Thirteen People At The Party

Adapted from Robert Neale's, Thirteen at Dinner from Life, Death and Other Card Tricks (Seattle: Hermetic Press, 2000)

Superstition is a fascinating subject. First of all, just what is superstition? Mostly, I suspect, it is a label we use for other peoples' beliefs -- beliefs that we find find objectionable. But superstition can change a person's life in ways that can never be imagined beforehand.

Using these playing cards, let me tell you a story about a superstitious woman. We'll call her Mrs. Smith. Of course, she didn't think of herself as being "superstitious." Superstitious people never do.

Mrs. Smith invited some of her young, lively, red-blooded friends for dinner in the private dining room of an expensive restaurant. As they were being seated, she looked around and counted the number attending. On her right were one, two...six. She was number seven. And on her left she counted eight, nine...thirteen. Thirteen people at the party! That would never do! Frankly, the number thirteen gave Mrs. Smith the creeps.

A bit embarrassed, she asked two of her guests to leave. Somewhat fearful of the number thirteen themselves, they were happy to do so.

Relieved, but still concerned, she counted again. Thirteen! Could she have been distracted? Had more guests arrived? Now, somewhat confused, she again persuaded two people to leave.

Having kept her eyes open, she knew no additional guests had arrived, but she counted the number present anyway. Thirteen!

Now she was really frightened. Suspecting her own senses, she asked a friend to count the number of people present. Please count them aloud onto my hand. There were still thirteen people! So she asked two more guests to leave.

Then she panicked. Was she caught in some hideous, cosmic joke? She decided to leave the party herself!

When she arrived at home she was feeling foolish and guilty. How would she explain her absence to her guests? To calm her nerves, she turned on the television set and was stunned by the evening's top news story. There on the television screen was the private dining room of that expensive restaurant -- containing only ten people...all blackened by death from food poisoning.

When I finished the above script, I must confess that I felt genuinely pleased with myself. After performing it several times, however, I realized that it was definitely over-written. If I wanted to perform this quite marvelous piece of magic for real-world audiences of strangers, I knew that I had to make some changes.

So the task before me was to tighten the script: to tell the same story but to do the telling with far fewer words. The first thing to go was the wordy introduction. Other changes and shifts will be obvious to you. There is also a change in the delivery of the timing of the last line. Here, then, is my revised edited script:

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