Verbum Veritas

Effect: The performer hands someone a card bearing forty-eight words. The words are arranged in eight rows of six words each, with some words in black ink, others in red. It is explained that these are words selected by a team of psychologists. The sound, arrangement and colors of the words are designed to produce a reaction in the subject that makes It Impossible for him or her to lie convincingly. However, only a specially trained ear can detect the dishonesty in the subject's voice.

The spectator is invited to pit her ability as a good liar against the performer's expertise. She chooses any word on the card she likes, letting no one else know her choice. She then recites aloud only the colors of the words in the row occupied by her word. When she does this, she is told to lie as convincingly as possible about the color of her word. The performer listens to her reading of the six colors. He then smiles, shakes his head and, without a question, correctly names the chosen word.

Method: As promised, this is an extension of the trick "Octal Pencil". The card the spectator is given looks like this:

Fop Mop Soup Lion Lyre Lad Lobby Tap Rope Fan Fair Fate Pan Sun Moon Nap Nose Gnome Knife Roof Taffy Pail Pet Pear File Mill Sail Loaf Lamb Lass Lily Tale Rail Fife Fame Face Puff Safe Muff Nail Net Norway Nun Rain Tin Pop Peas Poem

Those words in italic are printed in red, the others in black. Though it may not be recognizable, this matrix of words corresponds precisely with the number matrix used in the previous trick. The numbers have simply been converted into words. This has been accomplished through a common mnemonic system. Since the Nikola card system is widely known to magicians, it has been adapted to our purposes. Those familiar with the Nikola system will recognize that many of the words on the card represent numbers in the Nikola list.

Each digit is transformed to a consonant that has been chosen for easy association with the number it represents:

3 = m (three vertical lines)

7 = t or d (with a stretch of imagination, also related in shape)

8 = sh or ch (link eight with aitch, for sound association)

9 = k or g (again, a strained but helpful similarity in shape)

0 = s or z (think of the initial sound of zero)

Once this associational numeric alphabet is memorized, vowels are added to the proper consonants to form words. These words then stand for the numbers represented by their consonants. For example, 12 = an 1 and an n. Adding vowels to these consonants, we form the word /ion to signify the number 12. Conversely, moon stands for the number 32: m = 3 and n = 2. The full list of associated words can be found In Nikola's booklet and in Hugard's Encyclopedia of Card Tricks (pp. 387-388).

The Nikola list, however, covers only the numbers 1 through 52. The list must be expanded to include seventeen numbers in our liar's matrix that lie above 52. These words are:

Four modifications must also be made to the words established by Nikola for the numbers 1, 2, 5 and 6. Our octal notation needs two-digit numbers. To satisfy this requisite, a 0 must be added before these four single-digit numbers, and the associated words must be changed to reflect this. Therefore...

With this information, you can now go back to the word list and translate these words into two-digit numbers. If all the words are translated into their proper numbers, the array is identical to the bar's matrix used in "Octal Pencil" (see Figure 57, p. 94).

When a spectator chooses a word from the card and reads the color sequence (from left to right) in that row, lying about the color of her word, all you need do is convert the sequence into its octal number. That number in turn gives you the thought-of word.

If you make up six or more cards, all containing the word matrix, but with the eight rows scrambled, the cards will appear different on casual examination. You can then distribute the cards throughout the room and have spectators take turns in calling out colors. Once you are familiar enough with the mnemonic system, you can work at a pace that will make this test truly impressive.

Since its publication, "Verbum Veritas" has inspired at least one clever variation. In "Octaliar" (ref. Magigram, Vol. 14, No, 12, pp. 758-759), Phil Goldstein has constructed a liar's matrix of men's and women's first names.


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