon guarantees the trick is safe to perform if you follow the instructions. So that can only mean that either he lied and has been selling a trick for many years that is dangerous, or that Połoniewicz intentionally made the trick dangerous because he didn’t want to perform it the way that the instructions tell him to. That’s not a “mistake”, that’s malevolence, that’s incompetence, that’s disrespectful, it’s negligent, it’s unnecessarily stupid, and it’s just plain wrong.

Thanks for reading, and I hope you enjoyed the videos.

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