July 24 2017, updated 10:49am

Magician a truly great headline act

Last updated 00:00 24/09/2007
DAVID RIDDELL/ Press
REALLY MAGIC: Magician Michael Woolf demonstrated the art of dowsing to the Skeptics Conference with the aid of audience participant Asher Etherington - all in the name of 'ordinary' magic, rather than the supernatural.

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Magician Michael Woolf would love to tell you how he predicted the weekend's major headline, but he would "hate to have to shoot you afterwards".

Woolf wrote down what he expected the headline of Saturday's Press would be, five days before it was printed.

The details were held under lock and key by Auckland academic Sir John Scott – an "unimpeachable guardian". Woolf's prediction was unveiled at the New Zealand Skeptics Conference in Christchurch on Saturday night.

His prediction was very close to the mark. It read: "Drink Test Outcome a Shock".

The actual headline was "Drink test results 'scary"'.

Woolf said he achieved the feat through "great skill and panache".

"You could call it intuition; you could call it a meeting of great minds and the concentration of talent there among the wonderful people of the Skeptics' organisation."

NZ Skeptics chairwoman Vicki Hyde said some of the 120 sceptics at the conference were impressed by the feat, although some were – not surprisingly – sceptical.

"I think some people might have figured it out. Some people who have done a bit of magic might have known, but sometimes it's just fun to look at this thing and wonder.

"He certainly predicted the headline and we predicted in advance that he would get it right, so we all won."

Hyde, who has chaired the society for 12 years, said many magicians were also sceptics.

"Magicians traditionally have been fairly strong members of the sceptics' societies around the world because they're the guys that are the professionals in terms of fooling people and they know what sort of things to look for," Hyde said.

The three-day sceptics conference ended yesterday.

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