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Man Appears to Alter Woman’s Shadow and People Can’t Figure Out How He Did It

Holly Black’s “gloamists” may just be real after all.

A street magician holds a woman’s hands under the light, having her extend her index fingers as if she is pointing, and tells everybody to watch the shadows. He pulls her hands into place and holds them steady for a moment, saying on the count of three he wants her to pull her hands away. He counts to three and the woman pulls her hands back, but the shadows mysteriously linger on the table as if no longer connected to her movements.  

Commenters present a wide range of guesses that all sound equally implausible, such as suggesting the trick was achieved with post-video special effects. While that is often a good explanation for strange tricks encountered on the internet, street magicians have been doing live illusions well before video cameras were invented so it seems much more likely to be a slight of hand or other trade secret creating the shadow trickery.

Some suggestions along that line of reasoning offer thermal paper on the table as the solution, or less sensible answers such as the shadows were produced from over eight feet above and then “placed in the table for optical illusion” as if that somehow clears things right up. Yet another commenter suggests the shadows are cloth cutouts curved along the edge of the table, which he manipulates when guiding her hands into position.

Some believe this street magician is actually performing real magic under the guise of illusion, reminiscent of the “gloamists” from Holly Black’s fictional Book of Night in which magicians manipulate shadows to peer behind locked doors or slip into homes to kill under the cover of night. This strange belief in living shadows is sometimes extended to separate shadows entirely as their own entities that people call ghosts, spirits, or other supernatural names. 

We can’t tell you how this trick is done because the magicians code says to never reveal a secret, and also because we don’t know. We would hazard a guess that for less than $80 we could probably figure it out with this neat “Silhouette” trick marketed to magicians, that boasts of twelve unique shadows that can be manipulated. 

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