Review: X-Ray by Ben Harris and Steve Shufton

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I actually bought this back when it was first released some years ago; it feels funny to be reviewing this after half a decade has passed. However, time does do wonders and with a modicum of maturity, comes a new level of appreciate for material which I would have otherwise dismissed before.

The effect is as follows: a deck of cards is shuffled by the performer and is set face down on the table. From this point forth the performer does not touch the deck. With the performer’s back turned, the spectator is then instructed to cut the deck somewhere in the centre, note the card he cut to, reverse it in its position and to replace the cut. The entire deck is then placed into the card box. Only now does the performer turn back around.

The performer now gets impressions of the identity of the card, before finally naming it. As if this was not enough, he then calls out the card’s current position in the deck. The spectator removes the deck from the card box, and counts down to the named number – the selection is there.

If I were shown this effect before knowing the method, I would be pretty sure that it would have blown me away – it just appears so impossible. In fact, this was the reason I bought it to begin with, just after reading the effect alone. I did imply that I did not like it before (the method involves a technique I was not fond of at the time) but today, while revisiting this for this review, I really quite like it. There are no moves, and hence there is nothing for an astute spectator, let alone a magician to catch.

However, to have the strongest impact, I believe this needs to be saved for the right moment. This should be brought out when you are performing something special, and not to be taken casually. With the right framing and air of prestige created around it, you will have something absolutely unbelievable in your hands.

I will however, say that this is not 100%; many reviews will tell you this much as well. However, I do feel that it will work 90% of the time. While luck will play a small role, it again boils down to your ability to deliver clear, concise instructions to a spectator whom you have chosen carefully. Audience management and selection should steer the odds in your favour of being able to pull this off successfully.

Personally, I am not put off by the prospect of this failing; the chances of it going wrong (with the right steps and prep work put in) is small and the effect created when it does work, far outweighs the concerns of this occurrence. Even if it did miss, I would just go into something else; the style of performing I currently use allows for a certain level of failure. That said, there are outs provided in the ebook, should you wish to feel more confident when performing this piece.

[usr 8.5]

Magic is our passion but we are not a magic shop ? You can purchase this here!

[/vc_column_text][vc_separator][vc_custom_heading text=”Reviewer: Madame Curator”][vc_column_text]Australian magician Ben Harris is no stranger to the industry, having released many well-known magic products over the decades (e.g. A Thought Well Stolen). I dare say that Harris’s floating matchstick illusion is perhaps one of the most well-loved (and sadly, most blatantly pirated) close-up effects on an international scale.

So what’s up with X-RAY really?


Ben Harris’s X-RAY is an amazing reputation maker. The video above shows the ideal outcome from a performance well done. I would have presented the effect differently, but the steps are there:

  1. A shuffled deck is set down on the table and you are blindfolded/ leave the room/ turn around so you cannot peek
  2. Your willing victim… er, member of the audience cuts the deck (use any pack of regular cards) fairly as per your instructions
  3. The chosen card is duly noted and remembered by all, before the deck goes back into the card box, which is then closed up
  4. You turn around when its all clear and using your Magic Prowess (remember with great powers come great responsibility), you divine the selected cut-to card… and not just the exact suit and value, mind you… but its very position in the stack as well!
  5. Take a deep bow and accept the thunderous applause as your adoring crowd realise that you’re 100% spot on. Now, go start your own religion.


X-RAY is genius and very plucky. You need to be a gutsy performer who is experienced in audience management (this effect is very interactive and you must guide them with clear, concise instructions properly) to pull this incredible effect off nicely.

X-RAY is self-contained. You need no confederate or stooge, but some preparation and plenty of rehearsal (some sleight of hand work comes to play) and clear scripting must be done before unleashing X-RAY for the first time.

Should you stumble and get an unfortunate miss when performing the effect, Harris’s 34-page manuscript (the book is now available as a download) provides some suggestions that you can easily use as “outs”. So fret not, you’re still fully in control of the situation.

In all, X-RAY as an effect has a very clever use of several solid magic principles and when you get it right, you can be sure your audience will always remember your name. Highly recommended 🙂

[usr 8.5]

Magic is our passion but we are not a magic shop ? You can purchase this here![/vc_column_text][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/3″][vc_column_text]


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Ning Cai is a Singapore Literature Prize nominated author, who was also long listed for the Epigram Books Fiction Prize in 2016. A bestselling writer, she is also recognised for her illusionist/ escapologist stage character Magic Babe Ning, and recognised by Channel News Asia as South East Asia's first professional female magician.

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