Thursday, April 23, 2009

The Trick That Cannot Be Explained

The Trick That Cannot Be Explained is described in Dai Vernon’s More Inner Secrets of Card Magic. The author, Lewis Ganson, having witnessed the effect said to Vernon:

‘Dai, I saw the effect. You wrote a prediction on a cigarette packet and placed this on the table. Al Koran shuffled the pack (and made a thorough job of it!). You told him to turn over the top card – which happened to be the Six of Hearts. You then told him to turn over the cigarette packet which had been out of your reach since you wrote the prediction. Al himself read out what you had written – The Six of Hearts. It was a knockout.’

He was trying to persuade Vernon to describe the method in the book. Vernon’s reluctance, as anyone who has the book will know, is because the method depends on a series of outs. The effect never plays the same way twice. And Vernon admitted he got pretty lucky when Koran shuffled that Six of Hearts to the top of the deck.

Which brings me to June 1978 and I’m watching Lewis Ganson give a lecture at a convention in Newcastle. He takes a pack of cards and gives it to a spectator to shuffle. And while this is happening Ganson writes a prediction on a slip of paper. The shuffle finished the top card of the deck is turned over. Unbelievably, it matches the prediction.

For a minute I thought I’d just seen Vernon’s legendary card trick and that Ganson too had got lucky. I was wrong. This wasn’t Vernon's once-in-a-while miracle, it was Ganson's works-every-time miracle. And Ganson explained it during his lecture which is why it amazes me that no one seems to know about it.

It wasn’t until much later that I found Ganson has been using this principle for a long time. He described it in the May 1954 issue of The Gen magazine. See Ganson’s Mickey Fin routine. And now, I’m going to describe it to you because it is just too good an idea not to know about and if you try it just once in front of your magic buddies you will be thankful that the genial Mr Ganson chose to give it away.

METHOD: It’s easy. You use a rough and smooth forcing pack. And yes you actually hand it to the spectator to shuffle. Best to indicate that you want them to give it an overhand shuffle but don’t be scared because it really does work. The pairs of cards will stay together. After a short shuffle the top card is almost certain to be a force card. Marking the backs of the force cards will help. If you don’t see your marked card on top, have the spectator shuffle again or give the deck a cut. Sooner or later you will end with a force card on top. Which is why your prediction is always correct. You can even write ‘The top card will be the six of hearts’ something that even Vernon couldn’t do.

Now no doubt, like me, you're thinking wouldn't it be great if it didn't use a trick deck. True. Except Ganson did use a trick deck and it looked bloody brilliant. Still, magicians are lazy devils who expect to work every miracle with only a deck of cards and the lint in their pockets. So next post I'll describe a different approach that is somewhere between 'gaffed to the hilt' and 'can't be bothered.' See you shortly.