Day 147: Spoiling Magic – Three Card Tricks To Impress The Young Or Feeble-Minded

originally published May 26, 2012

Wikipeida is not merely a wonderful resource for information and finding out if old celebrities are still alive (you go, Abe Vigoda!), but it can also be employed to shatter childhood wonder. Gone are the days when some guy in a top hat can convince me that there are otherworldly powers all around, and that some humans can actually control the unspoken energies of magic.

Now we have the internet. The Age of Knowledge may dispel many mysteries of the universe, but it comes at a cost for those of us who love magic. You can look up how Copperfield made the Statue of Liberty disappear. Google will gladly reveal how he walked through the Great Wall of China. You can learn any of the standards – the interlocking rings, the woman cut in half, levitation… it seems the only way to really hang on to that sense of wide-eyed rapture about magic is to limit your internet usage to pornography.

Then there are the card tricks. Wikipedia offers a handful of them, complete with how they’re done. This entire article is one big sloppy dollop of spoilers, so if you want to keep your innocence pure, close this page and take my advice with the porn.

The article dealt to me by Ms. Wiki today looks like one of the cruddiest card tricks ever. It’s called the Acme Of Control, and it would take quite a showman (or showwoman) to convince me that this isn’t stupid. You start by showing the audience two cards. Two specific cards that you have pre-determined. You’ve taken duplicates of those cards and pre-stashed them wherever you want the reveal to be: your pocket, taped to the underside of the dog, inside your spectator’s underwear (that could be tricky). Someone in your audience tucks the two cards you showed them into the deck and shuffles it. What a surprise – the cards are taped to the dog’s wiener. You are magical, cruel, and some may say you’re somewhat disturbed.

As an audience member, I’d be skeptical right away if I couldn’t select the cards myself. The magician had better be working with a stunning pyrotechnics display, or I’m calling bullshit on this trick.

The Three Aces will still require some schmoozery, but if you can pull it off I think you’ll stretch the cerebrum of one or two eager popcorn-munchers. You show your audience three aces: spades, diamonds and clubs. You wedge the ace of diamonds into the middle of the deck, with the black aces on the top and bottom. Cut the deck, and all of a sudden the three aces are found hanging out together in the middle of the deck.

To pull this one off, you have to arrange the cards in your hand so that the ace of hearts (not diamonds) is at the back of the trio, but all the audience sees is an ‘A’ and the bottom of the card’s lone heart or ‘pip’ as they call it in the business. It will look like a diamond, and if you use the right amount of smooth talk – perhaps compliment an audience member’s bosom – they’ll believe it’s a diamond.

Once you’ve set it up, the tough part is behind you. Slap the three aces onto the top of the deck, where the real ace of diamonds has been secretly waiting. Take the top card (ace of hearts) and slide it into the deck. Take the next (a black ace) and move it to the bottom. Invite your fine bosom’ed fan up to cut the deck. Let her cut it two or more times, it doesn’t matter. Make her say some magic words. Tell her the trick only works if you splash cold water on her shirt. Make it a fun show for everyone, including you.

Of course the three aces will be waiting somewhere in the deck – spades, clubs, and the real ace of diamonds. Do this right, and they’ll think you’re a wizard. Wizards always get chicks.

For this next trick – at least for the variation you’ll only find here – you’ll need a deck of cards, a candle, a lighter, a large cup of tomato soup (not too hot), and two sparklers. Wikipedia calls their version the ‘Circus Card Trick’. I call mine ‘Clowns From Hell.’

First, light the candle. As you do so, and while you spout off some crap about how candle flame tickles the magical energy in a room, and how any magician who doesn’t use a candle is probably a fraud and likely a bed-wetter, sneakily take note of the bottom card of the deck. Let’s assume for this example that it’s the eight of clubs.

Next, fan out the cards in your hand, inviting an audience member to select one at random. Let that person show the card to the rest of the audience. Encourage everyone to memorize it, write it down if they have to. Instruct your volunteer to put the card back on top of the deck, then to cut the deck as often as he or she would like. It doesn’t matter, because the eight of clubs will be the card directly above the mystery card no matter how many times the deck is cut.

You could simply fan through the deck, find the card below the eight of clubs and reveal it. But where’s the show in that?

Instead you start flipping the cards over, one by one, and placing them on the table. Here is where you’ll spin some long-winded tale of how this trick was taught to you by a blind monk on a snowy hilltop, moments before he spontaneously exploded and thirteen lemurs fell from the sky to devour his remains while you watched but were unable to move. Let your audience know how important this trick is to your very soul – that it and it alone is your bargaining chip with Satan to keep you out of hell.

Flip past the eight of clubs and past their card. Keep flipping. Keep talking. Then announce that the next card you flip over will be your volunteer’s card. Just like that moment in the kung fu movie where it appears certain that the hero is doomed, your audience will be convinced that this trick will be a bust – after all, you’ve already turned over their card. Make like you’re about to turn over another one from the deck in your hand… then suddenly swerve to the volunteer’s card and flip that one upside down. You did it!

Now quickly light the two sparklers, drop to your knees, and fling the tomato soup up in the air so that it splashes down all over your face. Raise the sparklers high and scream “YEAHHHH!” like you were opening up an episode of CSI: Miami, and Horatio had just given you your cue. If possible, have someone (your assistant) start cranking David Lynch’s “Crazy Clown Time” from a nearby stereo.

It may seem like overkill, but if magic is to survive in our jaded, over-info’ed world, you’ve gotta have a hook.

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