The Pain Game

Jon Allen
Reviewed by John Archer

I admit to never having been a fan of the spiked trick. You know the one I mean where a spike or knife etc is placed under a bag or cover with a few similar empty bags/covers, and then a hand, or worse still the hand of a spectator is slammed down onto them, leaving just one. The idea being that the magician skillfully avoids the said spiky thing. Oh if that were only true.

There are several things wrong with the many versions of this effect on the market. Up until now I think Scott Alexander’s “Shattered” was the closest thing to a good solution, avoiding the following observations but ‘for me’ still not looking quite right.

Firstly it can so easily go wrong, as You Tube will so joyously attest to, on numerous occasions. No matter how careful some people are, there is still a chance of brain freeze and suddenly the voice in the head that is saying “avoid that one” is unwittingly translated to “that’s the one” and bam, coins through the hand has suddenly become an easier option.

Secondly, the prop appears to be what it is, a prop. Namely it is something manufactured specifically to be used to perform the effect. So doesn’t that tell us that perhaps it was made for the purpose of deception?

Finally, or thirdly for those who are counting, the method seems to be obvious. Since the magician chooses which bag or cover to avoid, the obvious answer is the right answer; the magician must know which bag or cover has the spike under it. The spectators may not know exactly how the magician knows but they know that s/he knows.

So along comes “The Pain Game” by Jon Allen. I can honestly say that it is the first and only version of this type of effect that I would consider using. It avoids all of the above issues. Here is a brief outline of the effect. The magician shows a thin rectangle of wood with a hole in the centre through which a 6-inch nail is passed making it stick up in the air (A makeshift spike if you like.) This is placed into a bag and the top folded over. Three other bags are shown to contain just a block of wood. The bags are mixed by the magician and a spectator so that no one knows where the nail is. A spectator then selects bags for the magician to slam his or her hand upon. The magician successfully avoids the pain until one bag remains. This bag is opened and the nail and block are fairly removed.

Things to note are:

THIS IS 100% SAFE. I’ll say that again… THIS IS 100% SAFE. Nothing can go wrong. It is impossible to spike yourself or indeed a spectator if you chose to use that slightly sadistic presentation. While other versions claim to be 100% safe they are not accident-proof. This is.

The items look perfectly natural. A 6-inch nail, four blocks of wood and 4 bags.

The spectator chooses the bags that you slam your hand on. So the idea that you know where the spike is becomes redundant. There is mystery.

The nail is a solid six-inch nail and can be shown as such before and after the effect.

It really is a great effect. It is certainly not cheap for a few reasons: you get a lot of prop for your money; you won’t have to cancel any gigs through injury or face any lawsuits; it’s not going to be an effect that every magic club rookie is going to be performing. I don’t think anyone will be disappointed with their purchase. This is also not something you will look at and think “Oooooh, I could have made this up myself.”

The DVD is professionally shot and everything is explained in detail. There is a studio performance along with a live performance (stay tuned till after the credits). There are subtleties to enhance the effect and a variation on the basic routine. Jon’s inimitable sense of humour appears throughout without detracting from the explanations.

I thoroughly recommend it. The Pain Game - ironically titled since the one thing there will never be is pain. Take a look at an early performance of the effect by Jon on YouTube here

Name: The Pain Game

Price: £299 / $499

Comes with: Everything needed to perform the routine plus an instructional DVD.

Available shortly from and astute magic dealers.


© John Archer, March 2009