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Jon Racherbaumer
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Postby Jon Racherbaumer » September 13th, 2003, 11:01 am

Although this thread flitted back into darkness not long ago, I thought Forum Readers might enjoy reading an overview of this mental effect. It is actually from my Website (forthcoming REVIEWS section); however, because it is relevant to past discussions here, I wanted to share it with Genii fans:


Introductory Note: This is, as its title states, a preliminary report. More research is being done as this report is posted and this paper will be expanded. The subject is a broad category and should be covered in a much longer discourse, perhaps a large book. What is not mentioned, for example, is the lengthy chapter on Think-a-Card in Rogers Thesarus (1994), pp. 37-70. Also, much more will be said about the Vernon-Hull relationship and what really happened to sour their relationship. It may prove in the long run that R. W. Hull was a lot smarter and more creative than he is generally given credit for being. In the meantime, if you appreciate reading this kind of minutia, then proceed

Renewed interest in a mind-reading card effect associated with Dai Vernon and having early roots in Erdnase has been triggered by Harvey A. Bergs Intercept (1997). This 15-page manuscript, awash with superlatives and hype, is, relatively speaking, a bit pricey. More important, it is not original. Berg confesses that the idea [for this effect] arose from overhearing two magicians discussing an effect by Dai Vernon. Berg adds that the two magicians basically mentioned the beginning procedure; and that he went on to develop the whole effect and did not know to what degree [he] may have inadvertently paralleled what Mr. Vernon did. He further admits that he found the Vernon trick on Michael Ammars Easy to Master Card Miracles (Volume 5). So much for references. (This is the kind of casual information that the average reader forgets in thirty seconds.) Berg drones on: the basic structure is the same, but the handling and the revelation are quite different. Uh-huh.

Unfortunately, Berg does not distinguish any differences or similarities. Therefore, the casual reader and the diligent student, unless he does his own research and comparatively studies previously published sources, cannot determine what Berg has added, fixed, or finessed (if anything) and whether or not his contribution has added value. (Let me interrupt at this point and say, Forgetaboutit; it doesnt.)

The trick in question falls under a category that so far has not been officially named. Briefly, this is the effect: A card is mentally chosen and the deck is mixed. The selection is then determined by asking a few, seemingly innocent questions. The basic principle at work is Restricted Choice, combined with Strategic Elimination. But before explaining further, here are a few select references regarding previous published sources of this trick:

(1) A Mind-Reading Trick in Expert at the Card Table (1905) by S. W. Erdnase, p. 194-196.
(2) Ibid. Revelations (1984) by Dai Vernon and The Annotated Erdnase (1991) by Darwin Ortiz.
(3) Shuffle, Force, Cut and Pass in Greater Magic (1938) by John North Hilliard, pp. 163-164; By Elimination, pp. 344-345.
(4) Streamlined Discernment (a marketed manuscript) by Ralph W. Hull (1932?)
(5) Streamlined Discernment by Edward Marlo, published in Amazing, Isnt It? (1941) and later in Early Marlo (1964) and (1976 enlarged edition), p. 38.
(6) Mental Discernment Improved by Ken Krenzel, published in 52 Amazing Card Tricks (1949), pp. 14-17.
(7) Out Of Sight Out Of Mind by Dai Vernon (written by Lewis Ganson) in More Inner Secrets of Card Magic (1960), pp. 14-15.
(8) Out of Sight and Mind II by Dai Vernon (written by Stephen Minch) in The Vernon Chronicles: More Lost Inner Secrets (1988), pp. 32-40.

It is likely that the Elimination Principle predates Erdnase, and various experts have mooted the authorship of Legerdemain Section in Expert at the Card Table to the max. The basic notion was probably cribbed from an earlier book or article; however, how it was fixed and finessed is anybodys guess.

It is also important to note that at the outset of A Mind-Reading Trick, the spectator physically selects four cards. Therefore, the restricted-choice aspect is obvious. The spectator then mentally selects one of these four cards, which are subsequently replaced (together) in the center of the deck. The deck is next ostensibly shuffled, using an Overhand Shuffle. During this shuffle, the four possibilities are controlled to the 9th, 10th, 18th, and 19th positions from the top. The Elimination was accomplished by asking general questions as a larger number of cards are shown. Once the number of possibilities is reduced to two, the rest consists of fishing (in the form of questions that suggest declarations or statements). The selection is eventually named, not physically removed or revealed. This is the version that inspired Vernons Out Of Sight Out Of Mind, first explained and credited to Vernon in Greater Magic (1938). When it reappeared again in More Inner Secrets of Card Magic 22 years later, Vernon-Ganson did not allude to Erdnase or Greater Magic. This is unfortunate; however, there is no reason to assume anything untoward or conspiratorial was intended by this omission. Stephen Minch later rectified this when The Vernon Chronicles were published.

The initial fixes to the method in Erdnase focused on simplification and economy of movement. In this regard, Hilliard pointed out that the Erdnasian method involved 15 movements in the shuffle sequence. Vernon reduced this number to 6 movements. Hull used 9 movements. Therefore, the goal of most fixers was to streamline the effect during the shuffle sequence (distribution and control) and later during the elimination phase. Economy of movement is a good thing. Slashing away with Occams Razor is the way to go.

For the record, this is the breakdown of shuffle movements in the cited versions:

(1) A Mindreading Trick in Expert at the Card Table: 12
(2) Vernon method in Greater Magic: 6
(3) Hull method in Greater Magic: 9
(4) Marlo method in Amazing, Isnt It?: 2
(5) Krenzel method in 52 Amazing Card Tricks: 2
(6) Vernon method in More Inner Secrets of Card Magic: 7
(7) Vernon method in The Vernon Chronicles: 2

This is a breakdown of the number of possibilities (selections) in each method:

(1) A Mindreading Trick in Expert at the Card Table: 4
(2) Vernon method in Greater Magic: 4
(3) Hull method in Greater Magic: 9
(4) Marlo method in Amazing, Isnt It?: 3
(5) Krenzel method in 52 Amazing Card Tricks: 9
(6) Vernon method in More Inner Secrets of Card Magic: 9
(7) Vernon method in The Vernon Chronicles: 12

It has been argued, sometimes heatedly, that the important thing about the Restricted-Choice Aspect is giving the impression that the spectator has unrestricted choice; that any card in the deck can be mentally selected. If you can fake that, youre home free. If you can achieve this result by showing only 3 or 4 cards, then permitting 9-12 choices are unnecessary. Dont work harder; work smarter. Whip out the razor!

On the other hand, if you can actually permit 12 choices, then beat that drum. Be Professorial and take advantage of this wide range and emphasize it in some, obvious manner. (By the way, there are other, unpublished methods that restrict the number of choices to 4-6 and give the strong impression that any card in the deck may be chosen. Bob Farmer and Max Maven, to name two, have devised many solutions and stratagems to accomplish this end.)

Incidentally, the manner whereby a card is mentally selected is important. As pointed out earlier, the method in Erdnase permits the spectator to freely select four cards and then think of one. This is a step in the right direction; however, the Restricted-Choice Aspect is manifestclearly a 1-in-4 shot. However, what distinguishes the explanation in Erdnase is the presentation, patter, and verbal fishing that allowed the magician to eliminate the other three possibilities. This, in its day, was innovative. Since a definitive history on the Elimination and Restricted-Choice Principles has yet to be written, I cannot say with any certainty that the modern approach to fishing originated in Erdnase. I doubt it. It probably dates back to Ponsin and earlier?

Elimination by Maneuvering is one thing; Elimination by Verbal Means is another. Physical sortingas in Mutus, Nomen, Dedit, and Cocis, The Twenty Card Trick, The 21-Card Trick, or as in the more sophisticated Intersecting-Sets form of sorting in The Princess Card Trick is not the same as fishing.

At this point Im unclear about Hulls role and contribution to what he called Mental Discernment. Many magicians now claim that Hull ripped off everything from Vernon. Maybe so, but Im not convinced. This seed was planted by Stephen Minch in The Vernon Chronicles when he wrote:

As a historical aside, it is interesting to note that R. W. Hulls Mental Discernment, released in the 1930s, was based on the then unpublished Vernon method. Mr. Hull unfortunately neglected to mention this. [my underlining]

Stephen does not allege that Hull stole anything; he was simply restating what Vernon had said regarding this subject and which was substantiated by others in the know. However, saying that something is devised on the structural foundation of another trick is a loose characterization that doesnt take into account those aspects, if any, which are the same or different. Also, how and when did Hull get wind of the unpublished Vernon method or did Hull base his marketed version on the version eventually published in Greater Magic? If this is the case, then Hull added an important feature to the trick. Instead of having four cards physically selected, he used the old process of eliminating various cards according to whether or not a spectator sees his card among them as they are shown to him. [Hilliard] Hull also restricted the choice by showing cards in the deck by passing them from hand to hand, head turned away. Nothing is taken or touched. The impression that any card can be mentally selected is implicit. It is likely that Vernon used the same approach. Whether or not the other influenced either person is not clear-cut. Hilliard did not mention Vernon in Greater Magic and apparently did not think that the Erdnase-Vernon tricks were ancestrally tied. He wrote: I have selected as the best of this kind a trick devised by Mr. Ralph Hull, of Crooksville, Ohio, whose name I have had frequent occasion to mention. [p. 344 - Greater Magic] This was published in 1938 at the end of the decade wherein Hull marketed Mental Discernment for a mere dollar. As mentioned earlier, Vernons seminal method was published 22 years later without any attribution whatsoever.

What remains for scholars and researchers to sort out and establish is the history of every aspect of this trick. In the complex and difficult-to-trace process of creating, cannibalizing, and integrating the various elements that make up a given modus operandi, so much is missing, undocumented, and buried. In some cases, the lacuna is enormous. Nothing is created in vacuo. There are countless conscious and subconscious influences. The process is collaborative.

The process also frequently results in the intentional and unintentional recycling of ideas, methodologies, tricks, subtleties, sleights, ideas, and so on. What is galling to seasoned watchers and watchdogs of this recycling circus, is that many producers never take the trouble to research methods or presentation that pass off as being theirs. Harvey Berg may be a decent fellow who intended no harm, but when he renamed an old trick, calling it Intercept, and provided shallow and forgettable references, the provenance of this trick gets further muddled and muddied. By charging a price disproportionate to the intrinsic and relative value of his book and by offering nothing truly innovative or additional, he commits a lamentable disservice. He rips off his precursors and consumers in a single stroke; and if this is unintentional on his part, it compounds theft with ignorancea feat worthy of pity and condemnation.

My advice? Save your money and check out all the other references.

Steve Hook
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Postby Steve Hook » September 13th, 2003, 2:32 pm


Great essay! Thank you!

I love this routine. I tried Vernon's original version, then, unfortunately, Berg's.

I think Paul Wilson's shuffle sequence (a 9-card version) is the best. He also has some nice psychological touches to gloss over the PORE (Points Of Reverse Engineering).

Thanks to all who have created, improved, and documented this great trick. :)

Steve H

Ted Leon
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Postby Ted Leon » September 13th, 2003, 4:19 pm

Wow, Jon, GREAT research. Thanks for making the the history clear and sharing it.
I'm sure that most if not all new effects could stand more concise "retrospective perspective".
Ted (Leondo)



Postby Guest » September 20th, 2003, 7:26 pm


Nice work on this essay (weren't you supposed to send me something? Or, many somethings?).

I believe Steve Beam's work on this effect also bears mentioning, notably "Killocation" from Semi-Automatic Card Tricks.

--Randy Campbell

Bill Hallahan
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Postby Bill Hallahan » April 25th, 2004, 9:07 pm

Mr. Racherbaumer,
Thanks, thats a fantastic post!

I only have one thing to add. Youre correct that the effect predated Erdnase.

The effect and part of the method used in "Out of Sight, Out of Mind" goes back at least as far as the year 1740 when it was described in Nouvelles Recreations, Physiques et Mathematiques by Gilles-Edme Guyot. That routine only used 4 cards, rather than 9 or 12, so it wasn't as nearly as strong.

The source of that information is research conducted by Wesley James and is at the "Magic Lineage Project" at the following link:

Mr. Charming
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Postby Mr. Charming » September 18th, 2016, 10:58 pm

Racherbaumer is awesome :D

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Postby performer » September 19th, 2016, 6:39 am

Coincidentally I have been messing around with this trick lately. I have known about it for years but have never done much with it. I have been looking at a video of David Ben doing it on television. Alas I am not computer savvy enough to reproduce the clip here but perhaps some computer genius might do it for me. It is interesting that the written description in the Ganson/Vernon book has significant presentational differences to David's version. The need for fishing is not present in the written version and there are other differences too. I have never been overly excited about this trick in the past but I have decided to experiment with it.

I shall see what happens once I put a bit of what I call "fairy dust" on it. It will be interesting to see what transpires.

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Q. Kumber
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Postby Q. Kumber » September 19th, 2016, 12:05 pm

Chris Wood of London does a wonderful version of Out of Sight, Out of Mind and has added some wonderful presentational touches and misdirection.

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Postby performer » September 19th, 2016, 7:36 pm

Here is a not so wonderful version. It is actually the same version as described in the Vernon book and there is nothing wrong with the book description. It is the long winded chatter that is the problem.

Murray the Escapologist once complained to me, "American magicians are so long winded". I have found this to be correct. They could do worse than to write down their awful patter and edit it dramatically and only yap when the yapping is necessary.

Anyway here it is. I expect you will all love it.

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Postby performer » September 19th, 2016, 7:49 pm

Oh, and I have now figured out how to post David's video. Thankfully you are not allowed to be long winded on television unless of course you happen to be Orson Welles who used to bore the crap out of me doing long winded mentalism on late night television. So mercifully this one does not go on too long.

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Richard Kaufman
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Postby Richard Kaufman » September 19th, 2016, 8:14 pm

I certainly wouldn't classify "Out of Sight, Out of Mind" as an easy-to-master card miracle, but that's where the Ammar clip comes from.
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Brad Henderson
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Postby Brad Henderson » September 19th, 2016, 8:44 pm

the best I recall seeing was roger Crosthwaite. He and I were working close up at the castle the same week. I saw the trick from the video monitor a handful of times and to this day have no idea how he did it.

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Postby performer » September 19th, 2016, 10:00 pm

Richard Kaufman wrote:I certainly wouldn't classify "Out of Sight, Out of Mind" as an easy-to-master card miracle, but that's where the Ammar clip comes from.

I wouldn't call it particularly difficult. Very basic sleight of hand. A few jog shuffles and that is about it.

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Postby performer » September 20th, 2016, 6:57 am

While I am in a nitpicking mood I have no idea why Ammar has the small packet shuffled. It wastes even more time and is not only unnecessary it weakens the effect emphasising the limited selection. The idea is to make them think they can think of ANY card in the deck and you convey that by the words you use and by an offhand, almost absent minded manner.

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Chas Nigh
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Postby Chas Nigh » September 20th, 2016, 10:19 pm

Anybody familiar with Jerry Sadowitz method? Very strong.

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Postby performer » September 20th, 2016, 10:26 pm

What I find fascinating about Jerry is that although he is a foul mouthed comedian of the sort that horrifies me greatly the second he does card magic is the second he becomes full of good taste and does the sort of entertainment that you would be happy to have your maiden aunt watch. Not one swear word or seamy vulgarity uttered. At least I think and hope so. From the little I have seen him work anyway.

If this is really the case it warms my heart to see that he respects his art and keeps the vulgarity for his comedy and leaves it out of the magic.

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