Semester I Special: Sam Lam creates magic tricks


Freshman Sam Lam performs a magic trick Thursday. Lam became a magician after observing a magician perform a trick when he was in kindergarten.

The Newtonite

[media-credit name=”Jay Feinstein” align=”alignright” width=”201″] Freshman Sam Lam performs a magic trick Thursday. Lam became a magician after observing a magician perform a trick when he was in kindergarten.
by Malini Gandhi
Freshman Sam Lam never makes a conscious choice to sit down and create a magic trick. Rather, the tricks, which involve card manipulation and vanishing coins, seem to come to him by accident—almost as if by magic.
“Magic tricks are something I just sort of stumble upon,” Lam said. “Usually, I am simply playing around with cards, and I start to notice patterns or put together techniques. The trick forms from there.”
Lam has taken his passion for magic tricks far, spending his free time perfecting techniques, putting together tricks and performing at birthday parties.
Sophomore Rudy Gelb-Bicknell, who is friends with Lam and who shares his passion for magic tricks, said that Lam’s combination of talent, as well as his personality, is what makes him a successful magician.
“Sam is brilliant at slight of hand and is always showing me new, very complicated moves he has come up with,” Gelb-Bicknell said.
“In addition to his talent at tricks, Sam is also funny and adds a lot of humor and personality to his approach to magic.”
But though Lam is now an accomplished magician, he first became part of the world of magic not as a performer, but as a gawking audience member.
According to Lam, he first became interested in magic tricks upon observing a magician at a restaurant he went to as a kindergartener.
“I remember watching the magician and noticing that whenever he performed, people around him were either surprised or shocked. I myself was perplexed.”
Inspired by the puzzling nature of the magician’s tricks and eager to elicit a similar response of amazement from an audience, Lam looked into the art of magic, he said. His grandfather bought him a book filled with descriptions of magic tricks, and from there he began experimenting with tricks.
Yet, after a few years of showing the magic tricks he learned to his amazed friends, Lam said he wanted to go further than simply copying tricks from books.
“I realized that all the tricks I was performing were created by someone else, not me,” Lam said. “I decided I didn’t want to always be glued to other people’s tricks.”
And so Lam began harnessing the techniques he had learned from the books over the years and putting them together into his own tricks, which he said provided a new sort of thrill.
In fact, one of Lam’s favorite tricks to perform is a card trick he made up himself.
According to Lam, the trick begins with a spectator selecting a card from the deck, and Lam gives them the option of signing their name on it so they are convinced that the card they selected is the same one that appears again throughout the trick. Lam then puts the card back in the deck so it is sticking out just a bit.
Lam describes the phenomenon the audience sees next: “I tell them to watch closely as the card slowly starts to rise up, stopping a few cards from the top of the deck.
“Then I rub the side and the card is suddenly second from the top. I hold up the deck so the audience can see that it is still is their card, and when I bring the deck back down their card is already on top.”
Gelb-Bicknell also said that creating one’s own tricks provides a new level of satisfaction. However, he noted that making up tricks has a practical use as well.
“It is useful to put together your own tricks because you can personalize them and really match the trick to your own skill set,” Gelb-Bicknell said. “For example, if you are not good at dexterity, you can create a trick that doesn’t require as much of that.”
Yet, while the process of putting together a trick is valuable, Lam said that the most rewarding part of magic tricks is observing people’s reactions to his performance, whether it be his family, friends or younger children at the birthday parties he performs at.
“As a magician, my greatest hope is to get a confused face or laughter from the people watching,” Lam said. “Whenever I get this perplexed response, it feels really nice.”
While Lam said he usually demonstrates some of his techniques to his audience, he never gives away the secret of a trick.
Of course, there has been instances where Lam said his trick has “just fallen flat.” But according to Lam, “that’s just part of how it works.”
According to Lam, there are two reasons why a trick could fail: either the idea itself is flawed or is not fully formed, or the magician made a mistake in the process of performing it.
But no matter how much he practices and tweaks a trick, Lam said he can never make a trick faultless.
“I don’t think a trick can ever truly be perfect,” Lam said. “There’s always more that could be done, a better way of performing it or a different path to go down. That’s part of the appeal of magic for me.”