A magician’s thoughts on The Impossible 4D Prediction

With all the coverage and response to “The Impossible 4D Prediction”, I thought I would give my personal thoughts on on presenting a high profile psychological illusion from a magician’s point of view.

First a bit of history on high profile predictions, as culled from my humble library.

The precusor of the lottery prediction is the newspaper headline prediction. The Tarbell Course in Magic describes two headline predictions which were first published in 1928. Stewart James is credited to presenting a headline prediction in 1938. Maurice Fogel made a name performing different forms of high profile headline predictions in the 1960s. Over the years. Anneman and others have also performed different acts with newspapers.

The use of a chest to hold the prediction was not always used (if used at all) by the magicians & mentalists mentioned above. In1924, Joe Karson (of Zombie Ball fame) approached Carl Owen who worked for Thayer. Owen built the first chest and various companies created different designs over the decades.

The lottery prediction followed in various forms and was most recently performed by Derren Brown, one of the world’s most commerically successful mentalists from the U.K.

I should preface this by saying that we had planned our 4D Prediction in early 2009 (before Derren presented his) and even offered it to the Singapore Tourism Board in Mar 2009 for the Singapore River Festival that was to be held in end-Jun 2009. They chose our “The Impossible Record: 15 Illusions in 5 Minutes” instead. So, we waited till now to present our version of the lottery prediction.

I remember my reaction when it was announced that Derren Brown was going to present his lottery prediction. “I hope it will not be the same as ours”. I was eager to see his presentation. Derren’s was excellent, as with all the acts he develops with his team. It was also completely different from what we had planned.

So, it was safe for us to do ours as it differed in presentation, method and motivation. In fact, I will go out on the limb to say that this has potential to be the most unique lottery prediction ever… if it succeeds.

Methodology and Approach

Some differentiating points between Derren’s and ours:

1) The four digit prediction, in the form of a written note, as well as a single lottery ticket with a single number, will be in a Red Packet and encased in full public view for 5 days

2) As with all our previous mega illusions, the prediction is a live event, not part of a TV show

For the thinking audience, there is an inherent problem with a lottery prediction. Many mentalists have avoided the lottery prediction because of being unable to resolve the seemingly impossible conclusion of such an act.

A blog entry written by Jeremy Yew from Singapore, obviously a magician in his own right was brought to my attention. It seems he has watched us before but unfortunately, I cannot place the face or maybe I never interacted with him directly.

Jeremy intelligently points out the  “flaws” of a lottery prediction and in ours. These are the exact same points that would run through my mind if I am a spectator. Others, through comments on Facebook and media commentary, have highlighted the same “problem” but not in the depth and clarity that Jeremy has. So, since he has taken the effort and time to write it, I think it is fitting you read it first here.

I’ll give you some time.


Well, now that the initial buzz of our 4D prediction announcement has cooled off a bit, our version of the lottery prediction has started to get more people thinking, especially magicians and educated laymen. As Jeremy pointed out, there are distinct points in our version which I also highlighted above.

I should reiterate that Ning & I will fulfil all the points we have stressed from the start. Please remember, we are attempting to predict the winning numbers, we never ever said we know the numbers. Big difference.

The approach we have adopted is that this entire psychological illusion has been designed as a story that develops as the days and eventually, minutes go by. Unlike all our other mega illusions and stunts where the story is very direct and straight forward with lots of action (like an action film), this 4D Prediction attempt is written as a suspense drama.

We hope audiences are at the point like when they are watching certain movies… thinking… how is this going to play out? There seems to be no way that this could turn out well for the protagonist. Or where is the story going? A good film director and a good script can bring audiences on such a journey and close out with a fulfilling ending.

But, the question is, can a prediction/ psychological illusion follow such a “story”? I guess we will find out on 27 Jan, Wed.

“The Impossible 4D Prediction” represents our solution to a difficult and complex psychological illusion.

I’ve heard people speculate or offer concrete solutions on how we are doing this… but as Jeremy observed, it is not as straightforward in terms of a magical solution.


The publicity strategy for such a psychological illusion is different for different countries based on the respective country’s culture and regulations.

Singapore is a unique situation when it comes to gambling. Gambling is illegal if not state-run or unlicensed and is not condoned or allowed to be promoted. But yet, media can promote the large amounts of money that can be won for certain draws, such as the upcoming yearly big Toto draw for the Lunar New Year. The same goes for the two casinos that will be opened this year here.

Thankfully, we had a great deal of media outlets that could see that our psychological illusion was an innovative newsworthy entertainment act that would interest readers; and not a vehicle to promote gambling. The general common headline we received was “Singapore Magic Duo to Predict Winning 4D Numbers”.

So, it would seem ironic that the Media Development Authority would feel that our psychological illusion, of making a prediction on a lottery system that the government runs, promotes gambling more than the following news report on Channel News Asia:

“SINGAPORE: Singapore Pools will hold two draws to usher in the 2010 Lunar New Year.

The Reunion Draw with a jackpot prize of S$5 million will be held on Monday, February 15. Ticket sales will close at 9pm that day.

Ticket sales for the Hongbao Draw with a jackpot prize of S$10 million will close on Friday, February 26 at 9pm.

There will be no Toto draw on Thursday, February 25.

– CNA/sc “

Honestly, which news story do you think promotes gambling or may even be considered an enticement?

So, while we totally understand where MDA is coming from, as intelligent citizens of this country, we can and should apply common sene in a case like this. I’m sure MDA must have their reasons too, no matter how irrational it might seem to me personally.

Anyway, this entry is not a rant on media censorship in Singapore but to illustrate that we have crafted our publicity around the sensitivities or “irrationalities” of our media regulatory body. In fact, all the media we have followed up with are so supportive of us and will be covering the illusion as it plays out.

The objective of any lottery or headline prediction is simple and quantifiable. Our intergrated PR campaign created a major buzz in the media and Internet community in Singapore when we announced it on Monday. The interest level was fantastic and the support we got from the media was incredible.

Four days in, there is still buzz of the psychological illusion online and it made the term ‘magic babe ning’ the #1 search on Yahoo Singapore on 21 Jan 2010. Nuff said.

Tonight is Part 1 of the psychological illusion. If you think about it, after all this buzz, we technically have not done anything yet till this point.

AsiaOne, RazorTV, CTV (Taiwan), Shin Min Daily and The New Paper as well as several alternative media will be down for the sealing of the prediction at St James Power Station at 830pm.  Singapore Tourism Board’s representation will also be present to audit the proceedings.

It is a free event so we hope to see you there.



About J C Sum

International Headline Entertainer, Content Creator and Investor
This entry was posted in Upcoming Projects and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to A magician’s thoughts on The Impossible 4D Prediction

  1. Jeremy says:

    Hi J C Sum and Ning, thanks for linking to my post. Wishing you guys all the best in the next few days and look forward to your prediction being a huge success! Keep up the fantastic work guys!

  2. Pingback: Inside Look at “The Impossible 4D Prediction” « BACKSTAGE BUSINESS: The Art, Science & Business of Showbiz by J C Sum

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