The Shy Chameleon

After Hours Magic: A Book of Al Thatcher Card Magic

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Effect: Having just discussed color-changing deck effects, this next item seems apropos. The plot, on the surface, is familiar: Half the deck is turned face-up and shuffled thoroughly into the other half, which is face-down. The face-up and face-down cards are convincingly shuffled into each other a second and a third time. But when the deck is spread, all the cards magically right themselves.

The factor that makes this topsy-turvy deck handling stand out from others is that it serves as a prelude for a color-changing deck effect. Although backs are constantly seen during the shuffles, the deck contains only two cards of that back pattern. The balance of the pack bears a contrasting back design. Nevertheless, you are able to perform this very convincing series of topsy-turvy shuffles and conclude with a magically straightened deck, yet have the cards set for a color-changing deck effect.

Method: In this explanation we will say that the deck is red-backed and the two cover-cards are blue backed. The blue cards are positioned on top of the pack when you begin. You may eliminate two red-backed cards from the deck, to compensate for the extra blue-backed cards; or you can work with a fifty-four card pack. It makes no difference to the operation of the trick. The requirements of the tricks you will subsequently perform dictate whether or not you need to remove the two cards.

Install a concave bridge down the length of the face-down deck and you are ready to start. Before you draw attention to the pack, casually make these adjustments to it. While holding the deck facedown in left-hand dealing position, perform a slip cut, moving the top card to somewhere near center. That is, bring the right hand palm-down over the pack and grasp the top half by the ends. Move this half to the right while you retain the bottom half in the left hand and your left thumb holds back the top card of the pack. As the top card slips from the right hand's half onto the left's, catch a left fourth-finger break beneath it. Then return the right hand's packet onto the left's, completing the cut. If this cut is done neatly and swiftly, only blue backs are seen.

You must now execute a half pass, reversing all the cards below the break (see Volume I, p. 70, for a description of this sleight). As the bottom packet is brought face-up below the top packet, retain a right thumb break between them at the inner end of the pack. Then, with the tip of the left fourth linger, pull the blue-backed card above the break down and onto the lower packet. The transfer is made easier if the left fourth finger first jogs the blue-backed card slightly to the right, as if beginning a side steal, then pulls the card down to the bottom packet. (This refinement is an idea of Edward Mario's.) Retain a break above the transferred blue card.

With the right hand, move the packet above the break forward and leave it stepped for about half its length on the bottom packet. Blue backs are seen atop both portions. Again with the right hand, grasp the top packet by its outer end and turn the packet end over end. Replace this packet, now face-up, onto the bottom packet, still stepped forward for half its length.

Adjust your grip on the cards for a faro shuffle. (None of the three shuffles In this trick need be perfect, either in the cut or in the weave; but if you don't do a faro shuffle of any sort, tabled riffle shuffles can be substituted.) Weave the packets together so that the top card of the bottom portion becomes the top card of the deck, and the bottom card of the top (openly face-up) portion becomes the bottom card of the deck. Since it is unlikely that you have divided the pack precisely in half, simply offset the packets when star ting the weave, to give the desired results. Do not spring the cards to square them. This would expose face-up cards in the portion that is supposedly face-down. Instead, push them into each other.

At this point you have a red-backed, face-up deck sandwiched between two blue-backed cards. The blue card on top is face-down; the one on the bottom is face-up.

Turn the pack end over end, showing a blue back on both sides. Comment, "Backs at both ends." Turn the pack over again, restoring it to its original position. "We'll find a face." Remove the face-down top card of the pack, exposing a face-up card, and insert the facedown blue card near center. Push it flush, then turn the deck end over end again, bringing the second blue-backed card into view.

Thanks to the bridge in the cards, the reversed blue card in the middle will create a natural break just above it. Divide the deck at that point, with the face-up blue card on top of the bottom packet. Weave the two packets together, making sure that the face-down blue card of the top portion goes directly under the face-up blue card of bottom portion. The opposing bridges between the face-up card and the face-down cards below it aid in placing the face-down blue card in the necessary spot. Push the packets square.

The red-backed deck is now face-down. One blue-backed card lies face-up on top, and just beneath it rests the second blue card, face-down.

Turn the deck end over end, bringing the face of the bottom card into view. "Faces at both ends." Turn the deck end over end again, bringing the face of the blue-backed card uppermost. "We'll find a back." Remove the face-up top card and insert it slightly below center. In doing so, you can flash the blue back of the card, but don't make this display a cause. Push the card flush. The second blue-backed card lies face-down on top of the pack.

Turn the deck once more end over end, bringing a face-up card into view. If you cut at the ends, the natural bridge in the buried blue card allows you to divide the deck just above it. Momentarily set the face-up top portion onto the bottom portion, stepped outward for roughly half its length. A face-down blue card shows atop the bottom packet.

Regrip the packets for a last faro shuffle. Straddle weave the face-up top portion into the apparently face-down bottom portion. By inserting the one blue card slightly below center, you have ensured that the face-up packet will be smaller than its counterpart. Thus the blue-backed cards are delivered to the top and bottom of the deck.

The red-backed deck is now face-up, with a blue-backed card face-down on top, the second face-up on the bottom.

Pick off the top card and wave it over the pack, snapping it faceup as part of the magical action. Slip this card under the pack, then ribbon spread the cards widely to show that they are all now faceup, having magically righted themselves.

When you gather the deck and turn it face-down, the two blue-backed cards are together on top, putting you in position for any color-changing deck trick that employs two cover-cards. In particular, see "Ambitious Stranger" in Volume I (pp. 299-305). These two tricks in combination are particularly potent, as the color change of the deck is revealed only after several magical effects have been performed with the pack. Anyone trying to backtrack to the moment when a deck switch might have occurred will never believe you were prepared so far in advance.

In recent years several topsy-turvy deck effects have been published that end with a surprise color-change of the pack. Mr. Elmsley's approach, developed in the 1950s, is a far subtler use of the principle, as the true color of the deck is concealed for a considerable time before the color-change is effected. By the way, if you begin a card routine with tricks done with a legitimate blue-backed pack, switch decks on the offbeat, then proceed with "The Shy Chameleon" and "Ambitious Stranger", even the most astute will fail to determine when the switch was made.

Delaying a color-changing back effect by performing other tricks first, while concealing the true composition of the deck, is an exceptionally persuasive strategy. In the late 1950s Ravelli (Ronald Wohl) did a lengthy and intelligent study of this idea, which was eventually published in the April 1963 issue of Ibidem (see pp. 29-38). In his examination he praises Mr. Elmsley's unpublished topsy-turvy deck trick (ibid., p. 30) and describes many other examples. The article is well worth the reader's study.

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