On or about March 15 of this year, Teller — the smaller, quieter half of the magicians Penn & Teller — says he received an e-mail from a friend in New York. In that e-mail, the friend included a link to a video on YouTube called the Rose & Her Shadow. Teller, sitting at his computer in his Las Vegas home, within eyeshot of a large black escape cross once owned by Houdini, clicked on the link. The video lasted one minute and fifty-one seconds. "I had what I can only describe as a visceral reaction to it," Teller says today.
The video was posted by a magician who works under the stage name Gerard Bakardy; his real name is apparently Gerard Dogge. (Bakardy, a fifty-five-year-old Dutch national born in Belgium, is more than a magician; he prefers the title entertainer, because he's a musician, too. Along with his blond partner, Nadia, he was, until recently, part of a lounge act called Los Dos de Amberes, the Two from Antwerp, booked mostly in the resort of Fuerteventura on the Canary Islands off Spain. "A lovely way to spend an evening," they said in online advertisements that have since disappeared.) Leaning into his computer screen, Teller watched Bakardy perform some kind of trick.
Against a crimson curtain, Bakardy had erected an easel with what looked like a large pad of white paper on it. Perhaps six feet in front of the easel sat a small wood table bearing a glass Coke bottle filled with water. That bottle also contained a single rose. A spotlight, outside of the camera's view, cast the rose's shadow on the paper on the easel. Dressed in a dark suit, Bakardy appeared in the frame carrying a large knife in his right hand. He sliced it deep into the rose's shadow. And when he cut into its shadow, something impossible happened: The corresponding part of the rose fell off the stem and onto the table. Petal by petal, Bakardy cut at the rose's shadow until that Coke bottle somehow held only a decapitated stem, which he removed as though to demonstrate the absence of wires. He then lifted up the bottle itself — still no strings attached — and poured out the water. Ta-da.