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.