"The Greatest Cardtrick Of Our Time"...not the one you think!

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Postby Guest » 08/15/06 08:53 PM

While modern meaderings frequently mention (among a short list) Curry's OOTW as the greatest, etc, many decades prior, Max Holden stated that George Kaplan's, "The Bombay Mystery" was the greatest cardtrick of our time.

Ever hear of it? Seen it done? Read about it?

Historically curious,
Ted L

Postby Guest » 08/15/06 10:18 PM

Kaplan mentions on page 148 of Fine Art of Magic that he used The Bombay Mystery for many years as a platform effect, and that he marketed the trick.

He goes on to give two versions of The Calcutta Mystery, which he says produces the same effect as The Bombay Mystery, but uses a different method.

"With a red pencil he writes a prediction on a slip of paper, and drops it into a glass, where it remains in full view of everyone and is not again touched by him. A spectator then deliberately thinks of a card in a deck, as the cards are slowly passed before his eyes.

Again the performer writes a prediction, but this time with a blue pencil. This message is folded and dropped into the glass with the first prediction. A second spectator then makes a chance selection of a card by calling "Stop!" whenever he pleases, as the performer deals the cards onto the table, and taking the card thus arrived at.

A third spectator opens and reads the predictions aloud. Both of the selected cards are then shown, and in each case they are correct, the one in red writing naming the card deliberately thought of, and that in blue bearing the name of the card selected by chance."

Postby Guest » 08/16/06 12:01 AM

Excuse me but if the first card is only thought of how is it shown?

Postby Guest » 08/16/06 12:37 AM

Originally posted by Bill Duncan:
Excuse me but if the first card is only thought of how is it shown?
Kaplan's write-up of the effect, of which I quoted three paragraphs, didn't state that the card was only thought of.

You've forced me to read further into the effect's method where he writes that, after the spectator thinks of a card he sees, he removes the card and tables it. :)

Ted: Since I don't have any direct knowledge of The Bombay Mystery, let me emphasize that I am only repeating Kaplan's assertion that it and The Calcutta Mystery produce the same effect. (Whatever he may have meant by that.)

The tricks may be radically different procedure-wise, or even effect-wise. I'm just giving a reference here to the effect in response to your query. I hope someone may be able to offer an informed response as to the particulars of The Bombay Mystery...

Postby Joe Pecore » 08/16/06 03:36 AM

Found this searching electronic version of Hugard\'s Magic Monthly sampler from lybrary.com

From ad in Hugard's Magic Monthly Vol II, No 5 October 1944

Greatest Trick of Our Time!
Here is the last word in mlracles - A trick
that has baffled magicians and laymen alike,
now offered to the magical fraternity for the
first time!
Effect: The performer correctly predicts what
cards will be mentally chosen by 2 people.
Each spectator removes his own card from
a shuffled deck while the deck is in his own
hands, and shows same simultaneously with
the revelation of the performer's previously
written prediction. Can also be presented as
a feat of genuine mindreading! It's new, it's
unfathomable, it's absolutely certain! Comes
complete with deck and 2 routined presentations
by Jean Hugard - one for stage, one
for intimate work. It's marvelous ............ $5
All instructions written by JEAN HUGARD;
none genuine without his written signature.
And then from an ad in Hugard's Magic Monthly Vol II, No 6 November 1944

Greatest Trick of Our Time!
This is a miracle trick for fair! Performer
writes predictions on 2 slates, then hands a
well-shuffled deck to 2 people who select their
own cards while they each hold the deck.
They remove their cards and show them only
when performer reveals his predictions. . .
and everything checks perfectly. . . it just
can't miss! Comes complete with 2 of JEAN
HUGARD'S finest routined presentations . .$5.
220 West 42nd Street, New York
120 Boylston Street, Boston
117 South Broad Street, Philadelphia [
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Postby Guest » 08/16/06 07:31 AM

Thanks for the follow up guy's. Interesting stuff!
Ted L

Postby Guest » 08/16/06 10:09 AM

Does anyone here have some insight into Holden's criteria for "the greatest card trick"?

OOTW and its cousins seem to emphasize that the spectator does everything, whereas "fairness" seems to be the main claim in the earlier Bombay and Calcutta effects.

Has there been a discernible shift, over time, from "fair" effects, within the magician's hands, to effects seemingly happening without the magician's direct participation?

Or is the "greatest" label simply an isolated statement of one person's appreciation?


Vince Hancock

Postby Guest » 08/16/06 11:11 AM

Greatest is just one man's opinion at a given moment in time. There is no good or bad trick until someone performs it. If it works for you, it's great. If not, you can bet it's working for someone.

Postby Guest » 08/16/06 02:51 PM

Could it be that a large portion of Holden's criteria for the "greatest" card trick may have hinged on the fact that he was a dealer and he was selling it?

Postby David Britland » 08/16/06 06:08 PM

I'm sure David Alexander is right in saying that Holden's hype is based on the fact that he was selling the effect.

Using Ask Alexander at www.conjuringarts.org I found mention of The Bombay Mystery in The New Tops (1981) where Tom Hubbard says that he purchased the trick for $5.

"The idea was that two cards were peeked at and the mentalist knew and could even predict both cards. It was a clever approach that required an elaborately contrived deck and very careful handling."

Maybe it was a version of the Ford Roger's Forcing Deck.
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Postby Richard Kaufman » 08/16/06 06:30 PM

I also agree. Sounds like a dealer's bombast to me.
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Postby Guest » 08/16/06 06:33 PM

Originally posted by David Britland:
...It was a clever approach that required an elaborately contrived deck and very careful handling."...
By today's standards, "very careful handling" may be practical. Anyone got one to sell?

For instance, if the pack was marked so you could read off the card peeked (ie card in front marking) you could manage the rest via one-ahead and maybe a pen with an extra odd colored nib. ;)

Postby Guest » 08/16/06 08:07 PM

Criteria will also depend on the audience. For an lay audience, the Nudist Deck is a "miracle." Al Goshman used one in his work for years. A well-handled Svengali Deck or Ultra-Mental Deck will also be "the greatest" to a lay person.

Now, if one is performing for magicians, I would say something like 51 Faces North, where the deck is never handled or the so-called "Berglas Effect," will be judged "greatest."

Postby Guest » 08/16/06 08:57 PM

I'm not convinced the just brushing Holden's praise off to just dealer hype is justified, even thought he was, in fact, selling it.

He was certainly in a position to have had the opportunity MANY times to label one of his products as the "The Greatest Cardtrick Of Our Time", but he chose this particular one.

I offer this mostly as a devil's advocate argument. It seems that Holden would have seen and associated with the greatest of his time. He would have been in a position to actually discover "The Greatest Cardtrick Of Our Time".

It would be nice to find a copy of the original trick, or see it done :eek:

Ain't magic history grand!
Ted L

Postby Philippe Billot » 08/17/06 03:06 PM

The Bombay Mystery was presented in the Linking Ring in Vol. 24, N 9, november 1944.
Here is the review of John Braun, page 67 :

A new trick of George Kaplan. Here is what the spectator sees : You overhand-shuffle the pack, face outward, then hand the pack to a spectator. He peeks at a card with the pack in his own hands. You immediatly hand the pack to a second spectator, who also peeks at a card.
Now you can read their minds; or, you can make a prediction before they peek; or you can offer to forfeit a sum of money should you fall to read their minds or predict the card they will think of.
Pack is prepared - yet faces and backs are seen and pack is shuffled.
You get pack and four pages of printed directions signed by Jean Hugard.
Nothing difficult about the handling of the deck, and in the hands of one with even a little ability as a showman, this trick should create a profound effect.

And now, Max Holden's Ad in the last page of the magazine :



Here is the last word in miracles - A trick that has baffled magicians and laymen alike !
The Effect : The performer correctly predicts what cards will be mentally chosen by two spectators who remove their own selected card from a fairly shuffled deck while it's in their own hands. When shown, they check with performer's prediction on 2 slates ! Strictly a one-man method, and it can't fall. No switches, no sleights. It's perfect.... $5

In the same page, Annemann's Practical Mental Effects was sold $6.50.
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Postby Guest » 08/17/06 11:36 PM

The Bombay Mystery wasn't cheap for its day, either. One economic website that claims to convert the old money into today's values reports

In 2005, $5.00 from 1944 is worth:

$55.62 using the Consumer Price Index
$46.32 using the GDP deflator
$99.37 using the unskilled wage
$127.20 using the nominal GDP per capita
$283.34 using the relative share of GDP

Not exactly cheap for a deck of cards and four pages of printed instructions.

Postby Guest » 08/21/06 01:02 AM

The strength of the Out Of This World effect is that it didn't need a special deck and the magnitude of the effect far outweighed the simplicity of the method. Bombay Mystery was an excellent effect but the payoff balance did not outweigh the methodology.
I do have a copy of the Bombay Mystery if anyone has a question. I admired Max Holden and his shop from what little I know, but he was selling tricks, and people weren't likely to purchase an ok trick if he had advertised it as such.

Postby Guest » 08/21/06 09:47 AM

Regarding OOTW, readers may find the following of interest. It appeared in "Roundabout with Fred Braue" in the December, 1948 issue of HMM.

Background Note: The genesis of Out of this World is fascinatin. Curry and Scarne watched Audley Walsh do Gibsons Payoff and began figuring angles. Scarne devised a trick in which a spectator cut groups of cards, then Scarne told him how many red cards each contained, the method involving seconds, bottoms, shifts, palms and prayers. Even Johnny couldnt do it.

Curry struck off on another tangent, speculating on the idea of a self-working facedown color separation, and came up with Out of this World. I didnt think much of my method, Curry writes. It wasnt until a week later that I actually did it. On the basis of my very-suffering wifes reaction I realized that the effect was fairly good. Its a funny thing all the details of the stunt came to me in about 15 minutes. Since then my mind has been in a complete fog and I havent figured out any angles that differ to any extent from the original method. But to this day, I dont quite understand why It should fool magicians. Thats the history of the greatest self-working trick of our time...

Postby David Britland » 08/22/06 10:55 AM

Philippe Billot's description of the pack suggests something similar to the handling of the Tossed Out Deck.

I think a Ford Roger's deck designed to force two cards instead of one (by turning the deck end for end) would do the job. Perhaps that's why the deck was described as elaborately contrived.
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Postby Guest » 08/22/06 08:11 PM

For a friend of mine (also a working pro) the greatest card trick was Miko. He'd performed at yet another party for a client who loved my friend's work. The client, privately, asked him to show him his "greatest" or "best" card trick.

My friend is no slouch with a deck of cards and can do all the stacking, run-up-hands moves, riffle shuffle stacking, etc, yet he chose to show his client Miko.

At the climax of the effect, with the client staring at the 3 1/2 of clubs he roared with laughter and tipped my friend several hundred dollars.

From "Roundabout with Fred Braue," HMM, Feb 1949:

"Harold Sterling brain-stormed 'Miko' in this fashion: Sorting stock in his Detroit store, he came upon some 14 and 15 of spades, later in the same day sorted out sets of 'Tops and Bottoms' dice-some regular and some misspotted. Abruptly the 'Miko' idea clicked; he had the cards printed the same afternoon and the next morning tried the trick on his first customer, Bill Cohen. 'What do you think of it?' Sterling asked anxiously. Cohen, a rhetorician, said succinctly, 'It stinques!,' which made Sterling feel wonderful. So-o-o, thousands on thousands of Mikos have since been sold and thousands of laymen have guffawed at it-and Cohen now chuckles wrily each time he buys a new set!"

Postby Guest » 08/22/06 11:17 PM

Originally posted by David Britland:
Philippe Billot's description of the pack suggests something similar to the handling of the Tossed Out Deck.

I think a Ford Roger's deck designed to force two cards instead of one (by turning the deck end for end) would do the job. Perhaps that's why the deck was described as elaborately contrived.
I am not familiar with the Ford Roger's deck in particular, but based on your description I think you have it. I have the deck and instructions for Bombay and it is a pack designed to force two cards.

The effect in brief is that the two cards are selected while in the spectators hands and unknowingly two ungimmicked duplicates of the two selections are on the top of the deck. After the cards are selected there are two predictions which are then written on two separate slates. The cards are hindu shuffled showing the fairness of the deck, and more importantly placing the two duplicates in the center. The cards are spread for the two spectators and they remove the two ungimmicked cards and it's downhill from there.

Postby El Mystico » 07/19/09 11:51 AM

I'm resurrecting this...

Has anyone figured out what the Bombay Mystery deck was?
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Postby Max Maven » 07/19/09 08:04 PM

Have never seen the "Bombay Mystery Deck" (I have seen Eddie Joseph's marketed "Bombay" -- quite different, but another interesting trick that seems to have been lost in time). But, from the descriptions, it does not sound like this was a Rogers deck, but rather, something akin to a Telomatic Deck (usually ascribed to Robert Nelson).
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Postby Jim Martin » 07/19/09 10:32 PM

I need to dig out the manuscripts for both 'Bombay' and, was it 'Staggered'?
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Postby Andru Luvisi » 08/17/09 11:41 PM

This sounds vaguely related to the "Telepathic Deck of Cards" described on page 245-246 of Tarbell 4.
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Postby El Mystico » 03/21/11 01:32 PM

Coming back to this thread...is anyone producing a 2 way Telomatic deck these days?
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Postby Jonathan Townsend » 03/21/11 02:26 PM

? long/short with two way printed forcing cards?
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Postby El Mystico » 03/21/11 03:06 PM

yes...but is anyone putting in the work?
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