Sunday, November 15, 2009

The Problem With Premonition

In Premonition (as popularised by Eddie Joseph) the effect is that any named card is revealed to be missing from the deck. In theory it presents an interesting challenge to the cardician. And has a similar appeal to other card problems like ACAAN and The Trick That Cannot Be Explained. In reality you hardly ever see the trick performed, possibly because counting through a deck to reveal that only 51 cards remain and that none of them is the named card might be thought a tedious and illogical way of demonstrating your powers of prognostication. Nevertheless, the effect is thought provoking and the following thoughts were provoked during some correspondence with Bob Farmer about his own creative approaches to Premonition. You will have to wait for Bob Farmer’s unique solutions but meanwhile here is my cheap and cheerful twist on the plot.

EFFECT: The performer takes out a small sealed envelope and places it in his breast pocket, projecting so that it is always on display. A deck of cards is introduced and one selected. The deck is immediately handed to the spectator for shuffling. ‘Shuffle the cards. Good. Now you know the name of your card but you have no idea where it is in the deck. Right?’ Now think carefully and give me a number from 1 to 52.’

The spectator chooses, for example, 23.

‘Now it would be incredible if your card was the 23rd in the deck. Let’s check.’ The performer takes the deck and counts through the cards, dealing them face-up into a pile on the table. When he reaches the 23rd card he asks the spectator to name his card. He does, the Five of Spades. The performer slowly turns the 23rd card over. It is not the Five of Spades.’

‘Oh! Interesting. Did we pass it?’ The performer spreads the face-up dealt cards across the table. The Five of Spades isn’t there. ‘It must still be here.’ He continues dealing and counting through the cards. There are only 51 cards in the deck. The Five of Spades has disappeared.

The performer picks up the envelope from the table. Inside is a playing card, the Five of Spades. ‘What was the number you chose?’ The spectator reminds everyone that it was 23. The performer turns over the Five of Spades. On the back is written the number 23.

METHOD: I realise this plays fast and loose with the Premonition plot but it was Premonition which inspired the routine. The trick came about while trying to find a motivation for the counting through the deck. Here the counting seems to be justified even if the trick is the disappearance of a selected card rather than the premonition of a thought-of card.

It is actually a revamp of a trick from Paul Curry’s Magicians Magic called The Joker Knows. That trick used a gimmick to affect a vanish and the same gimmick is used in this trick too. It is made of two cards glued together at the bottom edge. Like a pair of cards from a Peek Deck. The front card of the pair is a corner short (upper left corner when the card is facing you). The rear card is the Five of Spades which will be forced.

The envelope has a duplicate Five of Spades inside it. On the back of the card is a paper sticker. The envelope has a hole in the rear so that with a thumbwriter (a Boon or other type that you can easily put on) you can write the named number on the paper sticker. I’m sure all is becoming clear but here is the procedure step by step.

1: Take out the envelope and lay it on the table with the hole side down. Take out a pen and have someone sign the front of the envelope. This will be the sealed flap side.

2: Take out the deck. Place either the card case or Jokers on the table. Later they will provide you with an excuse for retrieving the thumbwriter which currently lies in your pocket. Give the rest of the deck a shuffle and contrive to have the gimmicked pair of cards about a third from the top of the deck. Since the front card of the pair is a corner short you can now use a riffle force to force the Five of Spades on the spectator. The selection looks very fair, he peeks a card and remembers it.

3: Give the deck to the spectator and ask him to shuffle the cards and name a number. You pick up the card case (or Jokers) and put them in your pocket, getting the thumbwriter in the process. When you know the number, pick up the pen and put it inside your jacket pocket.

Pick up the envelope and secretly write the chosen number through the window before dropping the envelope in your top pocket, leaving it projecting outwards where it can be seen. Ditch the thumbwriter in the pocket too.

The reason you pick up the envelope appears to be so you can clear the table in preparation for the dealing sequence next. But with any luck the spectators will only remember that the envelope, which is signed to prevent switching, was on view from the beginning.

4: Take the deck back and deal to the chosen number, turning each card face up before placing it on the table. Your gimmicked pair will pass as one card. In fact if the gimmicked pair is passed early on in the deal you can have the spectator deal the rest of the cards by himself.

The chosen card does not show up at the named number. So the rest of the cards are dealt leading to the discovery that there are only 51 cards in the deck. The Five of Spades has vanished. Finish by taking the envelope from your pocket and removing the duplicate Five of Spades. Then reveal the number written on the back.

NOTES: There is a lot of room for improvement in the trick but I like the plot. If you favour sleight of hand you could simply palm any chosen card from the deck, drop it into a gimmicked wallet and find a way of writing a number on the back of the card or elsewhere. The effect will be much the same.