The Short Card

PrOBABLY the earliest device in the way of preparing cards for secret use in performing tricks was the wide or long card. As the name implies, one card is a trifle wider or longer than its fellows and therefore projects slightly either at the end or the side. To prepare such a pack have all the cards but one slightly shortened or narrowed by means of a printer's guillotine. Later came the thick card, two cards glued together and dried under pressure, which can be easily found by the fingers in riffling the edges. Variations of this idea such as cutting the picture of a court card from its frame and gluing it to the face of a duplicate court card, cutting out the spots. and gluing them over the spots of a duplicate card, etc., but all of these devices are liable to detection when the pack is handled by a spectator. The most satisfactory method is that of cutting one card a trifle shorter than the rest. Such a card forms an invaluable key card, it can be found immediately by riffling the pack and is practically undetectable to anyone who does not already know of it.

As with strippers, to handle the short card intelligently requires some practice and the card should be lightly cut that the difference in length would only be revealed by minute inspection. The use of a card cut so short that the pack divides at it, when riffled, with a loud click, simply ruins an artifice that is invaluable when intelligently used. To anyone having a working knowledge of the few indispensable sleights the short card is a very valuable accessory. The danger is that it renders some operations so easy that the beginner especially comes to depend on it entirely.

The drawback to the short card is that it has to be prepared and therefore can only be used with your own pack. On occasion this can be overcome by carrying a small pair of scissors and working an effect that entails your leaving the room. By carrying off one of the cards in use you can cut off a shaving and secretly return the card to the pack. There is, however, a plan for getting the same effect easily and quickly with any pack at a moment's notice. This was, I believe, devised by Louis Nikola, the English magician, at any rate he was the first to record it in print in his book The Nikola Card System which was published in 1927. The plan he recommends there is to bend up the bottom left-hand corner of a card and work it between the thumb and finger until it is soft. Only a small corner is necessary, say to within an eighth of an inch or so of the edge. When the cards are riffled with the thumb across this corner, the cards will break at that point, so that such a card may be put practically to all the uses of a short card.

The following tricks with a short card have been selected from Tricks with a Short Card, by U. F. Grant, the well known magician and magic dealer. They will serve to illustrate the uses to which the principle can be put. It would be impossible to give more since there is hardly a card trick in which a short card could not be employed. 1 reiterate that the short card should not be used constantly but only on occasion, when it becomes an invaluable weapon for throwing the spectators off the track.

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