Let’s find out Jim Steinmeyer Windshear illusion secret as I exposed based on my own assumption, repeat video viewing, and secrets carelessly revealed by the magicians themselves.
Yes, the so-called secret of this illusion is actually my own postulated theory.
So, this post is more of how I think this illusion is done.
Well, I could be severely wrong with this spinning blades trick explanation.
Windshear is a rather old stage illusion designed by Jim Steinmeyer (with Alan Wakeling), and the first unit was built by Bill Smith.
By the way, you can check out some of Jim Steinmeyer illusion apparatus patents over here.
I am a fan of this magical illusion designer and I have a couple of his books, that include the hardcover “Device And Illusion“, “Hiding The Elephants” and “The Secret History of Magic: The True Story of the Deceptive Art“.
The first time I watched this Windshear illusion from a TV show called “World’s Greatest Magic 5“.
The late John Ritter hosted it back in the 90s.
Hans Klok and his assistant Zarina Potapova performed this pass through steel blades illusion.
The routine of this act is the magician turns on a spinning industrial fan.
He covers the top half, but you can still see the bottom half of the moving blades.
He then seemingly pulls his body through the upper half of the whirring industrial fan blades unharmed.
This is the illusion:
Windshear Illusion Real Metal Blades
Before I go into the different gimmicks, various artifices and the performing routine, let’s settle the fundamentals.
The metal fan blades are real and they are fixed onto the motor all the time.
We know for sure when the performer pushes his arm and later his body through the black spandex cover, the fan is definitely NOT spinning or rotating.
See the captured image from the video clip.
When the stage illusionist (Kelvin Spencer) pushes his arm through the black spandex cover.
You can see there is no moving blades.
This is another slip by Italian magician Luca Zanetti Lizzi.
Of course the three fan blades are still there.
It used just three blades is because the space between each blade is wide enough for the magician to crawl through.
It is just that this vertical fan is secretly switched off each time, just before the magician pushes his arm or squeezes his body through the black spandex covering.
In other words, the vertical fan needs to be temporarily stopped.
So, to convince you the vertical fan is still turning, it shows you the half blurry stroboscopic movement of twirling blades behind the metal grid inside the deep dark duct.
It is trying to tell you the fan is still revolving, when in fact it is not.
The main secret of Windshear illusion is hidden inside the duct!
The Winshear illusion exposed secret in detailed later on in the post.
For the effect to work convincingly, the lighting is crucial.
That is why this stage illusion is usually performed in semi-gloomy stage, including glaring flash lights.
The stroboscopic effect of the spinning blades and the lighting, further enhances the trick; or rather to distract your visual attention.
Then they have a spot light specifically positioned at the blades.
It is not to create a flashy performance.
I will reveal the purpose later in the post.
In the art of conjuring, the magical effects are based on scientific principles and psychology, or neuroscience to be precise.
Related: You can find out more from this free e-book “Sleights of Mind: What The Neuroscience Of Magic Reveals About Our Brains“.
For those of you who want to go into creating and designing your own stage props, for a start, do read up some magical experiments books.
Windshear Illusion Secret Exposed
This Jim Steimeyer’s creation Windshear employs these three basic elements in designing a stage magic illusion:
Lighting, mirror and dark art.
First, let’s examine the prop itself.
Windshear is a well-conceived piece of stage illusion apparatus.
But the problem is, it is bulky and heavy.
It has a deep or thick base.
Why does this prop need to have such a deep base?
If you know about stage illusion designing, the deep base is meant for concealing people or things.
In this case, it is to store or hide another spinning fan, besides the battery for electrical power.
Yes, there is another working fan lying horizontally hidden inside the prop base with an accompanied light.
I will go into the ‘dark detail‘ later on.
Related: For those of you who are into building your own illusion apparatus, you can get this free book about the deceptive base designs of table prop and staircases for illusion props.
“The Base Book” by Rand Woodbury.
Metal Grid Bottom Half Behind Vertical Fan
The metal grid screen laid across the bottom half of the vertical fan, is not meant to be a design or safety feature.
It is part of the tricky effect, which I will explain later.
Fake & Real Switches
The next thing is the switches for the vertical fan.
When the performer pulls the lever of the double pole knife switch (aka Frankenstein switch) to turn on vertical fan, he is just fooling you.
That big and obvious looking double pole knife switch is a fake switch.
The real switch is smaller and less conspicuous, is fixed near to the fake knife switch.
This is another set of switches from another Windshear Fan Illusion prop.
Each time, when the magician turns on the fake switch, simultaneously his other hand will rest on the real switch, under the pretext of holding onto the prop.
One of the deceptive principles of the art of conjuring tricks is motion and movement.
That is why when the performer turns on the fake knife switch, he does it with an exaggerated pushing movement.
It is because he or she is trying to reassure you, that is the switch that controls the vertical fan!
I have captured this image of Michael Grandinetti‘s left hand turning on the fake switch, while his right hand is the one which is turning on the real switch.
You can see Grandinetti doing it in this video clip when he turns on the switch at 0:19-0:22 and again at 0:454-0:48 to turn it off.
Watch Kelvin Spencer using his left hand turning off the fake switch, while his right hand operating the real switch at 0:56 – 0:57 and turning it back on at 1:25 in this video.
For Italian illusionist Luca Zanetti Lizzi who performed this illusion as a solo-act, his prop has only one real switch.
He did not perform the usual testing-with-arm, then reveal the spinning blade routine.
He just switched it on and just when he slid the black cover over the top part of the fan, his left hand discreetly turned if off at 1:52.
After finishing his act, with his left hand, he switched it back on at 2:26.
Watch the video here.
Controlling The Hidden Real Switch
This is an important part of the trickery.
The magician assistant who attaches the semi-circle black spandex cover over the vertical fan blades is the one who controls this secret switch.
Immediately after the spinning blades are shielded, the assistant switches off the vertical fan.
For Michael Grandinetti’s video clip, focus your attention on the female assistant in the tight short dress on the right.
Watch her left hand fingers carefully at 1:27, when she switches off the fan.
Then at 1:47, she turns it back on, just before she lifts up the cover to show the spinning blades.
For this performance by Priscilla Khong, the most obvious scene is when her assistant with the cap on her left, switches the fan back on at 2:16-2:17 for the finale.
Most of the YouTube clips, you can see the assistant or the illusionist himself operating the hidden switch, if he is doing a solo-act.
For instance, former “Asia’s International Illusionist” J C Sum who performed this blade illusion alone, he fiddled the switch himself.
For easier handling by himself, he attached the real switch inconspicuously onto the circular frame of the fan. (see visual below)
From his video clip, you can see J C Sum secretly controlling the real switch by under the pretext of holding onto the fan frame.
You can see him doing it at 0:45 when he switched off at the beginning of the show.
Then he did it again at 1:17-1:18 to turn it back on with his left hand.
Just after he sat down, his left hand sneaked to side of the fan frame to switch off at precisely 2:02.
Sum switched if off at 2:32-2:33, just before he lifted up the cover for the finale.
Watch the video clip here.
Here you can see Canadian illusionist Tristan Court doing the Windshear illusion.
At 1:14 his female assistant turns off the switch for him to go through the apparently spinning blades.
Hidden Fan Inside The Base
Now let’s switch to the key Windshear illusion secret exposed detail.
The first gimmick is the hidden fan.
As I have mentioned, there is another fan lying horizontally concealed inside the base of the prop, where the duct is.
Only half section of the hidden fan is exposed through an opening covered with the metal grid screen and it is lighted.
You can see the metal grid on the base of the prop inside the duct as shown below:
The second fan is placed horizontally beneath this metal grid screen with an accompanied light.
Hidden Mirror Inside The Duct
The next gimmick is the mirror.
When the show starts, the reflective side of the mirror is lying flat over the metal grid opening on the floor of the base, inside the duct.
The back of the mirror is in matte black to match the interior of the duct.
This is what magicians called black art in conjuring magic tricks.
The definition “black art” in this conjuring magic tricks has nothing to do with occult, necromancy and mystical sorcery.
It is an optical effect, where the dark surfaces can easily hide things where you can’t see them clearly.
The black-on-black method of disguise.
For instance, the use of a black velvet curtain background for stage, the black mat & table cloth for close-up magic or the interior walls of magic trick props.
Related: To learn more about the black art principle in magic tricks, check out this free book now:
Gary Darwin – Grandes Illusions Impromptues (English title is Darwin’s Inexpensive Illusions)
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To get a general idea, you can also read a few preview pages of “Hiding In The Shadows: Black Art For The Stage” by Chris Stolz.
Setting Mirror To Reflect The Hidden Fan
This is the important part during the performance.
Different magicians do it differently.
The common routine is while the magician at the front fixing the L-shaped platform, his assistance(s) at the duct side pretending to help him to hold onto the prop.
But in fact, the assistant is lifting up the mirror and also turning on the hidden lighted spinning fan.
The hidden fan together with the light are automatically turned on when the mirror is lifted up at 45 degree angle inside the duct.
From this video clip you can clearly see the two assistants lifting up the narrow flap on top of the duct, to set the mirror in place, at 0:19-0:20.
This is another video clip, which you can see the two assistants at the back of the prop lifting up the narrow flap at the top of the duct to set the the hidden mirror at 0:58-0:59.
In this video, Taiwanese illusionist Jiang Hao (蔣昊) put up the black cover first to shield his hands from the audience, when setting up the mirror in the duct at 1:33-1:35.
Here you can see former Singaporean illusionist J C Sum quickly lifting up the small flap or panel at the top of the duct precisely at 1:19.
Mirror Reflection Of The Hidden Fan
When the duct is turned around to face the audience, look carefully inside the duct, especially the two side walls.
You can see the tilted mirror at 45 degree angle, with the spinning blades reflection on it in most of the Windshear video clips in YouTube.
Particularly, those videos with medium and close-up shots of the duct.
If you focus on it carefully, you can clearly see the moving fan blades inside the duct is actually a mirror reflection.
For Michael Grandinetti’s video, there are two parts which you can obviously see the mirror.
Precisely at 1:17, while his assistants spin the prop around and just a second before Grandinetti walks across.
The second one when the two girls are shifting the prop side to side from at 1:36-1:42.
Look at the black interior side wall of the duct closely and you can see the mirror placed at 45 degree angle.
This is what I think how it looks inside the duct of this apparatus.
Related: To know more about optical tricks, read these two free books:
“Magic; Stage Illusions And Scientific Diversions, Including Trick Photography“.
Visual Illusions: Their Causes, Characteristics and Applications
Before the semi-circle black cover hides the blades, what the audience is seeing is both the actual spinning fan at the top half, and the mirror reflection of the moving blades inside the duct.
The twirling fan blades at the bottom half are fuzzy, as they are deep in the darkened duct with a weak light.
The metal grid screen causes more distraction to the mirror reflection.
I have noted earlier that there is a tricky reason for fixing the metal grid screen across the bottom half of the vertical fan.
So that the mirror reflection of the lower half blades also has a metal grid screen across in front to match what is behind the real vertical fan. (see below)
This obstructive metal grid screen can further distracts your vision from finding out that it is a mirror reflection.
The use of a spinning fan blades as a gimmick for this illusion is a brilliant idea by itself.
The blurred rotating blades vision is easier to get away from your prying eyes.
It makes use of the this confusing optical illusion know as wagon-wheel effect (aka stagecoach-wheel effect or stroboscopic effect).
That’s why I have mentioned Windshear is a well-designed illusion prop.
Other Windshear Illusion Artifices
As I have mentioned above, the metal fan blades are real, but they are not sharp.
Some performers want you to believe they are knife-like.
They seemingly insert a rolled up paper into the spinning blades.
Watch carefully how the magician handles the rolled-up paper and you know he uses a hidden confetti popper.
The magician does not insert the rolled up paper into the moving blades at all.
It is part of the original Windshear illusion act.
Another thing is the ventilation slots or grill are on the both sides of the duct and the L-shaped platform are fake.
You cannot see through the narrow slots.
The use of this feature is not just to give this illusion apparatus an industrial look alone.
It is implying that it is an empty duct, thus it can be viewed from different sides.
But as you know now, the vital secret of this illusion is all in the duct!
The duct it where the hidden mirror with the simulated spinning blades reflection.
Windshear Illusion Secret Revealed
By the way, there was a sloppy act by Priscilla Khong, where it clearly exposed the secret of Windshear illusion.
Before the duct is turned to face the audience, they should have switched on both the fans.
When they assistants just switched on both the fans, you can clearly see the movement of upper half blades and the lower half do not synchronize, at 0:42
Jim Steinmeyer Spinning Blades Illusion
It is because of the many close-up shots from the video clips and the liberty of countless rewatchings.
That’s why I am able to detect the hidden gimmicks and the artifices.
If you are one of the audience sitting far away from the stage, you can never catch sight of them.
Probably some of you who know the principles of magic tricks, at least will know where and who to look out.
But for most people, it is sheer magical.
I do not how Windshear illusion is done.
What I have described above is wholly based on my own observation and guesswork.
Anyway, in any magic trick, it is not the secret of the trick that matters.
It’s the MAGIC.
It is from the article about Teller’s lawsuit against Gerard Bakardy who posted a YouTube video, in which the later performs a trick called “The Rose & Her Shadow.”
The trick which Penn Jillette publicly stated: “No one knows how Shadows is done, and no one will ever figure it out.”
Do you want to know more magic tricks and the insights into the mysteries of the human mind?
Read this free book by Gustav Kuhn.
“Experiencing the Impossible: The Science of Magic”
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Related: This is Jim Steinmeyer Audience Acupuncture Illusion secret fully explained.
Disclaimer: All the free books mentioned here are from the third-party websites.