It has been argued by my friends and colleagues that there is no place for card tricks in the Thirteen Steps to Mentalism, on the grounds that playing cards are suggestive of trickery in as much that they are so commonly associated with conjuring. With this argument on my hands I have been forced to form an opinion once and for all on this troublesome question, and I have decided to make a stand and stick by my guns. The answer is the existence of Step Ten.
I firmly believe that it does not matter what you use for a mental effect as long as you use it correctly. In the first place it is no excuse to condemn playing cards in the mental field because they are solely suggestive of trickery. It may be as well to recollect that playing cards were used for divination, prophecy, and for occult purposes as much as they were used for games, and indeed today cards are widely used for fortune telling.
On the other hand there is no doubt at all that playing cards can be devastatingly dangerous to the mentalist. They could be his undoing, as they could also be his making, and it all depends on what you do and how you do it. We must therefore pay a certain amount of attention to the best way in which playing cards may be used for mentalism. We need not concern ourselves too much with cards other than playing cards because, for example, a set of E.S.P. cards or Zenna cards are such that although in shape they resemble playing cards, their very designs help to keep them in a class of their own. Something that is not suggestive of the apparatus of the ordinary conjuror. So let us concern ourselves solely with playing cards for the moment. The following few simple rules are points which are worth noting and remembering and if followed will go a long way towards making your conjuring tricks into mental effects. \
(1) Probably the most important point of all is this first one and that is to handle the cards in an unskilful manner. Never make a neat pressure fan, never shuffle the cards with digital dexterity using some fancy flourish. Even go so far as to avoid the weave shuffle. Use, and be satisfied with a common, somewhat clumsy overhand mixing of the cards. In other words aim to register psychologically with your audience that to you a pack of cards is a foreign thing. Set out and succeed in creating the impression that you are by no means able to manipulate playing cards even if you wanted to. In order to achieve this do not be too proud to look really clumsy at times. For example drop a card or- two when shuffling. Make an occasional deliberate mistake when naming a card as though the suit was not a familiar thing. Hold the pack in a firm deliberate grasp and not with the delicate air that is to be expected of a manipulator who may be obliged to display the cards poised at the finger-tips.
(2) Take care of your language when referring to playing cards and what to do with them. Avoid anything that is typical of the magician and try to speak in terms that would be used by anyone just familiar with a pack of cards for the purpose of playing games. For example it is probably better to say " mix the cards " rather than 44 shuffle them." It is undoubtedly better to call a pack of cards a 44 pack," rather than use the term 44 deck " which has all the suggestive characteristics of the professional card man. Never use wording such as: 44 When I riffle through the deck I would like you to call stop at any time." Phrases such as that can be enough to destroy the illusion and to cause the audience to think in their minds, here is a man at home with a pack of cards, just like a conjuror, he knows what he is doing.
(3) Never at any time use any of the well-known, clever ways of revealing a chosen card if it involves a flourish or a surprise appearance, for in doing so you make it obvious that magic is there. If a card is mentally selected from a pack that lies on the table, and a spectator is invited to cut the pack and finds that he has reached his card by pure coincidence, you have a mental effect on your hands. But if the same card was made to rise from the pack, although you have a good trick you do not have a mental effect and nobody on earth would ever believe that you did it by mentalism. So make up your mind whether you want your card effect to be mentalism or a conjuring trick, and whatever you decide stick by it, don't mix the two because that would be quite fatal. In other words don't suppose that you can do two card tricks as a conjuror—flourishing cards, fanning them beautifully, shuffling them skilfully, and then, five minutes later suddenly change your personality to become a mentalist and 44 manhandle " the cards and alter your patter. You must be consistent all the time. You are either clumsy and unfamiliar with a pack of cards, or you are a manipulator. If you are the latter you cannot succeed in mentalism with playing cards. That is if you are an obvious manipulator.
(4) A considerable number of mental effects require that a card is selected and then replaced in the pack. It is a very important thing that you learn to have the chosen card remembered by the audience and when a card is chosen, (whenever it is possible within the scope of your particular effect) have the spectator show the card to other people. Sometimes this is not practical because the trick demands that only one person sees the card. But in a case of this nature consider if the card may be marked or signed, so that there may be no question as to its identity. I have recollections of once being an * assistant to another mentalist on the stage and my capacity was that of a member of the audience who had gone up to help him. The mentalist asked me to take a card, look at it, and put it back in the pack, all of which I did. But unfortunately I did not pay particular or very close attention to the card and I really forgot it. It was not a deliberate thing; it was just the sort of unfortunate occurrence that can happen to anyone and although I am to be blamed for my poor memory, the mentalist is also to be blamed for not drawing my attention to the card and insisting that I remember it for sure. So that is another little rule which is important.
With these few things to bear in mind and consider, I think there can be no doubt that by using ordinary common sense and here and there a touch of psychological misdirection, playing cards are as much use to the mentalist as they are to the magician. This step contains a selection of mental effects of all types. Some are for stage, some are for close-up. They all involve cards of one type or another—sometimes playing cards, sometimes geometrical designs cards. Whatever they may be, keep in mind all the time the few simple rules mentioned above and always do your best to make card magic mentalism and not mentalism card magic.
This is a trick which is a lesson in simplicity itself, and one which suits Mentalism because it is presented as a feat of memory. The effect may be repeated two or three times and it is quick and direct.
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