Sunday, December 20, 2009

Annemann's Nightmares

I was curious about the origin of the gimmicked card used in Paul Curry’s The Joker Knows. (See the November 15th 2009 entry on this blog). With the help of Ask Alexander I found Charles Jordan’s Spook Card (1916). Jordan credited the gimmicked card to Ford Rogers who used it in his 'Ever Ready' Forcing Pack. Jordan used the gimmick in a version of Hardin’s Prince’s Card Trick in which a thought of card vanished from a packet. All the cards in the packet were double cards prepared as in the Ever Ready Forcing Pack (see Greater Magic or Donald Holmes' manuscript Tricks With Prepared Cards.

Annemann acknowledged the Jordan idea in an advert for his Annemann’s Nightmare effect which he advertised in The Sphinx in 1928. Here is the advert. The method is the same as that used in The Problem with Premonition:

NOW BORROW THEIR OWN DECK AFTER THEY SHUFFLE. Have them remove a card which they place in their pocket without glimpsing. Now riffle deck, face up, and stop at their command. TELL THEM TO LOOK AT THE CARD IN SIGHT AND TO REMEMBER. IMMEDIATELY HAND THEM THE DECK WITHOUT A MOVE OR SLEIGHT. They deal the pack through a card at a time and THE CARD THEY SAW IS GONE! AND THIS WITH THEIR OWN DECK IN THEIR OWN HANDS! Ask them what it was. They tell you. Then you prove THEY WERE DREAMING, because UPON LOOKING THEMSELVES THEY FIND THAT VERY CARD WAS THE ONE THEY PLACED IN THEIR POCKET!

There are two key points. One is that the force is made with the deck face-up because the rear card of the pair is the shorter of the two. And the second is that Annemann adds the gimmicked card to a borrowed deck. Since the cards are only handled face up, the different back is never noticed. Oh, and at the beginning of the routine he forces the regular card on the spectator, of course.

Annemann returned to the effect in The Jinx (Issue 7, April 1935). It has a great presentation idea which I think is worth knowing about. Here is Annemann’s description of his New Nightmare:

Writing something on the face of a card from the deck in place of paper, the performer hands it to someone to hold for a few minutes without looking at it. Riffling through the face up pack, another person says, ‘stop’ at any time and looks at the card staring them in the face. They are asked to remember it well.

The deck is closed and without a move placed on the table. Turning, the performer asks the first person to read the writing on the card. ‘The card chosen will be the Three of Clubs.’ The prophecy is correct! Now the performer says he has gone further. The deck is dealt through a card at a time face up and the Three of Clubs is gone. ‘And where is it?’ queries the mystic. ‘I made it change places with the card I originally wrote upon!’ And the first spectator shows the card he has been holding from the start and from which he read the writing AND IT IS THE THREE OF CLUBS!

I’m not keen on the face-up riffle force but Annemann uses it so that the force card of the pair is the shorter of the two and better hidden. I think that the second card is very easy to hide in The Problem with Premonition even though it is the longer card of the gimmicked pair. However, I love the idea of giving the spectator a card at the beginning of the trick on which you’ve written a prediction. And having him first read out prediction but only later revealing that it is actually the card.

It might be better to force a red spot card so that the writing can read more easily. You need to control the assisting spectator so that they don’t reveal the card until you are ready. And I think it would be a good idea to have the spectator who selected the card to try to guess the position of the card in the deck as a reason for dealing through it and delaying the surprise. But other than that, Annemann is a genius!

NOTES: Just found Annemann's A Day-Time Nightmare described in Annemann's Card Miracles (1930) as published by Burling Hull. Also there is The Eye-Popper Card Feat which uses the Rogers' gimmick in an Ambitious Card trick.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Harbin Effect

Thinking about impossible think-a-card tricks, The Berglas Effect and Premonition, put me in mind of an article I wrote back in 2002 for Stan Allen’s Magic magazine. It was called Tricks of Faith and dealt with tricks that either didn’t exist or didn’t work. In the article I briefly mentioned one trick of Robert Harbin’s as possibly being apocryphal, mainly because I couldn’t remember where I’d heard about it. But thanks to Martin Breese and his work in making digital compilations of magic magazines available I can now tell you that Harbin's trick was published in the Magigram magazine. Vol 12, number 1 for September 1979 to be exact.

By the way, the Magigram dvd is a wonderful resource. I’ve spent hours browsing through it and found the most amazing material. You’ll even find some early contributions from yours truly in those pages. So consider this a plug and well meant advice and pick up a copy of the Magigram dvd direct from Martin Breese or from where it is available as a volume by volume download.

But back to the Harbin Effect. This is what Stanton Carlisle called
Harbin’s technique, if that’s not too clever a word for what seems blind hope, for making a spectator think of a predetermined card. With Martin Breese’s permission, I’ll let Stanton Carlisle tell the story:
Some years ago, Bob Harbin was discussing one of his ingenious Ideas with a group of magicians and the majority present 'pooh - poohed' the very suggestion, but I pricked up my ears for I realised that what Bob was referring to was ‘the mentative thought process’ which anyone acquainted with psychology, metaphysics, mysticism or any other form of mind-science would readily understand.
Although both Arthur Carter and I discussed this separately with Bob when things had quietened down again, I am not sure whether Bob ever published the idea because of the initial reception as mentioned above. Whether or not he did, it is worth perpetuating for not only have I used it for a long while now with great effect but, after a period of time, I came to the conclusion that although his original idea was most practical, it could, by more usual magical means be developed into something even more staggering. Like most good ideas, this did not come to me in a f1ash of inspiration but gradually evolved over several years.
Bob's original idea will be described first and then my addition; but first, read this true story (which arose out of Bob's idea) and then read the secret. Then I feel you will be in a more receptive state of mind to appreciate the real secret behind the effect. In addition to this, the people concerned in the following can all vouch for its authenticity!
A few years ago when still living In London, I was in bed awaiting admission to hospital and about lunchtime the telephone rang stridently and, having an extension by the bed, I picked It up to hear the friendly voice of our editor, Ken de Courcy. After some cheer-up chatter, Ken mentioned an Idea he had had and in his description used the words, " ... supposing, for instance they choose THE' TEN OF DIAMONDS.. ". Before ringing off, he had exacted a promise from me to 'give it some thought' and this is not an unusual thing between Ken and I and it works both ways!
At approximately half-past three the same afternoon, the phone rang again and it was Arthur Carter who had no idea that Ken and I had previously conversed that day but did, like me, use Bob's idea. After saying, hello, etc and enquiring after my health his next words were, ''Does THE TEN OF DIAMONDS mean anything to you?" and I assured him that it did; that Ken had conversed with me earlier and, without telling Arthur what Ken's idea was, mentioned that it was a coincidence that Ken had mentioned THAT VERY CARD. "Good" said Arthur, "but I had an idea that it might because I am trying The Harbin Effect over the phone". After some discussion we ended the chat and that I thought was that.
Somewhere about five o 'clock that day I pulled open the drawer of the headboard which is situated directly under the telephone, and there, laying on top of a book was a playing card I had been using as a book-mark until finishing the book when I dropped it where it now laid ... THE TEN OF DIAMONDS!
Knowing 'The Harbin Effect' and realising that UNWITTINGLY I must have been looking at and sub-consciously registering that card for several days, I rang both Ken and Arthur and checked that they had not been in touch with each other and told both of them the story you have just read. Arthur knew as already explained but Ken did not so I explained it to him.
What I am now revealing for the first time is my version which I have jealously kept to myself and never presented to magicians anywhere or at any time. Now as this is an effect that can only be presented when the occasion is right (as will soon be realised) let us start with ‘The Harbin Effect’ as he devised it and used it.
Take ANY card from your deck and place it in a wallet ... any wallet you normally carry!
For about three days keep taking it out and looking at it and by so doing, 'imprint it indelibly in your conscious mind.' By a sort of osmosis type of action, this will then 'seep down into your subconscious mind' quite automatically. Having done that ... forget about it!
By this is meant that after some three days you need not bother about it and just let it stay in the wallet. Within a day or two of that someone who knows you are a magician is bound to ask you to “Show us a trick" and this is what you wait for. Under NO circumstances must you attempt to demonstrate it ... wait until you are asked!!
The wallet with its card is in the usual pocket, but you take out the deck it came from and toss it on a convenient surface and then ask the spectator to "Please name the first card that comes into your mind" and, truth being stranger than fiction, IF YOU TRULY BELIEVE HE WILL NAME THE CARD IN THE WALLET THEN HE WILL! I don't mean if you merely 'think' or 'wish' him to do so, but HONESTLY BELIEVE THAT HE WILL.
If he does, mention that the deck is already on the table and, letting it be seen that your hands are empty, remove your wallet and toss it on the table beside the deck. He is then asked to open the wallet and finds the card HE HAS JUST NAMED. It gets better because he can check the deck and find it has but 51 cards and that the card in the wallet is the one card needed to complete the deck.
For those who are still sceptical (and there will always be some of those), let me state that the more you do it THE MORE OFTEN IT COMES OFF! Practice really does make perfect and I can see readers like Tony 'Doc' Shiels and E. Leslie May having 'a field day with it'.
I estimate that it is a 90% trick, so what of the other 10% if they don't name THE card? Just do any effective trick you know with the card they name. From presenting this over a long period, I use the card in an 'Ambitious Card Routine' for good effect.
Having a general understanding now of 'The Harbin Effect, and space does not allow me to go into all the reasons why this works, always go out prepared to do it, BUT ONLY IF ASKED!
This is like most Harbinesque ideas a WINNER , but only for those who can understand the basic effect and believe in it.
Stanton then went on to describe his own handling of the Harbin Effect, one in which he has an out so that he can present a decent mental effect even if the spectator fails to name the predicted card. Which I’d have thought would be pretty damn often. Having said that, I think it makes a great story dressing for any trick of this type. If Harbin believed it, then maybe your audience will too.

NOTES: Robert Farrell emailed to say that this effect of Harbin's was also mentioned in Abracadabra magazine and republished in Harbincadabra. He's right, check out page 99 of Harbincadabra for an article by Robert Lund. Lund talks about Harbin's belief in telepathy and his explanation of this trick:
Take any card out of a deck and look at it hard. Put it in your wallet, purse, pocket book or whatever you colonials call it and, at odd times, think about it.

Choose a moment among friends when you have been doing a few tricks and when you have noticed a man or woman who believes you have something extra - you can feel this - turn to the person and say you want to try something. Take out your wallet and place it in full view.
In this wallet (you patter) I have put a card I selected this morning. Now look me in the eye. In a moment I want you to tell me what it is,. We will count down together. Ten, nine, eight, seven.... and then immediately say the name of any playing card that comes into your head. I want you to try to think of nothing a t all. Make your mind a blank. Now count with me - ten, nine, eight...

When you reach one say, 'Now! Name the card.'

It works for me every time, but only among friends and only when we have become serious about the possibility of some sort of mental magic, when the time is opportune and there is a feeling in the air.

Lund goes on to say that Zina Bennett had a similar belief that carrying a card about in his pocket for several days enabled him to do a miracle.

I like the counting down presentation that Harbin employs. It's tempting to think that this could be part of some psychological process of getting the spectator to think of a specific card. I'll leave that thought with you.