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Reading Tarot Cards Revealed

Reading Tarot Cards Revealed

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Eric - Yeah. I think it's because of the deep breathing, and I tell them so. But you know what? I also hint that if this were real magic it might have that kind of effect on them. And I'd just play around like that trying to go deeper and deeper. That's how it got started.

André - And now you're building a more elaborate show around these ideas?

Eric - Well one of the realizations that came out of working with Paul was that preparing the audience is the key to the whole thing. Creating the right mood and the right environment was more important than the tricks you chose. So every element had to be controlled.

André - It's the difference between seeing Dracula at night outside your bedroom window, and seeing him in a swimsuit by the pool. One has impact because of context. The other is silly because of context.

Eric - Exactly. So I moved the show to the attic of a historical Victorian house in Aspen, and dressed it up so it sort of resembled a séance. A lot of ideas from Burger's Spirit Theater.

André - Some will say you've created a close relative of "Bizarre Magic," won't they?

Eric - They might, but they'd be wrong. I don't have any of that "dark side" in the Mystery Show. Much of what is called "Bizarre Magic" are simple magical effects with a kind of horror film presentation. You know, blood, voodoo, witches and spells. That kind of stuff. None of that is in my show because it's in the way of pure effect. We want pure effect.

André - But you sit with twelve people, in candlelight, around a circular table...?

Eric - No one sees it as a seance, because I never refer to ghosts, or the supernatural, or pretend that this is anything but a theatrical magic show. A demonstration of tricks in a special context.

André - So why the seance setting? Couldn't it work anywhere at anytime?

Eric - I don't know. I was trying to set a kind of spooky mood I guess. I think that anything I can do to heighten the sense of mystery is a plus. There's a short ceremony where we all participate in making and drinking tea. It's a sort of initiation thing. All done in candlelight around this small table. Soft drumming music faintly in the background. There's nothing heavy about it, but it seems slightly odd. The idea is to grasp their imagination and get them personally involved - and more importantly, invested - in what's going to happen.

André - I like it. There's something very primal about sitting around the fire.

Eric - Right. And there's an added bonus. Back when early man sat around the fire and drummed, they believed in magic. Maybe the setting I've chosen taps into that in some way.

André - You're probably stretching it a bit, but it does create a conducive atmosphere. Flickering shadows and provocative music. How do you pick the twelve people?

Eric - I'm hoping that one day the demand for this show will be huge and then the small number of available seats will make it very exclusive. Then you get to be very picky about who gets invited. Until that day comes I just hand out tickets to people I meet who are interested and make a commitment to come.

I should mention that I have very fancy foil tickets printed up that say "Mystery Show -Admit One - $250." And if they ask, I tell the people that's how much the tickets cost when you buy them.

André - So they think they're in on something very special because it usually costs $250 per person to attend.

Eric - That's the idea anyway. Perceived value. They don't have to know that everyone attending was given a ticket (laughs).

André - How about the show itself?

Eric - Well, I'm constantly trying different things right now. There's some mentalism at the start. And right now I like to use "The Anything Deck" as the first killer. Then I give my talk about astonishment and how valuable and hard to come by the experience is. I try to get some members of the audience to relate stories of weird coincidences and talk about what it was like. Then we do a direct and impossible effect. With a single, clearly-defined moment of astonishment.

Eric - I really like Grippo's Knots here. Several people get involved tying these tight knots and then they all melt away in an instant. It's very strong.

André - I assume you aren't using his "wishing presentation" in this context.

Eric - In every other circumstance that presentation is genius. I use it all the time. But here, there's no presentation. Just barely enough to narrate the effect. I say something like, "Tie a tight knot (tugging). Yeah that's good. And why don't you add one on top of that? Great, both really tight. And now it's your turn. Good. You can each feel the knots and how tightly they're tied. (Everyone does.) And if I rub them, they dissolve into nothing." There's no attempt to have clever jokes or even to justify the actions. It's pure effect. They sit with the mystery as long as they can and then we talk about what happened. And so on...

André - Paul had talked about using a small bell or gong and ringing it at the moment of astonishment. Then you'd just let the sound slowly fade away. It's a good metaphor for the experience. Have you tried that?

Eric - Yes, and it helps. It's also one of the best aides in the opening talk about letting the moment resonate and not grasping for the answer like a puzzle. You hit the bell and say "Trying to figure out the trick is like doing this..." and you grab the bell which cuts off the tone. Then you hit it again saying, "Let it ring as long as it can..." It really helps them envision what you are trying to get them to do.

Eric - I count the mentalism and Anything Deck at the beginning as one trick. And then there are three others. So four total. I change them a lot right now trying to find my favorite mix, but I only present four effects. Too many effects completely ruins this kind of show. Less effects - more focus. I'm starting to think four might be too many.

Eric - Gregory Wilson's 411. I do it with Tarot cards and a big stack of phone books. I like a long distance call. When the randomly dialed and confused person names any object in the world they say "...a cup." And the randomly chosen Tarot card is the Ace of Cups -it's really impossible...overwhelming in fact. So we end up sitting in this deep mystery.

André - So here we are having these moments of astonishment and doing what we can to let the feeling ring. Now what?

Eric - You tell me. (Laughs.) Right now, it's all over the map. I don't have anything that really holds together well. So I'm recording every show and making copious notes as to where this might go and how to take it there. All I can say is there's something big here.

André - Something like what?

Eric - Most of the comments are about how therapeutic this is. They talk about how it feels to surrender everything and pop into clear space for a moment - and what a relief that is. One man called it "instant meditation." Everything else goes away and you find yourself immersed in the moment.

André - That's great. No past, no future—for a second. And then what?

Eric - I'm just doing my homework and experimenting. How do you extend the time? Pulling ideas from anywhere and everywhere. Jung is a big influence on me now. You know he used Tarot cards to help dredge up stuff from his patient's sub-conscious? Definitely a magical flavor Old shamanistic rituals and medicine shows seem to be very relevant. Joseph Campbell's stuff about mythologies and modern man. Within magic, Tamariz is very inspirational. Philosophy, psychology, the need for new myths. It all fits in somehow.

André - You know, this is fine for a professional who can stage a show like you're describing, but what about the casual performer who does a trick or two for his friends and family once in a while? How can these ideas be applied in that case?

Eric - Well, I think it's important to point out that you have to pick your moments carefully with this style of performing. In most informal situations it's probably wise to just do your magic and have fun with it. Deep mystery requires that the audience be prepared and receptive because they have an active role. They are made responsible for their experience of astonishment.

André - That didn't really answer the question.

Eric - I know. I guess I'm politely suggesting that I think some magicians have other things to concentrate on.

André - What about the experienced performers who just don't work formally like that?

Eric - Paul talks a lot about letting the moment breathe. In other words, don't step on the mystery when it happens. Put focus on the moment and lots of space around it. That's the main thing. And really do something impossible.

Geller demonstrated that it helps sell astonishment if the performer is astonished as much - if not more than - the audience. Get into the mystery, and let the audience get caught up in how excited and astonished you are. It's contagious. And don't be afraid of silence. In magic, silence is often the highest compliment.

Eric - This is tough for me, because I can't really speak authoritatively about alternative approaches to deep astonishment. I could do what most lecturers do - sit here and guess -but I have only actually done what little I've described. I'm a beginner.

I can say that you must treat magic and your performance of it as important. Many magicians seem to trivialize magic right in front of the audience. I believe that what we're doing, and what the audience is experiencing, is very important. It's valuable and worthwhile. It's never "just a card trick." If the audience is to take magic seriously, we must take it seriously. And again, let the moment resonate. That's the best advice I have right now.

André - Where do you see yourself taking these ideas?

Eric - I'm still working on the formal Mystery Show. Refining it and pushing it further. I'm also trying to introduce some of these ideas - in modified form - into my comedy show. I'd like to have a few moments of deep mystery mixed in with the humor. But that's a tough balance to achieve. So I really don't know where it's going.

André - Do you have any final words?

Eric - Oh, I don't know. You know the old saying about staying quiet and being thought a fool—rather than opening your mouth and removing all doubt? I think I've said enough.

NEAV 6Turr


Printed on the face of older American dollars are two signatures: Catalina Vazquez Villaepando (Treasurer of the United States) and Nicholes F. Bush (Secretary of the Treasury). The newer bills are signed by Mary Ellen Withrow and Loyd Bentsen.

Now assuming an innocent mind and an older bill, how would you react if a total stranger borrowed one of your own personal dollars, rubbed Catalina's signature, and rearranged the ink into YOUR name? How do you feel? What's your experience of this moment? Here are a few of the mixed responses we've gotten so far:

• Thirtyish female ad exec: not happy...walked out...came back asked for an explanation. When not given a satisfactory answer called the magician an asshole...later settled down and asked, "Is this real?"

• Older wealthy business owner with young show-pony wife: She thought it was a wonderful strange thing. He didn't react. Not a blink. Didn't even acknowledge an effect had happened. Coolly glances at the altered bill about every ten seconds, finally breaks and says," I...I don't understand. What's going on here? Who are you?"

• Young black-leather tribal biker babe: Knows it's the real thing. Wants to sleep with the magician.

Why is this deep astonishment? Well, just off the top of my head: you altered a seemingly unalterable power object (the dollar), turned it into a personal power object (their own name), made even more powerful by its close association with the high office of Treasurer of the United the same time invoking an uneasy feeling that they're trespassing on sacred ground. And it all happened at the hands of a stranger. What else can he do? What else does he know about me?

So now what?

Can you re-define the experience for your audience so that the astonishment you've unleashed is a welcomed "vacation state of mind" or do you use it as an act of violence to pump up your ego at the expense of making someone else feel weak. A witty comeback is not the answer. Laughing it off as "just a trick" and quickly moving on to another effect is an insult to the astonishee...and a confession that you don't know how to finish what you started. Or maybe you treat it like a visual Zen Koan...where the only correct answer is to unask the question.

The trick is a tool. The astonishment is real. You're the one that unleashed the moment. So now what? It's a tough nut. Which way do you crack it? Or should one simply un ask the question?

a?VtR.T ACTlVlTIE-ó - Use a knife to scrape off Catalinas signature at the lower left of your bill (or Mary's or Sonny's or whoever happened to sign the lower left part of your dollar) as in FIG. 1. Short back-and-forth scrapes will take the ink off without breaking through to the other side of the bill. You don't have to be perfect, in fact the illusion is enhanced somewhat if tiny flecks of the old ink are still on the bill.

• Fearless publisher Mike Maxwell uses a dab of nail polish remover to dissolve the ink...then wipes it clean with a napkin.

you don't know their name as small and as legibly as you can in the space you scraped off (FIG. 2). With a little practice, and the right pen, you can make it look very similar to the one you erased. A light touch helps. (You can obtain an extremely fine-point drafting pen at most stationery shops.)

Ni?TE- - You might want to pre-scrape a few bills and always carry them with you. Then all you need is the pen, the name and a private moment and you can be set in less than 15 seconds. And again, to unleash maximum astonishment covertly find out the name of someone you've never met before.

Patiently hang around the person whose name you've written, and wait for the right moment.

5TE-P - Bring out the wallet and hold it in your left hand. Reach into the wallet with your right fingers and slide the normal bill about two-thirds of the way out, with the folded bill concealed beneath it (FIG. 4 again). "No good...I need a dollar." Your left fingers steal the folded bill onto the underside of the wallet as your right fingers slide the normal bill back inside. Close the wallet and keep it in your left hand as you take the borrowed dollar with your right fingers.

6TE.P T\JO - Take the borrowed bill with your right hand and casually fold it like the one hidden under your wallet (use the top of the wallet to help).

Fold this bill in half (so the gaffed signature shows on the lower right) and then in half again the same way so the new signature is covered as in FIG. 3. (Part of the secretary of the treasury imprint shows on top.) Put the folded dollar in your wallet next to any bill that's not a a ten (FIG. 4).

±>1 LP TtiE-E-E- - Place the borrowed folded-bill on top of the wallet, directly above the hidden one. Pin this bill down with your left thumb (FIG. 5). Keep your left hand perfectly STILL for the following action. The two bills will automatically switch themselves as your right hand returns the wallet to your pocket. Here we go:

5TELP fOUZ. - As your right fingers grasp the wallet, your right thumb holds the visible bill against the wallet. (Now both thumbs are on the borrowed bill as in FIG. 6.) Your right hand turns the wallet over toward yourself...causing the borrowed bill to slide away from your left thumb and turn down out of sight under the wallet (FIG. 7). Your left thumb automatically slips down onto the other bill...which is exposed as the wallet turns down (FIG. 8). Your left hand and fingers remain stone-still as your right hand keeps on moving with the wallet toward your pocket...where it puts the wallet along with the borrowed bill. The borrowed dollar appears to stay in your motionless left fingers the entire time...but now your fingers hold the gaffed bill instead.

This switch is REALLY EASY. If you're struggling or feel like you're doing something tricky then you've missed the boat. Practice the same actions without the secret bill to see how natural the handling looks and feels.

(If this isn't enough high adventure for you check out the PHootNotes for another way to switch the bill.)

5TE-P FlVt - Unfold the left-hand's bill just once, so it's now folded in half, with the printed signature (the unaltered one) on top. Your left thumb obscures part of the signature as you casually show it and mention that the Treasurer's signature is on one side and the Secretary of the Treasury signature is on the other side.

i>TLP 5IX - Put your left thumb under the bill (FIG. 9), and begin to turn your hand palm down. As your hand turns down, the thumb pushes the bill over onto your fingers, so it ends up with the same signature showing again (FIG. 10). This is a casual paddle move to show the "second" signature.

tor's signature at the back of the bill with your thumb. As you rub turn the bill over to allow your audience a glimpse of the obsured spectator's name (which still passes as Catalina's signature), but don't let them see that anything has changed yet. As you continue rubbing, allow the bill to unfold so it's flat. You shouldn't even notice that it happened. You're focused on the rubbing action...trying to re-arrange the ink.

5TE.P □Cj'J-lT - Slowly begin to reveal that the name has changed. Have your counterfeit spectator read the new name out loud. When she yanks the bill from your hands don't resist. That's what happens when you mess with someone's power objects.

6TE.P NIINIE. - If you've positioned your spectator's mind just so...and the shadows and the moon and the tide are on your may now be witness to a moment of deep astonishment. So now what? For now... I would just let her sit with it. Don't talk about it, don't answer questions, don't tell a joke, don't do anything. Just sit, and be gentle, and be clear and let her psyche marinate in its own juices.

P\}ooj\\ojLt> - Here's the basic conversational lead-in:

You meet someone, chat for a moment then say, "Want to see something interesting with a dollar...never mind I don't have have one? Great. And yes, you will get it back." Fold the borrowed dollar. Point out the signatures. "I'm sorry, what was your name? Laura. Hi Laura...Okay, now I'm not sure if this is going to work or not but...well let me just try this."

• I started with the idea of adding and stealing fake signature flaps but was finally drawn toward the simplicity of using a single bill.

• Workshopped with ERIC MEAD...who frowned at my flaps.

• and ANDRÉ HAGEN...who steered me toward a happier switch.

&UCkl NlAklUP ÔPLCTAT^ Another way to switch the bills.

You bring out two folded Five's from your wallet and rub them against the spectator's folded one in an attempt to transform it into a third Five. You slide the enchanted Dollar under her hand. She lifts her hand and nothing's changed. Her Dollar is still worth one buck. Hrmmmm...maybe something else changed. You have her examine her bill for any irrégularités. Within less than an hour she discovers that the signed name on the bill is the same as her's.

This is a variation of the Buck Naked principle (see Index). But instead of switching a Dollar for a Five, you switch a normal dollar for the prepared Counterfeit Spectator Dollar. To walk through this you'll need one Five, two One's, and one copy of Book One...which just happens to be opened to the first handling of Buck Naked.

Prep - Fold the prepared signature bill and a Five into quarters as in Buck Naked (FIGS. 1, 2). The One should be folded so that the top of George's head is inside the bill. Pre-crease the five as in Step Three (FIG. 3). Unfold the flap leaving just the crease.

Place the folded Five square on top of the folded the pre-creased surface of the Five is underneath the Five...resting against the top of the Dollar. Both bills should be oriented so the edges and the creases match. Place the two stacked bills into your wallet and you're set to switch.


5T^P ¿?lslE_ - Pull out your two folded bills so that the top Five covers the Dollar. (It's okay if people know you have two bills. It's not okay if they know one of them is a Dollar.). Ask a spectator to bring out a Dollar. As this is going on, quietly transform your two bills into two Fives by performing the actions illustrated in Buck Naked's FIGS. 6-12 (Pretend that the left hand's Five is your Dollar.) Use your left fingers to obscure the Dollar during these actions.). You should end up with two crossed "Five's" in your right fingers

6TE.P T\\/<? - Direct your spectator to fold her Dollar into one of your Five's. Take her folded Dollar with your left fingers and rub it against the underside of your two Five's. Nothing now you place her Dollar square onto the underside of the lower "Five" where your right fingers then grasp the inner right corner of the gaffed Dollar to slide it out...and continue rubbing the now-switched Dollar against the two crossed "Five's" (See Buck Naked's FIGS. 14 -16 and pretend that the right hand bill is a Dollar.).

6TE.P TJ-lE.^L - Place the spectator's magnetized dollar under her hand...and casually pocket your two bills. She lifts her hand..the dollar is still a dollar. Oh was worth a shot. Hrmmmm...have her examine the dollar for any irregularities. Gently draw her attention to the signature, but only as a last resort.

I am unable to describe in words just how sat-isfyingly swell this impromptu piece with a Swiss Army Knife really is. So I'll let Tony's trained illustrations do most of the talking.

pldj". I - Everything is examined. All blades are out in full view...then adjusted for "optimal balance."

HC 3 - The knife's precision Swiss movements cause it to miraculously skate back and forth along the top edge of the card!

HC 4 - Your fingertips take the animated knife off the card where everything can again be examined.

HC 2 - You attempt to balance the precision weighted Swiss Army knife. It falls, and then... perfect balance.

HC 5 - After the first failed balance attempt, press your left thumb onto the inset "button" of concealed tweezers. (Built into all Swiss Army Knives...See PHootNotes for "Precision Tweezer-Tension Adjustment.")

up and tweezer end of knife is concealed behind the card. Your right thumb and forefinger slide the knife straight up as your left thumb secretly slides out the tweezer your right thumb and forefinger openly balance the knife's end groove on the upper edge of the card...toward your right.

• Tilt the scissors up for easier balance and movement.

er end leans against the card. Your right thumb and forefinger carefully grasp the upper right corner of the card...while your left fingers

release their grip. Cleanly display the balanced knife.

tweezer from the tip of the thumb presses against the tweezer end. Your right fingers release their grip.

tweezer to cause the balanced knife to mysteriously skate back and forth along the top edge of the card. (Two or three trips are sufficient.)

• Experiment with the left-hand grip to optimize animation...and comfort.

• Again...if the knife snags or is off balance, make sure the scissors on the right are angled up.

grip the you tilt everything slightly toward you. This tilt conceals the tip of your left thumb as it secretly rams the tweezers back inside the your right thumb and forefinger lift the knife off the card.


Secretly sliding out the tweezer with your left thumb is easy if the tweezer has been previously loosened up in its slot. To make this adjustment, wobble the partially pulled-out tweezer in its slot until the desired lack of tension is achieved.

Or, you may prefer to keep your tweezer tight to prevent an enthusiastic examiner from accidentally sliding it out. In this case you will have to use your left thumbnail to secretly slide out the tweezer, which will require a bit more attention to the handling.

• "Swiss Movement" moves even better on a plastic credit card.

This is a bus-stop moment. A moment where strangers meet and chat about little bits of nothing. A moment where everyone is always right and no one knows anything...until something unspeakable happens and breaks up the dream.

Q.ffQ.CJ - You're reading a book while waiting for the bus. Suddenly you blurt out "Damn, it happened again!" Turning to a nearby person you say, "Excuse me, I seem to be having a little trouble with my eyes...would you do me a favor and tell me what page this is? The stranger reads it and tells you, "Page 149."

"That's exactly what I thought. Now what is the first word on page 149?" The stranger says, "The word is forever." "Are you sure? Would you put your finger on it?" The stranger is sure. She puts her finger on it. You carefully close the book on the finger for a moment then open it back up. The stranger's finger (which really hasn't moved) is still on page 149, but the word "forever" has moved over to the middle of the sentence! " happened again!"

APVANiCL \\/£?[2.kl - The book is a real, unprepared book, but it has to be a book with the page numbers at the TOP corners of the pages. Now flip through and find a page where the first word on one right-hand page is somewhere further in the sentence on the next right hand page. (It's better if the word isn't a common word like "and" or "the" although sometimes it's tough to find anything more interest-ing.)(FIG. 1)

It could take awhile to find a "good word." You may want to set aside a week or two for your lysdexic search. If all else fails, hang around a supermarket in a trench-coat and dark glasses and flip through the romance novels. The heroine's name tends to be mentioned a lot. Don't ask me how I know this. If you purchase one, try to avoid eye contact with the clerk. Dog-ear the first page and turn it down as in FIG. 2.

¿TE-P ¿?NlL - Place the book down on your lap or on the table, and hold it open with both hands. Notice that your right thumb covers the crease (FIG. 3), creating the illusion of a different sentence on the page (you could also cover the crease with a book mark).

6TE-P T\N/¿7 - Call attention to the book, and ask someone what the first word on the page is. She reads it to you. Have her rub it a little. Then ask what the page number is. She'll tell you. Have her grasp the corner of the exposed page along with the rest of the book beneath it.

6TE-P TJ-lE-ELEL - As she grips the open book, turn the book down to show its cover. Have her re-cap by saying the first word and page number.

ÓTE-P YOUR. - Slide your left fingers into the book and out to the edge to secretly unfold the corner out flat. Your fingers hide the crease as you turn the open book over to display the words.

6TELP flVE- - Point out the word's new position, "Look... it's moved all the way over here happened again!"

PjJ¿?¿?TN¿?Tt6 - If during your word search you come across a memorable set of Lysdexic words, make a note or stick in a book mark so you can easily find it for other performances.

• For extra security you may want to obscure the first few words to the right of your

first lysdexic word with your left fingertips.


1. When creasing the corner use only enough pressure to hold it down. Not enough to make it a hard crease.

2. When you open the book to reveal the change, your left thumb pulls down on the upper left corner of the book. This will make the crease invisible as long as you hang onto the book.

Ntf-TtfUOJlLi) LY6DELXIA - You can streamline the handling by not having the spectator hold the book. Simply point out the page number and word...tilt the pages up towards yourself (so only you can see the pages), partially close the book just enough for you to secretly unflap the page as you transfer it to the left. Open the book out to reveal the lysdexic change.

Vhile presenting "Invisible Palm Aces" I talk about "concealing cards in the folds of my flesh." In truth, this is not true. There's just not enough loose flesh to fold over a card, not even bridge size. I know. I've tried. This was always a secret disappointment to me. I'm not sure why...perhaps my palm has thumbtip envy.

So one day I'm staring at my palm, pondering the injustice of it all, when I see this little crevice that appears and disappears when my fingers flex. This portable flesh-toned gimmick was way too small to vanish a card into, but perhaps something else, something really small...

E-ffE-CT - Displaying a shiny new toothpick, the astonisher comments that when something is small enough you can move it with your mind (yes, this is the do-it-yourself joke spot). He breaks off a tiny piece from the end and drops it onto the palm of his left hand. He tries to make it move with his mind (even cheating a little by slyly blowing on it), but no luck.

He breaks off a similar piece from the other end and lays it near the first piece, again staring at the pieces trying to make them move. Again nothing happens. The astonisher then slowly closes both hands, concentrates, and opens his hands. Now one piece is in each hand!

The open right hand goes under the left and gently taps the back of the open left and...both pieces are again in the left hand...a visible penetration! Again both hands close and open to show a piece in each hand. They close and open again revealing both pieces back in the left hand. The astonishee stares in disbelief as the astonisher generously dumps both pieces in her hands as a souvenir.

There's only one problem with this thing. It's not hard to do IF you have the right kind of hand. If won't be able to do it at all. So before you get your hopes up, try this experiment: Get some toothpicks or matches and break off an end, a little less than a quar-ter-inch in length. Place it on the crease of your right palm, right by the pinky side of your hand (FIG. 1).

Now keep your pinky straight, but bend it up so it sticks straight up from your hand. (Your hand is parallel to the floor, like the right hand in FIG. 2.) If the little piece is completely hidden, read on. If it shows at all, you should turn to "The FLUFFER DECK." Any hands will work

frE-f^ELE. YOU &C.gN - Break off a secret piece of tooth pick when no one's paying attention. Hide it in the crease of your right hand just like in FIG. 2. (The secret to having this look anything close to natural is to gently curl the rest of your fingers up in a loose, natural manner.)

5TE-P ¿?NEL - Openly break off two teeny pieces of toothpick (a match-head will work too). Place these on the palm of your left hand, but one of them should be right on the open crease where it will vanish if you flexed up your pinky (FIG. 2).

6TE.P J\JO - Close and open both hands revealing the piece in the right hand and flesh-folding the extra piece in the left hand. You should have one piece in each hand (FIG. 3).

5TELP TlJE-LL - Now the right hand goes under the left and gently taps the back of the left hand. (Both hands remain open during this sequence.) As this happens, the right-hand crease closes to vanish its piece as your left crease opens to reveal the second piece. Immediately move both hands apart so both palms can be seen. (This should look exactly as though the right-hand piece was tapped through the back of your left hand and visibly appears on the palm of your left hand.)

5TELP F^UR. - You now have two pieces in your left palm and one piece concealed in your right. Both hands close and open to reveal one in each hand.

±>JLP FIVE- - Both hands close and open to reveal your right hand empty with both pieces in left hand again.

6TE-P ¿IX - Pause just long enough for the illusion to sink in, then pour the pieces in your left hand into the spectator's hand and drop your right-hand piece on the floor.

5TE.P 5IX - (Yes, we know it's the second step six in a row. This is the other clean-up.) Dump both pieces into your right hand (which still conceals the third piece) and openly toss one of the pieces across the room...or eat it...or otherwise permanently dispose of it. Close your right hand then open it wide to reveal both pieces.

• The tangle of fingers can easily obscure the productions and vanishes. This effect must be viewed from directly above - looking down into your palms, or from someone sitting next to you.

• You might want to have a teeny-tiny leather carrying case made with teeny-tiny custom loops just large enough to carry the pieces of toothpick, and then again, you might not.

I had originally developed this gaffed card case to switch out some pieces of card...and the effect evolved to the point where this was no longer necessary. So I had this seriously wonderful case-o-matic with nowhere to go. Enter Eric and his magic Mead. Actually Eric has been here this entire time but I'm not going to go back and re-write this. Anyway, Eric suggests using the angel case for a mystery message thing: You drop a pencil stub and a blank scrap of paper into the case and give it to a nearby seeker to rattle around. She thinks of a personal question she'd like answered, opens the case and discovers scrawled on the scrap a one-size-fits-all personal message like: "Thoughts and words are in the way. Listen to your heart and what it has to say."

I ponder this for about two seconds and say, "yeah, it's sort of an okay social lubricant bemusement, but not a serious contender." Eric says "Okay, whatever." and he grabs the Angel Case and goes off to do a show. Two hours later Eric walks in; "It was a disaster." "What happened, run out of water balloons?" "Worse...people were actually waiting in line to have the Angel Case answer their personal questions! It was weird, I felt like a tarot reader. I wanted to work the line but they were lined up for me!"

"That's wonderful. You broke through the just-a-magician wall."

Eric: "No, you don't understand...people were getting really pissed. The first four or five mystery messages went fine, but then everyone started comparing personal angel messages and realized they all had the same message. They got mad because they thought they had a one-of-a-kind personal angel answer written just for them. So I sneaked into the bathroom and wrote a bunch of different personal messages but by then the word was out and the line was gone and the rest of the party wasn't a lot of fun.

P.H.: "So next time you'll be ready with a train load of personal angel answers."

Eric: "I don't know If I should be dealing with people's personal stuff."

P.H.: "Thoughts and words are in the way. Listen to your heart and what it has to say."

Eric: "I bet you tell that to everyone."

PH.: "Only when I don't think about it."

CA6lhJ<; TLlE. - You'll need two brand new decks of cards that are still sealed in the cellophane; an X-acto knife, a pair of scissors; and (maybe) a little glue.

Take one of the decks, and carefully cut the rectangle of cellophane off the very top (FIG. 1). Notice that the remaining cellophane goes all the way to the top edge of the case. Use the knife to cut through the seal, open the box and take out the cards. You'll notice that the half-moon cut-out is still covered with cellophane and the sliced seal. Trim that stuff away out of the half moon. Put this case aside for a moment.

Carefully unwind the little red strip from the second case's cellophane and save the strip. (Sometimes the little red strip is white or clear. Use your own judgment here.) Take off the cellophane, break the seal like you normally would, and take out the cards. You want the naked box.

Cut off the entire front (half moon) panel, but cut it a little wide on both sides (FIGS. 2, 3). We'll call this piece the panel. Chuck the rest of the box.

Now comes the intricate task of trimming the front panel so it fits snug under the cellophane of the other case. Begin by placing your cut-out panel directly over the front of the other case. Carefully trim the panel so its top edge is camouflaged by the thin colored strip in the cellophane. Now try sliding the panel under the cellophane (it should be a very tight fit) so it covers the real front (FIG. 4). If you're lucky, it's already a perfect fit. But you'd have to be real lucky.

If it's not a perfect fit: Trim the panel's sides a teensy hairline slice at a time until it exactly lines up with the front of the whole case. There should be no difference in the back design, and no edges showing around the sides. It might take awhile (it took me three card boxes before I had a perfect fit). The only thing left to do now is provide some extra cover for the top edge of the panel.

Remember that little pull-off strip from the cellophane I told you to hang onto? Get it. Untangle it so the sticky side is down, then carefully wrap it around the intact red strip (the one that's already on the box) so it covers the top edge of the panel (FIG. 5). If there's enough of the sticky stuff left on your red strip, it'll adhere to the other cellophane all by itself.

6TEJP N^TE. - Wrap the strip so it overlaps the first strip...for maximum camouflage of the panel's edge. If it's a clear printed strip, wrap the loose strip so its printed parts cover the clear parts of the lower better conceal the edge.

That's it. If you've done all this meticulously you now have a case that appears normal but has a secret compartment built into the front of it that'll hide anything flat, and smaller than a card. I can hand mine to a spectator without a fear. There's nothing that looks even remotely suspicious.

JO 0PE.N TlJE. TRAP - Rest your right thumb or forefinger on the double-edge of the half-moon...then gently squeeze the sides of the case with your other fingers (FIG. 6). This works just like one of those "squeeze" coin purses.

the case by manually fluffing open the trap a few times (see Step Two for locking the trap).

Carry your normal cards in the Angel Case and use them for all of your normal magical uses. You may even forget that you have a gaffed box. When you eventually remember it's always a pleasant surprise.

iJAfs|PLIhJ(^ - The handling is pretty much the same for all of the effects using the case to switch things. We'll walk through the switch using the "Question and Answer" presentation because that's the one I do.

fr^JORL. YOU 5TAE.T - Write an ambiguous personal message on a scrap of paper. This could be a small post-it, a folded business card, a cigarette paper or a torn-off matchbook cover. Put your message into the box (not the secret compartment) and carefully pull out the deck to leave the slip inside. The small pencil and matching scrap of paper are nearby.

5TEP ¿?NlE_ - Hand out the blank scrap of paper for general scrutiny as you pick up the box and open it. It should be held in your left hand, with the half-moon side facing you. Secretly pop open the trap as your other hand takes the blank and drops it right into the secret compartment. From the audience's point of view the paper goes directly into the box. Relax pressure allowing the compartment to close. Have someone drop the pencil stub into the box...where it joins the prepared paper.

6T^P T\JO - As you close the box, squeeze lightly against the sides one more time so the front of the case (and the panel) puffs out a little. This removes any left-over bend from opening the compartment and seals it shut.

5T£LP TJJR.E.E. - Hand the box to the seeker and have her concentrate on a question. (Allow your hands to be seen empty.) She shakes the case, rattling the pencil inside, then personally opens the box to unleash her moment of astonishment.

- Mike Maxwell likes to use a green tic-tac in place of the pencil stub. This has a more organic impromptu feel. The secret message is actually written with green crayon. You can write a message with a moistened tic-tac, but you really have to want to do it.

¿HT-lE-E. U6E.6 - You can tear and restore a card by having the duplicate already inside the case. Openly tear a matching card into pieces...and put the pieces into the trap (apparently the case). Hand the closed case to spectator to shake...who discovers the restored card. You can do the same thing with a business card or a dollar.

• Or use the case to switch whatever you want: A scribbled line can transform into a spectator's name...a casually folded piece of paper can re-fold itself into an origami figure.

• You can rattle a coin dropped in the top but when the top is locked, the rattle will stop.

• When using this for a non-playing card switch, arrange things so the case just happens to be convenient when you "need a shoe box or a jar or something" to put your object into.

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Tarot Card Readings and Your Destiny

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