MORE ON FIFTY-ONE FACES NORTH
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.