May of 1940 Tom Bowyer published a trick in the pages of The Sphinx5 that would inspire several generations of two-deck coincidence effects, including Paul Curry's "The Power of Thought". Nevertheless, this trick, "The Frequent Miracle", is surprisingly little known today. Some years ago my friend, Stanton Carlisle, brought it to my attention, and I immediately saw the potential for a two-phase routine capable of producing an extraordinary impact. The first phase consists of Mr. Bowyer's excellent trick, with a couple of minor embellishments.
At the start of the experiment, the performer gives a spectator a deck of cards in a case that has been closed with several seals. Next two more spectators each receive a deck, which they shuffle. They then deal their cards in unison, face up and one at a time onto the table. Although it may sound unlikely, sometime during this dual dealing, two cards dealt face up at the same moment will match. This match is a genuine and uncontrived coincidence.
Next the sealed deck, given at the start of the effect to the first spectator, is opened and spread. It is seen that the performer had reversed one card in the deck, long before the beginning of the trick. As you might expect, this card is the same as the coincidence-matched pair! Performance
This trick depends on the coincidental match just mentioned, which it may surprise you to know can be relied on to happen at least sixty-three percent of the time on one deal through the decks. That figure increases to eighty-six percent given a second shuffle and deal.6 Hence Mr. Bowyer's title. I may just be lucky, but the percentage of coincidence has been much higher for me. However, given that this trick may require two spectators to deal through an entire deck twice to find a match, I would only use this effect for informal performances.
The sealed pack that acts as your prediction is, as you may have guessed, an Ultra-mental Deck. That is the whole secret!
This next phase is particularly pleasing to perform, especially if there are fellow magicians in the audience. We build on the previous astonishing occurrence by performing an even
'These figures were provided by Tom Ransom in the book edition of Ibidem, Volume 1, p. 12.
stronger effect, the method of which cancels out any theories generated in the minds of the knowledgeable.
The two spectators are asked to reshuffle their decks. As they do this, the performer picks up the third deck and reverses a new card, letting no one see what it is. He places this deck in its case and has the spectator who guarded it earlier place it in his pocket for safekeeping.
Having finished shuffling their decks, the other two spectators give the cards a cut, each bringing a random card to the top.
The performer now has the third spectator bring out the deck in his pocket, remove it from the case and spread it, face toward the audience, so that the back of the reversed card can be seen. The other two spectators are each asked to remove the top card from their packs and show the faces of these cards to everyone. When they do so, it is seen that the two cards are identical! Another impossible coincidence. But then, pushing coincidence beyond all credible limits, the third spectator is told to display the face of the card the performer reversed in his pack—and it is seen to be another perfect match!
This sequence progresses nicely, as in the second phase you seem to increase the impossibility of your success by having the spectators merely cut their decks with the cards face down. There is no dealing and searching for matches. Performance
The decks given the spectators to shuffle and deal through in Phase One each contain a marked, matching, ridged card, say the Jack of Spades. Two additional marked and ridged duplicates are secretly added to each deck at the conclusion of the first phase. There are several ways to accomplish this. You can have the duplicates in your pocket and palm them onto the decks as you tidy things up for the next phase. Or you can have the duplicates in the card cases for the two packs. Here you would put each deck into its case, secretly adding the gimmicks, then pretend to be struck by an inspiration and offer to try an even more demanding test. Whichever route you take, when you first gather the dealt decks, cut the original ridged card in each pack to the top before you add the other two. This places all three ridged duplicates on top of each pack as you begin the second phase of the routine.
Give the decks one riffle shuffle to place a few cards between each pair of duplicates. Then have each spectator shuffle his pack two or three times. All this is calculated to separate and distribute the ridged duplicates in the decks.
You must next switch the Ultra-mental Deck for a normal pack. To manage this, have the straight deck loose in your shirt pocket. You have reversed the match to the ridged force cards, the Jack of Spades, in the center of this pack. You may wish to push a few tissues into the bottom of the pocket, so that the deck sits high, positioned for a quick and unhesitant removal.
Pick up the Ultra-mental Deck, walk away from the table and explain that you will reverse another card in the pack. Turn so that no one can see you do this and pretend to reverse one. Instead, smoothly drop the Ultra-mental Pack into the inner left breast pocket of your jacket and remove the matching straight pack from your shirt pocket. Then, as you walk back to the table, ask the two spectators there to shuffle their packs. As they do this, place your deck into its case and give it to the person who held the Ultra-mental Pack for the first test. (Magicians in the audience now have a surprise awaiting them. At this point they will assume that an Ultra-mental Pack is in play. When in a few minutes you let the spectator spread the cards of that pack and display the reversed card, considerable confusion and astonishment will be experienced by these perceptive friends.)
You return to the other two spectators, who should by now have finished shuffling their decks. Have them square the cards in their hands, then cut them and complete the cut. As they do this, you openly exercise an intense concentration over their actions. This concentration is genuine, though you misrepresent its motive. The spectators should believe you are trying to influence their actions mentally. In fact, you are watching for a marked force card to appear on top of each deck. When this occurs, have them set their decks face down on the table and stand by.
Now ask the third spectator to bring the deck he has been carefully guarding from his pocket and remove it from its case. Next you tell him to hold the pack in front of himself, its face toward the other spectators, and spread the cards until the one you have reversed is exposed. Have him stop there, without revealing the face of the reversed card to the group.
Finally, have the two spectators at the table pick off the top cards of their decks and display them—a surprising match! Then have the third spectator remove the reversed card from the deck he holds and show its face. Match again!
If presented properly, this combination of principles will leave both the public and magicians totally mystified. In my experience, this routine always makes a lasting impression on an audience.
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