Fifteen or sixteen years ago, Al Baker originated an effect using a deck of cards, three pieces of paper, and a borrowed hat. To the audience the procedure was to have three cards selected and thought of while the pack of cards was in their hands. The names of these selections were written on pieces of paper, folded, and collected in the hat. One by one, the performer would take out the papers, and apparently by divination reveal the selected or thought-of cards. I first obtained the original method in 1924 and later, around 1929, added somewhat to the general effect by using switches so as to be able to return the slips as read. In the meanwhile, Mr. Baker personally had given me three or four variations for the handling of the billets. About the same time I discovered that a stacked deck could actually be shuffled without impairing to any great degree its subsequent use in a trick. Its most common application was in conjunction with a code, and Mrs. Annemann would reveal the chosen card from a distance when to the onlookers there wasn't a chance of my knowing it or finding it. Combining this principle with the three billet trick, I have been doing the trick as given below, ever since.
Effect and Routine: Here is the working of this quite perfect mystery. Three pieces of paper are at hand and a deck of cards arranged in your favorite system. Hand the deck to someone to shuffle overhand. As he starts mixing, you cause him to hurry by asking him to put the deck face down on his left hand. Then as an afterthought, tell him to give the deck a complete cut and square the cards. During this you have turned away. Now request him to look at the top card of the deck, and then insert it any place in the center of the deck and square the cards well. Turning back, you hand him a piece of paper and take the deck. Ask him to write the name of the card he just looked at on the paper slip. Now, as you start towards another person, note the bottom or face card of the deck. By counting one ahead in the system, you know the first man's card which he is writing on his paper slip.
Give the deck a quick riffle leaving the noted bottom card in place, and then an overhand shuffle bringing the bottom card to the top. The second spectator receives the deck, face down, on his left hand; pulls a bunch of cards from the center, notes the face card and drops the packet on top. Squaring the deck, he cuts them once and again you take it and give him a paper for writing. Picking a third person, you ask that he fan through the deck and merely think of any card he sees. For example, you illustrate by fanning through the cards carelessly. However, you watch for the card you first noted, and the one directly behind it is the card the second man chose! The third man then takes the deck, thinks of a card and fans through them to see if his mentally selected card is there. When he locates it, he closes up the deck, lays it down and writes the name of his selection on the third slip of paper.
All you have to remember are the first two cards selected. Now collect the folded papers in a borrowed hat, watching them as they are dropped in so you know which is the first, second, and third. Reach in with the right hand and, finger-palming the first slip with the second finger, bring out the third billet openly at fingertips. Look at the first person and little by little name his card. Just as it is acknowledged, open the visible slip, the third one, nod your head as you refold it and apparently return it to the writer. However, you have now found out the identity of the last, or mentally thought-of card; and after refolding the slip, switch it for the first paper you have finger-palmed and return that. (For those who can't master a finger switch the following method is very simple. Do it as above to the point where the third slip is refolded. Holding it in sight at left fingertips, start towards the writer and put it apparently in your right palm. Actually, however, finger-palm it in left hand and open your right hand revealing the substitute paper.)
Return now to the hat and pick it up with the fingers of the hand, holding the palmed billet, inside and drop the slip into the hat. Remark that there may be some suspicion that the handling of the papers enables you to learn the names of the cards. Pass the hat directly to the second person and ask him to reach in and take out one of the two remaining slips. He is to open it and say whether or not it is his slip. If it is his slip you impressively reveal the name of the card while he holds the paper billet himself. If it is not his slip, ask him to hand it to the third person for a few minutes and then to reach into the hat again and take out the last slip which must be his. Thus you are able to leave the actual thought-of card for the last and get a better effect when you reveal its identity. This routine will leave well informed magicians baffled because you not only twist them up on the card selection but also in the handling of the papers as well.
The first thought of many people will be to figure out a way of discovering the name of the third thought-of card without opening the billets. However, there is no way that will compare with having a spectator just think of a card, and that one point alone makes this trick one effect that will be talked about.*
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