Post Hoc Miracle

After Hours Magic: A Book of Al Thatcher Card Magic

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In 1953 H.A. Adams published "Trilemma" in the 280th issue of The Phoenix. The first effect of this article was a transposition of thought-of cards in shuffled packets. The trick, unfortunately, fell into that all too common class in which the method was far more intriguing than the effect it accomplished. The principle involved was fascinating; but the effect was beset with a long, tedious process of calling off each and every card of the deck as two piles were formed. To make matters worse, the cards could not be shown as they were called and dealt, for they did not match the called sequence. Such a procedure could not hope to remain unsuspected for long.

Ken was intrigued with Mr. Adams' principle, but was also acutely aware of the effect's shortcomings. "Post Hoc Miracle" is his solution to the problem. With it Ken has baffled many knowledgeable cardmen as well as laymen.

Begin by having a spectator shuffle the deck. (It may be borrowed if you wish.) He is then asked to place the deck face- down on the table and cut it into two reasonably equal piles.

He is to choose either half he likes, fan it faces toward himself, and merely think of any card he sees. He commits it to memory and shuffles his half deck so as to leave no clue as to the mentally-selected card.

As these actions are explained to the spectator you pick up the unwanted half of the pack and physically demonstrate what you wish the spectator to do with his half. Fan the cards to yourself and then shuffle them. While he is following your example, you take advantage of the misdirection the situation provides to Top Palm four cards from your half. Put the packet aside casually as soon as you have done so.

When he has finished shuffling, have him place his cards face-down on the table. Casually pick them up, secretly adding the four palmed cards to the top of the packet. These actions must be as clean and deliberate as you can make them. It should be patently clear to the spectator that his thought-of card is honestly lost in the packet your are now holding.

At this point you must secretly gain knowledge of the bottom card of this packet. Often it will be flashed to you as the spectator shuffles. If it isn't, you must subtly glimpse it in some fashion as you gesture with the cards, square them, etc.

Explain that you are going to divide the packet into two face-up piles; and the spectator is to watch and remember in which pile his mentally chosen card resides.

Flip up the top card of the packet and call out the name of that card. Then deal it face-up onto the table. Flip up the second card and call it. Deal it face-up to the right of, and well separated from, the first card. Turn up and call the third card, but deal it onto the first tabled card. The fourth card is called and dealt face-up onto the righthand card.

Suddenly stop the calling and dealing. Explain that often a magician can discover a person's thoughts merely by watching his eyes...and your helper's eyes, you claim, are extremely expressive. They are reacting strongly to the faces of the cards. This makes things too easy. You don't want his unconscious eye motions to give you any clues; so you will deal the cards face-down to eliminate the problem.

Cleanly turn each of the two dealt piles face-down in position on the table.

Now continue to call and deal the cards from the packet alternately into two piles. However, from this point everything is a swindle. You will be calling the cards "one behind" their actual positions. Take the top card from the packet, glance at its face and remember it. But as you do this, call it as the card you previously sighted on the bottom of the packet. Deal it face-down onto the lefthand pile and glance at the next card, noting it but calling it as the card just dealt. This card goes on the righthand pile. The procedure of miscalling each card as its predecessor is continued throughout the entire packet. For example, if the packet ran in sequence from Ace of Spades to King of Spades, you would call the Ace as the bottom card — the King; the Two would be called the Ace; the Three would be called the Two, etc. Needless to say, no one but you must see the cards as they are called and dealt.

Once the entire packet has been divided using this system of continuous miscalls, whatever the spectator's thought-of card, it must secretly lie in the opposite pile from that he thinks it is in.

Have him point to the pile that (he believes) contains his card. He is instructed to pick it up and shuffle it briefly. He is then to spread it face-down on the table.

You proceed to hold your forefinger an inch or two above the cards and dramatically trace the spread's length, finally allowing the finger to come down on one card. Push this card from the spread and slide it into the unspread pile of cards without revealing its identity. Pick up this pile.

Briefly recap the impossible conditions of the test, recalling the spectator's total freedom in thinking of a card, his precautionary shuffling of the cards throughout the experiment, etc. As you mention his shuffling, casually give the pile a quick mix. This destroys any clues of approximate position of the inserted card in the packet.

Ask the spectator to name, for the first time, the card he merely thought of. When he does, fan the packet you are holding toward yourself and remove his card. Slowly turn it over to display its face. You have seemingly divined his mentally selected card under incredible conditions!

Ken's improvements over the original A.H. Adams effect are three:

1) He has eliminated half the pack early in the procedure, thus speeding up the action by minimizing the calling and dealing process.

2) He has added the subtlety of secretly introducing four extra cards to the stock, which allows the very convincing touch of showing the first four cards during the calling and dealing. This one touch has contributed heavily to the confoundment of more than a few knowledgeable cardmen.

3) He has twisted the original presentation from a magical transposition of mentally selected cards from packet to packet into a more believable mental effect that misdirects away from the real method.

The trick is not a difficult one. The only sleight required is the Palm, and this comes early in the routine when nothing has yet happened. The spectators are relaxed. What does take a bit of practice is the smooth and unhesitating miscall of the cards. You must be able to quickly and convincingly note the one card while calling that which preceded it. It is not difficult, but must be practiced until confidence is gained.

It should be mentioned that Ken will occasionally vary the presentation by having the spectator push the random card out of the spread and insert it in the other pile. Here it seems as if he has somehow impossibly divined his own card's position and transferred it!

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