Vernon's "Mental Control"

Discuss the historical aspects of magic, including memories, or favorite stories.
Leonard Hevia
Posts: 1894
Joined: January 17th, 2008, 12:00 pm
Favorite Magician: Dai Vernon, Frank Garcia, Slydini, Houdini,
Location: Gaithersburg, Md.

Vernon's "Mental Control"

Postby Leonard Hevia » January 30th, 2008, 3:42 pm

In Dai Vernon: A Biography, David Ben notes that in May 31, 1941, at the SAM annual convention in Rhode Island, Sam Horowitz demonstrated (and sold?) Vernon's "Mental Control" at the dealer trade booth. This was an effect Vernon advertised and sold in the May 1939 issue of The Sphinx.

Curiously, Mr. Ben also titled this effect as "Mental Choice" earlier in the text when he noted it's appearance in the magazine. Perhaps that was the name of the effect when it appeared in that issue of The Sphinx.

Did this effect ever see publication anywhere? Is this still an exclusive to those who bought it from Vernon in 1939, and Horowitz in 1941? Did this finally appear in one of Vernon's books under a different name?

El Mystico
Posts: 996
Joined: January 17th, 2008, 12:00 pm
Location: Leamington Spa
Contact:

Re: Vernon's "Mental Control"

Postby El Mystico » January 31st, 2008, 12:54 am

It is in print, and a fantastic trick it is too.
I dont have the books in front of me, but, from memory, it is Magnetic Mental Choice in Hugard's Encyclopedia, and it is in Ron Wilson's Uncanny Scot. I think it is also in Pallbearer's - maybe in the Horowitz folio.

Jim Maloney_dup1
Posts: 1709
Joined: July 23rd, 2001, 12:00 pm
Location: Northern New Jersey
Contact:

Re: Vernon's "Mental Control"

Postby Jim Maloney_dup1 » January 31st, 2008, 7:05 am

"Magnetic Mental Control" was marketed by Ralph W. Hull in the mid-30's. I'm guessing that Vernon and Horowitz improved on this in some way, though I don't know any details. From the advertisements, it sounds like Vernon worked it out so the two decks could be handled/shuffled by spectators.

-Jim

David Britland
Posts: 71
Joined: January 24th, 2008, 12:00 pm
Location: England
Contact:

Re: Vernon's "Mental Control"

Postby David Britland » January 31st, 2008, 2:12 pm

'Magnetic Mental Control' was Ralph Hull's trick and was published in Gravatt's The Second Encuclopedia of Card Tricks in 1936. That's two years after Hull advertised the trick.

But the Vernon Horowitz version of Mental Control doesn't appear until 1941 so it looks like it's probably a different version of the trick.

El Mystico
Posts: 996
Joined: January 17th, 2008, 12:00 pm
Location: Leamington Spa
Contact:

Re: Vernon's "Mental Control"

Postby El Mystico » February 1st, 2008, 2:01 am

Others have suggested that Hull was not averse to putting into print a Vernon trick before Vernon was ready to do so.

David Britland
Posts: 71
Joined: January 24th, 2008, 12:00 pm
Location: England
Contact:

Re: Vernon's "Mental Control"

Postby David Britland » February 1st, 2008, 8:56 am

As I was searching Ask Alexander for Vernon's Mental Control effect I found another Vernon and Horowitz marketed item that is new to me.

It was called Think. Here's a description of the effect from a 1941 Sphinx:

'Think, by Dai Vernon and Sam Horowitz, this is a method allowing the performer to answer any one of thirty questions thought of by a spectator without the spectator doing anything but "Think." An excellent, self-contained trick.'

Sounds untypical of Vernon or Horowitz and puts me in mind of interlocking anagrams where one answer might fit all 30 questions. This is a guess based on nothing so it might be quite different.

Anyone know of this Vernon/Horowitz trick?

User avatar
Richard Kaufman
Posts: 25112
Joined: July 18th, 2001, 12:00 pm
Favorite Magician: Theodore DeLand
Location: Washington DC
Contact:

Re: Vernon's "Mental Control"

Postby Richard Kaufman » February 1st, 2008, 12:38 pm

Paging David Ben ...
Subscribe today to Genii Magazine

El Mystico
Posts: 996
Joined: January 17th, 2008, 12:00 pm
Location: Leamington Spa
Contact:

Re: Vernon's "Mental Control"

Postby El Mystico » February 2nd, 2008, 6:32 am

I've been discussing this with that erudite Mr Britland.
Several things energe - which cloud the water further.

In 1930, Vernon wrote to Horowitz "go right ahead Sam and sell anything and use both our names on it" (Ben p 162)

Hull's "Magnetic Mental Control" was advertised in 1934 with a quote from Judah "Wonderful effect and has a wonderful appeal to spectators"

In Hall's 'Nothing is Impossible', in a chapter called Mental Control, are the instructions for Hull's 1935 Pegasus Cards. The performer writes 'pegasus' on the back of one, and the spectator identifies it from the face. The method uses R&S. Hull states at the end of the instructions "here is MENTAL CONTROL". In the introduction to this, Hall writes "In 1935 Mr Hull published his Pegasus Cards...it has however been improperly (and I might add, imperfectly) copied in America and in this country to such an extent that Mr Hull informed me in correspondence that both he and Mr John Snyder were discontinuing its sale, lest the original be confused with the spurious imitations"

"Magnetic Mental Control" was reprinted in Gravatt's Encyclopedia in 1936.

Vernon/Horowitz "Mental Choice" was advertised, according to Ben, in 1939,although Howowitz is not reported as selling "Mental Control" until 1941, and in Sid Lorraines collection the actual manuscript is dated 14th Aug 1941. This trick is the same as Hull's Magnetic Mental Control.


In Expert Card Technique, on p225 of the 3rd edition (1954), you'll find the write up of Charlie Miller's Predestined Choice. The introduction decribes "one of the most popular tricks of recent years" - where a spectator identifies a red card placed in a blue deck. The trick involves a prepared deck...while this could be a reference to the Annemann trick, from the details I think there can be little doubt that the reference is to Mental Choice. So - it looks like the effect was popular.

In a Vernon Touch column, Vernon wrote that Judah initiated Hull into the use of roughing fluid.


So; the key question is; Why would Vernon republish the exact same trick that Hull had already released?

A few speculations.

Scenario 1. Vernon invented the trick. Hull saw it and issued it as Mental Control. Vernon was unhappy that Hull was selling his trick. Hull withdrew it and invented a minor variant selling it as Pegasus Cards, but hinting in the instructions (for those who had already paid for Mental Control?) that this was basically the same thing.
Like I say, hugely speculative, but it is a possibility that addresses both of the oddities - that Vernon would reprint a Hull trick, and that Hull would refer to Pegasus Cards as Mental Control.
Speculation on speculation - pressure on Hull that he really was stepping on Vernon's toes would be a more plausible reason for withdrawing Pegasus Cards than the one he offered Hall. But, if Judah did pass the secrets of roughing fluid to Hull, why would he endorse what he probably knew to be Vernon's trick?



Scenario 2. Vernon learned Magnetic Mental Choice from Hull.
Horowitz saw him do it.Howowitz took Vernon up on his offer to publish anything under their joint name, not realising the trick was not Vernon's origination, and put it out as Mental Control.

This doesnt explain Hull's odd comment in his Pegasus manuscript though.

Scenario 3. Genuine independent discoveries. After all, once you start trying to apply roughing fluid to an entire pack, it might be a fairly obvious effect to stumble across.


There is more research to be done.....

Leonard Hevia
Posts: 1894
Joined: January 17th, 2008, 12:00 pm
Favorite Magician: Dai Vernon, Frank Garcia, Slydini, Houdini,
Location: Gaithersburg, Md.

Re: Vernon's "Mental Control"

Postby Leonard Hevia » February 8th, 2008, 3:13 pm

I want to thank everyone who responded to my inquiry. I have some of the texts that El Mystico named, but for the moment they are frustratingly boxed away for now...


Return to “Magic History and Anecdotes”