Saturday, October 04, 2008

Five years ago Ian Keable told me that he was writing a book. Ian is one of the hardest working people I know. When he sets his mind to something he finds a way of accomplishing it. I met him in the early days of Opus Magazine. Ian was the editor for the first year. He never missed a deadline. He is a professional magician and I’ve watched him work his way up from the comedy clubs and close up gigs to corporate Entertainment and his own touring show. Together we’ve worked on magic documentaries for BBC Radio 4. Ian is a friend, so don’t expect this review to be unbiased. It isn’t. But when I saw early drafts of the book five years ago I thought he had created something really special and if you’ve ever wondered how to construct a professional comedy magic act, then I think you will too.

The book is called Stand Up: A Professional Guide to Comedy Magic. I should explain that if you want to find work as a patter magician, then comedy is essential. To some degree or other stand up magic acts are funny. If your act isn’t funny, the chances are you won’t get bookings. But here is the problem; most magicians are not naturally funny people. Naturally funny people – people with ‘funny bones’ – become comedians not magicians. There are exceptions, Dave Williamson and Mac King for example, but other performers have to do what Ian has done, study comedy, break it down into techniques and find ways of applying them to the magic they do. Ian’s book is the first book I’ve seen that does this. If you do stand up magic and are not as funny as Steve Martin, you should read this book.

The book is divided into five sections: The first outlines the importance of comedy in magic, jokes versus lines and finishes with an example from Ian’s own act that demonstrates clearly how each line of patter is integrated into the routine. I’ve never seen such a clear explanation and it will change the way you look at your act forever because possibly, for the first time, you will know not only what to say but why you need to say it. One of the great strengths of Ian’s book is his analysis. It will make you think about what it is you are doing and it will inspire because Ian isn’t dealing with comedy as some genetic gift possessed by the lucky few but as something that can be learned and used by anyone willing to put in the hard work.

Ian goes into detail about the importance of creating a memorable character. Much has been written on developing characters based on your own personality traits but in writing this book Ian has interviewed some of the very best comedy magicians in the world today. Throughout the book you’ll find advice from Jeff Hobson, Geoffrey Durham, Paul Daniels, Mel Mellers, Mac King, Michael Finney, Mark Kornhauser, Neal Austin, John Archer, John Carney, Noel Britten, Paul Zenon and Graham Jolley. And with their permission Ian has used examples from these comedy greats to illustrate the techniques in the book. This alone makes the book a tremendous resource.

The second section of the book concentrates on patter, how to create comedy lines, how they move the plot of the trick forward and develop character. How to write a script and employ call backs, running gags, catch phrases and other comedy techniques. Incredibly valuable stuff and with wonderful examples.

Section three covers audience participation, the use of insult humour, selecting, addressing and managing volunteers from the audience and their role as victims and stooges. Again this is not just theory, this is all drawn from the professional experience of Ian and other working professionals and once again Ian describes segments of his own act to illustrate how the techniques work.

The fourth section of the book deals with the act and how to build one. From the opening walk on to the close and the encore. No detail is missed. You’ll find practical information here about dealing with nerves, the unexpected, hecklers, complaints, walk outs, illness and every other problem that you will find as a professional.

Finally, the last section deals with other preparations the professional magician must take care of. Here you will discover information about bookings, testing stage equipment, introductions, dress, venues, money, promotional material, agents, managers, fees and venues. This really is the ideal handbook for anyone thinking of taking up a career in magic. And don’t let the word ‘stand up’ put you off because frankly anyone who intends to build patter and personality into a magic routine will find incredibly important information here that is clearly explained, makes sense and is described by someone who makes his living using these same techniques. Don’t confuse this with those ‘how to earn a million dollars a year’ books. This is a practical book from a professional magician working today’s market. Ian has done a great job of describing techniques that properly applied will make you a better performer and if you aren’t one of those lucky guys who have ‘funny bones,’ then you should certainly give it a try.

The book is well produced, hardback with glossy dust-jacket, professionally typeset, 282 pages with colour portraits of the performers who have given permission for their material to be quoted in this book. It is available from Ian on his website. You can even download a section for free. It includes a full contents list, Ian’s introduction to the book and a foreword that shows why Noel Britten is one of the funniest men in Britain.

You can find Ian's professional website here.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008


Patrick Guida kindly pointed me to this video of Lu Chen performing his version of The Bogus Effect on television:

I think it plays very well and spreading the cards is a nice touch.

Friday, July 04, 2008


The search for the perfect solution to Stewart James’ Fifty-One Faces North inevitably involves some compromise. James’ own version of his own problem unfortunately compromised the effect to such a degree that it was no longer recognisable as the clear and clean version of The Open Prediction that magicians wanted it to be. This version presents what appears to be a very clean version of effect. But there is a price to pay.


The performer has been performing some tricks for friends after dinner. He writes a prediction on a piece of paper, Ten of Diamonds. ‘That’s my prediction. You all know about it. I can’t change it.’ The paper is placed on the table and a borrowed and shuffled deck of cards is handed to one of the spectators.

The spectator has a very simple task. He is to deal through the cards, one at a time, turning them face-up onto the table. And then, whenever he feels the urge, the performer tells him to deal one of those cards face-down.

The spectator carries out the task, dealing the cards slowly face-up onto the table from the top of the face-down deck. He deals one of the cards face-down. ‘Are you sure?’ asks the performer. ‘Good. Now let me point out that so far we haven’t seen the Ten of Diamonds. Continue dealing the rest of the deck face-up. Let’s see where the Ten of Diamonds is.’

The spectator deals through the remainder of the cards. The Ten of Diamonds does not show. ‘There is only one card we haven’t seen. The one you dealt face-down. Turn it over.’ A spectator turns the card face-up. It is the Ten of Diamonds.

Hype and Blurb: A borrowed deck is used. Genuinely shuffled by the spectators. Performer need not touch the deck. Magician has no idea where the predicted card lies in the deck before the deal begins neither has the spectator. No switches of the face-down card. No gimmicks, fakes or outs. Works every time. No sleights. Totally impromptu. Fools everyone who sees it. Well, almost.


The method is based on two things, an instant stooging process that David Williamson told me about many years ago. And an impromptu stooge key-card trick I published in Abra about twenty or more years ago having been influenced by George Anderson’s excellent book You Too Can Read Minds. The only proviso is that you need to be sitting at a table with your spectators when doing the trick. It makes for a good after dinner routine.

Here is the handling:

1: Have a deck of cards shuffled and then spread face-up across the table. Note any card in the middle of the deck. This will be your predicted card. Let’s say it is the Ten of Diamonds. Note also the card behind it (above it when the deck is face-down). This will be your key-card. Let’s say it is the Ace of Spades.

Ask someone to gather up the spread, making sure that they don’t mix the cards up in the process.

2. Write down the name of your predicted card, Ten of Diamonds, and place the prediction on the table where everyone can see it.

3. Ask someone to cut the deck several times. An odd number of cuts will more or less ensure that the predicted card stays in the middle of the deck.

4. You’ve already worked out that the spectator sitting next to you, Jim, a friendly guy, will make a good stooge. Here is how you get his cooperation.

Following on from any other miracles you have been doing that evening you tell your audience that with a little concentration anyone can do what you do. ‘Jim, I’m sure you could do something tonight that everyone will remember for a very long time. Really. I’m not joking. All you have to do is follow my instructions.’

You are going to cue Jim during the trick by tapping your foot on top of his. You prepare him for this as follows: ‘Let’s try an experiment. But I promise you, if it goes well, you will amaze a lot of people here.’

‘I’m going to ask you to have an open mind when doing this. We’re going to deal some cards to the table. During that deal I want you to call stop. But I don’t want you to call stop just anywhere. Only call stop when you feel something’

You tap his foot below the table.

‘Only call stop when you feel it is right.’

You tap him again.

‘Do you understand? Good.’

If Jim hasn’t already said, ‘Who’s kicking my foot?’ the trick is probably going to work well.

5. Ask Jim to pick up the deck and start dealing cards face-up into a pile on the table. When you see your key-card, the Ace of Spades, tap Jim on the foot. He will call stop. Ask him to take the next card and deal it face-down on the tabled pile. He deals the rest of the deck face-up and you point out that the Ten of Diamonds has not been seen.

6. Finish by asking someone else, not Jim, to turn over the face-down card and reveal that it is the Ten of Diamonds.

7. Thank Jim profusely. Tell him you couldn’t have done it without him. And tell everyone else that they will remember this for the rest of their lives. Spectators are usually happy to play along and take credit for a job well done. Jim doesn’t, of course, know how you knew where the Ten of Diamonds was so there is even a little mystery in it for him.

NOTES: Despite the rather unsubtle method this is a fooler. Tricks that use instant stooging, like the Electric Chairs, are very powerful routines. It just takes a little courage and a lot of spectator management to make them work.

You might want to note a key-card that is two cards away from your prediction. It gives you slightly more time to react during the deal.

You might also want to show your prediction to everyone except Jim, asking everyone to concentrate on the name of the card as Jim deals. I think this little twist adds a little more flavour to the routine. It also justifies the nature of the open prediction. And Jim gets to react when he sees he has found the correct card that everyone has been thinking about.

Stewart James is alleged to have said that his method could be 'used for criminal purposes.' I suppose this method could too if you were a pair of card cheats signalling each other's hands across the table. I mention this purely for those seeking the grail that is Fifty-One Faces North.

ADDITIONAL CREDIT: Michael Weber emailed to say that a credit is due to John Riggs who published a similar Fifty-One Faces North effect using the foot-tap cue in a volume of Steve Beam's Semi-Automatic Card Tricks. I don't have those volumes so if anyone can track down the John Riggs routine and point me in the right direction I'll post some more details. Thanks Michael

AUGUST UPDATE: Werner Miller has kindly forwarded me a copy of the John Riggs trick. It is called The Solution and appeared in Steve Beam's Semi-Automatic Card Tricks volume one. It's practically the same idea I described above. Or, more accurately, I should say that my routine is practically the same as John Riggs'.

John Riggs provides some additional credits in his write-up. He attributes the foot-tap cue to Whit Haydn and found it in Haydn's 1982 lecture notes Fast and Loose. Whit called it the Impromptu Card Code.

So if someone has baffled you recently with an impossible looking version of Fifty-One Faces North. Check out the assisting spectator's shin for bruises!

Sunday, June 29, 2008


When looking for solutions to Fifty-One Faces North it is worth considering other tricks and seeing whether they can be transformed into something that resembles Stewart James’ creation.

In the Not The Berglas Effect manuscript I described the Will de Sieve key-card (Greater Magic page 478). I was always impressed how Ted Lesley used this gimmick in his Kismet Connection (Ted Lesley’s Paramiracles) in which one of three cards is predicted. The same gimmick makes for an excellent version of Fifty-One Faces North. Essentially all you're doing is reducing the number of alternative predictions and giving the trick a different dressing.


1. If you want to stick closely to Stewart James’ conditions you would secretly prepare one of the cards in a borrowed deck during a previous effect. Knowing the name of the gimmicked card, King of Spades for instance, you write it down as your open prediction while the spectator is shuffling the deck.

2. Take the deck back and, as you talk, casually cut the deck to bring the gimmicked card to the top. And then cut it again to place it just above centre.

3. Place the deck on the table and tell the spectator, ‘I want you to reach out and cut the deck like this.’ You demonstrate by cutting a few cards from the deck and then replacing them. ‘But cut more than that. We want quite a few cards.’

4. Continue giving directions to the spectator, ‘Just cut. Don’t even think about it.’

5. The spectator cuts the deck and if things are working well he will have cut right above your gimmicked card. If the light is right, a glance at the raised back of the card will let you know that the trick has worked. Immediately ask him to turn the packet he has just cut face-up and drop it back onto the face-down deck and square the cards.

6. Tell the spectator to pick up the deck and deal all the face-up cards onto the table and let you know when he sees the King of Spades. When he has dealt all the face-up cards tell him to deal the next card face-down. This is your gimmicked King of Spades.

7. He now turns all the remaining cards one at a time and deals them face-up onto the tabled pile. Again the King of Spades does not show up.

8. Ask him to turn over the pile of cards and spread them across the table. The only reversed card turns out to be the King of Spades, the very card you predicted.

NOTES: You might be wondering what happens when the spectator doesn’t cut to the gimmicked card. Fortunately because you never told him what would happen, you can pretty much make anything you want to happen. The King of Spades is still gimmicked. If you ask the spectator to cut the deck several times he will at some point cut your gimmicked card to the top of the deck. When he does you shout out ‘Stop!’ You remind him that he shuffled the cards. He cut the cards. And that you made your prediction long before. Ask him to turn over the top card of the deck. He will be surprised that it is the King of Spades.

Alternatively, assuming the King of Spades is not among the face-up cards he has dealt to the table, you might risk the following. Ask him to cut the remainder of the deck a couple of times. If he cuts the King of Spades to the top, have him deal it face-down onto the tabled pile and then deal the rest of the cards face-up. You might get lucky a second time. If not, you can still find that gimmicked card any time you wish but once you start using different outcomes the more you lose sight of Stewart James conditions.

In The Mind and Magic of David Berglas I described how David uses a bridge in the deck to have a spectator cut to a force card. It is an old principle but David has huge success with it as does Chris Power who uses it in his close-up work. If you don’t want to work a gimmicked card into a borrowed deck, then the bridge is an equally good way of bringing about the effect.

Friday, June 27, 2008


Thomas Baxter emailed me to say that I had overlooked some additional conditions that Stewart James had mentioned in Ibidem 3. These are:

Spectator deals straight through from top to face. Only variation is when he leaves a card face down. Not a once-in-a-while trick. If instructions are followed, it cannot fail. No card handled by you from first to last. Spectator himself checks that face-down card is predicted one. Believed to be a new angle on a known principle.

Thomas considers ‘No card handled by you from first to last’ means that the magician doesn’t touch the deck. That’s not the way I interpret it. These conditions seem to relate to the effect once the spectator has the deck in his hands. I don’t think James meant that the magician would never touch the deck at all. If he had, I think he would have laid far more emphasis on this aspect of the trick, after all, how many tricks do you know where the magician never touches the cards?

I think that in this paragraph James was specifically addressing solutions that he already knew existed and was pointing out the difference between his method and others. The reference to the trick not being a ‘once-in-a-while’ affair would distinguish it from Marlo’s psychological approach to the problem which James was sceptical of. Indeed he refers in his correspondence to seeing Marlo demonstrate this with very limited success.

Having the spectator check the face-down card himself would distinguish the trick from suggestions that Haxton had made about the effect having to conclude with a switch of the card.

And I believe he used the phrase ‘No card handled by you from first to last’ to mean that once the dealing begins the magician doesn’t need to touch the deck. Earlier James had said that the magician does need to know that the predicted card is in the deck and in most cases that would mean the magician takes a look at the cards to make sure this is the case. I’m pretty sure James would have made an even bigger deal of any version of the trick that didn’t require the magician to touch the cards at all.

Having said that Thomas Baxter did take that particular condition literally and to his credit has worked out several methods that don’t require the magician to touch the deck. He sent me a copy of one version which he had published in The James File. It’s called Brrrr!

Funnily enough it uses exactly the same key-card principle that Stewart James used in Method 8 (Ibidem issue 3) but instead of peeking the card Thomas has a very simple way of finding out what the top card of the deck is without the magician having to touch the cards. It’s a great solution and I urge you to look it up.

No Touch Method 8

I sent Thomas another handling for Method 8 that would enable the key-card method to be worked in the hands of the spectator. Here are the details:

1: Peek the top card of the deck before the cards are handed to the spectator or find out what it is using Thomas Baxter’s handling from Brrrr! Make an open prediction of the sighted card.

2: Instruct the spectator to remove a portion of cards from the middle of the deck, look at and remember the face card of that portion, and then drop it on top of the deck. This places his noted card above your predicted card. This is a very old key-card placement.

3: Tell him to cut the deck three times to ‘mix’ the cards. This should put your predicted card and his noted card somewhere in the middle of the deck. In Brrr! Thomas Baxter has the spectator give the deck a quick shuffle but this risks violating James’ statement that the trick is not a ‘once-in-a-while’ effect since there is a chance that the noted card and key-card will separate. But a shuffle is more convincing than a series of cuts. It might be worth the risk.

4: Tell the spectator to deal cards from the top of the deck, one at a time, face-up onto the table. When he sees his noted card, he is to remove the next card and deal it face-down. After that he continues to deal cards face-up onto the table until the pack is exhausted.

5: As in the previous handling the predicted card has not been seen throughout the deal. Have the spectator turn over the single face-down card to reveal your prediction is correct.

These are merely the mechanics of the trick which has the benefit of being sleight free. I should add that I still don’t consider these solutions ideal performance items until plausible presentations have been found to excuse the handling. And in particular why someone is using one card (or process) to lead to another instead of simply appearing to stop on any card they choose and deal it face-down. However, I’m sure that such a presentation can be found.

Stewart James, frustrated at Haxton’s insistence that it was the effect not the conditions that mattered, said that if this was his attitude he may as well use a confederate. Ironically, the key card approach makes this a possibility. You can flash your confederate a key-card, which you ensure goes above your predicted card, and let them use it as a guide to which card to deal face-down. Should fool the guys at your next club gathering.

Thomas Baxter mentions another statement that was made by James: ‘the method could be used by someone for criminal purposes.’ This was not listed in Ibidem 3 and at the moment the origin of the statement is not clear to me. My admittedly sceptical interpretation of it would be that it was used as an excuse for James not to discuss the effect further. ‘I can’t tell you, it’s too dangerous’ sort of thing. It would be good to be wrong.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008


Stewart James is famous for many things and one of them is a card problem known as Fifty-One Faces North, the origin of which has a convoluted and controversial history. The idea for James’ legendary effect came about following a visit to the magic convention in Colon in 1952 where James and his friend Francis Haxton, who was visiting from England, met Ed Marlo. At a card session Marlo told them about a card problem he had been working on.

The Marlo Problem
The problem began in an unusual fashion with the performer openly making a prediction of a card, say, the Ten of Clubs. This prediction could be made verbally or written down for all to see so that everyone knows the identity of the predicted card. A shuffled deck of cards is handed to the spectator who is asked to deal cards face-up one at a time onto the table. The spectator is told he should deal one of the cards face-down, a card of his choosing, and then continue dealing through the rest of the deck turning the remaining cards face-up. As this is being done the magician points out an unusual fact, that so far no one has caught sight of the predicted card among the face-up cards. Only one card has not been seen, the one the spectator chose to leave face-down during the deal. When that card is turned over it is seen to be the predicted card, the Ten of Clubs.

Marlo demonstrated one of his solutions for Francis Haxton who when he returned to England wrote to James (11th Oct 1952) saying that he had created his own version of the trick. In his reply James revealed that he too had a solution. There then followed a series of letters in which they swapped ideas about the ‘Marlo problem.’ This culminated in the publication of two tricks in the March 1953 issue of The Pentagram: Peter Warlock’s Angle on Marlo and Stewart James' Angle on Angle on Marlo. The tricks were accompanied by a piece from Haxton describing how Marlo had originally given him the problem and how he had then set the same problem to an ‘exclusive gathering’ of magicians in the UK, one of whom was Peter Warlock.

Haxton regretted the publication of the tricks almost instantly. James pointed out that Haxton had missed out the main point of the problem, that the prediction is made openly and not written down on a folded piece of paper as it was in the versions published in The Pentagram. Haxton explained that he didn’t consider the open nature of the prediction to be the best part of the problem and argued that it lessened the suspense and could only lead the spectators to conclude that the predicted card was not in the deck to begin with. On that point Haxton and James always disagreed. But more importantly for Haxton was the realisation that Marlo had not yet published any of his own solutions. The problem was ‘underground’ and Haxton had just been instrumental in bringing it into the light. He soon learned from others that Marlo was not happy with the situation and appears to have written to Marlo to apologise and smooth things over.

He felt slightly less guilty when James subsequently discovered that the ‘Marlo problem’ was not Marlo’s at all but owed its origin to Paul Curry. Marlo, who had never claimed the effect as his, later acknowledged Curry in The Cardician (1955) where he published the version of The Open Prediction that he had shown to Haxton. Interestingly it made use of another Paul Curry idea, a card switch from Curry’s awkwardly titled A Cur (r) i-ous Prediction (More Card Manipulations Vol 3).

The World’s Most Impossible Card Trick
With the problem of the Open Prediction now in the open Stewart James published a lengthy article on the topic in July 1955 issue of Ibidem (issue 3). James not only described dozens of different Open Prediction effects but also listed many basic ways to solve the problem. More importantly, it was here that he first introduced the world to an even more impossible version of the Open Prediction: Fifty-One Faces North.

Fifty-One Faces North imposes a number of conditions on the trick that makes it exceptionally difficult to solve. James described them in a letter to Howard Lyons, editor of Ibidem, an extract from which was published in that issue:

Borrowed cards may be used. A brand-new deck is not required. The deck might even have cards missing from it, you do not have to know which ones or how many, you have only to be sure that the card you predict is there. You do not need privacy with the cards to set something. The deck is never out of sight for a moment. No card or cards are stolen from the deck. Borrowed writing material may be used. It is described as a prediction at the time of writing. The prediction is nothing more than the name of a card. It is known to all before the first card is dealt. No alternative meanings. No alternative effect. Strictly impromptu. Nothing but the borrowed articles used. When he starts dealing, you do not know where predicted card is. It would not help you to know, with this method. Nor do you know the location of any other card. You never know when he will leave a card face down, until after he has done it.

The Secret’s Out
Stewart James never published Fifty-One Faces North and he died in 1996, apparently taking the secret to his grave. At least that’s what everyone thought until in 2001 Allan Slaight, the noted collator of James’ material, found a single typescript sheet among James’ papers which described the solution in detail. It can viewed online at the Stewart James Exhibition curated by Joe Culpepper at the
University of Toronto. The James/Haxton correspondence is also available and at the Ask Alexander database courtesy of the Conjuring Arts Research Center.

For magicians looking for an amazing trick the solution is disappointing. It has the bizarre quality of meeting all the conditions James set down but not meeting any of the expectations of Paul Curry’s Open Prediction. To meet the conditions it links three effects together, each one setting up another, which is why it doesn’t resemble the clear cut notion of a spectator dealing one card face-down as he deals the rest of the cards face-up. Instead the spectator has to cut a portion of cards off the deck during a previous trick, count them and then later deal down to that mentally selected number in order to find out which card will be left face-down during the deal. It resembles an overly complicated version of the mathematical clock effect.

The Controversy
The secret of Fifty-One Faces North is so disappointing that some magicians refuse to believe that this is Stewart James’s real solution to the problem. They prefer to believe that Stewart James had a hitherto unrevealed method that remains unpublished. There is no evidence that points to James having such an effect and a lot of evidence pointing in the other direction.

The most obvious point is that the title of the trick is at the head of the instructions. It is clearly titled Fifty-One Faces North. James made no claim that he had a whole genre of tricks entitled Fifty-One Faces North. Just one method that met all the conditions he set out in Ibidem. James was very particular about titles. It seems unlikely that he had two tricks with the same title.

The trick is dated July 15th 1955. Ibidem issue 3 was published in August 1955. That the two dates are so close together it is difficult to believe that the trick found by Slaight is not the trick Stewart James wrote about in his letter to Howard Lyons. I don’t think James meant to hype the trick in the way it has subsequently been hyped. He had said to Lyons that it might make a good 'teaser' but he couldn't have envisaged the way it would be viewed many years later.

Curiously James did not hype the trick to his friend Francis Haxton. He never made special mention of the trick either by describing the effect or offering a solution. Having read through their correspondence I can understand why. Haxton made it clear to James that he was not interested in convoluted solutions to the Open Prediction. He did not enjoy roundabout methods of forcing the spectator to stop on a particular card. James’s solution undoubtedly fell into that category.

One aspect that is easy to overlook about Fifty-One Faces North is that James does not describe the effect. He describes only the conditions under which the effect takes place. It is easy to assume that he is talking about a clean version of the Open Prediction but a read through of his other solutions to the problem in Ibidem reveal that he had a very broad interpretation of the effect. Few of his routins involve the simple straightforward procedure of a spectator dealing through a deck of cards and leaving one of them face-down. So why assume that Fifty-One Faces North goes back to Paul Curry’s original ideal?

Convincing the Sceptics
If the trick was as good some currently believe, you might wonder why Stewart James didn’t perform it, which, after all, is the sole purpose of any magic trick. Around 1970 James wrote to Haxton telling him that Bill Miesel had been one of those who doubted that the effect existed. You would have thought that the solution to this dilemma might be to perform the trick for Miesel. But James took another route to convincing the sceptics. He told Haxton:

This year I had Al (Richards) get a deck and I worked the trick with him checking every statement in IBIDEM. Later I met Miesel for the first time. Al had already got to him to tell him triumphantly that he had seen it done. M seems a pleasant enough chap but I am not sure he is convinced Al and I are completely truthful.

I think Stewart James was being truthful. But it seems reasonable to assume that the reason he didn’t show Miesel the trick is because he knew Miesel, and anyone else who discovered what the real effect was, would be disappointed. The trick he showed to Al Richards could have been the trick that Allan Slaight found and this would allow James to honestly claim that it met all the conditions in Ibidem. Prompted by James odd story Haxton did write to him in 1971 asking whether Fifty-One Faces North had ever been published or whether he had any intention of doing so. But there wasn’t the least bit of curiosity shown by Haxton about the workings of the effect. And Haxton had never taken its mention in Ibidem as an indicator that there was some great mystery to be learned. It was left to others to create the legend of Fifty-One Faces North, a practise that continues today whenever effects are hyped beyond their capacity to deliver.

How To Keep A Secret
They say the best way to keep a secret is to publish it. That is true in the case of Fifty-One Faces North because while many people have searched for a solution that meets all Stewart James’ impossible sounding conditions, they have overlooked the fact that Ibidem 3 already contains such a trick. Yes, a solution to Fifty-One Faces North has been hiding in plain sight for over fifty years.

Let me recap what the major conditions are, you can check them all at your leisure. The trick has to be impromptu, performed with a borrowed deck which might not even be complete. All you do know is that it contains the predicted card. The prediction is clear and unambiguous and is in full view from the beginning of the routine. Most interestingly you never know when the spectator will deal a card face-down. You also don’t know the location of your predicted card before the deal begins. Yet the face-down card will always match the prediction.

An Authentic Stewart James Solution
The solution is listed as method 8 in Ibidem. And this time there is no doubt that it was created by Stewart James. It is easily overlooked because it is not described in any detail being an extension of previous methods. Let me try to clarify the description.

1: Take anyone’s shuffled deck and secretly glimpse the top card as you reach for a pen and paper. Write the name of this card as your prediction. Let’s assume it is the Ten of Clubs. Everyone sees the prediction.

2: Take the deck face-down in the palm up left hand. Lift the deck with the right hand, fingers at the outer short end, thumb at the inner short end. Dribble cards from the right hand into the left hand and ask a spectator to call ‘stop.’

3: Raise the right hand packet so that the spectator can look at and remember the face card. This is the card he called ‘stop’ at.

4: Bring the halves of the deck together but as you close them up execute the Kelly Bottom Placement so that the just-noted card is controlled to the bottom of the deck. Stewart James used the Kelly Bottom Placement (Ovette Master Move) but I prefer The Elliott Control (Bruce Elliott’s The Best in Magic) because there is more cover from the front.

5: The situation is that the noted card is on the bottom of the deck. The predicted card is on the top of the deck. Stewart James now gave the deck a Charlier Shuffle which brought both cards to the middle of the deck together.

I prefer to ask the spectator to give the deck three complete cuts. If you’re nervous about handing over the deck with his noted card on the bottom, then give the deck one cut yourself and ask him to give it two more.

6: The deck is now in the spectator’s hands. His noted card is directly above your predicted card somewhere in the middle of the deck. You tell him this: ‘What I want you to do is deal through the deck slowly. Deal each card face-up into a pile on the table. But when you come to your card, I want you to stop and deal the next card face-down. Understand? Good, let’s begin.’

7: The spectator deals through the cards, spots his noted card and deals the next card face-down. At this point you say, ‘Strange thing is we haven’t come across the Ten of Clubs yet. Keep going.’ He does, finishing with all the cards on the table only one of which is face-down. Have someone square the deck up, turn it over and spread it to reveal that the only face-up card in the deck is the one you predicted.

NOTES: Well, at least you didn’t spend twenty quid on it as the result of an over-hyped dealer ad campaign. On a positive note I think it shows that sometimes it is worth going back to the source when tackling these problems. It certainly surprised me when I found that James had already published a solution to the much sought after Fifty-One Faces North.

Since the effect depends on a simple key-card placement there are dozens of different ways to accomplish it. What is needed is a better presentation to dress it up. As Haxton always maintained it is the effect, not the conditions, that is important. Coming up with a presentation that covers the mechanical necessities in a plausible way might lead to a good trick. Happy hunting.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008


I’ve mentioned Dunninger’s ability to baffle magicians on this blog before. The following description is taken from The Phoenix issue 170 where Clayton Rawson describes another of the master mind reader’s impossible card locations.


We sat in a restaurant with Joe Dunninger one night when he took our shuffled deck of cards, spread them out on his hands and held them beneath the table.

"Reach under the table," he said. "Take a card. Look at it without bringing it up above the table top, then replace it.” We did all that, and as we shoved the card back among the others under the table, he said, "Now take the deck and shuffle, still under the table.”

We did that, too. He took the deck again, and, still without bringing it out from under the table, concentrated, and named the chosen card.

Joe not only never tells another magician how he does a trick; he never admits anything either. And a few nights later when we did the trick for him three different ways, he shook his head. "Sorry, that's not how I do it."

We can't therefore, tell you how Joe accomplishes this miracle by mindreading no doubt. But since he says our methods are not his, that gives us the right to publish them. Okay, Joe?

Clayton Rawson went to describe several different methods of accomplishing the effect. George Blake republished Rawson’s description of the Dunninger trick in the May 1950 issue of The Budget requesting readers to send in their solutions. Several clever ideas appeared in the June issue. And George Blake had eight of his own solutions published in issue 174 of The Phoenix.

The Dunninger trick is a good problem because it allows for some latitude in the method but I think Clayton Rawson got it right with one of his own solutions and this is the solution described here with a couple of personal tweaks.

The solution is simple. When the spectator takes a card you turn the deck upside down. Now when he replaces it his card is the wrong way up. He shuffles the deck under the table and then hands it back to you. There are several different ways to go from here.

A: Take the deck and spread it face-up under the table so that you can see the cards. The spectator’s card will be face-down. Flip it face-up and upjog it out of the spread. Upjog any other card too. Bring the cards above the table with the two cards still upjogged, their backs to the spectator. Tell the spectator that you think it is one of these two cards. Put both cards face-down on the table. ‘We need to eliminate one of them. Concentrate on your card. And when I snap my fingers reach out and put your right hand on one. Got that? Good.’ You snap your fingers and he puts his hand on one of the cards. If it’s the selection have him turn it face-up. If it is isn’t, then say, ‘Okay, let’s eliminate it’ and turn the other face-up.

B: Give the deck to a second spectator and tell them to take it away in a corner of the room, look through the cards and bring back the one that they think the first spectator chose. This is a piece of instant stooging and you’ll use appropriate phrases to make sure he understands what you want him to do. For instance, ‘Spread the cards from hand to hand. One of the cards will stand out from the rest. And whichever card stands out for you, that will be the card that he selected. Be confident. Be bold. You can do this. And he will be amazed.’

C: This is slightly riskier but I think it is very convincing. As soon as you get the deck hold it face-down and give it a tight pressure fan. You will instantly see the index of the face-up selected card. If the card appears to be reasonably centrally located in the fan, you can bring the fan up and flash the faces towards the spectator. He will not see the reversed card. Say, ‘Okay, you are thinking of one of these cards. Concentrate.’ Close the fan and then name the card. Because the cards all appear to be facing one way the handling negates the idea that the selection was replaced upside down.

If the card isn’t in a good position for the fan, i.e. too close to the face of the deck, then follow through with a different revelation. As I said, this is a great card problem because there are dozens of ways at arriving at a workable solution.

Monday, May 26, 2008


One trick that puzzled me for a long time was Trevor Hall’s Direct Mind Reading. He famously performed it at The Hoffmann Memorial Lecture at the Magic Circle in 1951. In 1956 he advertised it as a limited edition dealer item in The Magic Circular. I’ve never managed to locate a copy of the instructions (almost, but that’s another story) and I’d be very surprised if Hall ever sold all his 100 sets, hence its rarity. What follows is my guess as to the basic method. I’m including it here not only because it is a great trick but I think it deserves a place in the history of the Koran Miracle Deck. Those of you who have the Not The Berglas Effect manuscript will see how it fits into the chronology.

Let’s start with the effect as reported in the notes for Trevor Hall’s 1951 lecture entitled The Creation of a Magical Effect. The lecture was devoted to thought-of card effects.


I am frequently asked whether direct mind-reading is a possibility. The answer to that is 'Yes and No.' [To Peter Warlock] : If you say to me now, 'What am I thinking about?' I haven't the faintest idea, and neither has anybody else. But if you are prepared to help by forming a vivid mental picture of an everyday object, then direct mind-reading is sometimes possible. If we take a pack of cards as 52 everyday objects, again if you think of a card on the spur of the moment and ask me what it is . . . I don't know. I might have a hunch about it but there would be no guarantee of success. But if you will look at one of these cards and think intently of it, then between us we may succeed. [Pack is spread into the widest possible fan, and shown to Peter Warlock.]

Will you look at these cards, Peter, and think of one? I would like you to think of it so intently that you can imagine yourself putting out a finger and pulling it out of the fan, but without, of course, doing so. Have you done that? Thank you. You will agree that you have of your own free will looked at and just thought of a card. I haven't asked you to write it down, or even touch it . . . it is a secret locked in your mind. Yet it may be thought that I have in some mysterious way influenced your choice, so we will have a second card thought of in such a manner that everybody may be satisfied that these thoughts are genuinely haphazard.

[To Peter Warlock] : Will you cut the pack? Cut it again . . . and again if you wish. You must now be satisfied that nobody in the world knows the position of a single card in that pack. Do you agree? Are you satisfied, therefore, that the card now lying on top of the pack could be any card amongst the 52? You are? Good. Will you please give it to Ernest and ask him to look at it and think intently of it.

[To Peter Warlock] : Now, in order that you may know both cards, will you take it back, look at it yourself and remember it, and push it anywhere you like in the pack to lose it. [Cards put away.] We have finished with the cards and the conditions have been fulfilled.

[To Peter Warlock and Ernest Wethered] : You are now literally thinking of two everyday objects, and you, Peter, are the only living; soul who knows them both. I am sorry to burden you with this double work, but in mind-reading" one is sometimes up against a difficulty. For example, the other night I named the two cards as the Seven of Clubs and the Nine of Spades and I was wrong. They were, in fact, the Seven of Spades and the Nine of Clubs, and I need hardly tell you where I went astray. My two helpers were thinking intently of very similar mental pictures, and you will readily understand how they superimposed themselves on me.

As the success of this experiment depends upon you, Peter, may I ask you a simple question? All I need to know is whether I am in the same difficulty tonight, because if I am I must take special precautions. Can you confirm that the two cards are entirely dissimilar in colour and value? They are? Good. I think then that with the smallest amount of concentration by you I shall be able to divine your card. You will agree that you just thought of a card, of your own free will, in the spread out pack? And that as a member of Council of the MAGIC CIRCLE you will agree that there is no conjuring principle which would enable me to divine it? And that therefore it is a fact that at the moment nobody else in the world but you can possibly know that you are thinking of the Two of Clubs? And yet that was in fact the very card you decided to think about? Good.

[To Ernest Wethered] : Now, Ernest, will you think intently of your card? You will agree that it was chosen absolutely at random by Peter and handed to you, and then given back to him to be buried in the pack? And that I have neither seen it nor touched it? You will admit, therefore, that if I can say that you are at this moment thinking of the Nine of Hearts, there is perhaps something to be said for direct mind-reading? And the Nine of Hearts is correct? Thank you very much.


I think Hall used a deck that combined elements of the Ralph Hull Nu Idea Force Deck and the Koran Miracle Deck. There are many ways to put these two principles together and what follows is just one.

The deck is made up of 54 cards. 27 of them consists of 3 x 9 banks of cards that are arranged so that you can divine any card thought of by a process of interrogation. The set up is similar to the Koran Miracle Deck.

Here is the set of cards. The should appear in a random order but are shown here grouped in suits for clarity. The backs of all these cards are lightly roughed:

KD 10D 3D JC 2C AH 5H QS 9S

26 of the cards consist of the 9H. This card will always be forced as one of the two selections. The faces of each 9H is lightly roughed. Also each 9H is a short card of the kind found in the Svengali Deck or Hull’s Nu Idea deck.

The 9H cards are alternated with the three banks of cards. A completely different card , say, King of Spades, is now placed on the face of the deck. Its back has been treated with roughing fluid.

What you have is a rather peculiar rough and smooth force deck. If the faces of the cards are spread towards the spectator, other than the KS on the face of the deck they will only be able to see cards from the 9-card banks. All the 9H remain hidden. The roughing should be very light because later the spectator will need to remove one of the 9H from the deck.

If the cards are squared and given to the spectator to cut he will always cut a short card to the top, thus forcing the 9H.

The deck restricts choice when handled in one manner and forces a choice when handled in another. Time to move on to the handling and a rather clever divination idea of Hall’s.


The presentation is covered in earlier in the description of the Effect. Pay attention to Hall’s careful presentation before trying to vary it. What you say really matters.

The mechanics of the trick are relatively simple. When the deck is spread with the faces towards the spectator only the 9-card banks show. The spectator thinks of one of these 9 cards. You square the deck and give it a couple of cuts to indicate to the second spectator what you want him to do.

The second spectator cuts the deck several times and then takes a look at the top card. It will always be a short card, one of the 9H. This card is now handed to the first spectator who now knows the identities of both cards. Here the interrogation begins and introduces a brilliant idea of Hall’s.

Ask the spectator: ‘Can you confirm that the two cards are entirely dissimilar in colour and value?’

This one question drastically reduces the number of possibilities. Let’s assume the answer is YES. This means that the thought-of card must be one of the following:


One question has reduced the 9 possible cards to only three. With a bit of guesswork it will only take you two more wrong guesses at most to nail the card. I'm assuming that, for obvious reasons, not all of Hall's interrogative questions were included in the Magic Circular write up. However, it is also possible that Hall refined the interrogative technique even further or used fewer cards in the force banks to enable him to achieve a quick hit.

If the spectator says NO and tells you that the two cards are the same colour, the thought-of card must be one of the following:

KD 10D 3D AH 5H

This time the question has narrowed the selection down to five possibilities.

Regardless of the outcome you now interrogate further using the usual method of identifying whether the card is high or low or quizzing the spectator about the suit. If you are familiar with the working of the Koran Miracle Deck you should have no problem.

Finally, if the spectator answers your initial question by saying that both cards are the same value you know immediately that he thought of the 9S. Easy.

NOTES: I like Trevor Hall’s thinking. The addition of a second card is clever way of disguising the interrogation and offers the opportunity of a brilliant first question. it also gives you the added security of knowing the identity of one of the cards from the very beginning. You can make the deck up with banks of five, six, eight or ten cards as per any of the many Koran Miracle Deck variations.

One final point. If you are nimble of mind, you can do this trick with a marked and stacked deck. Or even just a stacked deck. Ask a spectator to select a card and put it in his pocket. You do all this without looking at the cards. But you cut the deck at the point of removal so that later glancing back at the deck you can deduce the identity of the selection.

Next ask the spectator to call stop as you spread the cards face-down from one hand to the other. When he stops you raise the cards towards him and ask him to think of one of the cards he can see. You spread that portion of the deck so he can only see about half a dozen of the cards. Because the cards are marked you know the identity of the first card of the batch. Put the cards away.

The spectator is thinking of a card and you already know the names of the cards in the small batch he looked at. Ask him to take out the card from his pocket. He is now thinking of two cards. Using exactly the same opening question and interrogation technique you can deduce the identities of both selections.

You should make the conditions under which the trick is performed seem impossible in order to get the most out of it. But other than that I think it's worth playing around with and that there is more to be done with Hall's basic idea.

Friday, May 09, 2008


The following idea arose out of a discussion about the Rama Deck with Alex Conran. I’d read the advert and watched the video and thought I recognised an old principle at work. But more about that later.

It got me wondering what the simplest set up might be for an ‘impossible location’ effect using an ordinary deck. And with that thought in mind, the following trick was born.

EFFECT: A deck of cards is tabled in front of the spectator. He is asked to cut off about a third of the deck, shuffle the packet and look at the top card. There’s no way you could know the identity of this card.

He puts the packet down on the table and then cuts some cards from the remainder of the deck and drops them on top of his selection, effectively burying it. Again, there is no way of knowing the position of his card or the identity of the cards above or below it.

Finally, a second spectator picks up the remaining portion of the deck. He shuffles them. He notes the bottom card of the packet and then drops it on top of the rest of the deck. Once again it’s apparent that you cannot know the name of his card or any of the cards surrounding it. So, without any obvious key cards to guide you, how can you possibly locate the two selections?

The answer is, quite easily.

METHOD: The trick depends on a set-up. The 26 red cards are at the top of the face-down deck and the 26 black cards are at the bottom.

Step 1: Table the deck and ask the first spectator to cut off about a third of the cards from the top. It doesn’t matter how many he cuts. Ask him to shuffle the cards, “so that I can’t know the position of any one of them.” With the packet still in his hands ask him to look at the top card and remember it. Then place the packet on the table.

Step 2: Ask him to cut some more cards from the deck and drop them on top of his card to bury it. All you need make sure is that he cuts into the original lower half of the deck. If you are paying attention it should be obvious as to whether he has cut enough cards.

If he only cut a few cards originally, he will need to cut many more now. Conversely if he cut a lot of cards to form the first packet, he doesn’t need to cut too many cards now. Try to play it so that about a third of the deck is left behind.

Step 3: Finally, ask a second spectator to pick up the remaining third of the deck. He shuffles the cards, takes a peek at the bottom card of the packet and then drops this packet onto the tabled cards. Both spectators should be convinced that their cards have been lost in the deck. They have, but because of the original red/black set up it will be an easy matter to find them again.

The first thing to realise is that because of the set-up the first spectator will have chosen a red card and the second spectator chose a black card.

Step 4: Pick the deck up and spread through it. The cards at the face of the deck will be red. The last of this batch of red cards will be the first spectator’s chosen card. That was easy!

Okay, keep spreading. You will come to a batch of black cards. Followed by another batch of red cards. Finally, a second batch of black cards. The face card of this batch is the second spectator’s card. Again, easy. You’ve just found both selected cards.

Now all you have to do is come up with a presentation that makes the finding of the cards as good as the impossible conditions under which the cards were selected.


I showed the above location to Guy Hollingworth who remembered a similar trick though one that involved a slightly more complicated set-up. Unfortunately he couldn’t remember the name of the inventor so I can’t give credit at the moment. However, that trick inspired the idea of revealing the second selection without having to look through the deck.

It requires no alteration to the set-up or procedure so let’s assume that both cards have been selected. Point out that no one could know the location of the chosen cards.

Step 1: Pick the deck up and give it a false shuffle, one that doesn’t alter the position of any card. The false shuffle is not necessary but I think it does two things: it adds to the notion that the cards are lost. And it helps provide a time break before the next phase. A shuffle and some chat from you will allow the spectators to start enjoying the effect as opposed to puzzling out the method.

Step 2: Put the deck on the table and cut off a portion that is less than half the deck. The portion needs to contain more cards than the second spectator cut. Place these cards aside and then pick up the remainder of the deck.

Look through these cards. From the face you will see a batch of red cards followed by a batch of black cards, followed by a second batch of red cards. The last red of the first batch is the first spectator’s selected card. Upjog it from the spread.

Continue spreading the cards and count the number of black cards. Make a mental note of it. Let’s assume it is 11.

Take out the upjogged red card and ask the first spectator to name his chosen card. Turn the card around to show that you were correct.

Step 3: You can now find the second card without even looking through the other packet. Just subtract your memorised number from 26 to give you the position of the selection in the tabled packet. In this case we subtract 11 from 26 which means that the second card is 15th from the top of the tabled packet.

Because you know the position of the selection there are lots of ways of revealing it dramatically. For example, you can have the spectator deal cards from the packet face down onto the table and when you ‘sense’ the card you call stop.

NOTES: Alex Conran pointed out a great Lie Speller trick in Simon Aronson’s book Aronson’s Approach. It’s in the description of the Self Control trick. See the Comments section on page 26 and 27. It offers a way of spelling to any position in the deck and is ideal for this particular location where you know the location but not the identity of the card.

When I first came up with this location it was only designed to find one card. The spectator cut a packet of cards, shuffled them, noted the top card and then placed them on the table. He then cut a small packet of cards (though one that took him beyond the 26th card in the deck) from the larger packet and dropped it on top of his selection. He continued cutting small batches of cards from one packet to the other, burying his card even deeper. Soon the deck was fully reconstituted and his card lost. He could then cut the deck and complete the cut several times to lose his card.

At that point you can pick up the deck. If you spread the cards towards you, you will see two batches of red cards. The rear card of one of these batches is the selection. To determine which batch look for the smaller bunch of black cards. If you imagine that this smaller batch of black cards is what separates the two red batches, then the selected card is the rear card of the batch nearest the face of the deck. I’m assuming that nothing bizarre has occurred during the selection process.

I should mention that if the red batches become split during the cutting, just cut the deck between the black cards to reconstitute them and make the thought process easier for you. Play with the trick. You’ll figure it out.


I mentioned earlier that when I saw the Rama Deck video I felt it was a familiar idea, one that had been reinvented for a new generation. In the Sid Lorraine archives at Ask Alexander there is a very clever trick attributed to Victor Barbour that reveals just how long magicians have been toying with this principle.

The effect was one in which a miniature photograph of a playing card was produced. Spirit Photography effects of this type were very popular during right up to the 1930s but Barbour’s version featured a novel combination of methods.

He used a special deck which did two things. It restricted the choice of card to one of twenty-six. And at the same time it told him which of those twenty-six cards had been selected.

The deck was constructed along the lines of a Mene-Tekel Deck but instead of being made up of twenty-six pairs of identical cards it had a full complement of fifty-two cards. Each pair of cards was set up according to the Si Stebbins system. So if the first card of one pair was, say, 3C the second card would be the 6H, assuming that suits were arranged in CHaSeD order.

The top card of each pair was a short card. In fact it was both short and narrow, exactly as in the improved version of the Mene-Tekel Deck, sometimes called The Self-Shifting Deck. This meant that if the deck was riffled shuffled by the spectator, then the cards would always fall in pairs. And no pair of cards would be separated.

Additionally each long card was marked on the back. If the spectator cut the deck he would bring a short card to the top. He looked at that card while the performer secretly looked at the mark on the back of the next card. Because of the Si Stebbins system the performer could work out the name of the selection. In effect Barbour had created a deck of cards that could be riffled shuffled by the spectator, any card cut to and the performer would instantly know which card had been selected. All very prescient of the Rama Deck.

Barbour used this knowledge to bring out a two-way envelope already loaded with a small piece of photographic paper on which was the image of the selection. A blank piece of photographic paper was then examined by the spectator before being inserted in to the free compartment of the envelope.

During all this Barbour took the opportunity to switch out the gaffed deck. Then the spectator returned his short/narrow card to the regular deck and gave the cards a thorough shuffle. All very convincing.

After some mumbo jumbo Barbour opened the envelope but only showed the blank side of the photograph. He pretended that the trick hadn’t worked out. And suggested that perhaps the special paper had to be closer to the cards. He cut the deck into two packets, secretly cutting at the spectator’s selection which because of it being both short and narrow was now acting as a key card.

Carefully he put the photographic paper between the halves of the deck. He did this by balancing the paper on the blade of the knife he had used to open the envelope and using it as a scoop to place the paper in position. This was a common handling for tricks of this type. It lent some authenticity to the idea that a photographic image was going to be developed on the paper.

After a few seconds the deck was opened at the paper and the paper turned over to reveal an image of the selection on it. This would have been very impressive in its day. For the kicker the top card of the lower packet was turned over to reveal that it was the selected card. I think it’s a really interesting routine and well worth resurrecting with a smarter trimmer handling perhaps having the spectator cut the deck and using the old Crossing the Cut Force to reveal the selection at the finish.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008


Now that the pdf is blocking email boxes around the globe here is a little tweak to the Devil's Deck handling. You can use it for any deck of this type.

The problem is that you don't really want people to see the face card of the deck. While you can cover it during the handling, here is another solution.

On the face of the deck put an easy to recognise card such as the Ace of Spades. This should be a card that is not in your set up. Below that put a Joker. Now when you take the deck out of the box you can let everyone get a glimpse of that Ace of Spades on the face of the deck.

As you spread the cards for a selection you say, 'Think of one of these cards. But not a Joker. That will just confuse things.' After a card has been thought of you cut the deck several times as if to mix them up. The Ace and Joker are now in the middle of the deck.

Before you go any further you say, 'Let me just get rid of the Jokers.' Spread the cards towards you and cut the Ace to the face of the deck. Remove the Ace and Joker one at time, reversing their position so that the Joker is now on the face of the pair. Put these two cards away, making sure that the spectators get a glimpse of the Joker. That's it.

Some people might think you've actually removed the thought-of card at this point. But since you haven't perhaps it's good to let them think that way. It's food for thought. Also made me think of another Bogus Plot which would be easy to find different solutions for. When the thought-of card is counted down to a Joker is found in its position. The thought-of card turns up in the pocket where the Joker was supposed to be. A sort of Bogus Jordan's Leaper!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008


This is the follow up to The Bogus Effect described previously on this blog.

It is too long to post here but I've now sent a pdf out to everyone who requested it. This offer is now officially closed.

The mss includes some other thoughts and trivia on card at any number effects. Hope you get something out of it, if only inspiration.

If you haven't received yours it might be because it got stuck in your spam filter. Or got bounced because you have one of those systems set up that requires email verification. In which case email me again and I'll send you another copy.

And remember, this is definitely NOT The Berglas Effect.

Friday, February 29, 2008


Expert Card Technique contains an ingenious effect of Paul Rosini’s called A Rosi-Crucian Mystery. It is a card location trick done under seemingly impossible conditions. When Fred Braue ran a Best Five Tricks poll in Hugard’s Magic Monthly, the Rosi-Crucian Mystery topped the list of card discoveries. It is a very clever trick and would fool magicians today if for no other reason than it uses a technique that has long fallen out of use. Check it out.

Dunninger is reputed to have fooled a lot of magicians with his own take on the Rosini effect. It went like this:

EFFECT: Magician borrows a deck and cuts it into two face-down piles. The spectator shuffles each pile before choosing one of them. He takes out any card, remembers it and then places it in the other pile. This is pile is now shuffled and placed on top of the other pile, which is also shuffled. The deck is cut several times. The performer finds the chosen card.

Bear in mind the conditions under which the trick is performed. The deck is borrowed. It is shuffled by the spectator before the trick begins. The selected card is a free choice. Both piles are shuffled by the spectator before the deck is handed back to the performer.

Really think about it before reading the solution.

METHOD: Dunninger’s solution was unique. He’d simply fail to find the card. At least he would fail the first time he tried the trick. But on the second attempt he always succeeded. And it was the second attempt that magicians remembered. Here’s the handling.

Have the deck shuffled, take it and then cut it into two equal piles. Let the spectator choose a pile, then a card, remember it and place it in the other pile. The spectator shuffles both piles before stacking one on top of the other and cutting the deck several times before handing it back to you. You now give the cards a false shuffle for added effect.

There is, of course, no way you can locate the spectator’s chosen card. However, you can at least make a guess at it, especially if you've noted the bottom card of the deck before placing it on the table. If you’ve watched the spectator carefully you will have an idea of where the card is located. You watched him put it in the middle of one pile and you know whether that pile is at the top or bottom of the deck. So you look through the deck, cut your key card to the face, and make a guess. You might even hedge your bets by querying the colour before throwing a card onto the table.

Dunninger made a guess too. And didn't bother with the key card business. But as he looked through the deck he did secretly separate the cards into reds and blacks and put a crimp in at the point the two colours met. It’s said that all this took place as he held the cards under the table. Sitting opposite your spectator at a table makes this an easy trick to do. But modern culling techniques allow you to do much the same thing in the open.

So a card is on the table and if you’re lucky you have just found your spectator’s selection. If not, don’t worry about it. Just apologise that the vibes aren’t right or something else went wrong and offer to try the trick again. This time when you cut the deck into two piles, one will be made up of red cards and the other will be made up of black cards. It’s going to be a very easy matter to locate the spectator’s card.

NOTES: The reason magicians were fooled is that they are very happy to accept the explanation that a good trick went wrong the first time around. The trick reminds me of David Bendix’s satirical essay on Further Cardmanship in The Heirophant. He wrote, ‘If an effect fails, it is far, far better to have fellow cardmen gasp at the conclusion of a magnificent attempt as he realizes what the effect might have been. I have certain effects, performed under incredibly stringent test conditions, that are actually not intended to be successfully completed.’

I should add that Rosini's original version of the trick as explained in Expert Card Technique works both times. You do the trick twice and find both selections. It just takes a little more effort.

I’ll be posting some thoughts on impossible locations in the upcoming weeks. By the way, those waiting for their copies of the Not The Berglas Effect manuscript should see them in their email very shortly.

Monday, February 11, 2008

I know the mss is late but I hope it will be worth it when it is sent out. At the eleventh hour I discovered a couple of things that might be of interest and have decided to add a bonus effect that is related.

When the mss is released I will let everyone know via this site. That way anyone's mss who gets chewed up in the spam filter can email me and I'll send out a replacement.

And remember, patience is a virtue.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008


You are probably wondering what the above has to do with ACAAN. Read on and all will be revealed.

This blog entry began when Steve Williams emailed me saying that it would be great if The Trick That Baffled Babbage could be done using only one deal. Fortunately it can.

The inspiration for this version lies in one of my favourite tricks from Harry Lorayne’s Close Up Card Magic. It is called Stop! and uses estimation of the kind described in The Trick That Baffled Babbage. Although uncredited in the Lorayne book Stop! probably owes much to Abbott’s Certain card trick, a routine marketed in 1934.

Abbott’s Certain was an impossible location using a shuffled deck. The magician asked one question and was able to produce the selected card. And the question he asked was, ‘Which pile is your card in?’

It is an amazing trick and if the advert reproduced above has you baffled you might want to dig out your copy of Encyclopedia of Card Tricks. The trick is described in Chapter One under the title of The Card Miracle – Certain. And it really is a miracle.

But back to The Trick That Baffled Babbage, and the following version which as you will gather employs estimation, one question and some blatant jiggery-pokery to achieve a yet another thought of card at any number trick. It seems we can never have too many. Let’s call it…


One spectator selects a card. Another selects a number. The selected card ends up at the selected number in a seemingly impossible manner. No gaffes, no fakes, no specially printed cards, no stacks, no stooges, no complicated memory work, no vember. *

I’ll ignore the patter and get straight to the handling but something along the lines of the previous item, The Trick That Baffled Babbage, should give you an excuse for all the dealing.

Step 1: The spectator chooses a card. This is done in the fairest possible manner. Either by him cutting the tabled deck and looking at the card cut to. Or by memorising one from a bunch as the cards are spread in front of him. Either way you are able to estimate the position of the card from the top of the deck. And he is utterly convinced that you have no idea which card he might be thinking of. This was the strength of Abbott’s Certain card trick.

For the sake of simplicity let’s assume that after he has looked at a card you estimate the card to be half-way down the 52 card deck i.e. it lies somewhere around position 26.

Step 2. Let’s backtrack a little. As the card is being selected ask a second spectator to name a number from 1 to 52. You want it to be an interesting number, something worthwhile dealing to when the finish comes, so tell him, ‘Make it difficult, make it high.’

Assume he says the number 36. Don’t make anything of it at the moment. Instead, direct your attention back to the spectator who is selecting the card, making sure he squares the deck on the table and is generally convinced that he had a free choice and can remember the name of the selected card.

Step 3: Take the deck back and give it a false shuffle before dealing it out into four face-up piles. The shuffle isn’t strictly necessary but I feel it enhances the impression that the selected card is truly lost. Tell the spectator to look for his card as you deal but not to give anything away.

If your estimation is not way off this will mean that the selected card will be around sixth from the bottom of the face up packet. To arrive at this figure you merely divide your estimate (26) by the number of piles (4) to arrive at 6. Since the division or your estimation might not always be so perfect the chosen card might be one card higher or lower but we’ll deal with that possibility in a moment.

Remember, you’re covering all this peculiar dealing with your patter story about the trick that baffled Babbage or some other MacGuffin. Always strive to make the presentation interesting.

Step 4: Make a guess as to which pile the spectator’s card is in, saying, ‘Is your card in this pile?’ If yes, great. It looks like you know something. And, of course, you now do.

If the answer is no, ask the spectator to tell you which pile the card is in but not to look at the card itself or give its identity away. When he indicates the chosen pile, act a little surprised, saying, ‘Really? Then I have no idea whether this will work. In fact that’s why the trick baffled Babbage. Because he couldn’t see how one question could result in what I’m about to show you.’

Memorise the values of the 5th, 6th and 7th cards from the bottom of the nominated face-up pile. This is one card either side of the card determined by your estimation. For reasons that will become obvious if all the values are different you need only memorise the values of the 5th and 6th cards.

Step 5: Pick up the deck and in doing so secretly place the chosen card at the chosen number. It’s easy to do, let me explain.

You know the chosen number is 36. And you know which pile the selected card is in. And you know that it is the 5th, 6th or 7th card in that pile.

As you gather the piles you pick up the chosen pile so that it is third from the top of the face-down deck. This means you have placed two piles on top of it i.e. a total of 26 cards from your 52 card deck.

The cards you have noted the values of now lie at 31st, 32nd and 33rd from the top of the deck. You need only move five more cards from the bottom to the top of the deck and you will be able to finish this trick successfully because the noted cards will lie 36th, 37th and 38th from the top of the deck.

You can either move the necessary cards during a shuffle or cut. Or you can simply slip five more cards to the top as you rather messily and casually gather up the piles from the table. Whichever suits your style of working.

Step 6: You're ready to finish. Ask the spectator for his chosen number. And act as if it’s the first time you’ve heard it properly when he tells you.

Ask the other spectator to reveal the name of the card he is thinking of. Bear in mind that this will be the first time he has named his card. And the deck is already face-down on the table set for the finale.

If the card he names is the same value as the card you noted to be fifth from the bottom of the nominated packet, it means it now lies exactly at the chosen number. Anyone can pick up the deck and deal down to the number and find the card there.

If the card he names is the same value as the card you noted to be sixth from the bottom of the nominated packet, have the named number of cards counted off and then reveal that the next card is the chosen one.

If card named isn’t either of the values you’ve memorised then you have a little adjusting to do. The chosen card is one card further down than you want it to be. In this case you pick up the cards and as you deal the chosen number of cards into a pile you deal two as one at any point during the procedure. This is an easy thing to get away with if you do the double deal around the half way mark. As you come to the chosen number you will naturally slow the deal for dramatic effect. The card after the number will be the chosen one.

The overall effect is the same. A thought of card arrived at a thought of number. And no one except the spectator even knew the name of the card until the very last moment. Not bad for a dealing trick of this type that involves minimal calculation or memorisation.

Do check out Abbott’s Certain card trick. You’ll also find it in Hugard and Braue’s Expert Card Technique in the chapter devoted to Self-Working Tricks although there is some interesting information about other estimation tricks in Encyclopedia of Card Tricks.

NOTES: It’s also an easy matter to deal three cards as one if you want to end with the selection exactly at the chosen number. You could even palm off the top card while handing the deck to the spectator to deal in order to set things right. The possibilities are only limited by your skill level and imagination.

* That ‘no vember’ gag is pure Paul Harris. It should be appended to the end of every dealer ad.