The Phoenix Four

Effect: While the pack is out of the magician's hands, four cards are freely selected and randomly buried in the deck. Yet, with no apparent manipulation of the cards, it is convincingly shown that all four selections have vanished from the deck. The deck is cut into four groups — as each group is cut, one of the selections is named by the magician, though there seems no way he can have discovered their identities. As each card is named it is spelled with the group of cards that has been cut off...and the selection appears face-up at the end of each spelling!

Bro. John performs this routine to a story of the Phoenix. Like that mythical bird, cards can be obliterated, yet reborn from their own ashes.

Method: First, this routine must be done with a full deck of fifty-two cards. Four spectators are enlisted as helpers. The deck may be shuffled by one of them before you start, if you think it is necessary. Each of the four spectators is given a group of cards. The first three spectators are each given eleven cards, while the fourth is handed sixteen. This leaves you holding three. It is important that your counting of these packets not be obvious. The cards are pushed off the pack casually in clumps. For the three packets of eleven cards, spread three off with the thumb, then two more groups of three and finally two cards. When you reach the fourth spectator, simply Back Spread the bottom three cards from the talon and hand him the balance. This method of counting can appear quite unpremeditated if do ne off-handedly while pattering. The entire process is done quickly, before anyone can worry about it.

The four spectators are now asked to mix their cards. You demonstrate what is required by Overhand Shuffling with the three cards you still hold. (This is a very canny way of providing a motivation for your having kept back three cards: you need them to show your helpers what they are to do.)

Once the packets have been mixed they are placed face-down on the table in a row, with the three-card packet on the extreme left and the sixteen-card packet on the extreme right, as shown in Figure 1.

You are now going to apply Gene Finnell's Free-Cut Principle in a very clever manner. Have the first spectator cut any number of cards he wishes from his tabled packet (that second from your left), note and display that face card of the cut-off group to everyone but you and place this group face-down onto your three- card packet. Have the second spectator cut off a group of cards from his packet (third from your left), note and display the face card, and place the group onto the second spectator's packet. The third spectator follows suit, cutting a group from his packet, noting the card cut to and placing the cards onto the center pile. And the fourth spectator cuts into his packet (the righthand one), notes the card and places the cut cards onto the third spectator's packet. Notice that all four cards are shown to the entire group so that, later, everyone can appreciate their vanishment and reproduction. It is also important that you not be allowed to see any of the cards as they are shown; yet you must direct the helpers' actions clearly with both directions and gestures. If only one group of cards goes to the wrong place, everything is lost. Make your directions clear and point to the various packets; but don't touch any of the cards.

Casually gather up the packets, working from right to left: Spectator Four's packet goes onto Spectator Three's, Three's onto Two's, Two's onto One's and One's onto your pile. While there seems no outward way the cards could be controlled, due to Finnell's principle, the four selections now rest at positions sixteen, twenty-seven, thirty-eight and forty-nine from the top of the deck! At this point, you do not know what the selections are, but you do know where they are.

Give the deck several convincing false shuffles that retain full-deck order. Then Ribbon Spread the pack face-down on the table. Make some gesture to indicate that something magical is being done and claim that you have caused all four selections to vanish from the pack. This is a contention for which most audiences will desire proof.

Gather the spread and place it into lefthand dealing position. Fan over the top five cards and flip them face-up onto the pack. Spread them between the hands and ask that the audience look for any of the selected cards in the group. When they have seen that there are none, close the fan and drop it face-up onto the table. Thumb off another group of five cards, turn it face-up and display the cards. Then drop this second group face-up onto the first. Repeat this procedure with a third group of five; but this time, as you spread the five off the deck, obtain a break under the sixth card with the left fourth finger. Turn the five cards up and fan them. However, as they are squared and removed from the pack, the right fingers steal the face-down sixth card beneath the face-up group and all six are dropped onto the tabled pile. This stolen card is the fourth spectator's selection.

Continue to turn up groups of five cards and display them. But the same stealing of a single face-down card is repeated as the fifth, seventh and ninth groups are dropped onto the tabled pile. These stolen cards are, of course, the third, second and first selections. Using this very open and casual method of displaying the pack has at once vanished the four selections and reversed them at strategic positions in the pack! It should go without saying that the display procedure must be made to look very casual and the honest displays must be made to appear the same as those when a card is stolen. Smoothness, uniformity of action and lack of hesitation are the qualities to be striven for.

Now you offer to divine the identities of all four vanished cards. Square the face-up pack on the table and turn it face- down, long edges toward you. Reach over with the right hand and cut off the top eleven cards. This is made simple as the fourth selection lies reversed eleven down from the top of the deck. It will provide a natural bridge at which the cards will break when the right fingers cut the top group off. Use a light touch.

Place this eleven-card packet into lefthand dealing grip. The fourth spectator's selection is face-up on the bottom of this group. As you turn to the fourth spectator and ask him to picture his card in his mind, the left thumb does a Block Push- Off of all the cards above the reversed bottom one. These cards are only glimpsed when the left thumb is raised. The packet should be necktied slightly as the glimpse is taken. As soon as the card is seen, the packet is squared over it again.

Divine the card as dramatically as you can. Then offer to "restore it to life." This is done by spelling to it. Each card is ducked under the packet as you spell with it. Most any card can be spelled to using eleven letters. You may have to add or drop an "of" or the final "s" of the suit, but it can be done with very little thought. The only exceptions to this rule are the Seven, Eight and Queen of Diamonds. (The Three of Diamonds can be managed by counting three instead of spelling it.) For these three problems Bro. John merely uses a Down-Under Deal as he recites the phrase, "Your card is (value) of Diamonds." The top card is dealt to the table. The second card is ducked under the packet. As it is ducked you say, "Your..." Deal the third and duck the fourth as you say, "...card...", etc. The selection will appear face-up on the last word.

When you have spelled the fourth spectator's card and produced it face-up, deal it to the table before him and table the balance of the packet. Cut another group of eleven cards from the tabled deck, using the third selection's bridge as your guide. Glimpse the face-up bottom card, name it and then spell to it. The remaining two selections are produced in the same manner. Once again, smoothness and absence of any hesitation are important to the effect. Do not fumble as you cut off packets from the deck. It should be an easy casual procedure. A good portion of this routine's power is provided by the apparent effortlessness with which everything is accomplished. Performed in this fashion the routine is extremely impressive. Also, no thinking should show as you spell each of the selections. It takes only a little practice to know how to spell to each card with eleven. Lack of hesitation, pacing and an air of knowing just what you are doing will cover any differences necessary in the spelling procedures required to arrive at the four selections. This is not a difficult routine. Give it the practice it deserves and you will have an important bit of magic at your disposal.