Verbum Sapienti

Effect: The performer brings out a pocket dictionary and has three or four persons choose random words from it. The dictionary is put away and. without a question asked or a thing written, the performer accurately divines each person's word.

Method: The choice of words is genuinely random, but the dictionary is prepared to deliver the chosen words to you instantly. It is a peek book. The peek book idea goes back to Paul Curry, though it has been reinvented several times over the years by others, including Mr. Elmsley. In 1944, Mr. Curry suggested preparing a telephone directory in much the same manner as Dr. Franklin V. Taylor's peek deck (ref. Phoenix, No. 53, pp. 216-217), That is, the number destined to be chosen on one page was written by the performer in an easily concealed spot on the opposite page. This was done with every pair of facing pages in the directory. Mr. Curry's excellent idea has been perfected In recent years with the publication of special books that have the cue words lodged within their typeset text. Larry Becker was the first to do this, in a trick titled "Flashback". The most elaborate peek book to date was created by Masao Atsukawa, an established author and amateur magician. Mr. Atsukawa, under the pen name of Tsumao Awasaka, produced a mystery novel titled The Lucky Book, which was widely sold to the Japanese public. It read normally, yet cue words were imbedded in the printed text, thus permitting magicians to pick up the book wherever it was found and perform a book test.

Mr. Elmsley's dictionary is not typographically sophisticated, but it does the job intended. It is a simple pocket dictionary, each page of which bears the first and last words of that page in bold type at the top (making them easier for the spectator to read). The dictionary is prepared by writing in pencil the word at the top right corner of each right-hand page on the top left corner of the facing left-hand page. Pencil is used, rather than pen, to avoid bleeding or show-through. The preparation is admittedly tedious, but once the dictionary has been prepared, it need never be done again.

To have a word selected and at the same time secretly learn it, do this: Grasp the dictionary by its spine in the right hand. Hold the book with its front cover facing the spectator, about eye level. Contact the upper left corner of the book with your extended left forefinger and riffle the corners off its tip until the spectator tells you to stop. With the forefinger, pull the book open enough to allow the spectator a clear view of the word in bold type on the right corner of the right-hand page. This same word is penciled on the corner exposed to you on the left-hand page (Figure 47), Notice how the extended left fingers screen the prepared corner from anyone on your extreme left. Glimpse the word and immediately turn your eyes away from the book. When the spectator says he has noted a word, let the book snap shut.

Repeat this selection process with three persons; then drop the dictionary into your coat pocket and proceed to divine the words one by one, in as effective a manner as possible. After divining the first two words, Mr. Elmsley inserts an entertaining bit of business that adds humor and surprise to the procedure, while avoiding repetition. Let's say that the third spectator's word is gag, and the fourth spectator is thinking of down. You turn to your third subject and begin to work with her:

"You are thinking of a word—a short word—only one syllable. It starts with a G or a J. I think It's a G—a letter G..."

At this point you pause as an expression of puzzlement passes over your features. Turn and stare at the fourth person. Then suddenly say to him, "Was you word down?"

If he is not too startled by this abrupt revelation, he will say, "Yes." "Then don't interrupt!" Turn back to the third spectator, with a twinkle in your eye, and resume where you left off: "Your word was G—G, A—G, A, G—Gag]"

Some may find the prospect of remembering three or four words forbidding. Mr. Elmsley uses a mnemonic system to assure recall. This system can be extremely simple, since only three or four words

are being memorized. For example, one could use the old rhyming code:

You can now memorize the first word by linking it to an image of a gun. Form a vivid mental picture of word and object in combination, The more outrageous the image, the more surely you will retain it. All you need do is recall the image with a gun and the word will be supplied. (For more information on associational mnemonics, check any of the many works on the subject of memory systems, such as those by Harry Lorayne.)

While the test could be performed with only one or two chosen words, the cumulative effect of apparently pulling words from the minds of three or four persons, without recourse to the dictionary, is far stronger. This psychological touch by Mr. Elmsley is significant. Also note how he has simplified the method of choosing words, making the procedure as direct as possible. Any counting of lines and words by the spectator—a process that needlessly slows the action and increases chance of error—has been eliminated. And by using the words that appear in bold type at the top corners of the pages, rather than the fine type, the spectator's task is made easier and surer as he reads the necessary word.

Some may feel it desirable to have the dictionary handled by the spectators, to prove its innocence. This can be done as follows: Carry a duplicate but unprepared dictionary in the same coat pocket you will deposit the gimmicked dictionary after the words have been selected. Have the selections made from the gimmicked dictionary and drop it into the pocket with the duplicate. Proceed to divine the first word or two, but then pretend to have trouble in receiving the next word. Bring the unprepared dictionary from your pocket and hand it to the spectator whose word you can't get. "Here, it might help if you look up your word and read its meaning to yourself." Have him do so, then divine the word or its definition. In this fashion you have subtly brought the unprepared dictionary into play and had its commonness confirmed without asking that it be examined.

Through a shrewd choice of means and intelligent routining, Mr. Elmsley has created here a book test of unsurpassable directness and impact.


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