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.