Most magicians are familiar with stripper decks and belly-cut cards. Short cards, thick cards, wide cards and "punched" cards are some of the ways gamblers and magicians have developed to identify and control cards.
I want to explain a variation which as far as I know has not been in print. I recently noticed in Greater Magic that magicians have utilized rounded corners in the past as a locator card. As far as I know, this concept has not been utilized in the way I apply it.
I will first explain the construction of this type of deck of cards. Then I will explain how they can be handled to secretly unshuffle a fairly shuffled deck. Lastly, I will suggest some variations that are possible and how to use this technology in stunts I actually do in my platform routines.
I am sure others can develop creative uses for this method.
One major virtue of this approach to me as a performer is that I can do tricks such as a memorized deck routine, "Out of This World," or an audience-involved mind reading stunt with no preparation. The tricks are always ready to perform.
The "Rounder Deck" has the same characteristics in action that stripper cards have. That is to say, a group of cards - for example, all the red cards - can be identified by touch and these cards can be separated from the black cards in the course of cutting the deck.
However, the "Rounder Deck" has one major advantage. The cards can be tossed out, and people can mix and turn the cards any way they want, and the red cards (in this example) can be segregated in one cut.
Belly strippers have the same quality, but I have found that the segregation process takes some doing, and often two or three cuts are needed to identify and remove all the desired cards.
The cards which are to be extracted from the mixed deck are identified from the other cards because their corners are rounded at the opposite ends of the other cards.
Exhibit 1 makes this clear. A casino deck of cards is used, but other cards could be utilized.
The red cards are all rounded on two corners, and the black cards are all rounded at the opposite corners.
This rounding of corners is done with a pair of scissors. The whole process should take but a few moments.
I have chosen to use gambling casino cards, which sell for $1.00 per pack. These cards have been in play for 12 hours or less and are then switched for a new deck. The rejected cards are then mutilated. Why is this? They do not want these cards to be surreptiously put back in play. Some casinos punch holes in the center. Some mark them with ink, and others cut the corners. They are then sold for a dollar or so or given away as souvenirs.
I sometimes explain this to spectators (close-up), but ignor the condition of the cards on the platform. I merely note that they are souvenir casino cards and get on with it.
Now the cards may seem odd to magicians but in actual performance, it's never of any concern, because the audience is so intrigued by the drama of the stunt. I have used these cards with "card magicians," and the casino patter -which is true - and it does seem to justify the cards. They probably think that I am cheap or impecunious.
The late Jack Dean, a very knowledgeable magician, smiled when I demonstrated a stunt using these cards. He remarked that "I mutilated the mutilated cards." He was a clever man.
Over twenty-five years ago I performed my version of the classic Solid Ghost effect in the Marlborough Arms after a Magic Circle meeting. More than twenty people became involved in the stunt. Fred Robinson - then the editor of Pabular - was so taken with the reaction that he wrote about it in his magazine.
I was first shown the effect by a bar magician in Wheeling, West Virginia some thirty years ago. I was absolutely astonished. I could see that there really was something solid under the handkerchief - but it just melted away. I touched it and could clearly see its shape - and yet it was not there! Astonishing.
When I developed my own presentation, I originally put an inch-and-a-half length of flat lollipop stick in the hem of a handkerchief. The "improved" versions using wire or plastic tube never appealed to me.
These days it is no easy matter to find a handkerchief with a suitable hem to hold the gimmick, so I have been forced to adapt the method to use an ungimmicked table napkin.
"Have you ever thought about all the things we know with confidence - but about which we have no firsthand experience or information? For instance, I believe that here is snow at the South Pole and that there are neurons and viruses but I have never seen these things. Why do I believe in them? I must have confidence in the reports of others. Right?
"What would you say if I told you there really was a land of Lilliput, where the denizens, who are only a few inches tall, are never seen but under the right circumstances can be sensed? But they can only be recognized by a small group of people; they can only be totally sensed by a truly virtuous woman!
"What would it take for you to believe in the existence of these Lilliputians?"
If I am standing, I get two women to stand one on either side of me. (Here, I put in the age-old gag about the invisible Lilliputian standing on my hand - the tickle him under the chin business. If it suits your style use it. If not, no matter!)
After some friendly banter with the women I ask them each to extend a hand, palm upwards and enquire, "Do you believe in things you can't see, such as courage, hatred or love?" They nod.
"Men have a harder time with these sophisticated ideas, so I need you to present the evidence to them. Here is a little, young lady Lilliputian and here is a man." I pretend to put the two characters on their hands. "Careful! Look them over!"
"Let's put them in a little house." I open out a handy napkin and fold the four comers to the middle. Then I pretend to place the invisible people inside. I then put my right hand on top of the napkin, over the centre and begin to rotate it clockwise with a sort of circular rubbing motion. While doing so, the patter continues: "You know these Lilliputians are very shy and are only sensed by virtuous and sensitive women, don't you?"
The women usually smile.
"Would you say the house is growing - magically but definitely increasing in size?"
They nod, because that is exactly what appears to be happening. The napkin is swelling up as though something solid were materializing inside.
"But the sceptical men - you know what they're like - need more evidence. Here, ever so carefully, touch!"
Taking the wrist of the woman on my right, I lower it until her finger tips gently contact the "object". Generally her eyes will open wide and she may even yelp when she feels something solid. I repeat the business with the other woman.
"Are you convinced there is a solid object under the cloth?"
"How many men are convinced? If I returned from the Moon with a rock that had no sign of life on it, does that mean there is no life on the Moon? No, it may just mean we have to gather more evidence." So saying I strike the "ghost" with the palm of my hand, making a "solid" sound.
"How many are convinced now?"
I pick up a cased pack of cards and a small ashtray. "What about this?" I give the "thing" a hard tap with the ashtray, then balance the cards on top of the "ghostly" shape. "Now who believes?"
Everyone in the group is sure something solid and substantial is under the cloth. "But what is there?" I ask, rhetorically. "You know what's there; these elusive Lilliputians!
"Here, put your hand on top!" This is to one of the women as I situate her palm on top of the card case that is still balancing on the materialization. "You have the evidence under your hand. Let's see what you have."
Gently, allowing it to be clearly seen that nothing could possibly be removed, I slowly unfold one of the corners of the napkin, while giving it a light shake so that the others fall open too. There is absolutely nothing there.
The napkin is neatly folded and laid aside.
First the gimmick. Having tried and discarded all the stick/ wire/tube-in-the-hem methods, I now use the cap off a fountain pen. The sort to use has a flat end and a metal clip at the side. The clip should be attached at or near the top of the cap, not partway down. Most fibre-tipped pens have such clips, so they are by. no means rare. Also, a chunky rather than a thin cap is best.
Using a pen top has many advantages, not least being that it enables the stunt to be performed completely impromptu with a borrowed table napkin or handkerchief. Its other virtue is that it allows a very robust "ghost" to be produced.
As most napkins and handker-
Pen cap under right fingers
chiefs are white, I use a white gimmick but this is not important -just a bit of extra insurance. Even when the napkin is coloured, I still use the same pen cap.
Prior to showing the trick finger palm the gimmick in your right hand and, as you pick up the napkin clip the pen top to it, so that it will be roughly in the position shown in Fig. 1 when the cloth is opened out.
Open the napkin and display it as in Fig. 1, adjusting the gimmick's position as necessary. Note that the barrel of the gimmick is on the audience's side of the napkin, concealed by your fingers.
Lay the napkin on the table as shown in Fig. 2. Your thumb covers the gimmick's clip. Fold the four corners to the centre, beginning with the one held by the right hand "B" - the one that has the gimmick attached -and, more or less simultaneously, the left hand brings over the one diagonally opposite "D" as in Fig 3 to cover it. Next fold over "C" and finally "A". It is important that all the corners overlap one another.
With obviously empty hands pretend to place the two Lilliputians inside "house". This gives you a pretext to cover adjusting the gimmick so that it is roughly standing on end.
It is not noticeable to the audience because the loose folds and thickness of the fabric mean that the
Thumb covers clip
napkin will not be lying absolutely flat on the table.
Bring your right hand over the gimmick so that the end of it is in the centre of your palm and begin a gentle, circular clockwise rubbing action. In doing so, the upper end of the gimmick will travel with your hand, while the lower remains in one place, pivoting on the table top (Fig. 4). The effect of this is to form what appears to be a spherical object, about the size of a tennis ball, within the folds of the cloth. To the audience, the illusion is of a solid lump, although it is really just air.
This illusion is the crux of the whole mystery and must be practised as diligently as any
sleight, until it looks really convincing.
Once you have formed this phantom ball, you can offer further proof of its solidity by tapping it (really the end of the gimmick) and letting people touch it gently - guide their hands by holding their wrists, so they cannot press down hard. With practice, you can even balance a pack of cards on the gimmick.
When you have convinced everyone that there really is a solid entity within the cloth, take hold of the corner "A" (Fig. 3) with your right finger and thumb and begin to lift it away. At the same moment, the left hand seizes the edge of the cloth and slides down to corner "B". Thus the gimmick is hidden by the left fingers as the fabric unfolds. Notice that, at this stage, the barrel of the pen cap will be at the rear of the cloth.
If you have created the illu sion well, the audience will be expecting to see a large ball or something similar. Because they are surprised by the fact that there is no such object, they are too intent on wondering what you have done with it to think in terms of a small gimmick being concealed by the fingers. By the time such a possibility may have occurred to one or two, the left hand has quietly detached the gimmick and moved away.
The above is what I used to do, however experience has taught me that stealing away the gimmick is not really necessary. These days, I just leave it clipped to the napkin and keep it hidden while I carefully refold the fabric in its original creases. The gimmick disappears within the folds for me to quietly retrieve later. The napkin lies flat enough to appear innocent and nobody seems to suspect it.
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