A Routine for You to Use: Sweet Success

The basic concept for this routine comes from Alan Shaxon of England.   The way the routine ends is my addition to his idea.

I was privileged to work with Alan at a number of international venues and we were good friends.  Alan was instrumental in me becoming MIMIC with Gold Star (Member of the Inner Magic Circle).  Alan passed away in October of 2012.  He contributed much to the world of magic.

The routine centers around a neat way to control the outcome of what appears to be three choices.  The props involved are simple.  The effect is strong and useful.

What Happens?

Three silk handkerchiefs are shown and placed into a bag. Two spectators are asked to assist with the routine.

Spectator number one reaches into the bag and removes a handkerchief.  Spectator number two reaches into the bag and removes a handkerchief.  The handkerchief that remains in the bag is for the magician.

Three containers are shown.  The colors of the containers match the colors of the handkerchiefs.  Spectator number one looks inside the container that matches the handkerchief he selected.  There is candy inside this container!

Spectator number two looks inside the container that matches the handkerchief he selected.  There is candy inside this container as well!

The magician looks inside the container that matches the handkerchief that was left in the bag for him.  In this container is no candy.  Instead there is a message that says, “The magician gets no candy.  His reward is the knowledge that his two new friends had sweet success in the choices they made”.


All you need is a Change Bag, three silks, and three containers that match the colors of the silks.

Any type of Change Bag will work.  My preference for this is our “Hidden Spring” bag.  The action of the bag is easy and makes what happens seem completely innocent.  Also, it does not look like something purchased at a magic store.

An interesting feature of this routine is that you do not preset the Change Bag.   At the beginning of the routine it really is empty.

I have noticed that dollar stores often sell plastic cups that are available in bright colors.  They would work perfectly.  Mary tells me that the “Dixie Cups” found in the picnic aisle of your local grocery store often come in three colors; red, yellow, and blue.  These would also work perfectly.

If you cannot find three different containers, use three that are the same and mark them with colored tape.

Once you have your containers, put candy or something similar in two of them, and put the note in the third one.

Next, obtain three silks that match the containers in color.

Secret and Setup

The Change Bag is shown empty, then the three silks are dropped into it one at a time.  One of the silks is the “force color”.  When this silk is about to be dropped into the bag, the magician switches the bag so it goes into the secret compartment.  This keeps it separate from the other two silks which are dropped into the other part of the bag.


If the note is in a blue container, before a spectator drops in the blue silk, the bag is secretly switched over.   After the silk falls into the secret compartment, the bag is switched back again.  The order in which the silks are placed into the bag does not matter, as long as the magician switches the bag over and back again at the proper time.  The result is two silks (we will call them red and yellow) in the open part of the Change Bag and one silk hidden in the secret compartment.


After the silks are dropped into the bag, shake it to “mix them up”.  Then have spectator number one reach into the bag and remove a silk.  Hold the bag up high while he or she does this so the inside of the bag cannot be seen.

This spectator will bring out either a red or yellow silk.

Have the second spectator reach into the bag and remove a silk.  Again, the bag is held high so he cannot see inside.  Because of the nature of the silk, this spectator will not be able to tell that there is only one silk inside for him or her to grab.  His hands will touch the folds of the silk and eventually he will bring it out.

This spectator will have the other silk (either red or yellow).

The magician then secretly switches over the bag.  He reaches inside to remove the blue silk and says, “This last handkerchief will be for me”.


Begin by announcing a special kind of game.

“It is time to play a simple game called, ‘Sweet Success’.  It involves three containers, three handkerchiefs, and three people.  I will be one of the three people.  I need two others to help me play the game.”

Select two volunteers.  Invite them to join you on stage.

“The game happens in a very simple manner.  Each of us will get a handkerchief.  The handkerchiefs we have will determine the prizes we win.”

Show the three handkerchiefs (as magicians, we call them “silks”, but it is best, when performing for a regular audience, to refer to them as handkerchiefs).  Show the Change Bag to be empty.  Ask one of the spectators to, one at a time, drop the handkerchiefs into the bag.

“The three handkerchiefs are placed in a bag and then mixed around.  Now the two of you have the first choices.  Please reach into the bag and remove a handkerchief.”

Spectator number one reaches into the bag and comes out with either the red or yellow handkerchief.  Spectator number two reaches into the bag and comes out with the other handkerchief.

“That leaves a handkerchief for me.  You have left me with the blue one.”

“Please notice these three containers.  The colors match the handkerchiefs that we have.”

Indicate spectator number one…

“You have the yellow handkerchief so you get the yellow container.”

Indicate spectator number two…

“You have the red handkerchief so you get the red container.”

Indicate the remaining container.

“My handkerchief is blue so I get the blue container.  Let’s see what our prizes might be.”

Pick up the yellow container and pour out the contents as you look at the helper who holds the yellow handkerchief.

“Look at this, you win some candy.  Very good!”

Pick up the red container and pour out the contents as you look at the helper who holds the red handkerchief.

“And what do we have here?  More candy!  Again, that is good!”

Pick up the blue container. 

Well look at this.  No money!  Instead a message that says, “The magician gets no candy.  His reward is the knowledge that his two new friends had sweet success in the choices they made!”


Alan’s original version of this routine had a different ending.  The two spectators got nothing.  Their containers were empty.  The magician’s container was full of money.

Alan was a great gentleman and his style of performing, which had spanned many decades, made this version of the trick work for him.  It reflects an approach that, for a long time, was common for magicians to use.  They would win and volunteers would lose.

My opinion is that approach is not good for our generation, and especially not good for those who specialize in positive family entertainment, rather than performing for adult clubs.

It took a while to come up with a different ending for the trick.  I think the fact that the magician only gets a note, yet the note is about what has happened, makes the trick very strong.  Beyond that, it is a happy ending because the volunteers are the winners at the same time that the magician gets credit for a good effect.

Thinking beyond this routine…

The routine concept can be easily  adapted to specific situations.

  • Birthday party:  Rather than the magician choosing a handkerchief, three children could be used and one of them would be the birthday child.  Two of the children would get a fun prize, but the birthday child would get the birthday prize.
  • Positive message programs:  It can be used to illustrate a choice that “should not be made”.  In two of the containers there could be pieces of paper that say “health” or “peace”.  There would also be small prizes in these containers.  The third container would say “It is good this container was not selected for it contains a bad choice”.  On a second note, within the container, would be the words, “Drug Abuse”.  There would be nothing else inside.  The idea is that the two spectators made good choices that had positive consequences.  The third container is the one not chosen.  The magician opens it and shares the message that this definitely would have been the wrong choice to make.
  • Gospel programs:  Similar to the positive message programs, two containers would contain notes with comments about good choices.  These containers might even contain Scripture verses.  The third one would contain a note that says, “It is good this was not chosen, for it is a bad choice to make”.  Then another note would be inside the container stating the bad choice.

Alternate handling…

If the idea of paying attention to switch the bag over and back again whenever the force silk is dropped inside intimidates you, there is an easier way to do the trick.  Simply drop in the blue silk first.  Then have your helpers drop in the other two.  After the first silk (blue) goes into the bag, switch it over right away.  With this approach, once the first silk is in the bag you can relax.

I do not think this alternate handling is as strong, but it definitely works.


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