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Magician David Copperfield Forced To Reveal Secret To Trick

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

A good magician never reveals his secrets. Well, one of the world's most famous magicians has just broken that rule.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: And now the man who made the Statue of Liberty disappear and walk through the Great Wall of China.

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Yes, we are talking about David Copperfield. He did not make this big reveal by choice. It happened in a Las Vegas courtroom under oath.

CHANG: Copperfield is being sued by a guy who attended one of his shows back in 2013. And the man says he got injured while participating in a magic trick.

SHAPIRO: The trick in question is called lucky number 13.

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DAVID COPPERFIELD: Now we're going to take 13 men and women from the audience - you will be selected at random - and make you disappear.

SHAPIRO: Those 13 people get seated inside a big cabinet. The cabinet gets suspended in the air and then covered by a giant curtain.

CHANG: And when that curtain lifts, abracadabra, those people are gone. Then moments later, the 13 audience members appear in the back of the theater.

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COPPERFIELD: Everyone look behind you.

CHANG: Magic.

SHAPIRO: Well, it's not so magical. Spoiler alert - we are about to give away the trick. In court, Copperfield's attorneys acknowledged that once the participants leave the stage, they are funneled through passageways that snake through the MGM Grand Resort. And that allows them to make their grand reappearance in the back of the theater.

CHANG: The lucky number 13, however, proved unlucky for this plaintiff. He says he fell and got hurt during the mad dash through those passageways, racking up thousands of dollars in medical bills. Now he has filed a multimillion-dollar lawsuit against Copperfield and the resort.

SHAPIRO: So them's the facts. We wanted to know, what's at stake for a magician once the bunny's out of the hat? So we asked resident NPR magician Barry Gordemer. He is also a senior producer at Morning Edition.

BARRY GORDEMER, BYLINE: I very much come from the school that revealing how magicians do their tricks is not damaging. To me it reveals their genius.

CHANG: But wait. Richard Kaufman, editor of Genii, the nation's oldest magic magazine, says not so fast. He has seen the lucky number 13 trick up close. And he says we may have learned about the passageways, but that's just one part of the act.

RICHARD KAUFMAN: You can see under that illusion, above the illusion, on both sides of the box. The secret of how the people were no longer in the box has not been revealed.

SHAPIRO: And so at least for now some of the magic remains. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.