M ttao of One

One of the words automatically forced by my A nthology of Love Poems which I published more years ago than I care to remember under the title TRANSCENDENTAL BOOK MYSTERY, is the noun-adjective-pronoun ONE. If this word is to make its mysterious appearance on a slate—and this seems to be one of the most popular presentations—an excellent plan is to make what appears to be an excusable mistake by writing the homo-phonous word WON and then correcting the error before the writing is exhibited. On being notified that the spelling should be ONE, the conjurer replies : " I am sorry that I have made a phonetic error ; you really should have spelled the word for me. The mistake is easily rectified, however. I have only to cross out the word just written and write the correct one underneath." Suiting the action to the word, the conjurer with chalk in his hand traces in the air a pretence of striking out the word he has just written and proceeds to write the correct word ONE underneath. The slate at the conclusion shows the two words as in Fie. 1. Simple as it is, this little addition en hances the general effect and for some reason or other, ensures a laugh.

The same idea can be further elaborated. Have about 50 cards each showing a letter of our alphabet, vowels and certain consonants being in triplicate. These cards, unlike the familiar Lexicons, must be perfectly square and have the letters in script instead of in capitals.

My intention in this paper is not to offer any suggestions for routine,—a matter which every conjurer must determine for himself,—but merely to suggest an unexpected finish to a trick.

From this pack of square letter cards, the conjurer offers to pick out, one by one, the letters of the chosen (?) word. The cards as produced are lodged against a little easel to show the wrongly interpreted word as in Fie. 2. On being apprised that the word, though sounding right is not the selected one, the conjurer, after a frown, appears to receive an inspiration and with a smile tilts the " w " card to make it stand for the Greek Epsilon and transfers it to the other end of the row as in Fig. 3. Here again a laugh is certain to follow.

The other of the forced words, viz., DEAR, permits even more fanciful variations. As, however, I want to add a few paragraphs on the subject of the book itself, I shall leave the reader to think round the pointers I have already given and evolve for himself the many amusing combinations that are possible with the word DEAR spelled with script square letters.

No book which MIGHT possibly have a trick purpose should ever be used by itself. In company with, say, two other books which should be well-known ones, the trick book is not likely to fall under suspicion. This, of course, raises the question, how is the use of the trick book to be forced ? There are several excellent and well known dodges, the best being that particular one which suits the whim of the individual conjurer. As a change, some of my readers may care to try a ruse which I have found to be entirely satisfactory for forcing the selection of one of three books. To this end, I used three small gummed stickers each measuring l|in. by fin. and numbered respectively 1, 2 and 3. These stickers which can be purchased from any good stationer, are stuck on the inside of the front covers of the books, the trick one carrying No. 2. The three books were displayed in a row against an easel, the trick book with No. 2 sticker inside it being the first from the left as audience viewed it. Standing behind the easel I asked someone like Caesar's wife to say which book should be used, number 1, number 2 or number 3. There was no ambiguity about a request couched in these terms. Now if number 1 was suggested, I interpreted the meaning to be the first as audience saw it. If, however, number 3 was the choice, I counted from my left, a perfectly logical and straight-forward proceeding to be followed by anyone standing behind the books. The most favourable call, and happily the most likely one, is for number 2. When this was given me I stacked the three books and after explaining that each had a numbered sticker on the inside cover, I handed the three to someone with the request that he turn to the inside cover of each and retain the chosen book, the one with No. 2 sticker on it.

As an example of intelligent and artistic employment of my TRANSCENDENTAL in a trick, I know of nothing better than Trevor Hall's cleverly conceived A SLATE ROUTINE explained on page 27 of the first and only edition of Masterpieces of Magic edited by Douglas Craggs and published by Areas in 1945.

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