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The way our senses play us false

The way our senses play us false.
(originally published in The Crest Magician, December 1907)

Our senses deceive us curiously at  times. A flash of lightning lights up  the ground for only one-millionth of a  second, yet it seems to us to last ever  so much longer. What happens is that  the impression remains in the eye or the  retina for about one-eighth of a second,  or 124,000 times as long as the flash  lasts. If on a dark night a train speeding along at sixty miles an hour is lit  up by lightning flash it appears stationary, yet in the eighth of a second  during which we seem to see it the train  travels eleven feet. But we really only  see it during one-millionth of a second,  and in that time it travels only one-hundredth of an inch.

When a man’s leg is cut off, if the  stump be irritated he feels the pain in  his toes. This curious deception is the same as any one can practice on himself  by striking his elbow on the table, when  he feels the pain in his fingers. Of course  in both cases the pain is felt in the brain.

We do not actually perceive different  distances with the eye, but judge them  from various indications. When our  judgment is at fault we are deceived.  If you see a person in a fog, for instance, he seems to be much bigger than  usual. The same thing happens when  you see men or cattle on the top of a  hill against the horizon in twilight. In  both cases you judge them to be farther  away than they really are, and consequently they appear uncommonly large.

Really our senses are deceived by suggestions, and the successful magician understands and appreciates this fact; otherwise he would not be a successful magician.

A slight movement of the hand, or a  glance of the eyes in an opposite direction, suggests to the audience that they  (to catch the magician) must gaze in the  direction thus suggested. Just what the  performer wants, for he can then make  the desired passes while the audience is  deceived into imagining that they are  closely watching him.

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