The Genii Berglas issue was a treasure. Allow me to add some perspective to the Berglas mythology.
Over the past five or six years there has been a snowballing interest in Any Card at Any Number. Prior to that, however, I don't believe it had any formal name. It was merely something people had seen him do, "you know, that thing he does with cards and the number." Over time it became known simply as "The Berglas Effect."
As the legend spread, various innovators attempted solutions, including Dr. Nagler's $99.00 offering and John Born's book. Many others have developed their own methods and nowadays we see excellent versions of ACAAN performed with some regularity.
So we now have a situation where many in our field are somewhat puzzled by all the fuss over one card trick. A great trick, to be sure, but still, isnt it just one of many good effects?
Well, no. As performed by Berglas, it fully deserves its legendary status.
Those of you who have my 2003 book, Maximum Entertainment, know that I separated the major sections of the book with Personal Entertainment Highlights. There were six Highlights in the book, but I actually wrote seven. The unpublished one is what follows; it was left out on the advice of my editors who said it didn't quite fit the flow of the book. I hope it gives you a sense of why The Berglas Effect has a special place in the history of magic.
Any Card at Any Number.
This is my most personal Extraordinary Moment. It occurred in the mid-1970s at a magic convention in the mid-West. My magic and mentalism buddies have grown weary of hearing this story, and possibly even doubtful that the retelling matches the reality. Nonetheless, this is what I remember.
Berglas, Britains International Man of Mystery, had starred in the evening stage show and a highlight of the show was his now-legendary Any Card at Any Number routine. It was stunning. Now, the only way I could have found a card trick to be stunning from my balcony seat was for him to place impossible conditions on the situation; the pack stays in full view on the table, the volunteers are selected in a truly random fashion, and the idea that every choice is not only freely-made, without any restrictions, but also that they could change their choice at any time. And there had to be no way he could have manipulated the cards.
As I said, it was a highlight, powerfully presented.
The following afternoon, as I roamed the dealers booths, I encountered him pitching some product. (I think it was as a favor to a friend.) I recall little of that conversation except that I brought up the card trick (I may have even used the word stooges. How rude of me!) and the next thing I knew he had placed a deck of cards, unboxed, on my outstretched palm.
And then he said three things to me.
He asked me to name one of the cards.
Then, Please say a number from one to fifty-two.
And finally, From the top or bottom?
Now, while I may have forgotten small details about the routine, what I recall with great clarity was this I began laughing. Laughing nervouslyand thinkingor perhaps saying aloudThis CANT happen. I am a professional magician and mentalist. I KNOW how this is supposed to end. I KNOW all the basic techniques! You cannot make this happen! The cards are in MY hands!
And yet, he calmly continued.
Five of Clubs did you say?
Seventeen was the number?
And you said from the top?
Please deal sixteen cards from the top of the deck onto my hand and then stop.
Is the next card the seventeenth card from the top?
And the card you asked for was the Five of Clubs?
Did he stop talking at that point? Did he verbally request that I turn over the next card? Did he just smile? I dont remember. What I do know was that he never touched the cards.
The seventeenth card, the Five of Clubs, stared back at me from my own, undoubtedly sweaty hand.
Over more than four decades I have sought out magic and magicians in locations around the globe. I have been fooled with some pleasing frequency, bewildered now and then, but only one trick stands apart from all others; this is the only trick in which I recall not only the effect of what happened, but the affect it had on my nervous system when he asked me to give him a number from one to fifty-two.
The next day over lunch, he did it for me again. The count, from the top again, was one card short of the target.
A final word. For many years, I knew of no one else who experienced what I just described. Finally, however, I found out that at least two respected members of the Psychic Entertainers Association, Charles Reynolds and the late Marcello Truzzi, had virtually identical experiences with The Berglas Effect. They both told me that they too were dumbfounded.