Fates Datebook

After Hours Magic: A Book of Al Thatcher Card Magic

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Effect: The performer begins by giving out the deck for shuffling. While a spectator performs that service, the performer asks if someone else would mind having her fortune told. When she agrees, she is asked her birthday and given a datebook to hold.

The performer takes back the shuffled deck as he explains the uncomplicated method by which he casts fortunes with the cards. He simply spells "F-A-T-E", dealing one card from the shuffled deck for each letter in the word. The card arrived at in this manner is laid face-down before the helper. This card will determine her fate.

It is explained that the name of a card is written beside each date in the datebook she is holding. Each of these cards is the lucky card for that date. The helper is asked to open the book to her birthday. She notes that each day has a different card assigned to it, and she reads aloud the lucky card that governs her birthday.

"It's our lucky day!" exclaims the performer. The card lying before her is turned up and seen to be the veiy card designated by the book. "Congratulations on your good fortune."

Method: The plot of the diary test seems to have begun with a pseudo-memory feat, "The Weather Test", by Roy Walker, in the December 1932 issue of The Magic Wand (Vol. 21, No. 136, pp. 189-192). In Mr. Walker's trick the performer handed out a small "weather diary" made by him, and demonstrated that he had memorized the weather entries for each day of the year. Two and a half years passed. Then, in the same journal, Tom Sellers submitted his version of "The Weather Test" using a diary with card hands noted beside each day ("A Memory Feat". Vol. 24, No. 166, June 1935, pp. 67-68).

Taking Mr. Sellers* idea of a card diary, Arthur F.G, Carter next changed the cffect from a feat of prodigious memory to a prediction or eerie coincidence. Members of the audience called out the color, suit and value of a random card, and the name of that card was found written beside the birthday of one of the spectators. (Ref. The

Magic Wand, Vol. 42. No. 238, June 1953, pp. 59-60.} Almost two decades later Mr. Elms ley's friend, Ted Danson. contributed "It's a Date" to New Pentagram (Vol. 2, No. 1, March 1970, pp. 1-2). This eventually became known as "Danson's Diary", which was marketed and enjoyed some deserved popularity with mental performers. In the Danson effect, the card written beside the spectator's birthday hi the card diary was produced as a prediction from a sealed envelope, which had been in view the entire time.

Taking Mr. Danson's trick as his starting point, Mr. Elmsley cunningly adapted Dal Vernon's "Trick That Cannot be Explained" (ref. Ganson's More Inner Secrets of Card Magic, pp. 76-81)to the Carter-Danson plot, and added some original twists of his own to derive a version of the effect that used no nail writer and only one diary. History concluded; now on to the trick.

You are seated at the tabic (as you will be throughout the act). Bring out Deck One, remove it from the case and ribbon spread the cards face-up across the mat. Set the case on the table, well out of the way. While doing this, you introduce the effect:

"Cards can be fascinating: their history and design, and the many things that can be done with them. The most controversial uses of cards are gambling and fortunetelling. Do you believe in fortunetelling?" Pause to allow the spectators to answer.

"An amazing coincidence has happened! I'm going to tell our fortunes."

Further spread the cards and adjust them by patting them lightly with the fingertips. You wish to establish this patting action now as one natural to you, as it may be needed for a more important purpose in a few moments.

During the display, notice one of the jokers and remove it from the spread. "I'm sorry, I should have taken the joker out of the pack." Slip it into the left breast pocket of your shirt, then gather the spread.

Continue your explanation, giving emphasis to those words shown in italic: "Some people believe that all fate is decided by the shuffling of the cards; so will you shuffle the cards please and decide our fate? It's a great responsibility." If you deliver this last line with a smile, it should draw a similar- response from the person handed the deck. That person should be someone on your left. Allow him to shuffle the cards to his satisfaction. As he does so, bring out the datebook and display it.

"Some people believe fate is ruled by the zodiac—by the sign of the zodiac under which a birthday falls." Turning to a woman on your right you ask, "Do you mind telling us your birthday: the day and the month? I don't insist on the year."

Assume she answers, "December twelfth."

"December twelfth. That's Sagittarius, right?" Hand her the datebook. "Well, this is a book of birthdays. Just keep it for a moment, please." Note the psychology here. The moment the spectator states her birthday, you immediately translate it into a zodiacal sign. Within the context of fortunetelling, this is reasonable; indeed, it is expected. It also diverts attention from the fact that the specific birthday has been spoken by the spectator. When the effect is over, many people will have forgotten this detail—an omission of memory that further conceals the method.

"I'm going to use both the cards and your birthday, but first, the cards." Reclaim the shuffled pack from the spectator on your left and, in taking it back secretly glimpse the top and bottom cards. An easy way to accomplish this is to take the deck face-down into left-hand dealing grip and, with the left thumb, push the top card a quarter of an inch to the right. At the same time, bring the right hand palin-down over the pack and grasp it by the ends. Then, with this hand, turn the deck end for end, clockwise, and place it back into the left hand, in a casual squaring action. In doing this, it is natural to raise the inner end of the pack as you turn it outward, which allows you to sight the bottom card and the index of the sidejogged top card simultaneously (Figure 253). The left thumb pushes the jogged card square with the pack as the left hand regrips the deck and completes the turn. (This glimpse is one used by Dai Vernon: ref. The Vernon Chronicles, Vol. Two: More Lost Inner Secrets, pp. 122-123.)

Thanks to the simple system of card entry used in the datebook, the moment the second spectator gives the date of her birth, you will know which of the eleven memorized cards is written next to that day. With some luck, one of the two cards you've Just glimpsed is the one needed. If this should be the case, set the deck face-down before the spectator and ask that she cut it at any point. Then perform the cross-the-cut force to arrive at the appropriate card.

That is, lay the bottom portion of the pack crosswise on the top half (Figure 254) and leave it there as attention is drawn to the

datebook. Have the spectator look up her birthday and read the card beside it. Then either turn the upper portion of the deck over, revealing the card at its face, or remove the upper packet and turn up the top card of the lower portion, thus consummating a successful match. The time elapsed between the crossing of the cut and the revelation of the card obscures the fact that the card shown is the original bottom or top card of the deck, and not a card cut to at random.

Most often, however, circumstances are not so obliging. If the required card is not spotted on the face or top of the pack, nonchalantly spread the deck face-up on the table. Make the spread a wide one, so that all the cards can be seen. Quickly run your eye over the spread, locate the required card and calculate its position. Here is an economical method for doing this:

First, spread the deck rather more slowly than usual, and form the cards into a near semicircle. As you do this, inspect the first and last six or seven cards for the one you need. If it is found in either of these areas, note its position from the top or bottom.

As you are completing the spread, keep your eyes on the cards as you say, "I hope you are satisfied with your shuffling." This line and its delivery are crucial. The tone is ambiguous: it is not clear to the spectators whether the query is rhetorical or demands an answer. It is phrased, though, so that a reply is unlikely to be given. (If the spectator does reply to the question, simply pretend you didn't hear it.) This uncertainty and the silence it creates are used to advantage, if the necessary card is not immediately found in the spread.

During the contrived lull, casually pat the ends of the spread with the fingertips, adjusting the cards slightly as you work inward toward the center. As you do this, examine the spread for the card and its location from the top or bottom—whichever it is nearest. This adjustment and the pause it necessitates are excused initially by an apparent wish to display the mixed condition of the cards in a fair manner.

If the card has fallen by chance in the center portion of the pack, requiring a longer period to locate its position, glance up once or twice during the process, looking at the person who did the shuffling; then, when you have ascertained the location of the card, look up more pointedly and ask, "Are you satisfied with the shuffle?" The

question this time demands a response. In this manner, the ambiguous delivery of the initial question is used to buy you time while you search for the requisite card. The delay while this is done is attributed to the spectator's slowness to reply,

Of course, if you can locate the card quickly, these stalling ploys are immediately abandoned and the spread is gathered.

If the needed card is spotted near center, it will be cumbersome to determine its location by counting from either end of the deck. In such a case, another stratagem is implemented. If the card is observed to lie to the left of center, visually count rightward from the card to one just left of center. Note this card and its distance from the target card. It should be necessary to count no more than six or seven cards to arrive at a central reference card, thus speeding the process.

If the target card is found somewhat right of center, the same procedure is used, but here you count leftward to a reference card located slightly right of center. Notice that in either case the card elected for reference is just short of center. This lessens the number of cards counted, further accelerating the procedure.

Now draw another person into the action, asking him to divide the spread somewhere near center. There is no need for subtlety here. The request is made forthrightly. This division of the pack can have one of two outcomes:

1] The spread may be broken exactly at the point where the target card lies. In such a case that card is pushed forward from the others and elected as a fair and free selection. This, of course, is the most desirable result, and it does happen more often than one might imagine.

2] Or, as is more often the case, the spread is divided near the target card or its more central reference card. In either case, the exact position of the target Card can be immediately calculated from the point of the division. It is then merely a matter of gathering the two portions of the spread, openly cutting the deck by this action and transporting the target card near the top or bottom.

Whether the card is found originally near the top or bottom of the pack, or whether it is conveyed there with a cut defined by a spectator, the card is now at a known location.

"Some methods of fortunetelling are very complicated, but mine is quite simple. I shall squar e up the cards and lay down one card for each letter of the word zodiac and for each letter of the wordfate: zodiac—Z-O-D-I-A-C; and fate—P-A-T-E."

Suit actions to words, and lay the last card of the spell face-down before the spectator with the datebook. However, the spelling may be done from the top or the face of the pack, and the precise words used in the formula may vary. Your course is dictated by the location of the target card.

If the card is nearest the top, deal the cards from the top with the deck face-down. If it is nearest the bottom, deal the cards from the face with the deck face-up.

Three words are used, either separately or in combination, to spell directly to the card. Those words ar e: FATE (four letters), ZODIAC (six letters) and BIRTHDAY (eight letters). Notice that the stage has been set for the use of any of these words in the preceding presentation. The word/ate is purposely employed three times, zodiac twice, and birthday four times. These words and the ideas they represent are woven carefully into the script, making their use logical; and through these three words it is possible to arrive at any card at positions two through twenty-seven in the pack. Here is Mr. Elmsley's system:

To reach cards 2 or 3, first spell ZODIAC, dealing six cards into a pile on the table. Pick up this pile and deal four cards to the table as you spell FATE. The card originally third from the top of the pack falls on the E In fate. If this is the target card, place it before the spectator with the datebook. If the target card began second from the top, deal the card following the E In fate to the spectator.

To reach cards 4 or 5, spell FATE. Then place before the spectator either the card that falls on E, or that directly after it, as need dictates.

To reach cards 6 or 7, spell ZODIAC. Again, either the last card of the spell or the card immediately following it can be used with equal plausibility.

To reach cards 8 or 9, spell the word BIRTHDAY.

To reach cards 10 or 11, first spell ZODIAC, then FATE.

To reach cards 12 or 13, spell BIRTHDAY, then FATE.

To reach cards 14 or 15, use the words BIRTHDAY and ZODIAC.

If the card lies deeper than 15, eliminate the first twelve cards by dealing them into a circle. This, you explain, represents the twelve signs in the wheel of the zodiac. Then proceed to spell the appropriate word or words as detailed above to reach the target card. However, if the card is found near the center and the pack is divided as explained above, this last tactic should in all probability never be required.

This system of alternatives is delightfully flexible. The few simple courses of action guarantee that the needed card can be reached. Mr. Elmsley will often employ another set of procedures to arrive at the target card, when conditions permit it. He will spell to the card using the spectator's zodiacal sign. This requires that you know the span of dates that each sign governs and the number of letters in each of the twelve signs. This, though, is a small piece of homework. With a bit of study, the reader can discover other methods as well of arriving at the desired card through seemingly logical procedures.

What is admirable about this system is that, with a very few procedures, one can always get to the card needed in a direct manner. The system must be rehearsed so that the thinking is not evident in performance. Rehearsal is not difficult. Simply decide on a target card, shuffle the deck, spread it and calculate the method required to arrive at the card desired. Repeat this until you can consistently reach the target card without hesitation or obvious effort.

With the card before the spectator, you now continue: "This card is the one that will decide our fates. Have you looked in the book yet? Will you look for your birthday now, please. In that book, against each day of the year, is written the name of a card; the lucky card for people born on that day. And a magician should be able to bring good luck when he wants it. When you've found your birthday, will you call out the card that is written there, please."

Let's assume the eight of diamonds is named.

"The eight of diamonds? It's our lucky day!" On this line, the card before the spectator, if it is not already face-up, is turned over to reveal the match.

"Congratulations on your good fortune."


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