The Berglas Effect

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Postby Guest » 05/20/07 01:11 PM

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 The unpublished one is what follows; it was left out on the advice of my editors who said it didn't quite fit the flow of the book.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.

=====================================

David Berglas,
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?
Yes.
Seventeen was the number?
Yes.
And you said from the top?
Thats right.
Please deal sixteen cards from the top of the deck onto my hand and then stop.
fourteenfifteensixteen.
Is the next card the seventeenth card from the top?
Yes.
And the card you asked for was the Five of Clubs?
Yes.
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.

Ken Weber
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Postby Guest » 05/20/07 01:19 PM

And Ken, if you look back through some of the discussions of the Berglas Effect here on the GENII forum, you'll find that Richard Kaufman experienced pretty much the same emotions - twice.

Good to see you here ;)
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Postby Guest » 05/20/07 08:30 PM

Ken,

I'm curious--does David's explanation of his ACAAN in "The Mind & Magic of David Berglas written by David Britland" give any insight as to how he performed this miracle??

Arnie.
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Postby Matthew Field » 05/21/07 02:59 AM

David Berglas performed the effect, and about a half-dozen variations (names card I just glanced from spread deck) for me at his home last year. It, and he, are amazing.

The trick is not explained in the Britland book.

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Postby Guest » 05/21/07 03:23 PM

Matt,

I assumed it was because there is a Britland book (identified as "The Mind & Magic of David Berglas written by David Britland") on ebay right now that says:
Here is his method for Think of a Card and the secrets of the famous, whispered-about deception which has become the holy grail of card workers, The Berglas Effect: Any Card at Any Number.
Do you know if this is a different ACAAN than the one David Berglas is doing now or is the description incorrect??

Thanks
Arnie
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Postby Richard Kaufman » 05/21/07 05:16 PM

The book gives a general idea of David's method for Any Card at Any Number. David feels the entire method is actually too complex to describe in print and relies greatly on intuition and spectator management, among other things.

So, to summarize, the book DOES include the general method, but not specifics that would allow you to actually perform it just by reading the description without doing work on your own.
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Postby Guest » 05/22/07 03:15 PM

As suggested by my friend Quentin, I did plow through the many postings related to ACAAN. I was particularly struck by the theme begun by Steve Martin, who wrote:
An effect as "pure" as the one I have described above (and that some people think there is some special method for) simply does not have a method other than "being lucky". That much is just plain obvious.
And he continued:
It is entirely possible that David Berglas "got lucky" on several occasions, and these are recounted as MIRACLES.

After that, others expanded on the "lucky" theme.

At the risk of beating a dead horse -- sorry, Steve, luck just doesn't seem to apply.

Even IF the odds were "only" 1 in 13 (they're not) we should by now have a large number of performers raising their hand to say "he did it for me and was off by several cards."

But as far as I can tell, we don't.

Just two days ago, famed Israeli mentalist Lior Manor wrote to the PEA:
"Berglas did the effect on me and My wife. It was in his house. He killed us."

At this point, too many highly knowledgeable performers have attested to the facts about The Beglas Effect and it is clear, luck plays a minor role.

Ken
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Postby NCMarsh » 05/22/07 05:06 PM

At the risk of beating a dead horse -- sorry, Steve, luck just doesn't seem to apply.
"Chance favors the prepared mind."

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Postby Guest » 05/22/07 05:22 PM

Well is it then ethically'right' to advertise the book as containting the method for his trick when it doesn't?

In the UK there is a body called the Advertising Standards Authority. I hope there is something similar in the US.

The ASA would not allow this book to be advertised as containing Mr B's method for ACAAN, which it doesn't. Just as it wouldn't allow the International Magic ad billed as Luke Jermay's 'last' lecture on DVD when patently it wasn't his last lecture.

</flogging a dead horse>
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Postby NCMarsh » 05/22/07 05:34 PM

Mrgoat,

The book gives several methods for creating the Berglas effect (several d*mn good methods if you ask me); the advertising never claims that these are all of the methods that David has.

My own sense is that David certainly has more work on this than is in the book, but I don't think it is different-in-kind from the fundamental strategy taught in the book.

My .02: Analyze Max Maven's "Disposable Color" and Chan Canasta's Two Pocket Routine from the perspective of someone who believes that the effect is always the same...you reach an absolute impossibility...there is no rational explanation for the same reason that there is no rational explanation of the Berglas effect...

Disposable Color: the balled up paper is her hands before she names a color, Max has no control over what color she names, and he cannot physically manipulate the object

Two Pocket: the cards are in the spectator's pockets before he decides which card will be in which pocket, Canasta has no control over that decision, and he cannot physically move the cards

Berglas Effect: The cards are in the open before the spectator decides on a card, a number, and a direction, Berglas has no control over that decision, and he cannot physically move the cards

In all three cases, we come to a total logical collapse if we assume that the effect is always the same (or, for that matter, that there always is an effect)...

Now maybe I am wrong and David has some sneaky gimmick that makes the cards move into the right position at the right time...

but I think the smart money is on David, just like Max and Chan, being in more control of the selection than he seems and being able to confidently define the effect to suit his purpose and to "massage" situations that aren't quite ideal...

And I think this is exactly the strategy that is drilled in page after page of the Britland book, which everyone says doesn't contain the method...

In my view, the method of the Berglas effect, like so many of Berglas' other effects, is psychology, experience, and balls...

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Postby Guest » 05/22/07 06:22 PM

Some numbers of magicians have got Experience, Psychology and Balls,
but i'm sure they can't do any Berglas Effect.
So i continue to think there's more than that!
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Postby NCMarsh » 05/22/07 07:22 PM

Fair enough, let's explore that...

Let us say that the Berglas effect is a trick like, say, "Twisting the Aces." That is, one -- unlike the Maven and Canasta examples -- with a single effect that is always the same that can be achieved by the same, single method over and over again...

What sort of method might this be?

No need to provide the actual method in any detail, but what genre of method might it belong to?

Is it sleight of hand?

Is it a gimmick?

Is it a force?

Under the single effect/single method restriction -- because of the absence of physical control by David, and the freedom of choice by the spectator -- I cannot arrive at any kind of method, let alone the specific work involved, that would produce the effect Ken describes above...

If we remove that restriction, we do get a "strategy" for the effect that works...Indeed, one can perform a version of the Berglas effect that corresponds exactly to the Weber description above -- in the context of a longer routine of revelations of named cards -- given work that is clearly and specifically laid out in the book...like the Maven and Canasta examples, the specific effect does not always happen in the same way and sometimes may not happen at all -- and this is covered very naturally by the larger improvisational "routine"...

Likewise, David provides another solution -- giving clear and specific detail -- that would work for all of the conditions given by Ken above as a stand-alone effect...but, it is for cases when a specific card is named (keep in mind, card is named first)..when those cases don't occur, David makes it very clear that you seamlessly move into a different effect or a different method...

[Edit: on second thought, the work given in the paragraph I have in mind would not conform to every condition in the Weber description, but it conforms to some of the most restrictive and would certainly have been counted as a "hit" by a magician experiencing it]

Now, if others have suggestions for a principle of card magic that will allow an isolated deck to be in the right order each and every time without physical manipulation by the magician, without collusion, and with perfect freedom of choice...then I am all ears...

But until then, we have two candidates:

1. A strategy that a.) is in the Berglas book and b.) works

2. Some deeply mysterious single method that can accomplish what no other principle of card magic that I am familiar with can...One which, to the best of my knowlege, David has never claimed to exist, but that others are convinced exists because ... ?

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Postby Guest » 05/22/07 08:56 PM

Nathan Coe Marsh wrote:
In my view, the method of the Berglas effect, like so many of Berglas' other effects, is psychology, experience, and balls...
Nathan,

Moving one more day closer to the day where I have to kill you.

Regards,

brian :cool:
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Postby Guest » 05/22/07 11:51 PM

Discussions about the Berglas Effect reminds me of the story of the seven blind men describing an elephant.

The best way to do this is to work out your own way because even if David did show you, you aren't him. I think his methodology is fully idiosyncratic.
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Postby NCMarsh » 05/23/07 08:26 AM

Nathan,

Moving one more day closer to the day where I have to kill you.

Regards,

brian [Cool]
Brian,

Good to know I have time left ;)

I nearly got on a plane for Denny's egg-bag workshop, but realized I didn't know if Baltimore was safe for me anymore...

But I'm telling you, that Noah Levine guy is the one we both need to be watching...if there's a young guy that may need taking out -- it's him...there are some really good things coming out of his head...

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Postby Guest » 05/23/07 10:48 AM

Many magic tricks owe a considerable part of their reputation to the fact that the spectators remember things differently than they actually occur. It happens very consistently -- maybe not every single time, but very consistently.

As magicians we think we are immune to this kind of thing. But maybe we're just immune to the ones we are familiar with. Maybe David Berglas is better at this than we are at being immune to it.

What I'm saying is, it's not necessary to construct a method that meets all the "Berglas Effect" conditions as they are reported by other magicians, because those might not be the actual conditions of the effect.

The corollary is that we don't need to construct a method that meets all of these conditions in order to give our spectators that experience.
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Postby Guest » 05/23/07 01:47 PM

But Pete, when those magicians are highly experienced and well versed in methods, I think we can take their version with more credibility than that of a layman.

Don't forget many of them knew what the effect was before Berglas performed it. They knew what to expect and were on the look out for any possible clue.

We may never know Berglas' method(s). Instead of pondering how he might have accomplished his effect wouldn't we be better off saying to ourselves, "How can I give my audience a similar experience of impossibility and wonder?"
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Postby Guest » 05/23/07 02:01 PM

Quentin wrote:
We may never know Berglas' method(s). Instead of pondering how he might have accomplished his effect wouldn't we be better off saying to ourselves, "How can I give my audience a similar experience of impossibility and wonder?"

How David actually accomplishes the effect is immaterial. The result of the effect is what matters.

Quentin neatly articulates the great lesson to be learned from The Berglas Effect.
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Postby Guest » 05/23/07 02:36 PM

Quentin,

I have spoken with many well-versed magicians who have described tricks completely wrongly. That's my whole point: we think we are better at remembering what really happened. But it's not necessarily so.

Also, you are assuming that people knew what trick David was doing. But all of the accounts of magicians I've read contradict this. Most begin with David saying "Name a card." Sometimes the deck is in someone's hands, already, sometimes not (at least, that's how they remember it). Only after that are they asked to name a number. They did not know what effect he was performing.

So I don't agree with either of your points.
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Postby Guest » 05/23/07 03:14 PM

One of the core driving forces behind our collective magical obsession is a craving to relive that sense of wonder we experienced when the bug first bit. It's not far-removed from an inchoate addict's attempts to duplicate his/her first "high" - though certainly much healthier!

The Berglas Effect could easily serve as a double entendre for the tingly mystery surrounding the effect's mere description - and on that level is nearly as valuable as the purported effect itself.

That said, Berglas has apparently never performed the feat before an audience of magicians under "test conditions." By most reports, it's been one-on-one. That alone speaks volumes about the nature of both the effect and performer!

May the legend live on...
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Postby Larry Horowitz » 05/23/07 03:50 PM

If you take what Pete McCabe wrote above and combine it with the information in the book EVERYTHING you need is now known!! If you cannot perform the trick it is becuase you are not ready.

Sorry if that sounds brutal, but it's the truth.
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Postby Guest » 05/23/07 06:58 PM

First off, let me say how I really enjoyed the Berglas article in Genii. It was alone worth a years subscription. How does one person have so much confidence?

I'm also enjoying this thread because the legend does live on. So much so that if someone said that David was performing his ACAAN and it would cost $500 to see this one effect, I would pay it. Just to see for myself what the effect is--forget the method. The effect seems to be as much a mystery as the method.

Arnie
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Postby Guest » 05/26/07 02:50 PM

I agree with Quentin and David Alexander. Yes, the trick has achieved mythical status, and there are only a handful, if that, of those who know the true working.

But it's only one effect. I enjoy magic history and evolution of methods as much or more than the next guy. It may be earth-shattering at the time, but obsessing over it and its method, rather for academic interest or to add to your own repertoir, is an exercising in wasting time.

Bringing to your audience the same visceral sense of wonder and excitement is much more important, and a much more achievable and noble goal.

That said, I'd love to see the effect for myself. :) . And I'd love to add it to my arsenal. But it's Berglas', and perhaps it should remain so.
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Postby Guest » 06/02/07 07:03 AM

I've chanced across this thread rather late. Just for the record, I too have seen David Berglas perform this effect. I was visiting him in his lovely home at the time, and Ruth had kindly provided the chocolate biscuits as normal. After the usual never-enough-hours of fascinating conversation, David placed a single deck of cards ont he table. It was cased. He invited me to name any card. I did. I can't now remember what card I named, but I was trying to be as awkward as possible. Then David invited me to name any number from 1-52, and I did - still trying to be as unco-operative as I could be. Then he asked 'From the top or from the bottom?'. I picked up the deck myself, counted from top or bottom as I wished, and my chosen card was at my chosen number. David never touched the deck and never restricted my choice at all. There was no backtracking, no verbal mischief. It was as direct as described.

Method? I agree with what has been written above. If you study the man and study the book, you can get a long way towards a workable version of this great effect. But the only person who can perform The Berglas Effect is the great man himself. To be Berglas, you have to have lived Berglas's life. Greatness can't be found in a few paragraphs labelled 'Method'.
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Postby Jim Martin » 06/02/07 07:55 AM

Thanks Ian for giving us an insight to your experience with Mr. Berglas.

I agree with you - the greatness is not labelled 'Method'. I'm reminded of a quote attributed to Heifetz wherein a listener said "I'd give my life to play like you.", to which Heifetz replied, "I have".

After reading the Britland/Steinmeyer book one realizes the generosity of his sharing his magic's 'world view'.

Viva Berglas!

(.... then again, Ian, maybe it was the chocolate biscuits.........)
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Postby Richard Kaufman » 06/02/07 08:37 AM

The reason you get descriptions of The Berglas Effect that vary from one person to another is not because of faulty memory, but because David has many different ways of doing it under various circumstances--and this is why it's almost impossible to describe the method in all of its complexity.
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Postby Guest » 06/02/07 08:50 AM

It's fascinating to me that, with this one effect, Mr. Berglas has the Magic World constantly talking about him.

To me, that shows the measure of his showmanship and one reason for his success in Magic -- the ability to fascinate his audience.

That may be a more important lesson than learning the methods he uses.

Thomas Baxter
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Postby Richard Kaufman » 06/02/07 03:25 PM

In our interview I asked David what the most important parts of magic are. His responses, in order:

1) Personality
2) Presentation
3) Effect

Say it again and again ..
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Postby Guest » 06/02/07 04:13 PM

1) Personality
2) Presentation
3) Effect

Makes sense to me. And one can further divide Personality into sub-elements such as facial expression, voice quality, confidence, etc. In general, it's the confidence that requires the most work usually requiring repeated performances in the real world. From the Berglas article in Genii, it occurred to me that David had lots of confidence and a sense of adventure at a very early age and this was his best asset.

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Postby Guest » 06/02/07 09:21 PM

These are words every entertainer should heed, magician or whatever.
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Postby Guest » 06/03/07 02:14 AM

I have seen Derren Brown perform this on TV. In fact, I think I have this on a DVD. Not sure how I can get it on YouTube (maybe it's on there already?). Derren actually uses a deck that is brought by the SPECTATOR (in this case, the spectator was the owner of The Playing Card Company, if my memory serves me correctly). Derren never touches the deck as far as I can remember.
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Postby Guest » 06/03/07 02:54 AM

Sorry, my last post is misinformed.

I have just reviewed the aforementioned clip of Derren. It is not the same trick as the mentioned by KWeber.

Here is exactly what happened, from the viewer's perspective. I am describing the second part of the trick here, which I find more impressive, and it's more relevent to the discussion here.

======================================

The spectator shuffles his own deck of cards.

Then Derren asks the spectator to spread the deck in his hands so that the face of the cards faces Derren. Then Derren looks as if he's trying to remember the order of the cards. I timed this period and it was 7 seconds.

Derren writes down the predicted card on a piece of paper and then gives this paper to the spectator. The piece of paper is in full view on the table during the whole trick.

Derren asks the spectator deal the cards face up, and at any point the spectator wishes, he can turn one card face down (face of card unseen). The spectator does this, putting a card face down when he felt appropriate. Derren then told the spectator to deal the rest of the cards face up just to make sure that they are not all identical.

Derren then claims he tried to get him to stop at a particular card. Derren then tells the spectator to reveal what was written on the paper. The spectator reads out 'Ace of Spades".

Then Derren asks the spectator to turn the face down card over, which is the Ace of Spades.
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Postby Guest » 06/03/07 07:38 AM

You are describing what has become known as the Open Prediction, rather than the Beglas Effect, which is Any Card at Any Number.

See Stewart James' "51 Faces North" for an interesting variation of the Open Prediction.

Thomas Baxter
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Postby Guest » 06/03/07 09:23 AM

Derren's trick is a good one, even better for the fact that it uses a relatively simple, sure fire method that will give the same result every time (although the actual course of events is slightly different to how you describe).

It is, however, nothing at all like the Berglas effect.
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Postby NCMarsh » 06/03/07 11:04 AM

Actually, the first half of the Brown routine (not the Ace of Spades portion) is related to the kind of strategy I am discussing. Brown goes for a much cleaner psychological force, which fails, and uses sleight of hand as an out.

When the first approach works, as long as you assume there is a unique procedure, you cannot reach a solution.

I remember seeing this segment on Google video, but can't find the link now to share. Perhaps others may have it?

The Krenzel/Born techniques for ACAAN "out of the box" give a solid out that give the freedom to use more psychological/intuitive methods that -- when they hit -- are utterly inexplicable.

"The bare technical explanation which I have above given imparts to the trick an appearance of simplicity which may perhaps prejudice the reader against it. The generality of people are not aware that conjuring tricks are just what the performer makes them and that very often the simple illusion may, by force of mise en scene and appropriate patter, be made to assume an imposing appearance..."
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Postby Dale Shrimpton » 04/14/08 04:51 AM

I thought it worth posting that on saturday, i together with about 55 other mentalists and magicians saw David perform, at the 3rd Tabular Mentis meeting in London.

David blew the audience away with a string of incredible card revelations, and it struck me like a bolt from out of the blue.

Many folks from around the world, crave the method behind the mythical Berglas effect.

But the truth is "the Berglas effect" isnt just one trick. Its the man himself.
and nobody can ever duplicate the amazing man who is..David Berglas.
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Postby naquada » 04/14/08 07:01 AM

Dale Shrimpton wrote:I thought it worth posting that on saturday, i together with about 55 other mentalists and magicians saw David perform, at the 3rd Tabular Mentis meeting in London.

David blew th eaudience away with a string of incredible card revelations, and it struck me like a bolt from out of the blue.

Many folks from around the world, crave the method behind the mythical Berglas effect.

But the truth is "the Berglas effect" isnt just one trick. Its the man himself.
and nobody can ever duplicate the amazing man who is..David Berglas.



So i heard... and to think... I left just before he performed that!!! bizarrely I'd been discussing it with him briefly before I leave the meeting to head back to Reading... I said I'd just finished re-reading the his book, and had again read the section on ACAAN, and that I also thought the 'berglas effect' was not a trick.. but as you said... his persona, person and ability to entertain...

seriously gutted I missed it...
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Postby Richard Morrell » 04/16/08 11:27 AM

Sounds similar to what he did at the end of his lecture at FISM 2003, I got to be his lighting guy, ok I turned the lights off when he nodded at me, but still! He showed some great clips and talked about his life then finished by inviting six people onstage with their packs of cards. He then ran through a series of Think-a-Card routines producing the cards in various ways, the climax was that all the decks ended up with the same card on top.
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Postby sharif » 07/18/08 03:37 PM

The only way i think you can accomplish this effect is by PRE HYPNOTISE someones mind something mr Brown is very good at? Although mr Berglas was know for his Hypnosis acts.
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Postby Mats Kjellstrom » 07/22/08 01:24 AM

Watch a incredible ACAAN:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5au-kLobV9s

(How did he do it?)
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