The Trick that Fooled Einstein

A place where beginners can participate, ask questions, and post their views. However, beginners typically ask a lot of questions about sources, tricks, books, and so on. In fact, all magicians are interested (or should be) in the provenance of tricks, ideas, and related matters. This department will service these needs.
Bill Mullins
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The Trick that Fooled Einstein

Postby Bill Mullins » October 4th, 2013, 4:59 pm

"The Trick that Fooled Einstein" is the name most often given to the effect in which a spectator grabs a number of small objects, and the magician grabs some as well. The magician must take more than the spectator, and he must know how many he (the magician) has. If the spec gets Y and the magician gets X, the magician says "I have as many as you, plus Z more, plus enough to bring your total to (X-Z)." (Z = any small number less than X-Y).

I got interested in the background of the trick and found out the following:

The trick seems to have been named that by Al Koran, in Lecture Notes of Fantastic Koran, The World's Greatest Mind Reader (1971).

Koran was doing an effect based on the principle as early as 1956 (see Magic Circular 11/1956 for description of a show with the effect, no name or title given).

In 1960 (see The Gen, Mar 1960) he started marketing "Jackpot Coins" which used the principle with coins.

In The Magic of Al Koran (1983), he describes a date at which he was introduced to Einstein, and did the trick and fooled him.

Koran billed himself as "the man who fooled Einstein".

Antecedents:

Scarne on Card Tricks (1950) has a version with playing cards, and it is described as one that Milton Berle likes to perform.

An oft-credited antecedent is "A Matter of Debit and Credit" from Greater Magic (1938), which Hilliard does not specifically credit to anyone. He facetiously says the trick cannot be over 12,000 years old.

An earlier use is "So Simple" in Sandu Writes Again by Paul Stadelman, 1934. There is a good follow-up trick from R. W. Hull using a key card which should be noted during the former trick, and it completely obscures any method.

Earlier still is "Secret Spots" by Tom Bowyer from The Linking Ring Oct 1931 p 828 "[the performer] has handed him exactly as many cards as there are hidden spots on the dice and "enough left over to total eighteen."" This is the same method/principle, but it leaves out the misdirective "plus three more" bit, which (importantly) further confuses things. (This was also a marketed manuscript which may predate the LR appearance.)

But the earliest hint I can find about the principle comes from Hugard's Magic Monthly Jan 1955, in which Martin Gardner describes the trick being done with matches, and he quotes Will Blyth: "the process has been so covered with verbal camouflage that detection is almost impossible to the uninitiated." The exact source of the quote isn't explicitly given, but he earlier quoted Blyth's Match-Stick Magic (1921). So it may be that Blyth is the first conjurer to describe the principle in a magic trick.

I don't own a copy of the Blyth book, and don't see an online version anywhere (it's old enough to be public domain), so if someone here has one and could check it I'd be grateful.

and on a tangential note . . . .
See also Eugenie Dennis aka Gene Dennis von Herberg (~1905 – 1948), who performed as a psychic in the 1920s – 1930s (associated with David Abbott). In 1933 she did a session with Albert Einstein and his wife. A press report quoted Einstein "She told me things no one possibly could know, and she demonstrated to me she had a power to do things I can't explain at this time. It was miraculous indeed." She later billed herself as having "fooled Einstein".

So that's what I know now. If anyone can add to it (hi, Max!), I'd love to find out more .

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Re: The Trick that Fooled Einstein

Postby Bob Farmer » October 4th, 2013, 8:02 pm

Bill: excellent work, thank you.

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Re: The Trick that Fooled Einstein

Postby Edwin Corrie » October 5th, 2013, 7:26 am

I only have the 1939 edition of Matchstick Magic, but the trick's there under the title of "Matchstick Divination" (page 117) with very simple explanatory patter. Presumably it was in the 1921 edition too. It must go back even further than that though.

Barrie Richardson also has "The Trick that Fooled Einstein" in Theater of the Mind, plus a few related ideas including "Little Jackpot Coins". The main version (which first appeared in Repro Magic's Club 17 magazine in 1989) adds an extra element in that he uses coins and adds up the values, making it harder to backtrack to the solution. Other sources cited are Edward Victor's Magic of the Hands (p. 114) and Jon Racherbaumer's At the Table (page 60).

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Re: The Trick that Fooled Einstein

Postby Joe Pecore » October 5th, 2013, 8:09 am

Edwin Corrie wrote:I only have the 1939 edition of Matchstick Magic, but the trick's there under the title of "Matchstick Divination" (page 117) with very simple explanatory patter. Presumably it was in the 1921 edition too.

Potter lists it in his index as being in the 1921 edition.
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Re: The Trick that Fooled Einstein

Postby Bill Mullins » October 5th, 2013, 3:23 pm

Edwin Corrie wrote:I only have the 1939 edition of Matchstick Magic, but the trick's there under the title of "Matchstick Divination" (page 117) with very simple explanatory patter. Presumably it was in the 1921 edition too. It must go back even further than that though.

No doubt, which is why I posted it.

Barrie Richardson also has "The Trick that Fooled Einstein" in Theater of the Mind, plus a few related ideas including "Little Jackpot Coins". The main version (which first appeared in Repro Magic's Club 17 magazine in 1989) adds an extra element in that he uses coins and adds up the values, making it harder to backtrack to the solution. Other sources cited are Edward Victor's Magic of the Hands (p. 114) and Jon Racherbaumer's At the Table (page 60).


Racherbaumer's version took advantage of the obfuscation provided by an amount of money rather than a number of coins, so he did that before Barrie Richardson (see M-U-M Dec 1980). Richardson's version, like all of his material, is excellent and worth review if you are putting a routine together. Another good one is in Card College vol 4 by Roberto Giobbi -- "Miraculous Coincidence" p 891. And while you are looking, check out Michael Weber's "Picking on Rain Man" from M-U-M Jan 2009.

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Re: The Trick that Fooled Einstein

Postby Bill Mullins » October 15th, 2013, 11:43 pm

Lybrary.com has acquired a copy of the 1921 edition of the Blyth book and digitized it (a steal at $5). The Einstein trick is in there, as described above. So it certainly existed as far back as 1921.

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Re: The Trick that Fooled Einstein

Postby Jeremy Greystoke » October 17th, 2013, 2:33 pm

Another intriguing variation of the effect can be found in Roy Johnson's Pure Gold, published by Martin Breese with an ebook edition available through lybrary.com. Roy's version is a quite clever mash-up of the "Jackpot Coins" routine with Stewart James' "Miraskill". It's called "Reflective Jackpot" and it's definitely worth a look.

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Re: The Trick that Fooled Einstein

Postby Richard Hatch » October 18th, 2013, 7:26 pm

Bill, does Koran give a specific date/event at which he met/performed for Einstein? Einstein died in 1955 and was (I believe) mostly in America since emigrating before WWII, primarily in Princeton, New Jersey. I'm not aware that Koran was in America during that period, though it is possible. I suspect that the Koran story of meeting and fooling Einstein is apocryphal, but would love to be proven wrong.

Also, did Gene Dennis really claim to have "fooled" Einstein? That would be an admission that she used trickery, rather than genuine psychic abilities.

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Re: The Trick that Fooled Einstein

Postby Jeff Pierce Magic » October 19th, 2013, 1:37 am

Ricard, Racherbaumers version called Correct Change in At the Card Table mentions being inspired by a effect using pennies inThe Magic Book by Karl Fulves.

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Re: The Trick that Fooled Einstein

Postby Bob Farmer » October 19th, 2013, 10:18 am

I'm thinking of a new theme: The Trick That Can't Be Explained To Einstein. We'll need some candidates.

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Re: The Trick that Fooled Einstein

Postby Bill Mullins » October 19th, 2013, 12:36 pm

Richard Hatch wrote:Bill, does Koran give a specific date/event at which he met/performed for Einstein?
No:

""Whilst playing at the Savoy, I finished my act, and the manager said someone asked me to join them at their table. It was Albert Einstein, the mathematical genius. He leaned over to me, very personally, and asked: "Where in the world did you get those extra coins . . . did they come from your sleeve?" I said: "No, it's simple, a child can do it." I did it at his table and fooled him again. I then told him "It's not the numbers, it's the words that fooled you." "
_Al Koran Lecture_ 1972

The Savoy was/is a high-end hotel in London. The only record I can find of Einstein being there was from an article in the Times of London from 1930 for a dinner in support of the Jews of Eastern Europe. Koran was only born in 1917, so I'd guess the meeting would have had to occur after WWII. A 9/11/1954 Abra article about Koran says he went pro ca. 1952, and was appearing at the Savoy soon after.

I suspect that the Koran story of meeting and fooling Einstein is apocryphal, but would love to be proven wrong.
I tend to think you are right.


Also, did Gene Dennis really claim to have "fooled" Einstein? That would be an admission that she used trickery, rather than genuine psychic abilities.


I can't find the reference this morning, but I did see the phrase "fooled Einstein" in either a publicity article about her or an ad for a show (otherwise I wouldn't have put it in quotes.) She more often referred to having "amazed Einstein".

To be honest, I can't see the payoff in either a mentalist or a magician referring to having "fooled" someone (at least in communications with laypeople). That's not the way I'd want a spectator/layperson thinking about what I don.

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Re: The Trick that Fooled Einstein

Postby Barefoot Boy » October 20th, 2013, 1:35 pm

I have always been interested in the history of mentalism effects. Lots of great information here.

Thanks for sharing.
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Re: The Trick that Fooled Einstein

Postby Daniel Bain » October 20th, 2013, 3:31 pm

Bill Mullins wrote:The Savoy was/is a high-end hotel in London. The only record I can find of Einstein being there was from an article in the Times of London from 1930 for a dinner in support of the Jews of Eastern Europe. Koran was only born in 1917, so I'd guess the meeting would have had to occur after WWII. A 9/11/1954 Abra article about Koran says he went pro ca. 1952, and was appearing at the Savoy soon after.

I suspect that the Koran story of meeting and fooling Einstein is apocryphal, but would love to be proven wrong.
I tend to think you are right.

Interesting--According to Wikipedia, Koran was born in 1914 but MagicPedia has his birth year as 1917. Assume MagicPedia is correct?

Einstein did spend a short period in the UK in the early 1930's but by 1935 emigrated to the US. Like Richard, I also recall reading somewhere that once Einstein emigrated to the USA in the mid-1930's he rarely (if ever?) left.

Trick That Fooled Einstein likely never tricked Einstein...

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Re: The Trick that Fooled Einstein

Postby Joe Pecore » October 20th, 2013, 4:59 pm


Interesting--According to Wikipedia, Koran was born in 1914 but MagicPedia has his birth year as 1917. Assume MagicPedia is correct.

A number of contributors to MagicPedia have been tracking down the date of his birth. I'm not sure which is correct though.
Last edited by Joe Pecore on October 20th, 2013, 9:55 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: The Trick that Fooled Einstein

Postby Bill Mullins » October 20th, 2013, 5:23 pm

The Social Security Death Index has it as March 04, 1917 which is the date in Magicpedia.

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Re: The Trick that Fooled Einstein

Postby Paul Green » March 30th, 2014, 1:11 am

Hi everyone,

After reading Barrie Richardson's book, I became enamored of the Close-Up version of the trick. I put together a script for it which you can find in the Pete McCabe book on scripting

It is one of favorite routines and I have used it in my Close-Up act at the Magic Castle. Barrie has told me that he likes my presentation very much. Try it out and you may find it a wonderful addition to your own repertoire.

Enjoy the Search.

Resepectfully,

Paul Green
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Re: The Trick that Fooled Einstein

Postby El Mystico » March 30th, 2014, 5:46 pm

Really interesting information.
I wonder if it was an Einstein impersonator?
Which would make it the Einstein who fooled Koran?

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Re: The Trick that Fooled Einstein

Postby Joe Mckay » April 28th, 2014, 7:14 pm

David Britland has the best magic blog on the internet. I recommend that you all dive in there and read it from the very beginning.

And as regards this thread. He recently did a long post on the 'Trick That Fooled Einstein'.

Very interesting stuff. He even manages to find out if Einstein really was ever fooled by this trick.

http://cardopolis.blogspot.co.uk/2014/03/the-trick-that-fooled-einstein.html

And to add a reference of my own. Check out 'Dollars And (6th) Sense' by Stewart James. It is the final trick in 'Stewart James In Print - The First Fifty Years'. You can find it on page 972. It is also in the October, 1971 issue of 'The Linking Ring'.

What is wonderful in this version of the trick is that Stewart James manages to combine the principle with another ancient mathematical principle. There is something lovely about seeing two of the oldest principles in magic combined in this way.

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Re: The Trick that Fooled Einstein

Postby Richard Kaufman » April 28th, 2014, 8:07 pm

There's material on this by David Britland in the upcoming June issue of Genii.
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Re: The Trick that Fooled Einstein

Postby Bill Mullins » April 29th, 2014, 9:21 am

David Britand's post is fascinating. While we covered much of the same ground, he has a number of details that I didn't find or mention. In particular, while I was only able to locate the principle involved as far back as 1921, he found a 1920 example.

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Re: The Trick that Fooled Einstein

Postby Joe Mckay » September 18th, 2016, 7:43 am

I just read this interesting fact:

One pound of U.S. dimes, quarters, and half dollars, in any combination, is worth $20.

I wonder if it could be of any use for this trick? I am stuck in the UK so it is no good for me.

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Re: The Trick that Fooled Einstein

Postby Tom Moore » September 18th, 2016, 8:56 am

Uk coinage follows a similar rule - a bag containing £10 worth of coins of the same colour will weigh the same no matter what combination of coins it contains (ie 5p coins weigh half what 10p coins weigh, 2p are twice the weight of 1p) and about 20 years ago PD actually used the principle to add a twist to this very effect.
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Re: The Trick that Fooled Einstein

Postby Jonathan Townsend » September 18th, 2016, 12:37 pm

Joe Mckay wrote:I just read this interesting fact:

One pound of U.S. dimes, quarters, and half dollars, in any combination, is worth $20.

I wonder if it could be of any use for this trick? I am stuck in the UK so it is no good for me.


Was this in context of when coins were silver?
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Re: The Trick that Fooled Einstein

Postby Bill Mullins » September 18th, 2016, 12:48 pm

Jonathan Townsend wrote:
Joe Mckay wrote:I just read this interesting fact:

One pound of U.S. dimes, quarters, and half dollars, in any combination, is worth $20.

I wonder if it could be of any use for this trick? I am stuck in the UK so it is no good for me.


Was this in context of when coins were silver?


Yes.

Silver dime 2.5 grams
Silver quarter 6.25 grams
Silver Half dollar 12.5 grams

But it still holds true:

Current clad coins
dime 2.268 gm
quarter 5.67 gm
half dollar 11.34 gm

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Re: The Trick that Fooled Einsteintion

Postby MagicbyAlfred » September 18th, 2016, 5:38 pm

I have been using the version I learned in Scarne on Card Tricks for over 30 years. It is definitely a winner. It's baffling, and gets a surprisingly good reaction. Any deck, no set-up, anywhere, anytime. Only the most basic of basic math skills are needed. I love the trick and the Scarne book, which was my first book on card magic.

I have often heard that Einstein flunked basic math, a claim of which I had always been skeptical, but maybe it's true after all...

I also learned a version of the effect with coins, where you have the spectator bring out all his/her change, although I can't remember where I picked that up from. As long as you are carrying three dollars in change, you are always ready to go (provided the spectator's change doesn't total over three dollars, which would be highly unusual).


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