is a carnival game where customers have a chance to win great
prizes. The operator holds a collar with strings coming from it
and attached to prizes. The other side of the collar has the
strings attached to tabs. When the customer pulls a tab, the
appropriate string draws the prize connected to it.
The prizes are the usual junk,
like balls, mirrors, cheap plush toys, along with some higher
quality ones like TV’s, walkmen, radios, etc. To show you can
win any of these, the vendor pulls all the strings at the same
time, so all the prizes move. But every time a customer pulls a
tab, he only gets a cheap prize.
What happens is the strings are
They are all attached to the
collar, but only the ones attached to cheap prizes have tabs.
Therefore nobody can win the expensive items.
Here is another carnival game
that seems totally honest.
The object of this nail-hammering
game is to hammer a nail into a piece of wood with just one
The operator takes a nail from
his carpenter’s apron and does the feat easily. He repeats the
process a few times. He then lures victims to do the same. For
some reason, they can never do it as successfully.
The secret lies in the type of
The operator uses a hard nail
which he takes from his apron. As for the victims, he gives them
soft ones that are taken from a secret pocket in his apron.
The vendor lures people up with a
For just one dollar, they can
toss 3 balls into a basket.
If the three stay inside the
basket, they can win a portable TV; with two inside, lesser
quality prizes; with one or none they lose. To show how easy it
is, the vendor tosses 3 balls that stay inside the basket.
But once the customer tries, the
balls don’t seem to stay inside.
The baskets have reinforced wood
bottoms that make the balls bounce out. Also, the baskets are
tilted at an angle that disadvantage the thrower.
Ninety percent of the time the
balls will hit the upper-half of the basket bottom and bounce
Finally, the vendor is at a
better advantage since he’s behind the counter where the angle
The balls will bounce from side
to side and settle to the bottom.
The Bottle Toss
This game can also be seen at
carnivals and state fairs. The object is not only to knock the
wooden bottles down, but to throw them off their pedestals
with one hit.
They are positioned in a
form of a pyramid: 3 at the bottom, 2 above, and one at
the very top.
A lead-weighted bottle can be
easily knocked over, but rarely off the pedestal. So why can the
operator always demonstrate it as though it were easy?
When the victim does it, the
lead-weighted bottles are positioned on the bottom row, which
takes more hits to throw them off. But when the operator
demonstrates it the three lead-weighted bottles are positioned
on the two top rows of the pyramid, making it easy to knock them
off with one hit.
This is a game that’s still seen
at carnivals or fairgrounds where people pay two dollars to have
their age guessed. If the guesser is wrong, the customer
gets a prize.
The performer tells the audience
that he can guess someone’s age within two years. This range
gives him the advantage. Let’s say the performer guesses the
customer to be 29 years old, he wins if that person is between
27 and 31.
Here are clues he looks for:
Knowing the type of people the
customer came with could indicate the age range. For example, a
group of teenage girls could give up the age of their friend
who’s trying to look older.
Some people’s hair becomes gray prematurely but if gray appears
on the mustache or beard, the person is older.
The guesser brings the customer
in the light, so he can look at the face better. He tries to
make the person smile to see if age wrinkles show.
The performer looks for age
spots, especially in the case of an older woman who has had
cosmetic surgery and looks younger than her hands.
Sometimes the performer will
cheat. He writes two numbers on a pad and asks the person their
age. He then shows him the right number (or the closest to the
truth) while hiding the other one with his thumb. With the two
year range allowed, he has a huge advantage.
Let’s say he writes 26 and 31. It
allows him to win every time if the customer is between the age
of 24 and 33.
Another Way to Guess the Age:
The guesser asks a volunteer to
write his age on a piece of paper without showing it. He tells
him to add 752 to his age, since there are 7 days in a week and
52 weeks in a year. Then he tells him to add 12 to the result
since there are twelve months in a year.
He finishes by asking the
volunteer the last digit of the final total. The guesser
immediately tells the exact age.
This method works with a mix of
simple calculation and observation.
The guesser subtracts 4 from the
digit given by the volunteer (if the digit is smaller than 4, he
adds 10 to it before subtracting 4). Whatever the final number
the guesser gets, it will be the last digit of the volunteer’s
If the last digit given is 6;
subtract 4 from it which gives 2. If the volunteer looks like
he’s in his twenties, his age is 22.
The Weight Guess
Once again the advantage goes to
the performer who tells the audience that he can guess their
weight within three pounds. The key is a one week concentrated
effort to learn how your friends weights correspond to their
He first compares the customer’s
frame with someone he knows. He looks at the wrists and arms to
see if the person has small or big bones. He checks if the
customer is wearing baggy or tight fitting clothes; he looks for
bulges and big muscles.
And last he knows that women who
don’t mind having their weight guessed in public are usually
Here is another attraction on the
To get people in, the “Baby Show”
has several banners and a tape loop. “See the world’s most
bizarre babies,” “The children of forgotten fathers,” “See the
two-headed baby, the frog baby, and Cyclops,” “Come see why they
did not ask to be born.”
As a psychological touch, a baby
stroller is parked in front of the tent implying the children
These deformed babies are
actually made out of rubber and called “pickled punks” or
“bouncers.” They are immersed in a blue liquid inside medical
Hoop and Block Game
Seen at carnival and state fairs.
The object is to throw a hoop
around a metal stick. This game is almost impossible to win
because the hoop is tossed by the customers from the wrong
The operator always wins because
he’s inside the counter and much closer to the stick enabling
him to practically drop the hoop during his demonstration.
The rest is just toss acting.
This is a typical fishpond game
found at carnivals, state fairs, and amusement parks where about
100 wooden fish float down a small stream past the counter. The
customer pays for a fish that has a hidden number on its
underbelly. Each number corresponds to a winning prize; some of
them higher quality than others. As usual, everyone’s a winner.
But in this classic example, what
looks right to you is really upside down.
Let’s say your winning number is
66 and it corresponds to a radio, the vendor will hold the fish
the other way and call it 99 for an ashtray. The other
upside numbers used are: 9 for 6;
16 for 91; 18 for 81;89 for 68; 98 for 86.
It was while working at the
fairground as a kid that I learned the origin of the term “easy
mark.” There would always be some drunks tossing outwads of
money hoping to win at the games, but they’d always lose. The
operator would pat the guy on his shoulder and wish him better
luck next time around. Unbeknownst to him, the comforting hand
had chalk on it, clearly marking him as a sucker to the other
The Geek Act
The geek act can at times become
a rowdy affair due to disappointed customers. The presentation
makes them feel like they are going to see a wild man from
Borneo eating live chickens. Instead there is a guy, a chicken,
and a dirty half-full porta- potty in a cage. The cage is there
to protect the performer from the audience, instead of the other
As soon as everyone is in the
tent, he grabs the chicken, bites its neck lightly, to reopen a
small cut, and smears blood and feathers on his face.
But before the customers can
lynch him for letting them down, he grabs the porta-potty and
splashes it on everyone until they exit the tent in a mad rush.
The liquid was only dirty colored water, but it works.
The contents of this section
are dangerous. Misuse of the material can cheapen an art form
or at the very least make you look stupid. More importantly,
misuse of this information may result in jail time or death.
Do not attempt any of these tricks without the direct
supervision of a responsible professional.