Saturday, July 13, 2002

In his 1920 booklet, Ten New Miscellaneous Tricks, Charles Jordan said: “Rather than write a long Preface, I will merely leave it to the magician in search of novelty as to whether or not the last trick in this collection is worth the price of the entire manuscript.”

The trick was The Book Mystery, an innovative book test which, like much of Jordan’s work, shows that once again he was well ahead of the pack. He saves the real secret until the last paragraph of his description:

A knife and several books or pamphlets are shown to be unprepared. Any one selects one of the books. Then, taking his watch from his pocket, the wizard asks some one to add the minutes to the hours that happen at that moment to be indicated by the dial of the watch. A spectator now takes the knife and inserts it at will into any part of the selected book. Counting down to the number of words indicated by the sum of the watch’s hours and minutes, he notes the word at that number. That word is found written in a previously sealed envelope, or between two slates, or otherwise, as the performer may desire! The book page is not forced!

Performed as indicated, this feat may be accomplished at any one of but twenty-four different periods of the day, for the sum of the hours and minutes on the watch dial must always be a set number, say 14. The trick must be timed so the watch will be looked at at the proper moment, i.e., at one of these times: 1.13; 2.12; 3.11; 4.10, etc.

If preferred, any other method of forcing the number may be employed. The magician must provide himself with a book, on every page of which the fourteenth word is the same, say; “magician.” Then, of course, it is immaterial at which page the knife is thrust in, that word being written beforehand, and disposed of as desired, the book itself naturally being forced.

“But,” the magician may inquire, “where am I to obtain such a book?”

For reply, have you read this booklet through without discovering its secret? If so, examine it, and your question will be answered. Illustration pictures and trick titles not counting, this is the necessary booklet. The exact presentation is left to your own ingenuity.

A glance through the booklet shows that the 14th word on each page, including the Preface, was “magician.” Jordan enthusiasts will recognise the watch number business as that used in his card effect The Hour Glass Card Trick, which you will find in The Encyclopedia of Card Tricks as well as Karl Fulves’ collection, Charles Jordan’s Best Card Tricks.