Audience Acupuncture is a variation on the Spiker illusion designed by noted illusion designer Jim Steinmeyer. It has a number of advantages over conventional Spiker-type illusions, and these have made it a popular choice with magicians. One advantage of this illusion over older Spiker-type illusions is that the assistant's head and feet remain in full view of the audience at all times. However, its biggest advantage is that it can be performed on untrained audience members without any prior preparation. It is this ability to be performed on audience members that has given the illusion its name.
PerformanceHaving selected a suitable audience volunteer, the magician begins the performance by introducing the apparatus for the illusion. This comprises a low table, around five feet long, with a mechanism attached below the centre section supporting a number of long spikes in a closely-spaced regular grid pattern. They demonstrate how, when they move a long handle attached to the rear of the table, the spikes are raised upwards together.
As the spikes rise, they pass through holes in the table and project high above it. With the spikes in the raised position, the magician then demonstrates their sharpness by using them to burst a balloon. They also ask the volunteer to feel the spikes and confirm their sharpness and solidity.
The magician then lowers the spikes and asks the audience volunteer to lie down on the table. With the audience volunteer reclining on the table, the magician places a newspaper or magazine over their torso, and then covers them with a large rectangular box, which they then lock into place. The box ends are provided with small cut-outs allowing the head and lower legs of the volunteer to project out of the box and remain in view throughout the performance.
With the audience member locked into the illusion, the magician takes hold of the handle once more and pulls it to raise the spikes. As the magician moves the handle, the audience can clearly see the spikes rising up into the box and appearing though holes in its top surface, having passed completely through the audience volunteer within, impaling them. As the table is mounted on casters, the magician can spin it around to show that the projecting ends of the spikes completely cover the top surface of the box, leaving no space for the volunteer to avoid them.
The magician then lowers the spikes back down out of the box and removes the box from over the volunteer. Lifting the newspaper or magazine off them, the magician shows the audience that it has now been perforated by a series of holes that match the pattern of the spikes, showing that they did indeed pass all the way through the volunteer's body. The volunteer is then helped off the table to take their bow with the magician.
Although most performances are done with the audience volunteer lying on their back, a small number of magicians perform it with the volunteer in a face-down position.
- In the mid-1990s, Playboy "Playmate" Melissa Holliday appeared in a video where she took part in a number of illusions while nude, including a performance of Audience Acupuncture.