Investigative Magic: How Magic Lead to Confessions

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We asked our viewers to submit crazy/funny/interesting stories regarding performing magic and we continue to get amazing stories! This story comes from a homicide detective who has been working on the police force for twenty years and who, in the past few years, has started learning and performing magic. He brings us incredibly unique stories in which he uses his magic in interrogations and performs for witnesses and victims. This is his first story though we will be posting more from him in the future. So in the words of Detective George B. Ripley we present you story number two!


(Offender name, Robbery locations and the Police department I work for have been omitted)

In 2015 to 2016, I was investigating a series of commercial robberies. Several local stores were robbed by a suspect displaying a gun and demanding cash. I developed a suspect from an informant of mine and was able to get him identified in all the commercial robberies. He was arrested and subsequently interviewed by another detective and myself.  Upon entering the interview room, the now offender said “Ripley, you got the wrong guy. It wasn’t me, I wasn’t even in town when this happened.” He was issued Miranda warnings and agreed to speak to us.  Every question that my partner or I asked resulted in him giving some self-serving statement or telling an outright lie.  This went on for thirty minutes at least. My partner wrote all the store robberies on a sheet of paper. I decided to slowly take out a deck of blue Bicycle Rider Back playing cards and set them on the table where he could see them. It’s always good to change interview techniques about every thirty minutes.  The offender seemed perplexed by these cards and confused as to why a detective was displaying them. I slowly removed the cards from the box and did a few card flourishes. He appeared very interested in the movements of these cards. My partner began asking him some specific questions about the robberies while I continued to shuffle and flourish. I didn’t show a card trick but this criminal seemed almost mesmerized by these cards and how they were moving in space. He actually appeared to be having difficulty processing how the cards could move in this manner. That’s how it appeared to me at least.  He then looked at the paper with all the store robberies listed. We told him to stop lying and tell us how he robbed each store. He then asked for a pen and began writing a confession under each robbery incident.  It was almost surreal because as he was writing, he would still glance up at the cards as I continued to flourish. After he did this, I showed him a quick card trick, shook his hand and my partner and I left the interview room.  We later reflected on this interview commenting on how when we first saw this offender, he denied committing the crimes and even being in town when they happened. A few card flourishes later and we had several confessions written on paper.  I’ve found that many laymen I encounter through investigations view a proper card flourish as a card trick. Many have even commented about how I am doing card tricks when I’m just shuffling and doing some visual flourishes … which honestly, is great!  This was my very first interview I used playing cards. It became the beginning of what is now one of my most useful investigative tools.

By George B. Ripley

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