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The Fan Force

Reginald Scot, in his ground-breaking expose THE DISCOVERY OF WITCHCRAFT (published in 1584) was probably the first to point out in print that by watching where the volunteer watches, a Performer might be able to tell which card was chosen. In his words: "The eyes bewraieth the thought".

In fact, the concept of forcing or locating a though-of card from a fan of cards likely has its origins in Scot's book. In THE DISCOVERIE OF WITCHCRAFT Scot describes the notion of tossing the cards onto a table so that they land in a spread, with some of the cards more exposed than others. The more obvious cards are noted by the Performer, who also watches the participant's gaze. Pumping and elimination are then brought into play to get to the participant's thought-of card.

Here we have many of the basic elements of "Think of a Card" lore extant in one of the earliest and most seminal books on Magic.

This idea of tossing the pack onto the table in a spread is sometimes used today with a facedown variation. A card to be forced is side-jogged in the middle of the pack. The pack is nonchalantly tossed face down onto the table so that the cards spread as they land. As this is done, the performer turns his head away so as not to look at what the audience participant is doing. Because the force card was side-jogged, it will stand out from the others and be more prominent. The performer instructs the audience participant to quickly select a card and to remember it. Because of its prominence in the spread, most participants will choose the force card.

This can also be achieved by merely bending the portion of the pack directly above the force card upwards sharply, bowing all of the cards above the force card. When the cards are tossed as described, there will be less friction area at the point where the two halves meet, and so the top half will slide away from the bottom half of the pack, thereby revealing more of the force card.

In the book THE WHOLE ART OF LEGERDEMAINE (published in 1763), Henry Dean again notes this action of tossing the cards onto the table, noting the participant's gaze and also the most prominent cards, and the use of fishing and elimination to determine the mentally selected card.

It is perhaps worth noting that the earliest playing cards did not all have their numbers in the index corners, as do modern cards. Only the Court cards included an index corner. For that reason, when the cards were tossed in a spread on the table, the cards that would be most prominent would naturally be Court cards.

HOOPER'S RATIONAL RECREATIONS (published in 1784) also mentions finding a mentally selected card through the use of pumping and elimination.

In Decremp's TESTEMENT DE JEROME SHARP (published in 1786) the cards have now found their way off of the table and into the Performer's hands. In the very first description of its kind that I can find, Decremps describes both a static hand-held Fan Force and an "in-the-hands" Spread Force, wherein cards are mentally selected and revealed. Many of the principles outlined in THE DISCOVERIE OF WITCHCRAFT (as mentioned above) are brought to play.

While these very early sources show a lineage or evolution of the Fan Force, there are a number of other descriptions and methods in print that invite study. I suggest: Hilliard's GREATER MAGIC (PUBLISHED IN 1938); Hugard and Braue's EXPERT CARD TECHNIQUE (published in 1940); Camille Gautier's MAGIC WITHOUT APPARATUS (published in English in 1945, it gives a good description as well as references to several earlier sources); Kaufman's THE COMPLETE WORKS OF DEREK DINGLE (published in 1982, it gives Dingle's unique spin on the Fan Force (see later in these notes) ); and a recent work by Britland and Berglas, THE MIND AND MAGIC OF DAVID BERGLAS (published in 2002).

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