IT was a typical, though extremely cold, Thursday night. I'd stopped up at Tannen's, as was my wont. Rick Sanchez, one of the demonstrators at Tannen's, described for me an effect that had been performed for him by a mysterious customer. He had neither given his name nor the method he used to accomplish his effect, but Rick was dazzled. He posed the effect he had seen as a problem. (I have since learned that the mysterious worker of wonders was Dale Dewey, a gentleman from New Jersey whom I've yet to have the pleasure of meeting. I have, however, spoken with him on the phone, to confirm that my method is different from his. His version of the effect, which he calls "Who Killed Roger Rabbit?" may see print at some future time.) I liked the premise (full credit to Mr. Dewey) because of its inherent entertainment value; so I accepted Rick's challenge. I experimented with a few methods that evening but ended dissatisfied with any of my solutions. I slept on it. The next day, while continuing my experiments, I happened upon the Sigma Principle, which, when applied to the problem, produced an exceptional solution. What follows is my preferred solution. I've also included some discussion of other approaches to the effect, which I developed during my explorations. Finally, I offer variations of the premise that can be performed impromptu. The premise for some of these methods deviates somewhat from the original, in that only one card has a name written on its back. Along the way, I've interspersed some thoughts on the general approach to this effect and others with common elements.
I've long felt there was something "silly" about both analogy and anthro-pomorphization in effect presentations. I'm talking about effects where the cards are regarded as "like" some other object, or effects wherein the cards are regarded as "like" people. An effect that combines these features is the well-known "Four Burglars." A deck of cards is not a building and the Jacks are not burglars. Standing before an audience and professing that they are is, in my opinion, silly.
Silly, is not a bad thing. A pratfall is silly. A pie in the face is silly. They can also be quite funny. The problem is failing to recognize and, in some way, acknowledge that you know it's silly. It is embarrassing to watch an otherwise intelligent adult standing before an audience and asserting metaphor as fact. I've observed many adult, lay audiences manifest discomfort with such behavior. Presentations of this type must be approached theatrically. They are either theatrical or childish, and childish is inappropriate and embarrassing behavior for an adult.
This effect is a fine example of a presentation that could become embarrassing if one lost awareness of the theatrical farce it employs. If you don't understand what I'm talking about, either I've failed to make myself clear or you should stay away from effects of this type. Safety argues for the latter.
EFFECT: The performer suggests that the deck of cards is a high-rise building in which a murder has occurred. He further states that he knows who the victim is but has not yet located the body, or who committed the crime. He records the victim's name in a secret file (a folded piece of paper) and enlists the assistance of a spectator in his efforts. The spectator finds the body at the floor indicated by the number of cards he cuts off. Everyone is surprised to discover that the performer has not only written the name of the victim on his slip of paper but also that the name of the killer, the spectator's name, is written on the victim's back, while the names on the backs of every other card are different.
REQUIREMENTS: Make up a forty-eight-card deck composed of twenty-four pairs. Each card should have a name written across its back, beginning close to the left side and starting about a third of the way down from the long edge (Figure 88). You may elect to make up the deck with all male names, all female names or a mixture. My deck contains all male names. If I were performing the effect on a regular basis, I'd make up a deck of all female names as well. As stated earlier, the deck should be considered as twenty-four pairs. Each pair should use names that begin with the same letter. Thus, a card for the name Bob would mate with one for the name Bill-, if Robert, then Richard, etc. The values of the cards are unimportant. The four cards
remaining from the fifty-two-card deck, those not used, should be kept handy, in case you encounter someone for whom you have no pre-made card. Under such circumstances, acquire the persons name without him learning you have done so. Make up a card for that name and remove either of the two cards that start with the same letter. Should it happen that you have no card with a name that starts with the same letter, make up a mate card, giving it a name starting with that letter and move one of the other pairs to the bottom of the deck or remove it altogether. You'll also need a pen and a small piece of paper.
SET-UP: Arrange the top eleven cards so all the names are oriented in the same direction. These eleven cards are indifferent. In other words, it doesn't matter what names are on these eleven cards or their order, as long as the names are all oriented in the same direction, let's say to the right. Below the top eleven indifferent cards is the Mirror Stack, which is made up of eighteen pairs of cards. The first card of the stack, as an example, might be Al, in which case the last card of the Mirror Stack might be Andy. The list below is the arrangement of my deck:
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