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Collected

Worlds of

e?t 'Etmstey

Volume I
Written by Stephen Mincfi

The Collected Works


of Alex Elmsley
Volume I
Between these covers a legend of
magic comes to life. Alex Elmsley,
inventor of the Elmsley count and such
classic tricks as "Between Your Palms",
"Puncture" and "Point of Departure",
has been a figure of mystery for
decades. His brilliant inventiveness
has been lauded within the inner
circles of close-up magic. Respected
professionals who witnessed his work
years ago still speak of it in awe. But
few magicians today are familiar with
the large body of exceptional magic this
man has originated.
This is partly because all but a few
of his published creations lie scattered
in old and obscure periodicalsand
much of his work has remained
unpublished. In The Collected Works of
Alex Elmsley the magic of this extraordinary inventor is brought together
for the first time. Gathered here are the
published tricks, along with an equal
number of previously unpublished
items. Much of this material has been
jealously hoarded by the privileged of
magic. Some of it has been kept secret
from everyone for over thirty years. All
of it is innovative, baffling and
cunningly entertaining.
This volume contains over 110
original Elmsley tricks and sleights,
plus a ground-breaking essay by Mr.
Elmsley on presentation, psychology
and misdirection, which appears here
in its entirety for the first time.
Welcome to the secret world of Alex
Elmsley, creator of some of the most
outstanding magic of the twentieth
century.
Cover design: Shelley Fallon

The Collected Works


of
Alex Elmsley
Volume I

Alex Elmsley

ACKNOWLEDGMENT
This work was made possible by the help and generosity of a great many
friends and acquaintances. Some of them provided considerable aid while
in the midst of demanding and turbulent lives. Gordon Bruce of Glasgow,
Scotland, and Milt Kort of Birmingham, Michigan, did immense amounts
of research, unearthing scores of articles in old journals and booklets. Jack
Avis also must be recognized among my major benefactors. Through his
notebooks and correspondence, he is responsible for the preservation of a
large portion of the previously unpublished material that appears here.
Those who volunteered rare and unpublished Elmsley items and
information are Gordon Bruce, Ron Bauer, Bobby Bernard, Dr. Edward
Brown, Roy Walton, Richard Kaufman, Jay Marshall, Ray Grismer, Anthony
Brahams, David Michael Evans, Roger Klause and Harvey Rosenthal.
Magic, Inc. of Chicago kindly granted permission to include in this volume
"The Elmsley Torn and Restored Newspaper" and 'The Four Card Trick",
for which they hold U.S. manufacturing rights. Likewise, Paul Stone of The
Ace Place in London, England graciously consented to the inclusion of 'The
Book of Fortunes"; and Supreme Magic of Devon, England, along with Hank
Lee's Magic Factory of Boston, Massachusetts, generously allowed 'The
Atomic Aces" to be described.
Of those who patiently answered and researched countless historical
points, foremost is Milt Kort, ably followed by Peter Warlock, Jack Avis, Roy
Walton, Francis Haxton and Edward Mario.
I also wish to thank my inexhaustible proofreaders, Max Maven, Darwin
Ortiz, David Michael Evans and Michael Weber, who saved me from scores
of errors and omissions.
Finally, of course, my profound thanks go to Alex Elmsley who, despite
his avowal to remain uninvolved in the production of this work, returned
to magic long enough to correct the text with painstaking care and to comb
through his yellowing notes from years past for unpublished items. To all
these individuals I owe an incalculable debt of gratitude.
Stephen Minch

FIRST EDITION
Copyright 1991 by Louis Falanga.
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored
in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic,
mechanical, photocopying, recording or any information storage and retrieval
system now known or to be invented, without the permission of the
publishers.
Printed and bound in the United States of America
6 543 2 1

CONTENTS
A NOTE FROM THE PUBLISHER
INTRODUCTION

I
iii

CHAPTER ONE:
Alex Elmsley on the Theory and Practice of Magic
The Automatic Producer
On Misdirection
CHAPTER TWO: Spirited Counts and Revenant Tricks
The Four-card Trick (featuring the Elmsley count)
Flight to Witch Mountain
Shale Fellow Well Met
ARebours
Elmsley's Ghost
Hoftwister
Mini-Milton (featuring the five-as-five ghost count)
Mixed Marriages
Serendipity
One Poor Lion
The Great Pretender (featuring the everchange count)
Twister's Flush
Thoughts in Transit (featuring the neverchange count)
CHAPTER THREE: Sundry Sleights
Break Time
Battling the Bulge
A Bluff Hand-to-hand Transfer
Taking a Break in a Spread
Preparing for the Double Lift
Fan Shuffle Strategies
The Hook-strip Shift
Top and Bottom Card Interchanges
The Tabled Cover Reverse

1
11
15
19
21
30
34
41
46
49
54
59
61
65
69
77
81
89
91
91
91
93
94
96
99
103
104

The Tabled Top Change


Two Novel Slipcuts
The Swivel Slip Cut
The Undercut Slip
The Tipsy Turnover Pass
A Polished Push-off
A Biddle Displacement
The Thumb Palm Addition
A Card Fan Production
New Techniques for the Rear Palm
The Top-card Rear Palm
The Misdirection Rear Palm
The Tap Replacement
The Center-card Rear Palm
A One-handed Center Steal
Trouser-pocket Loading Technique
Variations on Erdnase's First Transformation
Transformation with Outjog
Erdnase's First Transformation as a Vanish
Flying Squad
The Misdirection Slide Palm
Two Pocket Deck Switches
The Climax Pack Switch
The Empty-handed Pack Switch
CHAPTER FOUR: Minus Fifty-two
Puncture!
The Nodding Skull
The Visual Torn and Restored Newspaper
Ring and Paper Clip
The Twister: A Puzzle
Two Thimble Changes
The Elmsley Color-changing Knife Routine
The Perpetual Cigarette
A Cigarette Vanish
A Production of Cigarettes in Holders
Magnetic Monte
Ring on Silk
Physical Medium
Sleeve Loading for the Cups and Balls
The Elmsley Cups and Balls Routine

107
109
109
110
112
114
116
119
121
124
126
128
129
130
133
135
137
137
140
141
141
143
143
145
147
149
154
157
166
169
172
175
181
185
187
192
195
200
203
205

CHAPTER FIVE: Twisted Classics


1002nd Aces
The Atomic Aces
Repulsive Aces
Double Finders
Apprentice Aces
Pick of the Litter
The Four Blanks
Five-card Sam
Bare-aced Hofzinser
A Minor Triumph
All Backs with Aces
A Triple Reverse
Infinity: Round Trip
Chosen Cards Across
Invisible Card in Cigarette
New Pieces to an Old Puzzle
Liar's Club
One at a Time Collectors
Snap Swap
Double Swap
Ambitious to the End
Ambitious Stranger

211
213
217
229
234
236
238
242
247
253
256
259
267
269
271
274
280
284
288
291
293
296
299

CHAPTER SIX: Down and Dirty Deals


7-16
A Double Prediction
Melbourne
Australian Self-help
Chance and Choice

307
309
311
314
317
319

CHAPTER SEVEN: Welcome Correspondences


Returned to the Nest
Arith-mate-ic
Pother
Brownwaves I
Shadowed
Buried Treasure I
The Memphis Matchmaker
The Right Place, the Right Time
The Book of Fortunes

323
325
328
331
333
337
340
343
345
347

CHAPTER EIGHT: Where It's At


Buried Treasure II
Hair Cut
CalcolateX2
Cross-25
Weight
Choosey
Rough Tracker
Card Hopper
Penny Plain
The Clock Runs Down
Mathematics and Mentalism

353
355
358
361
363
366
368
370
371
374
376
378

CHAPTER NINE: No Gamble


Misogynist's Monte
The Bridge Builder
Just Lucky
Aces Up
Pierce Arrow
Four Flusher
A Strange Story

381
383
388
391
395
397
399
401

A NOTE FROM THE PUBLISHER


In case the reader is interested in how a book like this comes
about, it's done through countless hours of hard work and determination by an excellent staff.
It was in September of 1987 that I received a phone call from Bruce
Cervon. He had just spoken to Ron Bauer. Ron mentioned to Bruce
that he had an unpublished manuscript on Alex Elmsley's "Dazzle
Act". Ron had put this together from an audio tape of Elmsley's 1975
lecture, recorded in Detroit by Milt Kort. These notes had been passed
around through the magical underground for years. Ron said that if
we could get permission from Mr. Elmsley, he would provide us with
copies from which a book could be written.
This started the ball rolling. I mentioned this prospect to my friend,
Larry Jennings, who knows Elmsley. Dai Vernon, then recovering
from an accident, was staying with Larry at the time. They called Mr.
Elmsley and terms for a book were agreed on. This was in early
October of 1987. For the next seven weeks I checked the mail every
day with great anticipation. Finally, on December 23, 1987, the
signed contract from Alex Elmsley arrived. What a Christmas present!
In January of 1988 I started to think of who on L & L's staff could
write this important project. Ron Bauer had recommended Stephen
Minch, and this was my choice as well. I feel that Stephen is one of
the best writers of magical literature today. In addition, he is a
pleasure to work with. When I contacted him, he was quite excited
at the prospect of writing a book on Alex Elmsley's magic, and he
immediately began to gather material. Larry Jennings had already
contacted Gordon Bruce in Scotland, who was a long-standing
admirer of Elmsley's work as well as a friend. Mr. Bruce kindly agreed
to photocopy his large collection of published Elmsley material and
sent it to Stephen. Then, throughout the following year, he posted a
series of handwritten letters, detailing various unpublished Elmsley
items. Until this time, none of us at L & L had any idea what a wealth
of material existed.
Richard Kaufman contributed underground photocopies of
unpublished Elmsley items, drawn from the notebooks of Jack Avis
and Ed Brown. Stephen contacted both of these men, who generously

ii

THE COLLECTED WORKS OF ALEX ELMSLEY

supplied more rare Elmsley material and information. Ron Bauer sent
a large body of work he had done on the Elmsley lectures of 1959
and 1975. Then Gene Matsuura, who had seen Mr. Elmsley lecture
in 1975 at the Magic Cellar in San Francisco, volunteered his
extensive notes.
Stephen contacted his friend Milt Kort for help in locating further
Elmsley material published in various journals and booklets. Milt
spent hours researching items and making piles of photocopies.
Roy Walton, an old friend of Mr. Elmsley's, volunteered information and unpublished Elmsley tricks he had guarded for years. And
Dave Evans located further obscure references in print.
Stephen contacted everyone he could think of who might have
additional information on Elmsley, and all of them responded with
generosity. He then started to piece it all together. A large manuscript
was completed in 1989, which was sent to Alex Elmsley. Just when
we thought we were finished, Mr. Elmsley searched his files, and that
December, another Christmas present arrived: a parcel with thirtythree more unpublished tricksMr. Elmsley had sent a bundle of his
original notes! Stephen eagerly incorporated this new information into
the manuscript.
A second parcel from Mr. Elmsley arrived in March of 1990, and
after that further shipments appeared regularly, containing corrections and new material for the manuscript. Stephen conscientiously
added this information as he received it. At this point the manuscript
had grown to more than five hundred single-spaced typescript pages
and it became obvious that it would require two large volumes to hold
it all.
Stephen asked Max Maven, Darwin Ortiz and Michael Weber to
proofread the text, which they did, devoting long hours from their
busy performing schedules for the task. Milt Kort, Ron Bauer and
David Michael Evans were also given copies to check.
In the meantime, I contacted Amado Narvaez to do the many
illustrations. Stephen then designed the book and laid it out.
By now you've figured out that, without Stephen's great effort, Ron
Bauer's initial suggestion, and the generous help of many friends and
fans of Alex Elmsley, this book would not exist. Thanks to all of you,
and any whom I have forgotten to mention, who made this important
work a reality.
Louis Falanga
July 1990

ALEX ELMSLEY:
The Man and His Book
Alexander Elmsley has become, without the least deliberate effort
of his own, both a bit of a legend and an enigma to the world of magic.
The average magician of the last few decades knows of him mainly
because of the famous false display count that bears his name. Those
with a more than passing interest in card magic recognize Alex
Elmsley as the inventor of several plots that have achieved the status
of modern classics: "Between Your Palms", "Point of Departure" and
to a lesser extent "Diamond Cut Diamond". Those magicians,
however, who followed the craft avidly in the 1950s, '60s and '70s
remember more. They recall a man who devised not just three or four
exceptional tricks and sleights, but scores of them. It has long been
agreed among those familiar with Alex Elmsley's work that a book
on his magic was long overdue. But producing such a book did not
interest him. At those times when he was active in the society of
magic, there did appear a scant number of his creations in books
the books of acquaintances. He was content to publish the bulk of
his work in journals like Abracadabra, The Gen, Pentagram, Ibidem
and The Cardiste. His heaviest period of contribution was the early
years, from 1949 to 1959. In a little over a decade roughly seventy
Elmsley tricks and sleights appeared in print. This burst of creation
would represent almost seventy percent of his published output
during the next forty years.
By the early 1950s, reporters on the British scene were already
bestowing glowing adjectives on this clever young man, this fellow
Elmsley. When luminaries from the U.S., like Dai Vernon, Paul LePaul
and Slydini visited England, a point was made of introducing them
to Alex Elmsley; and when they returned to the States, they brought
with them stories of a new British lad who did some remarkably
original magic. They had been fooled and most of them openly
admitted it. For years, both before and after Dai Vernon's first lecture
tour of England, he and Mr. Elmsley corresponded, discussing and
trading tricks and sleights. The regard the Professor held for the

iv

THE COLLECTED WORKS OF ALEX ELMSLEY

Elmsley brand of magic is clearly evidenced in his Inner Secrets of


Card Magic series and in the material he chose to teach in his "New
Card Magic" course for the Lou Tannen School of Magic in 1962. Of
the seven items covered in that course, two were Elmsley inventions:
"En Voyage" and "Brainweave" (both appear in Volume II of this
collection).
On September 21, 1957, at the British Ring Convention in Scarborough, Mr. Elmsley delivered his first magic lecture, titled "Low
Cunning". Two years later, at the age of twenty-nine, he brought a
revised version of this lecture to the United States, and presented it
at the combined I.B.M. and S.A.M. Chicago convention of 1959. He
then traveled for the balance of the summer, lecturing in select cities
throughout the American Midwest. During this summer he released
an exceptional item: 'The Four Card Trick". It was this trick that first
introduced the ghost count, a false display that would later become
known as the Elmsley count. During his tour of the States, he took
the opportunity of visiting with many of his American idols, among
whom were Edward Mario, Dai Vernon and Charlie Miller.
Shortly after returning home from this tour, Alex Elmsley disappeared from the magic scene. After a decade of concentrated invention
there were to follow twelve years of virtual silence in which the
brilliant contributions to the journals dwindled to nothing. They
would never again achieve the frequency enjoyed in the 1950s. The
few scattered items that appeared under his name during the 1960s
were remnants from years earlier and reprints of past articles. I can
think of no other magical inventor whose material has been more
frequently recycled by the periodicals.

From left to right: Arthur Holland, Tommy Vanderschmidt, Ted Danson, Alex Elmsley

INTRODUCTION
His absence was clearly felt in many quarters. He seldom showed
up at the haunts where he had regularly met with magician friends.
Beginning in the late 1940s young Elmsley became a regular fixture
about Harry Stanley's Unique Magic Studio. Stanley's studio was
located on the third floor of a Soho business building on the corner
of Wardour and Brewer, and every Saturday Alex Elmsley would
journey there to meet with a group of fellows who shared his avid
interest in magic. They gathered for lunch, then strolled over to
Stanley's shop, where they sat around for the rest of the afternoon
performing magic, talking about magic, but to Stanley's frustration
seldom buying magic. This Saturday group was known at various
times as the Unique Lounge Lizards and the D.G.sthat is, Dealer's
Grave. The members varied from week to week, but among the
regulars were Val Andrews, Jack Avis, Bobby Bernard, Ken Brooke,
Ted Danson, John Derris (who became Jack Avis' brother-in-law),
Robert Harbin, Arthur Holland, John Messenger, Tommy
Vanderschmidt and Roy Walton. Thanks to the red witch-hunts
instigated by Senator Joseph R. McCarthy in the U.S., a yank film
director named Cy Endfield became a member of the group and a
close friendship grew between this forced expatriate and Alex Elmsley.
Jack Avis smiles when remembering Mr. Elmsley's participation
at these weekly meetings. "He would always show up with a new trick
he had worked out, and proceeded most often to baffle us all. Most
of the time he assumed that we had followed the method, when in
fact we were totally in the dark; and he made his subsequent explanations brief so as not to bore us with things he assumed we
understood." It was a joy for all of them to participate in the abundant
creativity of these gatherings.
However, when he returned from his summer tour of the United
States, instead of being freshly inspired by the magic and magicians
he had seen there, as those who knew him expected, he began to
withdraw from the world of magic. He turned up less and less
frequently at the lectures and Saturday gatherings, until his friends
seldom saw him. What should have been a pinnacle of heady
inspiration had instead become a turning point away from magic.
This unexpected disenchantment surprised and baffled his
colleagues. What had cooled Alex Elmsley's passion for conjuring?
Two things contributed to the change. One was the crushing
discovery, though he never said as much to anyone, that none of the
giants of close-up magic he had met in the States seemed to be able
to make a decent living at their art. Their genius went largely
unrecognized and unrewarded by the outside world. The ambitions
of a young man hoping to make a name for himself with magic had
been dashed upon the stoney ground of public indifference. The
second factor that drew Alex Elmsley away from magic was simply
an active and highly intelligent mind that became fascinated and
eventually absorbed by other topics.

vi

THE COLLECTED WORKS OF ALEX ELMSLEY

But so far I've addressed only that side of the man that pertains
to magic. Let's retreat a bit and fill in some essential information.
Alexander Elmsley was born on March 2, 1929, in St. Andrews,
Scotland. In 1946 he suffered from acute appendicitis, which took
him from school and put him in hospital. During his recovery, to pass
the time he developed an interest in juggling. A search for juggling
equipment led him one day to Hamley's, London's famous toy store.
By accident he discovered the magic counter there, and juggling was
soon discarded for the sly art. A boy of sixteen living in a London still
healing the wounds of blitzkrieg had precious little money to spend
on props. Consequently he turned to sleight-of-hand. His early
concern with manipulation is obvious in his first few years of
contributions, which contain many clever sleights and flourishes. His
interest in fully developed tricks and presentations took several years
to mature, but a talent for the creation of plots and presentations
rapidly developed and he soon proved to be as perceptive and
inventive in these areas as he was in that of methods.
After graduating from public school he served the required twoyear term in the British army. Magic became a casual hobby during
his duty in the National Service, but quickly grew to a passion shortly
after he was released. He entered Eton and Kings College to receive
his university training, where he discovered a student association of
magic enthusiasts, the Pentacle Club. He became involved with the
group and served as its secretary during his stay at Cambridge. When
he eventually earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in mathematics and
physics (subjects for which he early showed a natural aptitude), he
moved to London and acquired a position with a patent agency. His
job was to write accurate scientific and legal descriptions of the many
inventions submitted for patenting. Living again in London provided
him the opportunity to become deeply involved in magic, which he
proceeded to do throughout the 1950s. Besides contributing heavily
to the literature of the period, and marketing several tricks of his
invention, in 1953 he entered the British Ring competition with an
act of billiard ball manipulation.
Then, during the 1960s, two subjects supplanted his enthusiasm
for magic: science fiction and the budding field of computer
technology. This latter interest grew until, in 1965, he was hired by
I.C.T., a British computer firm, as an instructor for main-frame
system programming and management. He has remained with the
company to the present day.
As the years passed, Mr. Elmsley withdrew almost completely from
the world of conjuring. From 1960 through 1966 he still continued
to meet once a month with a group of friends to talk magic. The group
included Jack Avis, Francis Haxton, Peter Warlock and Eric de la
Mare. The first three men need no introduction to students of magic,
but de la Mare is an unfamiliar name to most. Eric de la Mare had
worked for many years in Ceylon as an engineer on a tea plantation.

INTRODUCTION

vii

It was there that he met and spent extended time with Max Malini.
Many who were familiar with de la Mare believe he knew and
understood Malini's magic better than anyone, and cite as proof a
long article that de la Mare authored on Malini for The Magic Circular.
After spending years in Ceylon, de la Mare moved to London, where
he took an office and worked as a freelance mechanical illustrator
for engineering and architectural firms. Over the years he contributed
the odd trick to the British journals, but he was never widely
recognized in the world of magic outside of those who knew him in
London. Among his friends were Roy Walton and Mr. Elmsley, who
were roughly thirty years his juniors. They would often meet during
the week for lunch. Eric de la Mare deserves special acknowledgement
when discussing the magic of Alex Elmsley, as he devised a false
count with cards that contributed importantly to the creation of Mr.
Elmsley's several false counts, including the ghost and everchange
counts. De la Mare never published his count, so it appears in print
for the first time in this collection (see p. 232.)
Another little-known name that became an important inspiration
in Alex Elmsley's magical career was Bill Reid. Bill Reid was a chartered accountant by profession and a close-up enthusiast by inclination, and Mr. Elmsley's senior by some years. At one Monday night
club meeting at the Magic Circle, sometime in the mid-1950s, Mr.
Reid presented several tricks that relied on advanced faro shuffle
methods. At the time, aside from the chapter on faro shuffle work in
Hugard and Braue's Expert Card Technique, little had been published
on the subject; and most of those who had read this information were
more intimidated than enlightened by it. Consequently, many who
witnessed Reid's performance were totally baffled by the effects. One
in the group who had some understanding of the possibilities offered
by the faro shuffle was Alex Elmsley. He had studied Expert Card
Technique and experimented with some of the ideas presented there.
As soon as it was possible, he approached Bill Reid and expressed a
strong interest in the work he had seen. This began an acquaintance
that bore exceptionally valuable fruit. Reid's work with the faro weave
inspired the younger Elmsley to immerse himself in a study of the
shuffle, and the two men met often to explore the magical potential
of perfectly interlaced cards. From this collaboration arose a small
monograph of one dozen original faro tricks. Each man contributed
six items. Jack Avis volunteered to take photos for the text and the
manuscript was duly presented to Harry Stanley for publication.
This manuscript lay untouched for years on a storeroom shelf at
the Unique Magic Studio. Whether Stanley simply forgot it or thought
it too esoteric a work to be profitable is unknown. Eventually it was
lost. This was the first of a series of misadventures concerning this
monograph. When it was eventually discovered that the Elmsley-Reid
manuscript had disappeared, Avis one evening got together with Bill
Reid to tape record his portion of the material. Their idea was to

viii

THE COLLECTED WORKS OF ALEX ELMSLEY

submit it to Peter Warlock's Pentagram. When Mr. Avis mentioned


this in correspondence to Karl Fulves, Fulves expressed a strong
interest in publishing it in the States. Since Mr. Avis had not yet
contacted Peter Warlock about the material, he decided to let Mr.
Fulves have it, and posted him the original audiotape. But the ill-fated
material seemed destined never to reach print. It was lost again, this
time by Mr. Fulves, and to Avis' regret he had not thought to make a
copy of the tape.
Over the years Mr. Elmsley had since scattered his six items from
the manuscript in the pages of Ibidem, The Cardiste and New
Pentagram. Bill Reid's half dozen tricks, however, have never been
published. Roy Walton believes he may have a copy of the original
faro manuscript stored in an inaccessible box somewhere, so there
is still hope that one day this material may come to light.
Sometime in the late 1960s an old acquaintance of Mr. Elmsley's,
John Messenger, approached him with the idea of producing a book
of his tricks. Messenger ran a small novelty and magic shop with his
father in London, and the publication of a book of Elmsley magic
seemed an excellent venture. By this time Mr. Elmsley had withdrawn
completely from magic and expressed no interest in authoring a book.
However, he was always generous with his material, and when
Messenger volunteered to write the book himself, Mr. Elmsley granted
him permission, so long as he was not required to arrange the
contents or supervise the descriptions. Messenger agreed and
immediately called up Jack Avis. For years Mr. Avis had faithfully
recorded the tricks and ideas presented by Mr. Elmsley at their
Saturday lunches. Each Saturday evening and, if necessary, the
following Sunday, Mr. Avis would sit at his desk at home and record
as much as he could remember of these creations in a notebook
devoted strictly to unpublished Elmsley magic.
John Messenger knew of Avis' notes and desired to use them as
the basis for his book. Mr. Avis, who had carefully protected these
notes for years, called his old friend to confirm his consent to the
project. This done, Mr. Avis surrendered his notebook to Messenger.
It seemed, though, that a book on the magic of Alex Elmsley was
condemned to misfortune. After gathering the material for the book,
John Messenger failed to proceed much further on the project. He
eventually immigrated to America to pursue a career as an actor, and
the book never appeared.
By the end of 1969 Jack Avis had grown uncomfortable about the
fate of the unpublished Elmsley material he had consigned to
Messenger. He learned of instances in which tricks from his notes
were being swapped and bartered in the magic underground. This
news aroused in him a very real concern that the material might
become estranged from its inventor and begin to appear in the
literature without due credit. Feeling himself an unwitting contributor
to this problem, he took steps toward protecting Mr. Elmsley's

INTRODUCTION

ix

authorship of the ideas. He made six photocopies of his handwritten


notes on Elmsley and sent these to Roy Walton, Edward Mario and
four other trusted friends. In doing so he assured that a written
record existed of these ideas and their source.
Sometime in 1971 something once more stirred Alex Elmsley's
interest in magic. The receipt in 1972 of a Creative Fellowship award
from the Academy of Magical Arts in Hollywood undoubtedly
contributed to this resurgence of enthusiasm. He hesitantly
relinquished his dissociation from magic and began sending tricks
to a few journals. By 1975 he had authored a new lecture that was
to become perhaps the most esteemed effort of his magical career.
He debuted it in London and Monte Carlo before bringing it to the
States for his second tour there. The lecture was divided into three
parts. It began with a twenty-minute discussion of psychology,
theater and presentational theory as applied to close-up magic. Mr.
Elmsley then performed an integrated act of original card magic,
employing all the theoretical concepts he had previously discussed.
At the end of this segment, by all reports, the audiences of magicians
burst into spontaneous and enthusiastic applause. Following his
performance there was a brief intermission, after which Mr. Elmsley
explained the entire act, revealing not only the secrets of the tricks
he had done, but also how he had successfully applied to his magic
the theories explained in the first segment. The lecture sold out
wherever it was offered. Of those magicians who witnessed it, some
of whom are among the most highly regarded in magic today, I have
yet to meet one who does not count it among the most exciting and
inspiring experiences of his magical life. This, unfortunately, rings
of excessive praise, but it is nonetheless true. The fortunate
magicians who attended this lecture, drawn by Mr. Elmsley's
reputation and perhaps by his mystique as a modern-day Charlier
resurrected, report that they were educated, entertained and
repeatedly fooled. It was an event not to be missed.
Mr. Elmsley's notes for this lecture were more of an outline than
an explication of the magic. They were designed only to stimulate the
memories of those who attended. Were it not for a rare tape recording
of the lecture made by Milt Kort, and copious notes compiled
independently by Ron Bauer and Dr. Gene Matsuura, much of this
lecture would have been lost. Thanks to the generosity of these men
and their high regard for Mr. Elmsley and his work, I was able to
reconstruct the lecture performance of 1975 in total. That lecture
both prefaces and concludes this long overdue collection of the magic
of Alex Elmsley. The introductory segment of theoretical observations
opens this volume, and the final chapter of Volume II comprises the
complete card act.
A curious artifact of Mr. Elmsley's second tour of America was a
rumor that began several years later concerning a lost manuscript
of original faro material. Some years before, a general agreement had

THE COLLECTED WORKS OF ALEX ELMSLEY

been reached with Jay Marshall that, should Mr. Elmsley write a
collection of his faro tricks, Magic, Inc. would publish it. Rumor had
it that he came to the U.S. in 1975 with the only extant copy of the
completed faro manuscript, intending to present it to Mr. Marshall,
but that the manuscript had been lost. Various colorful and
scandalous stories circulated about its disappearance, one of which
even Jay Marshall came to believe. On asking Mr. Elmsley about the
contents of this lost manuscript, I discovered that he knew nothing
of it. No such work had been written, let alone taken to the States. It
is likely that the rumors developed from the loss many years earlier
of the Elmsley-Reid faro manuscript. The stories were seemingly
substantiated by the underground circulation of copies of the Avis
notebooks, which indeed contained a quantity of unpublished faro
material and were mistaken for the lost work. All that material
appears in Volume II of this collection.
Ironically, Mr. Elmsley was working on a book around the time
of his second lecture tour. This book, however, concerned various
false counts and displays of his invention, and roughly a dozen
unpublished tricks that employed them. Most of this material has
been assimilated into the first chapter of the present volume, and the
balance appears in ensuing chapters.
After completing his 1975 lecture tour in the U.S., Mr. Elmsley
returned home and, for the second time, disappeared from magic.
This trip apparently quenched the flame of renewed interest that had
arisen for a short time. A small but superb body of new material
fluttered through the pages of select books and journals in the wake
of his departure, some of it appearing only recently. This leads us to
the subject of historical dating throughout the work at hand.
Appended to many of the articles contained in these volumes the
reader will find dates. Dates without brackets indicate the first
appearance of that item in print. Further information on published
articles can be found in the bibliography, which concludes Volume
II. Dates that appear in brackets signify dates of notebook entries or
letters from which unpublished material was taken. Mr. Elmsley was
never concerned about dates in his own notes, so not every
unpublished item could be dated in this manner, and for such items
no dates are given. Listing the publication dates of many items may
in one way be misleading, as these dates often vary greatly with the
genuine date of invention. Those items published in the late 1940s
and 1950s generally followed the time of their invention fairly closely.
However, many items that appeared after this period were actually
conceived years, sometimes decades, earlier.
One final note on the contents of these volumes: A serious effort
has been made to compile as complete a collection of Mr. Elmsley's
magic as was possible. Few items have been ignored. Those
exceptions include several early articles whose topicality did not
successfully weather the winds of time, and a small number of

INTRODUCTION

xi

collaborative efforts in which Mr. Elmsley's contribution could not


be accurately assessed. For those who would explore these minor
omissions, their locations can be ferreted from the bibliography.
As I write, Alex Elmsley is sixty years old, still teaches computer
management and looks after his mother. On rare occasions he turns
up to meet an old friend from his magical past; but generally he
prefers to pursue other interests than conjuring. We in the craft can
but regret our loss and congratulate those fields that have benefitted
from his interest and creativity. However, we have little right to feel
cheated. While Alex Elmsley was active among us, he made us the
gift of a large body of exceptional work, represented at last in this
comprehensive collection. Perhaps, in the not too distant future, we
can look forward to his visiting us again.
Stephen Minch
Seattle, 1990

Chapter One:

Alex Elmsley
on the Theory
and Practice
of Magic

ALEX ELMSLEY
ON THE THEORY AND PRACTICE
OF MAGIC1
I think of myself as an inventor, not as a performer. It is possible,
I suppose, to invent without performing at all; it is possible to
compose music without playing any instrument. But it is a very great
handicap, so I feel I must do some performing.
I didn't set my standards very high. I tried to attain competence.
To be in the first rank of performers, you need not only talent and
hard work, you also need luck. But anybody ought to be able to attain
competent performance, and that competence is what a lay audience
does have the right to demand.
So I started thinking
about presentation. 4I read Fitzkee2, I read
3
Edward Maurice , I read the lesson in 5Tarbell , I read the chapter in
Greater Magic, I read Henning Nelms ; and the total result was that
I was frightened and confused. There was so much there, I didn't
know what to do or where to start. I retired, wounded from the fray,
and decided to think things over again. I came to the conclusion that
it wasn't the fault of the books. It was my fault. I was trying to
approach the books in the wrong way.
As I now perceive them, those books are collections of cures for
things that could be wrong with an act or a trickand a doctor
doesn't start with a book of cures and then go hunting a disease. He
starts with somebody who has got something wrong with him, he
diagnoses the disease and then he looks for the cure.
'The text that follows Is drawn from comments made by Alex Elmsley during his
1975 American lecture tour. The words are his own, and have been only slightly
edited for publication.
2
Showmanship for Magicians, 1945, Fitzroy.
3
Showmanship and Presentation, 1946, Goodliffe.
4
Tarbell Course in Magic, Volume 1, 1941, Tannen.
5
Magic and Showmanship, 1969, Dover.

THE COLLECTED WORKS OF ALEX ELMSLEY

You will remember Victor Borge's story of his uncle, the doctor,
who invented the cure for which there was no known diseaseand
his wife caught the cure and died of it. I think some magicians have
caught Fitzkee and died of it, in the sense that they have read Fitzkee
and have been so intimidated that they have given up all hope of
applying any showmanship or presentation to their acts. I am not
suggesting you not read these books. But, in the beginning, you
should read them quickly for general ideas and background.
Then take a trick or an entire act, go through it and criticize it.
When you find a particular fault, often its solution will be obvious.
If it isn't obvious, here the books can be handy. Try to make the
criticisms specific and concentrate on one problem at a time. When
you approach these books with a particular problem in mind they
are far more helpful. If you come with just vagueness in mind, you
will reap only vagueness from them.
Ideally you should get somebody else to do the criticism for you;
preferably somebody whose job is theatrical direction or production.
Failing that, find an ordinary human being. Failing a human being,
try a magician.
As a last resort you have to be able to criticize yourself. This is not
easy, but I finally found that self criticism could be boiled down to
going through my act and asking myself repeatedly just two questions, two questions that sound trivial, but they seem to hold within
themselves practically everything in the way of presentation and
showmanship. These questions are:
1) Is something of interest happening all the time?
2) Can the audience appreciate the effect?
I am going to expand on these questions and show how they can
be applied to an act or to a trick. I shall also try to show you how
other things, everything you can think of in the way of presentation,
flow from these questions. I shall give examples of how the questions
can be applied. I shall also give some of the answers and suggestions
that I use myselfbut your answers should be your own. When you
discover a problem or a fault in your act, the answer to the problem
is closely tied to style. This style is your own, not mine nor anyone
else's. So my answers may not solve your problems. But I hope to
suggest to you a method of finding the faults in your act so that you
will know where to aim your efforts.
Let's examine our first question: is something of interest happening
all the time? Apply this to a trick. Some tricks, like the Ambitious
Card, have magic happening constantly. I shall not argue whether
magic is interesting. I consider it to be of interest or I wouldn't be
involved with it. But there are effects, like four-ace tricks, that are
divided into a preparatory phasewhen you are setting out the aces
and three cards on eachand then the climax.

ON THE THEORY AND PRACTICE OF MAGIC

The climax is magical, so that is of interest. But there is no good


reason a lay audience should have any interest in the preparatory
phase. If they have seen you perform in the past they may know your
magic is so good it is worth waiting for. But there is nothing intrinsically interesting in putting down four aces and shoving three cards
on top of them. You have to make an effort to keep interest somehow
during that preparatory phase.
One method I use to create interest during periods of preparation
is the patter theme or story. Audience participation can also be used
to liven up the initial procedures. Or certain elements known to raise
interest can be integrated into the procedure. A list of these is given
in Chapter Four of Fitzkee's Showmanship for Magicians.
But if all else fails, I am a great believer in telling the audience
beforehand what the effect will be. Some say this is injurious to
misdirection, because it tends to make people look for the method.
But it is fairly easy to tell people what you are going to do in such a
way that you don't expose the method. You can even tell them what
you are going to do in such a way that it will misdirect them from
the method. John Ramsay used to do this.
Even if telling the audience what you are going to do can
sometimes be considered bad to misdirection, I think it is good
presentation, for if they are watching somebody do something that
seems without rhyme or reason it will be boring. Somebody doing
something for a purpose is much more interesting than somebody
doing something for no known purpose.
You should go through your act or tricks, looking for dead spots
or dull spots, those times when nothing of interest is happening.
When you look through the pack to remove the aces; when some
spectator must count how far down in the pack his card is from the
top; these are all points of low interest for most of the audience.
Each trick will dictate the solution to the problem; but once you
have isolated the problem, there is nearly always something you can
do about it. You can speed up slow actions, or you can break lengthy
procedures into smaller segments, giving the impression that you are
working faster. You can attach the boring procedure to the action or
theme of the story being told, to make the one an illustration of the
other, thus lending it more interest. You can sometimes have a
spectator carry out the procedure while you do something else. You
can even develop interesting ways of handling the cards while
counting them, etc.
Procedures in which a spectator must perform some task, such
as counting cards, can create dead spots. Sometimes these periods
can be used to relax the audience. But often they are simply points
of low interest. They can be remedied by making the spectator's
actions visible and, in some way, interesting; or by doing something
interesting yourself as the spectator completes his task. Once you
recognize the problem, there is usually a way to solve it.

THE COLLECTED WORKS OF ALEX ELMSLEY

One problem found in close-up magic is maintaining interest


between tricks. Of course, this does not apply to the performance of
a single trick; but if you are doing an act, keeping interest between
the tricks can be difficult. If you have an audience that will applaud
at the end of a trick, this lessens the problem. When an audience
applauds they lean back, they relax, but their attention is still on you.
But there are working conditions where the spectators do not
readily applaud. If they are a small group they often are embarrassed
to applaud; or they may be in a restaurant where they don't want to
make noise that will disturb other diners. In such circumstances, at
the end of a successful trick, they tend instead to comment on it to
each other: "Oh, isn't that good!" "Wasn't that great!" "I saw someone
on television, but he wasn't as good as you." This response sounds
marvelousbut you have lost control of the audience in the
meantime. You either have to stop this from happening, or you have
to use some technique to regain their attention.
This is quite a thorny problem, which I haven't really solved to my
own satisfaction. Several techniques that seem to help are these:
Always maintain eye contact with the audience, unless it is imperative
that you look away. Resume the patter and action just as applause
starts to fall. If applause is not forthcoming in the situation, employ
relaxed linking patter to hold interest.
It has been suggested that the use of interesting props can be a
great help in keeping attention between tricks.
Another strategy is the use of layouts. There are many card tricks
that end with interesting layouts. This can be very effective; but you
will lose the audience if it then takes you thirty seconds, with your
head down, to pick up the cards. A layout at the end of an act is not
a problem. You can get up and walk away from it. However, when a
layout occurs in the middle of an act, the method used to pick it up
can require as much thought and rehearsal as the trick that produces
the layout. If you don't rehearse it you will spoil your next trick. In
the interval necessary to gather the cards you can lose the interest
of the audience, and then have to regain it.
Of course, for a layout to capture and hold interest, it must be
seen. The same applies to any cards that are placed on the table.
When I am working with a card table, I carry a couple of little braces
that I can put under the rear legs so that they are raised about an
inch. Even an inch will make a surprising difference in the visibility
of the table surface.
Rival distractions in the room where you are working can be a
distinct problem. If noise, light, movement, or audience discomfort
are part of the performing conditions, you must consider how you
can increase interest in your magic to compete with these factors.
I make an analogy between controlling interest during an act and
fishing. At the start of the act you have to hook the fishcatch the

ON THE THEORY AND PRACTICE OF MAGIC

interest of the audience. Then you have to play the fish. This means
not only making the tension of the line tighter, but also relaxing it
at the right times. Finally you have to give a last jerk to land the fish.
When playing the fish, if you try to keep the tension of the line tight
all the time, it will break and the fish will get away. If you try to keep
an audience at their highest intensity of interest all the time, they
will tire and their interest will diminish. It will wander at the moment
they tire, which will quite likely be at an important moment to your
effect. Therefore, you must plan points of relaxation, as well as of
intensity, in an act of more than two minutes. These points of relaxation are periods when nothing of great importance is happening. An
example might be when a spectator is counting cards. This can be a
point where you can let the audience relax a bit, while you lean back
and chat more informally. If you don't do this, the audience's attention will wander anywaybut at the wrong moment.
Magicians should be familiar with techniques for controlling
intensity of interest. Points of tension are used to bring the audience
to the highest pitch of interest, when you want them to remember
something; for example, the climax of a trick. Slydini's technique of
misdirection is designed to increase the intensity of interest at the
right times. You tighten yourself up, perhaps sit up or lean forward.
You act more efficiently. You move or look or talk. Doing only one of
these things at a time increases interest.
Patter should be rehearsed and edited to avoid irrelevancies and
muddled expressions. Actions should come under a similar scrutiny:
they should be planned for efficiency, clarity and speed. Fumbling
must be omitted.
Avoid the use of spectators when intensity is required. Or, failing
that, plan and control their use so that they do not become
distractions. One common error is to neglect clarity in your
instructions to a spectator. Misunderstandings and corrections will
destroy a point of tension.
To relax tension, you yourself must relax and act more informally.
Lean back and smile. Combine casual actions, moving and chatting
at the same time, to appear unrehearsed and spontaneous. Use
audience participation. Laughter is always a point of relaxation. So
is applause.
Increasing tension is one of the main techniques for pointing your
effects. Relaxing tension is one of the main techniques of misdirection. But neither will work without the other to provide the contrast.
I remember listening once to a radio discussion on the topic of
boredom. It was remarked that the most common reason for boredom
is that somebody feels he has no influence over what is happening
at the moment, that he is being left out, that he is ignored.
This, I fear, applies to the way many magicians do their acts. They
ignore the audience. I have had a bad effect here, I am afraid. There

THE COLLECTED WORKS OF ALEX ELMSLEY

is a certain count of mine you may have come across that tends to
lead magicians to do their tricks to themselves, paying no attention
to their audience whatsoever. There are certain sleights that by their
nature are a temptation for personal performance. It needs a definite
effort to do moves of this kind in an open way, so you are outgoing
and people feel involved.
I try to make it a rule always to look at the audience, unless I have
a definite reason, a reason I can actually write down, for looking
elsewhere. I have had to do this because I have always been more
an introvert than an extrovert. While working out new tricks I tend
to do them for myself. It has required a great effort on my part to
rehearse tricks in a more open and outgoing manner, making the
audience feel, I hope, that they are a part of what is happening.
This is probably the most important thing of all in keeping interest
in an act. It is not a method of getting interest. It is almost a
precondition to getting it. One must include the audience in what is
going onand at the very least look at them.
One should strive to appear interested in the audience. By ignoring
their reactions to you and your magic, you are ignoring them. Be
responsive; communicate. Recognize that they are interested in you
as a personality, as well as in the magic you do. Make an effort to
reveal your character throughout the act, but particularly at the start.
We come now to the second question: can the audience appreciate
the effect? To begin with, can they all see and hear you without
straining. Ideally, I suppose, one should always check one's
performing conditions before agreeing to do a show, and refuse the
engagement if the conditions are not satisfactory. However, that is
not practical. Yet, you can at least be aware of the most likely things
that will give you trouble, and take steps against them. For example,
when one is seated and doing a card trick, the most common trouble
is that people may be able to see you, but they can't without some
strain see the surface of the table. I try to arrange each of the tricks
so that, at the very least, the climax doesn't take place on the table.
The relevant cards are held up, making them visible to everyone.
Oddly enough, some of the very people most keen on presentation
can lose sight of the effect they are presenting. At one magical society
I witnessed a performance of a trick so drowned by the presentation,
nobody was aware of what the trick was. It turned into an interesting
character sketch, and there was a little magic; but only one person
in three could have told you afterwards what it was. If you are going
to include magic and you want people to appreciate it, you must be
certain they know where and what the magic is.
Obviously, simple effects are more easily understood than complex
ones. I don't think this is a reason for doing only simple effects. It
only means you must take more care when doing the complex ones.
I use a test to simplify an effect as much as possible. I first try to
describe the effect to myself in one sentence. Then I concentrate on

ON THE THEORY AND PRACTICE OF MAGIC

emphasizing everything in that sentence and minimizing the rest. If


the effect is too complex to summarize in a sentence, I try breaking
it into as few sentences as possible, with a single simple climax in
each. I then present the trick as a series of phases or climaxes.
If all else failsif there is any doubt in the minds of the spectators
about what the effect isagain, I believe in telling them. If you can
tell people in a subtle way what the effect is, good. But if subtlety is
not practical, simply explain it. It is better to be obvious than to be
obscure.
One of my regrets is that, when I was on the West Coast of the
United States, I missed seeing Francis Carlyle perform. I had always
heard that the great strength of his performances with cards was that
there was no doubt in anybody's mind about what the effect was and
that it was magical. They knew.
Do the spectators appreciate that the effect deserves their
applause? Usually, when you come to the climax of an effect, there
are certain facts that you hope you have established earlier, facts that
must be remembered for the climax to be recognized as magical.
People won't perceive any magic in the four aces being in this pile,
unless they remember the aces were separated beforehand.
Therefore, these facts must be clearly made in the earlier phases of
the trick.
If the trick is complex in effect, a story may be used to tie the facts
together and make them memorable to the audience.
The important facts should be recapitulated as you approach the
climax, so that the audience is reminded of them. This is done for
the sake of any in the audience whose attention may have wandered.
The recapping can be direct in nature: "You shuffled the cards. You
then took any one you liked," etc. Or it can be indirect: "Who shuffled
the cards?...And did you have a free choice of any card you liked?..."
Once more, it is better to be obvious than to be obscure.
Recently I was reading an article by Goodliffe in which he wrote
of how fed up he was with magicians who said things like "Here I have
five cards." I disagree. The phrase is fine in principle. The only criticism I would make is that the wording used is cliched.
Simply showing the five cards without comment can mean too
many things. The gesture might seem to indicate that there are five
court cards, or two red and three black, or that all five cards face the
same direction, or that the chosen card is not among the five, or that
the magician has recently cleaned his fingernails. Somehow you must
tell the audienceindirectly if possible, but failing that, directly
what it is they are to remember. If you neglect this, they will not
remember, and the effect will not be appreciated.
Once you have assured that all necessary facts have been stressed
and understood by the audience, you must create one final point of
tension to signal the approach of the climax. This can be done with

10

THE COLLECTED WORKS OF ALEX ELMSLEY

words, with silence, with a look. But now is the time to do everything
possible to concentrate the audience's attention on the proper things.
Then reveal the climax, causing the tension to peak and be released
through laughter, applause, etc.
Often I see a trick that, to me, is terrific. Yet it doesn't get the
appreciation from a lay audience I feel it deserves. These tricks are
commonly ones with surprising climaxes, such as the color-changing
deck.
Psychologists tell us a person will see most easily what he expects
to see. He will hear what he expects to hear. A surprise climax is
unexpected by definition, and therefore needs extra care and preparation to be understood and appreciated.
Some surprises are more easily understood and accepted than
others. The surprise loads at the end of the Cups and Balls have been
automatically foreshadowed by the nature of the trick. The final loads
are escalations of similar things that went before.
But if you present something too surprising, the spectator feels
cheated: "I don't know if that was good or badI wasn't watching for
that sort of thing." This can easily happen with tricks like the colorchanging deck. You must somehow prepare their minds beforehand
for a surprise, so that, when they see it, they are surprised, but some
part of them says, "Oh yes, of course."
The ideal surprise, to my mind, is one in which the spectators
think to themselves halfway through the trick: "Wouldn't it be good
if he now did such and such; but no, he couldn't do that. It's impossible." Then you do it. The surprise they anticipate can be the best
surprise of all.
Double climaxes are another thing that can cause difficulties. Most
often the second climax of the pair is a surprise. So many times the
magician will emphasize the first climax so heavily, at its fulfillment
the spectators relax and their attention wanders. He has to start
shouting, "Here, come back," to regain their attention for the second
climax. I've seen this happen with Dingle's "Roll-over Aces". Too much
emphasis on the first climax spoils the trick.
It is much better to dull or kill the first climax. You don't lose the
applauseyou merely save it for the second climax. It is better to err
in this way, I believe, than to overemphasize the first climax.
These are some of my answers to questions of presentation. As I
said, you should devise your own answers. I think it more important
to have a theory of presentation than to have the "right" theory of
presentation. If you have your own theories, at any rate all your efforts
will pull in the same direction, whereas the magician who has no
ideas on presentation has his efforts pulling against each other. It is
like chess: it is better to have a bad plan than no plan.
Asking these questions of your material once or twice is not
enough. They should be asked periodically. I can go over tricks I've

ON THE THEORY AND PRACTICE OF MAGIC

11

been over before and still find areas to work on. Asking these questions will identify the points at which you should direct your efforts.
I think many magicians make the mistake of trying to do too much
at once, with the result that they get discouraged. If you make ten
changes at once, and the act then seems a bit worse than it was, you
can't tell which of the ten was the bad one. Make just a couple of
tentative improvements at a time. Then try the act. It is much easier
this way to see whether the change was a genuine improvement or a
mistaken one.
I have constructed an outline of the points just discussed, designed
to help analyze an act for problems and to help discover solutions to
them. I've called it...

THE AUTOMATIC PRODUCER


1. Is something of interest happening all the time?
1.1 Many tricks divide into preparation, then climax. Are you
keeping interest during the preparation?
Patter theme or story.
Audience participation.
Tell the audience what is going to happen, so that they know
the reason for the preparation.
The way you do itsee Fitzkee's list of audience appeals (Showmanship for Magicians, pp. 24-25).
1.2 Are there times when you are doing nothing (i.e., during action
by a spectator)?
Either make sure the spectator's action is visible and
interesting,
Or do something else yourself in the meantime.
1.3 Are there times when you are doing something dull and
perhaps lengthy (e.g., counting cards)?
Speed it up.
Break it up with patter or other actions.
Use patter to add interest.
Modify the way you do it.
Get a spectator to do it, possibly while you do something else.

12

THE COLLECTED WORKS OF ALEX ELMSLEY


1.4 Is interest held between tricks?
Keep looking at the audience.
Continue patter or action as soon as applause starts to fall.
If the audience is not the applauding type, relaxed linking
patter will help.
Rehearse the end-of-trick actions (e.g., picking up a layout of
cards).
1.5 Is the interest you create stronger than rival distractions?
Consider the performing conditions:
Noise
Light
Movement
Discomfort
1.6 Intensity of interest should both rise and fall during a trick or
an act. Do you make it rise and fall on purpose?
The fisherman's analogy:
First hook the audience;
Then play them, both increasing and relaxing the tension;
Finally, land them.
To increase interest:
Do only one thing at a timedon't talk and move.
Rehearse patter to avoid irrelevancies and muddled
expressions.
Rehearse actions for efficiency, clarity and speedavoid
fumbling.
Avoid the use of spectators, or plan and control their use so
that they do not cause distractions (e.g., by misunderstandings).
Tighten yourself, sit up, lean forward.
To relax interest (without losing it):
Use combined, casual actionschat and move.
Use informal, seemingly impromptu patter.
Use relaxed, seemingly impromptu movements.
Use spectator participation.
Relax yourself, lean back, smile.
1.7 Boredom is caused by feeling left out of the action. Do you shut
out the audience at any time?

ON THE THEORY AND PRACTICE OF MAGIC

13

Appear interested in the audience and react to them.


Look at the audience unless you have a definite reason to look
elsewhere.
Accept the audience's interest in yourselfreveal your
character.
If you have to ignore the audience, make an extra effort to keep
their interest by other means.
2. Can everyone appreciate the effect?
2.1 Can everyone see and hear without straining?
Try to check your performing conditionsnot always practicable. See 1.5.
Show the trick to the audience, not to yourself.
2.2 Does the audience know what the effect is?
Simplify the effect as much as possible. Try to describe it in
one sentence; play up everything in that sentence and play
down everything else.
If the effect is complex, try presenting it in a series of phases.
If there is any doubt, tell the audience what the effect is.
2.3 Go through all those facts that the audience must remember
to appreciate the climax (e.g., that the aces are separated in
different piles).
2.3.1 Are you sure these facts are clearly seen and understood in
the first place?
Concentrate interest on the important actionssee 1.6.
Tell the audience what you are going to do, so that they
understand the reasons for your actions.
If there is any doubt, tell them which facts you want them to
remember. Better to be obvious than unclear.
Recap for the sake of any spectators whose attention may have
wandered.
2.3.2 Are you sure these facts are remembered at the climax?
Final recap (may be indirect: "Who shuffled the cards?").
If many facts must be remembered, an analogy or story may
help tie them together.
2.4 Is everyone paying attention at the climax?
Signal, or even say, that the climax is coming.

14

THE COLLECTED WORKS OF ALEX ELMSLEY


Concentrate attention. Pause, stare. See 1.6.
With a double climax, take care not to lose the audience after
the first climax.
A surprise climax needs especially careful presentation.
Prepare the climax so that it is easily understood and seems
logical. If necessary, telegraph the surprise.

ON THE THEORY AND PRACTICE OF MAGIC

15

ON MISDIRECTION
I would like to make a few observations on the subject of misdirection. It seems to me that many magicians have a wrong approach
to misdirection. They think it is something that has to be brought in
as an emergency measure for a move that is too bad to be hidden in
any other way. "Hey, look at the elephant!" Or, in the words of Herb
Sellers, "Some moves need an elephant."
John Ramsay was a master of misdirection. Yet he never used
strong misdirection. It almost never went further than the direction
of his gaze or how he spokevery light misdirection. This was all he
needed, because he wasn't misdirecting now and then for
emergencies. He was misdirecting all the time.
This brings into focus several misperceptions many magicians
have about misdirection. First, magicians have a tendency to divide
moves into those that need misdirection and those that don't. They
think of a sleight like the double lift as a move that doesn't require
misdirection because a double lift can be done in such a way that it
cannot be differentiated from the lifting of a single card. The spectator
may sense something funny is going on, but he can't be certain.
Magicians classify moves as "clean" in appearance, or "dirty"; but
I don't think any move is clean in that sense. You should misdirect
not only from something that would otherwise be detected, but also
from awkwardness, from anything that might raise suspicion, even
from the opportunity to have made a move.
The double lift can be taken as an example. Assume you are
performing a double lift that requires a get-ready. Human beings don't
normally need the strength of both arms to hold a pack of cards. A
two-handed grip is a bit unusual. It looks less so if you rest the cards
on the table; and if you continue talking while the get-ready is done.
After the get-ready you must do the turnover. I prefer to do the
turnover first, and then to look down at the deck to draw attention
to it. At that time I will comment on the value of the card that has
been turned. The turnover itself is done while you are talking to the
audience. Everybody sees the turnover from the corner of their eye,
but there is no particular concentration of attention placed on it.
Therefore, the unnaturalness in the way you turned the card isn't
noticed.
Then we must recognize that it is not really natural to put a card
down by first turning it over on the packand then placing it on the

16

THE COLLECTED WORKS OF ALEX ELMSLEY

table. There are subtle ways of getting around this problem. An


unsubtle way, which is perfectly serviceable, is to apply misdirection:
Point out the identity of the card. Explain that it will change into
somebody's chosen card and ask, "This isn't your card? Do you
remember the card you chose? Will you keep that card in mind?"
During this time you have turned the card over and placed it down.
Once again, this is seen from the corner of everybody's eye. They are
all quite happy that you have turned the card over and put it down,
but your precise movements do not register in their memories
because you have distracted their attention at the time the
movements are made. The result is that the movements appear much
cleaner than they are.
Even when there is nothing specific that requires misdirection, you
must maintain control of the audience's attention. You cannot steer
a ship while it is drifting. You can rattle the tiller all you like and
nothing will happen. But once you have steerage-way, a light touch
on the tiller will bring her round. It is the same with misdirection. If
you lose control of the audience's attention, you will need an elephant
to create misdirection. But if you have control all the time, all you
need is a glance.
There are two varieties of misdirection: direct and indirect.
Direct misdirection is the sort applied just at the time a move must
be covered. This can be accomplished by controlling the direction of
the audience's attention. Johnny Ramsay simply used to look at them
to misdirect their gaze.
Or one can control the intensity of the audience's attention, as
Slydini does when he relaxes and smiles.
Indirect misdirection involves things done before and after the
move to be covered, not during it. Patter and acting are the main tools
used here to mislead the mind. Several common methods of indirect
misdirection are these:
Educating the audience to accept and discount some action
that, under normal circumstances, would be seen as
suspicious.
Providing an excuse for the suspicious action, making it seem
unsuspicious.
Planting a red herring to make the audience suspect or watch
for one thing while you do something else. Johnny Ramsay was
brilliant at this.
Your position at the table can have an effect on your presentation
and your misdirection. There has been much discussion about the
merits of sitting or standing. One point that has been made about
the standing position is that, if the people are close to you, there is
too great a distance between the table and the face. This can be
overcome if you hold your hands up near the chest when performing,
as Johnny Ramsay used to do. Otherwise, the audience must shift

ON THE THEORY AND PRACTICE OF MAGIC

17

their gaze up and down between the two areas of interest. When they
must do that, you lose focus, you lose misdirection and you lose
presentation value. Sitting places your face and hands within the
same range.
However, by sitting you do tend to be less visible; particularly with
a large group. I try to compensate for this loss a bit by giving myself
a little extra height when I sit. I use a firm cushion about eight inches
thick. This allows me to show the cards to the audience more easily
without straining my wrists and looking awkward. (See Figure 1, an
awkward position caused by being seated too low; and Figure 2, an
elevated position that eliminates the awkwardness.)
There is more that could be said on these subjects, but I sense
you are eager to move on to the tricks. So let's do so.

Chapter Two:

Spirited Counts
and
Revenant Tricks

It is only fitting that a compilation of the magic ofAlex Elmsley should


open with a discussion of the sleight for which he is best known. In
1954 Mr. Elmsley was experimenting with a slow-motion assembly in
Trevor V. Hall's Testament of R. W. Hull. The final sequence of this
trick involved a false display in which three jacks were shown as four.
This display incorporated a subtlety borrowedfroman old trick by Bert
Douglas titled "My Ghost Card Trick" (ref The Linking Ring, Vol. 8,
No. 9, Nov. 1928, pp. 723-725). In Douglas'plot four cards are placed
on a spectator's hand, three are removed, and the fourth transforms
into a selected card. Mr. Elmsley liked the Hull trick, but felt the final
sequence could be improved on. This then was the stimulus for the
invention of a false display that was to become one of the most popular
sleights in modern card magic.
Showing more humility than many of his brethren, Mr. Elmsley did
not attach his name to his invention. Rather, when he released it in
1959, he called it the "ghost count", after the trick that lay at the root
of his inspiration. The count appeared within the context of a marketed
packet trick titled "The Four-card Trick", which he introduced that year
at the combined I.B.M-S.A.M. convention in Chicago. However, Mr.
Elmsley recalls that sales were far from overwhelming, and it wasn't
until 1960 that the count came to the attention of most magicians. This
happened with the publication of Dai Vernon's 'Twisting the Aces" (ref.
More Inner Secrets of Card Magic, pp. 5-8). When the popularity of
the sleight began to grow it was often called the "four-as-four count",
another name used by Mr. Elmsley. Only later did it become commonly
known as the "Elmsley count", in honor of its creator. Mr. Elmsley used
this count frugally. In this chapter are gathered the only tricks of his
invention employing the count that he wishes preserved.
Here then is the first published trick based on Mr. Elmsley's ghost
count.

THE FOUR-CARD TRICK


(Featuring the Elmsley Count)
Effect: A packet of four cards is shown backs and fronts. The cards
are seen to have blue backs and blank faces. One of the cards
changes magically into a joker. Then the audience is asked to keep
track of the joker in the packet, but the card eludes them. To make
their task easier, the joker is turned face-up in the face-down packet;
but when it is next checked, it has changed back to a blank card.
The blank card is turned over and all four cards are shown to be
face-down. Yet, when the packet is spread, the joker appears again,
face-up in the position from which it has just vanished. It is removed
from the packet and snapped. This causes the back of the joker to
change from blue to red. After this bewildering series of changes, the
joker is returned to the packet of blue-backed blank-faced cards and
all is left for examination, for the cards are just what they seem.
Method: Despite the hundreds of packet tricks released during the
past thirty years that rely on the Elmsley count, this original effect
is as astonishing as it was in 1954, when Mr. Elmsley invented it. It
is also a concise lesson on the versatility of the Elmsley count. Note,
as you read the following explanation, that within this one trick Mr.
Elmsley cunningly demonstrated the utility of the count for
a) counting four cards as four while hiding one surface;
b) displacing cards in the packet while seeming only to reverse
their order; and
c) effecting the transformation of a reversed card in the packet.

The Elmsley Count


Before explaining the trick itself, the Elmsley count must be
taught. I will describe the exact technique Mr. Elmsley detailed in his
1959 manuscript. Though many readers may be familiar with the
actions of the Elmsley count, it is urged that the following description be studied, as it contains several fine points of handling that are
not widely known.

24

THE COLLECTED WORKS OF ALEX ELMSLEY

You will require four cards. Three are blue-backed and blankfaced. The fourth is a red-backed joker. With the packet held facedown, position the joker third from the top. As the cards are counted
from hand to hand, the joker will be concealed, yet four cards are
seemingly displayed.
Hold the face-down packet by its left edge, near center, pinched
between the left thumb, above, and fingertips, below. Approach the
packet with the palm-up right hand and bring the thumb down onto
the top card, contacting it at midpoint near the outer end (Figure 3).
The relaxed right fingers pass below the packet and the left fingertips.

Curl the right forefinger comfortably around the outer right corner
of the packet and press this corner lightly into the flesh of the finger's
middle phalanx. Simultaneously, with the right thumb, pull the top
card to the right. One of the difficulties commonly experienced with
the Elmsley count is ensuring that only one card moves off the packet
when the first card is taken. If the right forefinger is positioned as
explained, it acts as a brace to block the lower cards, keeping them
squared, while the right thumb pulls just the top card to the right
and over the forefinger.
Move the right hand to the right, drawing the top card free of the
packet and onto the right fingers. (While it was not mentioned in the
original description, Mr. Elmsley later made clear in his lectures that
he prefers to draw the card forward and rightward, off the front right
corner of the packet. He believes that this aids the illusion of the
count and is superior to a straight rightward action.) Curl the second,
third and fourth fingers slightly under the card, the fingertips
contacting its face just inward of the left side (Figure 4). They should
not project beyond the edge of the card. However, the forefinger
should remain curled around the outer right corner of the card and
along the front edge. In this position the forefinger acts as a guide

SPIRITED COUNTS AND REVENANT TRICKS

25

for the alignment of the cards during the subsequent actions, and
aids in concealing the impending switch of cards.
Using the left thumb at the very edge of the packet, push the upper
pair of cards, aligned as one, approximately half an inch to the right.
Given a light pressure of the thumb and fingers, you will find the two
cards are easily moved rightward in register. Any tiny misalignment
that might occur can be covered by the larger motion of the hands.
Simultaneously bring the right hand back to the left and lower the
right thumb onto the back of the next card. As the right hand moves
to take the second card, the first card naturally
passes close to the
^__.^___^^_^^^^^^^^_^
face f the packet, perhaps
even grazing it. Halt the right
hand's leftward motion when
the left edge of its card hits
the left fingertips. Without
an instant's hesitation,
straighten the right fingers
slightly, thrusting the card
between the face of the
packet and the left fingertips. The left fingers relax
their pressure a bit to allow
the card to slip into place. (It
will now be understood why
the right fingers are curled
under the card. This enables
them to push it home and at
the same time keeps them from obstructing the left edge, which must
slip smoothly between the packet and left fingertips.)
Leave the first card on the bottom of the packet and clip the top
pair of cards, by the outer right corner, between the tip of the right
thumb and the base of the right forefinger (Figure 5). Draw the pair
to the right and away from the packet. At this point, if you wish, you
can extend your right fingers and press their tips lightly to the left
edge of the cards, holding the two in a sort of relaxed dealing grip.
Thus, as you apparently take the second card onto the first, you
actually steal the first card back and come away with the top two
cards of the packet. The lower card of the right hand's pair is
concealed by this maneuver.
Return the right hand to the packet to take the third card onto
the two already there. The actions used are indistinguishable from
the previous ones, but this time are honest. With the left thumb, push
over the top card of the left hand's pair and draw it onto the right
hand's cards. Move the right hand away, then bring it back and take
the fourth card (actually the first, counted a second time) onto the
others. Four cards have been counted, yet the red-backed joker, now
on the bottom of the packet, was not seen.

26

THE COLLECTED WORKS OF ALEX ELMSLEY

While the description has been long and detailed, the sleight is not
particularly difficult to learn. The actions are quickly mastered, but
further practice will be necessary to gain the proper timing and
rhythm. There must be no hesitation on the second count, when the
steal is executed. The full four-card count should proceed to an even
one-two-three-four rhythm, as if counting to musicand the tempo
is adagio, not allegro.
When Mr. Elmsley published his count, he cited Edward Victor's
E-Y-E count and a false count devised by Eric de la Mare (see p. 232)
as important sources for elements of the sequence (the block pushoff and the under-the-packet return respectively). Earlier sources
exist for these ideas: Charles Jordan and Laurie Ireland for the block
push-off, and Ellis Stanyon for the under-the-packet return. It was
years later that Mr. Elmsley's friend Francis Haxton unearthed a
clearly related sleight by Charles Jordan in a 1919 trick, "The Phantom Aces" (ref. 30 Card Mysteries, pp. 37-38). Mr. Jordan's sleight,
now known as the Jordan count, though used originally as a displacement only, also concealed the bottom card of a four-card packet. It's
similar handling made it perfectly suited for combination with the
Elmsley count, as has been amply demonstrated during the past few
decades by Edward Mario and others after him.
The description of the Elmsley count given above is faithful to that
written by Mr. Elmsley in 1959. It will surprise many that the cards
were counted onto the right fingers and eventually ended in a dealing
grip, as it is commonly believed that the original method of counting
used a fingertip-pinch grip by both hands, as taught in Dai Vernon's
"Twisting the Aces". It was Jack Avis, Mr. Elmsley believes, who first
suggested this fingertip taking grip. Mr. Avis originally made the
change in grips to adapt the Elmsley count to the use of jumbo cards.
When using normal cards, Mr. Elmsley has always preferred the
right-hand dealing grip, as he believes the fingertip grip often tends
to resemble a mixing of the cards between the hands (which, in a
sense, it is) rather than a simple reverse count (the desired illusion).
It should be noted that Edward Mario, working independently in the
United States, published the idea of using a dealing grip (which is
assumed by the right hand from the very beginning) with the Ellis
Stanyon false count (ref. M.U.M., Vol. 49, No. 7, Dec. 1959, p. 290291), and Mr. Mario recalls that Bill Simon applied this idea in 1957
to "an Alex Elmsley innovation"i.e., the then unpublished ghost
count (ibid.). Mr. Mario believes that Bill Simon knew of only the Avis
ghost count variant when he derived this handling. This information
should help to clarify certain discussions that have occasionally
arisen about who first applied the "deep" or dealing grip take-action
to the Elmsley count. With all this said, let's proceed to Mr. Elmsley's
trick.

SPIRITED COUNTS AND REVENANT TRICKS

27

The Four-card Trick


Bring out the packet, face-down, with the joker positioned third
from the top. "I'm going to show you a trick with four trick cards. The
backs are blue." Give the packet an Elmsley count, displaying four
blue backs. The count brings the red-backed joker to the face of the
packet. "But the faces are blank."
Return the packet to the left hand and spread over the top two
cards, letting three blue backs be seen. Take the two spread cards
into the right hand and briefly expose their blank faces to the audience. Then slip them under the packet and turn it face-up in the left
hand. Perform a second Elmsley count to show four blank faces. "All
one, two, three, four faces are blank. That's why they're trick cards."
The joker is now at the back of the packet. Take the cards again into
left-hand pinch grip.
"If I flick the cards like this..." Give the packet a fillip with your
right forefinger, "...one of them changes into a joker." Count the cards
into the right hand, mimicking the actions of the Elmsley count but
counting the cards legitimately. This brings the joker to the face of
the packet. Alternatively, you can steal the joker into the right hand
and perform a color change to produce it on the face of the packet.
"Now I want you to try to follow the joker. It's a sort of three card
trick with four trick cards. To begin, I shall put the joker third from
the top." Fan the face-up packet in the left hand and place the joker
second from the face. Then, beginning at the rear of the fan, touch
each card as you count it: "One, two, three."
Square the fan and turn the packet face-down in the left hand.
Make all your actions slow and deliberate. You want everyone to
follow the position of the joker. 'The joker is three from the top. If I
count the cards, that reverses their order." Do an Elmsley count. "So
where should the joker be now?" Those who are paying attention will
say it is second from the top, or perhaps third from the bottom.
"No, I'm afraid you weren't following it. It's on the bottom." Turn
the cards face-up in the left hand and display the joker on the face
of the packet. Fan the packet, further proving your point; then close
the fan, procuring a left fourth-finger break under the upper pair of
cards.
"Look, I'll make it easier for you. I'll turn the joker around." Bring
the right hand, palm-down, to the packet and grip the two cards
above the break by their inner right corners. Turn the right hand
palm-up, revolving the double card end over end and face-down. You
should now be holding the double card by its outer right corner. With
the left thumb, push over the top card of the left hand's pair, and
slip the double card between the two. Square the packet and turn it
face-down, taking it into pinch grip for a count.

28

THE COLLECTED WORKS OF ALEX ELMSLEY

Perform another Elmsley count, but with these alterations. After


the count of two, when you have taken the face-up joker into the right
hand, pull the upper card of the right-hand pair back slightly with
the right thumb, letting a narrow portion of the lower card appear
at the outer end. This makes it clear that the right hand indeed holds
two cards, as it should. However, the portion of the lower card will
be perceived by the audience as the white border of the back, when
in fact the card is face-up.
Draw the third card onto
the joker, but injog it roughly
one inch. Then take the fourth
card on top of all, injogged a
half inch farther than the card
below it. This creates a vertical
spread with all four cards in
evidence and the face-up joker
prominent among them
(Figure 6).
"Now you not only know
where the joker is, you can see
where it is. The joker is the
face-up card; one, two, three
from the top." Tap each card
with your left forefinger as you
count it.
Slowly square the cards and return them to left-hand pinch grip,
ready for an Elmsley count. "How far from the top is the face-up
card?" They will answer, 'Three."
"That's right," you say, performing the Elmsley count. "One, two,
three from the top." The card that appears in the third position,
though, is a blank-faced one. The joker is gone again. As you take
the face-up blank card into the right hand, outjog it for half its length.
Then take the last card on top of it, but in line with the other facedown cards.
With the cards still in the right hand, strip the face-up blank from
the packet, turn it face-down and slip it under the others. Then take
the packet once more into left-hand pinch grip.
"If I turn the face-up card face-down, all the cards are face-down..."
Do an Elmsley count, showing four blue backs. However, when you
count the fourth card, flick it with the left fingers, then slip it under
the packet. Thus, the face-up joker remains third from the top. (This
small variation in procedure is referred to in certain circles as an
"underground Elmsley".)
Take the cards into left-hand dealing position as you say, "...except
for the joker, which you remember is face-up, three from the top."
Fan the cards, exposing the joker. "Do you follow?"

SPIRITED COUNTS AND REVENANT TRICKS

29

Extract the joker from the fan and hold it face-up in the right hand.
"As a matter of fact, there is one easy way of finding the joker. It is a
marked card. It's the only one of the four with a red back." Turn the
joker over and display its back. Replace it in the fan, third from the
top and, if anyone is interested, let them examine the cards. The
packet, by the way, is now reset for the next performance.
The reader will have noticed that Mr. Elmsley refers openly to "trick
cards" in his presentation. To some it may seem imprudent to suggest
such things to the public, even when obviously unusual cards are
in use. The existence of trick cards is hardly a revelation to laymen
most people suspect a magician of using them, until proven wrong.
When Mr. Elmsley mentions trick cards in this effect, he does so with
tongue firmly in cheek, as if he were toying with the audience's
gullibility; and should anyone take the bait, they will be all the more
bewildered when, at the finish, the cards are handed to them.
If you prefer to avoid obviously special cards like blank-facers, this
trick can be done with a blue-backed three of a kind, like kings or
queens, and a red-backed joker. This does add one discrepancy to
the handling: in the first face-up Elmsley count, one king will be seen
twice. However, experience has shown that such points are rarely if
ever perceived by laymen, and the repetition happens only once, early
in the presentation.
Mr. Elmsley would like to recognize his friend, Roy Walton, who
contributed the idea of changing the face-up card in the packet, along
with other suggestions that led to the refinement of this routine.
1959

FLIGHT TO WITCH MOUNTAIN


Effect: Here is an early Elmsley treatment of a classic plot. The
four queens are removed from the deck and dealt face-down into a
row. Three more cards are placed onto each queen. Then, one by one,
three queens mysteriously leave their piles to join the fourth.
Method: As was mentioned in the introduction to this chapter, in
1954 Mr. Elmsley became intrigued by the novel approach taken in
a slow-motion assembly titled "Assembly of the Jacks" (ref. T. H.
Hall's Testament of R. W. Hull, pp. 45-51). In most such assemblies,
two aces are switched for indifferent cards in the opening layout
sequence. This allows the performer to show the last ace in its packet
just before it travels to join the others. It also commonly necessitates
the secret transference of this ace to the "leader" pile. The assembly
in the Hall book offered an attractive alternative: the flight of the third
jack (jacks were substituted for aces in this presentation) was
accomplished by a cunning bluff. This jack never really left its pile;
instead the other three jacks were falsely displayed as four, one being
shown twice.
Mr. Elmsley liked the idea, but felt the false display at the finish
(based on the Edward Victor glide from The Magic of the Hands, pp.
6-7) was somewhat awkward in appearance. His discontent prompted
the designing of a thoroughly revised handling and the invention of
the Elmsley count. Mr. Elmsley wishes it known that he has never
been wholly satisfied with the assembly method he devised; nonetheless, against his better judgment, I've chosen to include it in this
collection because of its historical relevance and because of the
several worthwhile ideas it contains.
Openly remove the four queens from the deck. Square the pack,
turn it face-down and take it into left-hand dealing grip. Place the
queens face-up on the deck and spread them there, quickly arranging
them with the colors paired; i.e., either black-black-red-red or redred-black-black. As you do this, manage to spread over the first two
face-down cards of the deck, and form a left fourth-finger break
beneath them.
Square the queens onto the deck and, with the palm-down righthand, lift away all six cards above the break, fingers at the outer end

SPIRITED COUNTS AND REVENANT TRICKS

31

and thumb at the inner. You will now switch the first two queens for
the two indifferent cards hidden beneath the packet, using a variant
handling of the Braue addition:
Let us assume the red queens have been positioned over the black.
With your left thumb, draw the uppermost queen from the packet
and square onto the deck. Similarly draw the second queen onto the
first and, again with left thumb, spread the two queens to the right
on the pack, displaying them. Comment, 'The two red queens..." and,
using the left edge of the right hand's packet, flip the red queens facedown and square onto the deck. Casually drop the packet onto the
deck and immediately spread the two black queens to the right,
"...and the black queens." With the right fingertips, flip these two
cards face-down onto the pack and thumb over the top four cards.
Deal them from left to right into a face-down row.
The first two cards dealt are the black queens. The following two
cards, which the audience believes to be the red queens, are indifferent cards. The red queens rest atop the deck.
Single out one of the spectators and ask that she name a number
from one to four. As you make this request and await her answer,
use the natural misdirection created to form a left fourth-finger break
beneath the top two cards of the pack. Simply push the two cards a
bit to the right and catch a break under them as the left fingertips
push them square again.
If the spectator chooses one or two, count that many cards from
the left end of the row. If three or four is named, count from the right
end of the row. In any case, you end on one of the black queens. This
card is nominated as the leader of the group. Apparently count three
cards from the top of the pack and lay them onto this queen. In
reality, push over the two cards above the break as one card, and
take the next two cards under this, without altering their order. Lay
these four cards, roughly squared, onto the chosen queen and push
the pile forward, marking it from the other cards in the row. While
the right hand is occupied with this task, with the left thumb push
over the next two cards of the pack and catch a fourth-finger break
beneath them.
Again false count four cards as three, and lay this packet onto the
second black queen. Then, using actions that simulate those of the
false counts, genuinely count off three cards for each of the remaining
uncovered cards on the table. The situation at this stage is as follows:
The forward "leader" pile consists of two red queens on top, two
indifferent cards, and a black queen on the bottom. The other black
queen has four indifferent cards over it; and the remaining two piles
each consist of four indifferent cards.
Now pick up one of the piles without a queen, slip the bottom card
from beneath the packet and insert it between the top and second
cards. Set this packet down and pick up the other packet lacking a
queen. Again transfer the bottom card to the center of the packet.

32

THE COLLECTED WORKS OF ALEX ELMSLEY

Then pick up the third pile of the row, that with a black queen at its
face. Draw the queen from the bottom and slip it between the top two
cards. However, as you do so, momentarily expose the face of the
queen to the audience, lending a convincing touch to the procedure.
Return the packet to its place in the row.
Once more pick up one of the four-card packets. Make some
magical gesture over it, then turn it face-up and, using actions similar
in appearance to those of the Elmsley count, count the cards from
the left hand into the right, showing that the queen has vanished.
Set the face-up packet to one side, casually spreading the cards if
you wish, letting it be seen that there are only four indifferent cards.
Pick up the leader packet, turn it face-up and false count it as four
cards in the following manner: Hold the packet in left-hand pinchgrip and, with the right thumb, draw the first card onto the right
fingers. Draw the second card onto the first. Then, with the left
thumb, push the top two cards of the packet as one to the right and
take this double card onto those in the right hand. This block pushoff is identical to that employed when doing the Elmsley count. Finally
take the remaining card from the left hand on top of all. Two queens
are seen: one black, one red.
Square the cards, turn the packet face-down and set it back in its
spot on the table. Pick up the second four-card packet, make a
magical gesture over it, then turn it face-up and count it as you did
the first, showing the queen has disappeared. Drop these cards onto
those of the first pile. Then pick up the leader packet, turn it faceup and again false count it as four cards, using a block push-off as
the third card is taken. This displays one black queen and two red
ones, with a single indifferent card. Return the packet face-down to
its place.
Pick up the remaining pile of the row, make a magical gesture over
it, then turn it face-up and false count the five cards as four,
displaying four indifferent cards. The black queen is hidden behind
the third card as a double is pushed off. Square the cards and drop
them face-up onto the previous ones.
Pick up the leader pile, turn it face-up and perform an Elmsley
count. Four queens will be seen, two red and two black. Conclude
the trick with some appropriate remark, drop the queen packet onto
the others and place all the cards onto the pack.
Mr. Elmsley did work out a handling in which all four piles each
genuinely contained only four cards. In this version, three queens and
one indifferent card make up the leader pile. The indifferent card is
managed to the face of the packet. An Elmsley count will then display
two queens and two indifferent cards when the first queen is shown
to have traveled. An honest count of the packet shows three queens,
and another Elmsley count produces four queens. An Elmsley count
also accounts for the vanish of the queen in the third pile.

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33

Despite its several attractions, Mr. Elmsley discarded this handling


for the one first described, believing that the display of an indifferent
card twice during the first Elmsley count ran a greater risk of
detection than using the count once at the end to show four queens.
Those who examine the two alternatives will see the wisdom of this
decision.

SHALE FELLOW WELL MET


Effect: In this fast-paced routine, Edward Mario's Oil and Water
is effectively combined with another classic plot, Follow the Leader.
Four black cards and four red are alternated with each other. The
mixing of the colors is unquestionably fair. Yet when the cards are
next displayed, the colors have separated. The cards are openly mixed
again, and again they mysteriously segregate.
In trying to explain the mechanics behind these strange separations, the performer reveals that each color has a "leader" card, to
which all the cards of like color are drawn, as if to a magnet. He sets
each leader card face-up before its fellows. He then switches the
packets behind the leaders. Yet, when a card from each packet is
shown, its color matches the leader resting before it. The packets are
switched twice more, to identical effect: the cards insist on conforming
to the colors of the presiding leaders. As a final demonstration of this
phenomenon, the four red cards are given to a spectator to hold. The
performer takes the four black cards. They then exchange the leader
cards of the packets, upon which action the other cards immediately
transpose to match the newly elected leader of the group.
Method: In the early 1950s, when Mr. Elmsley developed his ghost
count, cardmen on both sides of the Atlantic were preoccupied with
the Oil and Water plot. This interest was reflected in the many
methods and variations for the trick that appeared in the pages of
Ibidem and other publications. When considering the Oil and Water
effect, Mr. Elmsley quickly saw how his ghost count could be applied
to the trick. During the late 1950s and continuing through the early
1970s he worked out several routines, improving and refining the
sequences over time. The idea of using Dr. Rohnstein's Follow the
Leader plot to conclude Oil and Water occurred to him in the 1950s.
Around 1969, Jack Avis sent copies of his notes on Mr. Elmsley's
magic to a few select acquaintances. These notes contained two
versions of the Elmsley Oil and Water routine. As the Avis notes
circulated through the magic underground, so did the idea of applying
the Elmsley count to Oil and Water. By this time the count had gained
wide popularity, and others quite likely had discovered this fortunate
combination independently. The idea was well-established by the
1980s, having appeared several times in print. Here, then, is Mr.

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35

Elmsley's routine, in its most polished form, as he performed it in


the early 1970s.

First Phase
Remove four black cards and four red from the pack. These can
be any cards you wish; however, if you are concerned about repeated
cards being noticed during the counts, you will want to choose a
mixture of unmemorable mid-range values like fives, sixes, sevens,
eights and nines. Make it clear as you remove the cards that there
are only four of each color. Set the blacks face-up in one pile and the
reds in another. Place the balance of the deck aside.
(As Mr. Elmsley performs these preliminaries, he introduces the
effect in a comically pompous manner: "In the course of years of
research into the properties of playing cards, I have discovered many
curious facts. One of these is that cards of the same color attract each
other, and so tend to collect together. This I call Elmsley's Law. Let
me demonstrate." This introduction amuses the audience while the
otherwise uninteresting preparation for the trick is accomplished.)
Turn the two piles facedown, pick up either of them
and form a fan with it. Then,
with your free hand, pick up
the top card of the remaining
pile and place it outjogged
under the bottom card of the
fan. Slip the next card of the
tabled pile between the third
and fourth cards, counting
from the top of the fan. This
card is also left outjogged, as
are the next two. Insert the next
card of the pile between the
second and third cards of the
fan, and the last card of the pile
between the first and second
cards (Figure 7). As you do this, point out that you are mixing the
colors. While in performance it doesn't matter which color lies above
the other, for the purpose of explanation, we will assume that the
combined packet reads black-red-black-red-black-red-black-red,
from top to face.
Square the cards, turn the packet face-up and, with the palmdown right hand, grasp it by the ends. While the mixing of the colors
was honest and straightforward, you will reassure the spectators of
this by displaying the faces of the cards in their alternated condition.
This is done with a Kardyro-Biddle count, and during the count the
order of the colors is secretly modified:

36

THE COLLECTED WORKS OF ALEX ELMSLEY

With the left thumb, draw off the first card, a red one, from the
face of the packet onto the left fingers. Draw the second card, a black
one, onto the first. Take the third card onto the previous two, but
catch a left fourth-finger break beneath it. As you draw the fourth
card into the left hand, steal back the third card, a red one, squarely
beneath the right hand's cards. While displaying the cards,
emphasize their alternating arrangement by calling the colors as they
appear: "Red, black, red, black." Pause briefly here and use the left
fingertips to square the cards remaining in the right hand as you
comment, 'That makes two red and two black." The squaring of the
cards ensures the success of the ensuing deception. Count the next
three cards legitimately into the left hand and place the remaining
two cards, held as one, onto the face of the packet. As you take this
double card, however, step it approximately an eighth of an inch to
the right. Eight cards have been seen, with colors alternated as
expected.
If you check the packet at this point you will find that the colors
actually read black-red-red-black-red-black-black-red from face to
back. Adjust the packet in the left hand to pinch grip, as if about to
do an Elmsley count. Then apparently draw the first four cards singly
into the left hand, reversing their order. This, though, is what occurs:
Clip the left outer corner of the stepped double card between the
right thumb and the base of the right forefinger. Draw the double off
the packet and into right-hand dealing grip, keeping it squared.
Immediately pull the next card, a red one, onto this. On the count of
three, draw the next card onto the right hand's packet, but catch a
fine break beneath it, allowing the left edge of the card to lie loosely
on the right fingertips. Then, on the count of four, slightly contract
the right fingers, mildly bowing the lower three cards, and steal the
loose top card back under the left hand's packet as you take a final
card onto the right hand's packet. (This method of stealing a card
has been purloined from Eric de la Mare's false count [see p. 232].)
While the spectators believe that each packet consists of four
alternating red and black cards, in reality the one in the left hand
contains three black cards with a red card third from the face; and
the one in the right hand is composed of three reds with a black card
in third position.
Lay the right hand's packet face-down onto the table. Then make
a magical gesture over the left hand's packet and perform an Elmsley
count, showing four black cards. Set the packet face-up on the table
and pick up the other group. Turn it face-up and do a second Elmsley
count, showing four red cards. At the finish, turn this packet facedown in your left hand and fan it. The first separation is accomplished.

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37

Second Phase
With the right hand, turn the tabled packet face-down. Then
remove the top card of this packet and place it several inches forward
on the table as you say, "Black." Actually this card is red. Onto it lay
the bottom card of the fan in your left hand as you say, "Red."
Continue to build the pile by taking cards alternately from the top
of the tabled group, then from the bottom of the fan. You can casually
flash the faces of the cards as you assemble them, excluding the first
card and the last. This is a convincing touch, as the audience sees
the colors being mixed.
When all eight cards have been placed into one pile, pick them up
and deal the top four cards face-down into a fresh pile, reversing their
order. Make a magical gesture and turn up the four cards in your
hand. Do an Elmsley count, showing that you are holding the four
red cards. Set the face-up packet on the table and pick up the second
packet. Turn it face-up and perform an Elmsley count to show four
black cards. The colors have separated a second time.
This phase can be repeated if desired; however, it is perhaps best
to avoid excess and possible tedium by proceeding immediately to the
next phase.

Third Phase
Set down the face-up packet you are holding, placing it to the right
of the tabled packet. Offer to show exactly how the cards manage to
separate. Lift away the top card of each pile and set these face-up
just forward of the piles. Explain that these cards are the leaders,
and wherever they go, the other cards will follow. Pick up the lefthand packet and turn it face-down. "Here is the red leader card..."
You indicate the face-up red card on the table, "...and its one, two,
three followers." Here deal the three cards in your hand into a facedown pile behind the red card, reversing their order.
"And behind the black leader card are one, two, three black cards."
Pick up the face-up black packet, turn it face-down and deal it into
a face-down pile behind the face-up black card. Unknown to the
audience, a card of contrasting color now lies at the face of each pile.
"But if I switch the two groups..." Do so. "...the cards follow their
leaders." Pick up either pile, grasping it in glide position, and expose
its face to show a card of matching color to the leader in front of the
packet. Turn the packet face-down again and apparently remove the
bottom card. However, execute the glide and take the card second
from the face. Lay this card face-down, overlapping the leader card.
Then deal the remaining two cards into a face-down pile behind the
leader. Repeat these actions with the second pile and leader card.

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THE COLLECTED WORKS OF ALEX ELMSLEY

Exchange the two piles a second time. Pick up one, again holding
it in glide position, and expose the face. Once more the card exposed
matches the leader card before it. Turn the packet face-down and
place the bottom cardthat just shownonto its leader, overlapping
the earlier card. For the sake of consistency, mimic the actions of a
glide when you do this. Set the remaining card face-down behind the
leader group. Repeat these actions with the other packet and leader
card.
Switch the positions of the last two cards, then snap them faceup to show that they have faithfully conformed to their new leaders.
Drop these cards face-down onto their corresponding groups. Then
slip each leader card from beneath its pile and drop it face-down on
top. Slide one of the piles a few inches forward on the table, toward
a spectator; and simultaneously draw the second pile back a few
inches, toward yourself, and into alignment with the forward pile.

Fourth Phase
While the audience believes that the two piles each contain four
cards of the same color, in fact a card of the opposite color rests at
the bottom of each. In a moment the face of that card will be shown.
Since it contradicts the believed color of its group, the shifting of the
piles is done to cause the audience to forget the identities of the cards.
This by itself would not necessarily be sufficient to confuse the issue;
but with a bit of time misdirection, our goal is accomplished:
Ask the spectator to assist you. Pick up the forward pile as you
ask her, "Will you hold the..." Here briefly glance at the face of the
packet, letting the audience see the card there as well. You do this
as though reminding yourself of the color of the cards, "...red cards
like this?" Of course, you name the color that is seen. Demonstrate
how you wish her to hold the packet, taking it face-down by its ends
in the palm-down left hand. When the spectator understands what
is expected of her, take the packet into the palm-up right hand and
offer it to her. Let her grasp it as you have indicated; then immediately remove the bottom card of the packet, snap it face-up and lay
it on the back of her hand. This precaution immobilizes her hand,
assuring that she does not expose the faces of the cards she holds.
Pick up the other pile by its ends in your palm-down left hand,
remove the bottom card and lay it face-up on the back of the hand.
Now exchange the two face-up cards on the backs of the hands.
Make a magical gesture; then reveal that the cards in the packets
have followed the leader cards once again. This time the magic has
happened in the spectator's hands, providing an impressive conclusion to an excellent series of mysteries.

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39

Alternative Final Phase


While the Follow the Leader sequences are felt to be the superior
finish, Mr. Elmsley did devise another ending for the routine, which
may find favor with those who wish to remain faithful to the Oil and
Water theme. This alternative final phase is an instant magical
remixing of the colors after they have been shown separated. (Such
a climax to Oil and Water was first suggested by Edward Mario in
Ibidem, No. 8, pp. 164-167.)
Return to the second phase of the routine. At the point where the
cards are shown to have separated, display the two face-up packets
using "underground" Elmsley counts; i.e., place the last card of the
count under the packet rather than on its face. In doing this, the
hidden odd-colored card in each packet is positioned once more third
from the face.
After showing four black cards in the second packet, square them
into the left hand, forming a left fourth-finger break under the
uppermost card. At the same time, tip the outer end of the packet
upward slightly, tilting the face of the packet just beyond the audience's line of sight.
With the right hand, pick up the tabled cards and square them
face-up over the left hand's packet, secretly transferring the card
above the break to the back of the upper packet. With the right hand,
lift these five cards a bit and openly turn the remaining three cards
face-down in the left hand. Immediately revolve the right hand's
packet face-down and lay it onto the left hand's cards.
"Like colors always attractbut if I give them a shake..." Give the
packet a brief but vigorous shake. Then deal the top four cards into
a face-up row across the table, revealing alternating colors: blackred-black-red.
"...they once more become mixed." Flip over the remaining four
cards in your hand and deal them onto the table, adding them to the
row. Their colors alternate as well.

The Contrasting Backs Variant


The routine just described is done with eight cards from any deck.
If, however, there are two decks with contrasting backs available, the
entire routine can be performed to excellent effect with the backs of
the cards featured rather than the faces. It is visibly more striking
to cause different colored backs to segregate and transpose; and the
concern (though a minor one) of duplicate faces being observed is
eliminated when the backs of the cards are used. Indeed, when two
suitable decks are convenient, Mr. Elmsley prefers the contrasting

40

THE COLLECTED WORKS OF ALEX ELMSLEY

backs variant. (The idea of performing Oil and Water with contrasting
backs was originally suggested by Edward Mario in Ibidem, No. 15,
pp. 14-17.)
Take four like values from each deck; e.g., the four aces. Arrange
the aces from one pack in matching suit order to the aces of the
second pack. For instance, if the aces in, say, the blue pack lie in
clubs-hearts-spades-diamonds order, set the aces from the red pack
in clubs-hearts-spades-diamonds order.
If you now run through the routine with these two packets, reading
blue-back for black and red-back for red, and translating face-down
for face-up and vice versa, you will find you can perform the same
routine with the backs of the cards. You will also notice another
pleasing touch: whenever the faces of the packets are displayed, no
duplicate suits occur; each four-card packeteven when the backs
are inconsistent with what the audience is led to believewill contain
a club, a heart, a spade and a diamond, just as they would if all were
fair. This adds a further touch of conviction to the overall effect. The
reader is urged to try this odd-backed routine to appreciate fully its
visual impact.
We proceed now to another red- and blue-backed routine based
on the Oil and Water plot.

A REBOURS
Effect: In the early 1970s Mr. Elmsley returned once more to the
Idea of performing Oil and Water with cards from decks with
contrasting backs. Building on his earlier work, he developed a new
handling in which the aces from a red-backed deck are repeatedly
alternated with those from a blue-backed deck; yet the two sets of
aces separate after each mixing in a direct and baffling manner.
Techniques from the previous routine are combined with new ideas
to produce an economical handling and a strong effect.
Method: Openly remove the four aces from each of two decks with
different colored backs. For this description, the decks will be
assumed to be red- and blue-backed. As you remove the aces from
the second pack, without calling attention to it, manage to arrange
them in the same suit order as those of the first pack. The particular
order of suits is unimportant, but the two packets must be identically
sequenced. If this is your first card trick of the performance, you can
decrease tiresome setup time in front of an audience by having the
aces already arranged as needed on top of or in the two decks. Once
you have removed the two sets of aces, place the balance of the cards
aside. Only the aces are used. These should lie in two face-up piles
on the table.

First Phase
Pick up the blue-backed aces in your right hand, and the redbacked aces in your left, taking both packets face-down into dealing
position. You can at this point fan both packets and exhibit them
fronts and backs. Resquare the cards in dealing position when the
display is finished. You will now deal simultaneously with both
hands, forming two piles of cards with alternating back colors. Do
so by thumbing off the top card of the left-hand packet face-down
directly before you, at the same time dealing the top card of the righthand packet about six inches forward of the left hand's card. Switch
the positions of the hands and deal the next card from each packet
onto the previously dealt cards: a red card onto a blue, and a blue

42

THE COLLECTED WORKS OF ALEX ELMSLEY

onto a red (Figure 8).


Trade the positions of
the hands again and
deal a third card onto
each pile; and once
more, placing each
hand's last card onto
the pile beneath. At this
point the near pile will
read blue-red-blue-red
from the top down, and
the far pile red-bluered-blue. The alternation of back colors is
obvious to everyone.
However, as you deal the cards, form the piles neatly. Do not create
spreads to display their composition. In a moment you must display
the backs, and if all backs were readily visible your motivation for
doing so would seem senseless and the display belabored in purpose.
Pick up the far pile and spread it face-down between the hands.
'Two red cards and two blue." Close the spread, catching a left fourthfinger break above the bottom card; and with the palm-down right
hand take the packet by its ends, transferring the break to the right
thumb.
With the left hand, pick up the remaining pile from the table and
fan it. "And here, two red cards and two blue." Using the right hand
to help, square the left hand's cards and, as the right hand's packet
passes briefly over the left's, secretly drop the card below the thumb's
break square onto the packet below. Since this card, a blue one,
matches the top card of the left-hand packet in color, the addition
will not be perceived.
Drop the right hand's packet neatly onto the table. "But suppose
I bring the packets together for just a moment." As you say this,
transfer the left hand's packet to the right hand, taking it by its ends
from above. Simultaneously, with the tip of your left forefinger, buckle
the bottom card of the packet, forming a break for the right thumb
at the inner right corner. Then lightly touch the held packet to that
on the table, bringing the upper packet square above the lower for
an instant. In that time, secretly drop the red-backed bottom card
of the right hand's packet neatly onto the tabled cards. Again, the
top card of the packet and the freshly added card match in back color,
and outwardly nothing seems to have changed.
"When I do that, all the blue cards rise to my hand..." Here perform
an Elmsley count to display the held packet as four blue-backed
cards. The red-backed card, originally third from the top, is hidden
by the false display and is brought to the bottom of the packet. Set
down this packet and pick up the other.

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43

"...and all the red cards come together here." Perform a second
Elmsley count to show four red backs. When all four cards have been
counted into the right hand, flip them face-up there with the aid of
the left hand.

Second Phase
"I'll do it again. If I do it all face-up you can see there's no cheating."
With the palm-down left hand, pick up the blue pile from the table
and turn the hand palm-up, bringing the packet into face-up dealing
position.
"I'll mix the cards again..." Form two piles, one in front of the other,
alternating your hands as you deal, just as you did previously;
however, this time you are dealing the cards face-up, "...and you can
see the colors really are mixed." Casually pick up the top two or three
cards of the near pile and turn them face-down, fanning them to show
alternating colors. Turn these cards face-up again and replace them
on their pile.
With the palm-down right hand, pick up the far pile by its ends.
"But all I have to do is touch this packet to that..." Innocently touch
the held packet lightly to the one on the table, simulating the actions
used in the previous phase, but doing nothing furtive, "...and the blue
cards all rise." With the palm-down left hand, grip the right hand's
packet at its left side and turn the left hand palm-up, rotating the
packet face-down and into position for an Elmsley count. Perform the
count, showing four blue backs. Set down this packet and pick up
the other one. Turn this face-down and perform another Elmsley
count to show four red backs.
You are automatically in position to repeat the second phase,
should you so desire. However, constraint is advised. Mr. Elmsley
feels that three separations are sufficient to make one's point entertainingly. Therefore, he avoids the possibility of tedium by proceeding
directly to the next phase.

Third Phase
Having apparently just counted four red-backed cards into your
right hand, flip them face-up there and, with the palm-down left
hand, pick up the face-down tabled pile once more. Turn the left hand
palm-up as you say, "I'll do it again. I'll show you faces..." Thumb
the first card from the face of each packet, right hand in front of left,
as you have done in each previous phase, "...and I'll show you the
backs." Flip the cards face-down in their respective hands and fan
both packets, displaying every back. Maneuver the cards back into
dealing position in each hand and switch the hands' positions over
the dealt cards. Now perform Vernon's flourish deal with each hand

44

THE COLLECTED WORKS OF ALEX ELMSLEY

simultaneously. That
is, thumb over the top
card of each packet
and curl the forefinger
in under the projecting outer corner of the
card. Clip this corner
between the forefinger, below, and
second
fingertip,
above (Figure 9), and
straighten these two
fingers, carrying the
card off the packet
and face-up (Figure
10). Release each of
the turned cards onto
the tabled card below
them; then exchange
the hands' positions
and repeat the flourish deal. Alternate the
hands once more and
turn the last cards
face-up onto the
packets beneath. This
method of displaying the cards as they are dealt lends total conviction
to the apparent alternation of the backs, while in reality you are again
prepared to show the colors separated.
Pick up the far pile, touch it to the near one, turn it face-down and
perform an Elmsley count to display four blue backs. This time,
however, place the fourth card on the bottom of the packet. Set these
cards down and pick up the other pile. Turn it face-down and perform
another underground Elmsley count, showing four red backs.

Fourth Phase
Transfer the held packet from the right hand to the left. "So far I
have been mixing the cards and making the colors come together."
Here take the top card of the packet into the right hand, displaying
the two red backs in casual emphasis of your remark. Replace the
card square onto the packet, but catch a left fourth-finger break
beneath it.
'This time I'll do the opposite." With the right hand, pick up the
tabled blue pile by its ends. Bring the right hand's packet over the
left's and, in a brisk casual squaring action, secretly pick up the red-

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45

backed card above the break,


taking it onto the face of the
upper packet. Separate the
hands and their packets.
Now hook the tip of the right
forefinger around the left edge of
its packet (Figure 11) and pull
upward, revolving the cards
face-up between the second fingertip and thumb (Figure 12).
"Four blue cards." Dig the left
thumb under its packet and flip
the cards face-up into left-hand
dealing position. "Four red
cardsbut if I bring the packets
together, they will mix..."
Drop the right hand's cards
onto those in the left hand.
Make some magical gesture over
the combined packet. Then stud
deal the top four cards into a
face-down row. "...alternating
red, blue, red, blue, all the way
through." Smoothly flip the
remaining four cards face-down
in your left hand and deal them
onto the row. All eight cards are seen to alternate in color, thus
completing a bewildering series of events.
You will observe, as you work through the sequence with cards,
that each four-card packet contains an ace of each suit at every point
in the routine. This is never commented on, but when it is noticed it
further buttresses the illusion.

ELMSLEY'S GHOST
Effect: While digging through Mr. Elmsley's early notes on his
various false counts and displays, we came across a method for Bert
Douglas' "Ghost Card Trick". I thought that an application of the
ghost count to the trick for which it was named would be of interest.
While there is nothing revolutionary in the construction of the
method, it is a great improvement over Mr. Douglas' original handling,
and the effect is a particularly strong one for laymen.
In essence, a card is selected and returned to the pack. The
performer then openly removes four of a kind, say the queens. The
rest of the deck is put aside. The queens are displayed once more,
then one is touched by the person who first chose a card. The
remaining queens are thrown face-up onto the table and the chosen
queen is snapped smartly, upon which it changes into the initial
selection.
Method: No setup is required. Have a card freely chosen, noted
by the audience and returned to the deck. Control the card to the
top in any manner you like. Now turn the face of the pack toward
you and allow the back card to spread just enough for you to sight
an index. This is the selection. Run quickly through the deck, upjogging any four of a kind that contrasts well with the chosen card. For
this description these cards will be the queens. With the right hand,
strip the four cards from the pack, and maneuver the deck into facedown dealing position in the left hand. As you do this, push the top
card a bit to the right and form a fourth-finger break below it.
Square the face-up queens above the deck, secretly picking up the
face-down selection below them. Then perform a Braue addition as
follows: With the palm-down right hand, grasp the packet of queens
(and selection) from above by its ends. Bring the packet over the deck
and, with the left thumb, draw the uppermost queen onto the pack,
jogging it to the right. Use the right hand's packet to flip this queen
face-down and square onto the deck. Repeat this maneuver with the
next two queens; then drop the last queen, with the face-down
selection hidden beneath it, square onto the pack. Flip the queen
face-down and immediately spread off the top four cards into the right
hand. Set the rest of the deck aside.

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47

Addressing the spectator who made the selection, observe, "A


moment ago you chose a card. I've just taken the four queens from
the pack." This certainly appears to be the case, though you actually
hold only three queens; the card second from the top is the selection.
"You do remember your card? And it was none of these?" Here you
flip the packet face-up and do an Elmsley count, casually displaying
the queens again. Place the fourth card counted under the rest. The
spectator does not see her card and will say so.
"Well, I'll have to try something else then. Please point to one of
the queens." Here you flip the packet face-down and spread the cards.
The selection again lies second from the top, and is in the most likely
position to be chosen by the spectator. Should she follow the desired
course, remove the second card from the fan and toss the other three
cards, the queens, face-up on the table. Ask the spectator to name
her card. Sharply snap the card you hold or make some other magical
gesture; then turn the card face-up, showing it to be the selection
just called for.
What, though, is done if another card than the selection is
touched? First, you must manage the touched card to the top of the
packet, with the selection directly beneath it. If the top card is chosen,
you are automatically in this position. However
If the third cardfromthe top is touched, draw off the top three cards
of the fan, reversing their order while bringing the third card to the
top. Then square these three cards onto the fourth.
And if the bottom card is touched, draw off the top card, then take
the next two cards together onto this, without reversing their order,
and place the last card on top of all.
In every one of these courses of action, the touched card is brought
honestly to the top of the packet, and the selection is positioned
beneath it. It is now only a matter of switching the top card for the
selection. Many methods for accomplishing this are available. A
second deal, a double turnover with a K.M. move clean-up, a top
change: these are a few that immediately come to mind. Mr. Elmsley
uses a form of the Hofzinser top change for the task. Briefly, the
sleight is this: As the packet is squared into the left hand, a left
fourth-finger break is caught beneath the top two cards. Now, with
the right hand, grasp the two cards above the break by their inner
right corners, thumb on top, first and second fingertips below. Lift
these two cards from the packet, holding them as one and snapping
the outer left corner smartly off the left thumb. (This thumb stroking
action is commonly attributed to Carmen D'Amico.) Bring the left
hand and its packet again square beneath the double card and snap
the outer left corner of the double once more off the left thumb; but
this time the thumb draws the top card of the double forward, pulling
it squarely onto the packet as the left hand moves forward and
revolves palm-down at the wrist. The right hand remains stationary,
retaining the lower card of the pair, though the right thumb may aid

48

THE COLLECTED WORKS OF ALEX ELMSLEY

in the steal of the top card by lightly pushing forward. When done
briskly, this switch of cards is indistinguishable from the earlier
snapping action.
Once the chosen queen has been switched for the selection, toss
the three queens face-up onto the table. Then make a magical gesture
with the remaining card and dramatically reveal its face. There are
no extra cards, and all four can be examined, should the spectators
so desire.

HOFTWISTER
Effect: Here Mr. Elmsley has combined Dai Vernon's 'Twisting the
Aces" with the plot of a well-known problem by J. N. Hofzinser.
The four aces are tossed face-up onto the table and another card
is selected from the pack, noted and lost again. The performer
explains that the aces will, through the process of elimination,
magically identify the suit of the selection. The aces are turned facedown and passed through the performer's closed hand. When they
are counted, one is found to have turned face-up. This ace is removed
from the packet and its suit eliminated from the running. The packet
is again passed through the hand. Another ace turns up. This is
placed on the table with the first. The remaining two aces are shown
front and back, then passed through the hand. One of these turns
face-up and is set aside with the others.
Only one ace has not turned over. This, the performer asserts,
indicates the suit of the chosen card. The spectator confirms that the
suit of her card matches that of the remaining ace. The performer
passes that ace through his hand one last time, and it transforms
into the actual selection.
Method: The simplicity and economy of handling makes this trick
both attractive to perform and to watch. A great deal of magic
happens in a short time. As was mentioned above, Mr. Elmsley
created the effect by combining the Hofzinser ace plot (ref. The
Pallbearers Review, Third Folio, Winter 1969, p. 299) with Dai
Vernon's "Twisting the Aces" [More Inner Secrets of Card Magic, pp.
5-8). This he did sometime in the latter half of the 1960s. Others, in
recent years, have independently developed the idea of combining
'Twisting the Aces" with a card revelation, but none to my knowledge
has taken the cunning course about to be taught.
Remove the four aces from the pack and toss them casually onto
the table, face-up. Next have a card freely selected. Secretly glimpse
that card, noting its suit, and control it to the top of the pack. There
are many ways of doing this. One straightforward method is to have
a card peeked in the pack and catch a fourth-finger break beneath
it. Bring it to the bottom with a pass or a double undercut. Position
the deck for an overhand shuffle and glimpse the bottom card as the

50

THE COLLECTED WORKS OF ALEX ELMSLEY

shuffle is commenced.
Then shuffle the card to
the top of the pack.
Square the face-down
deck, taking it into lefthand dealing position,
and form a left fourthfinger break under the
top card. With the right
hand, pick up two of the
aces, leaving the ace with
matching suit to the
glimpsed selection on the
table. Lay the two aces
face-up on the deck, with
the upper ace aligned
with the pack and the
lower ace jogged to the
right. "I'm going to find
your card with the help of
the aces." Pick up the
remaining pair of aces,
with the ace of matching
suit resting lowermost
and to the right (Figure
13). "It seems probable to
me that one of these aces
matches the suit of your
card." Secretly pull down
with the left fourth finger on the corner of the deck, widening the
break, and slip the right hand's aces partially into the gap, forming
a spread with the aces while secretly introducing the face-down
selection between the center pair (Figure 14).
Slip the right fingertips under the spread of aces and lift it away
from the pack. Set the deck aside and return the left hand to the
spread. Square the cards neatly into the left hand and turn them facedown there. This steal and load of the selection into the packet is
subtle and deceptive, as a few trials will prove.
"I'm going to find the matching ace by elimination. Each ace will
turn face-up." In illustration, apparently flip over the top ace. In
reality you buckle the bottom card slightly, permitting you to grip the
four cards above at their right edge. Then flip over all four as one onto
the packet. Immediately push the top ace to the right and flip it facedown again. The face-down card exposed below this ace serves to
confirm the honesty of your actions. The order of the packet from the
top down is now: face-down ace, face-down selection, face-up ace,
face-up ace of matching suit to the selection, face-down ace.

SPIRITED COUNTS AND REVENANT TRICKS

51

"But to start, they're all face-down." Perform an Elmsley count to


show four face-down cards. The actions of the false display with five
cards are identical to those with four. Here one might well use an
astute handling touch suggested to Mr. Elmsley by Persi Diaconis:
When you find yourself with a packet in left-hand dealing position,
and you wish to perform an Elmsley count, as happens in this trick,
rather than adjusting the packet to left-hand pinch grip, take it by
its right side in right-hand pinch grip and false count the cards from
the right hand into the left. This simple course avoids the necessity
of shifting gripswhich can be somewhat awkwardand lends a
more direct and accomplished appearance to your work.
After the count, settle the packet into left-hand dealing position
and perform a through-the-fist flourish (a maneuver commonly
associated with Dai Vernon) in this fashion: Hook the left thumb
around the outer left corner of the packet, while closing the left fingers
over the cards (Figure 15). Simultaneously rotate the hand palmdown, bringing the heel of the hand toward the audience. Do not yet
push the packet through the fist. Instead, as the left hand turns,
bring the right hand slightly in front of it, helping to conceal the
packet momentarily from the spectators' sight, and to prevent a
premature (and possibly ruinous) exposure of the face-down upper

card. Then lightly rub the right fingertips on the back of the left hand
in little circles. This is done in the manner of a magical gesture. Only
as you make this rubbing motion do you use the left thumb to push
the packet forward through the hand and into view (Figure 16). The
right hand serves to cover the left thumb's action, making the flourish
appear more magical; and the slight delay in completing the
maneuver aids in obscuring the discrepancy in position of the top
card of the packet, which should logically be face-up.
With the right hand, grasp the protruding end of the packet and
draw the cards neatly from the fist. Immediately turn the left hand
palm-up, opening the fingers, and retake the packet in left-hand
pinch grip; or grip the packet in right-hand pinch grip as you draw

52

THE COLLECTED WORKS OF ALEX ELMSLEY

it from the hand. (The application of the through-the-fist flourish to


'Twisting the Aces", as a method of secretly reversing the packet, was
first advanced in the United States by Robert Walker in his trick
"Fisting the Aces" [ref. Jon Racherbaumer Lecture Notes 1, 1976, pp.
11-12]. However, the same idea had occurred to several British
cardmen in the early 1960s, and was being used by Mr. Elmsley and
others at that time.)
Perform an Elmsley count. The third card appears face-up during
the count. Outjog this card as you take it, and place the last card on
top, aligned with the packet. For this description, assume the faceup card to be the ace of clubs.
Draw the face-up ace from the packet as you comment, "The ace
of clubs. Was your card a club? No, of course it wasn't." Set the ace
face-up on the table. Adjust the packet onto the left fingers; then
perform the through-the-fist flourish a second time. However, since
the packet this time begins on the fingers, it is not reversed by the
maneuver, as it was previously.
Draw the packet from the fist and count the four cards as three
in the following manner: Using the same grips and actions employed
for the Elmsley count, draw off the top card, then push over the next
two cards in a block and take them as a single card onto the first.
This reveals the last card as another face-up ace. "Your card wasn't
a spade [here you name the ace now showing], was it? I thought not."
Set this ace onto tabled one.
At this point you hold three cards: a face-down ace is on top,
followed by the face-up selection and the face-down ace that matches
it. Turn the packet face-up, keeping the cards squared, and take the
packet by its ends in the palm-down right hand. With the left
fingertips, slide the lower card of the packet leftward. This displays
two face-up aces. "So your card must have been a heart or a
diamond." Square the cards again and turn the packet face-down.
Regrip it in the right hand by its ends and slide the bottom card from
beneath the remaining double card, exhibiting two backs.
"The fewer cards, the more difficult it becomes." With the left hand,
carry the single card away from the double and flick its right edge
against the left edge of the double card several times. Then square
the single card on top of the double and place the packet into lefthand dealing position. Perform another through-the-fist flourish, this
time reversing the packet.
Set the packet momentarily back into left-hand dealing grip and,
with the palm-down right hand, grasp it by its ends. Then, with the
left thumb, draw the top face-down card off the packet, revealing
another face-up ace (actually the remaining two aces, held perfectly
squared). "And your card wasn't a heart." Lay the face-up double onto
the tabled aces. (If you are working with new and slippery cards, there
is some danger that the double card might separate as it is dealt onto
the aces. In such circumstances, Mr. Elmsley offers this valuable tip:

SPIRITED COUNTS AND REVENANT TRICKS

53

When, as described in the previous paragraph, you flick the single


card off the double, on the final snap bring the single card upward
against the double card with a bit more force. This installs a gentle
convex bridge in the single card, and a concave bridge in the double.
When the packet is later reversed and the upper card is taken into
_ the left hand, the double card in the
right hand will consist of two cards
carrying opposing bridges, as
shown exaggerated in Figure 17.
The increased contact of the cards
at their long edges makes them
much less likely to slip or slide
apart when laid on the table.)
"From this I deduce that the..." Glance at the face of the card
remaining in your hands, without exposing it to the spectators, "...ace
of diamonds is the ace that matches your card. By the way, what was
the value of your card? The queen of diamonds?" Perform one last
through-the-fist flourish with the card left you and dramatically
reveal it to be the selection.
For another Elmsley treatment of the Hofzinser ace plot, see "Bareaced Hofzinser" on pages 253-255.

MINI-MILTON
(Featuring the Five-as-Jive Ghost Count)
Effect: The performer removes the ace through five of hearts from
the deck, and the ace through five of diamonds. He openly arranges
both packets of cards in numerical order and sets the heart packet
aside.
He next shuffles the diamond packet and has someone pick one
of the five cards. This card, say the two of diamonds, is turned faceup and the remaining four cards are laid face-down over it.
The performer explains that there is a magical sympathy that links
the hearts and the diamonds. To illustrate this he slowly and fairly
goes through the two piles, dealing cards in unison from both, and
it is seen that the hearts, which have lain untouched since the
beginning, have magically rearranged themselves to conform with the
random order of the shuffled diamonds. As a final surprise, the two
of hearts is found reversed in the heart pile, precisely as its mate,
the spectator's selection, lies in the diamond pile.
Method: This revision of Herbert Milton's classic premise, "The
Sympathetic Clubs", is done without the aid of gimmicks. Mr. Elmsley
devised this in the mid-1950s, at which time he used two duplicate
royal flushes, taken from decks with contrasting backs. However, in
the early 1970s he amended the presentation to allow the trick to be
done with cards from just one deck.
As stated in the effect, the trick is performed with ten cards, the
ace through five of hearts and their mates in diamonds. Remove these
cards from the pack and set the balance aside. Then openly arrange
the cards of each suit in descending order with the five at the face
and the ace at the back. Call attention to the arrangement by picking
up the hearts and fanning them as you comment on their sequence.
Square the cards and flip them face-down into the right hand. Then
grasp the packet by its left edge in left-hand pinch grip. "Remember,
the cards are in ace, two, three, four, five order." Here you count the
cards into the right hand, reversing their order. However, this action
is not nearly so innocent as it appears. You actually execute a fiveas-five ghost count. The five-as-five ghost count is one of a group of

SPIRITED COUNTS AND REVENANT TRICKS

55

false displays and counts that Mr. Elmsley developed coevally with
the count that bears his name. The five-as-five count, a combination
of the four-as-four ghost count (or Elmsley count) and the Eric de la
Mare false count, shows the five cards as five but hides one of them.
(This false display procedure, with small differences in handling, was
independently derived and published in the 1970s and 1980s by
diverse innovators, among whom number Karl Fulves, Bruce Cervon,
Roger Smith and Larry Jennings.) In the context of the present trick
the count is used to displace cards secretly. The details are these:
Holding the packet face-down in left-hand pinch grip, lay the right
thumb onto the top card and draw it into right-hand dealing grip.
"Ace." In the same manner, draw the second card onto the first, but
let it lie loosely in the hand, its left edge resting on the tips of the right
fingers and slightly separated from the card below it. 'Two."
On the count of three, several covert actions are made. First, the
left thumb pushes the upper two cards of the three it holds about
half an inch to the right. Second, the right fingers contract, slightly
bowing the lower card of the right-hand pair and clearing the left edge
of the upper card (Figure 18, buckle exaggerated). You may prefer to
bow the card mainly with the fourth fingertip, while you ease the other
fingers away from the left edge. These actions are executed as the
right hand returns to claim the third card of the packet. As the right
thumb moves over the packet, the right hand's cards travel naturally
beneath the left's, permitting you to thrust the left edge of the second
card between the packet and the left fingertips. As you steal this card
back under the packet, the right thumb
simultaneously clips
the sidejogged double
card to the card remaining in the right
fingers and the right
hand moves to the
right. Count, 'Three."
Complete the count by drawing the two cards in the left hand one
at a time into the right. "Four and five." That is the five-as-five ghost
count. In this instance, however, one more small thing is done: as
you draw off the fourth card, injog it. Though it appears that you have
merely reversed the order of the cards while counting them, much
more has been accomplished. From the top down the cards now read
two-five-three-four-ace.
Place the packet into left-hand dealing position and, as you square
it, convert the injog to a break under the top two cards. "The five is
on top..." Here flip the top two cards face-up as one on the packet,
displaying the five, "...and the ace at the face." Turn the packet over
neatly to expose the ace. Then slip the face-down five from beneath
the packet, turn it face-up and apparently slip it back under the

56

THE COLLECTED WORKS OF ALEX ELMSLEY

others. In reality the left forefinger secretly buckles the lowermost


card (the face-down two), allowing you to slip the five between the
two and the three. (This method for secretly reversing a card essentially is Dr. Jacob Daley's.) From the face, the cards now read acefour-three-five-two. All are face-up but the two. Square the packet
and lay it face-up on the table.
In the same movement, pick up the diamond pile from the table.
'These I'm going to shuffle." Casually but rapidly perform the
following mixing actions: Slip the top card (the ace) from the top to
the bottom of the face-down packet. Then, holding the cards in lefthand dealing position, take the first card into the right hand, the
second card under the first, the third on top, the fourth beneath and
the fifth on top. (The method of shuffling is a minor variant of an old
procedure, which was called "skinning the goat" in the nineteenth
century. More recently it is sometimes called a Monge shuffle.)
Return the packet to the left hand and deal the top card into the
right hand. Take the second card onto the first, the third card beneath
these two, the fourth card on top and the fifth beneath. At the finish
of these short mixes the cards will lie in three-four-ace-two-five order
from top to face.
"Will you give me a number between one and five?" Whatever the
spectator's reply, you will assure that he gets the two of diamonds.
Because you have asked for a number between one and five, the only
possible responses are two, three and four.
If two is named, turn the packet face-up, spread it and break the
spread at the two, carrying away the five and the two in the right
hand. Deposit the two face-down on the table and place the five
beneath the cards remaining in the left hand. Then square the cards
and drop them face-up onto the two.
If three is named, transfer three cards, one by one, from the top
of the face-down packet to the bottom. Turn up the card now on top
the twothen deal it face-down onto the table. Flip the balance of
the packet face-up and drop it squarely onto the two.
If four is named, spread over the top four cards, without reversing
their order, and indicate the fourth card from the top. Cut the top
three cards to the bottom, bringing the fourth card to the top. Turn
it over to display the two, then deal the two face-down onto the table.
Flip the rest of the cards face-up and drop them neatly onto the two.
No matter which of these procedures is used, the diamond cards
will be in ace-four-three-five-two order from top to bottomthe
identical order to the hearts pile. To conclude the effect, explain that
the two groups of cards share a bond of sympathy between them, and
whatever is done to one will be reflected in the other. Point out that
the top cards of both piles are aces. Neatly lift the aces away, showing
that the next two cards also match. Work simultaneously down
through the piles, revealing mated cards at each position. Try not to

SPIRITED COUNTS AND REVENANT TRICKS

57

spread the piles as you remove cards, thus preserving dramatic


tension. When you reach the last cards and the two of hearts is seen
to lie face-down, corresponding with the condition of its mate, you
should hear a rewarding exclamation of surprise from the audience.
This presentation and method are felt to be superior in several
ways to those developed in the 1950s. However, the original effect
differs in several intriguing details. Therefore, it is explained next.

MIXED MARRIAGES
Effect: One royal flush is removed from a red-backed deck, and
the duplicate flush from a blue-backed deck. The blue-backed flush
is set into ten-to-ace order and given to someone to hold. The redbacked flush is then mixed, after which the spectator chooses one
of the five cards.
When the spectator examines the blue-backed flush she has been
holding, she finds that it has magically rearranged itself to match the
order of the shuffled red-backed flushand when the card she
selected is turned over in each flush, it is discovered that the two have
transposed: the red-backed selection is now in the blue-backed flush
and vice versa.
Method: Before performance, exchange the king of spades in a redbacked deck for that in a blue-backed deck. Place these estranged
kings near the faces of the packs. With this simple preparation made,
case both decks.
In performance, remove the red-backed deck from its case and set
the case aside. As you talk with the audience, casually spread
through the face-down pack, displaying red backs. Stop, of course,
before you expose the blue-backed king near the bottom. Square the
deck, turn it face-up and spread it again, searching for the five cards
of the royal flush in spades. Outjog each of these cards as you come
to it, taking care not to expose the back of the king. Then remove the
five cards, maneuvering the king to a position second from the face
of the group as you strip them from the pack. Set the pack aside.
Turn the packet face-down and casually perform the five-as-five
ghost count (see pp. 54-55). As you perform this count, comment,
"Five red-backed cards." The one blue back is hidden by the false
display. Turn the packet face-up and quickly arrange the cards in
ace-to-ten order from face to back, letting the audience see the faces
as you do this. "Five special cards: a royal flush in spades." Square
the packet and set it face-down on the table.
Remove the blue-backed deck from its case, lay the case aside and
spread the deck face-down to show blue backs. Then turn it face-up
and remove the five spade cards of the royal flush. Discard the deck
and quickly arrange the cards into ace-to-ten order, the ace at the

SPIRITED COUNTS AND REVENANT TRICKS

59

face, the ten at the back. "You see I have arranged the cards in order
of value: ten, jack, queen, king, ace. Please remember that order."
Square the cards and turn them face-down. Perform a five-as-five
ghost count, showing five blue backs, while in time to the count you
recite, "Ten, jack, queen, king, and the ace on top..." At the mention
of the ace, drop the last card from the left hand onto the right hand's
packet. Do not show its face. Instead, square the cards and raise the
packet, exposing the face to the audience as you say, "...and ten on
the bottom." Set the packet face-up on the table and ask someone
to cover these cards with her hand. Though the cards are still thought
to be in sequential order, they actually read jack-ace-queen-king-ten
from top to face.
Pick up the red-backed packet and place it face-up into left-hand
dealing grip. "These cards I shall shuffle." Do so by dealing the first
card, the ace, into the right hand; then slip the next card beneath
the first, the third on top, the fourth beneath and the fifth on top.
Transfer the packet back to left-hand dealing grip and repeat the
shuffle exactly. Perform a third shuffle, but to this pattern: take the
first card into the right hand, the second on top of the first, the third
beneath these two, the fourth on top and the fifth beneath. After the
third mix, cut the lower two cards of the packet to the face, bringing
the ten uppermost. The order of the packet from face to back is now
ten-king-queen-ace-jack.
You will now force the king. This is done by asking the spectator
to name a number between one and five. The possible choices are
two, three and four.
If two is chosen, count to the second card while holding the
packet face-up. Ask that the spectator remember that card. It is the
king. Replace the ten on the face of the packet.
If three is chosen, flip the cards face-down into left-hand dealing
grip. Thumb the top card to the right and take it into the right hand.
Raise the right hand, exposing the face of the card to the audience.
Lower the right hand and take the second card below the first. Raise
the right hand and flash the face of the second card. Lower the right
hand and at the same time buckle the bottom card of the left-hand
packet. Take the top two cards of the packet as one below the righthand pair. This, apparently, is the third card. Raise the right hand,
exposing the face of the king to the audience. Ask that the spectator
remember this card. Then replace the right hand's cards onto the
single card in the left hand.
Iffour is chosen, turn the packet face-down into the left hand
and raise that hand, holding the packet vertically, face toward the
audience. Count four cards into the right hand, taking each onto the
face of the last. Since the backs of the cards are out of the spectators' view, the blue back of the king cannot be seen by them. Ask that
the king be remembered and replace the right hand's cards onto the
card remaining in the left hand.

60

THE COLLECTED WORKS OF ALEX ELMSLEY

You are now set for the climax of the trick. In a moment you will
turn the red-backed packet face-up and reveal that the blue-backed
packet has altered its order in sympathy. However, there is one
circumstance that needs to be discussed. When the order of the redbacked packet is shown, the king rests second from the face. If two
or four was the number chosen, all is well. However, if the selected
number was three, there will be an obvious discrepancy in the position of the king as it was last shown (third from the top) and its actual
position (fourth from the top). Therefore, if three has been chosen,
you must give the packet a brief false shuffle to cover the discrepant
position of the king. The easiest false shuffle in these circumstances
is an overhand shuffle: With the packet still face-down, run the first
two cards and throw the remaining three under them. Repeat this
quick mix and the packet is brought back to its original order, with
the blue-backed card kept hidden.
If it is not already there, place the packet face-up into left-hand
dealing position. Explain to the audience that the two royal flushes,
though they are from different packs, are linked by a supernatural
bond of sympathy. Address the spectator who is covering the bluebacked packet with her hand: "Do you remember the order of the
cards you are holding? They were arranged in ten-to-ace sequence.
These cards on the other hand have been shuffled. Raise your hand,
pick up the packet and hold it as I am holding mine." Now have the
spectator deal her cards into a face-up row. As she deals, you deal
in unison from your packet, forming a parallel row opposite hers. As
the two of you deal out your cards, it is seen that the blue-backed
packet has indeed altered its order to match the shuffled cards in
the red-backed packet.
Now comes the coup due grace: Ask the spectator to recall the card
she selected. When she names the king, turn all the cards but the
king in your row face-down, and have her do likewise with the cards
in her row. "The cards of these royal flushes are in sympathy; but
everyone knows that sympathy implies a certain amount of mutual
exchange." Dramatically turn the two kings face-down in their rows.
"Do you see what I mean?"
An historical note: To the best of my knowledge, Herman L. Weber
(Namreh) was the first to embellish a sympathetic cards effect with
a surprise transposition of face-up cards between two decks. This
idea was embodied in his trick, "Sympathetique", marketed in 1927.

SERENDIPITY
Effect: Someone goes through the deck and removes three jacks.
These jacks are introduced as the "Three Princes of Serendip, who
have a knack of making happy discoveries by accident." The
performer removes two further cards, the faces of which he neither
^_^^_^_^_^___^_^_^__^_^___
looks at nor shows. He
alternates these with the
jacks and perches the
five-card packet in plain
view in his breast pocket
(Figure 19).
The spectator is next
asked to pick two cards
from the pack. These are
shown to everyone and
can be signed by the
spectator. The selections
are then shuffled back
into the deck.
The performer now takes the packet of jacks from his pocket and
spreads it, displaying the two unknown cards he placed between the
jacks. These two cards, though it seems impossible, prove to be the
very cards selected by the spectator.
Method: Run casually through the face-up pack until you find a
jack, preferably a red one, that has no other jacks resting among the
next few cards beyond it. (In practice, Mr. Elmsley will use either jacks
or kings to play the parts of the princes, adopting the first male court
card that fulfills the requirements. For this description, however,
jacks will be assumed.) When a suitable jack has been located, form
a break some small known number of cards beyond itsay fiveand
square the spread into your left hand. Then double cut the face-up
deck to the break, bringing the jack to a known position close to the
top of the pack.
Smile at someone as if you have just been struck by an idea. "Why
should I do all the work? Will you take out three jacks for me, please?"
Hand her the pack, still face-up, and let her find three jacks. Because

62

THE COLLECTED WORKS OF ALEX ELMSLEY

you have ensured that no jack lies beyond the one positioned near
the top of the pack, chances are excellent that she will remove the
other three, leaving the set jack in place. However, privately observe
her actions as you talk with the audience, to ascertain whether the
jack is left undisturbed or is removed. As she is busy with her task,
you explain to everyone:
"These jacks will represent the Three Princes of Serendip.
According to an old legend from Ceylon, the Three Princes of Serendip
had the knack of making happy discoveries by accident. On one
occasion they even found a lost treasure before it was lostwhich
sounds impossible, but that's my business."
When the three jacks have been removed, retrieve the pack and
arrange the face-up jacks on the table, with the odd-colored jack at
the face of the spread. Turn the deck face-down and hold it in lefthand dealing grip.
"First I'll arrange an accident for the Princes...a couple of
accidents: two unknown cards." As you say this, spread through the
deck and pull out two cards. One of these is an unpremeditated
choice, but the other is the fourth jack, which you have set in a known
and quickly located position near the top of the pack. First remove
the jack from the deck and drop it face-down onto the table. Then
drop any other card, removed from someplace lower in the deck, facedown onto the jack. Perform these actions casually, as if any cards
might be used, and make it clear by your actions that you are not
looking at the faces of the cards.
"These cards will stand in for
two stray parcels discovered by the
Princes during their wanderings."
Set the pack aside and pick up the
three face-up jacks. Flip them
face-down and respread them,
forming a fan. Pick up the top card
of the tabled pair (the genuinely
unknown card you have removed)
and slip it between the lower pair
of jacks in your hand. Leave this
card outjogged for about half its
length. Then pick up the second
card (the fourth jack) and place it
between the upper two jacks, similarly outjogged (Figure 20).
"A prince and a parcel, a prince and a parcel, and a prince." Here
point to each card in turn, emphasizing the alternating arrangement.
Then square the cards, catching a right thumb break above the two
lower ones. With the right hand, place the lower end of the packet
into your left breast pocket. During this action, secretly release the
two cards below the break (the unknown card and one of the

SPIRITED COUNTS AND REVENANT TRICKS

63

spectator's jacks), letting them fall unseen into the pocket. Without
hesitation, cock the remaining three cards so that they will sit at the
top of the pocket in plain view (Figure 19 again).
Now pick up the deck and have two cards chosen and noted by
everyone. The point of this trick is not the location or divination of
these selections, so you can if you wish look at the cards yourself. It
greatly furthers the effect when everyone in the audience knows the
identities of the cards. The selections may be signed on the faces, if
you believe it strengthens the effect. Then lose the chosen cards in
the deck, actually controlling them to the top.
As you square the deck in your left hand, form a fourth-finger
break beneath the top two cards. Now, with your right hand, remove
the packet on display in your left pocket. This consists of three jacks,
but is believed to contain five cards. Ask the audience, "Do you
remember what we have here?" Make strong eye contact as you say
this, misdirecting away from your actions. "The Three Princes of
Serendip and a couple of accidents." As you say this, bring the hands
together to square the right hand's packet over the deck; and, in doing
so, steal the two cards above the break onto the face of the packet.
Then set the deck aside.
"Five cards in all." Here perform a five-as-five ghost count (see pp.
54-55). No attention or importance is given these actions. The count
is done in an offhand manner as a casual complement to your words.
On finishing the count, immediately fan the packet. "A prince at
the bottom, a prince at the top and a prince in the middle." As you
name each prince, turn up the corresponding card in the fan. This
leaves the two selections sandwiched face-down between the faceup jacks.
"But what seems impossible is that the two stray parcels between
the princes happen to be your chosen cards!" Conclude by raising
the fan to expose its underside to the audience, bringing the faces of
the selections into view.
We must now return to a question not yet addressed: what is to
be done if the spectator, on removing three jacks from the deck, takes
your set jack near the top or loses it in the pack? This is unlikely,
due to the placement of the card, but if such a circumstance should
arise, simply fan the deck, face toward you, and remove the remaining
jack, along with any other card, as the "stray parcels". The overall
effect is only slightly diminished in such a case.
Mr. Elmsley's presentation has been quoted above not just for its
amusing qualities, but because it serves a subtle psychological
purpose. In constructing a story about three princes, he has cleverly
distracted the spectators from considering the fourth jack in the deck.
This of course further obscures the method. Should you wish to
develop a different presentation, this psychological point should not
be overlooked.

64

THE COLLECTED WORKS OF ALEX ELMSLEY

Finally, it was mentioned at the beginning of the method that, if


convenient, a red jack or king should be set near the top of the pack.
At that time, no reason for this was given. The card you position must
later be switched for the jack or king of corresponding color. Mr.
Elmsley believes the red suits are less memorable than the black,
thus further ensuring that the exchange goes unnoticed. This, then,
is the motive behind the preference of a red jack or king.

ONE POOR LION


Effect: The performer removes all the aces, kings, queens and
jacks from the deck and performs a surprising multiple transposition
with these cards. The transposition is made intelligible and
entertaining by a moral tale about four lions and their postponed
dinner.
Method: The effect is indirectly derived from Charles Jordan's
"Like Seeks Like", a trick marketed in 1919. (See Charles T. Jordan:
Collected Tricks, pp. 87-88; and Encyclopedia of Card Tricks, Hugard
revision, p. 344. For more information on this plot, also see "New
Pieces to an Old Puzzle", pp. 280-283 in this volume.) Its immediate
inspiration was E. G. Brown's "The Military Problem" (ref. T. H. Hall's
The Card Magic of Edward G. Brown, pp. 106-114). While the Brown
trick provided Mr. Elmsley with his starting point when he tackled
the problem in the early 1970s, the presentation and method grew
into something wholly different from their sire.
Such multiple transposition effects can easily become muddled to
an audience when performed without a lucid and interesting
presentation. Mr. Elmsley employs an amusing story, which he
developed from a cartoon he ran across in an 1875 issue of Punch.
The cartoon depicted an adult relating a spiritually uplifting legend
to a group of children. The caption read, 'There was one poor tiger
that hadn't got a Christian." Bowing to popular mythology, Mr.
Elmsley transformed the tigers into lions for his tale, which he
carefully constructed to clarify for the audience the action of the
multiple transposition, all in an entertaining fashion. The illusion
created is so persuasive, you will probably fool yourself if you follow
these instructions with cards in hand.
Remove all the aces, kings, queens and jacks from the pack and
set the balance aside. Group the four cards of each value into a
separate pile and alternate the colors of the kings, queens and jacks.
The sequence of the suits is not important. Do this sorting and
arranging as quickly as you can, while you introduce the effect, and
set the four groups of cards face-up on the table.
'This is a story of Ancient Rome, in the days when they used to
throw Christians to the lions. Here are four Christian men [lay down

66

THE COLLECTED WORKS OF ALEX ELMSLEY

the kings], four Christian women [lay down the queens] and four
Christian children [lay down the jacks]; and these are the lions
[indicate the aces].

"Will you shuffle the lions, please?" Hand out the aces for someone
to mix. "Good. That exercise must have given them an appetite. Will
you now deal the lions face-down into a row.
"Now I want you to throw the Christians to the lions. Pick up any
packet, turn it face-down and drop it onto any one of the aces...and
again...and once more.
"Do you know which Christians you have given to which lions?
Let's check." For the next sequence of actions you must fit the patter
to the situation. We will assume that the first packet holds the ace
of clubs and the four queens. With the palm-down right hand, pick
up the first packet on your left, holding it by its ends. Turn the hand
palm-up to expose the ace on the bottom of the packet. "Here is the
ace of clubsthe lion of clubs..." With the palm-down left hand, grasp
the face-up packet by it left side, taking it in a fingertip pinch grip.
Release the right hand's grasp and revolve the left hand palm-up,
turning the packet face-down.
"...and the one, two, three, four Christian..." Here you seemingly
count the top four cards into the right hand. In reality you perform
a five-as-five ghost count (see pp. 54-55), but retain the fifth card in
your left hand. Set this last card face-down on the table, where the
pile previously rested. This, the audience should believe, is the ace
just shown.
Flip the right hand's packet face-up into the left hand, keeping the
cards reasonably squared to conceal the ace at the back, "...women."
As you complete your sentence, thumb over the queen on the face,
take it into the right hand, and pause briefly. Then flip the left hand's
packet face-down, place the right hand's queen face-down on top of
the packet, and drop the four cards onto the previously tabled fifth
card, letting the packet overlap the inner end of the card. On paper
this sequence may seem somewhat ponderous; however, in practice
the actions flow smoothly together and take but a few seconds.
Pick up the next pile from the table and expose the ace at the
bottom. "The lion of diamonds...and the one, two, three, four
Christian...children." We will assume that this pile contains the ace
of diamonds and the four jacks. Perform another interrupted five-asfive ghost count with the packet and repeat the subsequent display
and displacement sequence just taught.
'The lion of spades...and the one, two, three, four Christians you
threw to him were the four Christian men." Display the ace at the
bottom of the remaining pile and repeat the actions used with the
previous packets, substituting a king for the ace. At this point the
row of four cards and the three offset piles lie arranged as shown in
Figure 21.

SPIRITED COUNTS AND REVENANT TRICKS

67

"And the odd one out was the lion of hearts." Turn over the fourth
ace, which has no cards resting on it, and leave it face-up in place.
"Now this poor lion didn't have any Christians. But the other lions,
being kindly beasts, volunteered to contribute. The lion with the four
Christian women gave him one woman." Pick up the first pile, leaving
the card thought to be the ace of clubs on the table. Turn the face of
the packet toward yourself, as if checking the identity of the cards
before you name them. You are holding three queens with an ace
positioned third from the face. While keeping the face of the packet
tipped toward you, take the cards into left-hand pinch grip, ready for
an Elmsley count. Then lower the hands, beginning the count just
as the faces of the cards come into the audience's view. The Elmsley
count hides the ace while bringing it to the top, and the proper ratio
of red and black queens will be displayed. True, the first queen is seen
twice, but because the count was begun on a downswing, the
repetition will elude even the most neurotic card player.
As soon as you've completed the count, flip the packet face-down
into your left hand and deal the top card onto the face-up ace of
hearts. Drop the balance of the packet squarely onto the card it
previously overlapped.
'The lion with the four Christian children gave him a child." Pick
up the second pile of four cards and perform the Elmsley count as
explained above to show four jacks. Then turn the packet face-down
and deal the top card onto the face-up ace pile.
"And the lion with the four Christian men gave him a man." Repeat
the previous display and dealing sequence with the pile of kings.
"This lion had come across Christians beforehis cousin had once
had a thorn removed from his paw by oneand they all got into a
conversation; and during this conversation the Christians happened
to mention that they didn't want to be eaten.

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THE COLLECTED WORKS OF ALEX ELMSLEY

"This surprised the lion, but he offered to see what he could do;
and in a very short time it had all been arranged. Here were the four
Christian women...here were the four Christian children...here were
the four Christian men...and here of course were the four lions." As
each group is named, turn up the appropriate pile and spread it on
the table, revealing the congregation of each value to its own kind.
"And the lions didn't go hungry either. They ate the interfering dogooding lion who had lost them their dinners."

THE GREAT PRETENDER


(Featuring the Everchange Count)
Effect: The performer removes the four kings from the pack and
sets them on the table. Then four persons each choose a card. The
four selections are lost back in the deck and one indifferent card is
inserted face-down in the middle of the face-up kings. The packet is
turned over and the indifferent card is shown again, now face-up.
The performer makes a magical gesture and, when the cards are
once more displayed, the indifferent card in the center has changed
into the first person's selection. Another magical gesture is made and
the face-up first selection transforms into the second person's card;
and that in turn changes into the third selection. However, when the
time comes for the fourth selection to be produced, the face-up card
is made to vanish completely from the packet, leaving behind only
the four kings.
The performer cuts the face-down kings into the center of the deck,
snaps his fingers and spreads the pack face-up. The kings are found
as expected in the middle of the spread, but there is one card facedown at their center: the fourth and final selection.
Method: The effect is a precursor to Karl Fulves' Universal Card
plot. It is also the first effect developed by Mr. Elmsley for the
everchange count, another of his false counts devised around 1954.
If the deck does not already have one, install a mild convex lengthwise bridge in it. Then remove the four kings and lay them face-up
in a spread on the table. The order of the suits is immaterial. Spread
the face-down pack and have four cards chosen by as many spectators. Then square the deck and set it face-down on the table, apart
from the kings.
Starting at your left and working rightward, ask the first person
to show her card to everyone else in the group. Once she has done
this, take it from her, holding it face-down. Turn to the second person
and ask that he show his selection to the group. Take his card and
slip it under the first as you turn to the third spectator. Have him
show his card around before giving it to you. Place this card beneath
the previous two and approach the fourth person, asking her to

70

THE COLLECTED WORKS OF ALEX ELMSLEY

display her card. Using the strong natural misdirection of the


moment, catch a break below the top card of the three you hold and
execute a half pass, turning the lower two cards face-up. For those
unfamiliar with this sleight, a brief explanation is offered:
Tip the outer end of
the packet downward
and, with the palm-down
right hand, grasp the
cards by their ends. With
the right fingers together
and projecting well over
the front edge of the
packet, curl the left forefinger underneath and
lower the right side of the
two cards below the
break. Press the forefinger rightward against
the face of the lowered
cards, forcing their left
edge to skate lightly
across the face of the
card above, until that
edge meets the right edge
of the horizontal card. At
this moment the turning
cards rest vertically
beneath the top card,
and are hidden by that
card and the right hand
(Figure 22). Complete the
reversal of the cards by
folding them flat against
the face of the top card
and square with it (Figure 23). Follow through
by casually squaring the
left edge of the packet
with the left fingertips.
Now take the fourth selection and place it face-down on top of the
other three. The order of the cards from top to face is fourth-firstthird-second. The top two cards are face-down and the bottom two
face-up.
With the palm-down right hand, grasp the packet by its ends. With
the same hand, pick up the tabled deck by its opposite right corners
and set it into left-hand dealing position. As you do so, step the
selection packet widely to the right of the deck, keeping deck and

SPIRITED COUNTS AND REVENANT TRICKS

71

packet distinctly separate (Figure 24). As soon as the left hand holds
the deck, separate the packet from it.
You must now shift the right hand's grip on the packet to the outer
end: Move the first and fourth fingers to their respective corners of
the packet, straddling the end. In this position the fingers can hold

the packet securely while the thumb moves from the inner end of the
packet onto the back near the outer end (Figure 25). Now, with the
right thumb, swivel the inner end of the top card a bit to the right,
angling it. If the lower cards also spread slightly, no harm is done,
so long as their reversed condition is not exposed. However, if the
thumb exerts only a light pressure, you should be able to move just
the top card. If the fourth finger is kept against the right front edge
of the packet, it can aid in keeping the lower cards square and also
serve as a pivot post (Figure 26).

72

THE COLLECTED WORKS OF ALEX ELMSLEY

With the left thumb, riffle down the outer left corner of the deck
and stop about one third from the top, opening a gap for the insertion of the packet. Slip the right inner corner of the packet into the
gap, but silently release one card from the left thumb at the same
time, letting it hit the angled corner of the fourth selection. As you
then move the packet rightward into the deck, this indifferent card
is introduced between the top two cards (Figure 27).
Slide the packet rightward until it is aligned with the deck;
however, leave the packet jogged from the front of the pack for roughly
a quarter of an inch. Move the right hand away from the cards and,
with the left forefinger, push the packet flush with the deck. As you
do so, ease the other fingers' pressure on the side of the pack. Thanks
to the plunger principle, the indifferent card that has been secretly
introduced into the packet is forced about a quarter of an inch from
the inner end of the deck. The deck, of course, should be held at an
angle that conceals this injog from the audience.
Bring the right hand over the pack to square it and, as you do so,
push downward and inward with the right thumb on the jogged card,
forming a break above it. Continue to grip the deck by its ends in the
right hand, the right thumb rnaintaining the break near the left inner
corner. Then, with the left hand, undercut about a third of the pack
and place it on top.
"I'm going to take any card from the pack." Make a second
undercut, this time cutting at the break, but do not complete the cut.
Rather, hold the cut third in left-hand dealing grip. The fourth
person's card is now at the bottom of the right-hand portion. On top
of the left-hand portion is an indifferent card and the first selection,
both face-down. Face-up beneath them are the third and second
selections, in that order. As far as the audience is concerned, the
selections should seem lost in the pack.
With the left thumb, push the top card of its packet to the right
and, with the left edge of the right-hand packet, flip this card faceup on the left-hand packet. Name the card and ask, "That wasn't one
of the chosen cards, was it?" This question and the audience's
response give you more than ample time to set up the next sleight,
the Merlin tip-over change. Curl the tip of the right second finger in
onto the face of the right-hand packet. Then, with the fingertip, pull
the bottom card very slightly forward, simultaneously swiveling its
inner end rightward, just enough to allow the left inner corner of the
card to clear the thumbtip (Figure 28). This maneuver is identical to
the first action of the Kelly-Ovette bottom placement. Let the inner
end of the card drop slightly away from the packet and again catch
it on the tip of the thumb, now with a break formed at the inner end.
If you like, the third finger can press inward to straighten the card
into alignment with the packet. (This one-handed get-ready for the
tip-over change was first described by Hugard and Braue in Expert
Card Technique, p. 86.)

SPIRITED COUNTS AND REVENANT TRICKS

73

Having verified that the card turned face-up is not one of the
selections, flip it face-down, this time executing the tip-over change.
That is, in the action of flipping the card down, the right hand's packet
passes over the left's, momentarily eclipsing it. At that instant, release
the card below the break from the right thumb, square onto the left
hand's packet. (Figure 29 is a stop-action pose of the sleight.) Move
the right hand away from the left and immediately thumb the top card
of the left hand's half face-down onto the table. This is the fourth
spectator's selection.

Slip the right hand's packet


square under the left's, bringing
the stock to the top of the pack.
You must now procure a break
under the top four cards. By
pressing with the left thumb on
the outer left corner of the pack,
a break will open at the right
side, thanks to the opposing
bridges between the reversed
cards and the balance of the
deck. Press the left fourth finger
against the edge of the deck to
maintain the break at the inner
right corner.
With the right hand, gather the face-up kings and drop them onto
the deck, stepped forward for an inch or more. Immediately fan them
to the right. Pick up the face-down tabled card. Insert this card, which
is assumed to be the indifferent card displayed a moment before,
between the second and third kings (Figure 30).

74

THE COLLECTED WORKS OF ALEX ELMSLEY

With the right hand, square the fan of five cards, holding it above
the deck. Then lower the packet onto the pack, stepping it forward
for no more than a quarter of an inch. Now grasp all the cards above
the break at their inner right cornerright thumb above, forefinger
in the breakand neatly flip the nine cards over as a unit on the
pack. In this action, shift the block inward about a quarter of an inch.
This adjustment brings the kings into alignment with the deck, while
it steps the top four cards inward slightly.
Without hesitation, lift the four-card block from the deck. The step
makes this an easy task. Set the deck onto the table, taking care not
to expose the face-up fourth selection, which lies third from the top.
The four-card packet, thought by the audience to be the four kings
and reversed indifferent card, is in reality, from top to bottom: second
selection, third selection, both face-down; then the first selection and
indifferent card, both face-up.
Ask the spectators, "Do you remember what the reversed card is?"
You will now count these four cards as five, displaying the face-up
indifferent card apparently in the middle of four face-down cards. Mr.
Elmsley's everchange count makes this possible.
Grasp the packet at its left side in left-hand pinch grip. The first
two takes of the count are identical to those used for the Elmsley
count. Bring the palm-up right hand to the packet and, with the right
thumb, draw the top card onto the right fingers, into almost a dealing
grip (Figure 31). As you move the right hand away from the packet,
taking the first card, with the left thumb push the next pair of cards
as a unit slightly to the right, in preparation for the second take.
In the motion of drawing the second card onto the first, several
covert actions are executed: you steal back the first card, the left
fingers clipping it to the bottom of the packet; and you simultaneously clip the top two cards of the packet in the fork of the right
thumb and carry them away (Figure 32). This brings the face-up
indifferent card into view in the left hand.
Another bit of deception occurs on the third take. When you bring
the right hand back to the packet to claim the third card, with your
fingertips buckle the bottom card of the right-hand pair, enabling the
left fingers to reclaim the top right-hand card secretly beneath the
packet (Figure 33, exposed view). Mr. Elmsley hooks the inner left
corner of the buckled card with the tip of the right fourth finger to
ensure the success of the steal.
The action of the right thumb, as it draws the top card of the lefthand pair onto its packet, conceals this second steal. Care must be
taken here not to expose the lower right-hand card (the face-up first
selection). If the right forefinger is stretched across the outer end of
the packet (Figure 32 again), the card will remain hidden. Another
tip here is to push over the left hand's top card about half an inch
as the right hand approaches to take it. This further aids in
concealing the right hand's lower card as the steal is executed.

SPIRITED COUNTS AND REVENANT TRICKS

75

At this point the right hand holds the two face-up cards, and the
left hand the two face-down ones. Complete the count by taking the
two face-down cards, one after the other, legitimately onto the righthand packet.
Admittedly, the most difficult action of this count is the buckling
of the right-hand card just before the steal. You will find that in most
of Mr. Elmsley's applications of the everchange count there is a
reason provided to pause momentarily while displaying the card
newly exposed in the left hand. This break in the rhythm of the count
furnishes one or two advantageous seconds in which to accomplish
the necessary buckling action.
Edward Mario, when he does this count, recommends replacing
the buckle action with a small sidejog of the right hand's top card.
The right thumb, which lies along the right border of the cards,
pushes the top card slightly to the left while concealing the right edge
of the card beneath (Figure 34). The left edge of the right hand's upper
card can then be clipped under the left hand's packet by the left

76

THE COLLECTED WORKS OF ALEX ELMSLEY

fingertips. Some will find this procedure easier than a buckle. It is


also less prone to exposure from your extreme left. A full description
of the Mario procedure appears in Sticks and Stones, No. 13 (p. 8).
Five cards have seemingly been seen: four face-down cards with
a face-up indifferent card in the center. Turn to the first spectator
and ask her to name her card. On hearing her reply, square the
packet and place it on the left fingers. Next perform a through-thefist flourish (see p. 51 for a description of this maneuver). As the
packet emerges from the fourth finger's side of the hand, pinch it at
the right fingertips and draw it completely from the fist. From the top
down, the cards read: third selection, second selection, both facedown; indifferent card, first selection, both face-up.
Perform a second everchange count. The face-up indifferent card
at center will be seen to have changed to the first selection.
Ask the second spectator to name his card. Repeat the through the-fist flourishhowever, start with the packet on the left palm
rather than on the fingers. While the action of the flourish appears
the same, this time the packet is turned over during the maneuver.
From top down, the cards now read: indifferent card, first selection,
both face-down; third selection, second selection, both face-up.
Do a third everchange count. The face-up center card is this time
seen to be the second selection. Ask for the name of the third card
and perform another through-the-fist flourish, of the non-reversing
sort (see p. 52), followed by a fourth everchange count. The face-up
card transforms into the third selection. On this count, when taking
the fourth and fifth cards into the right hand, injog them a bit, leaving
the outer end of the selection exposed.
Transfer the packet to the left hand and, as you square it, form a
left fourth-finger break under the two injogged cards. While doing
this, address the fourth spectator: 'That leaves only your card. What
was it?" While you draw attention to the spectator, right the lower
two cards of the packet with a half pass.
"That's a particularly interesting card. Therefore, I'll find it in a
more interesting way. First, I'll invisibly remove the face-up card and
throw it into the pack." Make suitable gestures to this effect. "That's
all that's needed. See, it's gone." Count the packet legitimately,
simulating the actions of the previous counts, to show four face-down
cards. If you like, after the count you can spread the cards cleanly
between the hands, making it clear that you hold only four.
'Then I'll send the kings in search of the reversed card." Drop the
four cards face-down onto the deck and give it a cut. Now pick up
the pack, turn it face-up and spread it between the hands until you
arrive at the four kings. Spread the kings widely, displaying the facedown card at their center. Do not spread past the fourth king or you
will expose the other three selections, which rest below it. All eyes
will be drawn to the face-down card. Ask the last spectator to name
her selection; then turn up the reversed card and show it to be hers.

TWISTER'S FLUSH
Effect: A royal flush is taken from the deck, displayed and turned
face-down. The performer makes a magical gesture, twisting the
packet end for end, and shows that this has caused the ten to turn
face-up in the center. The packet is given another twist and the ten
turns magically face-down while the jack turns face-up. Another
magical gesture is made and the jack turns down and the queen turns
up. Following this the queen rights itself and the king turns face-up.
The only card that has yet to perform is the ace. However, being the
most valuable card in the packet, it is expected to do something more
spectacular than the others. It does. The ace vanishes from the packet
completely, leaving only four cards, and flies to the performer's
pocket. With an obviously empty hand, he reaches into his pocket
and brings out the ace.
Method: Mr. Elmsley created this interesting variation in the
1960s, not long after Dai Vernon's 'Twisting the Aces" was published.
In this five-card treatment the Elmsley count is replaced by the
everchange count as the central sleight. However, the thing of greatest interest is that Mr. Elmsley, at this early date, recognized that
the "twisting" plot could benefit from a surprising finish. Though he
has left this trick unpublished until now, the idea of having the last
card vanish from the packet and appear elsewhere was realized by
him roughly a decade before Daryl Martinez conceived the same idea
in the U.S. in his excellent trick, 'Twisted Aces" (ref. Paul Harris
Reveals Some of His Most Intimate Secrets, pp. 66-69; also Secrets of
a "Puerto Rican Gambler", pp. 105-115).
Remove a royal flush of any suit from the deck and arrange the
cards in ace-king-queen-jack-ten order from back to face. When you
have the cards as you want them, lower the hands and, while holding
the deck face-down in left-hand dealing grip, spread the flush faceup between the hands and call attention to its make-up: "A trick with
a poker player's royal flush."
When everyone has noted the identity of the five cards, square
them over the pack, catching a left fourth-finger break above the ace,
and with the palm-down right hand lift away the four cards above
the break. Simultaneously execute a wrist turn with the left hand,
angling the top of the deck from the audience's view as the left hand

78

THE COLLECTED WORKS OF ALEX ELMSLEY

drops. This hides the presence of the face-up ace as it is stolen from
the packet. Drop the deck into your left jacket pocket and leave it
there. "I won't need the rest of the pack-just the five cards."
Turn the packet face-down onto the left fingertips and grasp it in
left-hand pinch grip. Then perform a casual everchange count (pp.
74-76), showing the four face-down cards as five. The count also
rearranges the cards in the order required for sequential reversals:
queen-king-ten-jack from top to face. When you count the last two
cards into the right hand, injog them slightly.
Transfer the packet from the right hand to left-hand dealing
position, maintaining the injog; and bring the right hand palm-down
over the packet to square it. In doing so, press down with the tip of
the right second finger on the exposed outer end of the two bottom
cards and form a break above them. The second finger holds this
break for only an instant as you immediately execute a half pass,
reversing the bottom pair of cards. One difficulty of the half pass has
always been disguising or excusing the left hand's visible shifting of
grips as the sleight is completed. Several good cover-actions have
been devised over the years, but the cover must fit the context of the
handling. Mr. Elmsley has devised the perfect cover-action for this
trick: the Vernon twisting flourish from 'Twisting the Aces" (ref. More
Inner Secrets of Card Magic, p. 6). As you complete the half pass (see
p. 70 for a description of this sleight), bringing the left fingertips to
the left edge of the packet, with the right hand move the entire packet
deep into the fork of the left thumb. This automatically squares the
reversed cards below the upper pair, neatly concluding the sleight.
As the packet is settled into left-hand dealing position, stretch the
left thumb across the back of the packet, until you can pinch the
cards at their right edges, somewhere near center, catching them
between the thumb and second fingertip.
You now change the right hand's grip: Move the right thumb from
the inner end of the packet to the outer left corner, bending the right
hand downward at the wrist while you maintain the right fingertips'
contact with the front end of the packet. Pinch the left corner between
the right thumb, above, and second fingertip, below (Figure 35).
This brings you into position to perform the Vernon twisting
flourish: With the right hand, pull the left outer corner of the packet
to the right. The packet consequently pivots clockwise between the
left second finger and thumb, swiveling end for end (Figure 36). When
you have rotated the packet one hundred eighty degrees you will be
holding it at its left side in left-hand pinch grip. This places the cards
into position for the everchange count (just as Dai Vernon intended).
"If I twist the cards in this direction, the first card of our flush will
turn over." Perform an everchange count, revealing the ten face-up
in the middle of the packet. Take the packet again into left-hand
dealing position and pinch it between the thumb and second fingertip
near center at the right side. Then pinch the inner left corner of the

SPIRITED COUNTS AND REVENANT TRICKS

79

packet between the right


thumb, above, and
second fingertip, below
(Figure 37).
"If I twist the packet in
the opposite direction, it
turns the ten down
again..." Pull the grasped
corner to the right, rotating the packet counterclockwise and end for
end. Once more you
finish in left-hand pinch
grip, ready to count the
cards.
"...and turns the jack
face-up." Perform an
everchange count, displaying the jack reversed
at center. Square the
packet and set it into lefthand dealing position
once more.
"If I do this..." Perform
the
through-the-fist
flourish, subtly turning
the packet over (see p.
51). "...the queen turns
up." Do another everchange count to expose
the face-up queen at
center.
"And if I do it with this
hand..." With just the
right fingers and thumb,
adjust the position of the
packet in the right hand,
shifting it onto the fingers. Then, move deftly
into a right-handed
through-the-fist flourish.
This time do not reverse
the packet. As you draw
it from the right fist, take
the cards directly into
left-hand pinch grip, preparing for the final count.

80

THE COLLECTED WORKS OF ALEX ELMSLEY

"...the king turns over." One more everchange count reveals the
king face-up in the middle. As with the first count of the trick, injog
the last two cards as you count them into the right hand.
Take the packet into left-hand dealing position again and, with the
right hand, grip the projecting outer ends of the two bottom cards.
Quickly even up the ends of the pair and immediately draw the double
card forward, revolving it end over end, face-down and square onto
the packet. This rights the two face-up cards in a bold but satisfactory
manner. No one ever questions the action.
As you turn the cards down, misdirect away from the action by
looking at the audience and saying, "The fifth cardthe aceis the
most difficult. Will you help me by blowing on the cards? Whoa! I
think you've done more than your job." Count the cards from left
hand to right, simulating the actions of the everchange count, but
count honestly. Only four cards are found. Spread the cards between
your hands and take the top two into the right hand. Separate the
hands and slide the cards of each pair back and forth over one
another, proving that the fifth card is not being hidden. Slide the right
hand's pair of cards under the left's and flip all four face-up in the
left hand. Cleanly deal the cards into a face-up row. 'Ten, jack, queen,
king. The ace has vanished.
"Do you know what's happened? You've blown the ace all the way
to my pocket." With an obviously empty left hand, reach into the
jacket pocket and bring forth the ace, taking it from the top of the
deck. Display the card, place it with those on the table and conclude.

THOUGHTS IN TRANSIT
(Featuring the Neverchange Count)
Effect: The plot is Dai Vernon's "Penetration of Thought". Four
cards are removed from one deck and their duplicates from another
of contrasting back color. These eight cards are displayed and
someone is asked to think of one.
The four cards from each deck are now separated into two packets
and the spectator is asked to name the card he thought of, and to
indicate either of the two packets. The moment he does this, the
performer causes his mental selection to fly to the chosen packet.
That packet is counted: it now contains five cards, one of them an
odd-backed stranger. When that card is turned up it proves to be the
thought-of selection.
Method: Mr. Elmsley was an early confidant to Dai Vernon when
Mr. Vernon was working toward an artistic solution to this problem.
The Professor's preferred solution was eventually published in The
Dai Vernon Book of Magic (pp. 51-58). It was over ten years later, in
the early 1970s, that Mr. Elmsley conceived another method for
achieving the effect; one in which double cards were never employed,
allowing a particularly free handling that was direct and convincing
in appearance. While the Elmsley method owes a debt to Mr.
Vernon's, it is also unmistakably original in its approach. The method
hinges on another Elmsley false count, originally conceived in the
1950s: the neverchange count.
The neverchange count is similar to the everchange count in that
it represents four cards as five while hiding one. However, at the end
of the neverchange count the middle card remains in place and will
appear again in the middle if another neverchange count is
performed. Since this trick relies heavily on the neverchange count,
the count will be taught before we proceed to the full method. (It
should be mentioned that Jeff Busby independently contrived an
identical count sequence in the early 1970s. [See Epilogue, No. 22,
Nov. 1974, p. 6.], as did Karl Fulves. Considering the intense interest
focused in the past several decades on this family of false counts and
displays, it will surprise few that identical count sequences have been
devised by diverse hands.)

82

THE COLLECTED WORKS OF ALEX ELMSLEY

Hold the four-card packet


face-down in left-hand pinch
grip. With the right thumb,
draw the top card into righthand dealing position. On the
count of two, draw the next
card from the packet into the
right hand while stealing the
first card back under the
packet. If you experience difficulty in pulling the second
card off neatly, hold the right
hand's card at an angle of
approximately thirty degrees
from horizontal and press the
outer right corner of the packet to the back of this card, about a
quarter of an inch from its outer right corner (Figure 38). Use the back
of this card to stop the packet from spreading as you pull the top card
away. This is merely an extension of the blocking technique used in
the Elmsley count, but here the right hand's card does the work of
the right forefinger in blocking the left hand's cards.
On the count of three, push over the top two cards of the left-hand
packet together and take them as one into the right hand while stealing the right hand's card back under the left-hand packet. This switch
of cards is identical to that used in the standard Elmsley count.
The counts of four and five are legitimate. Simply draw the last
two left-hand cards singly onto the right-hand packet.
With this sequence, four cards are counted as five, and the original
bottom card of the packet is never seen. At the finish of the count,
the original top two cards have exchanged positions, and the bottom
two are as they began. That is, if the cards began in one-two-threefour order from top to face, they will be in two-one-three-four order
after the count.
This is the preferred handling, and the one that will be used for
'Thoughts in Transit". However, if an application should require that
the cards end in exactly the order they began, Mr. Elmsley offers this
variant, which he calls a "fingertip Hamman count", after the well
known false display invented by Brother John Hamman (ref. The Card
Magic ofBro. John Hamman S.M., p. 41).
Hold the packet in left-hand pinch grip and draw the top card into
right-hand dealing position. On the count of two, draw the next card
of the packet fairly onto the first. Each hand now contains two cards.
On the count of three the contents of the hands are secretly
exchanged. Bring the right-hand cards under the left hand's in the
usual manner of such counts; but as you do so, press upward with
the left fourth-fingertip on the face of the left-hand pair. This bows
the inner end of the packet upward slightly.

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83

Smoothly add the


right hand's two cards
to the bottom of the
packet, pushing them
above the first three
fingers of the left hand,
but below the left
fourth finger (Figure
39). You are creating a
wedge break, but it will
be maintained for only
an instant.
Immediately push
downward with the left
fourth finger against
the inner left corner of the lower two cards, pressing this pair to the
left fingertips. At the same time ease the left fingers' grip on the upper
pair and, with the aid of a gentle rightward push of the left thumb,
take these two cards into the right hand. All this, of course, should
appear as if you are merely drawing the third card of the packet onto
those in the right hand.
Conclude the sequence by counting the two cards in the left hand
as four and five into the right hand. Four cards have been counted
as five, one of the four has been hidden, and the cards are in the same
order they began. (Edward Mario has published a very similar count
procedure, using five cards. See "First Combination Count", Mario's
Magazine, Vol. 4, p. 142.)
With the neverchange count understood, we can proceed to the
trick itself. Only eight cards are required: any four cards from one
deck and their duplicates from another deck of contrasting back
color. Though the cards used can be of any mixture of values and
suits, you should choose cards that offer some order you can easily
remember. You needn't recall both suits and values, but you must
know the order of one or the other. You might wish to select four
values the sequence of which you can remember; or you might chose
one card of each suit and arrange them in some familiar order such
as clubs-hearts-spades-diamonds (CHaSeD). For the present description, to assure that all is clear, we shall use an obvious sequence of
both values and suits: ace of clubs, two of hearts, three of spades
and four of diamonds. Remove these four cards from a red-backed
deck and their duplicates from a blue-backed deck.
Arrange the four red-backed cards from top to face in the order
you wish to use. With the set above, this would be ace-two-three-four.
Then set the blue-backed cards in reverse order: four-three-two-one.
Drop the face-down blue cards onto the face-down red and you are
ready to perform.

84

THE COLLECTED WORKS OF ALEX ELMSLEY

The eight-card packet, from top to face, lies in four-three-two-aceace-two-three-four order. This arrangement of the cards can be made
openly before the audience, though the procedure should be expedited as much as possible to minimize "dead time" in the
presentation. Hold the packet face-up and spread it from the left hand
into the right, displaying the cards. Separate the spread at the center
and, with your left hand, lay the four blue-backed cards, still faceup, on the table. Exhibit the fronts and backs of the remaining four
cards in your right hand. "Here are four cards from a red-backed
deck." Turn the spread of cards face-down and square them into the
left hand. Within the squaring action, form a heel break beneath the
top two cards. That is, with the left thenar hold a small separation
between the second and third cards at their inner left corners (Figure
40). Alternatively, you can hold the break with the left fourth fingertip; but the heel break is better protected from view.
With the right hand, retrieve the cards from the table and display
them on both sides. "And here are the same four cards, taken from
a blue-backed deck; different backs so that there can be no doubt
which set any of the cards belong to." With the right fingers, square
the blue cards and set them face-up onto the left-hand packet, widely
stepped off the outer right corner. Hold them there with the left thumb
(Figure 41).
Addressing someone in the audience, you explain, "I want you to
think of one of these cards: the ace of clubs, the two of hearts, the
three of spades or the four of diamonds." As you name each card,
you take it from the face of the blue packet, turn it face-down and
slip it beneath the packet. That, at least, is the illusion created. What
you actually do is this:
With the palm-down right hand, remove the first card from the face
of the blue packet. Turn the right hand palm inward, presenting the
face of the card directly to the spectator as you name it. Then turn
the right hand palm-up and slip the face-down card neatly beneath
the stepped blue packet, but above the red packet. Leave the card
approximately square with the face-up blue cards. Take the second
blue-backed card in the same manner, display it and slip it beneath
the blue packet.
Outwardly, you handle the third card just as you have the previous
two. However, as you slide the card under the blue packet, slip the
inner left corner of the card below the red packet as well. Leave the
card slightly misaligned with the blue cards above it, jogging it
forward and to the right (Figure 42). This ensures that no part of the
card can be seen passing below the red packet, as would happen if
the card were positioned otherwise (Figure 43). It is important that
the placement of this card look identical to those of the previous two,
and that it be as unhesitatingly and smoothly executed. When the
card is in position, press firmly upward on the card with the tips of
the left fingers to prevent any telltale gapping at the edges.

SPIRITED COUNTS AND REVENANT TRICKS

85

Display the fourth card, turn it down and slip it beneath the third
cardand consequently below the outer right corner of the red
packet.
Look up at the spectator and ask, "Did you get one?" Using this
question and its answer as misdirection, perform the following
actions: Bring the right hand palm-down to the front of the blue
packet and grasp the outer left corners of the cards: thumb above,
fingers below. Then slide this packet to the left and into alignment
with the red packet. However, leave the blue packet stepped widely

86

THE COLLECTED WORKS OF ALEX ELMSLEY

forward (Figure 44). Notice how the right hand's grip conceals the
front edge of the packet, and therefore eliminates any visible gapping
between the second and third cards where the red packet lies
sandwiched.
Smoothly shift the right hand's grip, leaving the fingertips at the
outer end, but moving the thumb to the inner end of the red packet
(Figure 45). Then, in a quick neat squaring action, push the blue
packet flush with the red and immediately slide the top two blue cards
and the two red ones that rest above the break forward. There should
be no hesitation as the right thumb picks up the red-backed pair
under the two blue cards. This innocent appearing action has efficiently exchanged two blue cards for two red in each packet.
Leave the right hand's packet momentarily stepped widely forward
on the left's as you turn the right hand palm-up. Then take the
stepped packet into right-hand dealing position. All you have apparently done is square the blue cards and taken them into the right
hand. In reality you now hold in your right hand the blue-backed ace
and two over their red-backed duplicates, while in your left hand
there are the red-backed three and four above their blue-backed
doubles. Most of the work is now completed, but your attitude should
convince the audience that things are just about to start.
The spectator has just finished telling you that he has a card in
mind. Still looking at him, ask, "Ready? What card did you think of?"
Let him name it. "All right. Now, will you touch either of these
packets? Thanks." His selection of a packet will be made to seem
meaningful; yet, it is an empty choice.
The course of the effect is determined by his choice of card. If he
names either the first or second card of your memorized set, you lay
down the left hand's packet and work with the apparent blue packet
in the right hand. If he names the third or fourth cards of the set,
the reverse is true. However, no matter which course is taken, your
comments make it seem the actions are contingent on his choice.
Should he touch the packet you need, lay down the other one as you
say, "Okay, watch this packet carefully then." Here you indicate the
packet you still hold. And should he touch the unneeded packet, set
it down and say, "The red-backed two of hearts? Okay, watch it
carefully." Here you name the card he thought of and the color of the
packet he touched. When laying down the unneeded packet, casually set it in front of you at the very edge of the table.
Make a dramatic gesture between the two packets, suggesting the
magical passage of the chosen card from the tabled packet to that
in your hand. Then count the held packet as five cards, showing the
center one to be an odd-backed stranger. The count here employed
depends on the card named. If the card rests third from the top of
the packet, perform a neverchange count. If it lies on the bottom, do
an everchange count. In either case, injog the last two cards counted,
leaving the outer end of the odd-backed card exposed. Place the

SPIRITED COUNTS AND REVENANT TRICKS

87

packet back in the left hand and


remove the stranger card, using
the Vernon alignment (also called
the Christ-Annemann alignment)
to conceal the second odd-backed
card on the bottom. If you are
unfamiliar with this maneuver, it
is quickly explained:
Bring the right hand palmdown over the packet and place
the second fingertip on the
exposed back of the odd card. At
the same time place the first
fingertip on the back of the top
card of the packet, and the thumb
on the inner edge (Figure 46).
Move the right hand outward,
sliding the top three cards forward
as a unit until the inner end of the
stationary bottom card butts
against the right thumb (Figure
47, a schematic sketch showing
the configuration of the cards).
Stop. Then, with the right hand,
grasp the outjogged card by its
front end and draw it completely from the packet. Dramatically turn
it over and toss it face-up onto the table.
The audience's reaction to the effect serves as opportune misdirection for cleaning up. Bring the right hand palm-down to the left
hand's packet and side slip the bottom card into the right palm. With
the card palmed, move the right hand to the tabled packet and add
the concealed card onto it as you pull the packet over the table edge
to pick it up. Then drop these cards onto the those in the left hand.
The blue cards and the reds are now segregated and arranged exactly
as they would be, had all your actions been legitimate.
In reference to "cleaning up", in this trick and in others, Mr.
Elmsley comments: "Magicians, myself included, are often overly
worried about cleaning up after a trick. In the right circumstances,
ending 'dirty' can be an important and a useful principle of magic.
Prepared cards and stacked packs are an example of doing the moves
before the trick has started. Similarly, ending 'dirty' means you will
do the moves after the trick has finished. There are many times when
such courses are the most advantageous."

Chapter Three:

Sundry Sleights

BREAK TIME
The break is perhaps the most frequently used tool in sleight-of-hand
card magic. It is perceived by most magicians, both professional and
amateur, as an elementary and easily mastered technique. This
assumption is too often proven false, however, when we watch the
work of others. It may not occur to us that our own technique when
using breaks is as wanting as that of our self-deluding associates. Here
are a few tipsdrawn from Mr. Elmsley's experience and recorded in
private notes in the 1950son gaining and retaining breaks.

Battling the Bulge


When it is necessary to shift a left fourth-finger break to the right
thumb, while transferring the deck from left hand to right, one often
finds that the break is betrayed by a bulge or irregularity at the front
end of the pack. Such bulges are caused by pressure of the right
thumb at the break. To prevent these telltale ridges, do the following:
When the right hand comes over the pack to take it from the left
hand, place the right second and third fingers at the right side of the
outer end, and lay the right thumb diagonally across the inner end
at the right side. By lightly pressing the thumb against the break,
you can securely hold the separation. To counteract any bulging at
the front of the pack, position the bony ridge of the outer phalanx,
near the joint, of either the second or third finger at the depth where
the break is held. This hard and slightly protruding part of the
fingertip will prevent any undesired beveling of the cards.
Also, when taking the deck in this fashion from the left hand, curl
the right forefinger on top of the pack and press down firmly to assure
that the break does not spread to the left edge of the cards, where it
might be observed.

A Bluff Hand-to-hand Transfer


Hold the deck face-down in left-hand dealing position, with a break
kept by the fourth finger at the inner right corner. With the aid of the
right hand, raise the deck to the left fingertips and hold it there,

92

THE COLLECTED WORKS OF ALEX ELMSLEY

suspended above the left palm. As you do this, keep the left fourth
finger securely pressed to the break.
Without hesitation, rotate the left hand palm rightward, turning
the right side of the pack toward the floor. With the deck held on edge,
bring the right hand forward and grip the far end of the pack, thumb
at the top outer corner, second finger at the bottom outer corner, and
forefinger curled onto the back. Then pull rightward with the right
thumb, riffling the corners of the cards (Figure 48).

Now change the right hand's grip: using the knuckle of the right
forefinger as a pivot point, swing the right thumb inward to the inner
end of the pack near the center, and move the right second finger to
the outer end, also near center. As you grip the deck by its ends,
between the right second finger and thumb, curl the left forefinger
onto the face of the deck and relax the left second and third fingers,
moving them away from the lower side. Do, though, retain the left
fourth finger's pressure at the break. Also shift the left thumb to the
upper far corner of the pack.
The instant this new position is attained, pull leftward with the
left thumb on the corners of the cards, riffling them. Notice that the
left fourth finger's contact with the lower corner of the pack is
obscured by both hands and the deck, and the deck appears to the
audience to be held by the right hand as the left thumb does its riffling
(Figure 49, hands tilted to expose the fourth finger's position).
Now reverse the actions just described to take the deck back into
the left hand and lower it once more into dealing position.
The riffling of the cards here is reminiscent of certain proving
sequences (most notably by Max Malini and Eddie Fechter) in which
the deck is riffled or flexed in various directions to suggest that a
break could not be maintained. The most interesting feature of Mr.
Elmsley's procedure is that an illusion is created of transferring the
deck from hand to hand; even though the left fourth finger never
leaves the break. It is a subtle and convincing way of throwing knowledgeable spectators off the scent.

SUNDRY SLEIGHTS

93

Taking a Break in a Spread


When a card has been returned to the spread deck and the spread
is closed, far too often one will see the lower portion of the deck drop
away from the upper at the right side as the performer forms a break
above the returned card. There are techniques in print that eliminate such damning breaches. Here is one procedure that Mr. Elmsley
developed to solve this problem. The ideas employed are common
knowledge to card magicians, but are less commonly practiced, or
one would not see such exposure of the break in performance.
Spread the face-down pack from the left hand to the right for the
return of the card. When the spectator inserts his card into the deck,
separate the spread at that point, taking all the cards above the
chosen one into the right hand. You do this ostensibly to aid the
spectator in returning his card.
As soon as the spread is
divided, position the tip of
the right fourth finger on the
inner right corner of the
lowermost card and, with the
finger, pull that card inward
for roughly a quarter of an
inch. When the returned
card has been taken square
onto the left-hand spread,
lay the right hand's cards
over it, positioning the
injogged card of this group
slightly behind the rest.
Then, with the right hand, push the spread closed, and in this action
use the right thumb to slide the top few cards inward, masking the
injogged card above the selection. Figure 50 gives an exposed sideview
of the pack at this point.
With the cards roughly squared in the left hand, you can talk and
gesture for a few moments, while holding the pack loosely, clearly
showing, without saying as much, that no break is being held. Then
bring the right hand over the pack and finish squaring cards. In doing
so, contact the injogged card near center with the tip of the right
thumb, and lightly support that card as the left hand lowers the inner
end of the pack just enough for the left fourth finger to catch a break
above it. The instant the break is formed, the right thumb pushes
the jogged cards square. No gap can be seen, and the handling
appears fair and casual.

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THE COLLECTED WORKS OF ALEX ELMSLEY

Preparing for the Double Lift


While there are many excellent and refined methods for performing
a double lift, the most widely practiced techniques still require that
a break be formed under the top two cards before the sleight itself is
executed; and the most common method for forming this break
involves bringing the right hand over the deck and using the right
thumbtip to raise the inner ends of the two cards. In doing this, many
magicians make two errors. The first is implicit in the preceding
description: they raise the cards. The second error is that they bow
them as they are raised. Both faults are easily observed by the
audience, and the maneuver is obvious to many more spectators than
we magicians would like to believe. Here are two solutions to these
problems, devised by Mr. Elmsley.
First Solution: Hold the face-down deck in left-hand dealing grip
and bring the palm-down right hand over the pack, fingers at the
outer end, thumb at the inner. In a squaring action, bevel the top
portion of the deck toward you slightly. This inward bevel assures
that the right thumb can catch single edges as the top cards are
separated from the deck.
At the conclusion of the right hand's squaring action, position the
right thumb near the left inner corner of the pack and exert only the
lightest of pressures on the end of the top card. Now, while the right
thumb supports the inner end of this card, with the left hand gently
lower the inner end of the pack away from the top card. The pack is
not lowered very far: less than an eighth of an inch; just enough to
permit the tip of the right thumb to engage the end of the second card
from the top and hold it back as the left hand lowers the inner end
of the deck another fraction of an inch (Figure 51). Then tighten the
tip of the left fourth finger against the side of the pack, forming a flesh
break below the second card, and raise the inner end of the pack
below the top two cards as the right hand squares the ends of the
cards a final time.
Do not fall prey to the temptation of curling the right forefinger
onto the deck as you form the break. Doing so is too likely to bow
the top cards as the deck drops away, destroying everything we have
worked for. Place the forefinger at the front of the pack with the other
fingers.
The most important idea to be learned from this method of forming
a break is that of lowering the deck rather than raising the top cards.
The former is invisible to the audience, while the latter is completely
exposed. The idea of lowering the pack in this fashion was brought
to the attention of most magicians when Edward Mario explained its
use in widening a break for the tilt maneuver. This was in 1962 (see
Mr. Mario's Tilt, p. 4). Mr. Elmsley had independently discovered the

SUNDRY SLEIGHTS

95

same principle a few years earlier, which resulted in the technique


just explained. It is surprising that, while Mr. Mario's publication of
this valuable idea is almost thirty years past, few magicians have
understood its implications for other types of breaks than that used
for tilt. It is a valuable asset to any performer who wishes to develop
a refined and deceptive manner with cards.
Second Solution: If one is too entrenched in his habits to adopt
the technique taught above, and wishes to persist in raising the top
cards with his right thumb, there is a simple expedient for concealing
the maneuver.
Hold the deck at the left fingertips, suspended above the left palm,
thumb at the left side, fingers at the right. Turn the hand palm
rightward, lowering the right side of the deck and bringing the left
side uppermost. With the deck held in this vertical position, bring
the right hand to it and grasp it by the ends, fingers along the front,
thumb at the lower rear corner. As you assume this position, turn a
bit to your right. You may now use the right thumb to separate the
top two cards at their lower rear corners (Figure 52), after which the
left fourth finger takes a break beneath them. The action is completely
screened from the audience (unless, of course, you are surrounded).
Once the break is secured, you can again face the group fully and
adjust the pack to left-hand dealing position.

FAN SHUFFLE STRATEGIES


The fan shuffle has long been popular with magicians, because it
is reasonably easy to learn, yet looks thorough and impressively
skillful. In addition, it disturbs the arrangement of the deck only
minimally, for the only change in order is that the bottom half is
moved intact to the middle of the top half. Over the years Mr. Elmsley
has employed this shuffle in several clever ways. First we will discuss
the use of the fan shuffle for controlling a card. It is a quick, efficient
and elusive method for bringing a selection to the top of the pack.
A key card is employed. Secretly glimpse the bottom card of the
deck, either before a selection is made or while it is being noted. Swing
cut approximately one third of the pack into the left hand, then
another third onto this. Pause to have the selection returned. Then
drop the remaining third of the deck (the bottom portion) squarely
onto the card, burying it conveniently under the key. Casually dribble
or spread the cards to make it clear that no break is being held. Then
perform a fan shuffle as follows:
Step the top half of the pack
forward for at least one half
inch. Then rotate the deck
ninety degrees clockwise and
tip its back toward the audience. Alter your grip on the
cards, grasping the lower right
corner of the top half between
the right thumb and fingers,
and the lower left corner of the
bottom half between the left
thumb and fingers. Each hand
is poised for a one-handed fan
(Figure 53).
Split the halves apart and simultaneously form two one-hand fans,
spreading the cards nearest you upward so that the indices of the
right hand's fan are visible. Quickly locate your key in this fan. Since
it was placed one third down from the top of the pack, it should lie
approximately ten cards from the face of the fan.

SUNDRY SLEIGHTS

97

Brush the two fans


lightly over one another
several times, in a showy
manner that is something like a stropping
action; then run the top
edge of the left hand's fan
down the face of the right
hand's fan, and smoothly
insert the upper right
corner of the left-hand
fan into the right hand's
cards, slipping it between
the key card and the
selection (Figure 54).
Continue to slip the left
hand's cards into the
right's, and drop the
hands to the table until
the lower edges of both
fans rest against it. Now
ease the pressure of the
thumbs, letting the cards
fall square against the
table top. From the front
an illusion is created of
the two fans intricately
meshing, when in fact
the left hand's fan is
simply inserted as a
block into the right
hand's fan. As the fans
fall closed against the
table, maintain contact
with the left thumb on
the face of its fan. This
causes the lower cards of
the right-hand fan to
form a rightward step, as
shown in Figure 55. The
top card of this stepped
block is the selection.
With the right hand, firmly grasp the right end of the deck and
place the cards face-down into left-hand dealing position, turning the
free end inward. Preserve the step as you do this. If you now bring
the right hand over the pack to square it, the right thumb can contact
the injogged step (Figure 56). Lift upward as you push forward on

98

THE COLLECTED WORKS OF ALEX ELMSLEY

the step, forming a break for the left fourth finger. Immediately after
squaring the pack, perform a brisk running cut, removing all the
cards above the break in three packets, and dropping each to the
table, one atop the other. Complete the series of cuts by dropping the
remaining left-hand packet onto the rest. The selection is now on top
of the deck.
This control sequence is fast, showy and impossible to follow.
The fan shuffle is also useful for finding and controlling a known
or desired card when its location in the pack is unknown or can only
be estimated. In such a case, again take the top portion of the pack
into the right handremoving a bit more than half the cardsand
fan both packets. As you perform the initial stropping actions of the
shuffle, spot the desired card in the right-hand fan; then insert the
left hand's cards behind the card and complete the shuffle, forming
a break below the step and cutting the card to the top of the pack.
Should you not see the card you seek in the right hand's fan, insert
the left hand's cards into the right's, somewhere near the rear of the
fan, and square the fans into each other. Then perform a second fan
shuffle, taking the top portionagain a bit over halfinto the right
hand. This portion contains all the cards not seen in the previous
shuffle, and the desired card should be found there. Of course, for
this technique to be dependable, the cards must be in good condition and fan well, so that all cards in the right-hand fan can be seen.
Treating the cards with fanning powder can be a valuable precaution when depending on this method of location.
The above technique can also be used to perform a false shuffle
that conserves the full order of the pack. Again take the top portion
of the pack into the right hand, removing something more than half
the cards. Now perform the fan shuffle, inserting the left hand's fan
somewhere near the rear of the right hand fan; i.e., near the original
top of the pack. As you do this, secretly note the card in the right
hand's fan before which the left hand's cards are introduced.
Close the fans into each other, forming a step below the left hand's
block, as previously explained. Transform this step into a break and
cut all the cards above the break into the right hand, in preparation
for another fan shuffle. Do a second shuffle, inserting the left hand's
cards directly before the card noted in the previous shuffle. This time,
as you complete the shuffle, no step or break is necessary. The pack
is again in its original order.
If flourishes fit your style of performance, these techniques will
prove a valuable addition to your repertoire. Mr. Elmsley has also
devised ingenious one- and two-selection fan shuffle controls, which
rely on faro shuffle principles. See "The Fan and Weave Controls" in
Volume II of this work.

THE HOOK-STRIP SHIFT


This multiple shift resembles Cardini's (ref. Greater Magic, pp. 546547) in that the shift is done under cover of an overhand shuffle.
However, the strip-out action is just the reverse of Cardini's, and is
better concealed.
Let's assume we wish to control the four aces to the top of the pack
from four different locations. Neatly fan the face-down deck in the
left hand and insert the aces face-down into the fan at four different
positions (Figure 57). Leave them protruding for roughly half their
length. Then close the fan into the left hand, the aces still protruding
from the deck.
Bring the right hand palm-down over the cards and push all four
aces simultaneously into the pack, secretly angling them through and
out the rear using Erdnase's diagonal palm shift action:
With the right fingers lined up on the outer ends of the aces, and
with the right thumb on inner left corner of the pack, push the aces
into the deck, exerting stronger pressure with the forefinger to force
the aces to enter at an angle, the left front corners swinging slightly
to the left of the pack (Figure 58). When the right second, third and
fourth fingers hit the front end of the deck, continue to push with

100 THE COLLECTED WORKS OF ALEX ELMSLEY

the right forefinger, moving the slightly canted aces through the pack.
The forefinger glides over the left edge of the pack, pushing the
corners of the aces along, until it nears the midpoint (Figure 59).
There it stops.
The aces should now project roughly one inch from the inner right
corner of the deck. The position of the aces is covered by the right
hand, which should remain close to the pack, rather than arched
above it, to provide the best cover.
Now turn toward your left and, at the same time, tip the deck up
onto its right edge, readying it for a face-up overhand shuffle.
However, set the deck farther forward on the left hand than usual,
and angle it diagonally across the palm, traveling roughly along the
heart line. Also lodge it deep in the fork of the left thumb. This
positioning permits the left fourth finger to reach up and engage the
upper corners of the projecting aces (Figure 60). The right hand, in
the meantime, has grasped the deck by its upper corners, thumb at
the back, forefinger on the top edge and the other fingers at the front.
In this position the hand also continues to hide the anglejogged aces
from the audience's view.
The right hand now begins the action of the shuffle by lifting the
deck straight up, while the left fourth finger, hooked as it is around
the aces, holds them back, stripping them from the deck. The right
hand then simply shuffles the pack onto the aces in the usual way.
As the shuffle is concluded, the aces rest together on top of the deck.
If you wish to deliver the aces to the bottom of the deck instead of
the top, simply maintain the grip of the left fourth finger on the aces
as the deck is shuffled onto them. This forms a break that can be
picked up by the right thumb as it regrasps the deck by the ends.
Immediately execute a second shuffle, shuffling off to the break and
throwing the aces as a block onto the face of the pack.
Here is a simple but effective trick that illustrates the utility of this
sleight. Insert the aces into the deck and control them to the top with

SUNDRY SLEIGHTS

101

the multiple shift procedure just explained. Maintain a left fourthfinger break between the aces and the deck at the conclusion of the
shuffle and lower the deck face-up into left-hand dealing grip, left
thumb stretched along the left edge of the pack. Now perform the
Braue bottom palm (ref. Expert Card Technique, pp. 60-61) as follows:
With the palm-down right hand, grasp the deck by its ends, curling
the forefinger loosely onto the face of the pack and leaving as much
of the face as possible in view. With the right thumb, take over the
left fourth finger's break. Now shift the left fourth finger to the inner
right corner of the ace packet, then straighten the finger rightward,
swiveling the inner end of the aces diagonally from beneath the deck
and under the right hand (Figure 61).
Swing the right thumb inward, then under the near end of the
pack, trapping the aces in an incomplete right-hand classic palm (the
fourth fingertip pressed to the outer right corner, the heel of the
thumb pressed to inner left corner). The outer left corners of the aces
are still caught under the pack.
The hands do not separate at this point, as is normally done to
complete the palm. Instead, raise the right hand, tipping the deck
over sidewise and face-down in the left hand (Figure 62). In this
manner the deck is removed from the right hand, permitting the faceup aces to spring fully into the right palm.
As the deck falls face-down into the left hand, allow the top portion
to spread a bit to the right. With the left thumb, aid the spreading
by pushing the top card farther to the right, sidejogging it roughly a
quarter of an inch past the cards below it. Move the palm-down right
hand partially over the deck to grasp it again by its ends. In this
motion flatten the hand slightly and secretly slip the left edge of the
palmed aces under the right edge of the top card of the deck.
Immediately straighten the left fingers, engage the right edge of the
aces with the fingertips, and pull the aces beneath the top card and
square with the pack.

102 THE COLLECTED WORKS OF ALEX ELMSLEY


Give the cards a cut and make some magical gesture over them.
Then spread them, either between the hands or on the table. The aces
are seen not only to have assembled at the center of the deck, but to
have reversed themselves as well.
May 3, 1952

TOP AND BOTTOM CARD


INTERCHANGES
While the need to transpose the top and bottom cards of the deck
in an unobvious manner may not arise that often, there are occasions when a method for achieving this little task would be helpful.
Here are two simple yet clever Elmsley solutions to the problem.
First Solution: In a relaxed moment, as you are talking and
nonchalantly toying with the pack, take the cards into overhand
shuffle position. Draw off the top and bottom cards together in a
"milking" action, and drop the balance of the pack onto the pair.
Again draw off the top and bottom cards, and this time drop the pack
beneath them. Milk the top and bottom cards from the pack a third
time, and drop the pack onto them. The original top card is now at
the face of the deck, and the original bottom card is on top. The three
milking actions, when done in quick succession, resemble an
indifferent and purposeless shuffle.
Second Solution: Again the proper attitude for this sequence is
one of casual toying with the cards. Hold the pack face-down in lefthand dealing position. With the right hand, simultaneously draw off
the top and bottom cards and insert them together into the center
of the pack. As you do this, fan the bottom card of the two a bit to
the right; then, as you push the two cards into the deck, let the right
inner corner of the lower card jog from the right side of the pack.
Immediately pull downward with the tip of the left fourth finger on
this protruding corner, and form a break between the buried pair of
cards as you push the jogged one square.
If you now perform a double undercut, making the second cut at
the fourth finger's break, you will find the original top and bottom
cards of the pack returned to those positions, but each now rests in
the other's place.

THE TABLED COVER REVERSE


The tabled cover reverse is a method for secretly reversing the top
card of the deck and positioning it second from the top, while
apparently turning the card face-down. It is of added interest that
the deck rests on the table throughout the execution of the sleight.
The reversal is extremely deceptive from the front viewing angle, but
vulnerable at the sides. Consequently, the correct conditions for its
performance must be chosen. Mr. Elmsley kept this sleight in reserve
to baffle fellow magicians when sitting at a table in a cafe, or in other
suitable circumstances.
Set the deck face-down before you, with a long side nearest you,
as if you were about to perform a tabled riffle shuffle. With your left
hand, hold the deck steady at its left end, thumb at the inner corner,
second finger at the outer corner, and forefinger curled lightly onto
the back. Assume a similar grip with the right hand on the right end
of the pack, and riffle the right thumb gently up the inner corner,
forming a break under the top two cards. Transfer this break to the
left thumb at the left inner corner. This get-ready action should be
done casually and swiftly as you apparently square the cards. Talk
with the audience and pay scant attention to the deck. With a bit of
practice, you can tell by touch alone when you have two cards on the
thumb.
Move the right hand from the
deck to gesture or just to relax
for a moment. Then bring it
back to the right front corner
and execute a tabled double
turnover:
As the right hand approaches
the pack, straighten the left
thumb, beveling the top of the
pack gently forward. Because of
the break under the top two
cards, they will move together
very slightly forward of the cards
beneath, creating a narrow step

SUNDRY SLEIGHTS

105

(Figure 63; the jog is


exaggerated here for
clarity). With the tip of
the right forefinger,
contact the right front
edge of these two
cards and lift them,
until you can pinch
their double corner
between the right
thumb and forefinger
(Figure 64).
In a continuous
action, lift the outer
side of the double
card, then revolve the
double backward and
face-up, letting its
inner edge skate forward over the top of
the deck. Lower the
double card face-up
and square onto the
pack. As you allow it
to settle, either catch
another left thumb
break under it, or create a very narrow forward anglejog at the right
front corner of the pack (the left forefinger can pin the double to the
deck to prevent the anglejog from shifting).
Let the face-up card be noted. You will now apparently turn it facedown in the same fashion it was turned up; but in this action the
noted card will be left face-up, second from the top of the pack. Begin
the sleight by lifting the outer right corner of the double in the same
manner just taught. Raise the outer side of the double card while the
inner edge again slides forward over the top of the deck. Straighten
the left forefinger outward as the turn begins, to clear a path for the
card. When the double reaches an incline of about forty-five degrees,
push gently inward with the right thumb, separating the two cards
by sliding the upper one inward until its near edge is even with that
of the deck (Figure 65). Without the slightest hesitation, continue to
lift the lower card and revolve it face-down. As this is done, the known
card comes to rest face-up and square on the deck, and the second
card is lowered face-down onto it (Figure 66).
The hands, at their respective ends of the pack, naturally shield
the action of the reversal, making the sleight completely invisible to
the viewers in front. Mirror practice, however, is essential to learn
how widely the angles can be trusted at either side.

106 THE COLLECTED WORKS OF ALEX ELMSLEY


Misdirect away
from the pack with
your gaze and comments as you execute
the reversal. While
the sleight, when
done properly, is
thoroughly deceptive,
there is no good
reason to focus unremitting attention on
the pack as you turn
a card face-down.
Mr. Elmsley often follows the tabled cover reverse by producing
the reversed card with a cut of the pack. The cut is a brisk tabled
slip cut, which produces the card face-up on top of the pack as the
cut is completed. Though simple, the effect is highly visual and quite
surprising.
The sleight can of course be put to other, less direct uses. There
are, for instance, many tricks that require the secret reversal of a card
second from the top of the pack.

THE TABLED TOP CHANGE


Mr. Elmsley devised this clever card switch in the 1950s and fooled
many of his fellow magicians with it, including Dai Vernon. In more
recent years, the ingenious Gene Maze has pursued similar thoughts
(see "Tabled V" in Fulves' Packet Switches (Part Five), p. 285, and "R.
T. Top Change" in Kaufman's The Gene Maze Card Book, pp. 18-20).
However, comparison of the approaches will show that the Elmsley
handling offers a wider range of protected angles. The tabled top
change is done with only one hand, but otherwise bears a superficial resemblance to the tabled cover reverse.
Begin with the squared deck set broadwise and face-down before
you on the table. Position the right hand palm-down over the pack
and press the tips of the forefinger and thumb lightly but firmly down
on the top card near its left end. The thumb should lie about a quarter
of an inch forward of the inner edge of the pack, and the forefinger
approximately at the center of the left end. With the tip of the second
finger, contact the outer edge of the top card, very near the front left
corner, and lift it, bowing the card upward along its length and
separating the front edge from the pack (Figure 67).
As the second finger raises the card, you will find the front left
corner becomes clipped almost automatically between the tips of the
first and second fingers. Lift the thumb slightly from the deck,
allowing the two fingers to draw the card forward. Do so, straightening
the two fingers and revolving the top card face-up just forward of the
deck (Figure 68). As soon as the card has moved past the thumb,
resume the thumb's pressure on top of the pack, steadying it.

108 THE COLLECTED WORKS OF ALEX ELMSLEY

You will now reverse the actions just made and apparently return
the top card face-down onto the deck. In reality, however, the card
will be positioned second from the top. To accomplish this, with the
tip of the forefinger secretly engage the front edge of the card now
on top of the pack and raise it a bit, while your thumb keeps the card
square with the deck (Figure 69). Then, while maintaining the
forefinger's contact with this card, bend the first two fingers inward,
revolving the original top card face-down over the deck. You will find
that this card is carried automatically under the second card of the
pack (Figure 70). The instant the card is square with the deck, release
both cards from the tips of the fingers, letting them fall flat on top.
The switch is accomplished. While showing the top card of the pack,
you have secretly introduced another card above it, all with an
efficient action of one hand. The top card may now be removed from
the deck and dealt with as circumstance dictates. The displayed card
remains on top of the pack.
The entire sleight is accomplished strictly by actions of the right
hand and wrist. The arm remains stationary from first to last. Angles
are obviously a consideration. Though this is a sleight designed for
settings in which the audience is seated across from you at the table,
the angles are better than might at first be surmised. When done
properly, the substitution is imperceptible from the front. The sleight
can be concealed from observers on your right side by keeping the
heel of the hand low, near the table top. The left side, however, is
vulnerable and must be guarded. To ensure that the addition of the
card remains hidden from the audience in front, shift the top card
slightly to the left as you revolve it face-up. Doing so screens the left
end of the second card as it is added above the first. While this action
exposes a small portion of the right end of the added card, the fingers
can conceal this.
When first learning this top change, the actions may seem
somewhat mannered or overly refined. However, with practice this
self-consciousness will be transformed into a casual naturalness.
When the sleight is done smoothly and confidently, the handling
appears nonchalant, almost carelessand is entirely deceptive.

TWO NOVEL SLIP CUTS


The Swivel Slip Cut
Early in his magical career Mr. Elmsley became interested in the
slip cut, and particularly the variety that was done in the hands.
Being unsatisfied with then existing methods, he set out to develop
a slip cut more suited to his style of handling. Nate Leipzig's twirl cut,
also called the swivel or the spin cut (ref. Dai Vernon's Tribute to Nate
Leipzig, pp. 170-171), was a favored flourish in the Elmsley repertoire; so it was natural that he would consider combining the actions
of the swivel cut with a slip cut. The resulting marriage of ideas
produced an elegant and practical method.
With the palm-down right hand, grasp the deck by its ends from
above. The second finger should rest approximately half an inch to
the right of the outer left corner of the pack, with the third and fourth
fingers lying alongside. The outer phalanx of the thumb rests across
the right half of the inner end of the deck; and the tip of the forefinger
contacts the top card near the outer left corner.
Preparatory to the cut, the right forefinger pushes forward on the
top card, forcing it to pivot around the second finger. Move this card
only slightly, angling the inner left corner off the pack for less than
an eighth of an inch (Figure 71).
Now lay the tip of the left forefinger against the left side of the
pack, near the outer left corner,
and stroke the fingertip inward
along the edge in a light squaring action. As the fingertip nears
the inner end of the deck, the
flesh of the finger contacts the
angled top card and barely lifts
it at the inner corner. When the
fingertip reaches the near end of
the pack, press it firmly against
the left corner and raise the

110 THE COLLECTED WORKS OF ALEX ELMSLEY


upper half of the deck a bit. Without hesitation, pivot the inner end
of the top half to the left and forward, while with the right forefinger
you apply gentle pressure to hold back the top card (Figure 72).
Continue to pivot the top half of the deck outward and around the
right second finger, until this packet has turned a full hundred and
eighty degrees. At this point the top portion will be completely
disengaged from the deck, and lies trapped between the left forefinger
and right second finger, suspended above the left palm (Figure 73).
The top card of the deck, which has been held back, falls naturally
onto the bottom portion.
Release pressure on the ends of the packet, allowing it to drop
neatly into the left hand. Then complete the cut by slipping the left
hand's packet smoothly over the portion in the right hand.
To help disguise the nature of the cut, tip the outer end of the deck
downward and turn a bit to your left. If executed in a practiced and
spritely manner, this sleight can be most deceptive.

The Undercut Slip


While exploring different approaches to the in-the-hands slip cut,
Mr. Elmsley developed a second method, which approximates a more
conventional manner of cutting the cards. The pack is held in a righthand grip similar to that just explained: The tip of the thumb is
centered on the inner end; and the second, third and fourth fingers
lie at the outer end. Here, though, the tip of the forefinger is also
placed at the outer end of the pack, near the left corner, where it can
contact the edge of the top card and pull it up about an eighth of an
inch. If, when squaring the pack, you bevel the top a bit forward, the
task of lifting only one card will be simplified.
As the forefinger raises the left edge of the top card, bring the left
hand, palm inward, to the deck. With the inner phalanx of the left
forefinger, contact the outer left corner of the top portion of the pack
and pivot this portion to the left, around the right thumb (Figure 74).
Meanwhile, the right forefinger holds the top card back. If you tip the
front end of the deck downward slightly, the lifting of the top card at
the left side creates a "tilt-like" illusion, making it appear as if the
left hand is cutting away the bottom portion of the pack. The back
of the left hand helps to conceal the true situation from anyone on
your left.
Bring the left thumb down on the outer left corner of the swiveled
packet, clipping it in the fork of the thumb. Then separate the halves
by simultaneously lowering the right side of the left-hand packet and
the left side of the right-hand packetforming a V with the packets
as the hands move apart (Figure 75). This mild rotation of the hands
and packets greatly enhances the illusion of the cut, and should not
be overlooked.

SUNDRY SLEIGHTS

111

Once the packets are separated, complete the cut by sliding the
left hand's packet onto the right's. This slip cut is, if anything, more
deceptive than the previous one; and both are superior, in my
opinion, to the in-the-hands methods most commonly practiced.
Notice how the right forefinger's initial action of raising the top
card ensures that no further cards are inadvertently held back by
friction, a problem that many magicians experience when performing
Dai Vernon's slip cut from Stars of Magic (p. 30). Peter Warlock
discovered this technique in the 1950s and shared it with Mr.
Elmsley, who then utilized the principle when he devised the two slip
cuts just taught.

THE TIPSY TURNOVER PASS


What follows is an original approach to the Herrmann turnover
pass. Mr. Elmsley has applied an initial levering action to the sleight,
which provides excellent cover and promotes the passage of the two
packets.
A get-ready is required. Instead of forming the usual break between
the two halves, the top portion is stepped forward of the bottom
portion for about three-eighths of an inch. This can be done surreptitiously as the right hand squares the deck in the left hand, or as the
deck is cut and the cut completed.

SUNDRY SLEIGHTS

113

Hold the stepped pack in left-hand dealing position, with the


forefinger stretched along the front end in a modified mechanic's grip
to conceal the step. Rest the left thumb along the left edge of the pack.
When ready to execute the pass bring the right hand palm-down over
the deck and, with the tip of the right forefinger, strike the outer left
corner of the pack (Figure 76), causing the top half to lever up at the
inner end (Figure 77). Use the right thumb to brake and control the
tipping action, and with the right hand grasp the tilted packet by its
ends. Immediately curl the left second, third and fourth fingers in
onto the back of the lower packet and arch the hand, causing the
packet to tip upright on its right edge (Figure 78). The straightened
left forefinger acts as a pivot post here, aiding in the maneuver. The
right hand and tipped top half completely screen the motion of the
bottom portion (an idea first published by Edward Mario in the
context of a half pass; ref. Classical Foursome, pp. 5).
The instant the upper edge of the lower packet clears the right edge
of the upper packet, press upward with the left thumb on the left side
of the upper packet (Figure 79), causing the packet to pivot between
the right thumb and second finger to a near vertical position. At this
point the two packets should form a V, their lower edges lightly in
contact. The pass is completed by turning the left hand palm-down
with the pack, while using the left fingers to fold the lower half up
against the upper one (Figure 80).
As with any pass,
attention to angles and
precision of action are
imperative. However,
given some mirror practice, it will be seen that
the maneuver is neatly
shielded from the audience's view, and that the
pass can be executed
swiftly, smoothly and
imperceptibly.

A POLISHED PUSH-OFF
This method of doing a perfect block push-off for a double lift will
be discarded out of hand by some readers as a pipe dream. I assure
you it is not. Mr. Elmsley was confident enough of its practicality to
feature it in his first lecture, and a few select cardmen, such as
Gordon Bruce, have long used it in their work. There is a knack to
the sleight. If, however, you read the description carefully, you will
possess the information required to master this curious technique.
Begin by holding the pack face-down in left-hand dealing grip.
Plant your left thumb on the outer left corner of the top card and,
while exerting a firm downward pressure, push the card to the right
in the usual dealing manner. Allow only the top card to move. Firm
pressure here is essential.
With the palm-down right hand, grip the outer right corner of the
top card near its edge and turn it end over end, face-up. Set the faceup card momentarily on the deck, jogged to the right, while you
revolve the right hand palm-down, then turn the card over again, in
the same fashion, but do not yet replace it on the deck.
With the left thumb, push the next card on the deck to the right,
using light pressure, and slip the right hand's card beneath it. Gently
square the two cards with the pack.
Return your left thumb to the outer left corner of the pack. You
will again push the top card to the rightbut this time with a light
to moderate downward pressure. The degree of pressure is crucial
here, and only experimentation will teach the proper touch. You will
find that, with the correct pressure, the top two cards will move off
the pack together, in perfect alignment. More than likely, several
cards will spread to the right as the cards are pushed over, but the
top pair will remain squared together. Take care that the left fingertips at the right side of the pack do not retard the double card in any
way. They should be shifted below the top edge of the deck.
When the double is sufficiently rightjogged on the pack, the right
hand can lift it away or flip it face-up.
No break is necessary to achieve this two-card push-off, and the
left thumb lies on the card, not at its very edge as in the usual pushoff technique.

SUNDRY SLEIGHTS

115

Why does it work? The initial heavy pressure of the thumb, as it


pushes the top card over, burnishes or "polishes" the face of the card
at the contacted corner. The card is turned end over end twice,
returning it to its original position, before it is slipped under the next
card. Because the portion of the card that lies under the left thumb
is now smoother than the cards above and below it, less friction is
created between it and the card beneath. Thus the cards break at
this point and the top two move over in alignment.
This push-off is not dependable with a new pack, nor with a worn
one. The deck should be handled a bit, broken in, before employing
this technique. Once the correct touch has been learned, you can slip
the double card under another card and perform a triple-card pushoff as well. Anything past this is unreliable.
To prove the utility of the technique, Mr. Elmsley would demonstrate a short Ambitious Card sequence. He first turned over the top
card, burnishing it as he did so. After displaying it, he slipped it facedown under the next card and squared the pack. He then pushed
over a double, as described, and turned it up to show the card had
returned to the top. This double he slipped face-down under the next
card. He then did another push-off, this time with three cards. The
triple card was turned over to show the card had again apparently
risen to the top. The three cards were turned down as one and the
top card was buried in the center of the pack. A third push-off was
performed, and the double card was turned up to show the card
returned to the top. The double was turned face-down on top and the
deck placed on someone's palm. Mr. Elmsley then performed a slip
cut on the spectator's hand, apparently burying the card again. To
conclude, he asked the spectator to turn over the top card himself.
When working for magicians, Mr. Elmsley employs an added touch
to make it clear that no break is being held before the push-off is
executed. After placing the card second from the top, he takes the
deck into the right hand, gripping it by its inner right corner, thumb
above, fingers beneath. This frees the left hand, which moves from
under the pack and taps the top card in either a magical or an indicatory gesture. He then takes the deck once more into left-hand
dealing grip and continues with the double push-off.
If you work a bit with this, it will surprise you. It is practical and
can be extremely deceptive in sequences such as the one described.
September 21, 1957

A BIDDLE DISPLACEMENT
Here is a method for secretly displacing or exchanging cards in two
discrete packets. Mr. Elmsley originally devised it as an alternative
procedure to the wedge-break displacement used in Dai Vernon's
"Follow the Leader, Jr." (ref. Phoenix, No. 277, pp. 1107-1108). He
does not consider this displacement superior to Mr. Vernon's; only
easier for him to execute. It is most certainly deceptive.
Remove five red cards and five black cards from the deck and put
the balance aside. Place the red cards on the face of the packet and
hold it face-up in the palm-down right hand, second finger at the
outer right corner, thumb at the inner right corner. (See p. 281 for
another grip, offering an added benefit in certain circumstances.)
With the left thumb, draw the
red cards singly from the packet
into the palm-up left hand (Figure 81). As you do this, steal two
of the red cards beneath the
right hand's packet in standard
Kardyro-Biddle style. That is,
catch a left fourth-finger break
under the two cards to be stolen
and secretly pick them up beneath the right-hand packet as
the next red card is drawn from
the face. It should be mentioned
that the break can be eliminated
as follows, thus simplifying the
steal:
Draw off the first three red
cards into the left hand, each
onto the previous. As you return
the left hand to the packet to
claim the fourth red card, add
all three left-hand cards
squarely beneath the packet.
Without hesitation, draw or

SUNDRY SLEIGHTS

117

"milk" the top and bottom cards of the packet off together with the
left fingers and thumb (Figure 82). Then peel the fifth red card onto
those in the left hand and stop the count. This breakless steal is a
refinement of Ron Bauer's, and is very practical.
Onlookers will believe you now hold the five red cards in your left
hand and the five blacks in your right. In reality, you have three red
cards in the left hand; the other two reds lie hidden beneath the righthand packet.
Turn the left hand palm-down and set its packet face-down on the
table. Turn the now empty left hand palm-up again and count the
five black cards into it in this manner:
Draw off the first three cards singly, slightly outjogging the third.
Take the fourth card onto the third and slip the triple card that
remains in the right hand neatly under the left-hand packet.
With the right hand, grasp the packet at its far end and turn it
end over end face-down in the left hand. Immediately regrasp the
packet by its ends in the palm-down right hand, forming a thumb
break over the bottom two cards as the right thumb pushes the jogged
card flush.
All this takes but a few moments while you are saying, "Five red
cards...and five black cards. Please don't forget which packet is
which." Pick up the tabled packet, taking it face-down into left-hand
dealing grip.
You will now execute
Charlie Miller's handling of
the Jack Merlin tip-over
change to add the bottom
two cards of the right-hand
packet onto the left hand's
cards. Thumb over the top
card of the red packet and,
with the left edge of the righthand packet, flip this card
face-up (Figure 83). During
this action, let the righthand packet eclipse the left for the briefest of moments. Exhibit the
face-up card as you say, "These are the red cards..." Then push the
card to the right and, with the edge of the right-hand packet, flip the
card face-down again. As you do this, again bring the right-hand
packet fleetingly over the left-hand cards and this time secretly drop
the two black cards below the thumb's break square onto the packet.
Immediately continue, "...and these are the black cards." Extend
the first two fingers of the left hand and clip the bottom card of the
right-hand packet between them (Figure 84). Draw this card away
from its packet and turn both hands over, exposing the faces of both
packets and the separated card (Figure 85).

118 THE COLLECTED WORKS OF ALEX ELMSLEY

Drop the single black card


face-up onto the table and de86
posit the right hand's packet
face-down, covering the inner
V 9
end of the card. The left hand is
still palm-down and the face of
its packet is exposed. With the
right fingers, draw the card from
the face of this packet and lay it
face-up to the left of the face-up
black card. Then turn the left
hand palm-up and table its facedown packet, covering the inner
end of the red card (Figure 86).
The top two cards of each packet contrast with the face-up "leader"
beneath. From this position you can proceed with the Vernon trick.
If you desire to do Dai Vernon's twenty-card Follow the Leader
handlings (ref. Greater Magic, pp. 578-580, and Select Secrets, pp
14-19), the same displacement procedure can be applied to exchange
the top three cards of each ten-card packet. The minor alterations
necessary to the handling will be easily comprehended by the interested reader. In fact, the basic procedure can be varied to broaden
the utility of the displacement to other effects. Only small modifications are necessary to make possible the exchange of different
numbers of cards between packets of various sizes.
June 12, 1953

THE THUMB PALM ADDITION


This interesting method of secretly adding cards to the top of the
deck was one Mr. Elmsley experimented with in the late 1950s. The
sleight requires a minor setup. The cards to be added to the top of
the pack begin reversed at the bottom. They can be reversed with a
half pass, or some other method of secret reversal may be employed.
For teaching purposes, let's assume that you wish to add three
indifferent cards above the four aces on the deck.
Hand the aces out for mixing. While this is done, take the deck
face-down into right-hand dealing grip. The three indifferent cards
to be added to the aces lie face-up on the bottom of the pack. Form
a break above the three cards and cant them to the right, angle] ogging
the outer right corners about a quarter of an inch beyond the edge
of the pack (Figure 87). Bring the right thumb down on the exposed
corner of this packet, concealing the angled cards from view, and hold
them securely clipped between the thumb and the base of the
forefinger. Use the tip of the forefinger to prevent the outer left corner
of the packet from protruding from the front of the deck.
With your left hand, receive the shuffled aces from the spectator
and drop them face-down onto the deck. You now transfer the deck
from the right hand to the left, and in that action you add the
indifferent cards onto the aces in this fashion:
Bring the palm-up left hand to the right, passing the left fingers
below the right fingers, and the left thumb over the deck. Move the
deck deep into the fork of the left thumb while separating the right
first and second fingers, permitting the outer left corner of the pack
to be clipped between the left thumb and the base of the left forefinger
(Figure 88).

120 THE COLLECTED WORKS OF ALEX ELMSLEY

Make a small leftward body turn as you tip the right hand palminward and "spill" the deck neatly onto the left palm, letting it slide
off the thumb-clipped face-up packet (Figure 89). The deck is kept
reasonably squared in the fork of the left thumb. Of course, the body
turn must be given some outward motivation; e.g., you might address
some comment, question or instruction to a spectator on your left.
Move the left hand to the left and back a bit with the deck, while
the right hand simultaneously revolves palm-down, with the packet
still in thumb clip (Figure 90). Bring the right hand over the deck, in
a squaring action, and secretly deposit the clipped cards, now facedown, on top.
You have just loaded three indifferent cards onto the aces, and can
proceed with any number of ace assemblies in which three of the aces
must be switched. Using this same procedure, any small group of
cards can be secretly added to a stock.
[January 1959]

A CARD FAN PRODUCTION


Here is a method of producing fans of cards for the stage
manipulator. Mr. Elmsley developed this bare-hand production as
an alternative procedure to the standard split fan technique. His goal
was the elimination of the troublesome flash often encountered when
the fan was dropped and simultaneously a portion of it was again
back palmed. (For those unfamiliar with the split fan technique
invented, according to Dai Vernon, by a carnival contortionist named
Ardo the Frogmanit can be found in several basic texts. Two good
explanations appear in the Tarbell Course in Magic, Volume 2, p. 171,
and Edward Mario's Card Fan Productions.) Mr. Elmsley, as a young
man, became convinced that a new technique was required on overhearing a layman's description of the card fan productions in another
performer's act: "He had a full fan of cards, and he kept shaking them,
and cards fell away. But he still had a full fan of cards!"
Mr. Elmsley's thinking has, over the years, changed on this matter.
"I was overreacting to this person's comment. After all, he was
impressed by the effect and thought it magical, even if it was a
somewhat different effect than that intended. In retrospect, I think
the standard split fan technique is still the better approach when
done well." Nonetheless, Mr. Elmsley's method of producing fans has
merit, and interspersed with split fans can enhance the overall
illusion.
His idea was to bring to the front of the hand only those cards
needed for the fan of the moment, while leaving the balance of the
stock back palmed. The details are these:
^
__
^
Begin with the packet of
cards in back palm; i.e., held
at the back of the hand, with
the outer corners clipped
between the edges of the first
and fourth fingers (Figure
91). To aid in describing the
sleight, we will assume that
the back of the packet lies
against the backs of the
fingers.

122 THE COLLECTED WORKS OF ALEX ELMSLEY

Bring the tip of the thumb to the tips of the first two fingers, and
with it catch the upper edge of the packet. Relax the forefinger and
move it back a bit to allow this. Let approximately six cards escape
from the thumb, while holding back the rest. Permit the released
cards to separate from the packet at the upper edge, but hold them
securely with the balance of the packet, pinched between the third
and fourth fingers at the lower corner.
As soon as the cards have been released, reinstate the forefinger
on the upper edge of the packet proper (Figure 92), so that the thumb
can move from the packet to the free upper corner of the released
stock. Simultaneously, straighten the forefinger, slipping it between
the two blocks of cards, until the tip contacts the back of the released
portion (Figure 93).
Now, if with the thumb you apply a firm pressure on the corner of
the released block, you can cause it to flip around the tip of the
forefinger and snap into view at the front of the hand, face outward
(Figure 94). Immediately move the thumb upward and the forefinger
downward, fanning the produced cards (Figure 95). You will discover
that, in this fanning action, the fingers automatically straighten,
moving the back-palmed packet once more close to the back of the
hand. The produced cards, even before they are fanned, act as a
screen to hide any possible exposure of the palmed cards.
Drop the fan from the hand and let the empty palm be seen. Then
repeat the sequence, producing another fan of cards, until the stock
has been exhausted.

SUNDRY SLEIGHTS

123

As you can see, the stock is split while it is still behind the hand;
then only the cards needed for the immediate fan are brought
forward. The balance of the stock needn't be repalmed, as it never
truly leaves back-palm position.
May 1956

NEW TECHNIQUES FOR


THE REAR PALM
In the latter half of the 1950s Mr. Elmsley, after having read the
chapter on the rear palm in Hugard and Braue's Expert Card
Technique, became intrigued with this excellent but little used palm,
and developed a number of techniques founded on it. This style of
palming is particularly enticing, as it allows the fingers to spread and
move independently, without exposing the palmed card. Yet, it is
seldom employed. Mr. Elmsley believes there are four reasons for this.
First, few tricks have ever been published that call for the rear palm.
Second, magicians think the rear palm is more difficult than it really
is. Third, the methods presented by Hugard and Braue for accomplishing the rear palm are a bit unnatural. And fourth, the rear palm
does present some angle problems.
In the 1950s and 1960s Mr. Elmsley often performed in "drawing
room conditions"; that is, standing, at fairly close range to his
audience, and with everyone more or less in front of him. Given such
conditions, the rear palm is unquestionably practical. However, in
other circumstances, where the audience is less contained and
managed, other palming techniques can prove more reliable.
Nonetheless, when the setting is right, the rear palm can be a valuable
and deceptive tool.
In Expert Card Technique the recommended method for setting a
card into rear palm is to shift it from a classic palm position to rear
palm by closing the fingers, then contracting the muscles of the palm.
Mr. Elmsley moves the card into rear palm from a different palming
grip. For want of a better name, he calls it simply a finger palm or
pinky clip. This style of palming has undoubtedly been experimented
with and used by various magicians over the years, and is closely
related to what has become known as the master palm. (See Edward
Mario's Miracle Card Changes, pp. 14-15, and Russell T. Barnhart's
The Master Palm.) The pinky clip is easily understood and mastered.
It consists of gripping the card in the right palm by curling the tip of
the right fourth finger in to trap the outer right corner of the card in
the crease of the outer joint. At the same time the inner left corner

SUNDRY SLEIGHTS 125


of the card is caught on the
fleshy heel of the thumb, as is
done with the classic palm
(Figure 96). In this way, the card
is held hidden beneath the
hand. (In some of the applications that follow, the card is
held merely by the fourth finger,
without engaging the inner left
corner on the thenar. Circumstance and expediency govern
the choice of grips.)
Most often, when this palming position is assumed, the
other right fingers are curled
inward as well. This is indeed
the case when shifting the card
from pinky clip to rear palm. The
tip of the right third finger
contacts the underside of the
card and pushes inward toward
the wrist, until the front end of
the card lies along the base of
the fingers (Figure 97). The third
finger then presses the card into
the palm, bowing it upward, and
the palmar muscles contract to
hold the card in place (Figure
98). The grip, as Hugard and
Braue observed, is much like
that used to palm a billiard ball.
When securing the card into
rear palm, do not move the
thumb out from the hand and in
again. Such a maneuver is
unnecessary. The bowing of the
card into the palm naturally
causes the edges to press into the flesh. A good way to practice is to
move the card into rear palm while keeping the tips of the thumb and
forefinger together.
When the card is palmed, relax the fingers and straighten them.
Note that the right side of the card lies parallel with the heel of the
hand (the hypothenar). This prevents the inner right corner from
protruding beyond the wrist and exposing itself to the audience.
Very little finger movement is necessary to shift the card from
pinky clip to rear palm. When first learning the maneuver, there will
be a tendency for the card to make a clicking sound as it leaves pinky

126 THE COLLECTED WORKS OF ALEX ELMSLEY


clip. This noise can be eliminated by applying light but steady pressure with the third fingertip.
When the card is in rear palm, its inner end does lie behind the
wrist. Therefore, one must guard against exposing the inner left
corner of the card to the audience. This is done by holding the hand
at roughly a forty-five degree angle from the horizontal. If you first
turn the hand fully palm-down, then tip the thumb's side of the hand
upward, stopping before the palm is turned completely toward yourself, you will be in the desired position. The card can still be seen from
the left side, but is completely protected at the front and right.
Consequently, when using this palm, turn somewhat to your left,
correcting for the bad angle if people are present there. If wearing a
coat, the coat sleeve provides further cover for the inner end of the
palmed card. Think of the forefinger as a border between safe angles
and risky ones: to the left of the forefinger the card may be exposed;
to the right of the forefinger you are protected.
When unoccupied with an overt task, the palming hand should
assume a relaxed pose, with the second, third and fourth fingers
mildly curled, and the forefinger held a bit straighter. There is a
tendency, when holding a card in rear palm, to spread the fingers to
an unnatural extent. Keep the fingers loosely together. It is likely that
nature has given you gaps between the fingers ample enough to
satisfy suspicious spectators that you are not concealing a card in
classic palm.
Mr. Elmsley points out that more than one card can be rear palmed
if the grip on the cards is modified slightly. Instead of depending
purely on the friction of skin against card to hold the cards in place,
move the thumb inward a bit farther, catching the left edges of the
cards in a crease of flesh on the heel of the thumb, and trap the
opposite edges against the heel of the palm. This restricts the thumb's
movement slightly, but is quite practical.

The Top-card Rear Palm


Adapting the above rear-palm technique to standard top palm
procedures presents no problems. Hold the deck face-down in lefthand dealing grip and bring the right hand palm-down over it in a
squaring action. With all four fingers covering the front of the pack,
secretly use the left thumb to push the top card roughly half an inch
to the right; and, with the tips of the left second and third fingers,
press the card upward into the right palm, where it can be gripped
in pinky clip. Then remove the right hand from the deck and shift
the card into rear palm.
Here, though, is a more unorthodox approach devised by Mr.
Elmsley. Grip one end of the face-up pack in the right hand, fingertips
on the back, thumb on the face at the lower (non-index) corner (Figure

SUNDRY SLEIGHTS 127


99). Now perform a onehanded fan, moving the
thumb upward and outward,
and the fingers inward. When
the fan is completed, the
exposed index of the rear card
should lie behind your wrist.
Display the fan briefly,
then close it in this manner:
With the palm-up left hand,
grip the fan at its inner corner
(that corner nearest the right
wrist), fingers beneath, and
thumb contacting the face of
the card second from the
back (Figure 100). With the
left fingers, secretly push the
lowermost card to the right,
swiveling it completely under
the right hand, in preparation
for palming. Then, with the
left thumb and fingers, push
the remaining cards forward.
As the left hand closes the
fan, the left thumb lets the
fingers finish the task. This
brings the near edge of the
pack against the base of the
left fingers, while the back
card lies hidden beneath the
right hand, held by the curled
third finger (Figure 101).
With the right forefinger,
tip the pack face-down into
the left hand. Then, as you
move the right hand forward
to square the pack, with the
third finger push the stolen
card securely into rear palm
and leave it there.
Of course, if the deck is
held face-down at the start,
the same technique can be
used to steal the bottom card.

128 THE COLLECTED WORKS OF ALEX ELMSLEY

The Misdirection Rear Palm


A problem often experienced when stealing the top card of the deck
into rear palm is that of positioning the right hand to receive the card
without assuming an unnatural forward hand posture over the pack.
Here is a solution in which the palm is executed during the action of
pushing another card into the pack. The psychology is borrowed from
Edward Mario's misdirection palm in which a card is stolen into
classic palm (ref. The Cardician, pp. 55-57).
The card you wish to palm must first be controlled to a position
second from the top of the pack. Then, while holding the deck in lefthand dealing position, form a fourth-finger break below the top two
cards. With your right hand, remove the top card and display it.
Motivation for this action must be derived from the trick being
performed. For instance, you might be showing that the top card is
not a spectator's selection, or you might be pretending to believe that
this card is the chosen one. After the card has been exhibited, insert
it into the center of the pack and leave it protruding from the front
for about three-quarters of its length.
Momentarily move the right hand away from the pack to display
the outjogged card. Then bring the hand back over the deck, until
the right fingertips can contact the outer end of the card to push it
flush. The right thumb should lie relaxed at the side of the hand. Now,
in the initial action of pushing the protruding card square, lower the
right hand momentarily, bringing it near the top of the pack. The
instant the right hand assumes this position, use your left fourth
finger to lift the top card. Then introduce the tips of the left second
and third fingers into the widened break, and press the card up
against the right palm. At the same time, press downward with the
right edge of the right palm, levering the card up and into the hand
(Figure 102, right hand tilted to expose the maneuver). The instant
the card is pressed securely to the palm, the right hand rises away
from the deck, resuming its former position.
Do not at this point try to rear palm the card. Instead, continue
to use the left fingertips to press the card upward against the palm.
Also, as the cards are raised into place, make a slight leftward body
turn, to guard against the vulnerable left angle.
By this time, the right fingers should be pushing the outjogged
card flush with the pack. As an aid to this action, move the right
thumb to the inner left corner of the deck.
The action of pushing the card in causes the right palm to contract
(Figure 103, right thumb raised to expose the situation). The gripping
of the selection in rear palm is therefore almost automatic. As you
square the ends of the deck you can adjust the position of the palmed

SUNDRY SLEIGHTS

129

card if necessary. In fact, the actual palming of the card can be


delayed for a few seconds more while the deck is squared, by allowing
the card to skate over the nails of the left fingers before pressing it
into the palm. Conclude by moving the right hand away from the
deck, clasping the card in rear palm.
It should be noted that this procedure can also be used to rear
palm more than one card. Simply form a break under the cards you
wish to palm from the deck, and proceed as above.
1961

The Tap Replacement


Once the card is in rear palm, it is often necessary to replace it
secretly on the deck. Methods for accomplishing this can be found
in Expert Card Technique (p. 140) and in Ganson's Further Inner
Secrets of Card Magic (p. 46). Here is an approach of Mr. Elmsley's
that is quick, smooth and indetectable.
Hold the face-down deck in left-hand dealing grip, but positioned
farther forward and a bit more to the right than is usual. The front
end of the pack should project beyond the forefinger. You can, if you
like, set the left fourth finger at the inner end of the deck, near the
right corner.
Bring the right hand to the deck from a position to the right and
slightly forward of it. As the right hand sweeps in over the pack from
the outer right corner, raise the left thumb slightly from the back of
the deck to allow the inner left corner of the rear-palmed card to pass
under it (Figure 104).
Without pausing, continue to move the right hand inward, until
the palmed card is square with the pack and the inner phalanges of
the right fingers hit the front edge of the deck. Immediately grasp the
pack by the outer end in a straddle grip: right thumb at the left side,
right fourth finger at the right side, and the other fingers curled

130 THE COLLECTED WORKS OF ALEX ELMSLEY

around the front end (Figure 105). Then remove the deck from the
left hand and tap its inner end on the table, in a squaring action. In
this way the replacement is executed invisibly without a hint of
hesitation.

The Center-card Rear Palm


The application of the pinky clip and rear palm to side steal technique soon occurred to Mr. Elmsley as he explored the possibilities
of the rear palm; particularly when given the lead provided by Hugard
and Braue on pages 138 and 139 of Expert Card Technique. Once the
required card was right] ogged from the center of the pack, using
standard side steal procedure, it could then be caught in pinky clip
and shifted to rear palm as it was secretly extracted from the pack.
Russell T. Barnhart, in his The Master Palm, recognized this as well
(see p. 17 of that work).
Mr. Elmsley proceeded to add some cunning handling touches to
the procedure that are well worth learning. As mentioned, the centercard rear palm can be set up with the actions of the standard side
steal. However, Mr. Elmsley often uses a Roy Walton handling of the
Simon control (ref. Bill Simon's Effective Card Magic, pp. 93-95) to
get into position. The Simon control is exceptionally deceptive, as the
card to be stolen is squared into the deck in a fashion that seems to
preclude manipulation.
Have the card selected and, while it is being noted, square the deck
and hold it face-down in left-hand dealing grip. With your right hand,
take the selection from the spectator and insert it into the outer end
of the deck, somewhere near center. If you like, you can invite the
spectator to insert his card anywhere he wishes. In this case, you
must exert a subtle pressure with the left thumb on the deck to
prevent him from pushing the card flush.
Push the card smoothly into the pack, but at the last instant, angle
the outer end leftward, forcing the outer left corner of the card to
project approximately the width of a border from the left side of the

SUNDRY SLEIGHTS

131

pack (Figure 106). Do not


attempt to hide this misalignment, but do make
it appear unintentional.
With the outer corner
of the card projecting
from the left edge of the
pack, shift grips, taking
the deck by its ends with
your palm-down right
hand. Now place the tip
of your extended left
thumb on the inner left
corner of the deck (Figure
107) and slide the thumb
forward. This forces the
card into the deck without altering the angle at
which it rests. The
thumb stops when it
reaches the outer left
corner of the pack (Figure
108). Run the thumbtip
back and forth several
times along the edge of
the deck.
This deliberate action
seems to push the selection square with the
pack, losing it. In reality,
the forward action of the
thumb has forced the
card through the deck at
an angle, and caused the
inner right corner of the
card to protrude from the
right edge. The jogged
corner is hidden from the
audience by the right hand (Figure 108 again). This is in essence the
Simon card control. From this point on, the handling is Mr. Elmsley's.
In addition to the inner right corner of the card projecting from
the pack, the outer right corner has also broken through. It projects
slightly from the front of the pack at the precise point where the tip
of the right fourth finger rests. Though this front jog is relatively fine,
it affords sufficient purchase for the fourth fingertip to swivel the card
to the right, using the right thumb, at the inner left corner of the pack,
as a pivot post on which the inner left corner of the card is seated.

132 THE COLLECTED WORKS OF ALEX ELMSLEY


Swing the card to a
rightjogged position, causing it to project roughly
half an inch from the outer
right corner of the deck.
Immediately curl the
fourth finger in until its tip
contacts the index of the
selection (Figure 109, an
underview). Simultaneously move the left hand to the
inner left corner of the
pack and grasp it, thumb
above and fingers below.
Grip the corner lightly,
supporting the weight of
the deck on the left
fingertips. Too firm a
pressure will cause unwanted binding during the
next action.
With the right fourth
fingertip, clip the corner of
the jogged card in the
crease of the outer joint.
Then, while keeping the
right hand stationary over
the deck, lift the thumb
from the inner end of the
pack, and move the right
forefinger to the left edge of
the cards, near the outer
left corner (Figure 110).
Now use the forefinger
to fan the deck. As you
make the fan, do not twist
the right hand. The right
forefinger should constantly point in the same direction. This assures that the pinky-clipped
card remains concealed. The action of fanning the cards automatically strips the selection from the pack, and leaves the card hidden
in the right hand (Figure 111).
Turn the left hand to display the face of the fan, and use this action
as misdirection, while you shift the stolen card into rear palm. In fact,
you can actually hold the fan in front of the right hand, screening
that hand from the audience during the moment it takes to reposition
the palmed card.

SUNDRY SLEIGHTS 133


The fan may be closed with the right forefinger, and the deck either
set down or handed out for shuffling. You can now deal with the
palmed card as circumstances demand.
This side steal, from beginning to end, is executed in a few seconds.
It is performed as a smooth continuous action, without hesitation or
extraneous motion. Use a light touch and a pack that is in good
condition; a sticky deck will cause undesirable binding as the card
is pushed in and extracted. Practice will soon convince you of the
practicality and deceptiveness of this elegant sleight.
The reader may wish to compare Mr. Elmsley's side steal method
with Russell T. Barnhart's master palm fan steal (ref. The Master
Palm, pp. 41-46). The thinking underlying the approaches is exactly
the reverse: while Mr. Elmsley steals the card as the fan is formed,
Mr. Barnhart makes the steal as the fan is closed.
Before leaving the center-card rear palm, it should be mentioned
that the same fan-steal technique can be applied to the bottom card
of the pack. While holding the deck by its ends in the palm-down right
hand, curl the tip of the right fourth finger onto the face of the bottom
card at the outer right corner; then, with the fingertip, swivel the inner
end of the card to the right. This maneuver is similar to that used in
the Kelly-Ovette bottom placement. With a small forward action of
the fourth finger, the bottom card can now be pulled outward slightly,
and clipped in the crease of the outer joint. You now have the card
in pinky clip and can proceed to steal it from the pack as you fan
the cards.

A One-handed Center Steal


Taking the premise of the above side steal a bit further, Mr.
Elmsley devised a one-handed method of extracting the card. It will
take some work to master, and it is distinctly easier with bridge-width
cards; but it can certainly be done with a poker deck. While he did
use this sleight in his youth, Mr. Elmsley now considers it suitable
only for impressing fellow magicians. For public performance, other,
easier techniques are to be preferred. The one-handed center steal,
then, is explained here for the diversion of those who enjoy a manipulative challenge and a friendly round of one-upsmanship among one's
colleagues.
Begin by secretly jogging the right inner corner of the desired card
from the right side of the pack, using either side steal technique or
the Simon card control. Then, with the tip of the right fourth finger,
swivel the card into a rightjogged position, parallel with the pack, as
explained above.
Catch the outer right corner of the jogged card in the curl of the
right fourth finger. Now, by flattening the hand while pulling upward

134 THE COLLECTED WORKS OF ALEX ELMSLEY


with the fourth finger,
you will find you can
draw the card rightward,
until roughly half its
width projects from the
pack. At this point the
right fingers still cover
the outer end of the pack,
with the tip of the forefinger resting at the outer
left corner (Figure 112,
an underview).
In a continuing action,
pull up with the forefinger on the corner of
the deck, and simultaneously straighten the
second finger. This
causes the deck to pivot
to a vertical position, left
side uppermost; and in
this action the deck is
revolved away from the
pinky clipped card (Figure 113). As this motion
is made, turn slightly to
your left to compensate
for the bad angle there.
Once the knack of
pivoting the deck away
from the palmed card is
acquired, the main problem to be conquered is
the noise made by the
manipulation. It is natural for the card to make
a clicking sound as the
outer left corner escapes
from the pack. This noise
can be eliminated by
introducing the tip of the
third finger into the
break created at the outer right corner as the deck begins to pivot.
The fingertip enters the break and contacts the face of the clipped
card (Figure 114). Then, by applying a light but steady pressure with
this fingertip, the card is pressed against the descending edge of the
pack, and the corner is prevented from snapping.

SUNDRY SLEIGHTS 135


Another method of dealing with the noise is to cover it with the
sound of tapping the lower edge of the turned pack on the table.
Once the card is free, the right hand sets the pack face-down into
the left hand. The pinky clipped card can now be loaded onto the deck
with a squaring action, or it can be retained in the right hand and
shifted to rear palm.
Mr. Elmsley mentions that this one-handed technique and the
preceding center-card rear palm can be performed with two cards
inserted together into the pack.
This one-handed side steal, though independently derived, is
related to work done by Irv Weiner in the 1950s. Mr. Weiner's onehanded side steal can be found in Daryl's Ambitious Card Omnibus
(pp. 81-85).

Trouser-pocket Loading Technique


One direction often taken when having palmed a card is to produce
it from the pocket. When using the rear palm, Mr. Elmsley
recommends the following technique for loading the card into the
right trousers pocket:
The problem to be solved when reaching into the pocket with a card
in rear palm is that the palm of the hand must be turned toward your
hip for the hand to enter the pocketand in doing so, the left edge
of the card near the wrist is exposed to the audience. To overcome
this problem, just as you begin to turn the hand toward the hip,
sweep the right thumb inward toward the palm, and clip the outer
left corner of the card between the thumb and the base of the
forefinger. Simultaneously release the right side of the card from the
heel of the hand (Figure 115).
Immediately press the palm of the hand (and the thumb clipped
card) lightly to the hip as the hand moves to enter the pocket. Then
slip the hand into the pocket and bring out the card at the fingertips.
One further consideration
must be addressed. If you have
a small hand, when the grip on
the card is shifted to thumb clip,
the released right side of the
card may become exposed to
observers on your extreme right.
Should spectators be positioned
there, turn slightly rightward
just before moving the card to
thumb clip position. The card
will then be covered from all
angles.

136 THE COLLECTED WORKS OF ALEX ELMSLEY


After developing these rear palm techniques, Mr. Elmsley put them
to use in various tricks. These applications will be discussed later
in this volume and in Volume II.

VARIATIONS O N ERDNASE'S
FIRST TRANSFORMATION
In S. W. Erdnase's classic text, The Expert at the Card Table, the
author details several color changes with cards (which he more
precisely termed transformations). The first of these changes is one
in which the second card from the face of the deck is secretly slipped
from beneath the first and then over it, as the right hand momentarily covers the face of the pack (ref. The Expert at the Card Table,
pp. 151-152). It is a well-known change to magicians, and a fine one,
but few seem to perform it. In the 1950s Mr. Elmsley made some
excellent stylistic adjustments to the handling of this sleight, ones
that I feel sure will stimulate fresh interest in this maneuver. First
the color change will be explained, as Mr. Elmsley performs it; then
several variant handlings and applications will be taught.

Transformation with Outjog


In the original Erdnase color change, the first secret action
consisted of pushing the card on the face of the pack forward for
approximately an inch, under cover of the open right hand. Mr.
Elmsley has made this action an open one: he lets the audience see
him push the card at the face forwardnot an inch, but for half its
lengthand the card is then transformed in this outjogged position.
The deck is held on edge and face outward in the left hand. The
thumb lies on the upper side of the deck, adjacent to the outer index
corner; and the tips of the four fingers lie on the lower side of the deck,
all gathered near the outer non-index corner. You should be turned
a bit to your left, presenting the face of the pack directly to the
audience.
Bring the right hand to the deck, fingers extended and together,
but relaxed. Touch the tips of the second and third fingers to the face
of the pack, roughly half an inch inward of the outer end. With those
fingertips, gently push the bottom card straight outward for half its
length. As the card reaches its destination, the fleshy pads at the base

138 THE COLLECTED WORKS OF ALEX ELMSLEY


of the right fingers should lie directly above the inner end of the card
second from the face (Figure 116, performer's view from above).
Press the base of the right fingers lightly against the exposed end
of the second card and draw the right hand straight back, keeping
the fingers parallel with the length of the pack. In this action the
second card from the face is secretly slid inward, while being
concealed mainly by the right fingers. When you feel the end of the
second card clear the end of the first (Figure 117), alter the direction
of the right hand, moving it smoothly downward and inward, over the
near lower corner of the pack. At the same time, tilt the right hand
(with its concealed card) thumb outward, and raise the right fingers
away from the pack. In doing so, the concealed card is slid lightly over
the lower index corner of the deck (Figure 118). As the hand assumes
this position, it appears to relinquish contact with the pack. The
fingers are straight and relaxed. Use the corner of the pack to trap
the card against the right hand as you continue to move the hand
downward, exposing the full face of the pack with the bottom card
outjogged on it.
You are now in a perfect position to grasp the card in classic palm.
Simply contract the right fourth finger slightly, gripping the card to
the palm with a light pressure. Then drop the right hand, removing
it completely from the pack.
Pause only briefly; then bring the right hand upward and forward
to cover the outjogged card. Neatly deposit the palmed card over the
offset one, using the tips of the left fingers and thumb to assure
precise lengthwise alignment. Bend the tips of the right fingers
slightly, pushing inward on the outer ends of the two outjogged cards
to square them (Figure 119). Then smoothly move the right hand
upward while you trail the tips of the fingers lightly over the ends of
the double card in a final adjustment. As the right hand rises, the
change of the outjogged card is revealed to the audience.
The change of the card in its outjogged state is both attractive and
deceptive. This handling also allows the right hand to gain some
distance from the deck before the change is made, something not done
in the original version. The change leaves you in an advantageous
position, as you can now exploit the double nature of the changed
card to switch it, or to proceed with an Ambitious Card sequence.
Merely remove the double card from the face of the pack, flip the deck
face-down and turn the double card down on top.
When doing a straight color-change sequence, Mr. Elmsley often
follows the first change, as described above, with a repeat that
employs another variant handling. Assume that you have just
changed the five of diamonds to the king of spades. After the change
the king lies outjogged on the face of the pack, with the five hidden
beneath it. Bring the right hand to the deck and, without obscuring
the faces of the cards, neatly push the double card square with the
pack. Say to the audience, "The five of diamonds has changed into a

SUNDRY SLEIGHTS

139

king. It is not underneath." With


the tips of the right second and
third fingers, push the king
forward again on the deck for half
its length, and repeat the steal of
the second card from the face
(the five of diamonds), as was
done in the first change.
However, as the right hand slides
back, slipping the five from
beneath the king, do not move
the hand downward toward the
lower index corner of the pack.
Instead, move it inward and upward, sliding it over the upper nonindex corner until the lower non-index corner of the five rests against
that corner of the pack. Halt the right hand with only the corner of
the five caught between the tip of the right fourth finger and the
corner of the deck (Figure 120). In this position the face of the deck
is fully exposed, and the indifferent card lying beneath the outjogged
king can be seen.
Now move the right hand forward and downward, sliding the
concealed five over the faces of the cards until the right fingertips

140 THE COLLECTED WORKS OF ALEX ELMSLEY


can contact the outer end of the king. Push the king inward and
square with the pack, at the same time depositing the five neatly over
it. Then raise the right hand away from the deck, revealing the
surprising second transformation of the card. Notice that, in this
handling, the stolen card is at no time palmedat least, not in the
traditional sense.

Erdnase's First Transformation as a Vanish


In this application of the Erdnase color change, a face-up card is
vanished from the top of a face-down deck. The outward effect
reminds one of the use of the Finley tent vanish in Dai Vernon's
"Slow-motion Four Aces" (Stars of Magic, pp. 94-95). However, as will
be seen, the actions of the two sleights are quite different.
While holding the deck face-down in left-hand dealing position,
turn the top card face-up. Now raise the deck to the left fingertips
and turn its top toward the audience, moving into position for the
Erdnase transformation. There is, though, a small change in the left
hand's grip on the pack. The forefinger is placed at the outer end of
the deck, and the other three fingers are shifted forward on the lower
side of the cards, bringing the tip of the second finger to the bottom
outer corner. The position of the thumb at the top outer corner of
the pack remains the same.
Bring the right hand to the deck and, with the tips of the second
and third fingers, openly push the face-up card forward on the pack
for half its length. Then, as you move the right hand back, perform
the actions of the color change, as taught above, to steal the uppermost face-down card from the deck. Then bring the right hand over
the outjogged face-up card and deposit the palmed card onto it.
While the right hand still covers the outjogged double card, secretly
extend the left forefinger to the far end of the double and push the
two cards square with the pack. As you do this, do not move the right
hand inward. It is important that it remain stationary. You will find
that as the double card is pushed flush, its inner end tends to rise
away from the pack. This can be corrected by pressing with the heel
of the right hand on the inner end of the double card as it slides into
place.
The instant the double card is flush with the pack, cramp the right
fingers and jut the right thumb out from the hand, in a parody of
palming a card. Then move the right hand away from the deck,
maintaining this stiff pose. The face-up outjogged card is seen to be
gone, and there is a face-down card on top of the deck, all lending
credence to your pretense of having palmed the card in the right
hand. To effect the vanish, you need only show the right hand empty.

SUNDRY SLEIGHTS

141

Flying Squad
To illustrate the utility of this vanish, here is a simple trick of Mr.
Elmsley's, drawn from notes made in the 1950s. (In June of 1975
Robert Parrish contributed a quite similar trick of his invention to
Pallbearers Review, Vol. 10, No. 8, p. 976.) Have a card selected, noted
and returned to the pack. Control this card secretly to a position
second from the top. Turn the top card face-up on the pack, then
apparently palm it as you execute the vanish just explained.
While you pretend to hold the card palmed in the right hand, move
your left hand and the deck behind your back and, once they are out
of sight, perform a one-handed pass (e.g., the Charlier pass). Meanwhile, go through the motions of making the imaginary card in your
right hand invisible, and seem to toss it through your body.
Bring the left hand forward with the deck and spread the cards,
revealing the vanished card face-up in the middleand above it, facedown, the spectator's selection.

The Misdirection Slide Palm


In the previous discussion of the rear palm, Mr. Elmsley's
adaptation of Edward Mario's misdirection palm was explained (see
pp. 128-129). We will now see how he applied Mario's action palm
psychology to Erdnase's first transformation.
Hold the pack face-down in left-hand dealing grip as you execute
a double turnover to display the apparent top card of the deck. Turn
the double card face-down again and move the pack into position for
the Erdnase transformation with outjog. With the tips of the right
fingers, push the top card forward on the pack for half its length.
Then, as the right hand moves inward, execute the actions of the
Erdnase transformation, secretly sliding back the card second from
the top (that is, the card just displayed face-up). Continue to move
_
the right hand inward and
downward, until the stolen card
lies pressed by the bottom inner
corner of the pack to the right
palm (refer to Figure 118). Do
not remove the right hand from
the deck. Instead, curl in the
right fingers to grasp the inner
end of the pack, thumb at the
upper corner, second and third
fingers at the lower corner. In
doing so, you automatically
palm the stolen card in the right
hand (Figure 121).

142 THE COLLECTED WORKS OF ALEX ELMSLEY


Without hesitation, undercut
the bottom half of the deck, the
right hand drawing it inward
(Figure 122); then slap it onto
the top half, sandwiching the
outjogged card in the middle.
At this point the right hand
can drop away from the deck,
with the card palmed, while the
left forefinger pushes the protruding card flush; or you can
bring the right hand over the
pack and secretly replace the palmed card on top as the right
fingertips push the protruding card into the deck.
This is an excellent and especially deceptive method for stealing
a card from the pack. All secret actions follow from open ones;
therefore, no extraneous movement is created. A few trials will
convince the reader of the quality of this sleight.

TWO POCKET DECK SWITCHES


The ability to switch decks undetected is an invaluable asset.
Astonishing sequences of tricks can be performed by switching the
deck in use for another that has been stacked or otherwise prepared.
Yet, few magicians take advantage of this tool. Switching decks is
generally perceived as a difficult procedure. While there are sleightof-hand switches that require considerable address, there are other
long-standing methods for secretly exchanging decks that need little
or no dexterity. They do, however, require carefully planned blocking
and misdirection. These elements can be quickly formulated, once
the performer understands the underlying psychological principles.
Over the years Mr. Elmsley has used deck switches to extraordinary
effect. His favorite method for switching decks is the pocket switch,
in which, simply stated, the hand with the deck goes to the coat
pocket, drops off the deck and comes out with another pack. Of
course, if one were to do this without convincing motivation and
misdirection, it would be a transparent and artless ruse. But with
proper presentation, this switch will deceive the best-posted
magicians, as Mr. Elmsley has proven time and again. Here, then,
are some cunning ploys with which he wigs the bald pocket switch.

The Climax Pack Switch


By this strategy the deck is switched in the act of producing two
selections from the pockets. In your left coat pocket carry the deck
you wish to switch into play, its back lying nearest your body.
From the deck in use, have two cards selected, noted and returned.
Control these two cards to the top of the pack. Then, while holding
the deck face-down in left-hand dealing position, palm one of the
selections in the right hand. The instant the card is palmed, adjust
the deck from dealing grip to the left fingertips, grasping it at its left
side, thumb above, fingers beneath.
Now move the right hand from the deck to the right coat pocket.
Plunge the hand into the pocket and dramatically bring out the
palmed selection at your fingertips.

144 THE COLLECTED WORKS OF ALEX ELMSLEY


At the same time, move your left hand, with the deck, to the left
coat pocket, letting the right hand lead and the left hand trail a split
second behind in its action. The left hand should reach the left pocket
just as the right hand has fully entered the right pocket.
As the left hand travels to the pocket, use the left fingers to flip
the deck face-up into dealing grip. Then, while all attention is focused
on the right hand, place the left hand into the left pocket. Your intention is not to hide the fact that the left hand is going to the pocket,
but to make the right hand's actions more important to watch.
When the left hand reaches the bottom of its pocket, it releases
the deck it holds and claims the waiting deck. The actions of this
exchange are similar to those of the standard pocket switch, but with
one important modification. As the hand approaches the second
pack, it clips the deck it holds deep in the fork of the thumb. This
frees the second, third and fourth fingers, which extend away from
the back of the deck. The second pack is now clipped between the
first and second fingers; that is, the first finger stretches across the
back of the pack, and the other fingers contact the face. At this point
the decks lie back to back, with the forefinger separating them.
The instant you have grasped
the second deck securely between the fingers, release the
first deck from the fork of the
thumb and begin to withdraw
the hand from the pocket. But in
doing so, use the forefinger to
drag the top card of the first
deck up and away, pinching it
between the forefinger and
thumb (Figure 123).
As this exchange of decks is
made by the left hand, the right
hand exits its pocket with the
first chosen card. Just as the
face of the card comes into view,
bring the left hand from its pocket, holding the deck face-down, and
the second selection face-up between the forefinger and thumb.
The staging of this deck switch holds an important lesson in
psychology. Notice how it is made reasonable for the left hand to
retain the deck while it goes to the pocket, because the right hand is
occupied with a task. Notice how the right hand draws the audience's
attention by always preceding the left hand in its actions. Proper
timing and attitude are vital to the success of the switch, particularly
in regard to the staggered actions of the hands as they go to the
pockets. (As an historical aside, Phil Goldstein independently developed the staggered action for the pocket switch in the late 1960s. See
his marketed trick "Full Circle", released in 1973.)

SUNDRY SLEIGHTS

145

Finally, notice how the production of the chosen cards not only
gives a good reason for the hands to enter the pockets, but also
provides strong misdirection for the deck switch: the spectators are
so involved with the production of the selections, the switch is neither
anticipated nor suspected after the fact. To further strengthen the
misdirection, exhibit the selections in a dramatic fashion, focusing
attention on the production of the cards, while playing down the fact
that they came from your pockets.
This does leave you with two cards from another deck in play. This
circumstance can be handled in several ways. One can simply add
the two cards to the second pack and work with fifty-four cards; or
during a convenient moment the cards can be palmed from the deck
and disposed of; or you can remove two cards from the second pack,
and force their duplicates from the first pack, in which case you will
be left, after the switch, with a complete deck.
It should be appreciated that the action of producing a card from
the pocket can serve admirably for the secret disposal of extra or
gimmicked cards from the deck. Assume that you have just concluded a trick with a selected card. The selection lies on top of the
deck, and the extra card or cards (which have ceased to serve a
purpose) rest directly below the selection.
Get a left fourth-finger break below the cards you wish to dispose
of and, at a point after the climax of the trick, when the audience's
attention is relaxed, palm the cards above the break. Now move the
right hand to your pocket. Once it is in the pocket, release the palmed
cards, then bring the hand from the pocket, holding at your fingertips
the card that was nearest the palm. This is the previous selection.
Treat this production from the pocket as an incidental fillip: almost
a "throwaway". The unexpected flight of the selection to your pocket
is a good trick in itself, one that will draw a favorable response; and
at the same time it provides perfect cover for the unloading of
unwanted cards from the pack. Of course, this strategy can also be
employed for loading a card or cards into the pocket for some
subsequent trick. Study this concept well, as it is an invaluable one
when sequencing tricks in a routine.

The Empty-handed Pack Switch


One problem that can arise when doing the standard pocket deck
switch is that of hesitation or fumbling in the pocket as the one deck
is dropped off and the other grasped. This is not surprising when one
considers that fifty-two loose objects are being exchanged for fiftytwo others. Practice can eliminate most lapses of this sort, and proper
staging can disguise the rest, as has been adequately demonstrated
above. The pocket deck switch about to be explained proposes an
entirely different solution to the problem.

146 THE COLLECTED WORKS OF ALEX ELMSLEY


Place the deck you wish to switch into play in your left front
trousers pocket, and in your right front pocket have some object to
be used in the trick you will perform. You must also wear a coat.
The switch is accomplished at the point in your presentation when
you require the object in your right trousers pocket. At this time the
deck you wish to dispose of should rest face-down in your left hand.
The switch will be broken into steps for the purposes of teaching,
though in performance these steps combine into a smooth and
continuous sequence of action.
1) Place your right hand in your right coat pocket, in search of
the object.
2) When the right hand hits the bottom of the pocket, make it
clear from your expression that you have not found the object
you seek, and begin to move the left hand, with deck, to the
left coat pocket.
3) Withdraw the right hand from the coat pocket.
4) At this point the left hand should be fully inside the left coat
pocket. Deposit the deck there and bring the hand from the
pocket just a split second after the right hand comes from
its pocket. The left hand is now empty, but hold the fingers
cupped, as if still holding the deck, and keep the back of the
hand turned toward the audience. At this point the spectators' gaze should be focused on your puzzled expression.
5) Now brush back the sides of your coat, using both hands,
and simultaneously thrust the hands into their respective
trousers pockets. Look relieved, bring the object from your
right pocket and display it.
6) Just a split second behind the right hand's action, bring the
left hand from its pocket, holding the second pack.
This little pocket search must be acted convincingly and with
outward nonchalance. Notice how any reason for fumbling or
hesitation has been eliminated by never having both decks in the
same pocket. Bringing the left hand empty from the coat pocket may
seem overly bold, but it is empty for only a moment, and attention is
focused elsewhere. When the right hand brings forth the object from
the right trousers pocket, everyone's interest is captured by this new
prop. By the time the deck is remembered the switch is safely over.
The building of interest created by the introduction of a new prop,
and the diminishing of interest caused by putting an object away are
strong psychological tools when using the pockets for switches, or
for unloading palmed items, or for secretly procuring objects from the
pockets. This principle will be discussed in greater detail when we
examine another Elmsley deck switch, employed in a trick titled "The
Tale of the Old Timer" (see Volume II). Meanwhile, study carefully the
two switches above, not only for their utility, but also for the psychological lessons they hold, which have potential for wide application.

Chapter Four:

Minus Fifty-two

Alex Elmsley, wondering if the gimmick is strong enough to hold


through the rest of the trick. See 'The Visual Torn and Restored
Newspaper", pages 157-165.

PUNCTURE!
Effect: The performer brings out a stack of his business cards,
still wrapped in the paper band as it came from the printer. He draws
one of the cards from the packet and shows it. A hole is seen punched
through the card near one long edge (Figure 124). This hole has been
reinforced with an adhesive cloth collar, such as stationers sell.
The performer touches the hole with the tip of his thumb and drags
it over the card from the side to the center, then to the inner end.
The card is again displayed, leaving no doubt that the hole has
actually been moved and now lies at the end (Figure 125), far from
where it began. The card is given to a spectator to ponder and keep.

Method: I have been told that the idea of a portable hole began
as a joke during World War I. Infantry soldiers used to dream of a
portable fox hole that could be picked up and moved from place to
place, eliminating the need for constantly digging fresh holes. To the
best of my knowledge, Robert Haskell was the first magician to adopt
this joke as a magical plot. His was a clever platform routine
consisting of a series of short visual effects. Mr. Elmsley's "Puncture!"
was the first close-up effect to incorporate the plot of a moveable hole.
Since its original publication, other creative thinkers have expanded
on the Elmsley method, or have invented new approaches to create
the illusion of a hole that can be shifted on a solid surface. Names

150 THE COLLECTED WORKS OF ALEX ELMSLEY


like Hideo Kato, Michael Powers, Johnny Lindholm, Michael Weber,
Tooru Suzuki, Bruce Cervon, David Harkey and Michael Close come
to mind.
"Puncture" first appeared, through an amusing set of
circumstances, in Bruce Elliott's Phoenix magazine. In the summer
of 1950 the Elmsley family decided to vacation in New York City.
When Alex, then twenty-one years old, saw a chance to break away
from his parents for a few hours, he made his way as fast as he could
to Lou Tannen's magic shop, then located at 120 West 42nd Street.
In those days, the British government restricted its citizens from
taking with them more than twenty-five pounds each when traveling
abroad. Consequently, the young Elmsley's funds were severely
limited; but he had a plan: he hoped to sell the manufacturing rights
for a new trick to Lou Tannen, and with the resultant profits he would
purchase the magic and books he desired.
Tannen's response to this offer, however, proved less enthusiastic
than expected. He liked the trick, but thought it unpromising as a
marketed item. Lou Tannen was a kind man, and he broke this
disappointing news as gently as he could. He recommended that Alex
publish the trick in a journal like The Phoenix. Mr. Elmsley agreed,
and asked that Tannen relay it to Bruce Elliott. Tannen did so,
actually taking time to write a description of the trick from memory.
"Puncture" appeared the following October on the front page of The
Phoenix. Mr. Elmsley didn't get the new magic he was hoping for, but
in return for his trick Bruce Elliott did give him a free subscription
to the magazine.
In transmitting "Puncture" to Elliott, Lou Tannen unintentionally
altered several details. What follows is the original Elmsley method,
presentation and handling.
You will require a stack of business cards, snugly bound round its
width with a band of colored paper
(Figure 126). This band is roughly
one inch wide. Take two of the
business cards and, with a hole
punch, make a hole at the center of
the left long edge of one card; and
another hole at the inner end of the
second card. Both cards should be
turned the same direction. Stick a
cloth reinforcement ring (available
at any stationery shop) around the
hole on each of these cards (refer to
Figures 124 and 125).
You must also make a hole feke. This is fabricated from another
of the reinforcement rings. Mount the ring to a small disk of the same
kind of paper that encircles the stack of business cards. This paper

MINUS FIFTY-TWO

151

disk must be no larger than the outer


circumference of the ring (Figure 127).
The feke is attached to the end-punched
business card in such a manner that it can
easily be broken free. Magician's wax of the
harder variety will serve the purpose. You
do not want a wax that will smear or
smudge the card as the feke is dragged
over it. A small bit of double-sided tape can
also be used; or, if you leave exposed a
portion of the gummed back on the reinforcement ring, this adhesive surface can
be utilized.
Affix the feke to the left side of the endpunched business card, in a position
identical to the hole in the side-punched
card (Figure 128).
Slip the card with the hole at its left side
on top of the stack and under the paper
band. Turn the card with the hole in its
end feke-side down and place it under the
stack, lying outside the band. The hole in
this card should be positioned at the inner
end of the stack. Carry the stack and the
loose card in your left coat pocket.
One last thing is required. Prepare five
or six more business cards with holes and
reinforcing rings at their ends, like the card
in Figure 125. Bind the cards together with
a loop of string, a rubber band or a key ring through the holes. Put
this stack of cards in your right coat pocket.
When ready to perform, bring the banded stack from the left
pocket, with the loose card hidden beneath it. Mention that the
printer just delivered your new business card, but some of the cards
were accidentally run on punched stock. Hold the stack in your left
hand and, with the right hand, pull the top card from beneath the
band. Display the hole in the card, showing it on both sides so that
there can be no question later that the hole was genuine.
Lay the card, hole to the left, square over the stack, where the
colored band can be seen through it. Comment on the oddity of the
printer's error; then explain that, after thinking about it overnight,
you decided to keep the punched cards anyway. As you talk, drop
your left hand casually to your side and simultaneously place your
right hand into your right pocket. Bring out the small packet there.
"I've found that a hole in the cards can be quite handy..." As you
say this, display the strung packet and, under cover this misdirection,

152 THE COLLECTED WORKS OF ALEX ELMSLEY

secretly turn over the stack in the left hand, bringing the gimmicked
card to the top. Then drop the threaded cards onto the table, and
raise the left hand. Before the top of the left hand's stack can be seen
by the audience, transfer it to the right hand, grasping it at the inner
end, thumb over the end hole and fingers beneath the cards. Briefly
display the card on top of the stack; then place the stack once more
in left-hand dealing grip, left thumb at the left side. Continue to
conceal the end hole with the right thumb, as shown in (Figure 129).
"...But a hole at the end is more useful than one at the side." As
you say this, move the right thumb forward to the feke at the left side
of the card, still hiding the end hole under the length of the thumb
(Figure 130). Now visibly slide the feke to the center of the card, then
inward until it is over the real hole. "About there is where I would
like the hole." Press down firmly with the thumb, as if fixing the hole
in place. This action not only enhances the illusion of transporting
the hole, but also ensures that the feke will adhere, at least momentarily, to the thumb, thanks to the natural moisture of the skin.
Immediately slide the right
thumb and the hidden feke
back and off the card. As all
eyes are drawn to the hole in
the end of the card, let the feke
fall from the thumb into finger
palm (Figure 131), or any
other position of concealment.
With your right hand, remove the top card, display it
and hand it to someone to
examine. Then pocket the
stack, disposing of the feke at
the same time, and go on to
something else.

MINUS FIFTY-TWO

153

Rather than letting the feke drop into the fingers, you may wish
to try this: As the right thumb drags the feke off the end of the stack
of cards, bend your right second finger into the palm and pull the
feke off the stack and directly onto the finger's nail. Then straighten
the finger again to join the rest. Because of the wax or tape, the feke
will adhere to the back of the finger, allowing the hand to be seen
empty before it reclaims the stack. The feke can be easily flicked off
the nail as the stack is pocketed.
With a little thought, one could design the type on one's business
card to exploit this effect in some manner: the repositioning of the
hole could be given a typographical motivation, or its new position
might become the visual punch-line to some sight gag. The effect is
a strange one, in any case; and it greatly increases the likelihood that
your card will be kept and shown to others.
October 6, 1950

THE NODDING SKULL


Effect: The performer exhibits a tiny human skull mounted on a
simple counterbalance. This he perches on a base made from an
innocent cardboard tube. The skull sits suspended on its two thin
balance arms (Figure 132). The performer explains that the skull
belonged to a midget sorcerer from the seventeenth century, and that
it is capable of divining thoughts and answering questions. It then
proceeds to do just that, by nodding mysteriously when queried and
indicating chosen cards when shown them. There is no connection
between the skull and the performer. It and the base can at any time
be picked up and examined. It can even be isolated under a clear
glass tumbler. Still it nods whenever the performer wishes it. The little
skull's motions can provide both amusement and mystery, and there
is opportunity for wide variation in presenting this charming novelty.
Method: "The Nodding Skull" is one of Mr. Elmsley's earliest tricks.
To earn pocket money while he attended Cambridge University, Mr.
Elmsley carved about a half dozen of these skulls and sold them for
5.00 each, a tidy sum in 1950. Jack Avis and Bobby Bernard were
two of the six purchasers. In later years Harry Devano, inspired by
this trick, devised a routine with a little cork doll, which he made
swing or "dance" as he whistled and waved his arms to the tune. The
Devano presentation and handling can be found in Magic Circle Magic
(pp. 69-70, 1963).
The skull is fashioned from a block of cork. The finished skull
measures approximately an inch in height and depth, and a half inch
in width. Set into its base is one end of a bar magnet. The opposite
end of the magnet has several neat turns of wire solder wrapped
around its girth (Figure 133). The purpose of the wire solder is to
counterbalance the skull. You must experiment with the amount of
solder wrapped around the magnet: it is correct when the skull tips
slightly northward when balanced and at rest.
To either side of the magnet, at the base of the skull, are glued
two small arms (Figure 133 again). The bottom edges of these arms
are formed from the keen edge of a razor blade. The pieces of razor
blade are clamped into short lengths of tight plastic channel, which
can be fashioned from plastic collar stays or the plastic spines used

MINUS FIFTY-TWO

155

to bind small manuscripts. When the construction is completed, the


skull and magnet are painted appropriately.
The cardboard tube on which the skull is suspended is merely a
matchbox cover painted black. A square hole, situated about half an
inch from one end of the cover, is cut into the top. This hole should
be large enough for the skull to rest in, perched on its balance arms,
and to rock freely. A staple or pin of brass or some other non-magnetic
metal is fixed to each side of the hole, parallel with the length of the
cover (Figure 134). The staples or pins form a smooth and near
frictionless surface on which the razor edges of the balance arms can
pivot. A large window is also cut into the bottom of the box cover,
permitting the inside to be seen empty and free of contrivance.
The skull is caused to nod by moving a magnet near it. A small
powerful horseshoe magnet is used, in the curve of which is glued a
short length of doweling (Figure 135). This is carried in the coat
pocket. When you wish the skull to move you stand near it,
positioning the magnet in your pocket somewhat behind the

156 THE COLLECTED WORKS OF ALEX ELMSLEY


counterbalance. Then, with your hand in your coat pocket, grasp the
dowel between fingers and thumb, and begin to twist it, turning the
magnet back and forth to create an alternating wave of magnetism
that sets the skull swinging. Although the magnetic field is relatively
weak, the principle of resonance is applied to create an increasingly
strong swing. The secret lies in timing the turns of the magnet to
match the movements of the skull as it begins to rock. A period of
roughly one to two seconds works best. To halt the swing, the rolling
of the magnet is timed to counter the motions of the skull, creating
an opposing magnetic force.
On experimentation, it will be discovered that the relative positions of the poles of the horseshoe magnet, as it is held in your pocket,
determine how you must manipulate it. Held one way, the skull and
magnet will work as just described. Held the opposite way, the reverse
actions will start and stop the skull. The necessary rhythm will
become almost automatic with a bit of experience.
It is surprising how effective such a small magnetic field can be.
If the skull is properly constructed and balanced, it can be controlled
from as far away as four feet. With the availability today of extremely
strong rare-earth magnets, even greater distance may be achieved.
Of course, inverting a tumbler over the skull has no effect on its
motion, but adds to the outward impossibility of the trick.
There are many amusing presentation routes possible. As
mentioned earlier, the skull can nod when a chosen card (either
regular or Tarot) is shown to it. The most commonsense approach
to such an effect is that of the ancient key-card principle. When the
selection is replaced, position a known card above it. Here, it is wise
to place the key card several cards above the selection, rather than
directly over it. This allows you an interval in which to activate the
skull. Have a spectator deal the cards into a face-up pile before the
skull. When your key card appears, you know you have the span of
a known number of cards (three, four or five, as you wish) before the
selection is reached. This lead-time is necessary, as it takes a few
seconds of twisting the magnet to begin the movement of the skull.
The skull can also be made to identify objects. For example, it
could serve to indicate the name of the deceased in a Living and Dead
Test; or the proper envelope in a Bank Night effect or Pseudopsychometry routine. Having it answer questions, however, by
nodding once for no and twice for yes is asking too much, as once
the skull begins to swing, it is difficult to exercise precise control over
its movements. The opportunities for entertainment, either
mysterious or humorous, using this little prop will be obvious and,
it is hoped, attractive enough to persuade the reader to construct one.
1950

THE VISUAL TORN AND


RESTORED NEWSPAPER
Effect: The title efficiently sums up the effect. A newspaper is torn
to pieces, then is magically restored. Several good methods exist for
achieving this effect, but when Gene Anderson's newspaper tear was
prominently performed a few years back by Doug Henning, magicians
seemed to lose sight of all others. It is rare to see anything but the
Anderson method performed these days. This is to be regretted, as
several of the prior methods had advantages well worth considering
(not the least of which is Al Koran's, to which the Gene Anderson
method owes a considerable debt). When Mr. Elmsley first discussed
his method in print, he clearly stated his goal:
"In most methods, assuming that they are well performed, the torn
pieces are transformed into a neatly folded packet, obviously untorn,
which is then unfolded. To me this does not look magical, however
magical it may be considered intellectually. It looks as though a folded
packet has been substituted for the pieces. Moreover, the unfolding
of the packet is an anticlimax.
"I believe that, if it is to look as though it is the same paper being
restored as was torn, there must be no folded packet seen at any
stage. In practice, that means that no folded edges, but only torn
edges and the natural edges of the paper must be seen, right up to
the moment when the paper is shown unfolded and restored."
At that time (1958), only one method met this criticism: Ken
Bowell's "Kentare", which was marketed by Harry Stanley. Taking the
Bowell method as a starting point, Mr. Elmsley createdtitleone about
to be explained. A folded packet is substituted for the torn pieces,
but its folded edges are hidden up to the instant of restoration.
Method: You will require two duplicate front sections of a newspaper. Remove the inner pages of each section until only the two
outside double sheets remain. That is, each duplicate paper should
now consist of only eight pages. Find a single page from the extra
sheets of the papers, or neatly cut a double page in half. (Ideally, this
should be the front page from a third duplicate copy of the paper,
but this is not strictly necessary.) Dispose of everything but the single
page and the two eight-page sections.

158 THE COLLECTED WORKS OF ALEX ELMSLEY


Take the single page and fold it in half widthwise. Then, using your
finger for a paperknife, tear the page in two along the fold. The tear
should be ragged but reasonably straight. Think of the lower half of
the page as Piece One. Fold the upper portion in half lengthwise and,
again using your finger, tear along the fold, creating two quarter
pages. Call the left-hand quarter Piece Two. (Figure 136 shows how
the page has been torn.) Throw the right-hand quarter away.
Now lay one of the eight-page sections on the table and open out
the front page, exposing pages two and three. Using rubber cement
or another glue that dries without wrinkling the paper, apply an "L"
of cement at the bottom left corner of page three. This "L" runs up
the left side of the page, near the crease, for roughly two-thirds of
its height; and horizontally along the bottom of the page for almost
half its width. (See Figure 137, in which the glue coated area is
shaded.)
Close the front page again, and press it smooth along the gluelined area. Then fold this front page in half by carrying the right edge
back to the left and creasing it along its length. This crease is not
quite at center, as the left edge of the folded page must project slightly
beyond the folded spine of the section (Figure 138). Dog-ear the upper
right corners of the three remaining sheets, folding them in together
against the surface of page three (Figure 138 again).
Now fold the top half of the paper down and behind the bottom
half, bringing the top and bottom edges even (Figure 139). Apply a
continuous line of cement along the bottom edge and both sides of
the folded paper, as indicated by the shaded areas in Figure 139. Lay
Piece One (the torn half page) over the folded paper (Figure 140),
gluing it in place with the torn edge at the top and overlapping the
top edge of the paper to hide the folded edge. This overlap should be
kept as narrow as possible, while still covering the fold.
Fold the paper in half again, this time bringing the left side over
the right. This folds the torn half page inside the packet. Twist the
folded paper a hundred and eighty degrees, turning the printing into
proper reading position. You should now be looking at the top left
quarter of page two. Apply a line of cement to all four borders of this
quarter page (Figure 141). Affix Piece Two, the torn quarter page, to
the folded paper, positioning the two torn edges at the right and
bottom (Figure 142). These edges should project very slightly past the
corresponding folded edges of the paper, hiding them. Again, make
the overlap a narrow one.
Double the top half of the paper down and over the bottom half,
folding the torn quarter page inside. This brings the top right corner
of page three uppermost, with the dog-eared corners lying at the
bottom left (Figure 143a). Turn the folded paper over sidewise. This
places the torn edges of the inside quarter page at the left side and
bottom of the packet. The printing on the upper surface of the packet
is in reading position (Figure 143b).

MINUS FIFTY-TWO

159

160 THE COLLECTED WORKS OF ALEX ELMSLEY


We now turn to the second newspaper. Remove the outer sheet
and double it both lengthwise and widthwise, until it is folded into
sixteenths, making a packet the size of the prepared first paper.
Crease the folds and open the sheet out flat again, with pages two
and seven up.
Apply lines of cement to the left edge and both top and bottom long
edges of the prepared packet (Figure 143b again), turn it over sidewise
and glue it onto page two of the second paper, positioning it at the
lower left quadrant of the upper half of the page (Figure 144). Note
that the dog-eared corners of the packet should lie at the bottom left.
When you set the packet into place, align the left edge of the open
sheet with that of the adjoining surface of the packet. The other edges
in the packet can protrude slightly beyond the edge of the open sheet,
but the glued left edge must be even.
Take the inner sheet of the duplicate paper and fold it into
sixteenths, just as you did the outer sheet. Sharpen the creases and
unfold the sheet. Lay it right-side up, pages four and five uppermost,
on the open outer sheet and fold the left pages of both sheets onto
the right pages, closing the paper and bringing the front page into
view (Figure 145). This concludes the preparation.
Lay the paper on your table, with the packet turned away from the
audience. Or you can fold the paper in half again, along its width,
and carry it under your arm as you walk out. Here, the packet edge
should be positioned at the rear, again away from the audience.
To begin the trick, face the audience and grasp the paper by its
left edges, at the point where the packet lies hidden, holding the paper
with the left hand, front page toward the audience (Figure 146).
With your right hand, separate the two rear pages at the left edge
and let them drop open, at the same time turning the inside of the
unfolded paper toward the audience. This displays pages four and
five (Figure 147). The left hand keeps its hold at the place where the
packet lies and, if necessary, the left thumb can draw the inner sheet
upward slightly, further concealing the edges of the packet.
With the right hand, grasp the hanging lower edge of the inner
sheet and bring it up to the left hand, closing the sheet. This exposes
pages six and seven to the audience. Repeat the action, closing the
outer sheet and bringing the back page of the paper into view.
Still holding the closed paper by its left side in the left hand, insert
the fingers of the right hand into the center fold of both sheets and
use the edge of the hand, like an origami karate master, to tear the
sheets at the top right corner (Figure 148). The tear should end at a
spot roughly even with your left thumb.
Open the paper once more at the center and, with your right hand,
grasp the right edges of the right pages. Then pull the hands apart,
tearing the two sheets down their center creases (Figure 149). You
should now have four page-size pieces.

MINUS FIFTY-TWO

161

162 THE COLLECTED WORKS OF ALEX ELMSLEY


Lay the right hand's pieces onto the left's. This places the pieces
that conceal the packet nearest the audience. This rule will be
followed with each tear.
Turn your left hand palm-down, rotating the paper a quarter turn
clockwise. This brings the packet to the top edge. Transfer the left
hand's grip on the packet to the right hand, and shift the left hand a
few inches to the left. You are now holding the pages by their upper
edges, near the center. Tear the pages in half (Figure 150). If
necessary, you can first fold the pages in half and start the tear with
the side of your hand, as you did for the first tear. Place the left hand's
half pages over the right's, again keeping the packet toward the
audience. Then twist the bundle of pieces another quarter turn
clockwise. This brings the packet to the upper right corner.
Shift the hands to the center of the top edge of the bundle and tear
the pieces again in half, making quarter pages. Put the left hand's
pieces onto the right's and twist the bundle clockwise another quarter
turn. Tear the pieces once more down the middle, making them an
eighth of a page each. Place the left hand's pieces over the right's. At
this point only one torn piece rests between the audience and the
packet, and that piece is glued in place (Figure 151). Its torn edges
cover the folded edges of the packet. All the other pieces are stacked
together on your side of the bundle.
Give the bundle a quarter turn, counterclockwise this time, and
grip it in the left hand at the left side. If you check you will find the
dog-eared corners of the packet are now at the upper right. The thick
folded edge of the packet is downward, making it easy for you to slide
your right fingers upward between the packet and the stack of pieces.
Do so, and grip the pieces between the right forefinger and thumb.
Then shift the pieces as a unit downward about two inches and
slightly leftward. This exposes the top of the packet to your view
(Figure 152).
Insert your right second finger between the dog-eared corners and
the corner of the packet behind them. Then pinch the dog-eared pages
between the right first and second fingers (Figure 153). Hold the
stacked pieces securely between the right forefinger and thumb. If
the left hand released the bundle at this point, the folded packet
would fall open under its own weight to full-page size. This is
essentially what will happen, but the left hand guides and controls
the opening of the packet, to prevent the torn pieces from showing
as the paper is restored.
Relax the left fingers and let the outer portion of the packet open
forward and downward. This exposes torn Piece Two to the audience.
Tighten the left fingers on the bundle again, to prevent it from opening
further. This is the first move of the restoration sequence, and though
the edges of the paper can be seen, the hands conceal the thickness
of the stack.

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163

164 THE COLLECTED WORKS OF ALEX ELMSLEY


Tip the bundle forward slightly and to the left, as you again release
the left hand's grasp. This allows another fold of the packet to open,
the outer portion swinging forward and to the left. With the left hand,
grasp the outer edge of the swinging portion and finish opening the
packet to half-page size. Torn Piece One, upside-down, is now seen
by the audience. As you pull the fold open, reverse the forward and
leftward tilts just given the packet, bringing it again fully upright. This
helps to impede the drop of the bottom half of the packet.
Once assuring yourself that everything is in your control, do what
you have just prevented: release the left hand's hold and let the
packet drop open to full-page size. Give the paper a little shake, if
necessary, to speed the opening. Figure 154 shows your view at this
point. The opened paper is held between the right first and second
fingers by the upper right corner; and the stack of pieces is gripped
behind the paper, between the right thumb and first finger.
With the left hand, grasp the upper left corner of the doubled over
front page the instant the paper falls open. Separating it presents no
problem, as it was folded to overlap the spine of the paper. Then move
the hands in opposite directions, pulling the restored paper open. As
you do this, Piece One forms a pocket with pages two and three at
the bottom of the paper. Drop the stack of pieces from the right thumb
and forefinger into the pocket (Figure 155) as you begin to turn
leftward. Without hesitation, bring the hands together and transfer
one page from the right hand to the left. Then separate the hands
again, opening the paper to pages four and five. Release the right
hand's pages and let the paper hang open from the left hand, as in
Figure 147. Turn the paper, showing it front and back; then with the
right hand lift the hanging pages one at a time, closing the paper. If
you now casually fold the paper in half widthwise, the pieces are
locked inside the pocket and the paper can be held in any way or
tossed aside without risk of exposure. (The idea of an internal pocket
in the paper is, I believe, Al Baker's invention.)
With a bit of care, the restored paper can be used for several
performances. There is only one piece of the destroyed paper glued
to page three. If you have used rubber cement, this piece can be
carefully peeled away. Should you recycle the prepared paper in this
manner, you will need to purchase several duplicate papers. Choose
a paper with a headline that will not be quickly dated. Also, leave the
prepared paper unfolded between performances, or it will not fall open
as readily during the restoration.
The restoration sequence should be neither slow nor hurried.
When Mr. Elmsley does it, it consumes approximately five seconds.
The speed at which the paper is opened is, of course, a matter of
preference. With a bit of practice, one can achieve a "flash" or
instantaneous restoration similar to that featured in the Koran and
Anderson methods. One advantage the Elmsley method has over
those mentioned is that there is no strained folding of the pieces, no

MINUS FIFTY-TWO

165

metal strips or wires, and no delay between the tearing of the paper
and its restoration. Everything flows smoothly from first to last. The
important thing to aim for is an appearance of torn edges melting
away as the paper unfolds.
Some years back, at a testimonial dinner given in Goodliffe's honor,
Mr. Elmsley performed a special version of his torn and restored
paper. He began with a newspaper that had no printjust blank
pages. Observing that such a paper was of little interest, he tore it
up. "Now, if there had actually been some news in this paper, that
would be something else again." As he said this, he unfolded the
paper, restored, and at the same time print gradually appeared on
all the pages.
The method used was essentially the same as that described
above, but the trick was done with a blank paper and a normal one.
There was one added bit of preparation: a few small scraps of printed
news-paper were glued to the blank portions that appeared when the
second paper was unfolded, giving an impression of print gradually
appearing as the paper was restored.
This novel presentation caused quite a stir among the audience
at the Goodliffe Testimonial, and is remembered by many to this day.
August 1958

RING AND PAPER CLIP


Effect: The performer removes his finger ring and holds it in one
hand. In the other he holds a common wire paper clip. He throws the
ring into the opposite hand, a metallic click is heard and the hand
is opened to show the paper clip now linked to the ring.
The linking is instantaneous and cannot have been accomplished
by normal means, as there is no surreptitious finger motion and the
time is too short for covert manipulation.
Method: While theocracies will not be built on this stunt, it is a
mysterious little effect that has the advantage of being impromptu.
You must be wearing a finger ring that can be easily slipped off. You
will also require two identical paper clips of the trombone sort. These
must be large enough to fit easily onto the band of your ring. Two
such clips are certainly no trouble to carry; or you may find them
available in many places.
Before commencing the trick, secretly slip one of the paper clips
onto the band of your ring, on the palm side of the hand. The clip is
not linked through the ring at this time, but grips the band between
the large and small loops. The ends of these loops should point
inward toward the palm (Figure 156). This minor bit of preparation
is quickly and easily done; it can, in fact, be accomplished in your
pocket with one hand.
For this description, it will
be assumed you are wearing
the ring on the third finger of
the left hand. Should the
ring be worn on another
finger, the small changes
necessary in handling will
become obvious. You must
be seated when performing
thisthough, with one
simple change, standing
performance is possible. We
will return to this point at
the proper time.

MINUS FIFTY-TWO 167


When ready to
perform, show the
second paper clip at
your right fingertips;
then transfer it to
your left hand, taking
it between the thumb
and first two fingers.
Only half of the clip
should be visible
above these fingers.
Do not give any
importance to the
passing of the clip
from hand to hand. It
is done purely to free
the right hand, so
that you can remove
your ring. Grasp the
ring by its sides,
between your right
forefinger and thumb,
and pull it from the
left finger (Figure
157). Gently press the
band of the ring
against the inside of
the left finger as you pull, forcing the hidden clip to drag against the
finger. By retarding its motion, you force the clip to link through the
ring. As the ring comes free of the left finger, the clip will hang from
it, but is hidden from the spectators by the right fingers (Figure 158).
Exhibit the ring without exposing the attached paper clip. This is
not difficult; the ring can be held at the very tips of the right fingers
while the clip is concealed.
As you raise the right hand to display the ring, simultaneously
drop the left hand casually to the edge of the table. While attention
is focused on the ring, lap the paper clip. Then raise the left hand,
pressing the thumb to the fingertips, as if still holding the clip.
Hold your hands up before you, about two feet apart, and, as you
do so, let the ring sink almost out of sight behind the right fingers.
There is a sound psychological reason behind this: if the ring is now
held too much in view, its prominence draws unwelcome attention
to the fact that no part of the paper clip is visible in the left hand.
From as great a distance as you can accurately manage it, forcefully throw the ring from the right hand to the left. The speed of the
toss and the largeness of the ring make it impossible to perceive the
clip during its flight.

168 THE COLLECTED WORKS OF ALEX ELMSLEY


Catch the ring and clip in the left hand. They will naturally click
against one another when caught, giving the impression that the ring
has hit the left hand's paper clip. In the minds of the spectators, this
is interpreted as proof that the two items were separate until the
moment of impact.
Hold the closed left hand absolutely still for about two seconds.
Then slowly open the fingers and reveal the linked ring and clip. Drop
them onto the table and, if the spectators desire it, let them be
examined.
As mentioned earlier, with one minor change this trick can be
performed standing. Instead of lapping the left hand's paper clip,
sleeve it.
January 8, 1955

THE TWISTER
(A Puzzle)
This stunt, Mr. Elmsley recalls, was the product of a dull afternoon
at the office. As the title indicates, this is not a trick but a puzzle. It
is a clever topological problem, which can be easily, almost magically,
solved by its perpetrator, but is impossible for his victim. Mr. Elmsley
suggests this puzzle as a palliative for ruffled egos, when there is in
the audience that occasional individual who, no matter how
entertainingly the magic is presented, perceives it as an intellectual
combat zone in which he or she has been taken unfair advantage of.
In such circumstances, one can present this little mystery, then
reveal its solution, to relax the vexed individualall without
endangering any magical principles.
The only prop needed is a broad rubber band measuring two to
three inches in unstretched length. For your own satisfaction and
amusement, find one now and follow the moves as they are explained.
Hold the band vertically (taut but not stretched) between the palmdown hands, pinched at its top and bottom between the thumbs and
forefingers. The right hand pinches the top of the band, with the
thumb inside the loop, and the left hand pinches the bottom, with
the forefinger in the loop (Figure 159).
Now give the band two twists by
pushing the right thumb leftward
while retracting the right forefinger.
The arrows in Figure 159 show the
movement of the fingers, and Figure
160 depicts the configuration of the
band afterward.
Your audience has watched all
this. Nothing is hidden. Now ask
someone to take the band into his
own hands, grasping it exactly as
you are, and without disturbing its
twisted condition. Where your right
finger and thumb hold the top of the

170 THE COLLECTED WORKS OF ALEX ELMSLEY

band, his right finger and thumb grasp it; likewise, he grips the
bottom of the band exactly as you have been. In Figure 160, the
spectator's hands are shown poised, about to take the band from you.
Once the twisted band is in his own hands, the problem is posed:
Without twisting the band between his fingers, as you did to install
the twists, and without releasing his grip on the band with either
hand, he is to remove the twists and make the band straight again.
He can twist and turn his hands in any way he wishes; he can even
stretch the band and step through it if he thinks that will help him;
but he must not let go or shift grips.
You may let him struggle with the problem for as long as his
patience persists or your conscience permits. Suffice it to say, the
problem, as posed, is impossible. Yet, when you take the band back
from him, holding it just as he has been, you cause the twists to melt
away with one slow simple movement.
To do this, hold the twisted band as shown in Figure 160. Now
rotate your hands, moving the right hand toward you and down, and
the left hand away from you and up. Figure 161 shows the position
of the hands at the end of their slow revolution. As the hands trade
places, the twists disappear in an almost magical fashion.
By reversing your actions, the twists will reappear. The spectator
may take back the band again and imitate your movements, but the
twists remain. There are no hidden actions. The solution relies purely
on topology.
Why does it work? Martin Gardner analyzed the topological principle in his Mathematics, Magic and Mystery (p. 94). Though your
helper holds the band exactly as you do, because you are facing one
another as the band is transferred to him, a subtle left-right change

MINUS FIFTY-TWO

171

occurs in the direction


of the twists in relation
to your bodies. The
band, your hands and
your arms form a
topological whole, and
when the spectator
duplicates your untwisting actions, he
only twists the band
more tightly.
In the end, expose
the swindle and give
the fellow the rubber
band so that he can
torment his friends.
January 8, 1955

TWO THIMBLE CHANGES


Here are two methods for effecting a pretty and extremely magical
color change of a thimble. You will need two thimbles of contrasting
colors. For this explanation they are assumed to be white and red.
The starting position for each change is the same: the white thimble
is on your right forefinger and the red thimble on your right second
finger. The forefinger is extended to display the white thimble. The
other fingers are curled into the palm and the hand is held palmdown. Thus the red thimble is hidden from view, and the audience
should be unaware of its existence.

First Change
Lay the whitecapped right forefinger
onto the beach of the
open left palm, resting
the thimble at the base
of the left third and
fourth fingers (Figure
162). Display it there
for a few moments.
Now revolve the left
hand palm-down, using the tip of the right
forefinger as a pivot
point. The left hand,
still open, rotates over
the right forefinger,
and conceals the thimble and the finger to
just past the middle
joint. The moment the
thimble and finger are
hidden, bend the right
forefinger inward and

MINUS FIFTY-TWO

173

simultaneously straighten the right second finger (Figure 163, left


hand made transparent to clarify the position).
In a smooth continuous motion, slide the right hand forward about
two inches, thrusting the second finger from beneath the left hand
and bringing the red thimble into view (Figure 164). Since the left
hand covers the right knuckles, it is impossible for the audience to
discriminate between your right first and second fingers. All they see
is that, with a gentle wave of your hand, the thimble changes color
in an instant.
To conclude the sleight the thimble is changed from red back to
white. To do this, simply reverse the actions just described: draw back
the right hand, then revolve the left hand palm-up again, while
straightening the right forefinger and curling in the second finger.

Second Change
This color change is done with only the right hand. The thimble
is given a shake, upon which it visibly changes color. When
performing this change, you must turn somewhat to your left. Raise
your right hand to about chest level, with the forefinger curled loosely
in until the tip of the white thimble rests on the tip of the thumb.
The second finger, with the red thimble on it, is curled tightly into
the palm, with the third and fourth fingers alongside. However, these
fingers should be curled a bit more loosely to ensure that the red
thimble cannot be seen by the audience. All that is perceivable is the
white thimble on the forefinger (Figure 165).
Now give the hand a brisk up and down shake of no more than
four to five inches. As you shake the handonce or several times
on the upward sweep, curl the forefinger and white thimble tightly
into the palm, and uncurl the second finger until the red thimble rests
on the tip of the thumb (Figure 166). Because of the angle of the hand,
the changing of the fingers is not obvious (Figure 167). Additionally,
the spectators' eyes are captivated by the color change, which appears
to happen in full view.

174 THE COLLECTED WORKS OF ALEX ELMSLEY

Pause a few moments to let the change be appreciated. Then shake


the hand again and switch the fingers, bringing the white thimble
into view and concealing the red one. After this you may proceed with
other thimble tricks.
The principle behind both color changes comes from a schoolboys'
trick that Mr. Elmsley learned when he was eight years old. Two small
pieces of paper were moistened on the tongue, then one was stuck
to the nail of each forefinger. The tips of the forefingers were rested
on the edge of the school desk and the hands were raised and lowered
alternately in time to an old nursery rhyme:
Two little birds
Sitting on the wall,
One named Peter,
The other named Paul.
Fly away, Peter.
Fly away, Paul.
Come back, Peter.
Come back, Paul.
The scraps of paper were made to vanish and appear again by
secretly substituting the first and second fingers as the hands were
raised and lowered. A variant of this trick is the Jumping Cigar Band,
in which a paper band is caused to hop from the finger of one hand
to that of the other. This old trick has borne delightful fruit in the
color changes above.
Both changes are easy to do and baffling to watch. While the
second may seem overly bold on the flat page, rest assured, it is
entirely deceptive. I recall being totally fooled by it, along with a
lecture room full of magicians. Mr. Elmsley opened his first lecture
with these two changes and they always garnered exclamations of
surprise from his peers.
September 21, 1957

THE ELMSLEY
COLOR-CHANGING KNIFE
ROUTINE
Effect: A red pocket knife is displayed and magically caused to
turn blue. Just as mysteriously it changes back to red. The performer
now admits that he uses a second knife to accomplish this change,
and he brings a blue knife from his pocket.
The blue knife is put back in the pocket and the red knife is
changed slowly and visibly to blue. The knife in the pocket is brought
forth again, but it is now red.
The performer explains that he was only joking about using two
knives, and that only one red knife is really employed. He puts the
blue knife away in his pocket. The red knife is caused to turn blue,
then red once more, and finally white. With that, the performer lays
the knife on the table and goes on to something else. If there are any
so inclinedand there usually arethe knife can be examined.
Method: For many years this has been one of Mr. Elmsley's
favorite close-up effects. Spectator response is always strong. It is a
beautifully structured routine, which offers a cunning bare-hand
switch for the knives, and some extremely subtle touches.
The knives may be any
colors you wish, but for
this description we will
continue in a patriotic
vein. You will need one
knife that shows red on
one side and blue on the
other, one matching
knife that is white on
both sides, and a visible
color-changing knife that
is blue on one side and
half red, half blue on the
reverse. The half at the

176 THE COLLECTED WORKS OF ALEX ELMSLEY


hinge-end is red and the opposite end is blue. The join between the
two colors should be cut on a diagonal, as shown in Figure 168. (As
an historical aside, Mr. Elmsley invented the visible color-changing
knife when he was twenty, only to discover that this idea had already
occurred to others before him. The originator of the color-changing
knife and the split-color knife was Walter Jeans, a man best remembered for the creation of brilliant stage illusions, the most famous of
which was 'The Silver Hat", commonly known today as 'The Million
Dollar Mystery".)
It is assumed that any reader of this book will be acquainted with
such a venerable standard as the color-changing knife, and with the
methods of its manipulation. Since instructions for the paddle move
and the use of the knives come with the knives themselves, any
mysteries held by these topics can be quickly solved at a magicians'
supply shop. For those who wish to school themselves further on the
topic, the following texts are recommended: Merrill's Knife Book,
Ascanio's World of Knives and Ganson's Routined Manipulation, Part
II (pp. 12-20). Leaving the essentials of this trick to more basic texts,
we will concern ourselves here only with Mr. Elmsley's routining.
When you begin, have the white knife in your left pocket (either
trousers or jacket), the visible color-changing knife in your right
pocket and the red-blue knife in your left hand.
Show the knife in your hand as red, using the paddle move or some
variation of it. Then push it through the fist, causing it to change to
blue. Display the blue knife and do another color change, turning it
to red again.
Explain that the trick is easily done if you have two knives, a red
and a blue. Reach into your right pocket and bring out the visible
color-changing knife, solid blue side showing. (Knives have been
known to turn perversely while in one's pocket. However, if you lay
the knife at the bottom of the pocket, with the hinge end forward, you
can always tell which side is turned out by the position of the blade.
The visible color-changing knife supplies an
added tactile clue, as the
join on the split side can
be felt.)
Lay the visible colorchanging knife, blue-side
up, across the open left
fingers and to the right of
the red knife. The knives
should be positioned
with their hinge ends
outward, projecting almost an inch past the left
forefinger (Figure 169).

MINUS FIFTY-TWO

177

170

visible color-changing
knife on left

Now close the left fingers into a fist, turning both knives over in
the action (Figure 170). The outer ends of the knives remain visible,
but now it is the red end of the split knife that is seen, and the blue
side of the other knife. In turning the knives over, you have subtly
switched them; yet, to the spectators, nothing seems to have changed.
With the right hand, draw the blue knife from the fist and pocket
it. This leaves the visible color-changing knife in the left hand. Bring
the right hand, open and palm-up, under the left fist, and clip the
outer end of the knife between the right thumb and forefinger (Figure
171). At the same time, raise the hands a bit, concealing the knife
momentarily from the spectators' view. Take advantage of this
positioning to open the left fingers and relinquish the knife to the right
hand. The metal end of the knife is allowed to project beyond the right
forefinger; no more than that must be seen.
Cover the inner (blue) half of the knife with the right thumb and
ask the spectators to name the color of the knife in your hand. When
they do, lower the right hand, bringing the knife again into view. It
appears to be red, as expected.
Now, without relinquishing the knife from the right hand, grasp
it by its ends between the left second finger and thumb. Then perform
a visible color-change in this manner: Slide the right thumb slowly
forward, toward the outer end of the knife. As you do this, the blue
end is gradually revealed, giving the illusion that the knife is changing
color right before the spectators' eyes. If you like, when you reach
approximately the middle of the knife, you can momentarily reverse
the thumb's action, moving it back again, as if you had changed your
mind. The knife consequently appears to turn back to red. Then move
the thumb once more toward the outer end, continuing the change
to blue.
When the thumb has slid as far forward on the knife as it can
without exposing the color join, lower and spread the right third and

178 THE COLLECTED WORKS OF ALEX ELMSLEY


fourth fingers as you
simultaneously turn the
right hand palm-down.
This displays the solidblue underside of the
knife. The left hand
releases the knife during
the right hand's turn,
then retakes it by the
ends once the blue side is
in sight (Figure 172).
Slowly slide the right
first and second fingers
inward along the knife, in
a continuation of the
thumb's steady action, thus completing the color change. With the
left hand, grip the knife by its inner end and do the paddle move,
casually displaying both sides. This is a pretty change, and looks truly
magical.
Reach into your right pocket and bring out the knife there, red side
showing, as you explain, "I was just kidding you about using two
knives. I really only use the one red knife." As you say this, casually
put the visible color-changing knife into your left pocket and, at the
same time, palm the white knife there. If you find you cannot do this
smoothly and without hesitation, misdirect the spectators' attention
from the left hand as you rub the red knife behind the right knee,
turning it over and changing it to blue. This should provide more than
adequate time to palm the white knife and extract the left hand from
the pocket. Rub the blue knife on the left elbow and change it back
to red.
Now do any effective false transfer, pretending to pass the red knife
from the right hand to the left. Please choose one that appears
natural, and not one suggesting sleight-of-hand. There are a number
of cigarette vanishes that can serve the purpose admirably. Mr.
Elmsley finds that the closed-fist vanish from Edward Victor's The
Magic of the Hands (pp. 74-75) is perfectly suited to the present needs.
The actions are these:
Hold the left hand at about waist height and close the fingers into
a loose fist around the palmed white knife. Grip the red knife by its
extreme end, between the right thumb and second fingertip, while
pointing the free end toward the left. Apparently insert the knife into
the opening of the left fist, but actually slip it under the bent left
thumb and just outside the fingers. Figure 173 shows the spectators'
view of this, while Figure 174 is an exposed underview.
When all but half an inch of the knife has been pushed under the
left hand, press firmly with the right thumb against the end of the
knife, while relaxing the second finger. This causes the knife to pivot

MINUS FIFTY-TWO

179

on the middle phalanx of the left thumb and to swing inward (Figure
175). Now press the tip of the right second finger against the end of
the knife, just above the right thumbtip (Figure 176), and push this
fingertip into the left fist. This forces the knife to snap around the

180 THE COLLECTED WORKS OF ALEX ELMSLEY

left thumb and into the right hand, aligned with the second finger
(Figure 177). In the same thrusting action of the finger, contact the
right end of the white knife and push it a short distance to the left;
just enough to bring the metal tip into view in the curl of the left
fourth finger. Withdraw the right second finger from the fist, while
bending it slightly, catching the gimmicked knife in cigarette palm;
i.e., gripped endwise between the second fingertip and the palm
(Figure 178).
When these actions are performed slowly, the illusion of the knife
entering the left fist is completely convincing.
Raise the left fist to your lips and simultaneously drop the right
hand to your side. Blow gently on the fist several times. Then raise
the right hand to meet the left, while sleeving the knife. The sleeving
technique used by Mr. Elmsley is a standard one for sleeving long
slender objects:
While the right hand hangs at your side, grip the lower end of the
knife between the thumb and third fingertip. Straighten these digits
slightly, pivoting the opposite end of the knife away from the palm
(Figure 179). The second fingertip, which has remained on the end
of the knife, now snaps vigorously upward, shooting the knife into
the sleeve (Figure 180). Begin to raise the right forearm just at the
instant you sleeve the knife. Do not make this a rushed ascent. By
the time the knife has reached the end of its flight within the sleeve,
the arm should be approaching the horizontal. Continue to raise it,
until the right hand is immediately below the left fist. Practice to make
the raising of the arm a smooth unhurried action.
Grip the protruding metal tip of the white knife, taking it between
the right thumb and second finger. Slowly pull it from the left fist and
open the fingers, letting the hand be seen empty. This is not done as
an overt display; it is a nonchalant action.
Casually show the white knife on both sides, performing the paddle
move to keep your actions consistent with past ones. Then toss the
knife to the table, should anyone wish to examine it. The sleeved knife
can be retrieved at any time by lowering the right hand to your side.
It is then disposed of as the hand goes to the pocket for something.
1954

THE PERPETUAL CIGARETTE


Effect: The plot is the torn and restored cigarette, but with one
important addition to the standard effect: the cigarette is lit from start
to finish. After the performer tears it in two and then restores it, he
continues to smoke it as he performs.
In 1954, Mr. Elmsley had the pleasure of performing this trick and
three others for Paul LePaul, after which Mr. LePaul commented that
he had never been so badly fooled in his life. When Slydini first came
to England to lecture, in August 1958, Mr. Elmsley saw him do his
masterful version of the torn and restored cigarette. Several days later
they met again and Mr. Elmsley demonstrated his own method.
Slydini was complimentary, but it wasn't until Mr. Elmsley noticed
the master's eyes searching the floor for an extra piece of cigarette
that he knew Slydini had been fooled. Given these credentials, I
believe the following method will be found especially interesting.
Method: The cigarette is gimmicked. You will require a pack of
filtered cigarettesthose with tan or cork colored filters are best
and some gummed cigarette papers. Take one of the papers and
moisten the gummed edge. Then roll the paper into a tube around
the cigarette. When the paper is dry it should form a close-fitting
sleeve that slides freely up and down on the cigarette. If the cigarette
papers are very thin, you may need to roll a second paper tightly
around the first to strengthen it. If the paper tube overlaps the filtered
portion of the cigarette, slip off the tube and trim it until its edge lies
even with the printed border between tobacco and filter. This border
helps to camouflage the edge of the tube.
Slip the tube back over the non-filter end of the cigarette, until
roughly half of the cigarette extends from the tube. Then tear the
cigarette in two near its center (Figure 181). Pinch the torn end of
the filtered half a bit, so that it can be easily started into the open
_ end of the tube. Then
slip it back into the
181
tube, forcing the far
end of the tobacco half
of the cigarette forward
until it is even with the

EZB-C

182

THE COLLECTED WORKS OF ALEX ELMSLEY

opposite end of the tube


(Figure 182). Though it
isn't necessary, you can
neatly glue this end of the
cigarette inside the tube.
Store the gimmicked cigarette in the cigarette pack or a cigarette
case, along with some unprepared cigarettes, in a position where it
can be readily recognized and removed. (A tiny pencil or ink dot on
the filtered end is helpful.)
When ready to perform the trick, remove the gimmicked cigarette
from the pack and, while holding it between the right thumb and
fingers near the middle, tamp the tobacco end against the left thumbnail. Tamp lightly to avoid kinking the paper tube. Then place the
cigarette between your lips and light it. So long as the two halves of
the cigarette are adjacent, it will burn and draw normally. (Mr.
Elmsley, in his rakish youth, used to place the cigarette in a cigarette holder while smoking it.)
Perform some brief trick while smokingsomething that is over
before the cigarette can burn down more than half an inch or so. Then
take the cigarette from your lips, clipping it between the right first
and second fingers, at the juncture of the tube and filter. Cast your
full attention on the cigarette for a few seconds. Held as it is, nothing
irregular can be seen, even under scrutiny. At the same time, casually
allow your hands to be seen empty of everything but the cigarette.
One thing to beware of here is bright light coming from behind you.
This can shine through the cigarette paper, causing a shadow where
the halves of the cigarette lie.
With the tip of the right thumb, contact the end of the filter (Figure
183) and pivot it inward until the cigarette is caught between the
thumb and first two fingers. The backs of the fingers should be toward
the audience. The now horizontal cigarette lies parallel with the
fingers, lit end pointing to the left (Figure 184).
With the left thumb and first two fingers, grasp the center of the
cigarette in a similar manner to the right hand, cupping the fingers
to avoid burning yourself. The next action is critical to the illusion
of tearing the cigarette in half. Behind the screen of the right fingers,
bend in the right thumb and place its nail against the filter end of
the cigarette (Figure 185). Then secretly push the cigarette straight
to the left, until the juncture of tube and filter rests between the left
and right fingertips. Immediately regrip the filter end of the cigarette
between the right thumb and fingertips (Figure 186). The audience
should believe you still hold the cigarette near its center.
You must now convincingly feign the tearing of the cigarette in half.
What really happens is this: The hands twist sharply in opposite
directions, as if tearing the cigarette. They then separate, the right
hand holding the cigarette by its filter, while the left hand slides the
tube from the cigarette and holds as if it were the other half.

MINUS FIFTY-TWO

183

In the final moment of


the tearing action, turn
the left fingertips slightly
inward, toward yourself,
and gently squeeze the
open end of the tube out
of rounddo not however pinch it flat; you do
not want to crease the
paper. Simultaneously
turn the right hand
palm-up, letting the
frayed end of the cigarette be clearly seen at the right fingertips (Figure 187). If these things
are done, and if the hands are kept in slight motion, the end of the
tube cannot be told from a genuine torn end.
Stare pointedly at the end of the cigarette in the right hand. Then
look at the audience, letting your expression say for you, "You can
plainly see the cigarette is torn in half."
Rotate the right hand counterclockwise until the fingertips are
again pointing leftward and the cigarette is held horizontally. At the
same time, relax the left fingers' pressure on the tube, allowing the

184 THE COLLECTED WORKS OF ALEX ELMSLEY


end to open again. If necessary, you can roll the tube a bit between
the left fingers and thumb to help it open. Then slide the tube back
onto the cigarette.
The right fingers should now hold the cigarette and tube near their
juncture. Bring the left hand away, letting the fingers spread to
expose the burning end of the cigarette, and nonchalantly show the
hand empty. Then, with the right hand, place the cigarette between
your lips and give it one or two deep puffs, showing that it is fully
restored and still burning. While you perform, and continue to smoke
the cigarette, the evidence is slowly but irrevocably destroyed.
Practice these actions until they are smooth and convincing, and
you will possess the most impressive cigarette restoration yet
invented.
c. 1954

A CIGARETTE VANISH
Effect: This vanish of a cigarette can be used either as an opening
sequence in a cigarette manipulation routine or as an impromptu bit
of business. In effect the spectators see you remove a cigarette from
its pack, tamp its end on the pack, then go to light it. As the lighter
is raised, the cigarette in the other hand is found to have vanished.
Aside from the lighter, the hands are otherwise empty.
Method: To begin, bring the cigarette pack from your right coat
pocket and, with the left fingers, draw a cigarette from it. Hold the
pack in the right hand, fingers curled against the left side. The case
should be securely held in place between the fingertips on one side
and the base of the thumb on the other, its top angled to the right.
This grip leaves the right thumb free to move.
Hold the cigarette near its upper end, between the tips of the left
thumb and second finger. The cigarette should lie across the tips of
all four fingers. Tamp the lower end of the cigarette several times on
the back of the pack, packing the tobacco in the usual manner (Figure
188). On the final tap, secretly let the cigarette swivel between the
left thumb and second fingertip, its lower end sliding inward on the
pack, until the cigarette lies flat against it (Figure 189).
With the right thumb, clip the cigarette to the pack and raise the
outer end of the pack slightly, angling the cigarette just beyond the

186 THE COLLECTED WORKS OF ALEX ELMSLEY


audience's line of sight (Figure
190). While pretending to hold the
cigarette behind the left fingertips,
move the right hand with the pack
and hidden cigarette to the right
coat pocket. Deposit the pack and
cigarette in the pocket and bring
out a lighter, which you have
previously placed there.
Raise the left hand to your lips,
and the right hand close behind it,
mimicking the actions of preparing
to light a cigarette. Then open the
left fingers, revealing the disappearance of the cigarette. Show
surprise. Look around for the cigarette, shrug and either reach for
another or proceed to something else.
This vanish is intended as an incidental but pleasant interlude
between other effects. The key to its success is nonchalance. When
performed casually, it is most effective.
September 21, 1957

A PRODUCTION OF
CIGARETTES IN HOLDERS
Rather than produce just cigarettes, as is done traditionally by
magicians, some years ago Mr. Elmsley desired to produce cigarettes
in cigarette holders. The cigarettes and holders measured more than
twice the length of the cigarettes alone and seemed impossible to
conceal and manipulate. To make such productions possible, Mr.
Elmsley adapted a special gimmicked cigarette holder, marketed in
the 1950s. He glued a hollow fake cigarette to the holder, and in this
way constructed a cigarette-and-holder gimmick that collapsed to a
size suitable for palming; yet it could be readily extended to its full
length when produced. When he came to the United States in 1959
for his first lecture tour, rather than bring these gimmicks with him,
he searched through the dime stores of Chicago for materials from
which gimmicks could be constructed. The materials he settled on
were paper, plastic drinking straws and the caps from make-up
pencils. Here is how the gimmicks are made from these materials:
The plastic cap, which will form the mouth of the cigarette holder,
is roughly conical in shape and of an inside circumference approximating that of a cigarette. Such caps are often found on eyebrow and
theatrical make-up pencils.
The drinking straw required must be of the heavier plastic sort,
not of the thin-walled variety. Cut it to a length just a bit more than
that of a cigarette. Then, with a pencil or pen tip, expand one end of
the straw, stretching the lip to create a flange.
From stiff paper, fashion a small ring or
collar, about a quarter of an inch wide, that
fits closely around the straw and slides freely
up and down it. However, this collar must be
too small to pass over the flanged end of the
straw.
Cut the tip from the plastic cap at a point
that creates a hole in the cap the circumference of the straw (Figure 191). Apply a coat of

188 THE COLLECTED WORKS OF ALEX ELMSLEY


glue around the outer surface of the
paper collar and affix the collar permanently inside the cap, (Figure 192). The
straw should slide freely through the
assembled cap and collar. Slip the straw
into the cap until the flanged end lodges
against the paper collar.
Now fashion a fake cigarette by rolling
a piece of stiff white paper into a
cigarette-sized tube. Plug one end of the tube with a bit of crumpled
red foil, in imitation of a glowing tip, and glue this foil ball permanently in place. The inside diameter of the dummy cigarette should
be slightly larger than the flanged end of the straw. Glue the open
end of the dummy into the mouth of the pen cap. You should be able
to telescope the straw portion of the holder almost completely into
the hollow cigarette. About a quarter of an inch of straw must project
beyond the tip of the cap when the holder is fully collapsed (Figure
193). If you wish, the straw and cap can be painted, so long as the
paint does not retard the smooth opening and closing of the gimmick.
Make three of these gimmicked cigarettes and holders. Then
construct a matching holder that does not collapse. Place a genuine
cigarette into this.
You have one more simple item to manufacture: a holdout for the
three gimmicks. This is made from a rectangle of stiff cardboard, a
safety pin and a rubber band. The cardboard rectangle is roughly half
an inch shorter than the length of the collapsed gimmicks and almost
an inch wider than their combined diameters. Cut two small wedgeshaped notches on each long side of the card. These notches are
positioned about a third of the way in from each end. Install a slight
lengthwise bend in the card and tape the fixed stave of a safety pin
to the upper long side (Figure 194).
Lay the three collapsed gimmicks together and parallel along the
length of the card, on the concave side, and fix them to it with a
rubber band. Loop the rubber band over the front of the card and
catch it through the four notches (Figure 195). Pin the loaded holdout
to your shirt, just above your right trousers pocket. You can then
steal the gimmicks from the holdout at any time. Simply grip them
with the heel of the right hand on the inner (cigarette) ends, and the
tips of the second, third and fourth fingers on the outer (holder) ends
(Figure 196). Now pull downward. This forces the rubber band from
the lower notches of the holdout and releases the gimmicks.
To produce the cigarettes in holders, have the three gimmicks in
their holdout under your coat, as described above. In the right trousers pocket have a lighter or matches. Position the genuine cigarette
in cigarette holder in your left coat pocket, or in a holdout under the
edge of the coat, or in some other place where it can be secretly
obtained by the left hand.

MINUS FIFTY-TWO

189

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Begin the sequence either by


bringing the genuine cigarette
and holder from your pocket, or
by stealing them in the left hand
and producing them from the air.
Place the cigarette holder in your
mouth. Bring the lighter or
matches from the right trousers
pocket and light the cigarette. As
you draw on it and blow a cloud
of smoke, replace the lighter
(matches) in the trousers pocket
and, as the hand comes from the
pocket, steal the three gimmicks, palming them in the right hand.
Now blow a puff of smoke at the left hand and seem to catch it there.
Turn to your left, and in that action bring the hands momentarily
together. While screening the left hand behind the right hand, steal
the first gimmick, that held between the second finger and the heel
of the palm, into the left hand. This can be quickly done. Simply pinch
the stem end of the gimmick, catching it between the left forefinger
and thumb (Figure 197), and swing the gimmick in toward the left
palm, where it can be hidden behind the left hand.

190 THE COLLECTED WORKS OF ALEX ELMSLEY

Smoothly separate the hands, turning the back of the left hand
toward the audience to conceal the gimmick. Immediately form the
left hand into a fist around the gimmick, simultaneously turning the
hand thumb-side down. As a magical gesture, rub the right fingertips
in small circles on the back of the left hand. This conceals the motion
of the left thumb as you insert it into the fist and push up slowly on
the tip of the stem, causing the cigarette to rise into view (Figure 198).
Push as much of the cigarette and holder as you can from the left
fist. It should be understood that all these actions, from the catching
of the smoke in the left hand to the production of the cigarette and
holder, are combined to create one smooth flowing motion.
With the right hand, grasp the newly produced holder by the cap,
taking it between the first and second fingers, and draw it from the
left fist, pulling out the stem of the holder (the straw) in the act. This
extends the holder to its full length. The appearance of the cigarette
and holder from the hand looks quite magical.
As you complete the production, draw deeply on the lit cigarette
in your mouth and retain a generous quantity of smoke. With your
left hand, remove the cigarette and holder from your lips, taking them
between the first and second fingers. Then raise the visible gimmick
in your right hand to your mouth and pretend to draw on it. Leave
the gimmick between your lips and expel some of the smoke you have
held back. As attention is focused on this act, transfer the cigarette
and holder in the left hand to the right hand, taking them between
the first and second fingers. This action puts you in a perfect position
to steal the palmed second gimmick into the left hand, very much
as you did the first. Produce this gimmick in the manner just
described. The cigarette and holder between the right fingers will not
seriously hinder the actions. Take the newly produced gimmick
between the right second and third fingers, freeing the left hand so
that it can remove the previous gimmick from your lips. Then raise
the new cigarette in holder to your mouth and leave it there.

MINUS FIFTY-TWO

191

Pretend to draw on the fresh


cigarette, then release some of
the smoke you have been holding
back. This business is again
used as mild misdirection, while
you place the left hand's gimmick
between the right second and
third fingers, and steal the third
gimmick into the left hand. Produce that gimmick as you have
the others, and take it between
the right third and fourth fingers.
Now take the gimmick from your
mouth, holding it between the
right thumb and forefinger.
Conclude by displaying the four apparently lit cigarettes in holders
all in the right hand (Figure 199).
This is only a sample routine. Of course, other sequences can be
developed with these production cigarettes in holders. The interested
manipulator will find them an elegant embellishment to his act.
1959

MAGNETIC MONTE
Effect: Three miniature magic wands are exhibited and one is
shown to be magnetic. It picks up a safety pin or paper clip while the
others do not. The wands are mixed and someone is asked to pick
the magnetic one from the three. As in three-card monte, the threeshell game and similar propositions, the spectator never succeeds in
choosing the correct wand; yet the performer can find the magnetic
wand every time.
Method: This is decidedly not a deep mystery. It is one of those
puzzling challenges to one's audience, which can be either amusing
or frustrating, depending entirely upon the attitude and presentation of the performer. "Magnetic Monte" was one of Mr. Elmsley's
earliest inventions and his first trick to be put on the market. Harry
Stanley released it when Alexander Elmsley was a young man of
nineteen.
None of the three wands is magnetic, though all three are fashioned from soft iron, which becomes magnetic for as long as it is in
contact with a magnetand that is the secret. When any one of the
three wands is touched to a small bar magnet, palmed in the hand,
it becomes the magnetic wand.
Three three-inch lengths of iron rod are painted black and white,
or are wrapped with black and white tape, to resemble magic wands.
The secret magnet should measure about an inch in length, and be
of a size that can be easily finger palmed against the center phalanx
of the right second finger (Figure 200). Mr. Elmsley suggests that the
sides of the magnet be laminated with paper, to deaden any clicking
when the wand and magnet meet.
If a metal pillbox, like those that throat lozenges come in, is carried
in the right coat pocket, it can act as a holdout for the magnet. Simply
place the magnet inside the coat, near the bottom of the pocket,
letting it cling to the box through the inside lining. By dropping the
right hand to the side, in a relaxed posture, you can curl the fingers
under the edge of the coat and either pick up or deposit the magnet.
The last item you will need is a small steel object that is obviously
attracted to a magnet. A safety pin or paper clip will serve nicely. In
this description, a safety pin is assumed.

MINUS FIFTY-TWO

193

When ready to perform, toss the three wands and the pin onto the
table, letting your hands be seen empty. While, with the left hand you
arrange the wands into a row, with the right second finger, palm the
magnet. Then, with the right hand, pick up one wand by its near end,
not allowing it to contact the magnet, and touch the other end to the
pin. The pin of course does not cling to it.
Set down this wand and pick up another. This time, let the held
end of the wand touch the magnet (Figure 200). Pick up the pin with
the wand, proving it to be magnetic. Pull the pin from the wand and
set this wand apart from the others.
With the right hand, pick up the third wand and show that it does
not attract the pin. Lay this wand beside the first. Now pick up all
three wands in this fashion: Grasp one of the apparently nonmagnetic wands by its opposite ends between the left thumb and
second fingertip. Then pick up the wand identified as magnetic
between the left thumb and first fingertip. With the right hand, pick
up the remaining wand in a similar grip, between the thumb and
forefinger (Figure 201).
Now throw the wands one by one onto the table, imitating the
tossing actions used for three-card monte. Your actions should be
clear enough to allow the spectators to follow the positions of the
wands, yet just quick enough to instill a shade of doubt about the

194 THE COLLECTED WORKS OF ALEX ELMSLEY


forthrightness of your motions. The slightly suspicious tinge given
the toss provides a red herring, drawing thoughts toward a manipulative solution to the trick and away from a physical explanation.
Let someone point out the wand he believes to be magnetic, and
show him that it does not attract the pin. Then take up either of the
remaining two wands and, while bringing it into contact with the
palmed magnet, pick up the pin.
The trick now consists of the repetition of this mix and find
sequence, in which the spectator always chooses the wrong wand or
wands. The trick should be concluded while the puzzle is still
amusing. Mr. Elmsley adds a bit of by-play to the challenge by
presenting the spectator with a small stack of cards, poker chips or
coins in the beginning, with which they bet on each guess. By the
end of the trick he has won back the entire advance. This ploy is
designed to add to the entertainment value of the presentation while
diminishing, it is hoped, the adversarial or challenge aspect implicit
in such tricks. The goal is to entertain, not to antagonize, one's
audience. Keep the mood light and playful, and "Magnetic Monte" can
prove an amusing interlude.
c. 1949

RING ON SILK
Effect: A silk scarf is displayed and formed into an improvised bag.
Into this is dropped a large metal ring (Figure 202). Aside from the
scarf and ring, the performer's hands are obviously empty.
Without a false move, he grasps two diagonally opposite corners
of the gathered scarf and pulls them apart. As the scarf opens
between the hands, the
ring suddenly appears on
its center (Figure 203). The
scarf is unquestionably
threaded through the ring,
having in some strange
way penetrated it.
The handling of the ring
and scarf is meticulously
fair throughout the effect,
and after the ring is
dropped into the scarf, its
penetration is almost
instantaneous.
Method: You will need a
Jardine Ellis ring. This is a
large, seamless, metal ring
with a shell that fits closely
over it. Some admirably
crafted Ellis rings, of either
steel or brass, are available
from magicians' supply
shops. You will also need
an opaque silk handkerchief, from fifteen to
eighteen inches square.
Magicians' silk is too thin
for our purpose, and linen
handkerchiefs are too
heavy. Instead use a silk
handkerchief such as

196 THE COLLECTED WORKS OF ALEX ELMSLEY


those sported in jacket breast
pockets. Choose an attractive solid
color that contrasts well with the
ring.
Display the handkerchief and the
Ellis ring (nested in its shell), clearly
showing your hands otherwise
empty. Hold the ring vertically near
the bottom of its circumference,
shell toward the audience, between
the left thumb and forefinger. Then,
with the help of the right hand,
draw one corner of the handkerchief
(corner A) forward between the left
first and second fingers (Figure
204). Clip it there, letting the handkerchief hang inside the hand, lying
over the second, third and fourth
fingers.
With your right hand, grasp the bottom corner of the handkerchief
(corner D) and raise it inward (Figure 205). In one smooth action, pass
this corner through the ring and shell, then between the left first and
second fingers (Figure 206). Take care not to drop corner A, already
held there. Clip corner D on top of corner A.
Move the left third and forth fingers to the near side of the handkerchief. Then, with the right hand, catch the hanging left corner (B)
and raise it to the left hand. Draw this corner inward between the
left third and fourth fingers and clip it there. Then, with the right
hand, grasp the fourth corner (C) and raise it to the left hand. It is
important that, when you do this, the two adjacent edges of the
handkerchief spread apart, opening to form a bag-like fold (Figure
207). Pinch this corner between the third and fourth fingers, alongside corner B (Figure 208). With a bit of practice, this gathering of
the corners can be done quickly and gracefully. To the audience you
appear to be merely forming the handkerchief into a pouch, which
indeed you arebut it is a pouch of a certain type, as will be seen
shortly.
With your right hand once more free, apparently take the ring,
which has remained displayed throughout, from the left hand. In
reality, you take the shell and leave the ring threaded on the corner
of the handkerchief. To do this, bring the right fingers in front of the
ring to grasp it. Behind the right fingers, ease the pressure of the left
thumb and forefinger on the ring, letting it fall toward you and out
of the shell (Figure 209). While you hold the shell between the right
thumb and fingers, allow the ring to slide down the comer (D) and
inside the handkerchief, out of sight (Figure 210). Here, it is wise to
move the hands a few inches, to disguise any outward disturbance

MINUS FIFTY-TWO

197

198 THE COLLECTED WORKS OF ALEX ELMSLEY


of the cloth caused by the descending ring. This is readily done if the
ring is dropped as you slip the shell from the corner of the handkerchief. Exhibit the disengaged shell in the right hand.
Now neatly drop the shell into the pocket of the handkerchief you
formed when you raised the last corner; that is, just inside the
outermost layer of fabric on the right side (return to Figure 202). Make
it clear that the shell does go into the handkerchief, and take care
not to let it hit the ring, which is suspended in the bag a few inches
above the bottom. It is important that the shell falls to the bottom of
the bag, and is not caught in a fold.
With the right hand, grasp the shell through the cloth and gently
tug it several times, making its form visible and showing that it truly
rests at the bottom of the bag. This action also serves a more
important purpose: it assures that the shell rests at the center of the
handkerchief.
Now, with a touch of showmanship, release corners B and C from
between the left third and fourth fingers, and let them drop. Bring
the right hand up to the held corners of the handkerchief and grasp
corner D, gripping it tightly between the right thumb and fingers,
about two inches below the tip of the corner. Smoothly separate the
hands, stretching out the handkerchief horizontally between them
while holding it by corners A and D. Press the right thumb firmly
against the cloth and keep the right fingertips pointed upward.
Stretch out the handkerchief briskly, but do not snap it open. The
shell rests concealed in a trough formed along the taut diagonal of
the cloth (Figure 211). You do not want to sling it from its hiding
place. (The principle behind this ingenious concealment has been
published several times over the years. To my knowledge the earliest
appearancewhich Milton Kort brought to my attentionis in Will
Lindhorst's A Bag of Tricks [p. 60, 1931]. Mr. Lindhorst did not
mention the inventor's name, but Dai Vernon believes the vanish, as
it is used in Mr. Elmsley's trick, was devised by vaudeville magician,
Wallace Galvin.)

MINUS FIFTY-TWO

199

As you stretch out the handkerchief, the ring around it is brought


dramatically into view (Figure 203). There is a knack to drawing the
handkerchief open while keeping the shell securely hidden: the wrists
dip first downward, then upwardan action that will be discovered
with practice. If you have centered the shell in the handkerchief as
explained, and dropped corners B and C before stretching out the
handkerchief, the shell will lie securely hidden in the trough. Pause
to let the effect register. Then bring the two held corners together,
letting the handkerchief sag between them, and gather the handkerchief with the ring and shell inside. Conclude by putting everything
away in a pocket or close-up case.
This is a quick and offbeat trick with a strong visual element and
no seeming explanation. Harvey Rosenthal observes that this
excellent effect begs for a repetition, and that you are in a position
to do so at the finish of the penetration. As you bring the palm-up
right hand under the center of the handkerchief, where the ring and
shell rest, let them settle onto the right palm. Release the left hand's
corners, draping the handkerchief across the right hand. You can
now substitute the hidden shell for the ring as you pretend to strip
the ring off the handkerchief. Several handlings for magically
replacing the ring on the center of the handkerchief are now possible,
following well-known patterns laid down for the Ring on Stick and
established Ring on Handkerchief variations. From this information
the reader should be able to devise a satisfactory handling governed
by personal preference.
September 21, 1957

PHYSICAL MEDIUM
Effect: Someone securely binds the performer's thumbs together
with a short length of cord. The performer then reaches over his head,
grabs the collar of his jacket and pulls the jacket over his head (Figure
212) until it falls, inside-out, in front of him over his arms and hands
(Figure 213). He now freezes in position and withdraws into an
intense state of concentration. Suddenly he makes a sharp motion
with his arms and the jacket is thrown to the floor (Figure 214). His
thumbs are seen to be still firmly tied and the bindings may be
checked. The jacket has in some strange way penetrated the solid
circle of his arms and bound hands.
Method: This is an original feat designed by Mr. Elmsley for
performance with the thumb tie trick. It may be used on its own as
a sort of mediumistic stunt, or as part of a longer thumb tie routine.
Done with the proper sense of theatrics, this little effect can bring
gasps from spectators, as it did from many in Mr. Elmsley's lecture
audiences when he demonstrated it.
Any one of many thumb ties can be used; the method is unimportant, so long as it is convincing and practical. Several excellent
methods, including the venerable Ten Ichi tie, can be found in Volume
4 of the Tarbell Course in Magic (pp. 263-285). Mr. Elmsley uses the
scissors tie from Max Andrews' Sixteen Thumb Tie Gems (pp. 16-17).
There are other ties that permit faster release and re-entry, but since
great speed is not a requisite in this trick, and abundant cover is
provided by the coat, the scissors tie is most convincing and serves
the purpose admirably. This tie is taught below.
You need about nineteen inches of stiff cord or twine. Hand the
cord to someone and ask that they tightly bind your thumbs together.
Hold out your hands, thumbs side by side, and instruct your helper
to wind the cord twice around the middle phalanges of the thumbs,
finishing with the ends of the cord held above them. Then have him
tie several knots, cinching the cord tightly around the thumbs (Figure
215). As he pulls the circles of cord tight, bend the outer phalanges
of the thumbs downward and pull the thumbs slightly apart, exerting
a firm but subtle outward pressure against the winds.

MINUS FIFTY-TWO

201

202

THE COLLECTED WORKS OF ALEX ELMSLEY

Bending the thumbs contracts the muscles of the middle


phalanges, making them thicker. This and the outward pulling
combine to give you a small but significant bit of slack in the wraps
of the cord. Yet, to the person tying you, the cord seems tight and
constricting.
To release your right thumb from the cord, simply straighten the
thumbs and cross the right under the left, forming an X (Figure 216).
The thumbs move something like the blades of a scissors. This action
further loosens the cord, allowing enough slack for the right thumb
to slip free. If the thumb is inserted again into the loops of cord and
the actions are reversed, the thumbs appear once more to be bound
tightly side by side.
Now to the jacket release: The jacket must be unbuttoned before
you start the trick. Have your thumbs bound as described. Then
reach the bound hands over your head and behind your neck. Hook
the thumbs under the jacket collar and pull the jacket up and straight
over your head (Figure 212). Let the jacket fall inside-out over the
head and onto your arms. Shrug it down onto the forearms (Figure
213) and, hidden by these larger motions, slip the right thumb from
the cord. Under cover of the jacket, let the sleeves fall over the hands
and off. Minimize as much as possible the motions necessary for the
release of the jacket. Do not let it fall to the ground. Instead, hold
the jacket draped over the hands and reinsert the right thumb into
the cord.
The task is accomplished. You need now only build the mystery
and drama. Stand stock still and stare at the floor, giving an impression of deep concentration. Hold this pose for fifteen to twenty
seconds. Then suddenly toss the jacket off your arms and let it fall
to the floor. Clearly exhibit your tied thumbs and have your helper
check the bindings. Then either have him cut you loose or continue
with other thumb tie feats.
1959

SLEEVE LOADING FOR


THE CUPS AND BALLS
Cups and Balls routines almost invariably conclude with the
production of large balls, fruits or vegetables. These final load items
are commonly carried in the rear trousers pockets until required.
Most professionals recognize that standard trousers pockets must
be enlarged by a tailor to permit the smooth steal of such loads.
Another method of concealment, though it has fallen out of fashion
for no good reason, is to carry the large loads in holders under the
lower edge of the coat, as stage manipulators do billiard balls. This
approach eliminates the need to go repeatedly to the pockets during
a routine. Mr. Elmsley, in a billiard ball routine he once performed,
combined the principle of sleeving with the stealing of balls, and he
suggests that the same combination can be singularly effective in the
context of the Cups and Balls.
While the moves can be executed with either hand, for the purpose
of explanation it is assumed that the right hand is performing the
load. The object to be loadedlet's say it is a large ballmust be
reasonably heavy. Such items as crocheted cork balls are not suitable
for this technique. First steal the ball from either pocket or holder
as the hand hangs relaxed at your side,
and hold it cupped in the curled right
fingers. The left hand claims the
audience's attention as the steal is
made, by lifting one of the cups to
reveal the appearance of one or more of
the small balls.
With the tips of the right second and
third fingers, contact the palmed ball
and, with minimal motion, roll or walk
it up the heel of the hand toward the
wrist. The sleeve of the coat hangs
naturally open, allowing the ball to
enter it, as shown in Figure 217.

204

THE COLLECTED WORKS OF ALEX ELMSLEY

With the ball now started into the sleeve, raise the right hand and
forearm to a roughly horizontal position in front of you, and simultaneously squeeze the second and third fingers firmly against the ball,
causing it to squirt or shoot into the coat sleeve. The sleeving of the
ball is not at all difficult, and the larger action of raising the arm
covers any finger motion as the sleeving is done. The combined
actions of arm and fingers assure that the ball travels smoothly into
the sleeve. Of course, one's coat sleeve must be of a size to accommodate the ball, and the shirt sleeve should be either tight fitting or
rolled back to allow an unhindered passage.
Your motivation for raising the right forearm is to bring the hands
together before you, so that the right hand may relieve the left of its
cup. Grasp the cup by its rim, taking it between the right forefinger
and thumb (Figure 218), while casually letting the right hand be seen
otherwise empty. This is the subtle moment for which we have
worked. While attention is certainly not drawn to the right hand, its
emptiness registers subconsciously with the lay spectators, and
allays magicians' suspicions of a load. With either group, the loading
procedure is nicely obfuscated.
To introduce the sleeved ball into the cup, simply lower the right
forearm sufficiently to cause the ball to roll from the sleeve and into
the curled right fingers (Figure 219). Then permit the ball to roll gently
into the cup. If the ball is made of rubber or another soft material,
talking is not a serious concern. If, however, something like a billiard
ball is used, care must be taken when easing the ball into the cup.
Alternatively, some covering noise can be made with another of the
cups; or you may wish to line the cups with felt, as did many oldtime Cups and Balls workers.
With the ball now loaded, the right hand can invert the cup and
set it down in the usual way. The other two cups are eventually loaded
in a similar manner, while the routine progresses, readying you for
the final productions. This use of sleeving is a cunning refinement
in cup loading technique, and will be appreciated by performers who
aspire to something above the average in their deceptions.
November 1953

THE ELMSLEY
CUPS AND BALLS
ROUTINE
Effect: The time-honored set of three metal cups is set on the
table, along with a small ball. The ball quickly vanishes from the
performer's hand and appears under one of the cups. This feat is
repeated. The ball is now caused to penetrate through the solid
bottom of a cup, then to multiply into three balls.
One ball is placed into each cup, but the three balls magically
congregate in the center cup. The cups are then stacked together and
inverted. From them issues a stream of saltenough salt to fill all
three cups to overflowing.
Method: The major novelty in Mr. Elmsley's version of this classic
trick is the copious production of salt at the finish. What is more
remarkable about this production is that it is not introduced into the
cups during the routineit is there from the beginning!
You will need a standard set of three cups. Also required are three
half or three-quarter inch balls (cork or crocheted), a sheet of newspaper and a quantity of salt. A metal tray large enough to perform
the routine on is another item you might consider. The tray is used
to contain the overflow of salt at the finish and to make the clearing
of the performing surface fast and neat.
To prepare, set the three cups mouths up and drop a ball into two
of them. Fill the third with salt. Performing conditions will dictate how
high the cup isfilled.You must judge the height and proximity of your
audience, and the distance the spectators can peer down into the
cups on the table. Under most circumstances the cup can be safely
filled to at least three-quarters height without the salt being seen.
With the cups still mouths up, nest them together with the saltfilled one uppermost. Next, open out the sheet of newspaper onto the
working surface (table or tray) and pour a quantity of salt onto the
quadrant that will rest directly on the table when the paper is
refolded. The amount of salt should be enough to more than fill all

206

THE COLLECTED WORKS OF ALEX ELMSLEY

three cups when added to that already in the one cup. Smooth the
salt into an even layer on the paper, keeping the outer edges free of
it (Figure 220). Then fold the paper back into quarters over the saltladen portion. This paper will be your working surface.
Lay the remaining ball onto the center of the newspaper and set
the cups, mouths up, in a line behind it, with the salt-filled cup on
your right.
For ease of learning, the routine will be taught in five phases.

First Phase
Draw attention to the ball and pick it up in the right hand. At the
same time, with your left hand nest the cups together, picking them
up from right to left.
Set the ball down again in its spot. With your right hand, take the
bottom cup of the stack and set it mouth down on the table, just to
the right of the ball. Do not, of course, let the ball inside this cup be
seen as the cup is inverted. Set the remaining two cups, mouth up
and nested, to the left of the ball. The positions of the cups and visible
ball are shown in Figure 221.
With the right hand, pick up the ball and pretend to place it into
the left hand. Actually execute a false transfer and palm it in the right
hand. (It is assumed that the reader of this book has a foundation
in the basics of conjuring and will be conversant with the classic
methods employed in the Cups and Balls, such as false transfers and
palming. If such sleights are unknown to you, they can be found in
many general texts. Therefore, a redescription of these techniques
is not supplied.)
Make a magical gesture over the closed left hand and open it to
show the ball has vanished. Then, with the right hand, lift the righthand cup and show the ball under it. Set the cup, mouth up, behind
the ball. Pause a moment to let the effect register. Then, with the left
hand, pick up the two nested cups and, with the right hand, the third,
single cup. Carry the right hand's cup to the stack, secretly drop the
palmed ball into the cup, and slip it back onto the bottom of the stack.
Thus you have returned to the opening position of the routine. When
loading a ball, at this point and hence forward, never look at the cup.

Second Phase
With the right hand, pick up the ball and display it. Then set it at
the center of the table. Remove the bottom cup of the stack and set
it mouth down to the right of the ball and a bit behind it. A second
ball lies under this cup. With the right hand, remove the top cup of
the nested pair (the salt-filled cup) and place it, mouth up, behind

MINUS FIFTY-TWO 2 0 7
the exposed ball. Then,
with the left hand,
invert the remaining
cupwith ball inside
setting it to the left of
the first two. The situation is depicted in
Figure 222.
Pick up the exposed
ball and pretend to
place it into the left
hand. Really palm it in
the right. Open the left
hand and show the ball
gone. Then, with the
left hand, pick up the
cup on your left,
revealing the ball
underneath. Set the
cup mouth up behind
the ball.
With the right hand,
pick up the center cup
and drop it neatly into
the left-hand cup, simultaneously loading
the palmed ball into the
lower cup. Slide the two
stacked cups farther to
the left and leave them
there. Now pick up the
visible ball and perform
the Charlie Miller cup
and ball move:
Close the right hand
into a fist and rest it on
top of the right-hand
cup, thumb uppermost. Set the ball into
the curl of the right
forefinger and thumb,
and grasp the cup with your left hand (Figure 223). Now you do two
things in close succession: you open the right fingers just enough to
permit the ball to sink swiftly into the fist; and you raise the left and
right hands as a unit with the cup, exposing the ball beneath (Figure
224). As you lift the cup, try to nudge the ball, giving it a slight
movement on the table. If done correctly, these actions create an

208 THE COLLECTED WORKS OF ALEX ELMSLEY

illusion of the ball almost visibly penetrating the cup. The small
movement of the ball as it comes into view is important to the illusion.
Timing is essential to the success of this move. The pause between
the dropping of the ball into the hand and the raising of the cup is
approximately that of the time it would take for the ball to fall from
the top of the fist to the table. (For more information on this sleight,
see Lewis Ganson's description in The Dai Vernon Book of Magic, pp
188-189.)
You now have one ball finger-palmed in the right hand and a cup
in the left. Allow the cup to swivel mouth up in the left hand and pass
it to the right hand. Secretly drop the palmed ball into the cup as
you transfer it. Then, with the left hand, pick up the two stacked cups
and nest the third cup under them. You are once more in opening
position.

Third Phase
With your right hand, remove the bottom cup of the stack and set
it mouth up to the right. This cup contains a ball. Grasp the next
cup of the stack, again with the right hand, and invert it behind the
visible ball. Unknown to the audience, this cup has another ball
under it. With the left
hand, set the remaining
cup (salt-filled) well to
the left (Figure 225).
Pick up the exposed
ball and set it onto the
center cup. With the
right hand, invert the
right-hand cup over the
center cup. This adds a
second ball between the
nested cups.

MINUS FIFTY-TWO

209

Tap the stacked cups and, with the left hand, lift them to expose
the ball underneath. Transfer the two cups, still nested, to the right
hand, turning them mouth up. Then, with the left hand, invert the
lower cup of the pair over the visible ball. This secretly adds the other
two balls to it.
To demonstrate further how strangely permeable the cups are, pick
up the salt-filled cup in your left hand. Briefly show the cup in your
right hand empty. Then toss the loaded left hand's cup straight down
into right hand's cup. Let the impact knock the right hand's cup from
the right fingers and catch this cup in the left hand as the hand
sweeps downward. The loaded cup is retained in the right hand. This
ancient maneuver, when done casually and unfalteringly, creates a
perfect illusion of one cup passing through the other. (Since the
publication of Robert-Houdin's Les Secrets de la Prestidigitation et de
la Magie in 1868 [p. 334], this incidental effect with the cups has
become a standard interlude in Cups and Balls routines.) Here, Mr.
Elmsley makes the flourish serve a triple purpose: while creating a
surprising illusion of penetration, the actions also secretly exchange
the cups while implying their emptiness.
Set the salt-filled cup mouth up to the right. Give the audience
another quick glimpse of the empty interior of the left hand's cup and
set it mouth up to the left.
Make a magical gesture over the center cup and lift it, disclosing
the three balls.

Fourth Phase
Set the raised cup mouth up just behind the three balls. With the
right hand, pick up one of the balls and perform a false transfer. With
the left hand, pretend to place the ball into the mouth-up right-hand
cup. Actually, retain it in the right hand and maneuver the ball into
thumb palm. Then, as you reach over the center cup for another ball,
secretly drop the palmed ball into the cup.
Execute another false transfer, apparently taking the second ball
into the left hand. Pretend to drop the ball into the left-hand cup.
As you reach with the right hand for the third ball, drop the thumbpalmed ball into the center cup. Display the third ball at the right
fingertips while, with the left hand, you pick up the center cup. Set
the ball onto the table and cover it with the cup, secretly adding the
other two balls to it.
Gesture as if invisibly passing the balls in the end cups to the
center cup. Then simultaneously pick up the end cups and drop the
right hand's cup into the left's. Hold the nested pair in the right hand
as, with the left hand, you lift the center cup to disclose the three
balls under it. Place the nested pair of cups into the third and pause
for the audience's reaction.

210

THE COLLECTED WORKS OF ALEX ELMSLEY

Fifth Phase
Adjust the right hand's
grip on the three cups as
follows: Move the fourth
finger to the near side of
the bottom cup, catching it
between the fourth and
third fingers. Also stretch
the thumb across the
mouth of the top cup in
such a way as to leave a
narrow channel between
the thumb and the inner
rim of the cup (Figure 226).
Tip the stack of cups over and let the salt cascade from them onto
the newspaper. By shifting the thumb you can control the speed of
the pour. This surprising production will generate applause as the
pour occurs. When all the salt has been poured from the cup, arrange
the three cups, mouths up, in a close row on the table (or, if you are
using one, the tray), just in front of the newspaper. Then, with both
hands, pick up the newspaper and, working from left to right, pour
the salt back into the cups. Of course, the salt hidden in the folds of
the paper joins that on top, and the combined amount fills the three
cups to overflowinga most impressive finish for the routine.
Of course, other substances can replace the salt as a final load.
Even liquid or livestock loads are conceivable. A paper coil is another
possibility.
Study the structure of this routine. The actions are cleverly blocked
to give an impression that all three cups are used throughout the
trick, though the one is secretly filled with salt. It is an exceedingly
well thought out sequence that makes possible an astonishing final
production without recourse to the pockets or the lap. Indeed, it
should be performed while standing.
September 21, 1957

Chapter Five:

Twisted Classics

1002nd ACES
Effect: The four aces are removed from the pack and laid out in a
row on the table. Someone freely nominates one of the aces and three
indifferent cards are dealt onto it. The ace on the bottom of this packet
is displayed once more and a magical gesture is made over the other
three aces. When these are turned face-up, they are found to be
indifferent cardsand all four aces are shown to have gathered in
the selected ace pile.
The plot is that of a classic ace assembly. However, Mr. Elmsley
has streamlined the procedure while adopting a clever idea of Eric
de la Mare's, which permits a spectator the free choice of any ace on
the table as the leader card. (Mr. de la Mare's original handling, which
was Mr. Elmsley's inspiration, appeared in Pentagram, Vol. nd13, No.
5, Feb. 1959, pp. 37-38.) Since its publication in 1957, "1002 Aces"
has gained a reputation among cardmen as a noteworthy development in the genre. In fairness, Eric de la Mare's important
contribution to the plot should be more widely recognized.
Method: The first requirement is that the four aces be switched
for indifferent cards as they are laid out on the table. There are many
packet switches that will serve the purpose admirably. Mr. Elmsley
has used several over the years. One of his preferred techniques is
Herb Zarrow's add-on switch:
_
Turn the deck face-up and
begin to spread it from left hand
to right. As you push over the first
four cards, grip them in a roughly
squared bunch at the right side,
between the right thumb (on the
face) and forefinger (on the back).
Continue to spread cards into the
right hand, but use the right
second, third and fourth fingers to
clasp these beneath the four-card
block. Taking the cards in this
manner forms a step between the
block and the balance of the deck
(Figure 227).

2 1 4 THE COLLECTED WORKS OF ALEX ELMSLEY


As you spread through the cards, watch for aces. When an ace is
discovered, break the spread at that point, retaining the ace on the
face of the left-hand portion, and push the ace under the right thumb,
onto the face of the deck. Spread through the pack until you have
conveyed all four aces to the face. This sorting is done openly and
the aces may be shown to the audience as they are collected.
When all four aces have been shifted to the face of the pack, close
the spread into the left hand and convert the step into a left fourthfinger break under the eight cards. Bring the right hand palm-down
over the pack and lift away the block of cards above the break, holding
it by its ends with the fingers hiding the thickness of the outer edge.
With the left thumb, flip the pack face-down in the left hand. Then
set the right hand's packet square onto the deck, catching another
fourth-finger break under the face-up cards. Fan over the top three
cards and take the upper pair into the right hand, clearly displaying
all four aces.
Rejoin the right hand's two aces with the fanned aces on the deck,
and immediately grip all four aces, right thumb on top and fingers
beneath. As you assume this grip, secretly introduce the tip of the
right second finger into the break (Figure 228). Now, without hesitation, draw the fan to the right, taking the four hidden cards with
it, until the left edge of the fan touches the left fingertips (Figure 229).
Then flip the cards leftward and face-down onto the pack, allowing
gravity to close the fan. The instant the eight-card packet lands
squarely on the pack, push the top four cards to the right. You wish
to give the impression that the aces never fall quite square with the
pack as they are turned down. Take special note of the splitting of
the aces when displaying them just before the switch. This small
handling touch by Mr. Elmsley to the Zarrow add-on sets up the
switch and gives the sequence a most casual and innocent
appearance.
With the right hand, immediately grip the four spread cards and
move them forward until their left inner corners can be clipped by
the left thumb to the right outer corner of the pack (Figure 230). This
sequence of actions, from the flipping down of the cards to the outjogging of the four, should be performed as one smooth movement. Done
in this manner, the switch is indetectable.
Now deal the four cards into a face-down row on the table. Ask
someone to indicate any one of the four. Invite him to change his mind
if he likes. As he deliberates on the choice offered, give the pack a
quick false shuffle, retaining the aces on top. When a card is finally
settled on, say, "On that ace I shall deal three more cards." Do this.
As you push over the third card for the right hand, also push the next
card slightly to the right and catch a left fourth-finger break under
it. This is the fourth ace.
With the palm-down right hand, pick up the four-card pile by its
ends as you ask, "By the way, do you remember which ace this is?"

TWISTED CLASSICS

215

It is unlikely, under the circumstances, that the spectator will even


hazard a guess at this.
Bring the packet over the deck, ostensibly to square it, and run
the tip of the left thumb along the left edge. In this squaring action,
move the packet momentarily square with the deck and pick up the
card above the break, taking it onto the face of the packet. There
should be no faltering or hesitation here.
Turn the right hand to display the ace on the face of the packet.
Name it and lay the packet face-up on the deck, rightjogging it for
half its width. Clip the packet there under the left thumb and, with
the right hand, neatly remove the ace from the face of the packet
(Figure 231). "Since you chose the ace of hearts [or whatever], it is
only fair that you should have it. Please hold out your hand." Place
the ace face-down on the extended palm of the spectator.
This leaves an indifferent card exposed on the face of the packet
a convincing touch. "I'll also give you the cards shuffled from the
pack." Indicate the packet, flip it face-down and square onto the deck;

216

THE COLLECTED WORKS OF ALEX ELMSLEY

then immediately spread the top three cards to the right. Take these
three into your right hand and drop them onto the ace held by the
spectator. Have him place his other hand over the packet, thus
assuring that you cannot tamper with the cardsand that he cannot
expose their faces prematurely.
"Of the four aces possible, the ace you hold is the one you chose.
You could have had any of these three." Here, indicate the three facedown cards of the row. Then drop the deck face-down onto one of
these cards. As you pick up the pack with the added card at its face,
make some small furtive gesture, creating a suspicion that you have
secretly manipulated the pack in some manner. Turn it face-up to
display an indifferent card at the bottom.
Drop the deck face-down onto another of the tabled cards. This
time, as you pick up the pack, forgo the feint. Again show the face of
the deck. The second ace seems to have disappeared.
Drop the pack onto the remaining tabled card and, with explicitly
fair actions, lift it to show the third ace vanished. Conclude by having
the spectator discover all four aces between his palms.
The psychology built into this method is subtle but persuasive. The
display of the leader packet, while understated, is convincing; and
in permitting a free choice of the card for the leader, it must seem to
the audience that all four aces are on the table. In all, the effect is
direct, the handling uncomplicated, and in combination these features create a truly magical result.
December 1957

THE ATOMIC ACES


Effect: The four aces are removed from the pack, along with four
spot cards. The aces and indifferent cards are clearly alternated in
one face-down pile. Yet, with no other action, they separate, the aces
collecting at the top.
The ace of spades and one spot card are then nominated as leaders
for their groups. The other three aces are placed face-down behind
the ace of spades, and the three indifferent cards behind their leader
card. When the packets are switched, the cards magically conform
to match the leader cards now before them. This is demonstrated
several times.
Next the aces are laid out in a row, with the ace of spades above
them, and three indifferent cards are dealt onto each. Though there
is positively an ace in each packet, three of them cleanly vanish, and
are found to have joined the ace of spades as its three accompanying
cards.
This last effect is repeated under even more rigorous conditions.
The ace of spades is this time buried face-up in one half of the pack
and this is given to someone to hold. Indifferent cards are again dealt
onto the other three aces and, though they are clearly seen in the
packets, they vanish completely. When the spectator spreads through
his packet he finds the vanished aces face-up with the ace of spades.
This concludes the routine, and the pack can be examined, as there
is nothing to find.
Method: This is a thorough revision of Brother John Hamman's
"Final Ace Routine". When Harry Stanley began selling Brother
Hamman's routine in England, he made a present of a set to Mr.
Elmsley. Thinking highly of the routine, Mr. Elmsley began to explore
other possibilities using the fekes and Brother Hamman's ideas. His
experimentation resulted in a four-phase routine considerably
different from the original. Where Brother Hamman performed an ace
assembly four times in succession, each time under more exacting
conditions, Mr. Elmsley varied the effect, reserving the assembly for
the final phases; and while Brother Hamman's influence is distinctly
present in these assembly phases, Mr. Elmsley made major changes
in the handling. Additionally, while the Elmsley routine employs feke

218

THE COLLECTED WORKS OF ALEX ELMSLEY

cards quite similar to those used in the Hamman trick, in the end
the fekes are secretly retired, leaving the pack clean for examination
or for further card work.
Mr. Elmsley wrote out a description of his routine and gave it to
Harry Stanley for possible publication in The Gen as "a routine with
the Hamman Aces". Instead, without consulting Mr. Elmsley, Stanley
decided to release the routine as a marketed item: "Alex Elmsley's
Atomic Aces". Mr. Elmsley was surprised and embarrassed by this
action of Stanley's, and when he eventually met Brother Hamman,
he apologized profusely. Brother Hamman, in his characteristically
generous fashion, passed the incident off as nothing at all.
The routine requires six feke cards. The faces of these cards are
prepared by altering one of the indices. Such cards can be fabricated
with the dry-transfer card pips available from magic dealers. However,
the very cards needed for this routine are specially printed by several
companies, and are less expensive than transfer pips. In England,
they are currently available from the Supreme Magic Company; and
in the U.S., they can be had through Hank Lee's Magic Factory.
Three of the fekes are low spot cards, like twos, threes and fours.
One is a heart, one a club and one a diamond. One index number
on each card is altered to appear as an ace of matching suit to the
card. The other three fekes are an ace of hearts, clubs and diamonds,
with one index "A" changed to a low number, like a 2, a 3 or a 4.
Examples of the six cards are shown in Figure 232. The fekes are
further prepared by pencil dotting their backs at one corner. The end
marked is that corresponding with the ace index of each card.
Also needed is a standard deck that matches the back design of
the fekes. Locate the six indifferent cards represented by the fekes
and put them aside. They are removed from the pack to avoid the
possibility of duplicate cards accidentally appearing during the
routine. Also arrange nine low spot cards on top of the pack and
remove the four genuine aces. Place the aces of hearts, diamonds and
clubs face-up on the bottom of the face-down deck, and set one facedown indifferent card under them.
On top of the deck, stack the three spot-card fekes in hearts,
diamonds, clubs order from the top down. Arrange all pencil dotted
corners at the inner end of the pack. Direct the dotted corners of the
ace fekes outward and insert them into the pack as follows: the ace
of hearts feke is placed approximately tenth from the top; the ace of
diamonds feke roughly twentieth and the ace of clubs feke about
thirtieth. Finally, insert the normal ace of spades roughly fortieth from
the top. Figure 233 illustrates the setup.
Because of the complexity of the initial arrangement, it is impractical to set it up in the middle of an act. The routine must be used
as an opening piece, or a deck switch made. For an example of
excellent deck switching psychology, study the two switches on pages
143-146 and, in Volume II, 'The Tale of the Old Timer".

TWISTED CLASSICS
(232

2
*

233

TOP

spotfekes:

hearts
diamonds
clubs

indifferent block
ace of hearts f eke
indifferent block
ace of diamonds feke
indifferent block

^-

c
c
c

ace of clubs feke


indifferent block
ace of spades
indifferent block
face-up aces of hearts,
diamonds
and clubs
face-down indifferent card

c
BOTTOM

219

220

THE COLLECTED WORKS OF ALEX ELMSLEY

First Phase:
Oil and Water
Bring out the pack and check the pencil dot on the top card to
assure that the deck is turned with the dotted end nearest you. If it
is not, don't turn it around. The problem can be corrected as you turn
the deck face-up. If the dot is at the wrong end, turn the deck over
lengthwise to bring it face-up. Otherwise, flip it over sidewise.
Spread the cards from left hand to right, searching for the aces.
Remember that three of the genuine aces lie face-down under the face
card of the pack. To keep them hidden, begin your spread by pushing
over a block of at least four cards. The first ace you come to will be
the ace of spades. Outjog it for approximately two-thirds of its length
and continue spreading to the next ace. This will be the ace of clubs
feke. Outjog it as you did the spade and spread on to the ace of
diamonds feke. Outjog this and the ace of hearts feke as well. The
indifferent indices of the three fekes are hidden in the pack, and the
handling looks ordinary and casual.
Square the spread into your left hand and flip the deck sidewise
and face-down there. With your right hand, grip the four outjogged
cards and strip them from the pack. Holding the four cards squared,
turn them face-up, using just the right thumb and fingers, and adjust
your grasp to the inner end of the packet. Then perform a one-handed
fan, displaying four aces. Lay the fanned cards face-up on the table.
'The ace of spades is the most powerful of the four, and has a
strange magnetic attraction over the other aces. I can demonstrate
this if we add four other cards to the aces." Fan the top four cards
off the deck and take them into the right hand. Turn the hand over
and display four indifferent cards. Three of these, of course, are the
spot-card fekes with their ace indices concealed.
With the left hand, set the face-down deck aside. Then square the
right hand's fan face-down into the left hand. The pencil dots should
still be at the inner end of the packet. Count the four cards into a
face-down pile on the table, reversing their order. "One, two, three,
four; as many cards as there are aces."
You now pick up the fan of aces, but in a particular way. Bring
the palm-down right hand over the fan and press the fingertips firmly
on the faces of the cards. Then dig the right thumb under the near
ends to lift them from the table (Figure 234). Bring the left hand palmdown over the fan and push the face-up aces square (Figure 235).
Retain the packet in the fork of the left thumb and turn the hand
palm-up. This casual action displays the aces until the instant the
hand turns over, rotating the packet to a face-down position. You
have also subtly turned the cards end for end, bringing the pencil
dots nearest you.

TWISTED CLASSICS

221

Pick up the tabled pile in the


right hand and alternate the
cards of the two packets, first
thumbing off a card from the
right, then a card from the left, a
card from the right, and so on.
Notice that all the pencil dots are
currently at the inner end. A
regular indifferent card is at the
face of the packet, and the ace of
spades is on top.
"The aces act like oil in water when they are mixed with common
cards. Look!" Take the packet into left-hand dealing grip and count
the top four cards into the right hand, reversing their order. The right
hand's cards are taken into dealing grip as well; then the grip is
altered: Press the right thumb against the right edge of the packet
and, using the right fourth finger as a pivot post, swivel the packet
counterclockwise, bringing the cards parallel with the length of the
fingers. Stretch the right forefinger around to the right side of the
packet and grip the cards by their opposite edges, between the first
and fourth fingers (Figure 236). With the tips of the second and third
fingers, pull down on the outer end of the packet, levering it up at
the inner end (Figure 237). Then place the tip of the thumb on the
face of the packet, near the lower end (Figure 238). You are now in
position to fan the packet, displaying four aces. Don't fan too widely,
or the large pips of the two spot-card fekes will be exposed. Lay the

222

THE COLLECTED WORKS OF ALEX ELMSLEY

face-up fan on the table and grasp the left hand's packet by its inner
end, right thumb below, fingers above. Turn the right hand palm-up
and at the same time fan the packet to show four indifferent cards.

Second Phase:
Follow the Leader
Bring the palm-down left hand over the right hand's fan and
square the cards (Figure 235 again). Then grasp the packet in the
left hand and rotate the hand palm-up, turning the cards both facedown and end for end. This positions the pencil dots at the outer end.
With the right fingers, draw the normal spot card from the bottom
of the packet and turn it face-up. Lay this card to your left on the
table and place the rest of the packet face-down behind it.
With the palm-down right hand, pick up the fan of aces by their
inner ends (Figure 234), and repeat the actions just performed with
the first packet. Lay the face-up ace of spades to the right of the faceup indifferent card, and set the face-down packet behind the ace. The
dotted ends of this packet are now inward.
'These two cards are indicators or leader cards. If I switch the two
piles behind them..." Here suit actions to words, exchanging the two
face-down piles, "...the cards no longer match their leaders. But if I
wave this spot card over the ace of spades, the power of the ace
transforms it into an ace." As you say this, pick up the right-hand
packet and place it into left-hand dealing grip. Push over the top card
and grasp it by its inner end, right thumb at the left edge, second
finger at the right, and forefinger curled lightly onto the back. Wave
this card over the ace of spades (Figure 239), then press down with
the forefinger and let the right side of the card snap off the second
finger. This causes the card to flip face-up, revealing it as the ace of
diamonds. It is actually an ace feke, and as you are left holding the
card by its inner right corner, the thumb naturally covers the false
index (Figure 240).
Bend the right second finger inward and with it engage the very
corner of the card, just behind the thumb (Figure 241). Press down
with the second finger and ease the thumb's pressure, allowing the
card to turn inward and face-down (Figure 242). Lay the card onto
the ace of spades, letting it overlap just the inner end of the ace. The
dot on this face-down card is now at the inner end.
Set the two-card packet in the left hand behind the ace of spades,
but lay it crosswise, giving it a clockwise quarter turn and bringing
the dotted ends to the right.
Repeat the same actions with the packet behind the indifferent
card, causing the top card to transform into a spot card. When you
have laid this card face-down over the face-up indicator, and the

TWISTED CLASSICS

223

balance of the packet crosswise


behind them, the situation is as
shown in Figure 243. Note that
the positions of the pencil dots
are exactly the reverse of the
cards behind the ace.
Exchange the two crosswise
piles. Then pick up the one on
the right and place it into lefthand dealing position, giving it a
second quarter turn clockwise to
bring the pencil dots to the outer
end. Repeat the previous display
actions to show that the top card
has magically changed to an ace.

224

THE COLLECTED WORKS OF ALEX ELMSLEY

Turn it face-down and lay it in overlapping fashion on the ace pile.


Place the remaining card in the left hand crosswise behind these
cards, turning its dotted end to the right. Repeat these actions with
the left-hand pile to show the top card has conformed to its indifferent
leader card.
Switch the positions of the final two crosswise cards. With the
palm-down right hand, pick up the card now behind the ace pile by
its right end, in position to snap it face-up. Wave it over the ace and
do just that, showing the fourth ace has followed its kind. Using the
same actions as before, turn the card face-down and lay it onto the
overlapping ace column. Repeat this sequence of actions with the last
left-hand card and lay it with the other spot cards.

Third Phase:
The Assembly
Slip the face-up spot card from beneath the column of face-down
spot-card fekes, turn it face-down and use it to scoop up the other
three cards. Lay the four-card packet face-down on the deck, keeping
the dotted ends outward. Then slip the ace of spades from beneath
its column, turn the card face-down and gather the three face-down
ace fekes in the same fashion. The dots on these cards are inward.
In the action of scooping up the aces, with the right hand, grasp the
packet at its outer end, thumb on the back, fingers on the face. Then
turn the hand palm-up and perform a one-handed fan to display the
faces of four apparent aces. Since only the indifferent indices on the
inner ends need be concealed, the fan can be generously spread.
'This time I will separate the aces more widely still." Close the fan
face-down into the palm-up left hand and leave the packet there. In
doing so you have positioned the dotted corners at the outer end. Deal
the first three cards into a face-down row, from right to left, and lay
the fourth card (the ace of spades) face-down in front of the row.
Pick up the deck as you explain
that you are going to place a few
cards onto each ace. Spread off the
first three cards (the spot-card
fekes) and lay them onto the
forward ace of the spades. Do this
without counting them or reversing
their order. Using identical actions,
lay three indifferent cards onto each
of the cards in the row. Then
nonchalantly draw off the top and
bottom cards of the pack and insert
them into the middle. No attention
is given this action; it is treated as

TWISTED CLASSICS

225

a bit of toying with the cards as you talk. The displacement is


necessary to remove the bottom cover card from beneath the three
reversed aces, in preparation for the final phase. Set the pack aside.
With the right hand, pick up the right-end pile of the row and
transfer it to left-hand glide position. Curl the tip of the left fourth
finger in onto the index corner of the bottom card. "Remember, each
of these piles contains an ace..." Rotate the left hand palm-up and
briefly display the ace of hearts feke. The fourth fingertip covers the
discrepant index number (Figure 244). Turn the hand down again
and execute a glide. With the right hand, lay the substituted card
face-down and sidewise at the right end of the row. "...and three other
cards." Return the right hand to the packet and draw the top card
onto the right fingers. Draw the second card onto this, jogged about
half an inch to the left; and take the last card, similarly jogged, onto
the previous two. This reverses the positions of the cards and forms
them into a narrow fan. Rotate the right hand palm-down, turning
the face of the fan toward the audience. They see the indices of three
indifferent cards. Then lay the face-up fan somewhat over the inner
edge of the right-end card. This positions the fan with the exposed
indices outward.
Repeat this glide and display sequence with the other two piles of
the row. The resulting layout is shown in Figure 245. You will now
use the same snap-over display employed in the second phase
(Figures 239 and 240) to reveal the vanish of the three aces. With

226

THE COLLECTED WORKS OF ALEX ELMSLEY

your right hand, slide the face-down card on the right from beneath
its face-up fan and pick it up by the right end. Wave it over the
forward pile, then snap it face-up to display an indifferent card. Place
this card into the left hand, letting its full face be seen. Then repeat
the vanish procedure with each of the remaining two face-down cards
in the row. When you have finished, lay the three indifferent cards
in your left hand face-down on the deck. Simultaneously, with the
palm-down right hand, pick up the face-down forward pile by its inner
end, thumb on face, fingers on back. Turn the hand palm-up and
fan the packet narrowly to show four aces. Set the fan face-up before
the row (Figure 246).

Fourth Phase:
The Second Assembly
Gather the three fans of spot cards in any order, placing one on
another, and turn the cards face-down, end over end, into the left
hand. Square the packet and lay it onto the deck. This places the ace
fekes at positions one, four and seven from the top of the deck, with
their dotted ends outward.
With the palm-down right hand, pick up the fan of aces, gripping
it at the inner end. Turn the hand palm-up and close the face-down
fan into the left hand. Hold the packet in left-hand dealing position,

TWISTED CLASSICS

227

dotted ends outward, and immediately deal the first three cards into
a row, working from right to left as before.
"This time I shall separate the aces more widely still." Snap the
ace of spades face-up in your left hand and, with the right hand, cut
about half the pack to one side. Lay the face-up ace onto the bottom
half of the deck and give this half a cut, sending the ace to the middle.
This also places the other three normal aces face-up above the spade.
Hand the packet to someone and ask him to guard it.
Take the other half of the pack into left-hand dealing position as
you say, "Again three cards go onto each ace." This time deal the
cards from the deck onto the aces, working in rotation from right to
left, as if dealing cards for a game, only backward. This delivers the
three ace fekes to the right-end pile. All dotted ends should be pointed
outward. Set the balance of the pack to your left.
With your right hand, pick up the right-end pile by its inner end
and turn its face toward you. This brings the ace indices of the four
fekes to the lower end of the cards. With the aid of the left hand, shift
the right hand's grip to the lower right corner of the packet and form
a narrow fan. The right thumb should cover the ace index of the card
on the face (Figure 247). Reach out with the right hand toward the
person holding the half deck, and wave the fan of cards face-down
over his packet. Then turn your hand over, exposing the faces of four
indifferent cards. Let the vanish of the ace register; then turn the fan
face-down again and return it to the right end of the row.
With the right hand, pick up the center pile and form a fan with
it, exactly as you did with the previous pile. Wave the fan face-down
over the spectator's half deck and turn the right hand up to display
the face of the fan. To drive home the vanish of the ace, this time
count the cards from hand to hand, displaying their faces more fully.
To do this, lay the face-up fan into the palm-up left hand, but do not
release the uppermost card (a spot-card feke); continue to grip it by
its inner right corner, covering the ace index with the right thumb.
Separate the hands, taking the first card from the fan on the count
of "one". On the count of "two", return the right hand to the left and
take the next card of the fan onto the
feke, letting it now hide the improper
index. On "three and four", reverse
count the remaining two cards from the
left hand onto those in the right. Turn
the packet face-down and return it to
its position in the row, spreading the
cards a bit.
With the right hand, pick up the leftend pile by its inner end and form a fan
as you have with the previous packets.
Wave the fan over the spectator's half
deck, then turn the fan face-up to show

228

THE COLLECTED WORKS OF ALEX ELMSLEY

the third ace has vanished. This time, instead of reverse counting the
cards, set the fan face-up into the left hand and retain the uppermost
card (the spot-card feke) in the right hand, concealing its ace index
with the right thumb. With the left fingers, spread the other three
cards more widely. Then turn both hands slowly over and back again,
clearly displaying fronts and backs of all four cards. With the hands
once more palms-up, rotate the feke inward and end over end, until
it is face-down, as you did in the second phase (Figures 241-242).
Simultaneously turn the left hand's three cards face-down with just
the left fingers and thumb.
Use the right hand's card to scoop up the fanned right-end pile.
Drop all these cards on the center pile and pick up the lot. Drop these
onto the three cards in your left hand and lay all twelve onto the free
half deck. This gathering pattern neatly delivers all six fekes to the
top of the packet.
Take the half deck into left-hand dealing position as you now draw
all attention to the person holding the other half. Ask him to spread
carefully through his cards, looking for the ace of spades. Illustrate
what you mean with your own packet: spread the cards from the left
hand to the right, and injog the seventh card when you come to it.
When he starts to spread through his cards, square yours back into
the left hand and press down with the right thumb on the injog,
forming a left fourth-finger break beneath the six fekes. When the
spectator discovers all four aces face-up in his half, palm the six cards
away and pocket them, leaving the deck free of fekes. The
misdirection here is so powerful, one's palming ability can be fairly
crude and still suffice. Do not, however, rush to the pocket with the
palmed cards. Wait for a moment when attention is relaxed, or
provide motivation for going to the pocket, by bringing out some
article required for the next trick. Alternatively, you could avoid
palming entirely by bringing the left hand over the left coat pocket
and releasing into it the packet above the break.
This is an impressive and tightly routined piece of card magic. The
fekes help to create effects that sleight-of-hand could only approximate, at the sacrifice of an exceptionally clean handling. On reading
the method in its entirety, it may seem forbidding. None of the
sequences, however, is difficult, and if you learn them a phase at a
time, you will find you have mastered the whole routine in a quite
reasonable period.
c. October 1957

REPULSIVE ACES
Effect: The four aces are removed from the deck. Two cards are
then freely selected, noted and replaced in the pack. The performer
now explains that all the cards in the pack have a magnetic field, and
the aces, because they are the most important cards, have the
strongest charge. The aces are turned end for end on the table. They
are then picked up and one corner is touched lightly to the face of
the deck. This acts like the identical poles of two magnets, repelling
the first selection to the top of the pack. The top card is flipped over
to prove this statement.
The selection is now inserted into the ace packet, but the repulsive qualities of the cards prove to be too strong, and the chosen card
vanishes, leaving just the aces.
The aces are again touched to the face of the deck, forcing the
second selection to the top. This card is inserted among the aces, but
vanishes as completely as did the first. The aces are tossed onto the
table and spread out, proving there is no possibility for concealment
of other cards. The two vanished selections are then produced from
the performer's pocket or elsewhere.
Method: Remove the four aces from the pack, clearly display them
and set them face-up to one side. Have two other cards freely chosen,
noted and returned to the pack. Control these to the top, first
selection above second. While holding the deck in left-hand dealing
grip, with the right hand flip the packet of aces end over end and facedown on the table, explaining that this reverses the magnetic poles
of the cards. Pick up the packet by its ends.
"If I touch the pack with the aces, one of the chosen cards will be
repulsed by them to the top." Bring one corner of the ace packet into
contact with the face of the deck, doing so in a fashion that avoids
any hint of sleight-of-hand. Then push the top card of the deck to
the right and, using the left edge of the packet, flip the card over and
face-up onto the deck. Name the card, look at the first spectator and
ask, "Was that yours?" When the card is claimed, use the aces to flip
it face-down; then push it once again to the right. Clip the card
between the first two fingers of the right hand, catching it at the inner

230

THE COLLECTED WORKS OF ALEX ELMSLEY

right corner, first finger above, second finger below. Then carry the
card away (Figure 248) and, with the left hand, set down the deck.
Take the packet into left-hand dealing position while retaining the
selection between the tips of the right fingers. Now shift your grip on
the selection by bending the right first and second fingers inward
until the tip of the right thumb can contact the back of the card, just
behind the first fingertip. Relax the forefinger as you press the thumb
downward, trapping the inner right corner of the card against the
second fingertip, and causing the outer end to tip upward until the
face of the card is exposed to the audience (Figure 249). This display
is brief. With the left thumb, pull down the outer left corner of the
bottom card of the packet and insert the selection face-down into the
break. Release the break and push the card flush.
Adjust the packet to left-hand pinch grip; that is, with the cards
held at their left side, thumb on top, fingertips beneath. Then count
thefivecards by drawing them one by one, with the right thumb, from
the top of the packet into the palm-up right hand. The style of
counting is that of the Stanyon, Jordan and Elmsley family of counts,
with the right hand taking the cards into dealing grip. This first count
is legitimate; all five cards are counted and their order is reversed.
The selection now lies second from the top.
Flip the packet face-up into the left hand and perform some
magical gesture, such as blowing on the cards or snapping them.
Then count the five cards as four, hiding the selection, in this
manner: Using the same counting style as above, hold the packet at
its left edge and draw the first two aces singly into the right hand.
As the right hand returns to take the third ace, push lightly with the
left thumb at the edge of the packet, moving the upper two cards
about half an inch to the right in close alignment. With the right
thumb, clip this double card onto the face of the right-hand pair,
injogging it about half an inch. Then count the last ace, taking it onto
the face of the right-hand packet, aligned with the first two aces.

TWISTED CLASSICS 231


Pause a moment. Then introduce the tip of the left forefinger under
the inner left corner of the injogged double card (Figure 250). Lift this
corner enough to allow you to grasp the double and the card above
it at the left edge. Then move the hands apart and, with the right
thumb, slide the right hand's top ace forward, forming a spread
resembling the configuration of the left hand's cards (Figure 251).
This convincingly shows the four aces a second time. "Just the aces
due to their repulsive natures, your card has decided to vanish."
Set the right hand's aces onto those in the left hand and flip the
packet face-down. The selection now lies on top of the packet. Square
the cards, adjust them once more into left-hand pinch grip, and false
count them a second time as four cards, again pushing over a double
card on the count of three and injogging it. "Only four cards." Transfer
the packet to left-hand dealing position and, as the right hand briefly
squares the cards from above, convert the injog into a break above
the bottom two cards (the selection and an ace).

Without relinquishing the right hand's hold on the packet, take it


from above by the ends. With the freed left hand, pick up the facedown deck. "I'll find the second card in the same way. All I have to
do is touch the face of the pack with the aces." Do so, in the same
innocent fashion exercised with the production of the first selection.
Then push the top card of the deck to the right and, using the edge
of the ace packet, flip the card face-up. Look at the second spectator
and ask if the card is his.
Flip the card face-down again, but as you do, perform Charlie
Miller's variant of the Merlin tip-over change to load the bottom pair
of cards from the packet onto the deck. That is, in the act of flipping
the second selection face-down, let the packet momentarily eclipse
the deck, and in that instant, release the two cards below the thumb's
break square onto the pack. Move the packet back to the right and
immediately push the top card of the deck rightward.

232

THE COLLECTED WORKS OF ALEX ELMSLEY

You are now holding three aces in the right hand. The sidejogged
card on the deck is the fourth ace, but is thought by the audience to
be the second selection. Clip the inner right corner of this card
between the first two fingers of the right hand, as you did with the
first selection (Figure 248 again). Set the deck down and slip the
jogged card into the packet, employing actions identical to those used
earlierwith one exception: you cannot flash the face of the card
before inserting it.
The packet contains only the four aces. You will now perform the
de la Mare false count. This count, invented by Eric de la Mare and
taught by him to Mr. Elmsley in the early 1950s, has to my knowledge
never been published. It is a variant of the Stanyon count. The
outward actions of the count are identical to those previously
explained. Hold the squared packet in left-hand pinch grip and draw
the top card into right-hand dealing grip, aligning the right fingertips at the left edge of the card. Return the right hand to the packet
and pull the second card onto the first. Simultaneously contract the
right fingers slightly, bowing the first card concavely along its length.
The warp of the card should be a mild one, and the left side of the
second card must rest on the right fingertips (Figure 252). It is best
to employ only the
_-_^-^^^^^^^^^-^^^^.
fourth fingertip to bow
the card. This reduces
any visible separation
at the front edges, and
permits the other fingers to clear the left
edge of the second
card when, in a moment, it is stolen back
beneath the packet.
As the right hand returns to the packet for the third card, the righthand pair naturally moves beneath the packet. This allows you to
push the left edge of the second card between the packet and the left
fingertips. With the right thumb, draw the third card from the packet
and onto the first card, leaving the second card on the face of the
packet. This action is simplified if, with the left thumb, you push the
third card about half an inch to the right before the right hand
reaches the packet.
Complete the count by taking the two left-hand cards one after the
other onto those in the right hand while counting, "four and five."
Turn the packet face-up and make another magical gesture to
indicate the vanish of the selection. Then count the four cards
honestly, using actions similar in appearance to those employed in
the previous counts. This displays the four aces. Emphasize the
vanish by dropping each ace onto the table to prove that no cards
are being hidden.

TWISTED CLASSICS

233

This is a pleasingly efficient sequence. Each vanish is accomplished by a different stratagem, and each has features that neatly
contradict the possibility of the other's use. Yet the actions remain
outwardly uniform.
The two vanished selections rest face-down on top of the deck and
can be reproduced in many ways. For instance, they can be brought
one at a time from the pocket, using the misdirection rear palm (pp.
128-129). To do this, the deck is picked up and placed face-down in
left-hand dealing position. In this action, a left fourth-finger break
is formed under the top two cards. The right hand now picks up the
four aces and inserts them as a block face-down into the front of the
deck. As the right hand then pushes the aces flush with the pack,
the two selections are rear palmed. The right hand, with fingers
relaxed and slightly spread, travels to the right coat or trousers pocket
and produces the cards, one after the other, from there.
This was how Mr. Elmsley ended the trick during the first few years
he performed it. However, in the late 1950s his thinking on the matter
changed and he instead combined "Repulsive Aces" with another
trick, "Double Finders", which will be described next.
Mr. Elmsley devised "Repulsive Aces" in the mid-1950s. When Lin
Searles released his "Cannibal Cards" in the early 1960s, a few
cardmen began to search for methods of approaching this effect while
avoiding the use of gaffed cards. Roy Walton recognized that
"Repulsive Aces" was ready-made for the task. All one had to do was
exchange the aces for ravenous kings, better suiting the cannibal
presentation. Over the years the Elmsley trick circulated among the
inner circles, most often related in the context of the Cannibal Cards
plot. In 1976, Karl Fulves, in a well-meaning gesture to establish
credit for Mr. Elmsley, published an inaccurate description then
current, in which the Elmsley count was employed for the first vanish,
and many handling details were lost. It seemingly escaped notice that
the Elmsley count was misapplied here, as all four aces were present
in the packet, and there was no need to display one twice while hiding
another. Indeed, in doing so the display was weakened. The original
Elmsley method explained above is clearly the more convincing of the
two. Over the years Mr. Elmsley's solution has served as the
foundation for many of the modern approaches to the Cannibal Cards
plot. It is only right then that the correct handling should finally be
made available. It should be noted also that the earlier Elmsley
premise of repulsive cards holds a novelty and a humorous charm
that have gone little known and unappreciated for far too long.

DOUBLE FINDERS
Effect: The aces are removed from the deck and set aside. Two
cards are freely selected, noted and shuffled back into the pack. One
spectator cuts the deck into four face-down piles, then drops one ace
face-up onto each. The performer assembles the piles, burying the
face-up aces in the process. He then makes a magical gesture over
the pack and ribbon spreads the cards. The aces are seen to have
gathered in pairstwo in the upper half, two in the lowerand one
face-down card has been trapped between each pair. The sandwiched
cards prove to be the two selections.
Method: Remove the aces from the pack and lay them to one side.
Now have two cards selected. Ask that the two cards be remembered,
then have them returned to the deck. Secretly control one of the
selections to the top of the pack and the other to the bottom. (If you
are seguing this trick with "Repulsive Aces", as Mr. Elmsley does, you
are very nearly in the required position at the finish of that effect:
the aces are on the table and the two vanished selections, unknown
to the audience, lie atop the pack. If one of the selections is shuffled
or double cut to the bottom, you are ready to produce them.)
Set the deck face-down before one of the spectators and have it
cut into four fairly even piles. As the cutting is done, secretly note
the positions of the top and bottom packets.
Have the second spectator drop an ace face-up onto each packet,
in any order he wishes. Stress that the cutting of the cards and the
order of the aces has been completely beyond your control.
Now pick up the original top quarter of the pack and procure a
break below the second card from the top (a selection). With a double
undercut, transfer the top two cards to the bottom of the packet. Then
drop this packet onto either of the two center piles. If one of these
two piles is topped with an ace of matching color to that in the top
packet, use it. (This is not crucial to the effect, but it provides a more
aesthetically pleasing final display.)
Next pick up the original bottom quarter of the pack and perform
a double undercut, transferring the bottom card of the packet to the
top. Drop this packet onto the two portions already combined.

TWISTED CLASSICS

235

Pick up the fourth pile and double cut the ace from the top to the
bottom. Then drop this packet onto the rest.
Your goal has been accomplished: the aces lie in pairs with a facedown selection sandwiched between each (see Figure 253). Make a
^_^__^^^_^__^^^^^__^
magical gesture, then ribbon
spread the pack to reveal the
253
double location. If you have
face-up ace
been able to match the colors of
selection
the aces while assembling the
face-up ace
first two piles, the red aces will
have trapped one card, and the
black
aces the other.
face-up ace
The trick is a simple one, but
selection
face-up ace
it has an astounding impact on
an audience, as a few performances will quickly prove.

APPRENTICE ACES
Effect: The performer shuffles the pack, then expertly cuts two
aces from it. At this point he offers to teach the secret of this feat to
a spectator. The spectator cuts the deck, then names an ace. The card
cut to is turned up: it is the ace he specified.
The spectator now mixes the deck, spreads it face-down before
himself and pushes out a card. This random card turns out to be the
fourth and final ace.
Method: Secretly cull the four aces to the top of the pack. Give
the cards several convincing false shuffles, retaining the aces on top.
Produce the first ace; then cut and produce the second. With so many
false cuts, ace productions and card revelations to choose from in
the literature, if the reader does not already have several favorites,
there should be no problem in choosing a few. Therefore, descriptions
of these first two productions will be omitted. As you reveal each ace,
lay it face-up to your right on the table.
Two aces remain on top of the pack. Select some agreeable spectator and say to him, "Would you like to try?" The question should
evoke a good-humored response. "It's not as hard as it looks really."
Give the deck a quick shuffle, retaining the two aces on top. Then
set it in front of him. Ask that he cut the pack into two piles. You
now perform the cross-the-cut force:
Pick up the bottom half and set it crosswise onto the top half. "We'll
mark the spot where you cut for a moment. Before we see how you've
done, I want to know, do you think you've cut to an ace?" Let him
answer and respond to this accordingly. Then, "Assuming the best,
if you have cut to an ace, which one did you find? The ace of clubs
and ace of hearts are here, so it can't be one of those." As you name
each of the face-up aces on the table, turn it face-down, placing the
second ace onto the first. This interval of by-play provides enough
time misdirection to assure the success of the force. Lift the crossed
upper half of the deck away and place it aside. Take the lower half
(the original top portion) into left-hand dealing position and obtain
a break under the top two cards. "Which do you think you've cut to
then, the spade or the diamond?"

TWISTED CLASSICS

237

When the spectator names his choice, execute a double lift and
show an ace. If it is the ace named, make the most of it. If not, shrug
and say something along the lines of "Well, it is your first time. I'll
give you another chance."
Drop the double card neatly and face-down onto the previous two
aces on the table. Then reassemble the deck and hand it to the
spectator. "Give the cards a shuffle." When he has done that, have
him spread the deck face-down on the table and push forward any
card he likes. Before he can turn it up, remove this card from the
spread and drop it face-down onto the ace pile. Then pick up the pile,
turn it face-up and spread it as four aces, keeping the last two cards
squared as one. Thus the trick is brought to a successful conclusion.
Mr. Elmsley deems this piece one of his minor efforts; yet, to my
mind, it is an impressive and entertaining turn, thanks in part to the
generous success granted the spectator by the performer. Of course,
the trick lends itself to technical variation. For instance, other forcing
methods can be substituted. The Christ-Balducci cut-deeper force
comes immediately to mind as a possibility.
With just a small change in procedure, one can also assure that
the spectator correctly names the ace every time. To do this you must
note the suits of the third and fourth aces and their order when you
cull them at the start. Then, when it comes time to show the ace the
spectator seemingly cut to, ask him to name it. If he names the ace
second from the top of the packet, execute a double lift and continue
as explained above. If, however, he names the top ace, do not release
your break, but push over only the top card and flip it face-up on
the packet. While the audience reacts to the spectator's success, lift
the back-to-back double from the packet and drop it onto the pair
of face-down aces on the table. Hand the balance of the pack to the
spectator to shuffle. While he does this, casually square the ace pile
as it lies on the table, pick the face-up ace from the top, turn it facedown and slip it beneath the others. This positions the fourth ace
correctly for the final revelation, as already described.
In the next trick, the spectator mysteriously locates not two, but
all four aces in a shuffled deck.
[October 2, 1965]

PICK OF THE LITTER


Effect: The deck is shuffled, then slowly spread through with the
cards face-down. As the performer runs the deck from hand to hand,
spectators are invited to touch cards along the way. Each card indicated is outjogged widely from the deck.
When four cards have been chosen, they are stripped from the
pack with the utmost fairness and turned face-up, only to find that
the spectators have somehow unerringly located the four aces.
Method: The plot is classic, but Mr. Elmsley's method allows an
outward fairness in the handling of the cards that is totally disarming.
Of course the spectators' real choices must be switched for the aces,
but the actions employed are so slow and open, there seems no
chance for deception. The inspiration for the switch was one by
Audley Walsh (ref. "The Audley Walsh Coincidence", The Jinx, No. 21,
June 1936, p. 122). Mr. Walsh's sleight was a somewhat awkward
variant of Dai Vernon's strip-out addition, which had been published
four years previously. The strip-out addition was designed for a
natural, casual handling, typical of Mr. Vernon's style. Taking the
Walsh variant as a starting point, Mr. Elmsley developed an addition
technique designed to be performed with all attention focused on it.
There is an almost overly scrupulous fairness to the actions.
Before you begin the trick, the aces must be stacked, three on the
face of the pack and one on top. Give the deck a casual shuffle or
two, retaining the three bottom aces in place while setting six cards
over the top ace. This is easily accomplished with either riffle or
overhand shuffle techniques. The uppermost ace now lies seventh
from the top of the pack.
Take the deck face-down into left-hand dealing position and begin
to spread the cards slowly into the right hand. As you do so, approach
someone and say, "I want three of you to join me in choosing some
cards. Let's see...I'll have this one." Here you casually nominate the
ace seventh from the top, outjogging it for approximately half its
length.
Continue to spread through the deck as you say, "Now you touch
one a little farther down." Have the spectator touch a card. Outjog

TWISTED CLASSICS

239

this card as you did the first. Proceed to have two more cards touched
by a second and a third spectator. As each card is touched, outjog it
about a quarter of an inch farther than the previous one, forming the
four cards into a stepped arrangement.
After you have moved the fourth card forward, continue to spread
through the few remaining cards of the pack and catch a left fourthfinger break above the bottom three (the aces). To provide motivation
for this action comment, "Now, you could have touched any of these."
Square the spread back into the left hand and, with the palm-down
right hand, grasp the deck by its sides at the inner end. As you take
this grip, push with the tip of the left fourth finger on the block of
aces, jogging them diagonally at the inner left corner (Figure 254).
Immediately press down with the right thumbtip on this jog and form
a thumb break above the aces as you take the deck from the left hand
and swing the outer end leftward. The break is completely invisible
from the front edge of the pack and from the two ends, thanks to the
outjogged cards and the position of the right hand.
You continue, "But you picked this card..." Bring the palm-up left
hand under the cards projecting from the left end of the pack and
neatly strip out the lowermost of the four (Figure 255). Once it is free
of the deck, let it drop onto the left palm.
"...and this card..." Strip out the next card in line and let it fall
onto the first, "...and this card..." Repeat these actions, taking the
third outjogged card into the left hand, "...and this card." As your left
hand moves to take the fourth card, that nearest the top of the pack,
the three-card packet on the left palm comes naturally beneath the

240

THE COLLECTED WORKS OF ALEX ELMSLEY

deck (Figure 256). When this


happens, neatly release the
aces from the right thumb
and let them fall squarely
onto the packet. Then, without hesitation, strip away
the last jogged card and let it
drop onto the packet. Immediately press the left thumb
down onto the near left
corner of the packet, levering
the right end of the cards
upward and away from the
palm. Then cleanly slip the
deck squarely under the
packet at its raised end.
The switch is accomplished. It only remains to deal the top four
cards, with as much drama as you can muster, into a face-up row.
With just a little extra work, all four cards can be chosen by
spectators. To do so, you must force the first card. The forcing
technique used here is similar to those exploited in the psychological
stop trick and the classic fan force. Timing and attitude are
everything, and only practice can teach them. However, the skill is
not so difficult to master as might first be thought. As you begin to
thumb over the cards, approach the first spectator and say, "Please
touch a card, something near the top." By the time you finish this
request, you should be pushing over the fifth card. The wording
encourages the spectator not to delay and, if your timing and delivery
are correct, his finger will land on the seventh card, the ace. "This
one? All right."
Should you miss the force the trick can still be successfully
completed. Outjog the card touched by the spectator, and another
two cards selected by others. Square the pack back into the left hand
and say, "Now I'm going to try to find a card that will match at least
one of your cards. It may match more than one, but the chances are
against it." Outjog the ace seventh from the top and complete the
effect, revealing the four aces.
The entire sequence of stripping the cards from the pack should
be done with a slow deliberate fairness. The addition of the aces is
indetectable and does not require speed to cover it. Notice that, unlike
the Vernon and Walsh additions, the stripped-out cards are placed
on top of the pack rather than under it, giving a more open appearance to the maneuver. This excellent sleight can be put to other uses
as well. As an example, it can be employed in the opening sequence
of an ace assembly. Turn the deck face up and spread through it,
slightly injogging the third card from the face. Continue through the
deck, outjogging the aces as you come to them. Let the audience see

TWISTED CLASSICS

241

the aces as you cull them. Then close the spread into the left hand
and flip the deck sidewise and face-down. With the palm-down right
hand, grasp the pack by its sides near the inner end, and with the
right thumb, push down and in on the injogged card, forming a break
above the bottom three indifferent cards. Then perform the Elmsley
strip-out addition, as explained above. When the left hand's packet
is placed on top of the deck, the audience believes it to be the four
aces; but in actuality the cards read ace, X, X, X, ace, ace, ace, from
the top down: the typical setup required for most ace assemblies.
Other sequences can of course be constructed.
In Volume II of this work, a trick titled "Half Way to Heaven" will
be taught. This is a minimalist Out-of-This-World effect, accomplished through the use of Mr. Elmsley's strip-out addition. With a
little thought, other uses for this excellent addition sequence can be
found.

THE FOUR BLANKS


Effect: Four playing cards are shown to be blank; that is, backs
but no faces. Then faces suddenly appear on the cards: aces. Only
the packet of cards is usedthe deck is not involvedthere are no
gimmicked cards (granting that a blank-faced card, though unusual,
is not a gimmick) and the cards are examinable at the finish.
Method: Mr. Elmsley's inspiration here was Ralph W. Hull's
Mental Photography or Nudist Deck, though the idea of changing a
packet to blanks or, vice versa, blanks to printed cards dates back
at least to the 1500s (ref. Rid's The Art o/Jugling or Legerdemaine,
1612).
The present method relies on a clever false display of one card as
four. The packet consists of five cards, the four aces and one blankfaced card. These are represented as four blanks. The blank-faced
card is shown four times, then palmed from the packet. Now that the
bones of the method have been exposed, let's flesh them with the
necessary details.
Mr. Elmsley employs an original and ingenious sequence to create
the illusion of having four blank cards. This sequence relies, at one
point, on a double deal. The double deal (a sleight associated with
Jack Merlin) is generally viewed by magicians as a formidable
maneuver. However, as has been pointed out from its earliest
descriptions, it is not that difficult if done from a small packet. When
done with a packet of five cards, it comes into the grasp of the average
card handler.
The double deal is well described in Expert Card Technique (pp.
27-30). However, because it is intrinsic to the Elmsley false display,
and because Mr. Elmsley has several points of handling to add to its
execution, as it applies to this trick, it will be explained below.
Hold the packet face-down in left-hand mechanic's grip, with the
inner left corner pressed firmly into the crux of the palm (i.e., at the
juncture of the thenar and the heel of the palm). With the left thumb,
swing the outer end of the top card about half an inch to the right,
using the left inner corner as a pivot point (Figure 257).
Bring the right hand to the packet, to take the top card. Place the
right thumb on the outer right corner of the card (covering about a

TWISTED CLASSICS

243

third of an inch) and extend the right second finger until its tip
contacts the outer right corner of the bottom card of the packet. The
right forefinger remains straightened in front of this corner, shielding
the second finger's position from the audience's sight (Figure 258).
With the right second finger, pull the bottom card to the right, until
it is aligned with the top card. Again, use the inner left corner of the
card as a pivot point. If the cards are sticky, push inward first with
the right second fingertip, buckling the card slightly and breaking it
free, before swiveling it into position (Figure 259, an exposed view).
Use the tips of the right third and fourth fingers, and the tip of
the right thumb as guides to square the angled pair as the bottom
card is pulled into position. Then pinch the outer right corners of both
cards between the right thumb and second finger, and pull the pair
straight to the right. As you do this, draw the outer ends of the two
cards gently along the tip of the left forefinger, further aligning them
(Figure 260).
The moment the two cards clear the packet, turn the right hand
palm-outward at the wrist, revolving the double card end over end
and face-up. In the same action, move the double back and over the
packet, and leave the pair gripped, approximately half an inch above
the packet, at the tips of the left fingers. The left thumb lies along

244

THE COLLECTED WORKS OF ALEX ELMSLEY

the left side of the double, the second, third and fourth fingers are
at the right side, and the forefinger at the outer end (Figure 261). By
framing the double card in this manner, the fingers assure that it is
perfectly squared.
This, then, is the double deal as it is executed for the false display
sequence. Some may prefer to use an Erdnase-style bottom deal to
maneuver the lower card into position. For this technique the packet
is held with the tip of the left second finger at the outer right corner
(Figure 262). This finger presses the inner left corner of the packet
firmly into the palm, thus creating a firm diagonal grip on the packet,
which leaves the other fingers free to move. When the left thumb has
swiveled the top card over, as previously described, the tip of the left
third finger contacts the face of the bottom card, pulls inward on it,
causing it to buckle away from the packet, and the outer right corner
to clear the second fingertip (Figure 263). The third finger then
straightens to the right, swiveling the bottom card into alignment with
the top card. The minor changes in finger pressures necessary to
square the double card as it is drawn from the packet will be readily
understood by those who adopt this technique.
If you employ the details of handling given above, you will find the
double deal far less difficult than is commonly assumed. With the
double deal action understood, let's proceed to the trick itself.
As stated above, you need one blank-faced card, the back of which
matches the deck you are using. Either have this card in the deck
or secretly add it before you introduce the trick. When ready to
perform the effect, run through ^
^
the pack, faces toward yourself, and cull the blank card to
the face, with the four aces
behind it. Remove these five
cards, without revealing their
number, and discard the deck
in the right jacket or trousers
pocket. As you do this, allow
the blank face of the packet to
be seen. (If you think it a bit

TWISTED CLASSICS

245

odd to suggest that you have four blank-faced cards in your deck,
carry the packet separately in your pocket.)
Hold the packet face-down in left-hand dealing position and count
the cards as four into the right hand, reversing their order and
keeping the last two squared as one. The order of the packet from
top to face is now: ace, blank, ace, ace, ace.
Square the packet back into the left hand, catching a left fourthfinger break below the top two cards in preparation for a block pushoff. Say, 'These four cards are very special. I want you to memorize
them."
With your left thumb at the outer left corner of the packet, push
the top two cards as one to the right, imitating the action used for
the double deal. With the right hand, grasp the double card at its
outer right cornerthumb on top, second finger beneathand turn
it end over end, face-up. Take it at the left fingertips, holding it about
half an inch above the packet (Figure 261).
Pause briefly to let the blank card be clearly seen. Then grasp the
double card by its far end and turn it, end over end, face-down onto
the packet. With the right hand, point to someone and say, "I want
you to be responsible for remembering the first card." Immediately
thumb over the top card, take it in the right hand and, without
exposing its face, slip it under the packet.
Using actions consistent in appearance with the previous ones,
turn the top card end over end and face-up above the packet. Let
everyone see the blank face. Then turn the card face-down on the
packet. Point to a second person and say, "You are responsible for
remembering the second card." Push the card to the right and slip it
to the bottom.
Now execute a double deal, as taught above. If you require a
moment to prepare for the sleight, this can be gained by saying, "Do
you remember the order of the cards so far?" The question should
bring at least a strained smile, but does its job in providing you with
the brief misdirection you need.
After showing the face of the freshly dealt double card, turn the
double face-down on the packet and ask a third person to remember
it. Transfer the top card to the bottom.
Turn up the top card in a manner consistent with the previous
actions, and display the blank card a fourth time. Turn the card facedown as you indicate a fourth spectator. "You must remember the
fourth card." Move the top card of the packet to the bottom. (N.b.,
requesting the four spectators to remember the cards is more than
just a bit of by-play. It gives a plausible motivation for the manner
in which you display the four cards.)
Now bring the palm-down right hand over the packet and square
the cards. In the process, side slip the bottom card, the blank, into
your right hand. If the performing circumstances are correct, Mr.

246

THE COLLECTED WORKS OF ALEX ELMSLEY

Elmsley prefers to use a rear palm here (see pp. 124-128). Take the
balance of the packet from the left hand and, with the right fingertips, spread it face-down on the table.
"Are you certain you remember the names of these four cards?"
The answer to this is not important. With your right hand, reach into
your pocket, drop off the palmed blank card and remove the deck.
Riffle it at the four cards on the table, as a magical gesture, and ask
someone to turn them up. Your efforts should here be rewarded by
your audience's reaction of surprise at the appearance of the aces.
It was a performance of this trick years ago that won Mr. Elmsley
his most treasured compliment. David Solomon had come to London
and turned up one afternoon at the old Unique Club. When Mr.
Elmsley performed "The Four Blanks" for him, Mr. Solomon
commented, "You have such innocent hands."
April 1956

FIVE-CARD SAM
Effect: This is a humorous and highly entertaining presentation
of the Tommy Tucker trick, Six-card Repeat. When Mr. Elmsley
devised it in the early 1950s, Six-card Repeat was acquiring among
magicians a well-deserved reputation of being hackneyed. As is the
fate of so many outstanding tricks, particularly those that are not
difficult to perform, every magician wanted to do it, and most did.
The only thing wrong with Six-card Repeat was that it suffered from
overexposure. This was gravely exacerbated by the average magician's
unwillingness to contrive a presentation different from the one
everybody else was using, and has used for years.
Mr. Elmsley had the wisdom to break from the herd. He clearly
recognized the strength of the effect, and the crippling hindrance of
its overly familiar presentation. So he adopted a comedy poker theme
for the trickan idea first suggested by P. W. Miller (ref. More Card
Manipulations, No. 2, pp. 33-34)and developed "The Story of Steamboat Sam". This course lent a fresh appeal to the piece, provided
several visual gags and concluded with a good punch-line.
The patter form he chose was verse (influenced perhaps by Elmer
Applegit's "Silas and the Slickers", ibid., pp. 26-29). I am myself no
ardent lover of rhyming patter, after having seen so many egregious
examples; and I believe this lack of enthusiasm is shared by most
American performers. Rhyming patter is more readily welcomed in
the United Kingdom, where there is a long tradition of comic recitations in rhyme. The form was common in the old music halls and
cabarets. Nevertheless, rhyming patter for magicians is almost
invariably an exercise in ruptured meter, nursery-rhyme patterns and
abysmally trite content. While neither Mr. Elmsley nor I would hold
his work here as an exemplar of fine poetry, it does rise above the
level of saccharine corn that is usually offered by magicians. Properly
delivered, it is thoroughly entertaining; and Mr. Elmsley points out,
it did prevent him from chattering too much.
The effect is one of cards comically multiplying, as is expected of
Six-Card Repeat. Five cards are used instead of six, to suit the poker
theme, and the cards all turn to aces at the finish. Given this
information, the action should be easily followed from the story,

248

THE COLLECTED WORKS OF ALEX ELMSLEY

which is delivered to the rhythm of Robert W. Service's 'The


Cremation of Sam McGee".
This is the story of Steamboat Sam,
The ace Mississippi gambling man.
He makes his cash while other folk 're
Losing theirs, by playing poker.
He'd cut the cards when going to play
And shuffle the pack 'most every way.
He'd make them fly for yards and yards
And shuffle the spots right off the cards.
And in case he found a better player
He always kept a few cards spare.
One night, when playing for lots of dough,
He cut the cards and shuffledso!
It was in a very low-down dive,
And his hand was one-two-three-four-five.
He was playing a very suspicious guy
For stakes that were extremely high.
But when this guy took a swig of beer
Sam took two cards and hid them here.
But the other feller saw this move,
Drew a razor and said, "I disapprove."
Said Sam, in order to stay alive,
"I've still got one-two-three-four-five."
Who now could win no one could say
So Sam took two more cards away.
The other guy, seeing the move again,
Politely asked Sam to explain.
Said Sam, in order to stay alive,
"I've still got one-two-three-four-five."
But now the stakes began to rocket
And two more cards went to Sam's pocket.
The other guy, now getting mad,
Asked Sam how many cards he had.
Said Sam, in order to stay alive,
"I've still got one-two-three-four-five."
The end of the game was now in sight,
And the other guy said, most polite:
"You double-crosser, though you've cheated,
I've got four acescan you beat it?"
Said Sam, as he ran from that low-down dive,
"I canI've one-two-three-four-five!"

TWISTED CLASSICS

249

Method: When you begin, you hold the deck in your hands. On
top of the deck is one blank-faced card.
Also needed is a packet of twelve extra cards. Five of these are aces,
which are positioned second, third, fifth, sixth and ninth from the
top. The card on the face of the packet is trimmed short. This packet
is kept in a pocket or a clip under the coat, where it can be quickly
and effortlessly procured.
The actions will be described as they are timed to the story:
This is the story of Steamboat Sam,
The ace Mississippi gambling man.
He makes his cash while other folk 're
Losing theirs, by playing poker.
Nothing is done during these opening couplets. The hands and
deck remain at rest.
He'd cut the cards when going to play
Perform a one-handed or flourish cut, retaining the blank card on
top. Or, if you prefer, make the blank a short card which you can
quickly locate and cut to the top after the shuffle that follows.
And shuffle the pack 'most every way.
Perform a flourish shuffle. The blank should be brought to the top
now, if it isn't already there.
He'd make them fly for yards and yards
Either spring the cards from hand to hand in the traditional
fashion, or take a card (not the blank one) and scale it into the air,
making it boomerang back to you.
And shuffle the spots right off the cards.
Turn the face of the pack toward the audience and perform a color
change, bringing the blank card into view and apparently making the
spots disappear from the bottom card. Then form a reverse fan to
show the spots are gone from all the cards. Close the fan, turn the
deck face-down, side steal the blank card and replace it on top of the
pack. Then fan the cards normally and show that the faces have
returned.
And in case he found a better player
With the right hand palm some cards from the pack...
He always kept a few cards spare.
...and produce them in a fan from the left elbow. Replace these on
the deck, but immediately palm them off again and produce them
from behind your right knee. Again replace the cards on the deck and

250

THE COLLECTED WORKS OF ALEX ELMSLEY

produce the twelve extra cards from wherever they are hidden. Place
these face-down on the deck as well.
One night, when playing for lots of dough,
He cut the cards and shuffledso!
Perform a false cut that would alarm the most innocent card player
with its artifice, and follow it with an equally blatant false shuffle.
Here you are clearly illustrating Sam's crookedness.
It was in a very low-down dive,
With your right thumb, riffle up the inner end of the deck to the
short card and lift off the eleven cards above it. This leaves the short
card of the packet behind. This card has served it purpose. Mr.
Elmsley adds it with the packet, reasoning that this is more
economical in action than cutting a short card to the top of the pack
before the extra packet is added to it. However, if you have decided
to use a short blank card, the second short card can be eliminated,
and the total packet reduced to eleven cards.
Set the deck aside and transfer the packet to the left hand. Hold
the packet before you, at chest level, with the backs of the cards
toward the audience. Though the face of the packet can be displayed
at several times during the trick, all counts are done with the backs
of the cards visible. In this way the aces are not seen by the audience
until the climax.
And his hand was one-two-three four-five.
In time to the words, false count the packet as five cards. That is,
execute either a buckle count or a block push-off on the count of four.
As the cards are counted from the left hand to the right, they are
fanned and their order is reversed. That is, the second card is taken
onto the face of the first, the third card onto the face of the second,
the block onto the face of the third, and the last card onto the face
of the block.
He was playing a very suspicious guy
For stakes that were extremely high.
But when this guy took a swig of beer
Sam took two cards and hid them here.
Square the fanned packet into the left hand and cleanly remove
two cards from its face. Display these, faces and backs, and drop
them into your pocket. The face of the packet can be shown at this
time, as an indifferent card is resting there.
But the otherfeller saw this move,
Drew a razor and said, "I disapprove."

TWISTED CLASSICS

251

Note the comical contrast between the "feller's" action and his
words, "I disapprove." The slightly upper-class tone of his declaration
is incongruous with the overall picture painted of an underworld
poker game; and if the line is delivered in a cultured manner, it should
bring a laugh.
Said Sam, in order to stay alive,
"I've still got one-two-three-four-five."
False count the packet as five cards, in the same fashion previously used.
Who now could win no one could say
So Sam took two more cards away.
Close the fan back into the left hand and remove two cards from
the face of the packet. Display them as before and drop them into
your pocket. From this point on the face of the packet cannot be
shown, or an ace will be exposed.
The other guy, seeing the move again,
Politely asked Sam to explain.
For this rhyme to work, "again" must be given the British
pronunciationagayne.
Said Sam, in order to stay alive,
"I've still got one-two-three-jour-five."
False count the packet a third time, showing five cards.
But now the stakes began to rocket
And two more cards went to Sam's pocket.
Square the fan into the left hand and remove another two cards.
Again show them fronts and backs, then pocket them.
The other guy, now getting mad,
Asked Sam how many cards he had.
Said Sam, in order to stay alive,
"I've still got one-two-three-jour-Jive."
The count this time is legitimate; but of course the actions should
be kept consistent with those of the previous counts.
The end of the game was now in sight,
And the other guy said, most polite:
"You double-crosser, though you've cheated,
I've got four acescan you beat it?"
Again, contradictory words are used for comic effect. The words
of Sam's opponent fall something short of polite. The fan is squared
into the left hand, ready for the final display.

252

THE COLLECTED WORKS OF ALEX ELMSLEY

Said Sam, as he ran from that low-down dive,


"I canI've one-two-three four-Jive!"
In time to this last line, take each of the cards one by one into the
right hand, turn its face toward the audience, revealing an ace, and
toss it to the table. The line, timed to the appearance of the five aces,
concludes the trick with a surprise and a strong punch-line.
This presentation is pure entertainment, from beginning to end.
It is also a fine example of how a creative mind can make something
good and original from the most weathered material.
June 14, 1952

BARE-ACED HOFZINSER.
Effect: The four aces are openly removed from the deck and given
to a spectator. A card is selected and returned to the pack, where it
is lost. The performer announces that the aces will aid him in divining
the identity of the chosen card. One by one he takes the aces from
the spectator, until only one remains. The suit of each ace taken is
eliminated as a possibility. The spectator admits that the suit of the
ace she holds indeed matches the suit of her card. Even more
astonishing yet, when this ace is turned up, it is found to have
changed into the selection. This is especially perplexing, since the
aces were in her possession from the start.
Method: On an autumn afternoon in 1965, Mr. Elmsley met, as
he was accustomed to on Saturdays, with Jack Avis, Ron Wilson and
several other magician friends. They gathered once each week to talk
about magic and knock around ideas. On that particular Saturday,
Jack Avis showed the group a solution that he had recently worked
out for the Hofzinser ace problem. After the session, the men separated until the following Saturday. When they again met, Mr. Elmsley
demonstrated an attractively simplified treatment of the Hofzinser
plot that he had devised during the interim. While it ignored several
of the elements in the Hofzinser premise, and many of the restrictions,
it was a strong and straightforward piece of magic, perfectly designed
to impress a lay audience. In its construction he had combined plot
elements from his "Between Your Palms" (see Vol. II) with Bert
Douglas' "Ghost Card Trick" (ref. Linking Ring, Vol. 8, No. 9, Nov.
1928, pp. 723-725). The effect was presented in a spectator's hands,
one of the best stages one could desire. The method follows:
Begin by upjogging the aces from the pack as you run through it,
faces toward yourself. While you do this, note the suit of the card on
the face of the deck. Strip the aces from the pack, positioning the ace
of matching suit at the top of the packet. Also note the suit of the
ace on the face of the packet.
Briefly display the four aces face-up, then square them and place
the packet face-down on the spectator's extended palm. Have her
cover the aces with her other hand to protect them from tampering.

2 5 4 THE COLLECTED WORKS OF ALEX ELMSLEY


You now must force the bottom card of the pack on her (that card
the suit of which you previously noted). The Hindu shuffle force can
be used here, or the under-the-fan force (ref. Ganson's More Inner
Secrets of Card Magic, pp. 73-74). Either is perfectly suited to the
circumstances. In the former, the spectator need only call stop during
the shuffle to choose a card; and in the latter she only touchs a card,
which she can do while maintaining her guard over the aces.
Display the selection to everyone, then apparently lose it in the
pack. In reality you control it to the top. Then, as you settle the deck
into left-hand dealing grip, form a fourth-finger break beneath the
top card.
Explain that you will determine the identity of her selection
through the aid of the aces she holds. First, you will divine the suit.
Have her loosen her grip on the aces enough for you to slip the top
card from the packet. "Each ace I remove will eliminate one of the
suits. For instance, this is the ace of clubs. Therefore, your card was
not a club. Correct?" Here, you glance at the face of the ace you hold,
but do not expose it to the audience. Miscall the suit, naming the one
you know to be on the bottom of the packet. Then lay the ace facedown and square on top of the deck.
Reach between the spectator's fingers and slip out the next ace
from the top of the packet. "Nor was your card a spade. Right?"
Correctly name the suit of the second ace. This time allow a casual
fleeting glimpse of its face. Lay the card face-down and square onto
the deck.
Remove the top card of the two left the spectator, name its suit
and permit a glimpse of its face before you place it onto the deck. "And
this ace tells me your card wasn't a diamond either. Right?" Immediately lift off the four cards above the break and set the deck aside.
The selection is the bottom card of this packet.
"We have eliminated three of the suits. The one ace left is the ace
of hearts. This tells me that your card must be a heart. That is right,
isn't it? Good. You can relax now." When she lifts her hand, casually drop your packet onto the ace she holds (believed to be the ace
of hearts, in our example, but actually the ace clubs) and pick up
all the cards.
"Now the aces will tell me the value of your card. The ace of hearts,
the soul-mate to your selection, will do that." Execute a glide and
remove the card second from the bottom of the packet (the selection).
Deposit it on the spectator's palm.
'The other three aces have done their job, so they can retire." Turn
the packet face-up and, while holding the cards by their ends in the
right hand, nonchalantly backspread the lower two aces with the left
fingers (Figure 264), displaying three aces in all. The fourth ace, the
ace of hearts, remains square and hidden behind the uppermost ace.
Square the spread and drop the packet face-down onto the deck.

TWISTED CLASSICS

255

Take a little peek at the


card lying on the spectator's
hand. "Your card was a
heartand a six. Is that
right? Do you know how the
ace tells me what card you
chose? It does it by changing
into your card!" Snap your
fingers over the card on her
hand, then turn it up and let
the audience respond to this
unexpected transformation.
Of course, the selection can be signed on the face by the spectator
if desired, to eliminate thoughts of duplicates. However, with most
audiences, experience has shown this to be an unnecessary
encumbrance. The trick can also be performed with a borrowed deck,
thus neatly skirting the issue.
[October 2, 1965]

A MINOR TRIUMPH
Effect: Ten random cards are removed from the deck and one is
chosen by a spectator. The card is noted by him and returned to the
packet. The packet is given a quick mix, after which the cards are
clearly alternated face-up and face-down.
The performer then gives the packet a long hard stare and begins
to look slightly concerned. "I'm sorry," he says. "Something seems
to have gone wrong. These cards are a bit sticky. Do you mind if we
start again?" Presuming the audience is a tolerant and sympathetic
one, they acquiesce.
"I'll tell you what I'll do. I'll try to make you take the very same card
again. Would you like one of the face-up cards, or one of the facedown ones?" The spectator states his preference. Let's assume he
specifies face-up cards.
"Very well. Take any face-up card and that card will infallibly be
the card you chose earlier. What was the card you chose?" When the
spectator names his card, the packet is spread and held out toward
himand all the cards are seen to have turned magically face-down
but one: his.
Method: The Self-righting Cards plot dates back at least to 1919
and Charles Jordan. Many solutions, using either a full deck or a
packet, have been devised over the years. In 1951, Bill Simon
published a fine ten-card method, based on Elmer Biddle's popular
steal (ref. Phoenix, No. 224, pp. 894 and 896). In the explanation of
the Simon trick, it was mentioned that, with a little thought, the same
method could be adapted to segregate red and black cards secretly,
or to produce a selection from the righted packet (an embellishment
popularized by Dai Vernon with his 'Triumph" effect).
In "A Minor Triumph", Mr. Elmsley acted on this suggestion and
developed a nicely streamlined handling of the Simon trick, one that
capitalizes on the amusing presentation quoted above.
Begin by counting any ten cards from the deck. Fan the packet
face-down and ask that someone take any card he wishes. Have him
remember it and return it to the fan. As he replaces his card, secretly
note its position from the top.

TWISTED CLASSICS

257

Close the fan and give the cards a brief shuffle, first running single
cards until you reach the selection. Pick up the run cards under the
packet and continue to shuffle, first pulling off the selection, then
shuffling off cards onto it. This brings the selection to the bottom.
You will now apparently alternate the cards, face-up and facedown. The illusion is wholly convincing; yet in the end only the
selection will lie face-up in the packet. This is accomplished through
a clever application of the Kardyro-Biddle steal:
With the palm-down right hand, grasp the face-down packet from
above by its ends, with the fingers lined up on the far end and the
thumb at the inner right corner. With the left thumb, draw the top
card off the packet and onto the left palm (Figure 265). Smoothly turn
the left hand palm-down and, with the tips of the left fingers, pull
the next card from the packet, taking it beneath the first card (Figure
266). Press the left fingertips against the back of the second card,
creating a break between the two as the left thumb draws the card
square with that above it.
Turn the left hand palm-up again and return to the packet for the
third card. However, in the act of drawing off the third card, as you
move the left hand's pair under the right hand's packet, steal back
the face-up card under the packet.
Pull the third card square onto the one remaining left-hand card
and immediately turn the left hand palm-down again. Take the fourth
card under the left hand's packet, just as you did the second, and
catch a break as before. Then, when you turn the left hand palm-up
and take the fifth card, steal the fourth card back beneath the packet.
Repeat this take and steal sequence twice more, at which time you
will have apparently alternated nine cards in the left hand. In the right
hand you hold a block of five cards: one face-down over four faceup. Turn the left hand palm-down to claim the tenth card, and take
the entire block as one card under the packet.
Turn the left hand palm-up again, but keep the front end tilted
slightly upward, obscuring the top of the packet from the audience.
This is done to conceal a discrepancy, as the top card is face-down,

258 THE COLLECTED WORKS OF ALEX ELMSLEY


while logically it should lie face-up. It is quite likely this would go
unnoticed; however, by delaying the exposure of the top of the packet
a few seconds, the discrepancy is safely diffused.
The trick is done. All the cards are face-down but for the selection, which lies face-up fifth from the top. It remains only to reveal
this in the playful manner explained under the effect description. If,
by the way, the spectator elects to choose a face-down card, simply
turn the whole packet over before fanning it. His card then becomes
the only face-down card in a face-up packet.
April 1956

ALL BACKS WITH ACES


Effect: The performer introduces a pack of cards and a story. It
seems he lent this pack to a fellow magician, and when it was
returned something curious had happened to it: there were no longer
any faces on the cardsonly backs on both sides.
Fortunately, the pack is marked, enabling the performer to tell
what the cards are; or so he claims. He shuffles and cuts the pack,
showing backs everywhere, and in the process he explains that he
is cutting to the aces, a most difficult task. Four double-backed cards
are tossed onto the table, with the stated guarantee that these are
the aces.
Finally the performer waves his hand over the cards, restoring the
faces to the whole deck; and, indeed, the four cards on the table do
prove to be the aces. At this point the deck is entirely normal and
may be used for further tricks.
Method: It is not widely known that the inventor of the All Backs
plot was Ralph W. Hull. Mr. Hull marketed a trick pack called the
NRA Deck in the 1920s. This pack could be shown to be misprinted
with backs on both sides, then with faces on both sides. After
everyone had enjoyed this printer's anomaly, the proper assortment
of faces and backs was magically restored to the cards. In the January
1930 issue of The Sphinx, Jean Hugard advertised his version of the
trick, which employed an unprepared pack and added the revelation
of a chosen card.
Dai Vernon was intrigued by the plot and soon developed his own
method for achieving the illusion with a normal pack. However,
because the double-backed card was a favorite tool of his, with which
he had fooled laymen and magicians alike for years, Mr. Vernon was
concerned that openly suggesting the existence of double-backers,
even in a whimsical presentation, might endanger the effectiveness
of the genuine item. Therefore, he kept his All Backs routine under
wraps for ten years, showing it only to Jean Hugard and a few trusted
friends.
By the late 1940s, the double-backed card had become common
knowledge among magicians, and Mr. Vernon finally released his
routine to Jean Hugard for publication. It appeared in the June 1949

260

THE COLLECTED WORKS OF ALEX ELMSLEY

issue of Hugard's Magic Monthly (Vol. 7, No. 1, pp. 552-553), and a


few months later was added to the third edition of Expert Card Technique (pp. 459-464). Over the years it became so popular a trick with
magicians and their audiences, it is now recognized as a modern
classic of card magic.
Shortly after reading the Vernon routine in Expert Card Technique,
Mr. Elmsley devised a charming presentation, in which he added a
new subplot: the cutting of the aces from the deck while the cards
were still double-backed. This secondary plot, rather than confusing
the main one as so often happens with plot accretions, adds an extra
element of humor and entertainment. Fortunately, Mr. Elmsley has
recorded his entire presentation for us.
Though inspired by the Vernon routine, Mr. Elmsley's procedure
differs greatly from its parent. It relies on one gimmicked card in the
pack. This card makes the routine much easier to perform. The
gimmick is openly removed from the pack as part of the presentation,
in the end leaving fifty-two normal cards for further use.
The gimmick is a thick double-backed card, simply made by gluing
two cards face to face. Use a flexible adhesive, like rubber cement;
one that will not harden and crack when it dries. Do not split the
cards. As will be seen, the extra thickness is an important aid.
The setup of the deck is uncomplicated: Remove the four aces from
the pack and lay them in a face-up pile on the table. Place one
indifferent card face-up on the aces and drop the face-down pack onto
this five-card pile. Insert the thick double-backer somewhere near
the center of the pack and the preparation is complete.
The routine is begun with a narrative exposition: "The other day I
lent these cards to another conjurer. When I got them back, I had a
look through the pack to see in what state he had returned them.
The backs seemed to be all right."
Here, spread the face-down pack between your hands, keeping the
bottom few cards bunched together to conceal the five face-up cards.
Casually exhibit the backs of the cards; then square the deck into
left-hand dealing position.
Riffle the left thumb down the outer left corner of the pack, until
you feel the thick card snap past. "But when I looked at the faces
they weren't there."
With the right hand, cut off the block of cards above the left
thumb's break and turn the hand palm-up. Since the thick doublebacker lies at the bottom of the block, a back is seen where a face is
expected. Pause briefly for the audience to appreciate the oddity of
the situation. Then bend the left thumb under the lower portion of
the deck and flip it over onto the left fingers (Figure 267), taking care
not to expose any faces. Again, a back is seen in an unexpected place,
this time thanks to the reversed aces. You can, if you wish, let the
top few cards of the lower half spread slightly, revealing several backs.

TWISTED CLASSICS

261

Turn the right hand palm-down and drop its packet squarely onto
the left hand's packet. This positions the double-backed card directly
over the aces. With the right hand, turn the deck over and adjust it
into left-hand dealing position. At this point the cards are arranged
from the top down: roughly eighteen cards face-down, an indifferent
card face-up, the four aces face-up, the double-backed card, and the
balance of the deck face-up.
"I would not have minded his making backs appear where the faces
had been..." As you say this, casually spread through the top third
of the pack, stopping before you reach face-up cards, "...if only he
had had the sense to make faces appear where the backs had been."
Square the cards back into the left hand and turn the deck over
again. Spread the cards, displaying more backs. When you near the
center of the pack, feel for the thick card (there is a five-card leeway
beyond it, before face-up cards appear). Stop when you find it and
close the spread into the left hand, catching a left fourth-finger break
under the thick card.
With the right hand, cut off the portion of the pack above the break
and turn the hand palm-up, displaying the double-backed card on
the bottom of the packet. With the left thumb, flip the lower packet
over in the left hand; then revolve the right hand palm-down and
return the packet to the deck. However, as you do this, execute the
Kelly-Ovette bottom placement to bring the double-backed card to
the bottom:
Curl the tips of the right second and third fingers over the outer
end of their packet, until they contact the underside of the doublebacker. Pull with the third fingertip, causing the inner end of the
double-backer to swivel rightward (Figure 268). The thumb should
rest near the inner left corner of the packet, where the corner of the
swivelled card can clear it easily.
The swivelling action tends to lever the inner end of the card
automatically downward and away from the packet. Insert the outer
right corner of the lower packet between the tilted card and the upper

262

THE COLLECTED WORKS OF ALEX ELMSLEY

packet (Figure 269), and, as you move the two portions square, slide
the separated card underneath. Finish by squaring the pack.
It is a common temptation, when doing this sleight, to carry the
right hand's packet onto the left's with an inward "scooping" motion.
Work to eliminate any such action. Instead of sliding the upper packet
backward over the lower, strive for a more natural replacement
wherein you tilt up the inner end of the upper packet as it moves over
the lower one (Figure 270); then release the upper portion from the
right thumb and let it fall square onto the lower half.
As you execute this sleight, look up at the audience, drawing their
attention from the deck, and say, "But no, nobody has any courtesy
these days." The deck is now face-down with five face-up cards on
the bottom (one indifferent and four aces), and below these lies the
double-backed card.
"Though for myself, I would not have minded. You see, all these
cards are markedfor gambling." Rapidly spread the pack between
the hands, showing backs. Close the spread and, with the palm-down
right hand, grasp the inner end of the deck in preparation for a Hindu
shuffle. Lift the entire pack and briefly expose the double-backed card
on the bottom.
"I can tell from the back that this card is the four of diamonds."
Turn the right hand palm-down again and perform the well-known
Hindu shuffle display: Strip a few cards from the top of the deck
(Figure 271) and let them fall onto the left palm. Turn the right hand
palm-up, again displaying the double-backed card on the bottom
(Figure 272).
"This is the eight of spades..." Turn the right hand palm-down and
strip another small packet from the top, letting it fall onto the first
packet. Flash the double-backer again"...the five of clubs..."and
strip off a third packet. Repeat this procedure as you continue to
name cards: "...the queen of hearts, the two of hearts, and so on."
While the double-backed card has been shown five times, the mind
is tricked into believing it has seen five different backs. To create the
strongest illusion with this ruse, the right hand must move with the
deck, and the left hand remain anchored in space, serenely taking
the packets. Moving the left hand, while keeping the right hand still,
greatly weakens the illusion; and moving both hands at once creates
visual confusion that diminishes the desired result, rather than
enhancing it.
You have regulated the size of the packets so far taken to leave
roughly half the deck in the right hand. As you say, "...and so on,"
quickly draw off a few single cards from the top of the right hand's
packet onto the left hand's portion. Then turn the right hand palmup and draw the double-backed card from packet to packet.
"I'm awfully sorry. That one was face-up." While saying this, with
the left thumb, push the double-backed card to the right and use the

TWISTED CLASSICS

263

outer end of the right hand's packet to flip it over on the left hand's
packet.
"But even though I know what all the cards are, it is still a disadvantage to have backs on all the faces; especially when one is trying
to do card tricks." Your hands continue to shuffle as you talk: with
the right hand still palm-up, pull four more cards (the aces) singly
onto the left-hand packet; then turn the right hand palm-down and
drop the balance of the deck on top of all.
Square the cards, riffle with the left thumb to the thick card and
cut it to the bottom. The arrangement from top to bottom is now: the
face-down deck, one face-up card, four face-down aces, and the thick
double-backer.
"For instance, in one of my favorite tricks I shuffle the pack
vigorously." With the right hand, lift the right side of the pack, tipping
it up into overhand shuffle position. The double-backed card should
be nearest the right palm. Rapidly shuffle off all but roughly a dozen
cards. Hold the pack low as you shuffle, so faces aren't exposed to
those on your extreme right.
"I'm sorry. I was shuffling the cards with the faces showing." Throw
the right hand's packet under the rest and, while still holding the deck
on edge in shuffle position, square the cards. Then, with the right

264

THE COLLECTED WORKS OF ALEX ELMSLEY

hand, lower the pack flat onto the left hand (double-backed card on
top), grasp the outer end of the deck and turn it end over end on the
left fingers. Bend the fingers upward, tipping the deck into shuffle
position once more and begin another rapid mix. While it appears you
have turned the deck over once, the combined actions have left the
cards in the same position they began: double-backed card nearest
the right palm.
"I shuffle the cards vigorously..." Shuffle off about half the cards
and throw the balance on top. Square the deck and adjust it to lefthand dealing position.
"...and then I cut the cards. If I'm lucky I cut to an ace." With the
right thumb, riffle up the inner end of the pack until you feel the thick
card escape; then lift away all the cards above it. "Yes, you see, the
ace of clubs."
You now perform the Jack Merlin tip-over change, using the getready described in Expert Card Technique (p. 86). This consists of
doing the first action of the Kelly-Ovette bottom placement, but with
a minor change to the right hand's grip: the forefinger must be curled
onto the back of the packet. The tips of the right second and third
fingers contact the face of the packet and swivel the bottom card (an
ace) to the right for about a quarter of an inch. When the near left
corner of the card clears the right thumb, the inner end of the ace
will drop away from the packet.
With the middle phalanx of the third finger, press in on the front
edge of the angled card, pushing it back into alignment with the
packet, but gently forcing it to ride over the extreme tip of the thumb.
This forms a break between the card and the packet, which the
thumb can now retain.
Now thumb over the top card of the left hand's packet, the doublebacker, and use the left edge of the right hand's packet to flip it over.
As the right hand's packet briefly eclipses the left's, release the separated card, dropping it squarely onto the double-backer. (For further
details on the tip-over change, see pp. 72-73.)
"You can see for yourselvesthe ace of clubs." Thumb the top card
of the left-hand packet onto the table.
"Not only that, but my shuffle has brought the four aces together
in the middle of the pack: the ace of hearts...the ace of spades...and
the ace of diamonds." With each ace named, you repeat the previous
sequence, flipping the double-backed card over and loading an ace
onto it, through the agency of the tip-over change. The Kelly-style
method of forming a break allows you to reset quickly with just one
hand. Thumb each face-down ace in turn onto the table.
When the fourth ace has been laid down, reassemble the deck by
slipping the right hand's packet under the left's. The deck is now facedown, with the double-backed card on top and one reversed card on
the bottom.

TWISTED CLASSICS

265

"Well, I think this is one of the very best tricks I do." As you
advance this notionone, I might add, that is probably not
universally shared at the momentgive the deck a quick and casual
overhand shuffle, first drawing off the double-backed card, then
shuffling about a dozen cards onto it and throwing the balance
underneath. This repositions the double-backer roughly thirteenth
from the top and retains the reversed card at the bottom.
"But I think you will agree that it would be even more effective if I
could do it with cards that had faces, instead of cards like these,
whichI'm awfully sorry, I've left the joker in the packinstead of
cards like these, which have nothing but backs wherever you look."
In unison with these words, you spread quickly through the top
portion of the deck until you feel the thick double-backed card.
Extract it from the deck, briefly display both sides of it, claim it is
the joker and slip it into a pocket. Then continue to spread through
the deck, showing nothing but backs. Stop, of course, before the faceup bottom card is exposed.
"Luckily, I remembered a way of dealing with a pack that has
become nothing but backs, backs, backs." Square the cards into the
left hand and, each time you say "backs", turn the deck end over end;
three times in all. This brings the deck face-up, with the reversed card
on top.
"You simply rub the pack with your hand...and all the faces
return." Here, do any color change that deposits a face-up card over
the reversed card. Follow this by fanning the pack, while keeping the
upper two cards together. The reversed card is thus hidden and
nothing is seen but faces. This sudden burst of faces, after such a
protracted period of facelessness, is visually startling.
Close the fan and, in doing so, catch a break under the upper two
cards. "If I take one card and pass it over the cards on the table..."
Execute a double lift and, without exposing the underside of the
double, wave it over the four cards on the table. While the right hand
is busied with this, casually flip the deck face-down in the left hand.
Replace the double card on the deck, immediately push over the
top card and flip it face-down.
"Well, I still think cutting to the aces is a good trick." Turn up the
aces on the table and conclude. The deck is ungimmicked, all the
cards are face-down and you can proceed in any manner you like.
Mr. Elmsley designed this as an opening routine, and logically that
is the purpose it best serves. However, should you desire to do the
All Backs after having done other effects with the pack, it is possible
to set up the cards in front of the audience. Several approaches are
possible. Here is one of the simpler ones:
Cull the aces to the top of the pack. Then palm the double-backed
card from your pocket and add it onto the aces. Get a break under
the top six cards and reverse them at center with the Braue reversal.

266

THE COLLECTED WORKS OF ALEX ELMSLEY

That is, grasp the deck from above, maintaining the break with the
right thumb. With the left hand, undercut about half the pack, flip
it sidewise and face-up, and slip it onto the face-down right-hand half.
Immediately undercut all the cards below the break, flip them faceup and place them back under the right hand's half.
Now turn the deck face-down in the left hand and, with the right
thumb, riffle up the inner end until you feel the double-backed card.
Cut the deck and complete the cut, bringing the double-backer to the
top and the five face-up cards to the bottom. Finish with a slip cut,
transferring the double-backed card to the middle of the deck. With
three casual cuts, everything has been set for the All Backs routine.
1954

A TRIPLE REVERSE
Here is a method devised by Mr. Elmsley to cause three selections
to congregate at the center of the pack, turning face-up as they do
so. The crux of the trick is a method of reversing one or more cards,
which is both easy and extremely deceptive. It is also capable of
application to other tricks.
To begin, the bottom card of the deck must be secretly reversed.
There are many methods of achieving this, and any basic text on card
sleights will offer several. The half pass comes immediately to mind,
as do the Braue reversal and the pants-leg reversal (ref. Royal Road
to Card Magic, pp. 191-192 and 189-190; also see the penultimate
paragraph on the facing page for a description of a Braue reversal
variant). Or the reversed card may be one that is left in the pack from
a previous trick.
Have three cards chosen and control them to the bottom of the
deck. Mr. Elmsley uses the Kelly-Ovette bottom placement here (see
pp. 261-262). A side steal to the bottom is another option (ref. Tarbell
Course in Magic, Volume 3, pp. 183-184). With either sleight, the card
is freely chosen by riffling the left thumb down the outer left corner
of the deck and stopping at any point the spectator commands. The
right hand is brought palm-down over the pack and lifts the upper
portion away, turning its face toward the spectator so that the card
stopped at can be noted. Then, as the upper portion is replaced on
the lower, the selection is maneuvered to the bottom of the deck. This
is repeated with two more cards, bringing them to the bottom as well.
Square the deck and procure a left fourth-finger break above the
reversed card, now fourth from the bottom. You can do this by riffling
the inner ends of the cards quietly off the right thumb; but a better
procedure is to have a bridge or crimp in the reversed card, allowing
a break to be formed quickly without overt manipulation.
You will now reverse the three selections as you overhand shuffle
the deck. While the action itself is not difficult, timing is important,
and deserves as much care and rehearsal as all the other elements
of the trick put together.
As you begin to position the deck for the shuffle, turn to your right.
Within this turn lift all the cards above the break, holding them in

268

THE COLLECTED WORKS OF ALEX ELMSLEY

the right hand in overhand shuffle


grip. Simultaneously curl the left
fingers under the four-card packet
that remains to them, and lever it
up into a vertical position, with
the reversed card face toward the
audience (Figure 273). At this
point the body turn is complete
and you immediately begin to
shuffle the right hand's cards onto
those in the left, until the pack is
exhausted. In this manner the
selections are brought face-down
beneath the face-up deck.
Follow the shuffle with a second, in which you shuffle off about
half the pack, then throw the balance on top. This centralizes the
reversed cards. The trick can now be concluded by simply ribbon
spreading the deck to reveal the three chosen cards together and faceup in the middle of the pack.
In should be understood that, when the reversal is executed, the
body turn is not meant to conceal the turned packet from view, but
merely the action of turning it. The packet is visible momentarily, just
before the right hand begins to shuffle cards onto it. It appears to
the audience that the turned packet is the first group of cards
dropped for the shuffle. If executed smoothly and timed properly, the
reversal is indetectable. A few trials before a mirror will convince you
of this. It is a completely deceptive sleight, well worth adding to your
repertoire.
May 31, 1952

INFINITY: ROUND TRIP


Effect: The performer riffles up the pack until a spectator calls
stop. The upper portion of the pack is raised and the card at its face
is shown. The bottom portion of the deck is turned face-up and the
card at its face is also noted. This is appointed as a marker card. The
face-down top portion is laid onto the face-up bottom portion, placing
the spectator's card face to face with the marker card. The spectator
is asked to blow on the pack, after which the face-down top portion
is lifted. The marker card is seen on the face of the lower portion, but
the spectator's card has vanished from the face of the upper packet.
The deck is reassembled face-up, and the spectator is asked to
blow on it once more. When the deck is next spread, one card is found
reversed at centerthe vanished selection has reappeared.
Method: This quick trick (devised during the same period as the
previous item) is as satisfying to perform as it is bewildering to watch.
The satisfaction emanates from the wonderful economy of method,
a feature common in Elmsley constructions. One simple sleight
accounts for both the vanish and the reversal of the selection.
The deck is unprepared and there is no setup, though you may
wish to move a prominent card like the ace of spades to the face of
the pack when you begin. If you do so, call attention to the card as
you position it.
Take the pack face-down into left-hand dealing position and, with
the right fingertips, riffle up the outer end of the cards until a spectator tells you to stop. Since the selection is an honest one, you can
hold up the deck as you riffle, permitting the spectator to see the
cards as they go by. When stopped, raise the upper portion of the
pack, holding it by its ends in the right hand, and display the card
at the face of the packet to everyone. Since this is not a location or
divination, you can look at the card as well.
Now, with the left thumb, flip the bottom portion of the pack faceup in the left hand, and draw attention to the card on the face of this
packet. If you have previously positioned an easily remembered card
there, this lessens the mental work required of your audience to
appreciate the effect.

270

THE COLLECTED WORKS OF ALEX ELMSLEY

"I shall mark the position of your card by placing it face to face
with the ace of spades [or whatever]." Here execute the Kelly-Ovette
bottom placement (pp. 261-262) as you lay the right-hand packet
face-down onto the face-up left-hand packet. This secretly shuttles
the face-down selection beneath the face-up block.
Ask the person who chose the card to blow lightly on the deck, this
action being a time-honored magical agent. Then lift the face-down
upper portion, relying on a light touch and the natural bridge of the
cards to cut accurately between the two packets; or neatly spread
the cards between the hands until you reach the division. Your card
is seen still at the face of the bottom packet; but when you turn the
upper packet face-up, the spectator's card has disappeared.
Pause for the vanish to register; then slip the face-up top portion
under the face-up bottom one. This buries the face-down selection
in the middle of the deck.
Hold out the pack for the spectator to blow on it a second time.
Then spread the cards, either on the table or between the hands, to
reveal the reversed card near centerthe selection returned.

CHOSEN CARDS ACROSS


Effect: Here is another example of a venerable classic given an
ingenious touch. Spectators count out two groups often cards. The
first ten are wrapped in a handkerchief and held by a member of the
audience. Three cards are freely selected and added to the second
packet of ten, which is then held by another spectator. Without
touching the cards, the performer causes the three selections to travel
from the one packet to the other. The spectators themselves confirm
that the second packet now contains only ten cardsthe selections
are goneand that the wrapped packet holds thirteen: the original
ten cards and the three selections! The performer seems to have no
contact with the wrapped packet where the cards appear, and no
duplicate cards are used. In fact, the selections may be signed by the
spectators.
Method: We may owe the Cards Across plot as we know it to
Robert-Houdin, who, in the description of his "Mene, Tekel, Upharsin"
in 1868 (ref. The Secrets of Conjuring andMagic, pp. 207-210), wrote
that this was his modification of an older trick that gave it "an entirely
new effect". Within the subsequent two decades other magicians
enhanced the simple plot of passing anonymous cards from packet
to packet by making those cards either mental or physical selections.
Mr. Elmsley's method for accomplishing the effect is typically
subtle. It has fooled many well-posted magicians. Indeed, Dai Vernon
thought highly enough of it to include this trick in many of his
lectures. Since its publication almost four decades ago, the stratagem
invented by Mr. Elmsley has been used by other fine magicians in
fashioning their own versions of Cards Across. Here, then, is the
original Elmsley method.
With the right hand, palm three cards from the deck and hand the
balance to someone, asking that he count ten cards from it onto your
extended left palm. Here Mr. Elmsley uses the old tip of occupying
the palming hand by grasping the left wrist from below as the
counting is done. When the ten cards have been counted, ask if the
spectator can loan you a clean handkerchief. If he has one, take it.
However, it seems that few men these days carry a handkerchief,

272

THE COLLECTED WORKS OF ALEX ELMSLEY

clean or otherwise. Therefore, keep one of your own convenient,


should he not have one. Whatever the situation, your question, his
response and the resultant actions provide ample opportunity for you
to add the three palmed cards to the packet in your left hand.
Suggest that you might check the spectator's count to assure that
there is no error. False count the packet of thirteen cards as ten. This
can be done with a buckle count, a block push-off or by simply taking
the last three cards as one on the count of ten. (The false count can
be omitted, but Mr. Elmsley believes that, if this is done, for the sake
of consistency and courteousness there then should be no second
counting of the next packet to be formed.)
Give the packet to the spectator and ask that he wrap it securely
in the handkerchief.
Hand the remainder of the pack to a second person and ask that
he count out ten more cards onto your left palm. When he has done
this, check his count also, taking the opportunity as you count to
catch a left fourth-finger break under the third card from the top. (If
you have decided to eliminate the check counts of both packets, the
break can be formed by pinky counting or by casually spreading over
the top few cards.)
Request that he shuffle what is left of the deck and then set it facedown on the table. As he mixes the cards, comment on his
thoroughness. Then, while attention is thus drawn naturally to his
actions, with your right hand, palm the top three cards of the packet.
With the deck on the table, explain that you wish three persons
to take one card each. Reach out with the right hand and ribbon
spread the pack, bringing the hand away three cards lighter.
Once the selections have been removed from the spread, have them
signed on the faces if you wish, then cut the packet in your left hand
and have the three selections placed in the center. As they are
collected, obtain a break beneath them. Replace the top cards onto
the packet, burying the selections, and ask someone to hold out his
hand, palm-up. Cut off all the cards above the break and lay them
on his palm. Follow these with the balance of the packet. This cuts
the cards, transporting the selections to the bottom of the packet.
Instruct him to guard the cards well. At this point, your hands should
be seen empty.
You now go through the motions of making the three selections
pass invisibly from packet to packet. Use any bits of by-play that suit
you. Then ask the spectator with the second packet to count his cards
into a face-down pile on the table. Where he thinks he has thirteen,
he finds ten; and in his counting he unwittingly brings the selections
to the top of the packet. (Note how the unpleasant consequences of
any misunderstanding are neatly avoided: if the spectator should
begin dealing the cards face-up instead of face-down, you can correct
him before the selections are reached and any harm is done.)

TWISTED CLASSICS 2 7 3
So, ten cards are found and the three selections seem to have
vanished under impossible conditions. Immediately turn to the first
spectator and ask that he count his cards onto the table. While
everyone watches him unwrap the packet and count it, casually pick
up the packet just counted, get a break beneath its top three cards
(the selections) and palm them into the right hand. Drop the rest of
the packet onto the spread deck.
When the spectator counts the cards he has so diligently protected,
he discovers thirteen. Everything that has occurred so far has been
designed to convince the audience that the deed has already been
done. They are thrown off balance with the realization that the cards
have already crossed, and critical attention is relaxed. It is at this
moment of powerful misdirection that you complete the deception.
Reach out your right hand and sweep the thirteen-card packet off
the table and into your left hand. As you do this, add the palmed
selections to the group.
Cut the packet to center the selections. Then turn it face-up and
run through the cards as you ask each person which card he chose.
Of course, if the cards were signed, this won't be necessary. Pull the
three cards one by one from the packet and toss them face-up onto
the table. The one remaining clue to the method is then destroyed
by dropping the balance of the packet face-down onto the deck.
One last, perhaps obvious note: rather than cutting the packet
openly, you can, if you wish, execute a turnover pass to center the
selections.
Cards Across has been found an astonishing and entertaining trick
by audiences for well over a century. The refinement of having specific
selections, rather than unknown cards, travel across complicates the
effect slightly; but the increase in mystery more than warrants the
embellishment. In Mr. Elmsley's construction, every sleight is
thoroughly cloaked by a fabric of misdirection. The psychology he has
built into the presentation is equally cunning, and will outwit the
most astute.
May 17, 1952

INVISIBLE CARD
IN CIGARETTE
Effect: If ever a magician feels the need to be humbled in his craft,
he has only to ask a member of the public to imagine a magical effect
that he would view as truly miraculous. This will often yield the most
wonderful plots with little or no hope for a method. The next effect
strikes me as such a plot; however, Mr. Elmsley has a most practical
solution to it.
The performer asks someone in the audience who is a smoker to
join him before the group. This person is asked to think of any card
he likes in a deck of fifty-two, then to locate it in an imaginary deck
that the performer hands him, and to seal his invisible card into a
very real envelope.
Now the performer begs a cigarette from the spectator, giving him
one of his own in trade. He hands the spectator a lighter with which
to light the envelope. The performer takes the burning envelope and
from it lights his borrowed cigarette. He then blows out the flame and
holds open what remains of the envelope, announcing that he has
caused the spectator's imaginary card to vanish. This, as you might
expect, does not impress many.
But then the performer makes a face, looks at his cigarette and
then at the spectator who gave it to him. He is obviously not pleased
with it. He breaks the cigarette open at his fingertips and finds a rolled
card insidethe card the spectator named at the start.
Method: You will require an index of cigarettes loaded with cards;
twenty in all. These are kept in a cigarette case, in a known order.
First, let's discuss the method for loading the cigarettes.
The easiest way of _
doing this is to roll a
cigarette paper tightly
around a cigarette, seal it
and, when it is dry, slide
the cigarette from the
paper tube. Take the
card you wish to load and

TWISTED CLASSICS 2 7 5
roll it into a tight cylinder. Slip
it inside the tube until one end
275
is flush with the end of the tube.
Then
insert the end of a
c
5
cigarette
as far as you can into
2
the open end of the paper tube
i 5
and, with a razor blade, neatly
V
3
slice it off, even with the end of
Z
the loaded cigarette, forming a
/I
5
tobacco plug (Figure 274).
V
3
T
The twenty cards you will
I] 2
/I
need
to load into as many
Ir 5
V
cigarettes are the ace through
five of each suit. When you are
finished, arrange the twenty
loaded cigarettes in your cigarette case, organizing each suit
separately, with the values running ace to five. This makes the
location of any of the cards quick and easy. To simplify the location
further, place a mark on the elastic that holds the cigarettes in place,
signifying the position between the tenth and eleventh cigarettes. You
may wish to carry this idea even further, by marking the three
divisions between the suits, or, if you don't care about showing the
inside of the case, you can paste a cue strip into the lid, running
vertically along the hinge, that lists each of the cards (Figure 275).
If a cigarette case does not suit you, the loaded cigarettes can be
arranged in a known order in a cigarette pack. You can, if you like,
build dividers into the pack to form four compartments.
If the cigarette case is used, carry it in the inside left breast pocket
of your coat. If a pack, place it in your outside right breast pocket.
Also, in your left side coat pocket have an unprepared cigarette; and
in your right side pocket put an envelope and either a lighter or a
book of matches. As we proceed with the explanation, it will be
presumed that the cigarette case and lighter are being used. The
handling of cigarette pack and matches is so similar, the minor
changes necessary will become clear without further description.
Begin the presentation by requesting the loan of a cigarette. When
several willing smokers identify themselves, chose a person who looks
as if he will be a good assistantand who is brandishing a cigarette
reasonably similar in appearance to your own. It is necessary eventually to switch cigarettes; and being unexpectedly faced with a brand
rolled in some exotic paper, when yours is wanly white, will make
your switch, no matter how expertly executed, less effective.
Explain that you won't need his cigarette for a few moments, but
that you would appreciate his help on stage now. Seat him
comfortably, facing the audience, and as you do so, casually and
quietly say to him:

i-

^l

276

THE COLLECTED WORKS OF ALEX ELMSLEY

"In a moment I am going to ask you to think of a card. As it is


difficult to identify a card with a lot of pips from a distance, would
you mind thinking of a card, say less than a six, for the benefit of
the people at the back?" This sounds perfectly reasonable to the
spectator; yet it confines his selection to one of the twenty cards you
have indexed.
Now bring out "an invisible deck of cards" and go through as many
of the invisible deck gags as you like: shuffling, cutting, then taking
the cards from their case, dropping them, and so on. In Mr. Elmsley's
words, "...go through all the comedy cliches." (This comment, by the
way, was written in 1955.) Finish by fanning the imaginary pack
before the spectator and ask him to think of any card he sees. When
he says he has done this, hand him the pack and tell him to find his
card and remove it.
With your left hand, take the invisible pack back from him and
pocket it as you ask him to hold the card up for everyone to see. While
your left hand is in the coat pocket, palm the cigarette there and bring
the hand out apparently empty. At the same time, with your right
hand, bring out the envelope from your right coat pocket.
Suggest to your helper that some people in back may not be able
to see his card, so he had better call out its name for them. Then hand
him the envelope and have him seal the invisible selection in it.
Explain, "In a moment, I will make your card vanish from the envelope in a most unusual way; but first, will you have a cigarette?"
With your right hand, take the cigarette case from your pocket and
transfer it to the left hand, laying it over the cigarette you have palmed
there. Under the case, secretly maneuver the cigarette to the left
fingertips, positioning it across them and parallel with the length of
the case (Figure 276). Open the case and casually remove the
cigarette with the necessary card in it.
With the right thumb, hold this cigarette in place across your right
fingertips. With the left hand, close the case, then pass it to the right
hand, switching the cigarettes in
the process. The switch consists
of nothing more than retaining
each hand's cigarette in place as
the case is transferred over them.
When the transfer is complete, the
loaded cigarette is hidden under
the case and the unprepared
cigarette is held openly in the left
hand. Despite its simplicity, this
switch is thoroughly deceptive.
Furthermore, even those who
might anticipate a switch will not
expect it so early in the
presentation.

TWISTED CLASSICS 277


Hand the normal cigarette to your helper and, with the right
fingers, simultaneously adjust the hidden cigarette so that it is
completely concealed between the case and the fingers. This allows
you to replace the case in your inside left breast pocket without
exposing the cigarette as the underside of the case is turned
momentarily toward the audience. While the right hand is still hidden
by the coat, shift the cigarette into either thumb palm or oblique
palm. The choice of palms will depend on which of several cigarette
switches you will next execute. There are a number of good switches
in the literature, and the reader may already have a favorite. The one
Mr. Elmsley uses is given below. For this switch the cigarette must
be held in oblique palm; i.e., with the tip of the second finger on one
end and the other end pressed lightly to the palm.
Ask your helper if you can try one
of his cigarettes. Take it from him
with your left hand and at the same
time reach with your right hand into
your right coat pocket for the lighter.
Place the borrowed cigarette between
your lips and pass the lighter to the
left hand. You now find you wish to
say something further to your helper;
so with your right hand you remove
the cigarette from your mouth, taking
it at the end that is in your lips. Grip
the cigarette between the tips of the
right thumb and second finger
(Figure 277), keeping it in view.
"I told you I would make your card
vanish in an unusual way. Will you
light the envelope with this lighter,
and then light your own cigarette
from the envelope?" Replace the borrowed cigarette between your lips
as you hand your helper the lighter. When he has the envelope burning, again remove the cigarette from your lips and say, "Can I have
my lighter back, please?" This is the moment you make the switch:
The borrowed cigarette is held by its end, between the right thumb
and second finger (Figure 277 again). Extend the third finger inward,
until it contacts the borrowed cigarette, and swivel the cigarette in
toward the palm (Figure 278). When the two cigarettes are nearly
parallel to one another, press downward with the thumb on the end
of the borrowed cigarette, until its opposite end lodges against the
palm, just below the end of the loaded cigarette. Continue to press
downward with the thumb, easing the outer end of the borrowed
cigarette over the tip of the second finger and onto the tip of the third
(Figure 279). Then press inward with the third finger on the end of
the borrowed cigarette, palming it beside yours.

2 7 8 THE COLLECTED WORKS OF ALEX ELMSLEY

V:

Now move the thumb to the outer end of the loaded cigarette and
curl the first finger in slightly. Roll the end of this cigarette from the
second finger onto the first, until you can pinch the cigarette between
the first finger and thumb (Figure 280). If you now extend the first
finger and thumb, the loaded cigarette will swing out from the palm
and is in position to be placed between the lips (Figure 281). However,
don't do so quite yet.
As your right hand makes the switch, extend your left hand for
the lighter. Having received it, place the loaded cigarette between your
lips and take the lighter into your right hand. Then return the lighter
to your right coat pocket, while also discarding the palmed cigarette.
Now take the burning envelope from the helper and light your
cigarette. This end, of course, should be the tobacco-filled one. If this
end is positioned near the hinge of the cigarette case, and if the switch
just explained is used, the correct end of the cigarette will be in
position for lighting. If another switch is used, a trial or two will
quickly show you the initial placement necessary to arrive at the
desired position.

TWISTED CLASSICS

279

Blow on the envelope, extinguishing it before it is completely


consumed, and show that the invisible card is gone. Then grimace
at the taste of the cigarette, make some comment about it if you like,
and break it open at the fingertips to produce the chosen card.
While this switch may seem complex on paper, the actions are not
difficult. Indeed, none of the manipulations in this trick are terribly
demanding; but your acting and timing must be well practiced. The
effect created is far in excess of the effort needed to master the
method.
If performing this trick under close-up conditions, where stage
cueing is not practicable, Mr. Elmsley suggests a different approach
for limiting the range of the spectator's selection of cards: The index
in this instance contains only twelve cigarettes, which cover all the
court cards in the deck. Ask your helper if he prefers spot cards or
court cards? Court cards are almost invariably named. When they
are, ask him to think of any court card he likes.
If, however, spot cards are named, a magician's choice is invoked.
Ask him to hand you all the spot cards, then to fan the cards that
remain to him and think of one.
This trick was a favorite of Fred Kaps, and he performed it regularly
in his cabaret shows. He had a clever phrasing that virtually assured
that court cards would be chosen. He would ask, "When you play
cards, what kind of cards do you like to get in your hand? High ones
or low?...High cards? Like jacks, queens and kings? All right then,
think of any high card you see."
Mr. Kaps also worked out an exceptionally clever method for
indexing the loaded cigarettes and substituting them for the borrowed
one. He published his handling in the Dutch magic journal, Triks.
The article has recently been translated into English and can be
found in Fred Kaps, compiled by Freddie Jelsma (pp. 47-50). It is well
worth your attention.

NEW PIECES TO
AN OLD PUZZLE
Effect: Charles Jordan, in 1919, marketed a multiple assembly
trick called "Like Seeks Like". In it, four hats were lined up and the
aces and court cards were removed from the deck. Each hat received
a jack, queen, king and ace of matching suit. Yet, when the contents
of the hats were next exhibited, all the aces had gathered in one, all
the jacks in another, and so on. The plot was a fascinating problem,
but Mr. Jordan's method was suitable only for platform or stage, as
it entailed a rather arduous exercise in back palming. The trick can
be found in Charles T. Jordan: Collected Tricks (pp. 87-88), and in
Encyclopedia of Card Tricks (p. 344, Hugard revision).
In 1932 Dai Vernon, in his Ten Card Problems, published an
ingenious method for the Jordan plot, which Faucett Ross titled "The
Vernon Card Puzzle". The Vernon method eliminated the hats and
back palms, and brought the trick to the close-up table.
When, in the April 1947 issue of Genii magazine, Elmer Biddle
published his now classic count, which he called 'Transcendent", it
made waves throughout the world of card magic. During the early
1930s Tony Kardyro had independently invented the same sleight
with one difference: he employed a break to facilitate the steal of the
card, while Mr. Biddle simply picked the card off the face of the
packet. The Kardyro handling is the one commonly used today.
Edward Mario, Neil Elias and Bert Fenn recognized the potential of
this sleight for use with the Card Puzzle plot, and between them they
devised approximately forty variant methods. Their favorite was
eventually contributed in 1959 to Ibidem 16 (see "Observation Test",
pp. 5-8). In 1961 Dai Vernon published his handling of the MarloElias-Fenn method (ref. Further Inner Secrets of Card Magic, pp. 5456; also Early Vernon, pp. 58-60). After reading the Vernon revision,
Mr. Elmsley was prompted to devise an alternative Biddle count
sequence, which simplified and expedited the action of the trick. He
sent his sequence, along with several other original tricks, to Mr.
Vernon in the early 1960s, and they were favorably received by the
Professor. Here, then, is the Elmsley handling for the Card Puzzle.

TWISTED CLASSICS

281

Method: Openly remove all the aces and court cards from the deck
and group them in suits, each group running from face to back acejack-queen-king. Stack the four groups in CHaSeD suit order, with
the clubs at the bottom and the diamonds on top; i.e., the ace of clubs
is at the face of the packet, and the king of diamonds at the back.
Once the cards are arranged, spread them briefly between the hands
to show separated suits. Then square the face-up cards into left-hand
dealing position and, with the palm-down right hand, grip the packet
by its ends from above, in preparation for the Kardyro-Biddle steal.
Hold the front of the packet tipped well down, and stretch the right
fingers across the front edge. This is done to conceal the thickness
of the packet while at the same time its face is clearly displayed to
the audience.
Here I will digress for a moment to pass on a helpful tip offered by
Mr. Elmsley, which ensures a neat taking action of the cards: When
gripping the packet in the right hand, position the tip of the second
finger directly on the outer left corner, and plant the thumb near the
center of the inner end. The forefinger is curled in, onto the packet
and out of the way. Now, when you begin to draw the uppermost card
from the packet, place the left thumb on the card, roughly an inch
behind the outer left corner, and pivot that corner of the card free of
the right second fingertip. The right thumb acts as a pivot post during
this simple operation (Figure 282). You can now draw the card off
the packet without disturbing the others. Notice how the tip of the
right second finger keeps the rest of the cards perfectly squared, a
feature to be desired when stealing and loading cards from the packet.
This tip is valuable not only for the execution of the Kardyro-Biddle
count, but also for the tip-over change, the Braue addition and other
related sleights. We now return to the action of the trick.
With the left thumb, draw the ace of clubs from the face of the
packet onto the left palm. Lay the ace face-up before you on the table.
Then peel the jack, queen and
king of clubs, one after the
other, into the left hand. Next
draw off the ace of hearts, but
jog it widely off the front right
corner of the left-hand packet
(Figure 283). Lay down this
ace an inch to the left of the
ace of clubs.
Draw the jack of hearts
onto the left-hand packet,
then the queen of heartsbut
catch a left fourth-finger
break between them. Maintaining an even rhythm to the
count actions, take the king of

282

THE COLLECTED WORKS OF ALEX ELMSLEY

hearts onto the queen in


the left hand; then take
the ace of spades, jogging
it on the left-hand packet
as you did the ace of
hearts. Lay the ace of
spades an inch to the left
of the ace of hearts.
Now, as you draw the
jack of spades off the
right-hand packet, the
first steal is made. You
are holding a break below
the king and queen of
hearts. As you bring the
right hand's cards over
the left's, pick up the
king and queen beneath the packet as you pull the jack of spades
into the left hand. When you steal back the king and queen, catch a
right thumb break between them and the packet (Figure 284).
Draw the queen of spades onto the jack, but hold a left fourthfinger break between them. Then, as you draw the king of spades onto
the queen, secretly release the king and queen of hearts from the right
thumb, loading them between the king and queen of spades. There
are now four cards above the fourth finger's break.
Draw the ace of diamonds into a jogged position on the left-hand
packet and lay it an inch to the left of the ace of spades. Then pull
the jack of diamonds onto the left-hand stock, simultaneously
stealing the cards above the break back under the right hand's
packet. No thumb break is held above the stolen stock this time.
Draw the queen of diamonds onto the left-hand packet, and lay
the remaining right-hand cards, as a single king, on top of all.
While the description of this count is cumbersome, the sequence
itself is not. In practicing it, aim for smoothness and a regular
rhythm. Though the thickness of the packets is at variance with
purported reality at several points during the count, the manner in
which the cards are held and the motion of the hands successfully
conceal these discrepancies. To the audience it appears as if you have
simply counted the cards from hand to hand, reversing their order
while removing the aces. The spectators still believe the court cards
are grouped by suits. In reality, the packet reads, from face to back,
king of diamonds, king of spades, king of hearts, queen of hearts,
queen of spades, queen of diamonds, jack of diamonds, jack of
spades, jack of hearts, king of clubs, queen of clubs, jack of clubs.
Flip the packet face-down into left-hand dealing position and
immediately spread over the top three cards. Take these three into
the right hand and briefly display their faces as you say, "The clubs

TWISTED CLASSICS

283

are on top, the diamonds


on the bottom." As you
mention diamonds, flash
the king of diamonds on
the bottom of the left
hand's packet. Everything looks as it should.
Lay the three club
cards onto the table in a
face-down pile behind
the ace of clubs. 'The
jack, queen and king of
clubs go here with the
ace of clubs."
Deal the next three
cards from the top of the
packet into the right
hand, taking one under the other without reversing their order. 'The
jack, queen and king of hearts go with the ace of hearts." Lay the
cards in a face-down pile behind the ace of hearts.
Deal the next three cards from the packet into the right hand, this
time reversing their order by taking one onto the other. "The jack,
queen and king of spades go with the ace of spades." Lay these three
cards face-down behind the ace of spades.
"And the diamondsjack, queen and kinggo with the ace of
diamonds." As you say, "And the diamonds," turn the left hand palmdown, flashing the king of diamonds on the face of the packet; then
turn the hand palm-up again and briefly spread the cards to show
three. Lay these cards behind the ace of diamonds.
"The four face-up cards act as leaders for the other cardsso if I
exchange the ace of hearts for a jack, the ace of spades for a queen
and the ace of diamonds for a king..." As you are saying this, pick
up the three face-down club cards at the right end of the row, turn
them face-up and fan them. Then, as you name them, exchange the
three club cards for the three aces to the left of the ace of clubs. Finish
by laying the three aces in your hand face-up onto the ace of clubs,
forming an overlapping column. The four face-up club cards now lie
in king-queen-jack-ace order from left to right, and the aces rest in
club-heart-spade-diamond order from back to face.
"...all the other cards follow the new leaders!" Wave your hands
impressively over the layout of cards, snap your fingers and turn the
three piles face-up, spreading them inward to form columns with the
face-up card in front of each. The jacks are found congregated behind
the jack, the queens behind the queen, and the kings behind the king.
As an added nicety, each group is in clubs-hearts-spades-diamonds
sequence.

LIARS' CLUB
Effect: A card is freely chosen, noted and lost back in the deck.
The performer then runs quickly through the cards, openly culling
roughly a dozen. He strips these as a block from the pack and inserts
them into the center of the deck. This packet, he explains, is a
program which, when loaded into the pack, turns it into a lie detector.
The deck is then cut or briefly shuffled to activate it.
The person who chose a card is now asked three questions about
ithowever, he is given the option of lying or truthfully answering
each, as caprice and conscience move him. He is asked the color of
his card, its suit and its value. For each of his answers the performer
deals a face-down pile, spelling the reply with a card for every letter.
Then the spectator is asked to cut the remainder of the deck at any
point and mark the position of his cut.
The performer now reminds everyone of the questions asked and
the answers given. As he turns up each pile, a card shows on the face
that indicates the truth, despite the spectator's dubious responses.
The first pile correctly identifies the color of the selection, the second
pile the suit, and the third pile the value. Finally, when the deck is
checked, it is found that the spectator has cut it at the very selection
itself.
Method: The plot is the popular Lie Speller, which has its roots
in an effect of Herbert Milton's. In Mr. Milton's trick, the spectator
was asked several questions about the identity of his card, and his
truthful answers were spelled to arrive at the card itself. In the fourth
issue of Annemann's The Jinx (Jan. 1935, p. 15), Vincent Dalban
suggested a card problem in which the spectator was allowed to call
the names of cards either honestly or dishonestly, at his whim, as
he dealt them; yet the magician, with his back turned, could tell him
when he was lying. Several solutions to the Dalban problem
submitted by Stuart Robson, Theodore Annemann and others
subsequently appeared in The Jinx. It was Martin Gardner, however,
who first applied Dalban's liar premise to the Milton spelling trick (ref.
Berg's Here's New Magic, pp. 3-4), thus deriving the now popular Lie
Speller. Over the years, many fine solutions to the effect have been
published, and several variations on the theme. It was Ron Bauer

TWISTED CLASSICS 2 8 5
who, around 1964, added the charming idea of dealing packets for
each answer, and having the packet confirm the truth of the
spectator's replies. The original Bauer trick has never been published,
but the premise quickly found its way into print. Mr. Elmsley's
solution was devised in 1965 and offers a simple, straightforward,
yet deceptive method to the Bauer variant.
No setup is required. Shuffle the pack or have it shuffled; then have
a card freely chosen, noted and returned. Control this card to a
position second from the face of the pack. Any number of methods
for accomplishing this come to mind, and the reader should, without
great difficulty, be able to find one with which he is comfortable.
Turn the pack face-up, casually letting the bottom card be seen,
but making no mention of it. All you wish here is that it be seen that
the selection is not on the face. Tilt the pack up, angling its face out
of the audience's view, and begin to spread the cards from left hand
to right. As you push over the first card, the face of the selection is
exposed to you. Note it and continue to spread until you find a card
of matching value, though preferably of contrasting color. Upjog this
card for about half its length and continue spreading. Within the next
few cards, upjog four more behind the first. These can be any cards
you wish. Then spread to a card of the same suit as the selection.
Upjog this. Upjog another indifferent card close behind it. Spread
until you find another card of matching suit. Upjog it, then two
indifferent cards. Finally, upjog any card of the same color as the
selection, but preferably of a different suit. Figure 285 shows an
example of how cards are set for the four of clubs.
Close the spread into the left hand, without disturbing the
upjogged cards, and neatly strip them out as a packet. As you do so,
with the right thumb, secretly draw the card at the face of the pack
upward and onto the face of the upjogged cards (Figure 286).

(285

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cards card

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286

THE COLLECTED WORKS OF ALEX ELMSLEY

Maneuver the pack into face-down dealing position, without


exposing the selection now at the face. Explain that the cards you
have removed represent a program that will turn the deck into a lie
detector. Drop the right hand's packet face-down onto the pack and
give the cards a false shuffle, retaining the stock on top and the
selection at the bottom.
Alternatively, you may wish to insert the right hand's packet facedown into the center of the deck, rather than on top. If this is the
case, as you push the packet flush, angle it slightly to the left, forcing
the right inner corner to project from the right side of the pack. Pull
down with the left fourth finger on this corner of the packet, and form
a break above it as you push it square. You must now control this
stock to the top of the pack, while retaining the selection on the
bottom. Here are two easy methods for managing this:
1) With the right hand, cut off roughly half the cards resting
above the break. With the left thumb, open a gap at the
outer left corner, below the stock. Then slip the right
hand's packet into this gap. Square the packet into the
deck and immediately cut off all the cards above the break.
Insert this second packet into the center of the deck,
somewhere below the stock. The stock is now on top.
2) With the right hand, grip the deck by its right corners in
readiness for an overhand shuffle. As you grasp the deck,
transfer the left fourth finger's break to the right thumb
and keep the pack in a position close to horizontal, to
avoid exposure of the face of the selection as you shuffle.
Start the shuffle by slipping the top and bottom cards off
together; then shuffle off the cards above the break onto
this pair. Conclude the shuffle by throwing the balance on
top.
Everything is now set for spelling. Explain that the cutting or
shuffling activates the lie detector. You will now ask the spectator
three questions about his card. He can answer truthfully or lie as the
whim takes him, and he can change his tactic from question to
question as often or as little as he likes. No matter what his decisions,
you will follow them faithfully with the cards.
"What was the color of your card: red or black?" Deal cards, one
for each letter, from the top of the pack into a face-down pile as you
spell the answer given.
If he has said his card is red, the next question is "What was the
suit of your card: hearts or diamonds?" If black was specified, the
black suits are named instead. You must remember two simple rules
as you deal the second pile:
If the spectator answers Spades or Diamonds, spell S-P-A-D-E or
D-I-A-M-O-N-D, dropping the final s.

TWISTED CLASSICS

287

But when the answer is Clubs or Hearts, you spell C-L-U-B-S or


H-E-A-R-T-S. In addition, if Hearts is named, execute a slip cut after
the spell, losing the top card of the deck, or deal two cards as one as
the spelling is done.
"And what is the value of your card?" You can embellish this
question by further asking, "Should I spell that or count it?" Do as
instructed, forming a third face-down pile.
Place the talon before the spectator and ask that he cut it at any
point he likes. Take the bottom portion and lay it crosswise over the
top portion, preparing for the standard cross-the-cut force.
Now return to the three piles. Recall the first question for everyone,
and the spectator's answer. Then turn up the first pile, exposing its
face. This card will either verify or contradict his answer. Repeat the
second question and answer, and the third, turning up the
corresponding pile for each, and extracting the maximum amusement
from the spectator's dishonesty or truthfulness. With the turning of
the third packet, the selection is fully identified, and the spectator
is made to admit that the deck is right. Conclude by having him turn
up the top portion of the crossed deck to reveal the selection itself at
the place he apparently cut.
You can, of course, substitute another revelation for the cross-thecut force. It is suggested here for its simplicity and suitability to the
trick. Nevertheless, whatever revelation is chosen, the effect is a
baffling and an entertaining one, with a method that is easily learned
and performed.
[December 20, 1965]

ONE AT A TIME COLLECTORS


Effect: The four aces are removed from the deck and set aside.
Then three free selections are made, noted and returned to the pack.
The performer picks up the face-up aces and displays them fronts
and backs. He then squares them and spreads the cards again. Each
time he does this, one of the selections appears face-up, until all three
have been produced, alternating with the face-down aces.
Method: Roy Walton's popular "Collectors" was the basis for this
slow-motion or progressive variation on the plot. Begin by openly
removing the four aces from the pack. Put these aside and have three
persons each choose a card, note it and replace it in the pack. Control
the three selections to the top in any efficient manner. Mr. Elmsley
suggests the Hindu shuffle control (ref. Royal Road to Card Magic,
pp. 204-205) as a practical method that is quick to execute and
appears fair. Multiple shifts offer the same attributes (see 'The Hookstrip Shift", pp. 99-102). The order of the selections after the control
must be known to you, but the presentation may be altered to fit any
order produced by the control. For teaching purposes we shall
assume the cards to be in reverse order to their selection: the top card
is the third person's, the next card the second person's and the third
card the first person's.
While holding the deck face-down in left-hand dealing grip, spread
it casually between your hands as you say, "Your cards are in here
somewhere. To find them I need the help of the aces." Square the
cards back into the left hand and catch a left fourth-finger break
below the top three. With the right hand, pick up the aces from the
table, turn them face-up if they are not already so, and fan them. Do
not display them long. Instead, square them face-up over the deck
and secretly pick up the three face-down selections beneath the
packet. Do this smoothly, without lingering over the deck. Hold the
ace packet in the right hand, while with the left hand you set the deck
aside.
Bring the left hand back to the right and settle the packet into
dealing grip. Position the left forefinger along the front edge of the
packet and tilt the front end down somewhat to conceal the thickness while you clearly display the faces of the cards. Thumb over the

TWISTED CLASSICS 2 8 9
top ace and take it onto the palm-up right hand. Deal the next two
aces singly onto the first, reversing their order as you display them.
The left hand now holds the last aceactually four cardsbut the
manner in which the block is held and the actions of the hands as
they deal the cards conceal the thickness. Lay the block onto the
other three aces and immediately square the packet.
With the palm-down left hand, grasp the packet by its outer end
and turn it face-down, end over end, in the right hand. (The left fingers provide cover for the thickness of the packet during the turn.)
Then smoothly shift the packet again to left-hand dealing grip. Spread
the top two cards, face-down aces, to the right and take them into
the right hand. Flash their faces as you say, 'The aces will find your
cards." Then slip them face-down under the left hand's packet. The
packet from top to face now reads: face-down ace; first selection,
second selection and third selection, all face-up; and three more aces,
face-down.
Turn to the third spectator and ask him to name his card. As you
do this and wait for his reply, bring your right hand over the packet
in a squaring action and procure a left fourth-finger break under the
top three cards.
When the spectator names his card, wave your right hand over the
packet, then deal the cards into the right hand, producing his card
face-up among the aces. To do this, begin by pushing the top three
cards over as a block. Take the triple card as a single into right-hand
dealing grip. Use the same screening posture, tipping the front end
of the cards down and extending the forefinger across the outer edge.
However, little attention will be focused on the triple card, as all eyes
will be drawn to the face-up selection that appears on top of the lefthand packet.
Push this card to the right and take it, outjogged for roughly half
its length, onto the right-hand triple, aligned lengthwise with it. While
maintaining a regular dealing rhythm, push over the next card from
the packet and take it onto the right-hand cards, even with the triple
but jogged widely to
the left. Notice how
the jogging of the two
cards above the
triple further protects its thick edges.
With the left thumb,
push the top card of
the left-hand pair to
the right and briefly
turn the hand to display the faces of
these aces (Figure
287).

290

THE COLLECTED WORKS OF ALEX ELMSLEY

With the tip of the right


forefinger, buckle the bottom card of the triple,
breaking the left rear
corner away from the cards
above. Then apparently
slip the left hand's two
cards under the right
hand's spread, but actually
insert them into the break
above the bottom card
(Figure 288). Again the
jogged cards hide the
deception.
Square the packet and
transfer it to left-hand
dealing position as you ask
the first spectator to name
her card. In a fashion similar to that just used, deal
the cards from the left
hand to the right, reversing
their order as you form a
spread. Deal the first five
cards honestly, outjogging
the two selections as they
appear. Keep the last two
cards squared as one and
lay them on top of the
spread (Figure 289). This
produces the first spectator's selection between the
two center aces.
Square the packet in the right hand and transfer it to the left. Ask
the second spectator to name her card. When she does, don't deal
the packet into a spread this time; rather, fan it widely, revealing all
three face-up selections at once, alternated with the face-down aces
(Figure 290). Exhibit both sides of the fan, showing the aces as well
as the selections; then conclude by laying the fan onto the table,
chosen cards face-up.
Not only is this a pretty bit of magic, exhibiting a fine sense of
economy, it is also an exceptional lesson in the deceptive handling
of a thick packet: seven cards as four. The trick stands nicely by itself,
or it can serve effectively in combination with Roy Walton's
"Collectors" or one of the many Collectors variants.
November 1974

SNAP SWAP
Effect: A free selection from a face-up deck is turned face-down
and buried in the pack. A second selection is placed face-down under
a spectator's hand. The deck is spread to locate the reversed first
selection. Then a magical pass is made over the cards. This results
in the transposition of the two selections: the second is now in the
deck, and the first under the spectator's hand. The attractiveness of
this transposition lies in the casual, straightforward manner in which
the cards are handled. No duplicate cards are used, there are no
multiple lifts, nor a wasted motion from start to finish.
Method: Hold the deck face-up in left-hand dealing position and
ask someone to call stop as you riffle your thumb down the outer left
corner of the pack. Stop when told and, with the palm-down right
hand, neatly lift away the packet above the thumb's break, holding
it by the ends. Everyone is asked to remember the card exposed on
the face of the left-hand packet. With the left thumb push this card
to the right and use the right hand's packet to flip it face-down on
the left's. Push the face-down card again to the right and raise the
left hand, giving the audience another look at the face of the selection. However, as you push the card over, also push the card beneath
it slightly to the right. Then, as you lower the left hand again, pull
the selection flush with the packet and, with the left fourth finger,
form a break beneath the upper two cards.
Set the right hand's packet over the
left's and grasp the entire deck by its
ends, transferring the break to the
right thumb while you maintain a
second break between the upper
packet and the chosen card. That is,
the face-down selection and the faceup card below it are isolated near the
center, with a thumb break held above
and below them (Figure 291).
Immediately perform a double
undercut, cutting all the cards beneath
the lower break in two blocks to the

292

THE COLLECTED WORKS OF ALEX ELMSLEY

face of the pack. This leaves the


selection and its companion
under the deck, with a thumb
break still held above them.
With the left thumb, start to
draw single cards from the face
of the pack onto the left palm,
Biddle count fashion. As you do
this, ask a second party to stop
you at any card she wishes. Ask
that she choose some card that
contrasts well with the first
selection.
When a card is designated,
draw it onto the left-hand
packet, thumb it to the right
and, using the right-hand packet, flip the card face-down. In doing
so, execute Charlie Miller's tip-over change handling. That is, as you
flip over the selection on the left-hand packet, follow through with
the right hand's action by bringing its packet momentarily over the
left's. In the instant the right hand's packet eclipses the left's, release
the two cards below the break from the right thumb, letting them fall
squarely over the selection. When the right hand moves its packet
away to the right, a face-down card is seen on the left hand's packet.
However, this card is not the second selection, but the first.
Thumb this card face-down onto the table. There is a minor
discrepancy here, as the face-up card exposed on the face of the lefthand packet is not the same one that rested a moment before beneath
the second selection. One could perform a wrist turn as the face-down
card is dealt to the table, but the reality of the matter is no one will
notice the change of the face-up card. Attention is elsewhere and the
card below the second selection is exposed for only an instant as the
tip-over change is executed.
Have the second spectator place her hand over the card she
believes to be hers. With the tip of the right forefinger, lift about half
of the right-hand packet at the outer end, as if beginning a swing cut,
and neatly slip the left hand's packet into the break (Figure 292); then
set the deck face-up on the table and ribbon spread it. A face-down
card appears near the center of the spread. The audience believes
this card to be the first selection, and the card under the spectator's
hand to be the second. Precisely the reverse is true. Make a magical
gesture over the cards and turn up the face-down card in the spread
to expose the second selection. Then let the spectator turn up the
card under her hand to find the first selection.
[1960]

DOUBLE SWAP
Effect: This next transposition seems a bit convoluted in its
description, but in performance the effect is clear and baffling. The
performer openly removes the two red aces from the pack. He then
invites two members of the audience to choose cards. To ensure that
no manipulation is possible, the performer uses the aces like forceps
to remove each free selection from the deck. The two chosen cards
are placed on the table and the red aces, being no longer needed, are
slipped into the top of the performer's breast pocket, where they are
left in view.
He now cleanly drops the deck onto the selections and commands
them to rise from the bottom to the top of the pack. However, when
the two top cards are turned up, the red aces are discoveredand
when the two cards in the breast pocket are checked, they are found
to be the two selections.
Method: This surprising double transposition is accomplished
through the efficient use of an unusual double lift that has been
unjustly ignored by all but a few since its initial publication in this
trick. (The one notable exception is Ken Krenzel, who has published
several tricks using the forceps double lift.) This double lift is not the
invention of Mr. Elmsley. Regrettably, as best I can ascertain, its
creator seems to have gone unrecorded. The sleight began circulating
among British magicians in the mid-1950s, and this transposition
of Mr. Elmsley's was the first published application. It is a relatively
easy double lift to master and, while admittedly eccentric, that very
eccentricity can be made to vouch for its fairness.
Begin the trick by openly removing the red aces from the deck.
Display their faces, then hold them face-down and more or less
squared in the palm-up right hand, gripped at their inner ends,
thumb on top, fingers beneath. Take the deck into left-hand dealing
grip and ask someone to call stop as you riffle your thumb down the
outer left corner of the cards. Stop when told to and pull down with
the thumb, opening a gap in the deck.
"You've stopped me at an unknown card. I don't wish even to touch
it, so I'll remove it with my two aces." Bend the right hand inward at
the wrist, swinging the free ends of the aces toward you and into the

294

THE COLLECTED WORKS OF ALEX ELMSLEY

296

^\

thumb's break. As you do this, slide the top ace slightly to the right
so that it enters the break in advance of the lower ace. Just as the
corner of the top ace moves into the break, quietly riffle two cards
from the left thumb. Time their release to hit the corner of the top
ace but miss the bottom ace. Then, as you slide the aces farther into
the deck, introduce the double card between them (Figure 293).
Continue to slip the aces into the pack until they are roughly parallel
with it and protrude for about half their length from the front end
(Figure 294). Then, while holding the deck loosely in the left hand,
move the left thumb aside and slide the aces to the left, extracting
the double card between them from the pack (Figure 295). In a
continuing action, turn the right hand palm-down, exposing the face
of the double card to the audience (Figure 296). Because of the
absence of friction between the cards, as long as you maintain a
moderately firm pressure on the aces, the double card will remain
in perfect alignment. A few trials will prove to you how easy this is.
If you press firmly with your right thumb on the back of the aces, a
slight bow will be imparted to the cards, which helps to prevent
separation at the front end of the double. If you keep this end tipped
downwardwhich is natural to the right hand's positionyou will
create a perfect illusion of a single card caught between the aces.

TWISTED CLASSICS 2 9 5
Name the card in evidence and ask that the spectator remember
it. Turn the right hand palm-up, keeping the free end of the double
card directed outward, and lay the right hand's cards face-down onto
the deck. As you do so, position the aces square with the pack, the
double card outjogged between them. Bring the right hand palmdown over the deck and push the double card square with the rest.
In almost the same movement, spread the top two cards to the right,
giving the impression that the selection is never out of sight. Neatly
draw the second card from the pack and lay it face-down on the table.
"I shall put your card down here." (Some readers may prefer to replace
this square-and-spread sequence with the push-in change, which fits
the circumstances nicely.)
Deal the top two cards into the right hand, reversing their order.
These are believed by the audience to be the red aces. However, only
the bottom card is an ace. The card above is the first selection. The
second red ace rests on top of the deck and an indifferent card lies
on the table.
Turn to a second spectator and ask her to stop you on a card. Riffle
your left thumb down the corner of the pack and execute another
forceps double lift. This time you must take care not to expose the
face of the upper card as you display the new double.
Handle the second double card just as you did the first, substituting the upper card of the double for the noted selection. Deal this
second indifferent card face-down onto the first on the table.
"I won't need the aces anymore." Take the top two cards from the
deck and, without exposing their faces, sit them conspicuously in the
top of your breast pocket.
Drop the pack cleanly onto the two tabled cards as you ask, "Do
you think it would be possible to make your two cards rise from the
bottom to the top of the deck?" Make a magical gesture over the cards.
"Rise!" Then pick off the top two cards and look at them. 'That's odd.
Your cards didn't rise to the topmy two red aces did!" Turn the faces
of the cards toward the audience. Pause briefly to let the situation
register. Then neatly take the two cards from your pocket and show
them to be the selections.
In this trick, a surprising effect is reaped from a very direct
handling. Learn it and you will have at your disposal not only a fine
bit of magic, but also an excellent new sleight: the forceps double lift.
For another good application of this sleight, see "The Biddle with a
Fiddle in the Middle" in Volume II.
June 1957

AMBITIOUS TO THE END


It is unlikely that any magician interested in card magic has not
at some time in his study of the subject experimented with and
performed an Ambitious Card routine. Mr. Elmsley is no exception.
What follows is the final three-phase sequence in a routine he
performed in the 1950s. The merits of its construction make it worth
recording.
At the start of the sequence, the chosen or ambitious card lies
second from the top of the pack, a common position in such routines.
In addition, the face-down deck should carry a concave bridge across
its width. Such a bridge can be installed early in the routine as you
do a dovetail shuffle, or spring the deck face-up from hand to hand,
or perform a face-up pressure fan.
While holding the face-down deck in left-hand dealing position,
execute a double turnover to display the chosen card apparently on
top of the pack. With the right hand, grasp the pack at its inner end
fingers above, thumb beneathand turn it face-up, end over end.
Adjust the right hand's grip on the pack, grasping it from above by
the ends, and execute a side glide. That is, curl the tip of the right
third finger around the outer end of the pack and secretly slide the
lowermost card (the face-down selection) a quarter of an inch to the
right. Then, with the tips of the left fingers, contact the exposed left
side of the card above the selection and draw it to the left, removing
it from the pack. As this card is also face-down, it will be mistaken
for the selection.
Insert the card halfway into the center of the pack, then return
the deck to left-hand dealing position. Now finish pushing the card
home in your fairest manner. Again grasp the inner end of the deck
with the palm-down right hand, and turn it end over end. As you do
so, tilt the left palm inward to meet the turning deck, and reclaim it
in dealing position while the pack is still vertical. The selection lies
face-up on the pack, but the top of the deck cannot yet be seen by
the audience.
Smoothly shift the right hand's grip on the pack, lowering the
thumb to the bottom end and, as you continue to turn the deck facedown, top palm the selection. While the left hand helps support the

TWISTED CLASSICS

297

deck as you palm the card, the mechanics are basically those of a
one-handed top palm. By the time the deck has been lowered to a
face-down position, the selection is concealed in the right hand.
Let the top of the pack be seen; then wave the right hand over the
deck and deposit the palmed card, in the fashion of a color change.
This gives the effect of the face-up chosen card visibly rising from the
center of the deck to the top.
Pause for the effect to be appreciated. Then remove the selection
from the top of the deck while you rotate the left hand palm outward,
turning the deck vertically onto its right side, back toward the audience. Hold the pack loosely caged in the left fingers, with the thumb
on the upper edge. If you now relax the thumb, a break will open near
the center of the pack where the reversed indifferent card lies. The
opposing bridges in the cards assure this.
Slip the selection, face
outward, into the break,
directly above the reversed
card (Figure 297). As you
do this, make it clear to the
spectators that the card is
going genuinely into the
middle of the pack. Leave
roughly half an inch of the
selection protruding from
the right end of the pack as
you turn the left hand once
more palm-up. With the
deck again in dealing position, use the right thumb to push the selection flush, but also bear
down lightly with the thumb, opening a small break above the card
for the left fourth finger.
Now do a riffle pass to make the face-up selection appear instantly
on top of the pack. Directly below the selection is hidden the faceup indifferent card.
Let this second startling appearance of the card register. Then ask
a spectator to extend one hand, palm-up. Lay the deck crosswise on
his palm; that is, with a long edge nearest you. Now execute a tabled
double lift from the spectator's hand. This is again aided by the
reversed bridges in the top pair of cards. Just grasp them by their
opposite sides, using a light touch, and lift them away from the pack.
Snap the double card face-down and replace it on the deck. Tell
the spectator to watch very closely. Perform a table-style slip cut on
his palm, cutting the top card to the center of the pack. Do not make
this maneuver rapidly. It is better that the spectator see the top card
slipped to the center than to have him doubt its location. Of course,
if you can do the slip cut slowly and deceptively, so much the better.

298 THE COLLECTED WORKS OF ALEX ELMSLEY


Gesture magically over the pack; then ask the spectator to turn
over the top card. He finds the selection has risen to the top, while
he held the cardsand everything can be inspected, should curiosity
dictate it.
This is a strong sequence of three surprises, which concludes in
the spectator's own hands. It is therefore an excellent climax for an
Ambitious Card routine.
We will now examine a more elaborate Ambitious Card construction, one involving an extra difficulty: the ambitious card has a
contrasting back to the deck.

AMBITIOUS STRANGER
Effect: The plot is that of the Ambitious Card, but with an
interesting complication added: the card that rises time after time to
the top of the pack has a contrasting back. Therefore, it is clearly
identifiable from both face and back. After this odd-backed card has
risen repeatedly to the top, it surprises everyone by changing places
with its duplicate from the pack, which was placed in the performer's
pocket at the startand the deck then changes colors to match the
odd card.
Method: Milt Kort was the first to publish Ambitious Card routines
using an odd-backed card. In "Milt Kort's Card Trick" (ref. Psychogizmo, No. 39, August 30, 1964, pp. 5-6, and No. 40, Sept. 5, 1964,
p. 7; also Off-color Card Tricks, pp. 41-45) we find him working with
an ambitious card, the odd back of which is concealed until the
climax of the routine. Three years later Mr. Kort published "Second
Banana" (ref. Genii, Vol. 32, No. 4, Dec. 1967, pp. 173-174), in which
the odd back of the ambitious card is acknowledged from the start.
This odd card rises several times to a position second from the top
of the pack and, as a final surprise, it changes into a joker while the
balance of the deck turns into duplicates of the ambitious card. In
Mr. Elmsley's routine, which he devised independently in the late
1950s, the odd-backed card is made to rise to the top, and all the
backs change color at the finish.
For the purpose of explanation, we shall assume the deck in use
is red backed, and the stranger card is blue. However, in performance
it is a problem with color-changing deck effects that the back change
is often missed by spectators unless it is somehow emphasized by
the presentation. Consequently, Mr. Elmsley observes that it is not
enough to use different colored backs of the same design. One should
search for highly contrasting designs as well; for instance, a red
geometrical pattern and a blue pictorial pattern. For the present trick
the faces of the two aces of spades must be a close match.
From the red deck, remove the ace of spades and any other card.
For this description, we will assume the second card to be the four
of diamonds. Discard the four, as you will not need it; and place the
ace into your wallet or breast pocket. You will need two blue-backed

300

THE COLLECTED WORKS OF ALEX ELMSLEY

cards as well. These are also the ace of spades and the four of
diamonds. Place these two cards onto the red deck, four over ace,
and slip the deck into a blue card case. This completes the
preparation. The trick will be taught in six phases for ease of learning.

First Phase
Remove the deck from its case and set the case aside. Lay the deck
face-down on the table and bring out your wallet. Take the oddbacked ace of spades from the wallet and put the wallet away. (If you
carry the ace in your breast pocket, simply take it from there.)
"I am going to do a trick with a special ace of spades." Saying this,
drop the ace face-down next to the deck, letting its contrasting back
be seen.
Pick up the pack and perform a face-up overhand shuffle as
follows: draw off the top card (the four of diamonds) and one or more
cards from the face together; then shuffle off the balance, throwing
a small block of cards onto the face of the pack to finish. This shuffle
retains the blue-backed four on top of the deck, and places the bluebacked ace somewhere near the face.
"There must be a blue-backed ace of spades somewhere." Spread
through the face-up pack until you come to the ace of spades. Drop
it face-down near the red-backed ace and square the deck, forming
a left fourth-finger break under the card at the face.
"In fact, both of these aces will play a part." With the right hand,
pick up the aces, red over blue, and drop them casually face-up onto
the face of the pack. Display them there for a moment, then square
them and, with the right hand, grasp all three cards that rest above
the break. With the left fingers, smoothly turn the balance of the deck
face-down without exposing the card now at its face. This prevents
the possibility of anyone noticing that the card has changed. Then
drop the right hand's three cards face-up onto the face-down pack,
catching a fourth-finger break beneath them. These three cards are,
in order from the top down, red-backed ace, blue-backed ace and a
red-backed indifferent card. The face-down card directly below them
is the blue-backed four of diamonds.
Thumb over the top ace, then do a block push-off of the next two
cards, forming a spread of two face-up aces. Take the upper ace into
your right hand and use it to flip the double card face-down onto the
deck. This double card appears to be the red-backed ace.
"But to start, I shall need only the red ace." Without exposing its
back, slip the right hand's acethe real red-backed aceinto the left
inner breast pocket of your jacket, or into the right trousers pocket.
This leaves a red-backed indifferent card on top of the pack, under
which is the blue-backed ace, the blue-backed four and the rest of
the red-backed deck, all face-down. While this has taken some time

TWISTED CLASSICS

301

to explain, these introductory actions consume only a few moments


in performance. The first bit of magic is now about to occur.
Take the top red-backed card, believed to be the ace, and insert it
neatly into the center of the pack. Do not expose the red backs of
other cards as you do this. Push the card flush. Then steal any redbacked card from the deck and perform a color change on top of the
pack. Any one of a number of color changes can be used here. Mr.
Elmsley is partial to Malini's, which can be found in Stars of Magic
(pp. 154-155).
As the right hand passes over the deck, the red-backed card
appears on top of the pack. "The red ace has risen to the top, through
the many intervening cards." To emphasize your words, spread over
the top two cards only, letting the two blue backs below the redbacked card be seen. Then, as you square the two cards back onto
the deck, catch a break below them, in preparation for a double lift.
Lift the two cards as one and show the face of the ace. "I'll show
you that again."

Second Phase
Return the double card face-down onto the deck. Take the top card
and slip it into the middle of the pack. Make it clear that the card is
going flush into the center. Then, with the right hand, grasp the deck
by its ends from above and quickly execute two small actions: with
the left thumb, push the top card of the deck to the right for no more
than a quarter of an inch; and simultaneously do a pull-down or a
buckle to form a break for the right thumb above the bottom card of
the pack.
"If I tap the top of the packthe red ace drops down through the
cards and out the bottom." With your left forefinger, give the top of
the deck a light tap. Then quickly position the left hand several inches
beneath the deck and release the bottom card, letting it fall face-down
onto the left palm.
Slip the left hand's card on top of the pack and immediately
transfer the pack to left-hand dealing position. In this action, form
a break under the sidejogged ace as you push it flush. Perform a
double lift and show the face of the ace as you say, "I'll show you that
again, more slowly."

Third Phase
Raise the left hand, bringing the deck to a vertical position, face
toward the audience. With the right hand, insert the double card into
the middle of the pack, letting it be seen that the ace really goes into
the center.

302

THE COLLECTED WORKS OF ALEX ELMSLEY

Lower the hands and deck,


bringing the backs once more into
view. You will now perform a minor
variation of an Ambitious Card
sequence by Fred Braue, based on
the push-in change. As the hands
are lowered, push the lower card of
the double inward slightly with the
right fingers. Then, in a continuing
action, with the tip of the left forefinger engage the outer end of the
lower card (Figure 298) and push it
flush with the pack, leaving the
upper card of the pair still protruding. But the left forefinger does
not stop when the card is flush.
Continue to push inward until you
have injogged that card and all
those below it for about an inch
(Figure 299). Care must be taken
here to keep the injogged portion of
the deck reasonably squared, so
that no red backs can be seen.
Bring the palm-down right hand
to the inner end of the pack and
grasp the injogged block by its
opposite sides. "I'll cut a few more
cards to the top." Strip the injogged block from beneath the deck and
slap it square on top. As you make this cut, tilt the outer end of the
pack downward somewhat, to disguise the fact that you have cut the
entire lower half of the deck from beneath the outjogged card.
"That puts the ace even farther from the top." Push the outjogged
card flush and turn the pack face-up in the left hand. With the right
hand, grasp the deck by its ends from above and execute another
pull-down or buckle to create a break above the lowermost card (the
ace) for the right thumb.
"But if I tap the face of the pack, the ace falls out the back." Tap
the face of the pack and catch the ace in your left hand, using the
same actions taught in the previous phase. Slip the ace onto the face
of the deck. You now have the blue-backed ace at the face of the pack
and the blue-backed four somewhere near center.

TWISTED CLASSICS

303

Fourth Phase
Fan the face-up pack and spot the four of diamonds. Take the ace
of spades from the face of the fan and insert it one card behind the
four; that is, one card should lie between the ace and the four. Close
the fan and push the ace square, forming a left fourth-finger break
beneath it.
"I'll cut the pack a bit this
time, losing the ace." Double
cut the ace to the back of the
deck. "It isn't at the bottom..." Spread a few cards
from the face of the deck,
showing the ace is not there.
Square them again, "...nor at
the top." Turn the deck facedown, exposing the bluebacked card on top. Bring
the palm-down right hand to
the rear of the pack and lift
the inner ends of the top two
cards, in preparation for a
double lift. Grip the double
card between the right
thumb, at the face, and fingers, on the back. Then lift it
away from the deck and turn
the hand palm-up, exposing
the face of the indifferent
card (Figure 300).
Now perform Dai Vernon's
paintbrush color change:
Turn the right hand palmdown, rest the free end of the
double card on the inner end
of the deck (Figure 301), and
slide the double forward,
until its end hits the tip of
the left forefinger, which
rests at the outer end of the
deck (Figure 302). Immediately draw the double card
back, brushing the outer end
lightly over the top of the
deck. Repeat the forward

304

THE COLLECTED WORKS OF ALEX ELMSLEY

and back brushing action


several times. Then, when
the double card has moved
flush with the outer end of
the pack, push the lower
card of the pair forward,
using the right thumb, and
release this card flat onto
the pack. Simultaneously
draw the upper card back.
The top card of the deck
seems to transform visibly
into a red-backed card.
"It's back again." Thumb the red-backed card to the right, exposing
the blue-backed card below it. Slip the right hand's card under the
red-backed one (Figure 303) and square the deck, catching a left
fourth-finger break under the top two cards. Immediately perform a
double lift to show the ace, apparently on top. Return the double card
face-down onto the pack as you say, "I'll show you how it's done."

Fifth Phase
"You see me put the red ace in the middle." Remove the top redbacked card and push it into the center. Let about an inch of the card
protrude from the front of the pack.
"But what you don't see is that I very quickly cut the pack, bringing
it back to the top." Cut the pack at the projecting card, simultaneously using the left forefinger to push the card square with the packet
below it. This is done to conceal the red back of the packet. Complete
the cut, taking the two blue-backed cards (ace over four) to the center,
and hold a left fourth-finger break between the halves. Then, with
the tip of the right thumb, lift the ace to the face of the upper half
and reform the break between the two blue-backed cards.
(Alternatively, you can right] og the top card slightly before you cut,
and form the fourth finger's break under the jog.)
You have seemingly just cut the ace to the top of the pack, in an
explanatory gesture. Now reverse the cut, taking the apparent ace
back to the center of the deck. Cut at the break to do this, bringing
the blue-backed ace to the face of the deck and the blue-backed four
to the top.
'This is what it looks like in practice." Give the left hand and deck
a little shake. "Did you see that?" Turn the pack face-up in the left
hand to reveal the ace at the bottom.

TWISTED CLASSICS

305

Sixth Phase
Take the ace into the right hand and turn the left hand palm-down,
revolving the deck face-down. Insert the face-up ace into the center
of the pack and push it flush. Then turn the left hand palm-up again.
With the right hand, grasp the deck by its ends from above and side
slip the lowermost card, the four of diamonds, into right-hand classic
palm, as if preparing for a color change.
"If I reverse the ace, it immediately changes places with the one
in my pocket." With your right hand, reach into the pocket containing
the red-backed ace. Leave the palmed four behind and bring the ace
from the pocket.
Display both sides of the ace and drop it onto the table. "And the
blue ace which was in my pocket is here in the pack." Ribbon spread
the deck face-up and remove the face-down blue-backed ace. Display
it and lay it with its twin.
"I started with a red ace in a blue-backed pack; but, as the ace is
now blue, it follows that the remainder of the pack must be red!"
Domino the spread face-down to reveal the changed backsand
conclude.
If you replace the red-backed ace in the deck and put the bluebacked ace away, you have a fifty-one card pack with which you can
continue to perform. If you must have all fifty-two cards, use a bluebacked joker in place of the four of diamonds. When it is palmed from
the pack at the finish it will not be missed.
For three other clever approaches to the color-changing deck effect,
see "A Strange Story" (pp. 401-404) and, in Volume II, 'The Red and
the Blue" and 'The Shy Chameleon".
January 1972

Chapter Six:

Down and
Dirty Deals

7-16
Effect: While a spectator shuffles the deck, the performer explains,
"I'm going to introduce you to a game on which a lot of money is lost
and won in Australia. It's called 'Seven-Sixteen', because in Australia
the gambling houses open at seven-fifteen and it takes a minute to
pour the drinks. [Australian performers will want to locate this game
in some exotic and distant location, like Hoboken.]
"Essentially, it is a game of matching cards. The cards have their
usual values, ace high, and the order of the suits is as in bridge. But
to avoid any possibility of cheating, they go through rather an
unusual procedure.
"A lot of side bets are made on this game. I shall ask two of you to
play, and I shall make a side bet. Here is my stake..." The performer
takes out a bill of respectable value, "...and on it I shall write my bet."
This is done. The bill is then folded and handed to one of the players.
"As I always win, I'm not going to ask you to put down any money
against me."
The deck is handed to the other player. "So that the dealer can't
cheat, the player has a free call of the number of cards he wants dealt;
anything between seven and sixteen. Will you call the number,
please." This is addressed to the player with the prediction. When
he names a number, the performer says to the dealer, "Please deal
him that many cardsface-down, and no dealing off the
bottom....Now deal yourself the same number of cards.
"Next you must both discard cards until you have only one left;
but to avoid any cheating, you must use what is called 'The Australian
Shuffle'. Will you each move the top card of your hand to the bottom.
Discard the next card. Move the next one to the bottom, discard the
next, and carry on until you each have only one card left.
"Now comes the moment of truth. Will you each show your
remaining card." The dealer turns up the ace of spades, while the
other player displays a lesser card. "The dealer wins! Congratulations.
And will you read everyone my bet."
The spectator reads from the performer's bill, "The dealer wins with
the ace of spades."
The performer shrugs and admits, "Yes, that's how I paid for my
passage home."

310

THE COLLECTED WORKS OF ALEX ELMSLEY

Method: This is next best to self-working. It is also a fine example


of how a simple effect can be built into an entertaining mystery
through clever presentation.
When the spectator finishes shuffling the deck, retrieve it from him
and briefly spread it face-up between your hands, ostensibly to show
the thorough mixture of the cards. As you do this, spot the ace of
spades, count fifteen cards past it and break the spread at that point
as you gesture and talk. Then reunite the two portions, transposing
them, and close the spread. In other words, in the guise of a nonchalant gesture, cut the pack, bringing the ace of spades sixteen
cards from the top.
That is the whole of the trickery. Write your prediction, have one
spectator name a number between seven and sixteen, and have the
other spectator deal that number of cards to his opponent, then to
himself. If they now perform an under-down deal, the dealer will be
left with the ace of spades and your prediction will prove unbelievably
accurate.
The "sixteenth-card principle" on which this method is founded
is most intriguing. "A Double Prediction", immediately following, is
another trick that employs it. Those interested in further applications
are advised to locate a copy of Tom Craven's 16th Card Book (1982),
which is devoted to tricks using this principle.
March 1958

A DOUBLE PREDICTION
Effect: The performer writes a prediction and sets it message-side
down on the table. He then asks someone merely to think of one of a
number of cards shown from a shuffled deck.
It is explained that whatever card the spectator thinks of will in
turn influence the selection of a second random card. Cards are dealt
into a face-down pile as the spectator silently spells the name of his
mental selection, one card for each letter. When he reaches the end
of the name he tells the performer to stop.
The performer now writes a second prediction and sets it with the
first. He then counts out a second pile of cards for another person
to use. That pile consists of the same number of cards as the pile
determined by the first spectator's mental choiceobviously a
number beyond the control of the performer.
Each spectator is asked to pick up the pile before him and to
eliminate cards until only one is left. This they do. The two predictions
are given to them. The second spectator is asked to read his
prediction aloud, then turn over the card that remains to him. The
card and prediction match.
The first spectator is asked to name the card he only thought of,
then to read his prediction slip and turn over the card he holds. The
prediction accurately names his mental selection and the card is
found to be that very selection.
Method: Careful readers will scent the one-ahead principle, but
will most likely be puzzled about the means of learning the identity
of the mentally selected card, and the method by which the second
selection is forced. The modus operandi is delightfully subtle.
The discovery and the force hinge on Mr. Elmsley's sixteenth-card
principle (introduced in the preceding trick) coupled with a simple
spelling setup. A six-card arrangement is required on top of the deck.
From the top down the cards read: queen of diamonds, four of
diamonds, eight of spades, king of hearts, two of spades and six of
clubs. If you examine this list you will find that each card spells with
one less letter than the one preceding it, starting with fifteen letters
and dwindling to ten. You must also know the identity of the card
sixteenth from the top of the pack. For this explanation we will
assume this to be the queen of hearts.

312

THE COLLECTED WORKS OF ALEX ELMSLEY

Begin with a casual false shuffle that leaves the top sixteen cards
of the pack undisturbed. Set the deck down and pick up a slip of
paper and a pen. Select someone in the group who looks like he can
follow instructions, and gaze intently at him. Then jot down, 'The
second card chosen will be the queen of hearts." Set the slip writingside down on the center of the table. The queen of hearts, of course,
is the card you know lies sixteenth from the top of the pack.
Lift the top six cards from the deck, fan their faces toward the
spectator and ask him to think of any card he sees. When he has one
in mind, close the fan and drop it back onto the deck.
Explain to the spectator that you want him to aid in the random
selection of a card for a second person. To do this he must mentally
spell the name of the card he is thinking of, not telling anyone its
identity but stopping you when you have dealt the same number of
cards as there are letters in the name. Name any card that is not
among the seven you have stacked, and spell it aloud for him so that
he knows precisely what is expected of him.
Then pick up the deck and deal cards into a face-down pile in front
of the spectator, silently counting them, until he tells you to stop.
By knowing the number of cards dealt, you now know which of the
six cards he has mentally chosen, as each spells with a different
number of letters:
10 = six of clubs
13 = eight of spades
11 = two of spades
14 = four of diamonds
12 = king of hearts
15 = queen of diamonds
Set down the talon and pick up the pen and a second slip of paper.
Write, 'The card thought of will be the..." and fill in the name of the
selection. Set this slip beside the first and pick up the dealt pile.
Without altering the order of the cards, quickly count them, as
though you didn't know how many were there. Announce the number
and set the packet before the spectator again.
Turn to a second person and ask if he will participate. Pick up the
deck and deal a face-down pile before him of the same size as the
first pile. Point out that the number of cards was determined by the
first person's mental selection and is obviously beyond your control.
Ask each person to pick up the pile of cards before him and
eliminate them one by one with an under-down deal. It may be helpful
to demonstrate the procedure with the portion of the deck you hold,
to make everything clear.
As they are occupied with their dealing, push the appropriate
prediction in front of each of them. That the first prediction is given
to the second spectator and the second prediction to the first is a
minor detail that is covered by an abundance of misdirection.
At the end of the dealing, each spectator will be left holding the
proper cards and the effect is pursued to its proper finish.

DOWN AND DIRTY DEALS

313

On reviewing this trick thirty-nine years after its initial publication, Mr. Elmsley remarks, "Perhaps I have lost my faith in human
naturebut I don't think nowadays I would trust the spectator to
spell correctly." This is a sad comment on the current state of
education, but it is a fact that must be considered when doing any
trick the success of which requires a spectator to spell a card silently
and accurately. Choose your helper carefully.
July 1951

MELBOURNE
Effect: Someone shuffles the deck and thinks of a number
between seven and sixteen. The performer spreads the cards before
the spectator's eyes, counting sixteen aloud. The spectator is asked
to remember the card that lies at her number. The performer turns
his head as this is done, to prevent him from seeing the cards or the
spectator's face, should she unwittingly betray something through
her expression. Once a card has been noted, the pack is cut and
shuffled as a precaution.
Now the spectator, for the first time, announces the number she
selected. She is given exactly that many cards from the top of the pack
and asked to eliminate all but one through the process of an
Australian shuffle. When she holds only one card she is asked to
name the card she is thinking of. She is then told to turn over the
card in her hand. It is hers.
Method: The deck can be genuinely shuffled, as there is no
arrangement to the cards. Ask someone to think of a number between
seven and sixteen. With the deck in left-hand dealing grip, hold it with
its face toward the spectator and count sixteen cards from the top
into the right hand, gripping each with the fingers at the upper end
and the thumb at the lower. Take each card onto the face of the last,
without reversing their order, and catch a thumb break between the
seventh and eighth cards. (Alternatively, you can take the cards into
a right-hand pinch grip and dowryog the eighth card. A break can
be formed above it later, when the packet is returned to the deck.)
Let the spectator see the face of each card as it is counted, so that
she can memorize the one that rests at her number. Turn your head
from her as she does this.
When sixteen cards have been counted, ask her if she has one in
mind. Then place the right hand's packet face-down on the deck and
double cut the top seven cards to the bottom. This brings the actual
selection stock to the top.
Follow the cuts with an out-faro. Neither the faro cut nor the
shuffle need be perfect for this trick, so long as the top eight cards
of the pack are properly interwoven. In fact, Mr. Elmsley purposely

DOWN AND DIRTY DEALS

315

performs an imperfect shuffle and lets it be observed. This tends to


throw knowledgeable observers off the scent.
Ask the spectator to tell everyone what number she chose. Slowly
and fairly count that many cards from the top of the deck, without
reversing their order, and hand them to her. Explain how an underdown deal is performed, ducking the top card, dealing the next, and
so on, until only one card remains. Mr. Elmsley openly calls the
procedure an Australian shuffle. The name is mildly humorous to
those not familiar with it, and it lends interest to the operation.
Nothing more need be done. The faro shuffle has placed the
selection to turn up last when the packet is given an under-down
deal. Have the spectator name her card and turn over the one that
remains in her hand.
If the spectator should think of the number fifteen, take care not
to expose the bottom of the packet as you hand the cards to her. The
fifteenth card is restored to fifteenth position by the shuffle and lies
at the face of the packet.
Mr. Elmsley recognizes that restricting the choice of a number to
a range between seven and sixteen seems somewhat artificial. Asking
for a number between seven and seventeen seems slightly less so,
and that is what he does. On the off chance that the sixteenth card
is thought of, it will rest seventeenth from the top of the deck after
the shuffle. Therefore, on hearing sixteen announced, you can count
that many cards into a face-down pile on the table. The selection now
lies on top of the talon. Turn up the dealt pile and spread it, asking
if the spectator sees her card. She will not; but while everyone is
distracted, palm the selection from the deck. Then spread the balance
of the pack face-up across the table and ask her to point to her card.
She cannot. Do not make her search for it. After a short pause
produce it from your pocket and conclude.
Here is another handling that
offers several appealing touches.
When showing the sixteen cards
for selection, downjog the eighth
card roughly a quarter of an inch.
When all sixteen have been displayed, lay them back onto the
deck and, as the palm-down right
hand squares the pack from
above, press down with the right
thumb on the inner right corner
of the injogged card, crimping it
as you push it flush (Figure 304).
Now perform a faro shuffle; it
makes no difference if it is an outor an in-weave. Square the cards
and cut at the crimp, sending it to

316

THE COLLECTED WORKS OF ALEX ELMSLEY

the bottom of the pack. Ask the spectator her number and hand her
that many cards from the top of the deck, preserving their order as
you count them off.
Have the spectator perform a down-under (n.b., not under-down)
deal and she will be left holding her mental selection.
June 12, 1953
A few years after having invented "Melbourne", Mr. Elmsley
discovered a method for achieving this effect while eliminating the
faro shuffle. This made the trick literally self-working.
Again have someone think of a number between seven and sixteen.
Count fifteen cards from the deck, displaying their faces to the
spectator so that she can remember the card at her mentally selected
number. As you do this, however, deal the cards one by one into a
face-down pile on the table. This reverses their order. When all fifteen
have been dealt in this manner, pick them up and drop them back
onto the deck.
Now do a false shuffle or cut that reserves the top stock of fifteen
cards. This shuffle isn't necessary to the working of the trick, but
without it the method can be too easily reconstructed.
Hand the face-down deck to the spectator and say, "Do you still
remember your number? We will use that number again. Will you
please deal down the same number of cards that you thought of into
a face-down pile." In doing this the spectator reverses the order of
the dealt cards. If she now performs an under-down shuffle with the
counted packet, she will be left holding the thought-of card.
This method will appeal to those who don't include among their
skills the faro shuffle. Yet, given a choice between the two procedures,
the faro method will be the more confounding to a sophisticated
audience, and its secret is unquestionably more difficult to fathom.

AUSTRALIAN SELF-HELP
Effect: Someone is asked to shuffle the deck. He is then told to
make a small pile of cards by dealing as many as he wishes. After
doing so, he puts the deck aside and picks up the dealt pile. The
performer points out that, since the spectator has shuffled and dealt
as he wished, the top card of the packet is a random one, the identity
of which no one could know. The spectator is asked to peek at this
card and remember it.
"Have you ever heard of the Australian shuffle?" the performer
asks. "It is known as the down-under shuffle. But before you start
the shuffle, please lose your card by spelling Australian shuffle, while
you transfer a card for each letter from the top of your packet to the
bottom." The spectator does this.
"You are now ready to do the Australian shuffle; down and under.
Deal the top card down onto the table; place the next card under the
packet; deal the next card down, the next under, and so on until you
are left with just one card." The spectator whittles down the packet,
as instructed, until he holds one last card. The performer asks him
to name his selection...and turn over the card he holds. They are one
and the same.
The deck may be borrowed, the procedure is always the same, and
the performer never touches the cards.
Method: This is certainly not the most profound mystery in Mr.
Elmsley's oeuvre, but it has a certain charm and does amuse and
puzzle people. The only part of the procedure not disclosed in the
effect description is the limit necessary to the size of the packet. It
must contain from eight to sixteen cards. The spectator is allowed
to deal as many as he wishesup to a point. You can simply ask that
he deal something between seven and seventeen cards. Or you can
handle the dealing more subtly, by exercising psychological control:
Tell the spectator to begin dealing cards into a face-down pile.
When he has dealt four or five, nonchalantly mention, "We only need
a small pile to work with." As he deals the seventh card, say, "Stop
anytime you like." If you treat the procedure casually, as if his dealing
is of no great consequence, the average person will deal a few more
cards and quit, stopping well within the eight to sixteen range

318

THE COLLECTED WORKS OF ALEX ELMSLEY

required. It is mainly a matter of attitude on your part, and a bit of


timing. Managing the spectator's actions within a nine-card range
is not difficult. Should he deal too many, have him cut off a few cards
and hand them to you, thus arriving at a random card on top of the
packet; or have him deal a second packet, "one a bit smaller to work
with, drawn from the very center of the mixed pack."
With a packet of the specified size, if he looks at the top card, loses
it by spelling "A-U-S-T-R-A-L-I-A-N S-H-U-F-F-L-E", then performs
a down-under deal, he will automatically be left holding his selection. By transferring seventeen cards from the top to the bottom of
the packet, his card is positioned for the deal. You may, if you like,
substitute another phrase or name for Australian shuffle. So long as
it spells with seventeen letters, the trick will work.
The important points to stress in your presentation are that the
spectator shuffles the deck, deals as many cards as he likes, and that
you never touch the cards. Given these conditions, the trick, though
simple, can be quite puzzling.
October 1975

CHANCE AND CHOICE


Effect: From a shuffled deck the performer deals a pile of eleven
face-down cards. Handing this to someone, he explains, "We will use
these few cards to conduct an experiment in both chance and choice.
First, we will give chance its turn. Please take the top card and put
it on the bottom of the packet. Now deal the next card face-down onto
the table. Put the next card under the packet, and discard the next
one. Keep ducking and discarding until you have only two cards left.
"We now come to choiceyours. I want you to look at and
remember either of the two cards you hold. Place that card on top of
the discard pile...and slip the one you didn't choose underneath the
pile. Now give the pile to someone else."
This ritual of chance and choice is repeated with two other
persons, each of whom remembers one of two cards randomly
derived. When all three have made selections, the packet is wrapped
in a handkerchief or is hidden in an envelope to leave the performer
no physical evidence. Nevertheless, he is able, without a question
asked, to name all three cards.
Method: This trick was developed while mulling over Hofzinser's
"Remember and Forget" plot. Mr. Elmsley describes his creation as:
"Three cards are thought of under conditions that need to be excused
by great ingenuity of patter. These cards are then divined by the
magician."
Though Mr. Elmsley's "chance and choice" pretext is indeed an
ingenious one, there is no disguising that the method of selection is
unusual and a bit cumbersome. For that reason the trick is probably
best suited for the puzzlement of fellow magicians and card trick
enthusiasts. To such knowledgeable groups, the effect is certainly a
perplexing one. To its credit, the trick is also sleightless and
impromptu. It is formulated on a principle discovered in the
Australian deal.
All that you must do is remember four cards. These cards are those
found at positions one, four, five and six from the top of the pack. If
your memory cannot be trusted with this task, cull into position four
cards that you have previously memorized.

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THE COLLECTED WORKS OF ALEX ELMSLEY

Give the deck a false shuffle, retaining the top six cards in place.
Then deal eleven cards into a face-down pile, reversing their order.
Have each of three spectators go through the actions described
above; i.e., perform an under-down deal, look at one of the last two
cards, place it on top of the pile, and the other card on the bottom.
The mechanics of the under-down deal guarantee that the card
not chosen by the last spectator will be offered to the next, paired
with a fresh card from the memorized set. Only these four cards come
up for possible selection, and the card rejected by the third spectator
will have been unchosen by the previous two as well. Therefore, by
learning this bottom card, you can name the remaining three,
assured that they are the selections.
However, assuming the last spectator has not conveniently
exposed the unwanted card to you, how do you gain knowledge of
the bottom card without arousing suspicion. Since everyone knows
that the third person's selection lies on top of the pile, if you were to
pick up the cards to glimpse the bottom one, it would be natural to
speculate that you have somehow sighted the top card.
Several ruses can be used to good purpose here. One is to wrap
the packet in a handkerchief, making it clear that you do not peek
at any of the cards as you do this. With the face of the packet against
the center of the handkerchief, it is an easy matter to glimpse the
bottom card through the fabric as you twist the cloth around the
packet. An envelope can be used in place of the handkerchief. If this
envelope is made of anything but the heaviest paper, the face of the
bottom card, when pressed to the envelope, can be seen through it.
If you arrange it that the four known cards are of different suits,
the glimpse can be eliminated. Use four cards in Si Stebbins
sequence, such as the ace of clubs, four of hearts, seven of spades
and ten of diamonds. After the selections have been made you can,
with the smallest bit of fishing, quickly discover which card each
spectator is thinking of and reveal it in an assured manner. Start by
stating that someone is thinking of a club. If one of the spectators
admits to this, you can immediately name the value. If no one thought
of a club, recognize your error. "It is clearer now. It isn't a club, but
a spade." Since the club was not chosen, one of the three selections
has to be the spade, and the other two the heart and diamond. Using
this system, you need never falter more than once in your divination
of the three cards.
To disguise the method further, rather than counting the eleven
cards from the pack, you can simply cut a packet from the deck. To
do this, bridge the eleven-card packet at its inner end before setting
it on the deck. Then give the pack a false shuffle, retaining the top
stock, and casually cut off the cards above the bridge. Since, with
this procedure, the cards are not reversed when dealt, the four known
cards must be positioned sixth, seventh, eighth and eleventh from
the top. The balance of the procedure remains unchanged.

DOWN AND DIRTY DEALS

321

With small changes, more or fewer cards than eleven can be used
for this trick. Eleven was settled on above because it offers the most
convenient positioning of the four cards for sighting and memorization when performing with a genuinely shuffled pack.
Mr. Elmsley has also performed this trick with a packet of eleven
design cards, choosing for the four memorized designs ones that had
easy mnemonic links to the numbers one through four. See "Divinasign" in Volume II for examples of such designs. Also see "Autoprediction" (ibid.) for a handling of this principle that uses a straight
dealing procedure in place of the down-under deal.
September 1958

Chapter Seven:

Welcome
Correspondences

In 1947 Paul Curry released a manuscript titled Power of Thought,


which contained an exceptionally baffling coincidence effect. Mr. Curry
cited Tom Bowyer's "The Frequent Miracle" (ref. The Sphinx, Vol. 39,
No. 3, May 1940, p. 67) as his inspiration. The "Power of Thought"
premise has fascinated many magicians over the years, including Alex
Elmsley. Mr. Elmsley has returned time and again to the plot, always
attacking it from afresh angle in method or presentation. This chapter
collects nine of his treatments, each with elements that make it worth
consideration. We begin with a two-deck presentation of "Power of
Thought", continue with several one-deck approaches, then examine
some variations on the theme before concluding with a wonderfully
entertaining and astonishing trick called 'The Book of Fortunes".

RETURNED TO THE NEST


Effect: The performer sets two decks on the table and has
someone choose either of them for immediate use. The spectator is
handed that deck and asked to cut off a small packet. Then, while
the performer turns away, the spectator silently counts the number
of cards he has cut off and counts down that number from the top
of the deck. He notes the card resting at his number, then returns
the cut-off packet to the deck.
The performer now rejoins the proceedings. He picks up the deck
from which the selection has been made and gives the cards a quick
shuffle, to assure that the selection is lost. Meanwhile, the spectator
picks up the second deck, which has sat untouched on the table. He
is asked to deal the top card of this deck face-up onto the table. The
performer does likewise, turning up his top card, and observes that
the two dealt cards do not match. Performer and spectator turn up
the next two cards; again no match is found. They continue to deal
in this fashion, and the spectator is asked, when he sees his card,
to announce the fact and stop dealing. When he does turn up the
chosen card, and the performer turns over the card at the
corresponding position in his pack, it is found to be the duplicate to
the selectionand this is the only pair of duplicates that coincide
between the two decks.

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THE COLLECTED WORKS OF ALEX ELMSLEY

Method: This simple and extremely straightforward approach to


the Power of Thought premise relies on a simple stack and one faro
shuffle (which need not be perfect). Both decks are arranged in the
same order. The particular sequence of the cards is unimportant, so
long as that sequence is shared by both packs. You might wish to
consider employing some useful stack with which you can do other
effects, as the order of the second deck is left undisturbed at the end
of this trick.
Set both stacked decks on the table, after giving each, if you desire,
a brief false shuffle. Have someone choose either deck for his use.
Ask that he cut a small packet from the top of this deck, something
less than half the cards. Now turn away as he silently counts the
number of cards he has taken. Some motivation should be provided
for this procedure. Therefore, suggest that he count the cards silently
but openly, letting the other members of the group know his number
without your learning it. Tell him to set these cards aside, then to
pick up the balance of the deck and quietly count down to the number
he has chosen. Have him note the card at that position, while leaving
it in place, after which he is to drop the deck onto the cut-off packet
and square the cards.
When he has done this, turn back to him, retrieve the deck and
give it one in-faro shuffle. As promised, the shuffle need not be
perfect. Accurate interlacing is only necessary in the top portion of
the packets. Imperfections in the weave below the selected card will
not affect the outcome. In fact, even the cut for the shuffle can be
imprecise, so long as the top packet is the larger of the two.
As you perform the shuffle, have the spectator pick up the second
pack of cards and hold it face-down in readiness for dealing. Instruct
him to deal the top card face-up onto the table. Follow him by dealing
the top card of your deck face-up beside his. Point out that the two
cards do not match. Explain that you wish him to deal through his
deck, card by card, until he arrives at his selection. You will deal from
your deck in unison, and the audience is to watch for any chance
matches of the cards.
When dealing your cards, take each from the deck but then delay
in turning it up until the spectator has turned over his card. In this
way you can instill a bit of drama when he comes to his card and
you turn over its duplicate in your deck. This will be the only match
between the two packs, which can be quickly proven by ribbon
spreading the remaining cards of both packs side by side.
The faro shuffle does all the work. The underlying principle is easy
to understand. Let's say the spectator cuts ten cards from his pack,
then notes the card tenth from the top of the remaining cards. This
card originally rested twentieth from the top of the deck, and its
duplicate in the second pack still resides at that position. When the
spectator returns the cut-off packet to the bottom of the deck, the
selection is left at position ten. The in-faro moves the selection from

WELCOME CORRESPONDENCES

327

tenth to twentieth from the top, doubling its position previous to the
shuffle; i.e., returning it to its original position in the opening stack.
The selection is now back where it began, but the position of every
other card in the deck has been changed by the shuffle. Consequently, the selection is the only card in a corresponding position with
its duplicate in the undisturbed second pack.
The children's game of snap is probably familiar to many readers.
In this game, two decks are dealt out simultaneously, until a match
turns up. The first player to yell, "Snap," wins the matching cards.
Mr. Elmsley suggests that, if your spectator is familiar with snap, the
game provides an excellent presentational basis for any Power of
Thought effect.

ARITH-MATE-IC
Effect: The pack is shuffled and set before a spectator, who is
asked to cut off a small packet. The performer reaches out and
casually cuts the remainder of the deck into two piles as he asks the
spectator to count the number of cards she has taken. That number,
it is explained, will be used as a prediction for a coincidence.
When the number has been announced by the spectator, the
performer begins to deal cards face-up in unison from the two tabled
piles. As the cards are turned up, it is seen that they are randomly
paired, as one would expect; no two cards share both value and color.
However, when the pair that rests at the spectator's chosen number
is turned up, the cards are found to be a perfect match. This pair is,
in fact, the only such match that appears, either before or after in
the dealing. It is either extraordinary coincidence or something more
at work here.
Method: An ingenious full-deck stack makes this trick nearly
automatic in working. First remove seventeen cards of mixed values
and suits from the pack. The only restriction on the choice of these
cards is that there be no pairs of mates among the seventeen: no two
cards in the group can share matching value and color. The seventeen cards need be in no particular order.
Now remove the seventeen mates to these cards and stack them
in an order identical to the first seventeen cards. That is, if the first
pile of seventeen is in A-B-C-D-E...Q order, arrange the second pile
also in A-B-C-D-E...Q order.
Eighteen cards remain unused. Take these and alternate them
with the cards of the first pile, starting with an indifferent card on
top. The order of the pile now reads X-A-X-B-X-C-X-D-X-E-X...Q-X,
where X denotes an indifferent card. Crimp the bottom card of this
stack downward, or bridge the packet, so that you can later cut off
all thirty-four cards without hesitation.
With all cards face-down, drop the alternated stack onto the
remaining seventeen-card pile of mates. While it took some time to
explain the arrangement, its preparation is reasonably fast and
simple.

WELCOME CORRESPONDENCES

329

When ready to perform, bring out the deck and, if you can execute
a credible false shuffle and cut, do so as you comment, "It's surprising
how often coincidences happen; and some of these coincidences
would be very useful if only we knew in advance that they were going
to happen. Would you like to be able to predict a coincidence? Then
I'll try an experiment." Set the deck face-down before someone who
has responded to your question.
"You are going to choose a number, and that number will be your
prediction. The number should be random, so will you just cut some
cards from the pack and count how many you have taken? Don't take
too many, or there won't be enough left for what I want to show you
something between one and about a third of the pack. Now, before
you count, would you like to take one or two more, or put one or two
back?"
The packet she takes will be the top portion of the alternated stock.
She can cut off anything from one to seventeen cards, though something toward the middle of this range is preferred. Your instructions
should prevent her from cutting too deeply, but if she should do so,
ask her to think of a small number and return that many cards to
the pack.
"Before you go any further, I'm going to cut the remaining cards
into two packets." Reach out and divide the balance of the pack into
two face-down piles, cutting casually at the crimp or bridge. The
remainder of the alternated stock is in one pile, and the seventeen
mates are in the other.
"Now will you count your cards?" Have her announce the result
to the group. Say that eleven cards have been taken. "Eleven. All right.
Now, on top the these two packets we have the two of diamonds and
the six of hearts." Here you turn up the top card of each tabled packet,
naming it, and lay the two cards face-up in front of the packets. "It
would have been a coincidence if these cards had matched in value
and colorthe two red twos or the two red sixes.
"Your prediction number was eleven. If you have succeeded, the
coincidence will take place on the eleventh cards. Let's see. These
cards, the two and the six, were on top, so they are number one."
Turn up the top cards of the two face-down piles simultaneously,
counting aloud as you lay each pair of cards onto the face-up packets.
When you reach the spectator's number, pause dramatically, then
turn up the two cards to show a set of mates. You can continue to
turn up subsequent pairs, displaying that no further matches occur.
It would take considerable study to discover the subtle arrangement of the pack that makes possible this curious coincidence; and,
if your false shuffling has been convincing, thoughts of arrangements
should not occur to your audiences.
Mr. Elmsley invented this trick in the late 1950s. A short time later,
when computer dating bureaux became popular, he devised a

330

THE COLLECTED WORKS OF ALEX ELMSLEY

presentation for the trick using computer punch cards. These cards
bore the names of well-known lovers like Adam and Eve, Napoleon
and Josephine, Romeo and Juliet, Robin Hood and Maid Marion, as
well as currently famous couples. Such matching tricks as the one
just explained and several that follow become particularly
entertaining when performed with this special pack of computer
cards.
Computer cards are now a thing of the past, but many people
remember them; and today such cards would make quaint and
intriguing props. On the other hand, little is lost if some other card
stock is used, such as file cards.
With this computer-card deck, Mr. Elmsley also performed a
version of "Out of This World", another Paul Curry plot, in which he
had a spectator seemingly sort the sexes without looking at the names
on the cards. His method for this can be found in Volume II of this
work, under the title of "It's a Small World".

POTHER
Effect: A shuffled pack is set before someone and he is instructed
to cut off at least half the cards. He then thinks of a small number,
say between four and thirteen, and moves that many cards from the
top to the bottom of the packet. The performer turns his back as this
is done, permitting the spectator to communicate silently to everyone
else in the room the number he has chosen. When the cards have
been transferred, the spectator quietly counts down to the card at
his chosen number and notes it.
The performer turns to face the spectator once this has been
accomplished, takes the packet from him, shuffles it and hands it
back to the spectator. He then picks up the unused portion of the
deck, which has sat on the table throughout the proceedings. Both
performer and spectator now deal cards face-up in unison. When the
spectator sees his card, he announces the fact. The performer then
turns over the card he is holdingit is the mate to the selection.
These two cards prove to be the only match in the entire deck.
Method: This is another approach to the one-deck "Power of
Thought" premise. The method is based on Mr. Elmsley's Penelope
principle, of which much more will be said in the chapter on the faro
shuffle in Volume II. The cards must be set into a simple stack. Take
any twenty-six cards, in any order, making sure as you choose them
that no pairs of mates are present in the group. Then stack the
remaining half deck to match the random order of the first half.
Reassemble the deck by placing either half on the other. Each card
in the deck now lies twenty-six cards away from its mate, and the
deck can be given any number of straight cuts without disturbing
the arrangement.
You may give the deck a false shuffle as you begin the trick, or
simply perform a series of simple cuts. Set the deck face-down before
someone and have him cut the deck once or several times. Then ask
that he cut the pack roughly in half. As the piles lie side by side on
the table, you should be able to determine by sight which portion is
the smaller of the two. Set a finger ring or some small amulet onto
the smaller portion. If the piles are equal, or too close to judge which
is the greater, set the marker on either of them. The only thing you

332

THE COLLECTED WORKS OF ALEX ELMSLEY

must be certain of is that there are from seventeen to twenty-seven


cards in the pile under the marker. As you place the marker, state,
"I will isolate this group. These are the cards that will discover the
card you have yet to choose."
After making this mysterious declaration, have the spectator pick
up the remaining pile and think of a number between four and thirteen. Turn your back as he transfers that number of cards, either
singly or as a group, from the top to the bottom of the deck.
Once these cards have been transferred, have him count down to
his number and note the card that lies at that position from the top
of his packet. When this has been done and the cards have been
replaced, burying the noted card, turn back to him and take the
packet. As you talk to him, give the packet first a brief overhand
shuffle, then a faro. In the overhand shuffle, hold the packet face
outward and run thirteen cards from the face to the top. Then give
the packet one out-faro shufflei.e., the bottom card of the packet
remains the bottom cardstarting the weave at the bottom. Square
the packet and hand it back to the spectator.
Now remove the marker from the tabled portion of the pack, and
pick up these cards, handling them in a manner that clearly exhibits
an absence of manipulation. Explain that you will deal your cards
face-up in unison with him. Ask him to watch for his chosen card
as he deals. When he sees it, he is to say so and stop dealing.
You now each deal cards from your face-down packets into
separate face-up piles on the table. As you deal, delay turning your
card face-up until the spectator has done so. Once it is clear that the
card he has turned up is not his selection, snap yours over and lay
it down. When he arrives at his card and stops dealing, pause and
confirm that this card is indeed his. Then explain that every card in
the deck has one other card for a mate, one card that matches it in
both color and value. "For instance," you observe, "the one card in
the deck that is a mate to your six of hearts is..." At this point snap
over the card you are holding, "...the six of diamonds!" Drop the card
onto his and conclude.

BROWNWAVES I
Effect: A pack, which may be borrowed, is shuffled by a spectator,
who then cuts a small packet of cards from it. The deck is handed to
another person, who does the same.
Both spectators quietly count their cards, taking care to keep the
numbers secret from the performer. The performer takes the balance
of the pack and shows its cards one by one to the spectators, asking
that they each note the card that rests at their number. He counts
through enough cards to assure that their numbers have been
reached, but does not look at the faces of the cards himself.
The spectators now shuffle their packets together and bury them
in the center of the performer's packet. He then gives the deck a mix
and deals half the cards into a face-up pile. As the pile is formed, the
spectators are asked to watch for their mental selections. At the
finish, one of them admits he saw his card. He is given that half and
the second spectator is given the other.
Both are now told to deal through their cards in unison, one
dealing his cards face-up, the other face-down. When the one spectator turns up his selection he is to say so and both are to stop
dealing. The second spectator now names her mental selection, then
turns up the last card dealt. It proves to be the very card she was
thinking of.
Particularly note that the performer at no time knows either
spectator's number or card or its position in the pack.
Method: It was Edward Mario, I believe, who first suggested a onedeck variant of "Power of Thought" in which two selections were used
in place of mates (see The New Phoenix, No. 329, Aug. 1955, p. 126).
However, it was a baffling two-card location, invented in 1947 by
Edward G. Brown, the British past master of card magic, that
inspired Mr. Elmsley's work on an old mathematical principle. Mr.
Brown's trick expanded the utility of the parent principle, permitting
two cards to be found. At the same time he cleverly scripted the
procedure to disguise its mathematical foundation, which was rather
obvious in the original. (See Ibidem, No. 4, Nov. 1955, pp. 5-6, for
an approximate reconstruction of this trick by Lyons, Ransom,
Houghton and James; and The Card Magic of Edward G. Brown, pp.
74-79, for the authoritative explanation.)

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THE COLLECTED WORKS OF ALEX ELMSLEY

The Brown trick suffered, at least by today's standards, from a


lengthy selection process in which cards had to be dealt through
twice. Mr. Elmsley discovered a way to eliminate this repeated
dealing, thus accelerating the action. It was this work that led him
to develop the trick about to be explained and several others (see
"Brownwaves II" and "Brownwaves III" in Volume II of this work). The
method relies on a mathematical principle that produces what have
been termed "inter-relational discoveries". About this sort of
procedure, Mr. Elmsley comments, 'The method of having a card
chosen wherein a spectator cuts off some cards, counts them to arrive
at a number, and then remembers the card at that number in the
rest of the pack, has always been very popular with mathematically
minded magicians, if not with their audiences." This sardonic
assessment, while cautionary, does a disservice to a select number
of such effects that rise above the level of tedious puzzles and are
genuinely astonishing. Mr. Elmsley's contributions to this genre are
certainly among these exceptions. Granted, this is not the type of trick
for fast-moving formal performance; but for more relaxed gatherings
of intelligent people, such effects can have tremendous impact.
As stated above, the deck may be borrowed, as it is completely
unprepared. The only restriction is that it contain fifty-two cards.
Have the deck shuffled and ask two persons to cut off small packets:
"Take no more than a third of the pack each, leaving about half the
cards for me, and try to take different amounts." This last instruction
is important, although you do not want to emphasize it unduly.
Should the cards cut off by the spectators be equal or nearly equal
in number, the trick can fail. If you see such is the case, let the
spectators see that you are looking at their packets. "Oh, you may
think that I have estimated the sizes. Look, I'll turn my back...and
will you, Sheila, give some of your cards to Richard. Now there is no
way for me to know how many cards each of you have." This neatly
rectifies the situation.
"Will you each now silently count your cards and remember the
number you have. I will turn away while you do this [if you have not
already done so], as I don't want any clue." When they have finished,
turn back to them and pick up the balance of the pack, which should
contain roughly twenty-six cards. "I will show you some cards from
those you have left me. I will not look at them, but I want you to
remember the card that falls on your number. I'll show them to you
both at once and I'll show you enough cards to assure that I've
reached your number. Please say nothing to give me a hint, but
commit your card to memory."
Take the top card from your packet and present its face to the
spectators, counting it as "one". Take the next card under the first
and show it, counting "two". Continue to show the cards in this
manner; that is, without reversing their order. Stop when you have
shown twenty-five and ask, "Have each of you a card in mind?" They

WELCOME CORRESPONDENCES 335


will have. Take any remaining uncounted cards, slip them on top of
the twenty-five counted and square the packet. If the packet falls
slightly short of twenty-five, you must transfer enough cards from
the top to the bottom of the packet to make up the difference. To do
this, simply spread the cards between your hands and get a break
below the requisite number as you comment, "Each of you is now
thinking of one of these cards, one that no one but you can possibly
know." Close the spread and casually cut the cards above the break
to the bottom of the packet.
Have one spectator add the other's packet to his and give the cards
a brief mix. As he finishes this task, split your packet as near center
as you can estimate and sandwich the spectators' cards between the
two portions.
At this point you can give the pack a quick false shuffle if you
desire. Whether you shuffle or not, do execute a slip cut, slipping the
top card to somewhere near the center of the deck. This displacement
is necessary to set the selections properly for location.
Point out that, as yet, you have not seen the face of a single card.
Nor could you possibly know the card each spectator has in mind.
Turn the deck face-up and quickly deal twenty-six cards from its face
into a face-up pile, reversing their order as they are dealt. This is the
final adjustment necessary to place the selections at the same depth
in each half of the pack. As you deal, look away from the cards
yourself and instruct both spectators to watch for their card, but to
say nothing. When you have dealt the full twenty-six, ask if either of
the selections was seen. One spectator will say yes. Hand him that
packet, face-down. Turning to the second spectator, say, "Yours then
must be in this half." Present the remaining half face-down to her.
"I want you both to deal through your packets in unison. You,"
indicating the spectator who saw his card, "deal your cards face-up,
and stop when you turn up the card you are thinking of. And you,"
indicating the other person, "deal along with him, matching him card
for card, but deal yours face-down."
Both do as you have told them. When the one spectator stops on
his selection, ask the other to name hers. Then have her turn up the
last card dealt. It will be the second selection.
Minor variations in handling are possible. If, when the selections
are made, you count and show twenty-six cards, rather than twentyfive, it is the bottom card of the reassembled deck that must be shifted
to the middle. This is best accomplished by turning the deck faceup to execute a slip cut.
Also, you need not turn the deck face-up to divide it in half. You
can instead count twenty-six cards from the top of the face-down
deck, reversing their order. This too positions the selections correctly.
However, in doing this one sacrifices any possible interest for the
spectators in the dealing procedure.

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THE COLLECTED WORKS OF ALEX ELMSLEY

The handlings just described are those originally published in


1956. Sometime after this, Mr. Elmsley discovered a simple way to
accelerate the final procedure of dividing the deck between the two
spectators, and this is indisputably the superior course of action.
Rather than dealing twenty-six cards from the face, merely cut the
deck as close to center as you can manage, without making this a
studied action. Then turn the bottom half face-up and hand it to one
spectator. Give the other person the face-down top half. Tell them to
deal cards simultaneously, one person face-up, the other face-down.
Both are to watch the face-up cards and call stop if their selection
appears. The balance of the trick proceeds unchanged.
Keep in mind that you must imply throughout the presentation
that, while the conditions are designed to make the feat impossible
by normal means, you are nonetheless in full control of the outcome.
November 1956

SHADOWED
Effect: The deck is honestly shuffled, then cut by a spectator into
three piles. She takes up the center pile of the three, looks at the top
card, then cuts the packet, losing the card. Those familiar with the
key card principle will recognize that the performer cannot know
either top or bottom cards of the packet, for it was cut from the center
of the deck by the spectator.
The performer takes the packet and fans it face-up, displaying the
mix of cards. The fan is closed and the packet buried between the
remaining two piles on the table. The performer then fans the
assembled deck briefly toward himself and names a card, which he
asks everyone to remember as his selection.
The spectator is allowed to cut the deck and complete the cut,
further losing her card. The performer hands half of the pack to her
and retains the other half. The spectator is asked to deal her cards
face-down in unison with the performer, who deals his face-up. The
spectator watches for her selection in the face-up cards and, should
it appear, she is to call stop. The performer does the same, should
his card appear first.
Performer and spectator deal through their cards until one or the
other's card appears. Then the face-down card dealt simultaneously
by the spectator is turned over. It is the other selection.
Method: The method depends on a sunken key. This extremely
subtle principle was invented by Oscar Weigle, Jr. (ref. "Automatic
Location", Genii, Vol. 2, No. 11, July 1938, p. 390). Mr. Weigle's
inspiration was in turn triggered by an idea of William Larsen, Sr.
and T. Page Wright's ("Adding the Pips", Genii, Vol. 2, No. 7, March
1938, pp. 235 and 241), in which the card twenty-sixth from the top
of the pack was used to determine the sizes of two packets cut from
the deck. However, through Mr. Weigle's insight the twenty-sixth card
was transformed into a "remote" or "sunken" locator for two free
selections.
This progressive idea circulated quickly through the inner card
circles of the time, and was varied by some sterling thinkers including
Bruce Elliott, Charlie Miller, Jack McMillen, Al Koran, Toni Koynini,
Geoffrey Scalbert, Frederick M. Shields and Bascom Jones, Jr. It is

338 THE COLLECTED WORKS OF ALEX ELMSLEY


a sorry mystery why Mr. Weigle's part in the creation of this principle
went unmentioned by anyone, even by Hugard and Braue when, less
than two years after the Weigle location appeared in Genii, they
published a minor variation of it in Expert Card Technique.
In the trick now under discussion, Mr. Elmsley makes cunning use
of a sunken key. The deck is in no particular arrangement, and
therefore may be shuffled beforehand by a spectator or yourselfbut
you must secretly learn the identity of the twenty-seventh card from
the top. This can be accomplished during a previous effect (an idea
first suggested by Hugard and Braue in Expert Card Technique, pp.
397-398) or with a faro check and glimpse.
Set the deck before a spectator and ask that she cut it into three
approximately equal piles. Guide the pattern of cutting, if necessary,
so that the center portion of the pack lies between the top and bottom
piles. In most instances, no guidance will be needed. Keep track of
the positions of the various portions. Your key lies in the center pile.
Point out that the center pile has been cut randomly from the
middle of the deck and that you cannot know the cards it contains.
This of course includes the top card of the pile, since the spectator
herself cut the packets as she wished. Have her look at the top card
and show it to those around her. Then instruct her to replace the
selection on top of the packet and to give the cards a straight cut.
Take the packet from her, turn it face-up and fan it. "Your card is
one of these, but it is impossible for me to know what it might be."
As you fan the packet and deliver this line, quickly locate the position
of your key. Most of the time it will lie very near the top or bottom of
the packet, and is easily found. Note its position from the top or
bottomwhichever is the closerand immediately close the fan. The
entire fanning and display of the packet is treated nonchalantly and
consumes only a few moments.
Drop the center portion face-down onto the original top pile. Then
pick up the bottom pile and drop it onto the others, burying the center
pile once more in the center. Pick up the deck and fan it faces toward
yourself. Note the card that lies at a position in the pack
corresponding to the position of your key card. That is, if your key
was found third from the bottom of the center packet, you will note
the card third from the bottom of the deck. This card is precisely
twenty-six away from the spectator's. Name the card aloud,
explaining that this will be your selection.
Close the fan and set the deck face-down on the table. Invite the
spectator to give the cards one or more straight cuts. Then take back
the pack and divide it at center. This cut must be exact, so a faro
check is advisable. Offer either half to the spectator.
Now have her deal her cards into a face-down pile, while you match
her, card for card, dealing yours face-up. Both of you watch the faceup cards as they appear, and call stop when either her card or yours

WELCOME CORRESPONDENCES

339

turns up. When the corresponding face-down card of the spectator's


pile is revealed, it will be the second selection.
For a related, though altogether different, approach to this plot,
which also makes use of a sunken key, compare Howard
Schwarzman's "Two-gether" in Harry Lorayne's Close-up Card Magic
(pp. 116-119).

BURIED TREASURE I
Effect: The deck is handed to someone and he is asked to cut it
and complete the cut, one or several times, until he is satisfied that
the top card is a random one, determined only by his actions. At this
point he is told to cut the deck roughly in half and to hand either
portion to a friend. The top cards of both halves have obviously been
arrived at through the unrestricted actions of the spectator.
Each person now peeks at the top card of his half, commits it to
memory, then loses the card by cutting it into his packet.
The performer takes each packet briefly from its owner, runs
through the cards and gives the packet a cut before returning it. Then
the spectators are asked to deal their cards face-up in unison; and,
when either of them sees his selection, he is to stop dealing and call
it out. They deal through the cards, until both suddenly stop and cry
out together. Though the cards have been handled in a manner to
ensure that the performer cannot know either selection or its location,
he has somehow arranged their concurrent appearance.
Method: The extremely subtle principle that underlies this coincidence effect is that of the "relative key". The relative key is an
ingenious extension of Oscar Weigle's sunken key principle.
The pack must be complete: fifty-two cards. You will need to know
the identity of the bottom card of the deck and the card twenty-sixth
from the top. Those who do the faro shuffle will have no difficulty with
this: just do a faro check. If the faro shuffle is not one of your skills,
there are other options. You can use the familiar ruse of spreading
through the deck, looking for jokers, and secretly count to the twentyseventh card from the face in the process. Or you can glimpse the
top card and overhand shuffle it into position. The twenty-sixth card
can also be noted during a previous trick, a trick you have chosen
to accommodate the dealing or counting of twenty-six cards within
its presentation.
Once you know the two cards, hand the deck to someone and ask
that he give it any number of straight cuts, until he is sure the top
card is one you could not possibly know. Have him cut the deck
approximately in half and present either half to another person. Each

WELCOME CORRESPONDENCES

341

now peeks at the top card of his half, remembers it, then loses the
card by cutting the packet several times.
Take either of the halves and spread quickly through it, faces
toward you, silently counting the cards to yourself and watching for
either of the key cards. When you have ascertained the number of
cards in the packet, casually cut the key card to the top and set the
packet face-down in front of the spectator.
Take the second spectator's half and rapidly run through it,
searching for the second key card. Cut this to the top. Then adjust
its position as follows:
If the first packet contains more than twenty-six cards, subtract
26 from that number. Whatever the remainder, cut that many cards
from the bottom of the packet to the top; e.g., if the packet contains
twenty-eight cards, subtract 26 from 28, leaving 2, and cut two cards
from the bottom to the top. If the first packet contains fewer than
twenty-six cards, subtract that number from 26. Then cut a number
of cards equal to the remainder from the top to the bottom of the
packet. If you like, you can combine operations by cutting the key
to the position required by your calculation with the first cut, thus
eliminating the need for a second one.
The cuts you have made place the two selections at corresponding
positions from the top in their packets. If the spectators now deal in
unison and call out their cards when they are turned face-up, their
exclamations will be simultaneous.
This trick appealed so much to Martin Gardner, he included it in
his 1956 book, Mathematics, Magic and Mystery (pp. 25-26). When
republishing it, he appended a presentational tip from Dai Vernon
that added a touch of suspense at the finish, while linking the magic
more closely with the performer. Mr. Vernon suggested that the two
piles be set side by side in front of the performer, and that he himself
deal the cards simultaneously, one face-up, the other face-down.
When either spectator sees his card turned up in the one pile, he is
to call out. Then the corresponding card in the face-down pile is
dramatically turned up, showing it to be the second selection.
On rare occasions it is possible you might discover both key cards
residing in one pile. In such a circumstance, most often you will find
one card between them. This card is one of the selections. If there
are several cards between the keys, a little judicious pumping will
quickly isolate the selection from the group. Thus, one card is identified. Regrettably, the selection in the other packet has been lost.
However, there is a method of saving face. Having found the one
selection, cut it to the top. Then, ask the spectator to whom the lost
selection belongs to take up his packet and deal cards one by one in
a face-up pile, while you follow him, dealing cards from your packet,
just behind his. He is also instructed to call out "Stop!" when his card
appears. You turn up a card from your packet after each of his,

342

THE COLLECTED WORKS OF ALEX ELMSLEY

second dealing to retain the known selection on top. When he


announces the arrival of his card, ask the other spectator to name
his selection; then turn it up with a snap and conclude.
Notice how Mr. Elmsley's use of relative keys allows the pack to
be cut any number of times by a spectator before the selections are
made. This is something that the sunken key principle does not
permit. Another improvement over the common application of the
sunken key is that only two packets are formed during the trick. In
most procedures relying on the sunken key, three packets are formed
and selections are made from only two of them. This small illogicality
has been neatly eliminated by the use of relative keys.
February 1953

THE MEMPHIS MATCHMAKER


Effect: Once again, two free selections are made from a shuffled
deck. The chosen cards are shuffled back into the deck and one of
the spectators cuts the cards roughly in half. The performer takes
one half and gives it a quick shuffle as he explains what is required.
The two spectators who chose cards are each asked to take a packet
and deal through it in unison, and each is to call stop when his
selection appears. When they do this, they find themselves
announcing the appearances of their cards simultaneously.
Method: This method returns once more to the properties of the
faro shuffle for its success. No arrangement of the cards is necessary,
so the deck may be fairly shuffled beforehand. Spread the cards facedown between your hands for a selection to be made. As you do this,
spread off seventeen cards, without betraying your counting, and
form a break or an injog at this point. Have the spectator note the
chosen card, then have him return it to the pack below the seventeen
cards you have secretly counted. The easiest way to accomplish this
replacement is to split the spread at the break or jog, then casually
reach out and trap the selection between the two portions. Square
the deck with obvious fairness, making it clear that no breaks or jogs
are in use. However, you know that the selection is eighteenth from
the top of the pack. (Note the clever strategy of using a break or jog
before one is expected by a shrewd observer. This ploy, though far
from new, still bewilders some very knowledgeable persons.)
Give the deck one out-faro shuffle. This sends the selection to a
position thirty-fifth from the top.
Spread the pack for a second spectator to make a selection, and
again form a break or an injog at the seventeenth card from the top.
Spread only the top two thirds of the pack to avoid the possibility of
having the first selection chosen again. Have the second selection
noted and returned to eighteenth position. Give the deck another outfaro (which simply transposes the two selections at the eighteenth
and thirty-fifth positions) or perform a false shuffle that keeps the
two chosen cards in place.
Set the deck before the spectator whose card lies thirty-fifth from
the top, and ask that he cut the pack roughly in half. Hold out your

344

THE COLLECTED WORKS OF ALEX ELMSLEY

hand to receive the top portion. He may actually cut within a range
of eighteen to thirty-five, though you do not mention this. If he cuts
anywhere near center, remaining within the acceptable range is no
problem. Have him take up the bottom half of the pack.
Point out that there is no way you can know the position of any
cards in the portion he holds; nor for that matter in the portion he
gave to you. As you say this, give your half deck an in-faro, starting
the weave at the bottom. This last stipulation is important, as inweaving from the top with an odd number of cards will throw off the
desired positioning of the selection by one. Complete the shuffle and
hand this packet to the second spectator. Both selections now lie at
corresponding positions in the packets, and will come up together
when the spectators deal in unison.

THE RIGHT PLACE,


THE RIGHT TIME
Effect: The plot once more is "Power of Thought" performed with
two selections. However, a further complication, borrowed from the
trick "Arith-mate-ic" (pp. 328-330), is appended.
The deck is divided between two spectators and each shuffles his
half. One half is then put aside. The spectator holding the remaining
half cuts off a small portion and places it in his pocket. He then cuts
the remaining cards into two unequal packets and presents one to
his partner.
Both spectators count their cards silently while the performer
turns his back. When each has determined how many cards he holds,
the performer picks up the unused half of the pack and deals through
it, asking that one spectator remember the card that rests at his
number from the top. He then deals through the cards again while
the second spectator notes the card that lies at his number from the
face of the packet.
When both have thought of cards, they add their two small packets
to the rest of the deck. The performer gives the cards one shuffle and
cuts the packet into two piles. One pile is turned face-up, the other
is left face-down.
The first spectator is now reminded that he still has a packet of
cards in his pocket. He is asked to bring it out and count the number
of cards aloud for everyone. That number of cards is dealt
simultaneously from both tabled piles, and at the end of the count
one of the mental selections appears on each of the piles: a double
coincidence.
Method: First ask for the assistance of two spectators who you
judge can follow instructions. Shuffle the pack, then cut it at center
(using a faro check) and hand one half to each spectator. Do this in
a manner suggesting that your cut is approximate. Nonetheless, the
cut must be precise: each packet must hold twenty-six cards.
Have each spectator shuffle his half. Then have one of the halves
set aside. Ask the spectator who still holds cards to cut off a small

346

THE COLLECTED WORKS OF ALEX ELMSLEY

packet from his half and slip this packet into a pocket. We will call
him Spectator A. Have him cut his remaining cards into two unequal
packets and present one to his accomplice, Spectator B. Turn your
back and have each spectator silently count the cards in his packet
and remember the number. When they have done this, turn back to
them and pick up the second half of the pack from the table.
Turn to Spectator A and explain that as you deal through the cards
he is to remember the card that appears at his number. Deal cards
from the top of the packet into a face-up pile on the table, counting
them aloud. After counting about fifteen cards, stop and ask if he has
thought of a card yet. Turn the balance of the packet face-up and
drop it onto the dealt cards. Pick up the entire pile and address
Spectator B. Explain that you wish him also to remember the card
at his number.
Deal the cards from the face of the packet, turning each face-down
as you form a pile on the table. Notice that in both runs through the
packet the cards are dealt in a manner that does not reverse their
order. After dealing off enough cards to ensure that the second spectator has made his selection, flip the balance of the packet face-down
and drop it onto the dealt cards. Ask for Spectator B's packet and
drop it onto the tabled half. In the same action, pick up all of these
cards and drop them onto Spectator A's packet. At this point you
don't know what the selections are, or where they lie, but you do know
that one rests a corresponding distance from the top of the packet
as the other rests from the face.
Cut the packet at center and perform an in-faro shuffle (i.e., the
original top and bottom cards become the cards second from the top
and bottom). If you find you have an odd number of cards, make the
top section the smaller one and straddle-weave it into the bottom
section.
Square the packet and, if it contains an even number of cards, cut
it casually near center (this need not be exact). If the packet contains
an odd number of cards, execute a slip cut to divide the packet,
displacing the top card to the top of the bottom portion. In either case,
turn the bottom portion face-up and set the two packets side by side
on the table.
Now have Spectator A bring the packet of cards from his pocket
and count them aloud. Count this same number of cards simultaneously from each tabled pile. The thought-of selections will appear
as the next cards in the piles, one face-up, the other face-down.

THE BOOK OF FORTUNES


Effect: The performer brings out two packs of cards and a small
fortunetelling book. Laying one of the packs and the book aside, he
cuts the remaining deck into two portions and hands one of these to
a spectator. They both shuffle their cards as the performer explains:
"Fortunetelling used to be a matter of instinct and luck; but these
days we have made it an exact science. We have both shuffled the
deck. That establishes a sympathy between the cards, your subconscious mind and mine. But now I must tune the pack to your
conscious character. To do this I shall have to ask you some
character-revealing questions, and record your answers with the
cards.
"First, do you like yogurt? No? If you had said yes, I would have
placed these cards in a pile on the table; but as you said no, I won't."
The indicated cards are replaced on the pack. "Please remember,
everyone, that he doesn't like yogurt.
"Next, do you sing in the shower? Yes? That's very significant, you
know, singing in the shower. As you said yes, these cards go on the
table.
"Nowhave you stopped beating your wife? No prevarication
please; answer yes or no. Yes? I'm very glad to hear it. These cards
go on the table.
"Last question: Do you think this trick is going to work? You can
be completely frank. I won't be offended. No? Oh. I see. But as you
said no, no cards go on the table.
"The next step in telling your fortune is to find your lucky number.
For this, I want you to deal through the cards we have been using,
and at the same time I shall deal through this special fortunetelling
pack which, so far, has not been touched." The performer picks up
the second deck of cards. "If some card comes out at the same
number in both packs, that will be your lucky number."
The performer and spectator count cards in unison until a pair of
matching cards appears, "...twenty, twenty-one, the king of clubs in
both packs. Obviously twenty-one is your lucky number." The
performer now hands the fortunetelling book to another spectator and

348 THE COLLECTED WORKS OF ALEX ELMSLEY


asks that he turn to page twenty-one, as twenty-one is the first
person's lucky number. When the spectator locates this page, he is
asked to read aloud what he finds there:
"You may still be a success in life. Napoleon didn't like yogurt
either. But again like you, he did sing in the shower. So perhaps you
also will meet your Waterloo. You do not get enough exercise. This
may be because you have stopped beating your wife. Your lucky card
is the king of clubsbut you were unlucky when you said this trick
wouldn't work!"
Method: Aside from an easy false shuffle, this humorous and
genuinely amazing trick requires no manipulation. The secret lies in
the two decks of cards, which are stacked, and the special Book of
Fortunes. First, the decks:
Only sixteen cards in each deck are arranged. These cards, in Deck
One, from the top down, are...
AD-KH-1OH-10C-3H-9C-KC-9H-2S-8H^JH-7H-6H-3S-5H-KS
Place any ten cards on top of this stack and the remaining twentysix cards, in any order, beneath it. The sixteen-card stock occupies
positions eleven through twenty-six from the top of the pack.
The arrangement of Deck Two is closely related to that of Deck
One, but there are two important differences:
First, the same sixteen cards stacked in Deck One are similarly
arranged in Deck Twobut their order is reversed; i.e., the king of
spades is uppermost, the ace of diamonds lowermost.
Second, eleven cards are placed above this stock, and twenty-five
below it. Again, these cards can be in any order.
Now we come to The Book of Fortunes. Mr. Elmsley's book contains
forty-five numbered pages, each devoted to one fortune for that
number. Only the fortunes for numbers twelve through twenty-seven
will come up during performance. The fortunes for the surrounding
numbers are there to fill out the book but are never read aloud.
Therefore, while they should resemble the others in format, they can
contain any information.
Each of the fortunes on pages twelve through twenty-seven name
one of the sixteen sequenced cards in the two stacked decks. This
card is identified as the spectator's lucky card. Along with the name
of a card, amusing references are also made to the spectator's
answers to the four questions put to him. Those questions, it will be
remembered, are...
1) Do you like yogurt?
2) Do you sing in the shower?
3) Have you stopped beating your wife?
4) Do you think this trick is going to work?

WELCOME CORRESPONDENCES

349

You are not restricted to these questions, and can substitute


others of your own, if you like. (Questions 1 through 3 above have
been appropriated from a signature presentation of Dr. Stanley Jaks.)
The only requirement is that each question can be satisfied by a
simple yes or no answer.
Here are several examples of Mr. Elmsley's fortunes:
For the number 17
You don't like yogurt, but this doesn't matter unless you want to
go to yogurt parties.
You are against censorship, as is shown by the words of the songs
you sing in the shower.
You believe in keeping up your family traditions, so you have not
stopped beating your wife.
Your lucky card is the jack of hearts.
P.S. You took a chance in saying this trick would work.
For the number 20
You are remarkably well preserved for your age, probably because
you like yogurt.
Yogurt, moreover, soothes the throat, thus improving the quality
of your singing in the shower.
Since your wife started to join you in bathroom duets, you have
stopped beating her.
Your lucky card is the nine of hearts.
P.S. You didn't think this trick was going to work, did you?
For the number 27
Twenty-seven is three times nine; which, by the science of
numbers, proves that you don't like yogurt.
You are a merciful person, so you don't sing in the shower.
Your friends all envy you because you have not stopped beating
your wife.
Your lucky card is the ace of diamonds.
If you are right, this trick hasn't worked.
Each of Mr. Elmsley's fortunes is entirely different. This, though,
is not necessary. You can devise a suitable statement to cover the
yes response, and another to cover the no response for each of the
four questions: eight statements total. These eight statements can
then be used exclusively to construct each of the sixteen fortunes,
the requirements of which will be given in a moment. This does make
the fortunes repetitive, but only one is read aloud, so repetition is
not an important concern. The specific answers and cards governed
by each number are given in the following table:

350

THE COLLECTED WORKS OF ALEX ELMSLEY


Page 9st. l 9st. 2 gst. 3 9st. 4 Card
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
22
23
24
25
26
27

YES
NO
YES
NO
YES
NO
YES
NO
YES
NO
YES
NO
YES
NO
YES
NO

YES
YES
NO
NO
YES
YES
NO
NO
YES
YES
NO
NO
YES
YES
NO
NO

YES
YES
YES
YES
NO
NO
NO
NO
YES
YES
YES
YES
NO
NO
NO
NO

YES
YES
YES
YES
YES
YES
YES
YES
NO
NO
NO
NO
NO
NO
NO

NO

KS
5H
3S
6H
7H

JH
8H
2S
9H
KC
9C
3H

IOC
10H

KH
AD

You can buy a small blank-paged book or a pocket ring-bound


notebook at a stationers, and write in the page numbers and fortunes.
However, Mr. Elmsley has marketed this trick through Ken Brooke,
and his Book of Fortunes can still be purchased for a reasonable price
from The Ace Place in Liverpool. They supply a typeset paperbound
booklet of vest-pocket size that is convenient to carry and has fortyfive different fortunes, all amusing. Unless one enjoys this sort of
work, or wishes to customize the questions and answers for a
particular purpose, purchasing the manufactured booklet is the most
convenient course.
With the deck stacks and the construction of the book understood,
it remains only to fill in the handling details. When you begin the
presentation, set the book and Deck Two to one side, but within the
audience's view. Spread Deck One face-up, displaying its apparently
random order. As you close the face-up spread, form a break above
the king of spades (which is twenty-seventh from the face) and divide
the pack at that point. Hand the unstacked half to a spectator for
mixing. As he shuffles these cards, you shuffle yours; but in a special
fashion. Turn the packet face-down and overhand shuffle it by
running the top ten cards and throwing the remaining sixteen on top.

WELCOME CORRESPONDENCES

351

Retrieve the spectator's half and drop it face-down onto your own.
Then apparently shuffle the entire pack. Only the top half is mixed,
though. Shuffle cards off until you near the center. Then throw the
balance under the shuffled cards. This preserves your stock in the
bottom half.
The next step is to "fine tune" the pack. This is done by asking
the spectator your four questions. With each of his responses, repeat
his answer and make some little comment about it, to fix it in
everyone's mind.
"Do you like yogurt?" As you ask this first question, push off the
top two cards of the pack, without reversing their order. Hold them
in the opposite hand until the spectator has answered your question.
If he answers yes, drop the two cards to the table; if no, replace them
on the deck.
"Do you sing in the shower?" For this question, push off four cards.
If the answer is yes, drop them onto the tabled pile (if one has been
formed); if no, replace them on the deck.
"Have you stopped beating your wife?" Push off eight cards this
time and place them either on the tabled pile or back on the deck,
as the spectator's answer dictates.
"Do you think this trick is going to work?" This question gets
sixteen cards, which are handled exactly like the previous ones. Note
that the cards are always pushed off without their order being
reversed; and that, with each question, the number of cards doubles:
2-4-8-16. This progression is easily remembered.
When the four questions have been answered, drop the balance
of the pack you hold onto the tabled cards, square them all and slide
the deck in front of the spectator.
Pick up the second pack for yourself and ask your subject to deal
his cards into a face-up pile, working in unison with you. Count the
cards aloud as you deal, and when two matching cards appear, stop.
These duplicates will match the lucky card named on the page
corresponding to the number at which you have stopped. The other
information on that page conforms with the spectator's four answers.
Hand the book to a second spectatortry to choose someone with
a good clear voice, who is easily seen by everyoneand have him read
for the group the fortune on the page indicated. The result should
be mixed laughter and astonishment.
May 1973

Chapter Eight:

Where It's At

BURIED TREASURE II
Effect: This is an impossible seeming location of a selection, in
which the performer does not touch the deck from first to last.
The pack is handed to someone with the request that she give it
any number of straight cuts she desires. After this, she cuts the deck
into three face-down packets on the table and peeks at the top card
of the center packet.
She then buries her card by dropping both of the other packets
onto it. To this point the performer has been denied the sight of a
single card face. Now the spectator deals the cards into a face-up pile.
Suddenly the performer calls stopand the very next card turned up
is found to be the chosen one.
Method: This is another effect made possible through the cunning
use of relative keys (see "Buried Treasure I", pp. 340-342). Here, four
key cards are necessary. You must know the thirteenth, twenty-sixth,
thirty-ninth and fifty-second cards from the top of the pack. These
must be memorized in order, from the bottom up. You can either
position four easily remembered cards in the deck before the trick is
performed, or you can memorize the necessary four cards as you
spread through the pack. The latter is not difficult if you have
mastered a mnemonic system like Nikola's (ref. Encyclopedia of Card
Tricks, Chapter XX).
With the four known cards in place, give the pack a casual false
shuffle. While this shuffle must retain the even separation of the four
key cards, the mixing can result in a simple cut of the cards. If you
don't do such a shuffle, you can give the pack a series of quick cuts
as you talk.
Hand the deck to someone and invite her to give it as many simple
cuts as she likes. After this she sets the deck face-down on the table
and cuts it into three packets. Watch as she does this, noting the
positions of the top and bottom portions. Have her peek at the top
card of the center packet, then drop the bottom packet onto it, burying the card. On top of this she places the third packet (originally the
top portion) and carefully squares the deck.
You now have her pick up the pack and deal the cards from the
top into a face-up pile on the table. As she does this, silently count

356

THE COLLECTED WORKS OF ALEX ELMSLEY

the cards dealt and watch for a key card. When you spot one, note
the number at which it falls, subtract this from thirteen and
remember the remainder as you watch for the succeeding key card
in the original sequence. Another of the key cards is likely to appear
before the desired key. Ignore it. When the proper key card appears,
count again silently, beginning with the next card, until you reach
the number you have remembered. Tell the spectator to stop dealing
at this point and ask her to name her card. Then have her turn over
the next card of the deck. It will be the selection.
An example will demonstrate how the system works. Assume that
the four key cards, from the face to the top, read ace, two, three and
four, all hearts. When the spectator begins to deal, you count until
the first key appears. Let us say this key is the two, and it falls ninth
in the deal. 1 3 - 9 = 4. The next key card in the sequence was the
three of hearts. Watch for this card. When the three is turned up,
count four cards past it and stop the deal. The next card is the
selection.
The keys are always widely separated, allowing abundant time for
the simple calculation to be made. However, if any manner of mental
calculation during performance freezes your blood, it can easily be
avoided. Instead of subtracting from thirteen when the first key card
appears, merely halt your mental count until you see the next key
in the original sequence. Then resume the count, stopping the deal
at thirteen.
Mr. Elmsley on occasion has used a variant selection handling that
some may prefer. After the spectator has cut the cards to her satisfaction, ask her to cut off anything up to a third of the pack and to
peek at the card cut to: that card on the face of the removed packet.
Once she has noted this card, have her use her free hand to lift
roughly half the cards remaining on the table. Ask her to place the
first packet, that with her chosen card at the bottom, onto the tabled
portion. She is then to drop the other packet on top, sandwiching the
first packet between the two. This obviously loses her selection. Let
her square the deck to leave you no clue.
All this may be done while you turn away, if you judge the person
reliable in carrying out the instructions. If you take this course, it is
prudent to demonstrate the desired actions with the cards before she
cuts the pack. If you have any doubt about the spectator's ability to
understand the procedure, watch over her actions. Little in effect is
lost by doing so, and much may be gained if a mistake is avoided.
This new handling causes one small change in the counting
procedure: when the second key appears, resume your silent count
on the second key, rather than on the card following it.
There is one special case, a fortunate one, that can be exploited
on occasion, when using this second selection procedure (regrettably, it does not hold for the first). That case occurs when the first
key card turned up lies thirteenth from the top. This indicates that

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the spectator has chosen one of the keysthe next key card of the
sequence. And this card will rest thirteen cards beyond the next key
in the original sequence. That is, if the first key lies thirteenth from
the top and is the two of hearts, the spectator's card is the three of
hearts, and it will be found thirteen cards past the four of hearts. In
such a situation, you can not only stop the spectator on her card,
you can also name it before she turns it up.
One final note: If the first selection procedure (but not the second)
is employed, the trick can be accomplished with only two keys,
reducing the memorization required and simplifying the initial setup
of the cards. This, however, is balanced by a small loss in the freedom
with which the spectator may initially cut the pack. Position two
known cards thirteen apart (that is, with twelve cards between them)
in the center portion of the pack. The spectator may now cut the pack
once, near center (between the two keys), and complete the cut. The
method remains otherwise unchanged.
Mr. Elmsley's friends, Roy Walton and Jack Avis, have published
worthwhile variations on "Buried Treasure II". In "Dead Easy
Location" [Pallbearers Review, Vol. 2, No. 4, Feb. 1967, pp. 79 and
81) Mr. Walton demonstrates how the spectator can be allowed a free
choice of a card from any of the three piles he forms; and in Jack Avis'
"An Ace Location" (ibid. Vol. 3, No. 7, May 1968, pp. 180 and 178)
the performer is able to stop the deal on the selection even though
the spectator deals the cards face-down. Both approaches are worth
the reader's attention.
February 1953

HAIR CUT
Effect: Here is another approach to a card location in which the
selection is made with the pack in the spectator's hands. The deck
is given to him and he is asked to cut the cards at any place he likes,
peek at the bottom card of the lifted portion, then replace the packet
square on the deck, losing the noted card.
The performer takes back the deck, fans it and, after a short period
of deliberation, removes one card. The spectator is asked to name the
card he peeked at. The performer then reveals that the card he has
removed is none other than the selection.
Method: The mechanism employed for locating the card is intriguingly offbeat. Mr. Elmsley devised this method in the 1950s, after
coming across a book test published some years back in The Sphinx.
The secret of this test consisted of a short curled hair, one end of
which was affixed to the book near the spine. When the book was
opened, then closed, the free end of the hair became trapped between
the chosen pages. This allowed the performer later to locate the
correct page and word. (I have been so far unsuccessful in locating
this test in The Sphinx. It can, however, be found in C. L. Boarde's
Mainly Mental, Vol. 2, pp. 113-114. Regrettably, the originator of the
method has also eluded me.)
Though Mr. Elmsley was unaware of it, the idea of using a hair
for a card location had also been published many years ago. The
illustrator of the old Seven Circles Magazine, Hanna, contributed
"Hanna's Card Discovery" to the January 1932 issue (Vol. II, No. 4,
p. 9). Hanna used a bit of magician's wax to attach a hair to one
thumbnail. Holding the face-down deck in this hand, he asked
someone to cut off a portion and look at the card cut to. When the
packet was replaced on the deck, the performer made sure the hair
was trapped under it, marking the location of the selection. Bob
Hummer devised a similar idea, which can be found under the title
"Impossible Location" on page 24 of Karl Fulves' Bob Hummer's
Collected Secrets. Mr. Elmsley's treatment of the principle offers the
advantage of permitting the selection to be made with the pack in the
spectator's hands.

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The secret is a curled hair, approximately two inches long, one end
of which is imbedded in the side of a card (Mr. Elmsley uses a joker,
which afterward may be openly discarded from the pack with little
or no explanation necessary). A blond hair is best, as it is less likely
to be seen. Tie a knot in the hair, then trim the ends, making the hair
about two inches in length, with the knot at one end. Take an X-acto
knife or razor blade and carefully separate the layers of pasteboard
at one side of the card, near the index, approximately three-quarters
of an inch in from the corner. This separation need not be large: less
than a quarter of an inch long and more shallow than a border-width
(Figure 305). Squeeze a tiny drop of glue between the separated layers
and with a pin point tease the knotted end of the hair into the slit.
This procedure requires a steady hand, but is not difficult. The hair
should lie at a perpendicular angle to the side of the card. Press the
card flat until the glue is dry.
When the glue is set, use your thumbnail to curl the hair upward
over the back of the card, much as you would use a scissors blade
to curl ribbon. Position this card three or four from the bottom of the
deck, with the hair arranged at the left side and curled over the top
of the pack (Figure 306). This finishes the preparation.
To perform the location, hold the deck in left-hand dealing grip,
with the hair on the left, nearest the inner end of the pack. Explain
to the spectator that you want him to take the pack in his own hands,
cut off any number of cards and look at the card on the face of the
cut-off packet. Demonstrate the desired actions by lifting roughly five
cards from the deck, glancing at the face of the packet, then replacing
it on the deck. This traps the hair beneath the top few cards,
concealing it. When Mr. Elmsley does this, he performs a bluff pass,
first running his left thumb down the corner of the pack to about
center, then cutting off only a few cards while releasing the thumb's
break. The right fingers, at the front of the removed packet hide its
thickness as the bottom card is briefly exposed. Then the packet is
replaced. (For a fuller description of the bluff pass, see the Tarbell
Course in Magic, Vol. 3, pp. 181-183.) The bluff pass is not crucial to
the effect; it merely conceals from the audience the unusually small

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THE COLLECTED WORKS OF ALEX ELMSLEY

packet you have removed, and makes clear to the assisting spectator
that he is to cut into the center of the pack. If you cannot execute
the bluff pass convincingly, simply remove the small packet openly;
little is sacrificed by doing so.
Hand the spectator the squared pack in such a way that he holds
it with the hair at the end farthest from him. Coach him verbally
through the actions of cutting the pack, noting the card cut to, and
replacing the packet. Retrieve the deck from him and turn it face
toward you. The hair should now be positioned at your left, near the
upper end.
Fan the pack narrowly, so as not to dislodge the hair, and spot
the point where the end of the hair lies trapped in the deck. The card
immediately behind it is the selection. Remove this card from the pack
and conclude the location with as much drama as you can muster.
The action of removing the selection normally frees the hair from
the deck, resetting it should you wish to repeat the feat. If the free
end of the hair remains trapped in the pack, it can be pulled out as
you casually square the cards. To do this, tip the pack up on one side,
face toward the right, the hair at the top edge. Then, with a squaring action, hook the hair with the tip of the right forefinger, pull it
free and arrange it over the top of the deck.
There is a chance of failure in this trick, if the spectator makes
some unorthodox movement with the cards; but the likelihood is
small. Only once in the many times Mr. Elmsley performed the
location was the hair noticed by the spectator as he cut the pack. In
that instance, its presence was thought only an accident, and no
serious harm was done.

CALCOLATE X 2
Effect: In this trick the performer's difficulties seem to be
compounded: two selections are made with the pack out of his hands
and control.
The deck is shuffled and cut, then set before a spectator, who cuts
off a packet. A second spectator is also invited to cut off a packet.
Both note the cards they have cut to, and return the packets to the
deck. One of them then cuts the pack and completes the cut. All this
is done without the performer touching the cards.
He now picks up the deck, runs quickly through it and, without a
question, removes two cards. These prove to be the two selections.
Method: In August of 1958 Jack Avis published a cunning card
location designed to fool magicians and knowledgeable spectators.
He called it "Calcolate" (ref. The Gen, Vol. 14, No. 4, p. 116). Mr.
Elmsley has taken his friend's location one step further: while
"Calcolate" was designed to find a single selection, in the Elmsley
variation, two cards are discovered.
Three key cards are required: you must know the identities of the
top and bottom cards of the pack, and the card resting twentyseventh from the top. One method of noting these three cards is to
glimpse the top card of the deck, perform a faro check and transpose
the top and bottom halves as you reassemble the pack after the stripout. This sets the glimpsed card twenty-seventh from the top. While
the deck is still tipped on edge from the faro check, it is an easy matter
to sight the new top and bottom cards, giving you the three keys you
need. If, however, recalling three random cards presents a problem,
you can arrange three easily remembered cards in the three positions
before performance or while doing another trick. The top card is
thought of as Key Number One, the center card as Key Number Two,
and the bottom card as Key Number Three.
Open with a false shuffle and cut, retaining the three keys in place.
Then set the deck face-down before someone and ask that he cut off
about a third of the pack. Have a second spectator cut off another
third; that is, roughly half the remaining cards. The sizes of the
packets can vary, but between the two spectators, they must cut off

362

THE COLLECTED WORKS OF ALEX ELMSLEY

at least twenty-seven cards, placing the second key card somewhere


in the second spectator's packet.
Ask each spectator to note the card he cut to, which lies on the
face of his packet. Then have the first spectator replace his packet
onto the tabled bottom packet. Instruct the second spectator to place
his packet onto the deck as well and to give the pack a straight cut,
further losing the chosen cards.
Finding the second spectator's card is an easy matter. He has just
laid his selection onto your first key card. Pick up the pack and run
through it, faces toward yourself, until you locate Key Number Three.
Cut the pack, bringing this card back to the face of the deck. Then
spread through the cards again, working from face to top, until you
find Key Number One. The card directly behind this key is the second
selection. Upjog it and continue to spread through the deck,
searching for Key Number Two. When you find it, start counting
silently, thinking of the second key card as the first card of the count.
When you reach the top card of the deck, interrupt your count and
return to Key Number One, which lies just before the upjogged
selection. Now spreading backward, toward the face of the pack,
resume your count, starting with the card infrontof Key Number One,
and continuing until you reach twenty-six. The twenty-sixth card of
the count is the first spectator's selection. Upjog it and close the
spread. Then reveal your success by disclosing the two cards in as
effective a fashion as possible.
If you find reverse spreading while you count toward the face of
the deck to be awkward, try this alternative: After cutting Key Number
Three to the face of the pack, spread through the deck until you locate
Key Number One. Upjog the card behind this (the second selection)
and continue spreading toward the back of the pack. However, count
silently, beginning with the first card beyond the upjogged selection,
and finishing on Key Number Two. Include this key card in your
count. Now square the deck and begin spreading cards again from
the faceand as you spread, resume your count. Stop when you have
reached twenty-six. This is the first person's selection. Upjog it and
conclude.
By combining elements of this double location with his fan shuffle
control (pp. 96-98) Mr. Elmsley eventually evolved a clever method
for controlling two cards. This control is explained in Volume II under
the title 'The Fan and Weave Double Control".

CROSS-25
Effect: Once more two selections are made with the deck in the
spectators' possession. Here the performer locates the cards in a quite
dramatic fashion. The conditions are forbidding:
The deck is shuffled, then split between two spectators. While the
performer turns his back, each spectator mixes his cards and selects
one at random. They then reassemble the deck and return it to the
performer.
He divides the pack into five piles, then shows each pile briefly,
asking the spectators if they see their selections. When the pile
containing each card has been identified, the performer places the
two piles into separate pockets. Then, without another question, he
thrusts his hands into the pockets and removes a card from each.
These two cards, as the reader should expect, turn out to be the two
selections.
Method: In the 1970s Mr. Elmsley conceived the idea of combining
an extremely old principle with a more recent one by John P.
Hamilton. The elder principle is today frequently called "matrixing".
At least as far back as the eighteenth century it was applied to a group
of twenty-five cards to determine which card of a five-card packet
belonged to one of several spectators. Mr. Hamilton's brilliant
contribution is the subterfuge known as the free-cut principle (named
and ingeniously exploited by Gene Finnell; Mr. Hamilton's marketed
effect, "Eyes of the Gods", originally released in 1948, can be found
in Pallbearers Review, Vol. 5, No. 10, Aug. 1970). This combination
of old and new ideas yielded the puzzling double location just
described. (See "Double-Cross" in Volume II for another trick based
on the melding of these principles.)
The trick requires a fifty-card pack, though the audience is not
apprised of this. Either palm away any two cards from the deck and
pocket them, or leave two cards behind in the card case when you
first remove the deck.
Shuffle the cards; or, if pacing allows it, have someone else shuffle
them. Then divide the deck into two face-down piles of twenty-five
cards each. There is no need for subtlety here. Simply push off groups

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THE COLLECTED WORKS OF ALEX ELMSLEY

of cards as you silently count them, and drop them into a pile on the
table. When you reach twenty-five, drop the remainder of the pack
beside the tabled pile, casually saying, "I think that's about half."
Hand each half deck to a spectator.
Turn away as you give the spectators instructions for choosing
cards. "Will you both please shuffle the cards you hold, making sure
they are well mixed....Are you finished? Good. Then hold your cards
face-down in your left hand, and cut off some cards in your right
handa few or a lot; it doesn't matter. Now look at the face of the
packet you've cut off and remember the card there.
"Now Alfred, will you drop the cards in your right hand onto those
Oscar is holding in his left hand; and Oscar, will you drop the cards
in your right hand onto those that Alfred is holding. Finally Alfred
may I call you Bosie?will you let Oscar drop his half pack onto
yours....Even up the cards and give them to me." You now turn
around to accept the pack. At this point it is obvious that you can
have no idea what cards where looked at or where they lie in the deck.
Yet, you do know two things: first, that Alfred's card rests in the lower
half of the pack, and Oscar's in the upper half; and second, that the
two selections, thanks to Mr. Hamilton's free-cut principle, lie exactly
twenty-five cards apart.
Give the deck a false shuffle, conserving its order. Then assume a
doubtful look. "I find that using the whole pack for this trick is a bit
awkward. Let me split it into more manageable packets." Begin to deal
the cards intofiveface-down piles, dealing in rotation as if for a game
of cards. As you deal, increase your speed and show some impatience
by the time you've dealt the fifth round. Twenty-five cards are now
on the table and twenty-five remain to be dealt. Mutter to yourself,
"It doesn't really matter," and finish distributing the cards by pushing
them off in groups of five. Don't alter the order of the cards as you
take them. Drop a five-card group onto each of the five piles, again
working from left to right, until each pile contains ten cards.
"Yes, this will be much less awkward." Pick up the first pile, that
on your left, and fan it with the faces toward the spectators. "Do either
of you see your cards in this group? Just answer yes or no." If the
first spectator, Alfred in our example, says that he sees his card, close
the fan and place the packet, face inward, into your left jacket pocket.
If the second spectator, Oscar, sees his card, place the packet, face
outward, into your right jacket pocket. If neither sees his card, set
the packet aside, face-down. Pick up the second pile and repeat the
procedure, until both spectator's have seen their cards and you have
a packet in each pocket. As you do this, you must remember the
positions of the piles containing the chosen cards. For the purpose
of explanation, assume that Alfred has seen his card in the third
packet, and Oscar noted his in the fifth. You are now prepared to find
both selections. The means of doing so may seem slightly confusing
at first, but the system is quite straightforward.

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You know that, since the top five cards of each packet came from
Alfred's half of the deck, his card must be one of those five in the
packet he identified. Conversely, Oscar's card must be among the
bottom five in his packet. The precise location of each card is given
you by the position of the opposite spectator's packet. That is, if Alfred
saw his card in the third packet, Oscar's selection will rest third from
the face of Oscar's packet; and if Oscar saw his card in the Jifth
packet, Alfred's selection lies Jifth from the top of Alfred's packet.
It is now only a matter of counting to the proper cards and bringing
them from the pockets. Mr. Elmsley finds it easiest to count from the
outer sides of the packets, moving inward. Consequently, he sets the
first spectator's packet back outward in the left pocket, and the
second spectator's packet face outward in the right pocket, to
facilitate the counting. If, however, you find another placement
simplifies the counting for you, adjust the packets appropriately.
One final contingency must be discussed. It is possible that both
spectator's will see their cards in the same packet. In such a case,
fan over the top five cards of the packet, without altering their order,
and place these in the left pocket. The bottom five cards go in the
right pocket. The original position of this packet in the dealt row
governs the locations of both selections. If it was the second pile from
the left, the first spectator's card will lie secondfrom the top, and the
second spectator's card secondfrom the face.
All that remains is to bring the correct cards simultaneously from
the pockets and disclose them in a dramatic fashion.

WEIGHT
Effect: Here is another entertaining location, devised by Mr.
Elmsley in the 1950s. Roughly a quarter of the shuffled pack is used
for this trick. These cards are divided into two piles. Someone is asked
to pick up either pile, shuffle it and note the top card. He then shuffles
the other pile, drops it onto the first and gives the cards a cut.
The spectator now deals the cards onto the performer's hands,
forming two piles. The performer carefully weighs each pile on his
palms, then throws one away. The spectator deals the remaining
cards into two piles. Again the performer weighs each pile, then
discards one. This procedure is repeated until only two cards are left.
One is placed on each hand, they are weighed and one is tossed aside.
The spectator now names his chosen card and the performer snaps
over the only card he has not eliminatedthe selection.
Method: A key card is used for this location, but it is used in a
most unusual way. This key can be any card that can be identified
by its back. Mr. Elmsley most often uses a card that has been pencil
dotted on two diagonally opposite corners. A nailnicked card can
serve just as well, making the trick impromptu and possible with a
borrowed deck.
Secretly position the marked card second from the top of the pack.
Shuffle the cards, retaining the marked key in position, then toss two
seven-card packets from the center of the deck face-down onto the
table. Do this casually, without drawing attention to the number of
cards in the packets. This need not be done quickly, but it must be
done with apparent indifference.
Still holding the balance of the deck, turn away from the tabled
cards and ask of someone, "Please pick up either pile and shuffle it.
Now look at the top card. Will you remember it? Now put that packet
down and pick up the other. Shuffle it too... and drop it on top of your
chosen card. Have you done all that? Fine. Pick up the cards and
square them."
As all this is being done, you too have a task. You must obtain a
left fourth-finger break under the top two cards of the talon; that is,
under the key card. There is abundant opportunity to do so. If you

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are working impromptu, you can also use this time to create a key
by nailnicking a card.
Now face the spectator once more and take his cards into your
palm-down right hand, holding them by the ends. Run your left
thumb and fingertips idly back and forth along the sides of the
packet, squaring itand in this action secretly load the two cards
above the break onto the bottom of the packet. As you do this, look
straight at the spectator and ask, "Oh, did you cut them?" Since you
didn't tell him to, it is hoped he has not. "Well, will you do that now?"
Hand him back the packet, which now contains sixteen cards. The
bottom card is your key.
As the spectator cuts the packet, place the deck aside, freeing your
hands. Extend them palms-up and say, "Now deal the cards into two
piles on my hands, as if your were playing cards." It makes no
difference into which hand he deals the first card. Your only concern
is to determine which pile holds the key card. You needn't watch every
card dealt. Indeed, it is better that you do not. It is more subtle to
observe only the cards placed in one hand. You will either see the
key in this group, or you won't. Either way, its location is now known
to you.
When he has finished dealing, make a show of seeming to weigh
the two piles in your hands. After a bit of by-play, toss the packet
lacking the key face-down onto the table. "I don't think your card is
among these."
Hand the spectator the remaining packet and ask that he deal it
into your hands, again dividing the cards. Once more watch for the
key. Pretend to weigh the piles, then discard the packet without the
key. Hand back the remaining four cards and repeat the procedure
twice more. By the fourth deal, you will have one card in each hand:
the key and one other. Weigh the two, then toss aside the key card.
"What was your card? The eight of spades? Yes, that's right, the
eight of spades it is!" As this is pronounced, snap over the last card
and display the selection.

CHOOSEY
Effect: A card is freely chosen from the pack, noted and returned
to the middle. The performer gives the cards a shuffle, then takes the
deck behind his back and removes a packet. The person who selected
a card is given this packet and told to hold it behind his back while
he extracts one card from it, any card he desires. One of two outcomes
is now possible: a) the helper finds that he has removed his own card
from the packet, or b) the value of the card he has removed locates
the selection in the packet. In either case, the result is thoroughly
bewildering.
Method: A twelve-card setup is required. Place the four nines on
top of the pack, and the four sevens and four eights on the face. The
sevens and eights are in no special order and can be mixed.
Spread the pack between the hands for a selection to be made.
Keep the top and bottom cards bunched together to discourage their
being drawn. When the spectator has removed a card, close the
spread and give the deck a casual cut, transporting the nines to the
center. Catch a left fourth-finger break above the nines as you
complete the cut.
After the card has been noted by the spectator and the audience,
casually spread the pack and split it at the break for the return of
the selection. This places it over the nines. As you close the spread
into the left hand, form a break under the nines. Then bring the setup
to the bottom of the deck with either a double undercut or a pass.
Give the deck a brief shuffle, retaining the bottom quarter intact;
e.g., shuffle off roughly two-thirds of the cards, injog the next and
throw the balance on top; form a break above the injog, undercut the
cards below the break and shuffle them onto the remainder.
Now take the deck behind your back, explaining that you will
extract a random group of cards. Actually, turn the pack face-up and
quickly count off thirteen cards from the face, without reversing their
order. Turn this packet face-down and bring it into view. Hand it to
the spectator and instruct him to hold it behind his back while he
removes any card from it. He can take the card from the top, the
middle or from the bottomwherever he wishes.
Have him bring the card out and show it to everyone. Your chances
are better than one in thirteen that he will have found his own card

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(people tend to avoid the top and bottom cards). If so, make the most
of it.
For those times, however, when good fortune fails to intercede, the
card he produces will neatly locate the selection in the packet. The
card drawn can be one of only three values: a seven, an eight or a
nine.
If it is a seven, have the spectator count seven cards from the
top of the packet and turn up the next.
If it is an eight, have him count off eight cards and turn up
the eighth.
And if it is a nine, have him count off nine cards and turn up
the ninth.
In all three cases, the card arrived at will be the selection. The
selection originally rests ninth from the top of the packet. All four
nines lie below the selection. Therefore, if one of these is drawn, the
selection still rests ninth from the top. If a seven or an eight is drawn,
it must come from above the selection, and consequently the selection is now eighth from the top.
Should you have to repeat the trick for the same group, another
numerical setup can be used. Place the four sixes on top of the pack
and five mixed fours and fives on the face. When you separate the
packet from the deck behind your back, take ten cards rather than
thirteen.
Then, if the spectator produces a five or six, have him turn
up the card at that number from the top of the packet.
If he draws a four, have him count off four cards and turn up
the next.
Here is one last alternative setup: Cull all eight fours and fives to
the top of the deck in any order, and the four threes to the bottom of
the pack. Spread the deck for a selection to be drawn and, as you
close the spread, catch a left fourth-finger break above the four threes
at the bottom. After the spectator has noted his card, perform a swing
cut and have the selection placed onto the top portion. Set the bottom portion onto the selection, retaining the break above the threes.
Then double cut to the break. This brings the stockthrees, fours,
fives and selectionto the top. Follow this with a brief false shuffle
that retains the top stock. Now, behind your back, remove the top
thirteen cards and present these to the spectator.
If the spectator pulls a three from the packet, have him
count off three cards and turn up the next one.
If he removes a four, have him count off four cards and turn
up the next.
And if he brings forth a five, have him count off five cards
and turn up the fifth.
September 1957

ROUGH TRACKER
Here is an idea for a new type of locator card that promises to do
for the overhand shuffle what the floating key card does for the riffle.
The locator card is first edge marked, then roughed on its face. This
card, placed over a selection, will reliably cling to it through an
average or even a zealous overhand shuffle performed by a spectator.
If the pack is reasonably fresh, the locator card will stay with the card
below it without the back of that card being roughed. A simple but
effective example of the value of this locator can be seen in the
following:
Cut the locator to the bottom of the deck and hand the cards to
someone. Invite him to remove a card from anywhere in the pack,
remember it, lay it on top of the deck and cut the pack to bury it. He
is then invited to give the deck a thorough overhand shuffling before
returning it to you. Such circumstances fulfill most people's idea of
a location done under stringent test conditions. Yet, when the deck
is retrieved after the shuffle, a glance at its edge allows you to know
immediately where the selection lies. It can then be cut to the top or
bottom of the pack, or the marked edge can serve as a guide for
stabbing to the card, as in Dr. Ben Braude's method (ref. Phoenix,
No. 293, Nov. 13, 1953, p. 1173).
If the locator is corner-shorted as well, the selection can be located
and cut to the top of the pack without reference to the edges. The
freedom this locator card allows in handling and shuffling by the
spectator makes it well worth the small effort of preparing and
carrying it with your deck.

CARD HOPPER
Effect: A card is chosen, noted and returned to the pack. The
performer shuffles the cards, then asks the person who chose one,
"Will you give me a number, something less than a dozen?" Whatever the spectator's choice, she is instructed to deal that many cards
from the deck into a face-down row. For this explanation, assume
the number is seven.
"Here I have a little frog." A small charm of a frog is set on the table,
near the row of cards. "Your number was seven, so I want you to make
the frog hop seven times. By a hop I mean moving the frog from the
card it is sitting on to the next card, either left or right. You can
change the direction of the hops as often as you like. When you've
done that seven times, we will take away the card the frog has finished
on and replace him on the card to its left. We'll keep this up until
only one card remains. Which end would you like the frog to start
from?" The frog is set on the end card indicated and the spectator
hops the frog over the cards, changing directions as often as she
wishes, until all the cards but one have been eliminated. She is then
asked to name the card she chose in the beginning. The card the frog
is sitting on is then turned up, revealing it to be her selection.
Method: This is a deceptive method for forcing a card, based on
Martin Gardner's parity principle. When the spectator moves as
prescribed, no matter how many cards are in the row, the card
remaining at the finish will be the first card originally dealt. The force
is based on a concealed mathematical principle. It is accomplished
as follows:
Begin by having a card chosen, noted and returned to the pack.
Control this card to the top.
Offer the spectator a selection of numbers from one to twelve.
Higher numbers can be used, but anything above twelve makes the
procedure tedious. The lower numbers obviously make for a less
interesting game, and this might be mentioned should anyone choose
them. However, most spectators sense this intuitively and opt for
something in the medium to high range.

372

THE COLLECTED WORKS OF ALEX ELMSLEY

When the spectator makes her decision, hand her the pack and
ask that she deal that many cards into a face-down row. As she deals,
secretly note on which end of the row she places the selection.
Bring out some small object to use as a marker and set it on the
table near the row of cards. Mr. Elmsley uses a small metal charm
of a frog, to give the presentation some character. An occult amulet
can lend an air of mystery to the proceedings. However, a match, a
coin, an ashtray, or any other item can be used.
The procedure varies slightly, depending on whether the spectator
chooses an odd number or an even one. If she chooses an odd
number, the number also becomes the limit of her movement in each
round of hops; e.g., if she chose five, with each round she must take
five jumps. If she chooses an even number, the number of jumps
must still be odd. This different handling of odd and even number
choices is not, of course, explained to the spectator. However, some
justification is necessary for moving from an even number to an odd
one: "Through your haphazard movements of the little frog we will
eliminate all these cards but one. Since you chose to use six cards,
it will take five rounds to eliminate five of the cards. Therefore, you
may move your marker five times during each turn." It isn't impeccable logic, perhaps, but it has the ring of reason if delivered with
authority.
Or you might say, "You have just freely chosen an even number.
Now I want you to choose an odd one, something smaller than your
first number."
Next we must consider the starting position of the frog. With an
odd number of cards in the row, the procedure will work if the frog
starts on any card resting in an odd-numbered position. Therefore,
you can offer the spectator the choice of either end of the row as a
starting point.
If the number of cards in the row is even, Mr. Elmsley prefers to
set the frog on the chosen card, offering the spectator no choice of
position. However, the spectator can be asked to name any number
up to and including the number of cards in the row. If the number
named is odd, count to it beginning at the chosen card. If the number
named is even, start the count at the opposite end. Hop the frog along
the row as you count.
Explain that the frog can jump to any card neighboring the one
he sits on, and that the spectator can change the direction of the hops
as often as she wishes within each round. When all is understood,
let her take her first turn. When she has completed the prescribed
number of hops, remove the card under the frog and turn it face-up
as you put it aside. As the card is eliminated from the row, have the
spectator shift the frog to the nearest card to the left, if the selection
lies at the left end; or the nearest card to the right, if the selection is
at the right end.

WHERE IT'S AT

373

As each card is removed, it is best to adjust the remaining cards


in the row to close the gap. This not only makes the spectator's
subsequent movements of the frog less confusing, but also helps
disguise the fact that the original end card becomes the final one.
Let her move again and proceed to remove cards until there is but
one left: the selection. If the moves are made as prescribed, it is
impossible for her to finish on any other card.
Mr. Elmsley presents this as a novel location of a selection.
However, it will be clear that the principle can be used as a force, or
to achieve the prediction of a card. Of course, you are not limited to
playing cards. The force can be performed with ESP design cards or
Tarot cards. Even small objects can be used (in which case an
inverted tumbler is substituted for the marker). Jack Avis suggests
that, if forcing a card, you could mark the target card on the back,
then give out the packet for shuffling at the start. When receiving the
mixed cards back, you would then simply spread them casually as
you talk, spot the force card, take a break above it as you squared
the cards, and cut the card to the top before forming a row. This little
touch provides a sense of added fairness to a procedure that appears
to give the spectator unquestionable freedom of action.

PENNY PLAIN
Effect: Someone is handed a deck of cards and asked to shuffle
it. He is then told to deal two equal piles of face-down cards of any
size he desires. He need not know how many cards he has dealt, but
he makes certain that the performer, whose back is turned, can have
no clue to the number.
The helper picks up either pile, gives it a brief mix and peeks at
the top card. He then takes any number of cards he wishes from the
second pile, mixes them and drops them onto the first, burying the
selection. He pockets the remainder of the second pile and hands the
first pile to the performer behind his back.
Only now does the performer turn to face the spectator. He
explains that, behind his back and without a scrap of information
about the number of cards dealt or the depth the card was buried,
he will specially position the selection in the packet for a surprising
revelation. He does a bit of card shifting behind his back, then lays
the packet face-down on the table.
The spectator is asked to bring the balance of the second pile from
his pocket and deal cards from both packets in unison, until the
smaller one is exhausted. He does this and turns up the last card
taken from the large packetthe card lying at the same depth as the
number of cards in the small one. This card is found to be the
selection.
The astounding thing about this location is that the performer
genuinely does not know the identity of the selection, its location in
the packet, or the number of cards in play. Yet he can quickly and
unerringly position the chosen card to coincide perfectly with the
number of cards in the hidden packet.
Method: As with the previous trick, the secret is mathematical.
The action is exactly as described above. All that is missing are the
particulars of the manipulation done behind the performer's back.
These are quite simple. Holding the packet face-down in one hand,
take the top card into the other. Onto this card slip the bottom card
of the packet. Onto these two deal the new top card of the packet;
then the bottom card, then the top, and so on until the packet is

WHERE IT'S AT

375

exhausted. This uncomplicated rearrangement of the cards automatically positions the selection at a depth equal to the number of cards
hidden in the spectator's pocket.
As long as the spectator forms piles identical in size and then
follows your instructions, a successful outcome is guaranteed.
The mathematical basis on which this trick relies is related to
Penelope's principle, a faro shuffle procedure that will be explained
in Volume II. The Penny in "Penny Plain" is simply an affectionate
diminutive for the more mature Penelope still to be met.
September 21, 1957

THE CLOCK RUNS DOWN


Effect: The performer explains, "I expect you know that a pack of
cards can be used as a calendar. There are fifty-two cards and there
are fifty-two weeks in the year; four suits in the pack, four seasons
in the year; twelve court cards in the pack, twelve months in the year.
But you may not know that a pack of cards can be used as a clock
not a very fancy clock, I grant you, but it can be used as a kind of
clock. First I want you to shuffle the cards." The pack is handed to
someone for that purpose.
"That's winding the clock up. No need to overdo it. It should be
wound by now. Now we must set the clock to the right hour. Pick the
hour you would like to set it to, from one o'clock to twelve o'clock,
and to set it just take that number of cards off the pack and put them
into your pocket. I'll turn away as you do this. I don't want to know
the hour you have set. Let me know when you are done." The spectator performs this task. When she has finished, the performer keeps
his back to her.
"Now this may come as a surprise to you, but that clock you're
holding in your hand is a pack of cards; so I'll make it do a card trick.
I'm going to ask you to think of a card, and we'll use the number from
one to twelve you have already thought of. Hold the pack face-down
and look at the card at that number from the top of the pack. Don't
move its position; leave it where it is, look at it and remember it, in
case you ever see it again.
"Have you done that? Good. Even up the pack and keep it facedown." The performer now turns to face the spectator. "Now I must
find that card. To do that, we've got to let the clock run down.
Unfortunately, that takes twelve hours and, while you seem a very
patient person, I doubt you're that patient. But I've discovered a way
of speeding up time. It's a magic spell. All you have to do is spell the
hours. If I may have the deck, I'll teach it to you. Ready? O-N-E." As
the performer spells the hour, he moves a card for each letter from
the top to the bottom of the pack. "We've just spelt the hour for one
o'clock. Now we'll do it again for two o'clock. T-W-O. T-H-R-E-E. That's
three o'clock, afternoon. Perhaps we could take a short nap. No time.
We must spell four. F-O-U-R. Now five o'clock. F-I-V-E. S-I-X. Supper
time. S-E-V-E-N. Too late for dessert, though. E-I-G-H-T. N-I-N-E.
T-E-N. Ten o'clock. Getting late now. E-L-E-V-E-N. Eleven o'clock;

WHERE IT'S AT 377


and T-W-E-L-V-E. Twelve o'clock, midnight, the witching hour, the
hour of truth.
"Do you still remember that card you looked at twelve hours ago?
If you do, name it out loud so that everyone may know it. Good. We
can now expect a call from the neighbors: 'Quiet down over there!
Don't you know it's twelve o'clock!'" The performer turns over the top
card of the deck and shows it to be the thought-of selection.
Method: There is little here to explain, as the trick is automatic
in its working. Mr. Elmsley's initial inspiration came from a selection
of counting and spelling effects which he discovered as a boy in an
old book by W. H. Cremer titled Magic No Mystery. The presentation
idea of winding the clock is Jon Racherbaumer's; and the underlying
method is a variant of Edward Mario's automatic placement (ref. The
New Phoenix, No. 329, Aug. 1955, p. 126), which in turn is a cunning
application of the mathematical principle behind an old counting
location. The only requirements are a full deck of fifty-two cards and
a clear set of instructions, which Mr. Elmsley has provided above. If
you try this, you will find that the chosen card is always brought to
the top of the pack when you spell the numbers one through twelve.
The spelling procedure can be hastened a bit by transferring the
cards for each number in a group, rather than card by card from top
to bottom. That is, for the number one, push off three cards
togetherO-N-Eand move them to the bottom of the pack as a
bunch. Three more cards are moved together as you spell T-W-O. Five
cards are transferred to spell three, and so on.
Since the trick is entirely self-working, the spectator can do the
spelling of the hours, keeping the deck out of your hands from start
to finish. However, for the sake of pacing, Mr. Elmsley prefers to do
the spelling himself.
This is obviously not a formal performance piece. It is a party trick,
or a trick for the telephone, or possibly a trick for someone who
implores you to teach them a little magic. One lesson it teaches all
of us is that of how to make a potentially tedious dealing trick
entertaining through clever presentation.
Some years ago, after having learned this trick from Mr. Elmsley,
David Solomon added a nice touch. On taking back the deck, after
the selection has been made, secretly crimp the bottom card. Now
spell through the hours. When you are done, the selection will be on
topand the crimped card will be at a position from the bottom equal
to the mentally chosen hour. You can now secretly count from the
bottom of the pack up to the crimped card, then reveal the number;
or you can palm away the crimped card and all the cards below it,
and produce them from your pocket as you say, "Before we started,
I placed a small number of cards in my pocket. Here they are. How
many cards did you place in your pocket? Me too!"
1980

MATHEMATICS AND
MENTALISM
Effect: The performer offers to show everyone how a card merely
thought of can be found through the application of mathematics.
From a shuffled deck he deals a pile of sixteen face-down cards. "We
will use only part of the deck, to speed things up. I will not look at
the faces of the cards at any time; but I will show them to you. There
are sixteen cards, so I want you to think of any number from one to
sixteen. Then, as I show you the cards, remember the card that falls
on your number. Since no one knows that number but you, you will
also be the only person who knows the card you are thinking of."
The performer does exactly as promised. "You now have a card in
mind. I do not want you to tell me what it is or where it is. Yet, I will
discover it through a mathematical sorting process. I will stagger the
cards up and down like this. As I do so I will let you see their faces.
Again, I will not look at them. When I am done, all I want you to tell
me is whether your card is in the upper group or the lower." When
this has been accomplished, the performer strips the two packets
apart and puts one onto the other, squaring the cards. This sorting
procedure is done four times in all.
"That is the mathematical process. No matter what card you think
of, it is always brought to the top. Tell everyone which card you
chose....Look, here it is. It always works.
"That is a mathematical card trick. However, if I were a mind
reader, I wouldn't have to go through all the sorting. I would just
know. Let me show you what I mean. Do you remember your
number? Good. I'll show you the cards once more. Remember the
card that falls on your number."
When the spectator has made her choice, the performer hands her
the packet and asks that she mix it. With the cards in her hands,
the performer then proceeds to name the mentally chosen card.
Method: Here is another clever presentation for a mathematically
based trick. Though you take every opportunity to make it clear that
you know none of the cards, in fact you must know one: the top card
of the packet.

WHERE IT'S AT 379


Have the deck shuffled. Then deal sixteen cards into a face-down
pile. Glimpse the last card as you deal it, or do a top-card glimpse
as you pick up and square the packet. Methods for glimpsing a card
can be found in many basic card texts. You can also sight the bottom
card of the deck after it has been shuffled, bring this card to the top
with a double cut or an overhand shuffle, then count the top sixteen
cards from the pack without reversing their order.
Have the spectator think of a number from one to sixteen. Show
her the cards, one by one, without reversing their order, and have
her remember the card at her number. You will now sort the packet
into two groups, using a procedure commonly called a reverse faro:
Raise the packet, exposing the faces of the cards to the spectator.
Then upjog the top card. Downjog the next, upjog the third (Figure
307), and so on, until the cards have all been staggered alternately
up and down. As this is done, have the spectator observe into which
group her card falls.
Ask her if her card lies in the upper portion or the lower. Strip the
two packets apart and place the one containing her card on top of
the other.
Do four reverse faros in all, each time placing the portion with the
selection on top. This automatically brings the chosen card to the top
of the packet. Have the spectator tell everyone the name of her card.
Then turn up the top card to show the mathematical trick has
succeeded.
However, the reverse faros have accomplished something more
than just transport the selection to the top. They have also brought
the original top cardthe card you glimpsed in the beginningto a
position from the top of the packet equal to the selected number. This
is particularly intriguing because you don't have to know the spectator's number to achieve this end. It happens automatically.
Ask the spectator if she remembers her number. Assuming she
does, ask her to note the card resting at that spot as you show her
the cards once more. Then
hand her the packet and have
her mix it. All that remains is
to reveal the card in your most
impressive manner. This
direct and impossible seeming
divination should be quite a
surprise following the laborious location just performed.
The only time the effectiveness of this trick can be
diminished is if the spectator
chooses the number one. In
this circumstance, she would

380

THE COLLECTED WORKS OF ALEX ELMSLEY

think of the same card twice, the one you glimpsed. Fortunately, the
likelihood of someone choosing one is nearly nonexistent. However,
should it ever occur, there are several courses one can take. You will
know immediately if such is the case, when the spectator names her
card. If it is the same card you have sighted, you can simply go into
some other location or divination, abandoning the planned effect. Or
you can glimpse the bottom card of the packet while attention is
relaxed after the location. Shuffle this to the top. Then ask the
spectator to think of a different number, and repeat the location to
show that the mathematical procedure works every time. You can
then proceed to the intended conclusion.
Perhaps the easiest answer to this problem, though, is one
suggested by Darwin Ortiz: When asking the spectator to think of a
number, say, "Think of any number up to sixteenbut don't think
of one. It's too easy."
September 1958

Chapter Nine.

No Gamble

MISOGYNIST'S MONTE
Effect: The performer explains how he was once taken in by a
three-card-monte man. The two black queens and an odd card are
removed from the pack, and an odd twist on the old game of Find
the Lady is demonstrated: in this variation, the goal is not to find a
lady. The indifferent card is inserted between the two queens and the
cards are shifted around in an easily followed manner. Yet, when the
performer makes the logical choice in picking out the odd card, he
finds a queen instead.
The game is repeated, and this time, as the story goes, the gambler
gives the performer two chances not to find a queen. He makes the
two most likely choices, but finds a queen each time.
On the third round, the gambler offers the performer three chances
to find the odd card. This has all the earmarks of a sure thing. But
when the top card is shown, it is a queen; and when the bottom card
is shown, it is a queen; and the center cardwell, it has vanished
completely, leaving only the two queens, which can be thoroughly
inspected.
Method: This trick is the result of a search in the 1950s for a nofeke solution to "Point of Departure" (a classic Elmsley trick that is
taught in Volume II of this work). As will be seen, the method relies
heavily on ideas borrowed from "Repulsive Aces" (pp. 229-233). No
preparation is required.
Run through the deck and toss the two black queens face-up onto
the table. As you do this, you might want to cut a red jack or king to
a position third from the top of the pack. This last action is not strictly
necessary. It merely assures that a card of striking contrast is used
for the final phase of the trick. Do, however, make certain that no
red queens lie among the top three cards.

First Phase
Take the pack face-down into left-hand dealing grip and, with your
right hand, pick up the two queens. 'The other day I met a man with
a new version of the three-card trick. Instead of using two odd cards

384

THE COLLECTED WORKS OF ALEX ELMSLEY

and one queen to play Find the Lady, he used two queens and one
odd card, and I had to find the card that wasn't a lady. I'll show you."
As you say this, display the black queens, then square them facedown and grasp them in the palm-down right hand by their ends.
With the left thumb, push over the top card of the pack; then use
the left side of the queens to flip this card face-up on the deck. Name
the card. "We'll use that as the odd card." Push the card to the right
again, and flip it face-down on the deck. In flipping the card up and
down, imitate the actions used for the tip-over change. Though the
actions are entirely honest now, the tip-over change will be used in
the third phase of the trick, and you desire both uniformity and
familiarity of action when the sleight is executed.
Once more push the top card of the pack to the right, then clip it
by its inner right corner between the tips of the right first finger,
above, and second finger, below (Figure 308). The two queens are
meanwhile held securely between the right thumb, at one end, and
the third finger at the other.
With the left hand, set the
deck onto the table. After this,
transfer the two face-down
queens to left-hand dealing
position, while retaining the
indifferent card between the
fingers. You now shift the
right hand's grip on its card:
lay the thumb onto the inner
right corner, just behind the
forefinger; then move the forefinger beneath the card and
alongside the second finger.
"The man took the odd card
and put it in the middle,
between the queens." Cock
the right hand inward at the
wrist, swinging the outer end
of the card toward you.
Without spreading the two
queens, insert the near right
corner of the indifferent card
between them (Figure 309).
Using the left forefinger to
buckle the lower queen slightly at the outer end aids in the
insertion. Push the card
inward for about half its
length and leave it there, outjogged between the queens.

NO GAMBLE 385
Turn the left hand palm-down to display the odd card. Then turn
the hand palm-up again and, with the right fingertips, tap the odd
card flush.
With the right hand, turn the packet end over end and face-up in
the left hand. Immediately rotate the left hand palm-down, bringing
the packet into face-down glide position.
"Then he counted the cards: one, two, three..." On the count of
one you draw the bottom card from the packet and place it on top.
As this first card is pushed square, perform the initial action of the
glide, using the left fingertips to pull back the new bottom card.
Without hesitation, draw the middle card from the packet, as if it were
the bottom card, and transfer it to the top. This is done to the count
of two. On three, move the bottom card to the top fairly. With the right
hand, grasp the right end of the cards and hold the packet stationary
while you turn the left hand palm-up and take the face-down packet
into dealing grip.
"...and he asked me, 'Where is the card that isn't a lady?'
"'In the middle,' I guessed.
"'No,' he said. That's a lady.'" Fan the three cards and remove the
center one. Show it to be a queen; then replace it between the other
two cards. '"Your card is on top. That's no lady.'" Turn up the top
card, showing it to be the indifferent one, then lay it aside.

Second Phase
"He offered to do it againthis time with the ten of clubsand he
put the odd card between the queens." While you say this, transfer
the two face-down queens to the right hand, holding them by their
ends from above; and with the left hand pick up the deck, taking it
into face-down dealing position. Push over the top card of the pack
and use the queens to flip it face-up. As the face of the card comes
into view, name it. Then flip it face-down again on the deck and repeat
the actions employed in the first phase to set down the deck and
insert the new card between the queens. This time, however, do not
turn the left hand palm-down to display the odd card between the
queens. Instead, push it neatly flush, then with the right hand turn
the packet face-up in the left hand. A queen is seen on the face,
validating the fairness of your actions. Now turn the left hand palmdown, bringing the packet into glide position.
"He counted the cards: one, two, three." Transfer cards from bottom to top, as you did before, but execute the glide as the first card
is taken. The second and third cards are honestly handled.
"Til give you two chances this time,' he said. 'Where is the card
that isn't a lady?' It should be in the middle, I thought, but it's
probably on top. So I guessed top and middle. 'No,' he said. 'It's not

386

THE COLLECTED WORKS OF ALEX ELMSLEY

on top, and it's not in the middle. It's on the bottom. You can't keep
away from the ladies, can you!'" Here show one queen on top, the
second queen at center and finally the odd card on the bottom. Set
the odd card aside with the first one.

Third Phase
"He offered to do it again, this time with the jack of diamonds
that's an easy card to followand he put the odd card between the
queens." Synchronized with these words are the following actions:
The two queens are squared face-down in the left hand, then
grasped by the right hand from above by their ends. As the right hand
claims the queens, form a fine thumb break between them.
With the left hand, pick up the deck and push over the top card.
Use the queens to flip this card face-up on the pack. Name the card,
then flip it face-down againbut as you do so, perform the tip-over
change, secretly dropping the bottom queen square onto the deck as
the right hand's packet moves momentarily over it. This is the
moment you have been preparing for throughout the trick. (For
further details on the tip-over change, see p. 73.)
Push the top card (a queen) to the right on the deck, and clip it
between the tips of the right first and second fingers, as you have
done with the previous indifferent cards. Set down the deck and take
the single-card "packet" into left-hand dealing position, forefinger
curled under the outer end. Then pretend to insert the card held at
the right fingertips between the two queens believed to be in your left
hand. Actually, the card is slipped under the left hand's card and held
in place by the curled left forefinger while the right hand shifts position to push the card flush. You must convincingly act the part of
inserting the card between the queens. You have just performed the
genuine action twice, while keeping the queens squared. Take these
actions as your model for the false insertion, making it no easier, nor
more difficult.
"...and he counted the cards: one, two, three." No glide is required
this time as the cards are transferred from bottom to top, but take
pains to keep the actions uniform with the previous ones.
'"It's the last round,' he said, 'so I'll give you three chances this
time. Where is the card that isn't a lady?'
"I couldn't lose, I thought, and I guessed, 'It's on top, or it's on the
bottom, or it's in the middle.'
"'No,' he said. 'It's not on top.'" Take the top card into the right
hand and turn it face-up there, holding the hand away from the
packet. This is calculated to draw attention away from the single card
in the left hand. With the right hand, turn the queen face-down and
replace it on the left hand's card. Immediately grasp the packet by
its ends from above and lift it to expose the face of the bottom queen.

NO GAMBLE

387

"'And it's not on the bottom. And it's surely not in the middle.'"
As you deliver the latter line, take one card into each hand and
display the two queens, fronts and backs, letting there be no doubt
that the indifferent card is gone.
"And that's why I'm working my way home doing card tricks."

THE BRIDGE BUILDER


Effect: The performer asks for the loan of a deck and has it
shuffled before he touches it. He runs through the cards, claiming
as he does so that he is memorizing their order. He then turns the
pack face-down and gives it a shuffle that smacks of some concealed
calculation. He now deals four bridge hands while he explains, "In
bridge a rough way of judging how much a bridge hand is worth is
to count one point for each jack, two for each queen, three for each
king and four for each ace. The jacks, queens, kings and aces in the
whole pack add up to forty points; so on average each hand gets ten
points. Fifteen points would be above average, five points would be
below. Let's see how I've done."
He picks up his hand of cards and removes all the honor cards it
contains, counting them as they are laid down. The final sum is far
higher than average. "But of course in bridge you play with a partner."
He now picks up his imaginary partner's hand and counts the honor
cards it holds. When done, it is seen that he has dealt all or nearly
all the honors to himself and his partner, leaving the other two players
no hope of winning.
Method: In the late 1970s, while rereading Mario in Spades, Mr.
Elmsley became interested in a plot titled "Poker Prediction" (pp. 2021). In this trick Mr. Mario employed punched cards and second deals
to achieve his effect. Mr. Elmsley's mind, however, took the germ of
an idea in that trick and from it developed the bridge demonstration
you have just read. The method of stacking he devised is sleightless
and easy to perform. Despite that, the effect it creates is wonderfully
impressive and perfectly understandable, even to those unfamiliar
with bridge. Further to its credit, it can be done with a borrowed deck
and no preparation.
As an introduction to the feat, borrow a deck if possible and have
it shuffled. Then take it from the spectator as you explain, "If we had
been playing with these cards for an hour or two, I could have marked
them. We haven't time for that; so instead I'll memorize them." Giving
this pretense, turn the deck face toward you and run quickly through
it, outwardly pretending to memorize the cards as they go by. It is
during this swift and seemingly innocent run through the deck that
you manage to stack the honor cards for the deal.

NO GAMBLE

389

Holding the pack in your left hand, thumb over the first card,
preparing to take it into the right hand. This action exposes to you
the index of the card second from the face of the deck. As you run
through the cards, you must think of them as pairs. The simple
principle employed is to maneuver the honor cards (jacks, queens,
kings and aces) into even positions from the top of the pack. This is
done as follows:
If the foremost card of the pair on the face of the deck is an honor
card, push off two cards from the face as a unit and take them
together into the right hand. If, however, the second card from the
face is an honor card, take the first card into the right hand, then
the second card onto that, reversing their positions. If neither of the
cards is an honor card, you can take the two either singly or as a
pair, though dealing pairs is the better procedure, as it speeds the
process. Mr. Elmsley adds the following tip: As you work through the
deck, hold the cards in a plane approximately horizontal with the level
of the spectators' eyes. In doing this, the audience can observe only
the front ends of the cards. This makes your actions less noticeable
as you push over single or double cards, as required.
Continue to arrange pairs of cards in this manner until you have
gone through the deck. Do not hurry through the cards as you stack
them. Instead, strive for a steady, moderate rhythm. The entire
procedure takes twenty to twenty-five seconds in Mr. Elmsley's
hands.
It may not be possible to position every honor card to fall to your
hand and your partner's. Occasionally, both cards of a pair will be
honors, in which case one will be lost. In going through the deck, over
fifty percent of the time you will lose no more than one or two honors.
The odds against losing five or more are over forty to one. You will
certainly be able to conscript the majority of the desired cards, and
that will more than suffice.
"I haven't memorized the whole pack, but I've remembered enough
to know what I should do now." Turn the deck face-down and give it
a false shuffle that retains the honor cards at even positions. This
need be nothing elaborate, as you wish to give the impression that
you are stacking the cards as you shuffle. Perhaps the simplest
procedure is to perform a series of short overhand shuffles, rapidly
running any odd number of single cards and throwing the balance
beneath them. As you shuffle, assume a half-lidded look of deep
concentration and mutter to yourself: "Forty-seven, eighteen, thirty..."
or some other profound sounding gibberish.
Your work, but for the presentation, is now completed.
Deal the cards into four face-down piles as you comment, "I'm
going to deal four bridge hands. Do you play bridge? It doesn't matter.
A rough way of judging how much a bridge hand is worth is to count
one point for each jack, two for each queen, three for each king and
four for each ace. The jacks, queens, kings and aces in the whole pack

390

THE COLLECTED WORKS OF ALEX ELMSLEY

add up to forty points, so on average each hand gets ten points.


Fifteen points would be above average, five points would be below.
Let's see how I've done." This explanation serves a dual purpose: it
makes clear the premise of the demonstration to everyone, even those
unfamiliar with bridge; and it fills the time necessary to deal out the
deck, which would be a rather dull task to watch in silence.
Pick up your hand of cards (the fourth hand dealt) and fan it faces
toward yourself. One by one, draw the honor cards from the fan and
lay them into a face-up row on the table. Start with the lower honors
and work up to the higher ones, counting the points as you lay down
each card. "One, two, four, six, nine, thirteen, seventeen. That's above
average.
"But of course in bridge you play with a partner. It's no use having
an above average hand if his is below average. What matters is how
much you have together. Seventeen so far." Lay aside any cards left
in your hand and pick up your partner's hand (the second hand
dealt). Draw the honors cards from it and lay them into the face-up
row on the table as you count. "Eighteen, twenty-one, twenty-four,
twenty-seven, thirty-one, and four makes thirty-five. Thirty-five
points out of a possible forty, or thirteen of all sixteen honors. That
will do well enough, I think."
One presentational touch that Mr. Elmsley recommends is to find
someone in the audience with a second hand or stop-watch function
on their wrist watch. Have this person time you as you run through
the deck, apparently memorizing it. Have him say, "Go," when you
are to start, and then call off the time every five seconds. This byplay instills extra interest in the procedure and adds a touch of
drama.
Two final notes: 1) When borrowing a deck, one can't always be
certain of receiving a complete one. Fortunately, for this
demonstration it doesn't matter if the deck is short a card or two,
since the stack is built from the top down. 2) If the pack comes from
a fellow magician, have him shuffle the cards particularly well.
Magicians often keep aces and court cards together at the top or
bottom of the pack. If they are still together when you stack the deck,
you could lose as many as eight honors.
This demonstration is extremely impressive to an audience, and
the method is exquisite in its simplicity. Surely, nothing further is
necessary to recommend it.

JUST LUCKY
Effect: About this item Mr. Elmsley comments: "A long time back
I spent an evening with Ricky Jay at Cy Endfield's house. Ricky
impressed me enormously with his ability at culling. It seemed that
he would look at my pack casuallyto see what British cards were
like, he saidand then, somehow, he guided the conversation so that
twenty minutes later someone would suggest he do a trick, which he
then did with my pack, which he had already stacked.
"I very rarely have the ability to do that style of impromptu
performing. I have to plan and rehearse. This ace stack was my
attempt to emulate Ricky's skill."
Succinctly put, this is a method for culling the aces, then stacking
them with only three tabled riffle shuffles for a four-hand deal. Two
qualities that make Mr. Elmsley's stacking system particularly
noteworthy are: 1) the top card of the pack is always buried during
the shuffle; and 2) each shuffle is identical in pattern, making your
actions easy to remember and allowing you to develop speed through
familiarity. The ability to hold back varying numbers of cards on
command as you shuffle requires considerable practice; yet, when
given a constant number of cards, like three or four, the skill can be
attained in a surprisingly short time.
Besides this valuable stacking system, "Just Lucky" offers an
excellent presentation for an impromptu stacking exhibition, one in
which what could be a rather dry demonstration is transformed into
an impressive and surprising feat. It is designed specifically