The Multiplying Aces

Mr. Elmsley presents this as a multiplication of cards at the fingertips. He positions a single ace between the thumb and forefinger of the left hand. The hand is shown otherwise empty. Suddenly a second ace appears between the first two fingers. Then a third ace materializes between the second and third fingers. Now the right hand, which has been seen clearly empty throughout these productions, becomes active and plucks the fourth ace from the air. This card is placed in the last vacant space in the left hand, between the third and fourth fingers. In the end an ace rests between each pair of fingers, as shown in Figure 10. This card flourish resembles the classic multiplication of billiard balls between the fingers, or a roll-down with coins. Its immediate inspiration was a card production of Hans Trixer's (ref. Abracadabra, Vol. 6, No. 139, Sept. 1948, pp. 131-134) in which aces were produced in one hand and placed between the fingers of the other.

The idea of displaying or producing cards in this fashion goes back many years. Injîn de siècle Britain and Europe there appeared publicity photos of magicians posed with

cards between their fingers. The earliest such photo of which I am aware was brought to my attention by Reinhard Müller. It is of Servais Le Roy, and is reproduced on page 298 of Christopher's Illustj-ated History of Magic. However, it is not known if Mr. Le Roy rolled the cards into position between the fingers, or simply set them into place, using the opposite hand, as he produced them. Manfred Thumm tells me he remembers i/ a mechanical set of hinged cards being manufactured by a nineteenth century German dealer, but I've so far been unable to corroborate this.

Therefore, it is unclear if others performed a multiplication or roll-down flourish with cards previous to 1957; but it seems Mr. Elmsley was the first to describe and teach such a flourish. He featured this manipulation in his 1957 lecture. Since then, other fingering actions have been devised; most notably by Christian Stelzel of Austria (ref. The Magic of Christian, Part 2 lecture notes, 1971; and Genii, Vol. 36, No. 12, Dec. 1972, p. 547) and Mahka Tendo of Japan (ref. M.A.J., Vol. 1, No. 2. Sept. 1986, pp. 6-7; andVol. 1, No. 3, Oct. 1986, pp. 8-9). Despite these later developments, the Elmsley technique still merits serious study by students of manipulation.

Mr. Elmsley initially created this technique to multiply a single card into a pair, all done in the fingers of one hand. After conquering this effect, it occurred to him to expand the procedure to produce three cards in all; and finally he devised a method for multiplying one card into four. It is suggested that, when learning this manipulative sequence, you adopt the same progression, working first with only two cards, then adding a third after you have mastered the splitting of two, and proceeding to four only after you are completely comfortable with three. However, for concision, only the four-card sequence (which contains all the others) will be taught.

Hie flourish can be done with either hand, but in this explanation it is assumed that the left is used. To begin, take four cards—Mr. Elmsley uses aces—squared as one between the left thumb and forefinger. The suit order is irrelevant in performance, but for learning purposes stack the aces in clubs-hearts-spades-diamonds sequence from top to face. Grip the face-up four-card block by its opposite long edges, somewhere near midpoint, with the cards lying roughly parallel with the thumb and forefinger. Gently bend the cards lengthwise, bowing the faces outward, as you turn partially to your left and extend your left arm, turning the back of the hand forward, fingers uppermost. The face of the block (the ace of diamonds) should be turned toward the audience. Figure 11 shows this starting position.

Lower the second and third fingers, until you can lightly clip the near upper corner of the block between them; then lightly increase the forefinger's pressure, forcing the upper edge of the rear card, the ace of clubs, to slip away from the packet and spring up between the second and third fingertips (Figure 12).

With these two fingers, lift the card (Figure 13) until you can engage its lower edge on the side of the forefinger. Catch the card by its opposite edges between the first and second fingers; then move the third finger upward and away from the card (Figure 14),

Mahka Tendo Card Roll Down

The production of the next card is quite similar to that just taught, but the third and fourth fingers do the work. Lower these two fingers until you can clip the near upper corner of the three-card block between their tips. Then, with pressure from the forefinger, squeeze the next card, the ace of hearts, away from the packet. Catch it between the third and fourth fingertips (Figure 15) and lift the ace away from the packet.

When Mr. Elmsley catches the third ace to raise it, the card is almost shot between the fingertips, but the third finger also aids slightly in separating the card from the packet.

It is normal that, as the third and fourth fingers move to grasp the ace of hearts, the ace of clubs, between the first and second fingers, will be momentarily bowed quite severely. The trick is to do this without creasing the card or letting it escape from the fingers. Be certain you have a secure grip on the ace of clubs before you begin the production of the third ace.

Raise the ace of hearts until you can catch it between the sides of the second and thud fingers; then relax the fourth finger and separate it from the third. You now have three aces displayed between the fingers (Figure 16). The card between the forefinger and thumb is a double.

This concludes the one-handed multiplication. The space between the third and fourth fingers in still unoccupied and awaits the fourth card, the ace of spades. This card, currently concealed behind the ace of diamonds, must now be stolen by the right hand. To accomplish this, first turn your left hand palm outward, displaying it empty but for the three apparent cards between the fingers. Then bend the left arm inward, to bring the left hand, palm toward you, to a relaxed position before your chest. Now display both sides of the empty right hand.

You will next apparently adjust the position of the card between the left thumb and forefinger, but in doing so the ace of spades is stolen into the right hand. Bring the right hand to the outer end of the double card and grasp it lightly, with the right fingers extended over roughly half of the back of the ace of spades. Lower the hands slightly at this point, directing the upper end of the double card outward, toward the audience. This position assures that the steal of the ace cannot be seen by the spectators.

With your right fingers, contact the back of the double card and swivel the ace of spades rightward and into the right hand (Figure 17). As the right fingers curl loosely in, they press the ace into rear palm (see Volume I, pp. 124-126). Simultaneously move the left hand away from the right and extend the left arm once more to your left, turning the back of the hand toward the audience. The right hand remains stationary in front of your body, fingers now open and relaxed.

You next reach out swiftly but gracefully with the right hand and pluck the fourth ace from the air. To do this, first bend the fingers in toward the palm, curling the second finger onto the back of the palmed ace, while the first and third fingers curl over the upper edge of the card to contact its face (Figure 18), Immediately straighten all four fingers, carrying the ace away from the palm and into view (Figure 19). If this is done smartly, the card seems to materialize at the tips of the fingers.

Empty Place Magical

Place the fourth ace between the left third and fourth Angers, completing the display (Figure 10 again).

The magical appearances of the first two cards between the fingers can be greatly enhanced if you first turn the left hand to expose the palm, showing it empty. You then maneuver the back card of the block into position between the appropriate pair of fingers as you turn the back of the hand outward again. That is, the multiplication maneuver is done under cover of the hand's turn. This, of course, demands that you do the sleight quickly and surely.

In his manipulation act Mr. Elmsley employed this multiplication move in a different fashion. He would fu st produce a double card in his right hand, handling it as a single ace. This double card was placed between the left thumb and first finger, in position for the multiplication sleight. He then produced another ace from the right hand. This he positioned between the first and second fingers. Now he moved his right hand, as if about to produce a third ace; but just as he began, he dropped the ace just placed between the left fingers. He looked at the left hand, then at the fallen card, showing inild dismay at this seeming accident. Then, after a brief pause, to allow the audience to wonder how he would recover from this mishap, he performed the multiplication move, producing an ace matching the one dropped. The final two aces were produced, one after the other, at the right fingertips and were

placed between the left fingers, completing the display shown in Figure 10 (page 13).

As is true of most flourishes, this is not an easy maneuver to perform. It will take practice to achieve speed and smoothness. However, to its credit, the Elmsley technique is more easily mastered than some of the more recent fingerings currently used by manipulators.


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