Saturday, December 09, 2006


A packet trick using the Ace, Two, Three and Four of Spades. One by one the cards rise to the top of the packet. All except the Four which disappears entirely.

This trick originally appeared in Cardopolis magazine and was inspired by the work contained in Phil Goldstein's excellent booklet Majorminor. Daryl Martinez must also be credited as inspiration with his Twisted Aces routine.

The main point of this handling is to show that by getting rid of the four spot the rest of the routine is virtually self working. Ambitious packet handlings are often quite involved but this one is simplicity itself.

Begin with the Ace, Two, Three and Four face up on top of the deck. The cards should be in sequence with the Four uppermost. Spread the four cards to display them as you explain that they will be used for the next trick. Flip them face down on top of the deck but lift off only the top three cards with the right hand. If the right thumb injogs the Four as the cards are flippped face down onto the deck, you'll find it easy to press down on the injogged card and lift off the remaining three.

Place the deck aside and then transfer the packet of cards to the left hand where they are held face down. Flip the top card over showing it to be an Ace. Flip it face down again and Elmsley Count the three cards as four, telling the spectators that you will reverse the order of the four cards therefore placing the Ace on the bottom of the packet. Snap your fingers and turn the top card face up to show that the Ace has returned to the top of the packet.

Turn the Ace face down and apparently place it on the bottom of the packet. Actually you execute a two card push off, take the top two cards as one and place them to the bottom of the packet. With three cards only in your hand a double lift is very easy to do and this is the crux of the whole routine. Snap your right fingers as a magical gesture and execute another double lift to show that the Ace is still on top of the packet.

Turn the double down and take off the top card only placing it under the packet. Snap the right fingers and then turn over the top card to show that once again the Ace has risen to the top. Place the Ace to the bottom of the packet and explain that lest the spectators think all the cards are Aces you will perform exactly the same trick with the Two.

Another double lift is made to show the Two apparently on top of the packet. The double is turned face down and the top card is placed to the bottom of the packet. Snap the fingers and turn over the top card to reveal the Two back on top. Place the Two on the bottom of the packet explaining that what the Ace and Two can do the Three can also perform.

Another double lift is made to show the Three on top of the packet. Turn the double card down placing the top card only to the bottom of the packet as before. Snap the fingers and flip over the top card showing that the Three has returned to the top. Turn the Three face down and leave it on top of the packet.

Take the packet in the right hand and Elmsley Count the cards into the left hand. As the first three cards are counted you patter ‘While the Ace, Two, and Three can do this trick…’ the last card is retained in the right hand flicked with the right fingers and replaced beneath the packet as you continue… ’ the Four is very difficult to handle.’ The Elmsley Count subtly confirms to the spectators that you are using four cards.

You now vanish the Four using the following flourish. With the packet face down in the left hand the thumb pushes two cards to the right.

The right hand takes the two cards away from the left hand. The right thumb pulls the top card of the pair to the right.

In a continuous motion allow the lower card of the pair to fall face up onto the table. Continue moving the right hand to the right and then allow its remaining card to fall face up onto the table. The card trips off the fingers. At the same time allow the left hand card to also fall face up onto the table.

The result is that the Ace, Two and Three are all face up in a line across the table. And the Four of Spades is nowhere to be seen as you say, "... in fact the trick is so difficult that I never do the trick with the Four."

The Four is on top of the deck for subsequent reproduction if you think it necessary. Alternatively you could stage the trick differently and, as in the Martinez routine Twisted Aces you could steal away the Four and reverse it in the middle of the deck in one move. This would provide an effective finish if the Four is to be reproduced.

Naturally some scintillating patter, a dash of charm and a huge dollop of charisma would very much enhance the effect!

Saturday, November 04, 2006


EFFECT: Six spectators are given six slips of paper. One of them writes down the name of a dead person. The other five write down the names of people still living. While the mentalist’s back is turned the people mix themselves up and then one by one step forward and hold their slip of paper to the back of the mentalist’s head. Although he cannot see who is behind him, the mentalist unerringly picks out the dead name.

METHOD: I’m not overly keen on Living and Dead Tests but am using the premise here to describe a very simple principle that enables you to identify a spectator who is standing behind you and out of your range of vision. It has other applications too.

When you select your spectators for this experiment you do so by the watches they are wearing. You are looking for those who wear the more conventional kind of watch. One that ticks!

Everything should now become clear. It is not the sixth sense you are using but one of your usual five, hearing. The person who writes down the dead name should be wearing a ticking watch on his left wrist. The others aren’t. Alternatively, have the odd guy out be the only one not wearing a watch.

You must be sure that he holds the slip of paper in the same hand that he wears his watch. When he holds it to the back of your head, you will hear his watch ticking. Conversely, you won’t hear anything when the other people hold their slips of paper to your head. Not much more to it than that other than conjuring up variations.

You could use it in a mental Just Chance routine, divining which of three envelopes contains the banknote.

Or you could have a bag of black and white marbles, which is really a change bag. Force two spectators to choose black marbles and the one with the watch choose white. Even though they do not know which colours they hold, you are able to tell them despite the fact you cannot see them.

You need not even be that ambitious. It makes a nice impromptu effect. Ask a spectator to take out a coin and hold it in one of his hands. Note whether it goes into his watch hand. Now turn your back to him and ask him to hold either hand to the back of your head. By listening for the watch you can tell him whether or not that hand holds the coin.

You will need quiet to use this principle successfully and you will have to concentrate, otherwise the ticking will disappear into the ambient noise of the room. Other than that, I think it is a bit of business worth knowing about.

Monday, October 23, 2006


Yet another variation on the seemingly infinite permutations three cards can be put through. This routine is the result of experiments with Roy Walton’s The Changeling from Devil’s Playthings. It can also be considered a version of a Dai Vernon problem in which any one of three cards is transformed into the spectator’s selection. Here you show that it really could have been any of the three, any one at all.

What I’m describing here is the basic system that will enable you to transform each of three tabled cards into a selected card. Once you understand how the transformations work you can dress it up with your favourite moves.

To begin, remove the Ace, Two and Three of Clubs from the deck and display them face up in numerical order with the Three uppermost. Put the rest of the deck aside. Tell the spectator that you will shortly take a card from the deck and that it can be anyone, “any card in the pack… except one of these….”

Flip the three Club cards face down and deal them, from left to right, onto the table in a row, saying, “…the Ace, Two or Three.” Sneakily you execute a Bottom Deal on the first card so that the Three goes down instead of the Ace. The order of the cards has therefore been secretly displaced – it is now 3 A 2 - and the incorrect order branded onto the spectator’s memory. The Bottom Deal is very easy to do with a three-card packet.

As promised, the spectator selects a card from the deck. He shows it to his friends without revealing it to you. Have the card replaced in the deck and then secretly control it to the top under the guise of a shuffle. When the shuffling is over hold the deck face down in the left hand.

Point to the tabled cards once again, calling them “the Ace, Two and Three of Clubs” as you indicate each card from left to right. “Now I said you could choose any card except one of these but if you had picked one of these which would you have chosen?”

The spectator points to one of the tabled cards; let’s say it is the supposed Ace. “The Ace?” you say. Hold the nominated card face down in the right hand and Top Change it for the selection as swing the right hand across the left in order to rub the card against the left sleeve. Blow on the card, give it a snap or tap it against a glass on the table. Anything that will subtly signal the ‘moment of magic.’ Now turn the card face up to reveal it has changed into the selected card. It is worth noting at this point that the deck stays face down in the left hand for the rest of the handling.

“Of course you’re probably wondering what would have happened if you’d pointed to another card. What if you’d chosen the Two instead of the Ace?”

Here is where the system comes into play. Imagine that the three cards are in cyclic order, like the endless chain of a Si Stebbins or other cyclic stack. After the first transformation you move clockwise (from left to right along the row) around the chain of cards. If the spectator originally nominated the “Ace,” you now pick up the “Two” by scooping the face down card up from the table with the face up selection held in the right hand. The two cards are face to face lying on the open right fingers and palm.

Turn the right hand over to rub the pair on the left sleeve, secretly flipping them over in the process. You’re really just curling the right fingers in to secretly turn the packet over. It’s a simple Paddle Move. When the right hand returns to its palm up position the lower card of the pair will be the face up Ace of Clubs. Spread the cards and push the Ace of Clubs, face up, in the vacant spot that the original “Ace” occupied. Now slowly turn the card in your right hand face up. It is the selected card. Since the Ace of Clubs is now face up on the table it appears that the Two of Clubs has transformed into the selection.

“But you always get someone who says I didn’t choose the Ace and I didn’t choose the Two.” Use the face up selected card to scoop up the remaining face down tabled card. Repeat the previous sequence, rubbing the face to face pair on the left sleeve while secretly turning the two-card packet over. Drop the face up Two of Clubs onto the table and turn the remaining card face up to reveal that it is the selection. It appears that the Three of Clubs has now changed into the selected card. Always drop the Club cards face up onto the table in their correct positions i.e. from left to right Ace, Two, Three.

Finish the routine by turning the selected card face down in the right hand and Hofzinser Top Changing it for the Three of Clubs, which is on top of the deck. If you want to reproduce the selected card from your pocket, then go ahead.

This is just a basic handling to put forward the cyclical notion of the changes. As another example let’s imagine that the “Three” is the first tabled card to be nominated.

You pick the “Three” up and Top Change it for the selection as previously described. But for your second transformation you follow the chain around to the other end of the row and pick up what the spectators believe is the “Ace.” Make the face to face pair, the Paddle Move and finish by dropping the Three face up onto the table. Reveal the selected card in your hand. The Ace appears to have transformed into the selection.

Repeat the face to face change with the remaining face down card and drop the Ace to the table. You are again left with the selection in your hand. Turn the selection face down and Top Change it for the Two of Clubs that is on top of the deck. Drop the Two face up onto the table between the Ace and Three of Clubs. You are right back where you started.

You can spruce the routine up with all kinds of Through the Fist flourishes or Paddle Move substitutes. And it’d be nice to finish with something other than a repeat of the Top Change for the finale. When I came up with this, more than a decade ago, I favoured Al Smith’s P. C. Change, or Twitch Switch as it was called in the original series of Talon magazine, but there are even more spectacular changes available which would give it a suitably flourish-gilded finale. To each his own.

Sunday, September 24, 2006


This routine was inspired by Bro John Hamman’s Signed Transversal Triplet described in Richards Almanac Summer 85 issue. The Hamman routine involved the transposition of two selected cards. One was sandwiched between the black Kings and other between the red Kings. They changed places twice and there was third sequence, reminiscent of the Hotel Mystery in which the two selections gathered in one pile and the four Kings in the other.

Transpositions are peculiar things; they often lack that emotional hook that is so often talked about. To be frank, no one cares whether you can make one card change places with another because right from the start the spectators have to remember silly things like the red selected card is between the red Kings and the black selected card is between the black Kings. It may be simple for a magician to remember such nonsensical trivia but laymen really don’t care for it. A magical effect has suddenly become a test of memory with the spectator in the hot seat.

I felt that if I was going to make something I could use from the Hamman routine, I’d simplify it by getting rid of one of the pairs of Kings. It makes no difference to the effect from the spectator’s point of view and simplifies the handling. The selected cards are the important cards. The other cards are only there to provide cover for whatever method the magician employs. No point drawing too much attention to them.

Remove the two Jokers from the deck saying that you want a couple of cards chosen, but not Jokers. Then offer a spectator a free choice of any two cards from the remainder of the deck. Hand him a marker pen and ask him to sign his name across whichever one of his selections offers the most white space.

As he is doing this, hold the two Jokers face up in the left hand dealing position. When the spectator has finished, take the two selections and place them face up on top of the Jokers in the left hand so that the signed card is at the face.

Ask for the return of the pen and as you place it inside your pocket with the right hand your left thumb pushes the signed card to the right and then the left fingers buckle the bottom card creating a secret break along inner and right side of the packet.

With the pen back in your pocket the right hand apparently takes the two spread selections. In fact it lifts the top three cards up as two, the break facilitating the lift, the right thumb going on top of the cards, the right fingers underneath.

Gesture with the two(?) cards in the right hand as you talk and then openly put them beneath the packet. Square the cards and flip the packet face down.

The order from the top of the face down packet is Joker, selection, signed selection and Joker.

Execute a Double Lift, turning the card(s) face up onto the packet. Draw attention to the name of the selection card that now shows. Turn the card(s) face down and deal the top card to the right of the table. Execute another Double Lift with the next two cards, calling out the name of the selection. Point out the signature on the card. Turn the card(s) face down onto the packet and deal the top card off to the right.

The Double Lifts are a weak point in the trick so cover them by talking. For instance tell the spectator that you can read fortunes. Turn over top card and tell him that it means whoever chooses this card is going to make a lot of money very quickly and then, as an after thought, remember that he didn’t sign this particular card and so, regretfully, it doesn’t apply to him.

Turn over the next card and tell him that this one means he is going on a journey. “But as it’s a low card (or whatever) it won’t be very far. Not to despair, because it’ll certainly be interesting.” Deal this one face down to the left and ask him to place his finger on it.

You now reverse the positions of the two cards remaining in the hands and show them to still be two Jokers using Hamman’s Flushtration Count. This display is not strictly necessary but with only two cards it’s possible to make it look like a gesture as you speak rather than a move and therefore not as a conspicuous as it might normally be.

Replace the two cards face down in the left hand and pick up the face down card on the right of the table with the other hand.

You appear to place this card face down between the two Jokers but in fact use The Mexican Turnover Switch, which I described in Equinox (published by Martin Breese). The move is nothing more than the old Mexican Turnover executed around a packet of cards. The right hand card is apparently used to flip over the two cards in the left hand. In fact the right hand card is merely slid on top of the left hand cards while the right fingers draw the bottom card of the packet to the left and use it to flip over the upper two cards. This puts the signed selection in your right hand and the two Jokers face up in the left. Done smoothly the move is very deceptive.

Immediately spread the two face up Jokers in the left hand and insert the face down card between them. The three cards are spread so that the spectator understands the situation and then squared in the left hand.

Close the left hand around the packet and turn the hand over, executing the Through The Fist Flourish. As you do this say, “I told you that you were going on a journey … watch” As the packet emerges from the outer end of the left fist, take it with the right hand, tap it on the back of the fist and then quickly fan out the three cards to reveal the face up signed selection. The moves flow, look magical and the sudden spreading of the cards indicates the moment the transposition apparently takes place.

Ask the spectator if that’s his card between the Jokers (hard to deny since it’s signed) and then ask him to turn over the card under his finger to reveal that the two cards have changed places.

Openly gather the cards together so that from the top of the face up packet they are selection, signed selection, Joker, Joker. Casually display the cards as you talk.

If the spectators don’t ask you to do the trick again, tell them you’ll do it anyway! Flip the packet face down and then Elmsley Count the cards from the right hand to the left establishing a left little finger break under the second card from the top.

Execute a Double Lift at the break flipping the card(s) face up and displaying the unsigned selection. Turn the card(s) down and deal the top one to the right of the table.

Execute a Bottom Double Lift by pulling back on the top card of the packet with the left thumb and pushing the lower two card to the right with the left forefinger. This allows the two bottom cards to be sidejogged in alignment. Pull them clear of the packet with the right hand and flip them face up onto the packet. This will display the signed selection, which is similarly turned face down and then apparently dealt to the left of the table. The deal from the bottom may seem odd but done smoothly, and handled in the same manner as your usual Double Lifts, will pass unnoticed.

The spectator believes that the selections are on the table but may not believe you as to their exact location. Why should he, you’ve already swindled him once? Ask the spectator to place a forefinger on each of the tabled cards, saying, “Now you might think that the Jokers have something to do with the trick so this time make sure keep tight hold of your cards”.

Drop the packet to your side in order to take the heat off the cards in your hand and snap your right fingers over the tabled cards saying, “Did you feel the cards change?” When he says, “No”, ask him to turn over the cards. Instead of the expected transposition, he is now holding the Jokers. Turn over your cards to reveal that you now have both selections. It’s a real shock and seems totally impossible.

This is a shorter routine than the Hamman original but the effect is clear and easy to do. The second phase comes from a version of Daley’s Last Trick I once saw performed by a magician called, I think, Sirocco, on a magic video from the USA. It was so long ago that I have forgotten the details. It’s a great bit of business though and worth noting because it can be worked into any number of routines. By the way, if you don’t have two identical Jokers in the deck, the red Aces will do just as well.

Monday, September 11, 2006


Two jacks are sent into the deck to find a selected card. They do it by visibly rejecting half the deck and leaving just one card between them. Naturally, it is the right one.

Usually a sandwich effect suggests that somehow the two jacks (or whatever) penetrate through the deck to find the selected card. In this routine the idea is that the jacks are actually ejecting unwanted cards from the deck, leaving the selection in situ.

To perform, take the two black jacks out and place them face up on the table. Have any other card selected, remembered and returned to the pack. Control the selected card to the top of the deck. Place the deck on the table.

“Believe it or not, the two black jacks are going to find your card. But they need a little help from you. Would you cut about a third of the deck off and place it there.”

The spectator does what you say, placing the cut off portion to the side.

“Now pick up one of the jacks, either one, and drop it on top of the pile you just cut off.”

He does, and you ask him to cut off a second packet of cards from the deck, “about half this time,” and drop it on top of the jack he just handled, thus burying it.

“Great. Pick up the second jack and drop it on top.”

He picks the remaining jack up and places it on top of the pile of cards he has been building.”

“And then drop the rest of the cards on top.”

He does as you say and drops the remainder of the deck onto the face up jack. You square the deck, pick it up and recap what has happened as you spread the cards between your hands.

“What you’ve done is placed the two jacks in the middle of the deck. They are separated by what, about twenty or so cards?”

As you spread, the upper third of the deck you will come to the first jack. Spread past it but cull it under the spread until you come to the second jack. Because of the way you have handled the cards the second jack is directly above the selection. Load the culled jack below the selection as you close the spread, apparently having reshown the jacks to only emphasise how many cards separate them.

You are almost ready to finish. Turn the deck face up in the left hand. “I think that your card lies somewhere between the two jacks. All the jacks have to do is get rid of all the other cards. Watch!”

Click your right fingers and then execute the Self-Cutting Deck flourish from The Royal Road To Card Magic (Chapter Thirteen, Miscellaneous Flourishes).

Briefly, the left forefinger snaps inwards against the outer end of the deck, propelling the lower half towards you where it is caught by the waiting right hand. The instructions in the Royal Road show the right hand palm down as it catches the cards, but I like to have the hand palm up. It is already behind the deck when it clicks its fingers and opens to receive the ejected cards.

The effect is that a packet of cards suddenly and unexpectedly leaps from the deck. You catch it and immediately spread the cards in a fan face up on the table, asking the spectator, “Can you see your card there?”

He won’t. So you turn the remainder of the deck face down and spread it across the table to reveal the two face up black jacks, now separated by only one card. It is, of course, the selection.

Thursday, August 31, 2006


A spectator selects five cards from the pack and is asked to imagine that it forms a perfect poker hand. Well, perfect except for one card. One card won’t help him win. Which card would he like to discard?

Without looking at any of them he discards one of the cards, say the two of hearts. He turns the remaining four face-up and discovers that he has the ten, jack, queen and king of clubs. Somehow he managed to get rid of the one that didn’t fit.

But can he find the card he needs to make a royal flush? He selects another card from the deck. Incredibly, it is the missing ace of clubs. What a guy!

This is a solution to a poker problem that Fulves wrote about in Pallbearers Review. Check Francis Haxton’s Gambler’s Last Chance (Vol 2, No 10) for a similar effect.

There are many ways to approach the effect but this has the benefit of being almost self-working. The disadvantage is that it uses a double-back card.

Have the double-backer on top of the deck and below it, in no particular order, the royal flush in clubs. These five cards should be face up.

Begin by giving the deck a false shuffle bringing the set-up back to the top. Then slowly dribble the cards from the right hand to the left as you ask a spectator to call stop.

He does and you halt the dribble and drop the right hand cards face-up onto the left hand packet as you say, “We’ll cut the pack where you said stop.” This is a handling of the Christ Force.

Spread the face up cards into the right hand. “You could have stopped anywhere.” And divide the pack so that all the face down cards are in the left. Deal the top five cards face down onto the table. “But you stopped here. Let’s take the next five cards.”

Replace the right hand cards face-down under the left hand packet.

“I want you to imagine that you have just been dealt a poker hand. Not only that but it is a very good poker hand except for one card. One card spoils the hand. Which do you think it is?”

Since the cards are all face-down, he can only guess. Get as much fun as you can out of him picking one of the five cards. Then pick it up and place it face-down on top of the deck. Immediately execute a triple lift and push the face-up card that shows off the deck.

By the way, you can get a break ready for the triple as the spectator is choosing one of the tabled cards.

Whatever card shows, refer to it in some meaningful way. You might find he appears to have discarded a low value card. On the other hand it might be an ace. Make the most of it, then replace it face-down under the deck.

Because of the triple lift a club card now lies face-up under the double backer.

“You’ve got rid of one card. Time to choose another.”

Repeat the Christ Force, this time pushing a single card onto the table. For the moment keep it separate from the other four tabled cards.

Time for the finale. Turn over the first four chosen cards and reveal them to be almost a royal flush. Then turn over the remaining chosen card to show that it completes the hand perfectly.

That’s it. It is actually quite an economical handling. The real skill lies in making the effect clear to the spectators. They choose a poker hand, discard the odd card and find its replacement. Try experimenting with different presentations to find the approach that works best for you.

From the point of view of method it’s quite cheeky in that as soon as they have discarded one of the original five cards you force it right back on them!

Sunday, August 20, 2006


I remember the moment very clearly. I was at the office of Martin Breese videotaping Basil Horwitz as he demonstrated some of his material for a forthcoming book. This would have been in the mid-eighties.

Basil had dealt some ESP cards onto a table and I was looking through the viewfinder on the video camera. Then I noticed something very odd. I stopped filming, went over to the table and took a good look at those cards. They appeared perfectly ordinary, it was a pack of ESP Cards manufactured by Haines House of Cards in America. So I went back to the camera and looked through the viewfinder again and it was like looking through a pair of magic spectacles because I could see marks on the backs of the cards. I stepped away from the camera and looked at the cards again. To my surprise I could still see the marks.

“Basil, pick up those cards and give them a shuffle,” I said. Basil did, he knew I was up to something but couldn’t figure out what. “Now deal them in a row.” Five cards went face down onto the table. “Now turn the one on the right face up. It’s the star.” He did. And it was. And all the time I’d been standing a dozen feet away from him.

What I’d discovered, quite by accident, is that the Haines’ pack of ESP cards is marked. I’m not referring to the tiny markings at the corners, those are quite well known, but two big broad strokes on the backs that can be read across a room. In fact, here’s the peculiar thing. They can only be read across the room. Go up to the pack, examine the backs of the cards and I promise you you’ll never find those markings unless you know where to look.

Some years later, I mentioned this to magician and mentalist Ray Hyman on the phone, saying only that the Haines cards were marked. It’s a one-way mark, which is how I knew where the Star was on that table. I’d noted that its back was the wrong way up compared to the others. Anyway, Ray was coming to England to appear in a television documentary, and I met him at the airport on his arrival. First thing he did was bring out a deck of Haines ESP cards and ask where the hell the marks where. He’d been examining them on his plane journey and just couldn’t find them. But that’s the beauty of it. Look at the cards up close and it’s impossible to spot them. Put the cards on a table across the room, and they are as clear as day.

Enough of the teasing. The marks are the result of a flaw in the spacing of the tiny stars on the back of the cards. It produces two broad strokes across one end. And you can only see the strokes at a distance. I’ve tried to illustrate the position of the strokes in the diagram (1). Both cards have the marks at the same end, but I’ve highlighted them on the second card. They are impossible to see in the first card because of the reproduction process but if you had the real cards in front of you, you would be able to pick them out. Dig out a pack and try it for yourself.

As soon as you get near the cards, the markings disappear from sight, which means you have to be careful when sorting them into a one-way arrangement. Reading the cards up close is an acquired skill. Reading them from a distance is much much easier.

As for applications, well like names of the Devil, they are legion. Set up a pack in the usual Circle, Cross, Lines, Square, Star order. Have every Star arranged the wrong way and you have a stacked deck you can read across the room. Someone can cut and cut and deal four cards onto the table. You immediately know their order (if no Star appears, obviously you have the other four cards). From here, miracles can be worked.

The best kind of effect is one in which you stand well away from the spectator and the cards. A hands-off routine, possibly working with two spectators sitting at different tables, as they would be if involved in an old Duke University telepathy test. It’s a scenario that gives you a good excuse to use the cards. Have the spectators sit back to back, so that they can’t see each other. You, of course, can see all the cards as they are cut and dealt and you’ll find it easy to bring about remarkable coincidences just by controlling their actions and introducing one or two instances of Magicians Choice. I’ll leave the rest to you.

NOTES: This item was originally contributed to Trevor McCrombie’s online magazine The Centre Tear. As several readers proved, the marking system can be used in a variety of ways. So have fun!

Friday, July 07, 2006


Twenty years ago the late Eric Mason devised an effect called Stigma. It was an original idea involving the number and suit of a named card appearing as blisters on the performer’s fingers.

As similar effects are now coming onto the market I thought you might be interested in Eric’s original, taken from the notes and illustrations he gave me on 1st August 1986. They are only notes, not a full step by step description, but they should be enough to get a good idea of how Eric approached the problem. What a farsighted genius he was.

STIGMA by Eric Mason

To impress with any card called for! Ask the spectator to think of a card and visualise it as a large image and then to mentally compress it down to say approximately a half inch size. Reaching forward to confirm you pluck the image from its moment of time and space – your fingers appear to BURN! Gosh! You say – as your fingers open to show two blisters which represent the thought card, ‘I would have been burnt for this 300 years ago!’ (1).

Make up some gimmicks in airplane ply by cutting or burning out the indices of cards (2). Stick them together in pairs and assemble them as an index with perhaps a magnet added as (3).

Placing (say) pairs together so that only two gimmicks have to be stolen out of an eight section index to render any playing card. You do this by placing two tabs together and squeezing between the second finger and thumb. Raise a fake blister on both fingers allowing the tabs to drop into a finger palm where they remained concealed (1).

Monday, June 05, 2006


This item was previously published in New Talon number 3. It was inspired by Jack Yates’ effect Clue from his book Clue and other Miracles. It can be presented as a murder mystery game. But my main reason for describing it here is to highlight the method, which might interest anyone familiar with those logic puzzles featuring liars and truth-tellers.

Effect: The performer invites six spectators play the part of suspects in a game of murder. One of them is a murderer but only the murderer knows that. Three of them are compulsive liars. Fortunately the other three always tell the truth. The task of the performer is to navigate his way through this maze of deceit and correctly identify the murderer. Naturally, he always does.

Method: I’ll just describe the bare bones of the method. If you like the idea, you’ll find ways of dressing it up and devising an entertaining presentation. To perform the trick you’ll need six blank cards. On three of them write the word LIAR. On the other three write the word TRUTH. You’ll also need a bag (cloth or paper), five white counters and one black counter.

Arrange the cards so that they alternate TRUTH, LIAR, TRUTH, LIAR, TRUTH, LIAR. Put the counters in the bag. Get yourself six volunteers and you are all ready to go.

Bring out the cards. Display a couple of them to show that some of them bear the word LIAR while others contain the word TRUTH. Don’t mention anything about there being an even distribution of LIAR and TRUTH. And don’t reveal the fact that the words alternate. You may indulge in a brief false shuffle but if you do make it a casual looking one.

Arrange your six volunteers in a line. Get the attention of the first volunteer and show him how to cut the cards and complete the cut. Make sure he understands the procedure and then hand him the cards face down. Tell him to put the cards behind his back and give the cards a cut. And then another one. As he does this take out the cloth bag.

When he’s finished cutting the cards, ask him to take the top card of the packet and pass the remainder of the cards to the next volunteer. The second volunteer takes the new top card of the packet before passing the packet on to the third volunteer. Each volunteer takes a card from the top and then passes the cards on until all six volunteers have a card each.

Tell the volunteers to take a peek at the card they are holding. The cards tell them which roles they should play. They will either be a truth teller or a liar. You must really hammer it home that if the volunteer is to play the part of a liar he must lie all the time. It doesn’t matter what he says as long as it is a lie. On the other hand good liars tell lies that can be believed. The opposite applies to the truth-tellers. You cannot overemphasise this. So make it part of your presentation, talking about the compulsive liars and truth-tellers that are part of this story.

Look away while the volunteers peek at their cards. They can put the cards away when they’ve noted their role in the game. Explain that each volunteer will be asked to reach into the bag and pull out one of the counters. Whoever draws the black counter will play the part of the murderer.

The bag is passed from one volunteer to another so that they can draw counters. They hold the counters in their closed fists. Then, when everyone has one, you turn away and the volunteers look at the counters noting whether or not they have the black one. No one allows anyone else to see which counter they have. Only the person with the black counter knows that he or she will play the role of the murderer in this game. The counters are placed out of sight with the cards.

Let’s review the situation. You can’t possibly know who the liars are and who the truth-tellers are. And there is no way for you to know who chose the black counter so you don’t know who the murderer is either. And yet that is precisely what you are going to reveal. And you can do it with one simple question to each volunteer.

Example 1: Let’s assume that the third volunteer in the line of six is the murderer. Let’s also assume that because of the prearrangement of the cards the line alternates TLTLTL, which makes the third volunteer a truth-teller. If you ask each volunteer, “Do you know who the murderer is?” you would get the following yes or no answers: No, Yes, Yes, Yes, No, Yes.

You can see a pattern emerge. There is a block of three ‘yes’ answers. The middle volunteer of any block of three similar answers (in this case it happens to be ‘yes’) will be the murderer. It always works. If the alternation of the cards had made the third person in the line a liar, then you would have a block of three ‘no’ answers and the middle volunteer of this block would be the murderer.

You can also deduce that if the block of three answers is ‘yes’ then the murderer is a truth-teller. If ‘no,’ then the murder is a liar.

Example 2: The block of three might be split by the end of the line but if you are familiar with any kind of stack you will still be able to pick out the block of three. For instance, if the first volunteer in the row is the murderer and the row alternates LTLTLT then the answers to your question will be No, No, Yes, No, Yes, No. The block of three is split but it should be clear that the first volunteer is the middle one of the split block.

By asking only one question of each spectator you can instantly identify the murderer. When presenting the effect it’s best not to ask the key question, ‘Do you know who the murderer is?’ immediately. Instead, give the volunteers time to get into their roles of liars and truth-tellers. If you are presenting this as a murder mystery party you might ask them to think about what they had for dinner. Or to drink. And warn them that in a moment you will ask them a question and that the truth-tellers will always tell the truth but the liars will always lie. Then make good on your promise by asking what each of them what they had for dinner. Make light of the various answers you receive.

You now ask each of them the key question. But do it at random. Don’t just go along the line. Remember who gave what answer. Spot the block of three and deduce who the murderer is and whether they told the truth or a lie. In the finale you first reveal whether the murderer is a liar (a double sin) or a truth-teller. And then go on to identify him or her. It’s as simple as that but as with everything it will only be as entertaining as your presentation. So dress the routine as best you can.

Notes: Although you are looking for a block of three similar answers you can, in some circumstances, identify the murderer from questioning as few as three volunteers. Take Example 2. You only need answers from the first three volunteers (No, No, Yes) to tell you that the first volunteer is the murderer. That’s because if you hit two similar answers you are already in the block of three. Now you can ask the rest of the group completely different questions. It’ll confuse any clever puzzle-savvy folk trying to work out the method.

Need I mention that once you understand the basic principle you can improvise using a deck of playing cards and other items rather than having specially made cards, counters and bag? It makes a good impromptu party trick. Provided everyone is sober!

Friday, March 17, 2006

Jesse Demaline had some very clever effects in The Magic Wand magazine but his Sympathetic Cards from Pocket (issue 254) may have been overlooked because of a typo in the article. It’s an intriguing effect. A diabolically simple method. And holds lots of potential for individual variation. Read on.

Effect: Imagine having three cards selected from a blue-backed deck. They are free selections and you really have no idea what cards are being chosen. Meanwhile, a second spectator is shuffling a red-backed deck of cards. They hand it to you and you place it in your jacket pocket.

Now for the magic; you reach inside a remove a card from the shuffled red-backed deck. Amazingly, it matches the first selection. You repeat the feat, pulling out another card and revealing that this one matches the second selection. Finally, you pull out a third card. And yes, it matches the third selection.

Method: It's a great effect and not difficult to do but I bet the method will disappoint you. That would be a pity, because it really is such a good routine. Here goes:

It all depends on using a Mene Tekel Deck. I can hear half of you crying "No!" and the other half wondering what the devil a Mene Tekel Deck is. To be honest it's not much used these days. It is a gimmicked deck consisting of twenty-six different cards and their duplicates. The cards are arranged in pairs and the rear card of each pair has been trimmed a little shorter than its mate. It's similar in construction to the more popular Svengali deck. You'll find more about the Mene Tekel Deck in Hugard's Encyclopedia of Card Tricks, if you're interested.

For this effect let's assume that the Mene Tekel Deck is blue-backed. The red-backed deck is quite ordinary and unprepared and is handed out to a spectator for shuffling. As that is done you bring out the Mene Tekel Deck and give it a few cuts. You can riffle spread the deck face up on the table if you want to show all the cards ordinary, or riffle through them as you would with a Svengali deck. After that you let the cards dribble from the right hand to the left and ask a spectator to call "stop." Stop the dribble action and thumb off the top card of the left portion of the deck and ask him to take it. That will be his selected card.

Because of the construction of the deck, it leaves a duplicate of his card on top of the left portion. Replace this packet on top of the right hand packet, bringing the duplicate to the top of the deck.

Now you go to a second spectator and have another card selected. Again dribble the cards from the right hand and into the left. Ask him to call "stop" at any point and offer him the card stopped at as before. This time you can't cut the deck to bring to the duplicate to the top. Instead, as you bring the right hand packet to the left, you simply thumb over the top card of the left packet and slide the right hand packet below it.

You don't need to make a move out of this. Just do it. If you want to cover it a little, turn to your right as you walk towards the next spectator and at that point ask him to look at his chosen card. As he does, make the move.

Dribble the cards again and ask a third spectator to call "stop." He does and is offered the top card of the left packet. Again, you bring the packets together and slide the new top card of the left portion onto the right portion as it is apparently replaced. If you've done all this correctly, you will have duplicates of each selected card on top of the deck. We're almost there.

Get a break under the top three cards of the deck and palm them into the right hand as you ask the spectator with the red-backed deck to stop shuffling. With the right hand, put the blue-backed deck down on the table. With the left hand, take back the red-backed deck. Transfer it to the right hand and place it into your right jacket pocket. Before the right hand comes out of the pocket, it leaves the palmed cards on top of the deck. The finishing line is in sight.

The rest is just showmanship. To produce the first spectator's card you pretend to fiddle around in your pocket and then bring out the third card down from the top. It's actually got a blue-back, not a red-back, so be careful not to expose it as you show the card and drop it face up onto the table. It matches the first spectator's selection. Similarly the second spectator's selection will be found second card down from the top. And the third spectator's selection will be the top card. Just be careful not to expose the backs as they are produced.

There's not really much more to it. By choreographing the effect properly you will make it easier for yourself. The three spectators who choose cards should be in front of you from left to right. Moving between them will help cover the repositioning of the duplicate cards. The spectator who shuffles the red-backed deck should be on your left. Moving towards him will help cover the palming of the duplicates. It also means it is natural to reach out to him with your left hand and take the deck back.

Final Notes: You can play around with different moves to get the duplicates to the top of the deck but I don't think it is worth complicating it too much. A simple modification you could make is in the loading of the duplicate to the top of the deck. Instead of just pushing the card over the side of the deck, to the right, pull it back with the thumb so that it projects an inch or so at the inner end of the deck. The right hand, now lying by your side, comes up towards the left portion of the deck, hits the injogged card and slides right under it as it is replaced on top of the left portion. It works smoothly and is well covered from the front if the left hand is held high and the deck tipped slightly towards you.

I did experiment with a Mene Tekel Deck arranged so that instead of alternating short/long the pairs alternated long/short. This meant that after a spectator had taken his selection, the duplicate was actually on the face of the upper (right) half of the deck. As the halves were brought together it could be loaded beneath the deck via the Ovette/Kelly move or one of the many variations such as that of Bruce Elliott's in 100 New Magic Tricks. Instead of the duplicates being top-palmed and loaded into the right jacket pocket, they are bottom palmed and deposited in the left. I'm not sure it was any improvement though.

Finally, you can dispense with the palming altogether if you just dip your right hand (and deck) into your right pocket as if opening it ready to receive the red-backed deck. Leave the duplicate cards behind. Put the blue-backed deck away and take the red-backed deck at fingertips and drop it into the pocket alongside the duplicates. The rest is as written.

Monday, March 13, 2006

So Special
Effect: This is an ambitious card routine using five cards. One of the cards repeatedly rises to the top of the packet. Finally it demonstrates its prowess by penetrating up through the entire deck.

Method: Packet Elevator tricks are not new but this has the distinction of using the double deal as the crux of the method. I was prompted to dig this out of the notebooks after reading Peter Duffie's book Card Conspiracy, where you'll find a number of routines using this sleight. The basic handling is also described in Hugard and Braue's Expert Card Technique, though with a full deck rather than a packet.

Begin by having five cards selected from the deck. Upjog each card as it is pointed to and then strip the five selections out.

Put the deck aside, but within easy reach, and spread the five selected cards between the hands and ask the spectator to choose just one of them.

Give him a pen to sign his name across his selection.

As he signs the card, make a Half Pass of the lower three cards of the four card packet that you are still holding.

Take the pen back and put it away. Then take the signed card and place it face up on what appears to be a face down packet of cards in the hands. You are holding the cards in the left hand dealing grip which is perfect for the double deal.

"The fact that you chosen this card from all the rest gives it a sense of pride. Really. It thinks it's special. Let me show you what I mean."

You apparently turn the signed card face down but in reality you execute a double deal, turning the top and bottom cards over as one. This puts the signed card second from the top.

Remove the top card with the right hand and with the left hand thumb push over the new top card of the packet. Don't spread the packet or you will expose the reversed cards. Now put the 'signed' card below the top card of the packet and square the cards up.

"Let me try to put your card second from the top."

Snap your fingers, do a dance or whatever else it takes to 'make the magic work' and then turn over the top card of the packet to reveal that the signed card has returned to the top.

"You see, it just won't settle for second spot. Thinks it's special. Got to be number one. Let's try again."

Execute another double deal as you apparently turn the signed card face down on top of the packet. Remove the top card face down in the right hand.

"This time we'll place it third from the top."

The left hand thumbs over the top two cards of the packet, again being careful not to expose the reversed card. Place the 'signed' card under the thumbed over cards, pause so that the spectator can appreciate the situation, and then square the packet. Snap your fingers and flip over the top card to show that the signed card has once again returned to the top.

Incidentally, all the turnovers should look alike. Don't use one handling for the double turnover and another when you are flipping over a single card.

"Okay, here's a toughie. This time it goes fourth from the top."

Execute a double turnover to flip the signed card face down. Remove the top card and this time place it fourth from the top of the packet. There are no more reversed cards so you can spread the cards widely when you do this.

Another click of the fingers and you can turn the top card over to show it is the signed card.

"Now this is difficult. Five cards, never been done. Watch."

Genuinely turnover the top card and then place it to the bottom of the packet. You spread the packet to show that it is really being placed there.

To get the card back to the top you execute a double turnover as you apparently flip the top card over. This leaves a face up card hidden under the face up signed card sets you up for the finish.

"Amazing. Almost don't believe it myself but your card can do even better than that. Look."

Execute a double turnover of the top two cards of the packet. Deal the top card, apparently the signed card, face down onto the table. Drop the rest of the packet face down on top of the face down deck which you put aside earlier. Pick the deck up and dribble it face down onto the table 'signed' card.

Ask the spectator to tap the top card of the deck and turn it over himself. He should be surprised to find that it is his signed selection.

And that's it!

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Straight to the Point
I think it was Bob Ostin who first showed me how effective this trick could be. You've probably even read it. It is described under the title Round and Round and can be found in Chapter Five of The Royal Road to Card Magic, but it seems to have been overlooked by almost everyone.

The original made use of the Glimpse but that is not used in this version. The mechanics of the trick are almost childish but the timing and presentation turn what is really a very obvious ruse into a real baffler.

Begin by having a deck of cards shuffled and then five cards dealt face down onto the table. Ask a spectator to pick them up and mix them. Tell him to make sure that no one sees any of the cards. When he has finished shuffling, ask him to look at the top card of the packet, remember it, and replace it. You can turn aside while he does this. You want to make the most of the impossible conditions under which this location trick takes place.

"Okay, now put the cards behind your back. You're thinking of a card and I now want you to think of a number too. A simple number from 1 to 5. It's a free choice: 1,2,3,4,5. Chose any one of them and think of it. Got that?"

"I'm going to turn away while you do the next bit because I don't want you to think you're giving me any clues as to what is going on. You're thinking of a card. And you're thinking of a number. Now, whatever that number is, I want you to move that many cards from the top of the packet to the bottom. Do you understand?"

Repeat the instruction if he doesn't.

"Do it silently and slowly so that no one here could possibly know whether you're moving five cards or just one. Let me know when you've finished."

The spectator moves his cards and tells you when he has done.

"Okay, I'm still not looking at you. Will you place the cards face down into my hand."

You extend your hand behind you and take the packet of cards. As soon as you have them, turn to face him, keeping the cards behind your back.

"What I'm going to try and do is imagine I'm you. I'm going to try and imagine I'm thinking of a number and thinking of a card. The same card that you're thinking of."

Look him in the eyes and pretend to concentrate. Really you reverse the order of the cards behind your back and then move two cards from the top of the packet to the bottom. It doesn't matter if anyone sees you moving cards around. You're trying to imagine that you are him so it's reasonable that you will be duplicating his actions.

Suddenly, pretend that something is wrong. Something is not quite right. Turn away from him and hand him the packet of cards behind your back. You've still not looked at any of the cards.

"No, sorry, it's just not happening. Take the cards again. Put them behind you're back. Really think of your card……… Okay. That's it. Now think of your number again. And move that many cards from the top of the packet to the bottom. Do it slowly, do it quietly, don't let anyone know how many cards you're moving. Let me know when you've finished."

He tells you he has finished. You turn around but don't quite face him. Instead you extend your right hand and hold it palm up in front of him.

"Good, now take the top card bring it out and hold it face down above my hand. Keep the other cards behind your back."

He brings the top card out and holds it above your hand.

"Don't let me touch the card."

You don't look at the card either while he is doing this. But you do appear to concentrate and finally, say, "No. Throw it on the table. That's not it."

Ask him to take the next card from the top of the packet and hold it face down above your hand. Concentrate again and finish by saying, "No, that's not it either. Throw it on the table."

He takes a third card from the top of the packet and holds it above your hand. If he's followed the procedure correctly, the third card will be his selection. Trust me, it works. It'll always be the third card down in the packet. Finish by saying, "That's it. That's the one. Would you call out the name of the card you are thinking of?"

He does and you turn to face him. "Turn over the card." He'll be amazed to find that it is indeed the one he has been thinking of.

If you want to short cut the trick even further, ask him to think of the number first and then look at the five cards. He then remembers the card lying at his number from the face of the packet. This way he only moves cards from the top to the bottom of the packet once during the routine. It's a strong trick. You never looked at the cards, you never asked him for his thought of number, and you never touched the cards after he took them back. It's almost a miracle!

Final Notes: Want to tell him his thought of number too? All you need do is nail nick or crimp the top card of the packet before you hand it back. When you come to the revelation, have the third card, his selection, placed aside. Make it clear that's the card you are getting psychic vibes from. But just to make sure have the fourth and fifth cards brought out too, one at a time. You don't get any vibes from them so they go onto the table with the others. I should mention that the discards are dealt into a pile.

Now ask him to name his thought of card. He does and you have him turn that third card, the one placed aside, face up. It is his. He thinks the trick is over. That's your chance to glance down at the cards on the table. When you spot the crimped/nicked card, you can work out the thought of number because it will be that number of cards from the top of the packet. Don't forget to factor the third card into your calculations. Have the spectator concentrate on his number and reveal it in your best Dunninger manner.