I first became interested in U.F. Grant after falling in love with his brilliant Million Dollar Bill Mystery. I first came across it in Karl Fulves' Self-Working Mental Magic. In that book - Fulves does not provide a credit to U.F. Grant.
At some point I found out U.F. Grant was the creator of the principle. And that point I penciled him in as a creator whose work would be worth exploring more. Whenever I spot an interesting idea by a creator - I like to try and find at least a couple more good ideas by that creator. Since at that point - I know the initial idea that caught my eye was not a "fluke". And I then give myself permission to become a fan and try and research everything else they have created as well.
I remember Harry Anderson expressing his awe for this principle during his Penguin Live lecture. It is pretty much the most ingenious principle in magic. My favourite use for it is by Andy over at The Jerx since it allows you to perform an instantaneous bill teleportation over a distance of thousands of miles. It is one of my favourite tricks by Andy.
I agree with Andy that most uses for this principle use it in the most unambitious way imaginable. And that is probably why more magicians have not been inspired to make use of it. Sadly the UK has recently switched over to plastic notes - so it is not of much use these days over here. Although it would be interesting to explore uses for this principle that do not use paper currency. This is something that Jim Steinmeyer and Peter Duffie have done in the past.
The other day I finally got round to reading Stewart James' Encyclopedia of Rope Magic. And in there U.F. Grant has an ingenious trick in which a spectator is handed a rope that has been tied together with knot. The spectator is handed some scissors and proceeds to cut the rope. He then places the rope in a box which he then nails shut with a hammer and nails. The spectator the waves the scissors over the box and pulls out the rope through a hole in the side of the box. As the rope is pulled out - it is seen that the rope is restored and no longer has a knot in it. This all takes place entirely in the spectator's hands as the magician directs proceedings from the audience!
In the book 25 Mind Reading Secrets - Grant has an ingenious trick called Houdini Bill Reading. From the name - I am not sure if trick belongs to Grant or Houdini. The idea is that at a theater show - a spectator is handed some change by the cashier along with their ticket. And that bill has a serial number that is memorized by the magician. The cashier then tells the magician which seat in the audience that person will be sitting in. And during the show - the magician can point to that person and perform a miracle bill divination without the magician coming close to the audience member.
This is a delightful principle. I first saw it in the work of Oliver Meech and - published a year earlier - in the work of Paul Brook. Although the real inspiration goes back to the legendary bill in cash register scam:
Brain Busters has a sneaky use of the one-ahead principle which gives the trick a totally fresh feel due to the use of watches rather than scraps of paper or cards.
Grant's Scrapbook has another wonderful principle which has its roots in an old stock market scam. It is quite well known over here in the UK since Derren Brown had an entire TV special built around this principle:
It is another amazing principle and I am delighted to see Grant play around with it in order to come up with a magic use for it. The only similar thing in magic at the time was a clever publicity stunt that Ted Annemann pulled off when he was looking for subscribers to his new magazine, The Jinx. A letter was sent out to potential subscribers. And if they were interested in subscribing - they were told to take the blank piece of card included with the mail shot, hold it to their head and stay out aloud "Yes - I want to subscribe to The Jinx". And then to place that blank piece of card in a post box and await their first issue.
The blank card in question had absolutely no markings on it - no matter how closely you looked.
The secret - according to the Jinx special in GENII a few years ago - was that everyone who was sent the mail shot was also sent the first issue of The Jinx. To those who wanted to subscribe to the magazine - their subscription was kicked off with a delightful miracle. And - for the sake of a few stragglers who were not interested in subscribing (but who got a free issue in any case) - well, it was a price worth paying in order to pull off a miracle. I find it funny that the best trick in The Jinx - was never actually published IN The Jinx!
My favourite book by U.F. Grant is Window Stoppers. This is a collection of publicity devices designed to be placed in the front window of a shop in order to attract interest. Grant has some great ideas in this book. Some of it reminds me of the type of offbeat thinking you would usually only find in the work of Lubor Fiedler.
Below is a description of my favourite trick from this book. It is taken from an email I sent to a magician friend:
I am fascinated by those magicians who would build a specially built room and spend years developing just a single trick. There is something awe inspiring about that. You see this with the Hooker Rising Cards. And it is the sort of thinking that Lubor Fiedler demonstrated in a couple of his tricks as well.
Yesterday - I read 'Window Stoppers' by U.F. Grant. And at the very end of the book it talks about a weird trick where you make a miniature hologram of a mermaid appear inside a fishbowl. She can wave to you, talk to you and everything.
The secret involves having a woman dressed as a mermaid (ie. half-naked) inside a large shell. You then place reflecting mirrors in a tube above her head. This tube goes through a hole in the ceiling - where it becomes a pillar on the floor above.
Then via a Pepper's Ghost type principle - you are left with a 3D ghostly image of a miniature woman who is about 3 inches tall. And you place the image inside a fish bowl (which is resting on the pillar) for spectators to look at and interact with.
This trick was done about 80 years and ago and must have been one of the strongest tricks in all of magic. It is a shame it is not more famous. It seems it was just passed off as a funny curiosity back then as a way of attracting people to visit shops.
Sadly - the same trick would lose some of its power today - since modern technology has made it easier for people to use their smartphones to create Pepper's ghost miniature illusions.
Wow - what an effect!!!
Anyway - I still have a long way to go in my study of the brilliant mind of U.F. Grant. I would love to hear from others if they have any recommendations to add as well.