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A ship, cruising in northern waters, was in 
terrible trouble, and the captain called in 
one of the passengers. “You are, I know,” he 
said, “a professional magician and I need 
your help badly. The ship is at this moment 
heading for an iceberg and there is something 
wrong with the rudder so we cannot steer past 
it. There is no real cause for alarm, however, 
because several ships are steaming rapidly to 
the rescue and aircraft already have us in view. 
All that is necessary is to keep the passengers 
from destructive panic. Please put on a show for 
them and rescue will reach us before we strike, 
perhaps. If, however, there is danger of an 
actual strike, I shall signal you and you must 
instantly announce that for your next trick you 
will break the ship in two. By the time the 
passengers gather that this is not a clever 
illusion and begin to panic, we will be saved.” 
The magician followed instructions exactly and 
for nearly half an hour transfixed his audience 
with disappearing canes, multiplying eggs, 
lighted candles that appeared out of nowhere, 
and cards that seemed to do everything but make 
love. Then the magician noted the captain waving 
at him frantically. So the magician said, “And 
for my final illusion, ladies and gentlemen, I 
shall make the ship crash into an iceberg.” And 
as his hands spread wide in an impressive gesture, 
there was an awful rending crash and in no time at 
all everyone found himself on an eerily tipped 
vessel, with lifeboats being launched. Fortunately 
other ships were butting through the choppy seas 
on rescue missions, and the passengers were too 
confused by what had happened to be frightened. 
The magician himself clung to the railing, watching 
a lifeboat being lowered. One of the passengers in 
the lifeboat called to him, “Hey, aren’t you the 
magician whose final trick was to make the ship 
crash into an iceberg?” “Yes, sir,” said the 
magician, teeth chattering in the cold, “I’m the 
one. The passenger shook his head. “So what was 
so smart about that?”



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