Animal Vegetable And Mineral

Effect: A pack of children's picture cards is displayed. On them are simple representations of birds and beasts, plants and famous structures. These objects, it is pointed out, can be classified as either animal, vegetable or mineral.

"We are going to play a game of Twenty Questions," announces the performer, "with variations. In Twenty Questions, one usually tries to guess one object at a time. I shall attempt to guess three, all at the same time. That is the first variation. The second variation makes things even more difficult for me: I shall not ask twenty questions; instead I shall ask only one quest ion for each of the three objects. Let's try a game."

Three other players are recruited. We shall assume these players to be Aleister, Leila and Raoul. The picture cards are mixed and handed to Aleister. The performer then turns his back and keeps it turned for the balance of the demonstration.

"Aleister, will you please turn the deck over so that everyone can see the faces of the cards, and will you give the deck a cut. Now deal the cards into three hands before Leila.

"Leila, please choose one of the three hands and sweep the others aside. Now cut the cards you have kept and deal them into three more hands before Raoul.

"Raoul, now it's your turn. Please pick up one of the hands before you and discard the others. Do you have one? How many cards does it contain? Three, All right. Please let Aleister choose one of your cards, then Leila, and keep the last for yourself. Tell me when you each have a card.

"We're now ready for our game of Twenty Questions. Aleister, is your object animal, vegetable or mineral? Mineral? Fine. Leila, the same question: animal, vegetable or mineral? Another mineral? Good. And Raoul? Animal. Those are the three questions I'm allowed.

Now I must try to guess the object each of you is thinking of. Please form a vivid picture of your object in your mind.

"I'm getting an image of a noble face, but something is wrong with the nose. Also, the face is human but the body is that of a beast— a lion. It is not a living creature. It is a massive stone sculpture. Is one of you thinking of the sphinx at Memphis? That's you, Aleister, is it? Good. Leila and Raoul, please continue concentrating on your objects. I'll try Leila first, so Raoul, control your animal thoughts for a moment.

"Leila, I see many buildings, tall ones, straight-sided and full of windows. There is much traffic and noise below them and water nearby; all around, in fact. It's an island with an astonishing number of skyscrapers. Is it New York City you're thinking of? Very good!

"Raoul, your animal now. It walks on land, four footed, or perhaps 1 should say hoofed. Raoul, you're thinking of a pig, aren't you? Thank you, all!"

Method: Underpinning this strong effect is an ingenious application of the Mutus-Nomen-Dedlt-Cocis principle. The picture deck contains twenty-seven cards, nine animals, nine vegetables and nine minerals. Mr. Elmsley assembled his deck from three separate packs sold for children's card games: one of animals, one of flowers and, for minerals, famous landmarks of the world. (A specially printed set of picture cards has been marketed for this trick, with subjects selected to introduce added humor to the presentation. As I write, these sets of cards, complete with instructions, are available from the Supreme Magic Company in England.)

To teach the trick, I will list the objects in Mr. Ehnsley's deck. However, the twenty-seven objects given are not binding. Any objects may be used that fall recognizably into the three categories. If different game decks must be plundered to piece together the required Animal-Vegetable-Mineral Deck, differing back patterns need not be a concern, as the cards are handled face-up and, at any rate, you have your back turned throughout the proceedings. Then, you could forgo picture cards altogether, and simply write the names of the objects on blank card stock.

The secret of this triple divination lies in an ingenious organization of the cards. The objects in the pack consist of nine triplets. Columns 2, 3 and 4 in each row of the chart on the facing page contain one of the triplets.

To set up the deck for performance, assemble the cards into nine triplets as shown in the chart. The sequence of the cards in each triplet is inconsequential. Gather the triplets in any order and deal the twenty-seven cards into three piles, as if dealing three nine-card

T i













Eiffel Tower

Statue of Liberty

Tower of London








Tut's Tomb










New York City




Taj Mahal

Tower of Pisa

Water Lily -JJ

hands. Then assemble the three piles in any order. This quick dealing process sets the cards in each triplet nine apart.

To begin the performance, bring out the picture deck and explain its makeup. The nature of the setup is not Jeopardized by straight cuts. Therefore, after displaying the deck, you can give it a casual series of cuts, overhand-shuffle style, or a Charller false shuffle, which looks haphazard but merely cuts the pack. Straddle faro shuffles of either the in or out variety also maintain the setup, but Mr. Elmsley recommends the shuffles first mentioned, as they are more casual in appearance than faro weaves. Follow the false shuffle with one or two straight cuts and hand the pack to the first spectator.

Turn your back and give the instructions detailed under effect; i.e., have hiin turn the pack face-up, give it a cut and deal it into three nine-card hands, (The setup, incidentally, operates successfully whether the cards are dealt face-up or face-down, from left to right or right to left. This ensures that minor errors in dealing procedure will not abort the effect.) Have the second spectator choose one of these piles, give it a cut and deal it into three three-card hands. Then have the third spectator pick up one of the fresh piles and distribute it among the three of them.

Thanks to the setup, the three cards being held will constitute one of your original triplets. All you require to identify it are the categories of the three objects. Each of the triplets is unique in its construction. One contains three animals, one three vegetables, one two minerals and one animal, etc. The key to identifying each of the triplets lies in Column 1 of the above chart. A = Animal, V = Vegetable and M = Mineral. Therefore, if your spectators tell you they are thinking of two animals and a vegetable, they must be holding the donkey, the goat and the daisy, for this is the only triplet that contains two animals and a vegetable. Naturally, the order in which the objects are given to you will vary. For instance, VAA, AAV and AVA all refer to the same triplet. It is the distribution of categories, not the order, that is important.

To identify the proper group, you must either memorize the list of nine triplets (not that hard a task), or you can refer to a crib sheet bearing the chart. Since your back is turned to everyone, this is easily done. A little pumping will quickly determine who has which object.

The classifications of animal, vegetable and mineral are par ticularly good choices, as they are familiar to everyone. However, Mr. Elmsley's trick is easily adaptable to other subjects. For example, one might construct an entertaining presentation with cards from popular adult games such as Trivial Pursuit or Pictionary. Such variations are rich in possibility.

Phil Goldstein recently published a var iant method for "Animal, Vegetable and Mineral" as clever in its own right as the original. This appears as "Q&AVM" in Mr. Goldstein's booklet, Thequal (pp. 9-11). The interested reader will want to study it.

July 1973

Continue reading here: The Octal Pencil

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