McKitterrick and everyone else. This is an intriguing topic, which I continue to ponder. I'm a shrink, I can't help it!
To exemplify my obsession with these matters, I offer the following trick, which is not perceptually experienced as a trick by your participant, unless the favorable outcome is manifest.
This is my method and presentation of Dai Vernons Mental Force, Expert Card Technique (Hugard & Braue, 1940). I had never even considered performing Vernons effect, because it is simply not foolproof, and I have no desire to crash and burn in front of an audience. My interest in the effect was rekindled by David Acers Five Card Mental Farce from Random Acts of Magic (Acer, 2004).
The creative juices started flowing. I wiped myself off and developed this handling, which cannot fail, because its not a trick. This experiment first appeared on The Second Deal web site on 4/12/05. It then appeared in Josh Jays Talk About Tricks column in Magic magazine in September, 2005. It is also included in Joshs Talk About Tricks DVD set.
EFFECT: The performer briefly displays a fan of five cards to the participant and asks her to mentally select one of them. She does so. The participant announces her selection, and with no moves whatsoever, the performer hands her the cards and asks her to examine them. She melts as she discovers that her selection is the only odd-back card!
SET-UP: From the face: Blue-back Five of Spades, Jack of Diamonds, (red-back) Eight of Hearts, blue-back Ace of Clubs and Two of Diamonds. Place this packet in your shirt or front pant pocket.
PRESENTATION: I developed this effect for lay folk. Remember them? To maximize your chances of blowing the participants mind, whilst eliminating all of your anxiety about the effect failing, you frame it (so to speak) as a mere experiment.
Its not a magic trick. You simply love everything about cards. And youre fascinated by why certain people choose certain cards. Youre merely gathering participatory, perceptual card data. This is pure research.
Dont use this effect as part of your magic show. In fact, when you perform this effect, you shouldnt even have a deck of cards on your person. You want to eliminate the
possibility of outs from your participants mind.
Invite an eager female to participate in the experiment.
This is merely an experiment. Its not a trick, so dont get your hopes up. I simply love everything about cards. I love their feel, their smell. I love the fact that they can be an important source of fiber in any sensible dietary plan.
I am particularly intrigued by the psychological processes that cause people to choose the cards that they choose. I have spent a disturbing amount of time examining many decks of cards in my search for five special cards. Five cards that are projective in nature. Cards that people feel drawn to for some reason. I want to know why these cards speak to them.
Remove the packet from your pocket and place it face-down in your left hand.
Im going to briefly show you the cards and I want you to mentally select one. Ive provided you with a nice variety of suits and values, so let your unconscious be your guide. Mentally select one card. Dont say its name. Just focus on it, and dont change your mind. Ready? Here we go.
With your palm-down right hand, grasp the inner left corner of the packet, first and second finger on top and thumb beneath. Turn the packet face-up as you fan the cards. Display the cards for no more than four seconds, then square the cards face-down into your left hand.
Got one? Good. What card did you mentally select?
She names the Eight of Hearts. This moment will fill your heart with joy! You will feel tempted to jump up and down and scream with delight whilst high-fiving yourself! Remain calm.
So, why did you select that particular card?
Listen to what she says. Ask questions. This approach is crucial to fostering the purely experimental feel of the trick. Remember, your participant is not aware that this is a trick. Much of the time, she will report that she just kinda, sorta felt drawn to the Eight, or that it was the only card that she saw.
Sometimes, you will hear fascinating anecdotes about how she chose the Eight of Hearts because the Eight and/or Heart are symbolic to her in some way.
I vividly recall how crazy Uncle Ferd would insist that I wear size 8H shoes whenever we got together in the tool-shed.
This is important information. Work it!
Hand her the packet and ask her to examine the cards. In many cases, your participant will flip the packet face-up and examine the faces of the cards. This is another delightful moment. She sees nothing out of the ordinary about the faces of the cards. She is unwittingly setting herself up for the climax.
Check out the backs of the cards.
She turns them over and discovers that her mental selection is the only odd-backed card of the bunch!
THE PSYCHOLOGY: Ive performed this effect dozens of times for individual lay folk. It has never failed. In March 2005, I tested it on magicians at The Second Deal convention in Atlanta. They were happily fried.
The effects success can be attributed to the cards that Ive employed and my presentation. Let me walk you through an explanation of why the other cards wont be chosen.
The bookends: The 2D and 5S. Your participant will not select these cards for the same reason that they dont choose the top or bottom cards of a full deck when you spread it before them and ask them to pick a card, any card. Those cards are just too obvious, and too handy for you.
Additionally, the 2D is the lowest card. Its lowly stature causes it to stand out in your participants mind. Its too obvious. She doesnt want to feel manipulated, so she rejects it.
The 5S is the is the only odd-value card. Lay folk dont consider Aces as 1 and Jacks as 11. Perceptually, the 5S feels well, odd and creepy. She must pass it by.
The Ace is just too damned powerful, period. Layfolk will dodge that bullet.
The JD is the only court card. The only card with a face. Anthropomorphism prevails. Your participant will resist her urge to get sucked into that face.
Which brings us to our hero, the 8H. It will be chosen because its the middle card, because its value is in the middle range, and because it is a Heart.
Due to the fact that you only display the packet briefly, your participant feels some anxiety. She wants to be a good experimental subject by adhering to your instructions regarding her mental selection. And she also wants to relax.
When she sees the cards, she will quickly scan them and eliminate the bookends. She will devote nanoseconds to eliminating the AC and JD. Then she will find comfort and solace by choosing the 8H.
RUMINATIONS: I have the utmost respect for the Professors work and his contributions to our Art. I believe that his handling of this effect brought him success much of the time, based upon the force of his personality. But that was over 60 years ago. Time passes. People change.
Vernons method and presentation of this potentially wondrous effect are no longer viable. He dealt the cards face-up on the table. This is gives your participant too much time to ponder the cards. You dont want to give her the opportunity to change her mind.
Then he launched into his psycho-babble about why the participant may potentially choose or reject a particular card. This approach feels manipulative to the participant, and she doesnt like to feel manipulated. Thus, she will try to psych-out the performer, by going against her instincts and choosing a card that means nothing to her.
What started out as a harmless trick has now become a contest. And the participant is determined to win. This adversarial vibe significantly decreases the likelihood that the effect will succeed.
My handling and presentation of the effect arouses no anxiety or suspicion in the heart and mind of your participant. Its not even a trick. Its pure research. Thus, it cannot fail.
In the unlikely event that your participant doesnt name the 8H, stick to the script. Ask her why she chose that card. Talk to her. Join with her. Then put the cards away and get on with your life.
But boy, when your participant names the 8H and discovers its uniqueness, SHE will feel great! And ultimately, that is our goal, isnt it?