Epitaph For Brown


1 FIRST MET the late Edward Brown in 1921; he was a shy soul then, but to the little group of which he was a member and which congregated each Monday in the Magic Circle Club-room at Anderton's Hotel his ability was recognised. As the years went by I was to realise that here was one of the few men that I knew capable of making a conjuring trick into a feat of credible magic. Later we were to become members of a small coterie, the Society of Magical Research and across a table with a few others, attempt to define the composition of a true magical feat. We never succeeded but during the course of those meetings we did see some remarkable effects. Edward Brown died at the zenith of his magical career, and although not a lover of theatrical display, the eve of his passing saw him give the greatest public show of his life. It was a feast of natural magic and one which those who were present at the Cripplegate Theatre will never forget.

Edward Brown committed little of his work to paper. ... An item in one of Naldrett's books, a thought reading effect in the " Masterpieces of Magic " series and " The Three Guesses " in the May number of the Sphinx, volume 42. That was the sum total of his literary output. The last named effect was based on Hofzinser's "Everywhere and Nowhere." It was a great favourite of Brown's but the description in the Sphinx contained mistakes and did not do full justice to such a masterpiece of card magic. Brown as a magician like Ramsay and Sherwood was an individualist ... he adapted and originated moves to suit his own personality and idiosyncrasies. Only a person endowed with similar physical characteristics and similar skill would be capable of achieving the same effect as Edward Brown who without any doubt was one of the six greatest magicians I have had the opportunity of seeing and knowing.

The effect to be described is based on " The Three Guesses" but because my own technique and stature in magic are that much lesser than Edward Brown's, it is more adaptable to performance in varied hands. I have found it to be most effective on all those occasions when 1 have performed it.

On the performer's table stand two stemmed glasses each capable of holding a pack of cards. These glasses and a pack of cards are in fact the only properties that are used. Taking the pack the performer hands it to a spectator with the request that he shuffles it well. It is then taken back and dropped back outward in the right hand glass. A lady is now asked to assist. . " Madam " says the magician, "I am going to remove one card at a time from the top of this pack. I want you "to stop me when you wish." The performer commences to remove a card at a time with his right hand then placing them face downwards on his left hand. This is done until the lady says Stop!" " Now, madam, only you and I shall see the card, and so I want everyone else to close their eyes " (this must be in the nature of a lighthearted request. With the modern run on Radio and TV games in which similar requests are made, you will find that actually most people will do this for you). The card stopped at, is now turned round and both the lady and performer take note of it. Let us suppose it is the three of clubs. This card is then turned back towards the audience who are warned that they can now open their eyes. The chosen card is placed face downwards on those in the left hand and the remaining cards in the glass being taken out and placed on top, a little finger break being kept between these cards and the chosen card.

At this point the magician remarks, "I am going to lose the card you chose, madam, amongst the remaining cards of the pack " and suiting the

action to the words, either by means of a false shuffle or series of running cuts, he sees that the chosen card is brought to the top of the pack. A note concerning this. As the bank of cards under the little finger break is seldom likely to contain more than a dozen in number, my own procedure is to strip out with the right hand all the cards above the break apart from say the top half dozen of the pack and then with this packet execute a series of running cuts, the finger break position


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being maintained. When all the cuts have been made and the supply of cards exhausted, that portion of the pack under the break is simply cut to the top, thus making the chosen card the topmost in the pack. To the audience the action is a natural one of a series of cuts followed by one straight cut.

The pack backs outwards is once dropped in the right hand glass. " Now, madam," says the magician, " you chose a card, the name of which, we hope is known only to the two of us; that card has now been lost amidst the others. However my purpose is to try and get three members of our audience to hazard a guess at which card amongst the fifty two is your card!" The magician indicating a gentleman in the audience asks for his co-operation in having a first guess. " We'll do it this way I shall remove a card at a time from the glass," (as this is said the performer removes the first card, which of course is the three

of clubs and places it on the palm of his hand. It is roughly positioned so that the inner left hand corner goes into the thumb crotch. Another and another card is taken and these are placed on top of the three of clubs in such a manner that they take up the position shown in the first picture. The hand during this action is of course held in a horizontal position), " and 1 want you to stop me me when you wish. ... at that moment the card I hold in my hand when you say ' Stop!' will represent your guess." The performer continues to take cards from the glass until he is stopped and the card held in his hand is placed back outwards in the left hand glass. Two other spectators are requested to similarly co-operate and their cards as they are chosen are placed to the rear (that is nearest the performer) of the first card chosen. At this point the magician possibly holds anything from fifteen to twenty cards in his left hand with the three of clubs offset. The right hand now approaches the left with the obvious intention of squaring the packet of cards held there and as the cards above the three of clubs are gripped with the thumb at the inner end with the remaining fingers grouped around the outer end, the little finger of the right hand with the thumb crotch acting as a fulcrum levers the three of clubs into a full palm position, the cards on top being brought round so that they are held at right angles to the hand proper. The right hand moves away but is kept at elbow height whilst the left hand containing the cards gestures towards the three cards in the left hand glass, the magician adding. " So these

three cards, gentlemen are your three guesses!" The right hand now comes across, takes the exposed cards from the left hand and the latter with the three of clubs palmed falls to the side.

The unwanted cards are dropped into the right hand glass with the remainder of the pack. The right hand at this stage now removes the three designated cards from the left hand glass and the left hand, care being taken not to expose the palmed card, comes up to receive them. The four cards are squared as one and held backs to the audience. " Three cards chosen haphazardly " remarks the magician and as he says that he pushes off the two topmost cards one at a time with his left thumb the cards being taken in same order by the right hand thumb and second finger. The remaining two cards appear to the audience as one. The two cards are then replaced, a slight break being held between these, two cards and those beneath. "Let us see whether the first gentleman was successful." The two top cards are lifted as one and turned over to show the face of the under card (see illustration 3, which actually shows the second card and not the first that will be shown). It is the six of spades. " No sir, I am afraid that you were unlucky . . . that is not the chosen card, it is madam?" The two cards are then turned over again and placed behind the other cards. The magician now turns over the second card which is seen to be the ace of spades. Again the spectator is told that he has guessed wrongly. This card is now turned over and placed behind the other cards but it is stepped to the extent of a matter of an inch or so. The next two cards are turned as one and apparently reveal the third guess as the King of Spades. The two cards as one are turned over and similarly placed behind the others. All the cards are now turned round and shown as in illustration four. The chosen card, the three of clubs, is immediately behind the King of spades. " Actually," says the magician, " all this is really an hallucination." At this moment the cards are turned round backs to the audience and then squared together. " The lady here thought that she selected the three of clubs, and I can make you all think that too!" The left hand thumb pushes oif the three topmost cards as one (illustration 5), turns them over and replaces them as in illustra

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tion six. " So really one of you gentlemen could just have easily guessed correctly!" The right hand fingers now take the outer end of the three cards and turn them longitudinally over the remaining single card. As the cards cover this card, the topmost card is slid to the position shown in illustration 1, and pointing to this card the magician says to the first gentleman spectator, " We'll consider you guessed correctly!" The card back outwards is now taken with the right hand fingers and dropped into the left hand glass so that it tilts towards the front. The left hand thumb now pushes off the two top cards as one as these are turned over and placed in an overlapping position showing another three of clubs. The two cards are taken as were the three and apparently turned over in the same way so that a position similar to that shown in illustration 7 is taken. Actually there is an important difference for as the cards are reaching thé end of their turn the right hand thumb slides the under card, the three of clubs, forward and the topmost card takes up a position so that it covers the undermost card. Pointing the card the magician says to the second gentleman. " It seems that you

might have been lucky too!" The right hand now comes up to take the overlapping card away, but actually the right thumb knocks the top card, and the rearmost card of the sandwich into perfect alignment and coming back the two cards are removed as one leaving the single card, the three of clubs between the thumb and fingers of the left hand. These two cards as one are now placed behind the first card that was dropped into the left hand glass. Finally the card in the left hand is turned round and the third guess is found to be the three of clubs. This card is dropped into the glass behind the others. The cards are now withdrawn and placed in the left hand the remainder of the pack being taken from the right hand glass and placed on top of them. " Actually as I said before it is really a matter of hallucination for if I wish it they can all be threes of clubs." At this point the magician makes a series of running cuts cutting from the top of the pack and showing each time the bottom card, which is the three of clubs. He continues this cutting to the point where he only has the one three of clubs left and this goes on top of the pack. " Just hallucination for once again you can see that they are all different." The cards are fanned, the index of the three of clubs being hidden . . . " In fact there isn't a three of clubs in the whole pack." The fan is closed.

Perhaps you would like to look for yourself, sir!" As the cards are handed to the spectator, the top card, the three of clubs is palmed in the right hand with a single handed palm. (If the reader hasn't a mastery of this sleight may I suggest that he uses a two handed palm method before fanning the cards as he will find this a better moment than when he has to hand the cards over). " In fact the only three of clubs belonging to that pack I placed in my pocket." At this point the performer bends forward slightly allowing his jacket to swing down. The right hand with the palmed card grasps the coat at elbow height and at the same time levers the card inside the coat (illustration 8). The left hand comes in to take the card from the inside pocket, but actually as you can see in illustration 9, the fingers of the right hand push the card further into the coat whilst the left hand fingers dip to take the corner of the card. At this point the magician swings round and the left hand is shown a corner of the card being pushed into the pocket. With an upward motion the card is apparently withdrawn and shown to be the three of clubs!

"Tastes differ in magic as in other things; and I can scarcely hope that my views have always been palatable to all of my readers. After all, the most a reviewer has a right to ask is that his readers concede his honesty of purpose and absence .of bias. On this score I have been most fortunate: and I am grateful for the confidence my fellow-craftsmen have repeatedly expressed in the objectivity of my comments."

Paul Fleming—Preface to Volume 1 of the Paul Fleming Book Reviews.

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