John Keyes’ “Blind Luck”

14 Mar

EFFECT: The magician asks, “Does anyone want to know how to do a card trick? This one is dead simple, it’s what we in The Biz call a ‘self-worker’. No skill required”. “Alright! We’ll need someone to perform the trick, and someone to act as a volunteer”.

“Now, the best way to allay any kind of suspicion is to start with a fresh deck. Here we have a new pack, never opened.

“Ask the volunteer to remove the wrapper, and sift through the cards and choose one. But they must pick a number card, no letter cards. In other words, neither an Ace, a Jack, a Queen nor a King.

“Best if you look away while this is being done! Tell your volunteer to hold the cards upright with the backs to the spectators. Very good, sir!

Make sure he memorises the selected card. Say something witty, like ‘You will be quizzed on this’. Excellent!

Then ask him to replace the selected card anywhere in the deck, and thoroughly shuffle it. After which, you may turn round and say, ‘Thank you. May I have the pack?’

“You now request the digit, that is to say, the number of the chosen card, but advise the volunteer to refrain from mentioning the suit just yet. Good!

“The number in this case is seven, so what you do is count off seven cards from the top of the deck, in a neat pile on the table. Then deal a second pile of seven right next to it. Perfect!

“At this point, allow the volunteer to decide which stack of cards he wants. After he makes up his mind, be sure to badger him repeatedly about the liberty to change it. Right!

“Set aside the stack that he rejected, and deal yet another set of seven cards beside the one he wishes to keep. Pester him again in the same manner as before. Which does he want? Is he absolutely sure? Fine!

Repeat this process until you have too few cards in your hand to make another stack of seven. Implore him one last time to pick the stack he likes.

“Say something trite such as, ‘Wouldn’t it be amazing if your card was actually in this stack?’ When you gain assent from the crowd, look a bit nervous and mutter, ‘Yes, I quite agree’.

“Now all that remains is to tap the stack with your forefinger seven times. Go ahead! One-two-three-four-five-six-seven. Bravo!

“Step back a bit and say with as much dignity as you can, ‘Would you be good enough to turn over the top card?’”

When the volunteer does so, both he and the magician’s apprentice are equally astounded to find that it is the very card!

SECRET: This of course is primarily a comedy routine, but it can be an effective piece of magic despite the fact that it is nothing new. You will need three identical decks of playing cards. I would suggest bridge size for easier handling.

Leave one pack unopened for the stage presentation. Open the other two and sort out the “number cards” in all four suits, 2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10.

Pair up the duplicates, so that you have two of each. That is to say, nine doubles in each suit (two 2S-3S-4S-5S-6S-7S-8S-9S-10S; two 2D-3D-4D-5D-6D-7D-8D-9D-10D, etc.). The prep is simply to conceal these pairs on your person, or on stage, so you may grasp the one you need in an instant.

When the volunteer is choosing a card, observe carefully to determine which quarter of the deck the card is drawn from. Note the direction of the spread (right or left) and deduce which suit he is picking from. As he has been instructed to select a “number card”, it should be quite obvious. If he chooses from the lower quarter, the suit will be Spades. The upper quarter, Hearts. The “number” sequences of the two interior suits (Diamonds and Clubs) are separated by four “letter” cards (J-Q-K-A), so a quick glance ought to be sufficient to conclude one or the other based on the general position of the chosen card. Most folks will halt when they come to a new suit anyway, and in all likelihood rush past the “letter cards”, making it clear where they are.

Make a habit of tapping the stacks of cards forcefully with the forefingers of both hands as you indicate the volunteer’s choices. Does he want this one, or that one? Is he sure?

Whilst the participants are engaged in the dealing of the cards and the selection of the stacks, subtly palm the appropriate pair of duplicate cards, holding them out of sight, for now that the volunteer has revealed the number of his card, you know precisely which it is.

When the choice comes down to the last two stacks, you will have one of the dupes palmed in each hand. Quickly and undetectably slap them onto both stacks in tandem as you ask the volunteer which he prefers. By this time, everyone should trust that it is a free choice and be little concerned about your manipulation of the cards. Naturally it makes no difference which of the two final stacks is singled out.

Yes, it is ham handed and cumbersome from the magician’s point of view, but the payoff is well worth it! Done gracefully, this can be both stunning and amusing.

Image 21 Apr



“The Pioneers Of Porn” by John Keyes

21 Apr



The term “Sixties Sleaze” might  well have been coined by a disgruntled consumer of chop shop erotica, who had the misfortune to purchase one or more risqué novels that had been unlawfully reissued with laughably illiterate preambles on the front pages (sort of crude synopses), that were meant only to disguise their original authorship. And, having been graphically designed to emulate the relatively decent publications that they stole from (mainly CORINTH/ GREENLEAF), with blazing pink and yellow back panels and copycat typesetting, he or she could easily have supposed the entire genre to be rubbish.


To this day, these rip-offs are marketed to collectors as though they were typical examples of “adult reading”! Collectable they may be, but for their looks rather than their contents, I would say.

The most astonishing of my observations in the course of three decades of study, is that virtually all of the real drek seems to have been perpetrated by one company (or conglomerate)! Who owned it? How did it operate? Good questions. There is however a lot of fascinating clues.


Let us begin with the most obvious. The cover art on the early editions (prior to 1966) is the achievement of a single prolific individual, whose distinctive style is identical to that of L.B. “Bill” Cole.

Cole (who is no longer with us, unfortunately) denied involvement with these books. And yet–we have strong evidence that he had.



Four works have been positively attributed to him (rendered 1963, the year in which this dubious scheme appears to have commenced). Three original paintings were recently submitted for auction at, the printed versions of two of which had been applied to RENDEZVOUS READERS 107–Law Of Lust by Bob Tralins, and 113–Passion Trip by Gene D. Robinson. By “applied” I mean the wraps were simply glued to the bodies of TUXEDO BOOKS! In fact, all of the RENDEZVOUS were retreads of TUXEDO (nothing illegal so far, just a refacing of overstock and/ or warehouse returns). But–though the TUXEDO BOOKS displayed the talents of a dozen or so different artists, the RENDEZVOUS READERS were without any exception that I have found, graced by this sole illustrator. Granted, he does deftly pretend to be several unique contributors in the diversity of his technique from one number to the next.



The third, to MOONLIGHT READER 106–Lust Storm (no author credited).



The fourth can be espied on TWILIGHT READER 103–Flesh Trap by Arnold Marmor.


Here we have the same kind of revamping of a TUXEDO BOOK but with Cole’s signature in the lower right corner.

An hypothesis of mine is that Cole did the majority of the TUXEDO covers from about 114 onward. If true, it is a hint that the editor was compelled to economise, to hire a professional who could dash them off quickly and cheaply.



It might be reasonable to surmise that the publisher of TUXEDO BOOKS (which thrived for about a year, probably from late 1961 to 1962) went bankrupt. The quality of the literature, the artwork, and even the printing was quite high. The cost of which undoubtedly minimised the corporation’s profits.

But there could have been other concerns. In an attempt to determine who the publisher was, I searched The Internet for an alternate business name associated with the plot specified on the indices (154 Nassau Street, New York, NY).

The building was torn down sometime in the dusk of 1967 or the dawn of 1968, but in 1961-1962 it was the site of The Shulsinger Brothers Linotyping And Publishing Company, who were esteemed for their Judaic children’s books. And the outfit was dedicated to the solicitation of monetary donations which they accepted at this office on behalf of charitable organisations such as The Bikur Cholim Hospital and The General Israel Orphan’s Home For Girls in Jerusalem.


Perhaps even more interesting is the fact that the edifice was shared by The National Lawyers Guild and served as its headquarters. In the 1950s and 1960s, the group was targeted by F.B.I. director, J. Edgar Hoover, who considered it a “Communist front”. It advocated freedom of speech amongst other “liberal” causes.

I have discovered no record of other tenants during this period. The property might actually have belonged to The Shulsinger Brothers, as they had occupied it for a goodly span of years and were, I think we may presume, fairly prosperous.

While on the topic of “properties”, I would call attention to another curiosity of the TUXEDO BOOKS. The first four were impressed with the mind boggling ascription, “Action Comics Pty.”!

This cannot be the U.S. publisher of comic books, of course. That would have been “DC”. It is rather a reference to a subsidiary of The H. John Edwards Publishing Company, 14 Bond Street, Sydney, Australia. Now, Edwards did apparently publish paperbacks for grown-ups in addition to kids’ stuff, but I am aware of no stateside bureaus. Very little data is available, and it is uncertain when Edwards ceased to be. The last we see of it is around 1960 when the comic books, Commander Battle And The Atomic Sub, Cookie, and True Hearts were produced.


This means that either Edwards decided to branch out to America and publish “sleaze”, or someone cleverly tucked this note inside of the TUXEDOS in order to deny their true aegis.

Both are tenuous possibilities, but I believe the latter is more likely.

That we hear nought of Edwards after 1960, and TUXEDO started in 1961, implies that the Australian company had expired (its moniker effectively in the public domain), that it was dissolute and therefore incapable of taking part.

Nevertheless, it is remarkable that the TUXEDO BOOKS were distributed in at least one Dominion Of The British Empire, if not Great Britain itself, as we spot them occasionally with “5/-” inked on the covers (depending on the exchange rate, approximately 50-60¢ U.S., which accords with the suggested retail price). Australia transformed its currency from the Pound/ shilling to the Dollar/ 10¢ piece in 1966.


Muddied as these waters are, a few things can be clearly perceived. One is that The Shulsingers  were no longer needed to print the books, for the furbishers (whoever they were) merely slapped variant covers  onto the remainders. Another is that the extant TUXEDOS, RENDEZVOUS, TWILIGHTS, etc., must be unusually scarce, as they each constitute but a portion of the inital print run, whether they be in “first state” or altered. How many copies there were at the outset I can’t tell. I guess, not in excess of 2,500 per.

It is conceivable that less than one thousand of a given TUXEDO were sold, of which three or four hundred have been preserved in good or better condition. The rest, remodeled (many of which were themselves unsold and marred with perforations and saw-cuts by the distributor).


Shall we focus then, on The Culprit? An entity identified only as “LN”. The symbol was not nearly as common in the field of spicy books and magazines as those of the “biggies”, like “ASN” (All-States News) and “K” (Kable News), but it did crop up. Oddly, we detect it on the EPIC BOOKS which were published by Art Enterprises, Inc., 6912 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood 28, CA.

I would thrill to learn how “LN” got to distribute them! David Zentner at that time (early-mid 1961) was the editor/ publisher of TOPPER magazine, which bore no distributor’s insgnia on its covers. In May of 1962 it adopted the “ASN” logo. By January of 1964, the ubiquitous “K” of Kable News was set upon it, and would ultimately (from 1965 forward) adorn Zentner’s BEE-LINE BOOKS. “LN” was unquestionably a small fish in the huge pond of prurient periodicals. It must have made Zentner an “offer he couldn’t refuse”. Elsewise, it had to have been managed by somebody he was personally acquainted with–a friend or a cohort.

Art Enterprises’ entwinement with “LN” might have stretched back even farther, as I have obtained a news agent’s cull of REVELS magazine (volume one, number six) with the date of “March 24, 1961” scrawled in it. Assuming that the “LN” it sports had been there at the début (volume one, number one), this would argue that Zentner and the furtive distributor were braided as long ago as the summer of 1960.


The deal with Zentner to distribute EPIC BOOKS preceded “LN’s” contractual agreement with TUXEDO–if we may infer this from the record, which shows that EPIC published approximately twenty-five titles by the lag end of 1961. TUXEDO, a modest four or five.

Shortly thereafter (in 1962), “LN’s” iron had been branded onto Zentner’s BOUDOIR ORIGINALS, as well. They were published by Art Enterprises at their inception, but as soon as the LN” emblem was affixed, the colophon read: Imperial Publishing Co., 6912 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood 28, CA.


Ambitious distributors would often “absorb” fledgeling publishers that relied on them to vend their merchandise. I would speculate that TUXEDO BOOKS were founded by an editor who could not afford to publish his own line. Thus he merged with the printer (Shulsinger Brothers) and laboured on its premises. The distributor, “LN”, was selected I imagine, as a final resort, the major (and more legitimate) syndicates having disdained to take TUXEDO aboard.

This might help us to understand why Zentner consented to go with “LN”. Despite his success in the girlie mag industry, he was a neophyte book publisher. The ASNs, the Kables, etc., might have snubbed his EPIC BOOKS.



Where does that leave us? With The Shulsingers bowing out and “LN” taking over the role of TUXEDO BOOKS “publisher”. With a storehouse full of stale TUXEDOS which Bill Cole is willing to refresh. But what does this arrangement entail? Is he strictly a freelancer, or is he a financier?

If the “publisher” can’t (or won’t) pay for manuscripts, why should we trust that it would dole out cash for canvasses?

Eventually, the “publisher” of TUXEDO BOOKS exhausted its resources. It wanted more pre-printed novels to renovate. Where to get them? Maybe Zentner has some old books. He prefers to keep his extras because he sells them by mail. Hmmmn….

LN” might have phoned Zentner and proposed the notion. As Bob Pike was the editor of EPIC BOOKS (and BOUDOIR?), the message might have been routed to him.

Whichever way it happened, we have proof that something of this nature transpired in 1963.

NITELIGHT READERS, a new series with the same basic features, was published by Art Enterprises, at its ancillary domicile, 8511 Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles CA. Two adverts were placed in the back pages, one for EPIC BOOKS, and the other for “Bill’s Book Co., 18-30 43rd St., Long Island City 5, NY”, which was strangely not a book offer, but an appeal to numismatists, very much like those one might encounter in the comic books of the day.


Next came MOONLIGHT READERS. After which, MOONGLOW READERS and DOVE BOOKS were published by the Imperial Publishing Co., that I take to be a joint venture of Art Enterprises and “LN”.

I fancy it will be enough to give one instance of the recycling process. MOONGLOW READER 1009–Wild Lips (no author credited), is a tiny volume, and poorly bound. In the upper margin is its former title. This is a tailoring  of BOUDOIR ORIGINAL 1009–Dynamite Virgin by Terry James.



My sense is that Zentner had been talked into letting “LN” keep the remnants. Their return to L.A. would have been expensive, and besides, “LN” could overhaul them, re-distribute them, and split the profits with Art Enterprises. “Sounds like a win-win situation–no?”.

Bob Pike established his PIKE BOOKS towards the close of 1961. Their distributor was another mysterious figure, hight FRIMAC BOOKS. Which also carried Art Enterprises’ PILLOW BOOKS. These were in turn re-formatted, often with photo covers instead of the lavish artwork of Robert Caples, so there is a solid connection here. The link has to be either Pike or FRIMAC. Regional distributors naturally “hooked up” in order to spread these books all over America. That “LN” is printed on one and “FB” on another might signify only that each had its own slice of the publishing pie.

By late 1963, “LN” disappeared or “went underground”, although the distributor was still functioning as a purveyor of nudie magazines, such as DELITE, FLAME, LUSCIOUS, MISTY, PURR-R,  TABOO, TOUCH OF VENUS and WOMEN OF INTRIGUE.


I gather that Zentner grew dissatisfied with “LN“. He might have resented its aggressive behaviour, or suspected it of cheating.

Having perchance acquired a bit of capital, “LN” repaired to the old “TUXEDO BOOKS” location and produced HI-HAT BOOKS. Save the first few, the covers and the titles were raw, violent and blatantly sexual.


Also at about that time, Bob Pike quit his job at Art Enterprises (or was given the sack), but according to Charles Nuetzel in his memoirs, Pocketbook Writer: Confessions of a Commercial HackPike wasn’t terribly worried about his prospects.

He flatly suggested that Nuetzel get into the “packaging” racket (essentially, the biz of procuring material and retaining a fee from the publisher), as I warrant he had.

When once again, the “publisher” of TUXEDO BOOKS had used up its surplus, it surely looked elsewhere.

For next (in 1964), we see CLOVER READERS with the quizzical inscription of the Valiant Publishing Company, 200 West 34th Street, New York, NY!


This had been the residence of BEDTIME/ BEDSIDE BOOKS until 1961, when William Hamling purportedly bought the company and relabeled it “Pert Publications”.

Anterior to that (in 1959), it had been the digs of MAGNET BOOKS.

I would deduce that when Hamling is thought to have relinquished BEDSIDE in 1962, its stash (which could have comprised some psuedonymous Harry Whittington gems) fell into the clutches of the new proprietors,  “E.K.S.

How peculiar! That “TUXEDO”  rehashes BEDSIDE–and the BOUDOIRS (formerly published by Imperial) suddenly declare their chieftans to be “K &S“.

K & S“/ “E.K.S.“. Meaningless coincidence?

E.K.S.” transmutes into “L.S.“, but maintains its lodgings at 22 East 40th Street, New York, NY, when their GASLIGHT BOOKS are brought forth in 1964.

L.S.” takes control of IMPERIAL BOOKS and develops another spin-off, BELL RINGER BOOKS (the covers of which remind me of  Cole’s RENDEZVOUS endeavours).


In 1965, “L.S.” yields to Star News Co., Inc., 2402 Bergen Line Avenue, Union City, NJ.

Googling “200 West 34th Street, New York, NY” (MAGNET, BEDSIDE), I descried a book distributor conducting affairs in 1960–“Texstar Co.“.

It distributed pharmacological tomes. To chemists, I’ll wager. Alongside some esoteric items for the book rack?

In February of 1964, “Texstar” put a “help wanted” post in The St. Louis Dispatch, implicating itself to be a “New York importer of European calendars (Art-Landscape-Religious)”.

Texstar“/ “Star News”. Irrelevant?’

And lest we forget Cole’s previous commercial appellation, “Star Publications” (1949-1955)–


I apologise for the confusion, but this exhilirates me!

In 1966, IMPERIAL BOOKS were tied to (and internumerated with) PAD LIBRARY, which was distributed alternately by “GSN” (Golden State News) and “SNC“.

GSN“, incidentally, had deposed FRIMAC BOOKS as the distributor of NITE-TIME BOOKS in 1964. Was this an usurpation or an allegiance?

And what about CHARIOT BOOKS? They resemble the MAGNETS,  the BEDSIDES, and the TUXEDOS. But they provided no publishing details until 1963, when the “NEW CHARIOT BOOKS” were amalgamated by TUXEDO!

In 1964, everything exploded.


LN” couldn’t go on scavenging forever. It had to devise a way to compete with Hamling’s NIGHTSTAND BOOKS, MIDNIGHT READERS, etc. But how?

Then lightning struck. If we were to plagiarise “Don Holliday” or “John Dexter“–who would be the wiser? Zentner doesn’t give a hoot where the stories come from.

On second thought–why not get Bob Pike to “launder” them? He could bundle them and take them to the printer for us!



All they had to do was type out a rival’s book, revise the opening pargraph or two, invent an alias, and send it away with one of Cole’s masterpieces. Yes!


So cheeky were they that they not only swiped manuscripts from Hamling, and mimicked his covers in every way they could, but they mocked his “Freedom Publishing Co.” by invoking their own brave sobriquet, “Pioneer Publishing Company, 108 South 3rd Street, Las Vegas, NV“. Luckily, Hoover didn’t bother to investigate this front!

That Cole was conscious of the pilfering is tangible. The cover of RAM BOOK 102–Headline Harlot is a veritable forgery of that on MIDNIGHT READER 472–Sin Bum by Andrew Shaw.



When Cole couldn’t meet the relentless demand for cover art (he had been recomposing and reconfiguring his sketches in order to be more efficient, juxtaposing sexy sirens and lecherous males and females wielding  a medley of phallic objects, but this was getting out of hand!), lurid photographs of suburban “starlets” were used. Did I divulge  that Bob Pike had been a photo editor at Art Enterprises?


The stark illumination,  the languid pose of the “bad girl next door” and the motelesque ambiance are perfectly reminiscent of the PIKE BOOKS.

Whether due to the popularity of the snapshots, for economic reasons–or on account of the desire to revert to publishing himself–I intuit that Pike edited the ARROW READERS, DRAGON EDITIONS, EAGLE EDITIONS, PALETTE EDITIONS, SATURN LINE, SPARTAN LINE, SHIELD BOOKS, SPUR VOLUMES, SUN VOLUMES, TIGER BOOKS, TOPPER EDITIONS, TROPHY VOLUMES, VENUS VOLUMES, and the “card suits”,  HEART VOLUMES, DIAMOND VOLUMES, SPADE VOLUMES and CLUB NOVELS. These might or might not have been pirated. If  they were, then the redactor was more adept than the “one-eyed drunk” that belched on the top sheets of the other mss.


To substantiate the soupçon that “LN” was a principal in this ruse, here are two publications from 1964 with photo covers that are from the same studio session. The magazine, SAHARA, has  the “LN” on it. The  SUN VOLUME is a “Pioneer“.



Further–I  latched onto another magazine, BON-BON volume four, number one, which was published by TUXEDO BOOKS and distributed by “LN“. In it is a piece by “Eddie Hotley”, author of Lust Craze (STARDUST READER 105).


 Et maintenant pour le coup de grâce de cet exposé. I had been snooping evrywhere for a lead to “LN’s” whereabouts. No inkling that it was on my shelf. In the endpapers of COMPASS LINE 105–Lust Thy Friends And Neighbors by Cliff Heathe (1965), is a list of Pioneer titles for sale by “L.N. Magazine Distributors, 18-30 43rd Street, Long Island City 5, NY” (the very address of “Bill’s Book Co.“)!


Charles Nuetzel gives us another titbit in his autobigraphy. He says that Bob Pike–after having left Art Enterprises and done his own thing–got a job with Milton Luros. This could have been why the Pioneer photo covers desisted sometime in 1966. Pike might have packaged for “LN” for a year or two, but when he joined the American Art Agency (BRANDON HOUSE), I would hazard that he had neither the leisure nor the inclination to incur his boss’s wrath by collaborating with bootleggers. Fred Fixler’s amazing cover art for BRANDON HOUSE  was supplanted by photos In 1966. Fixler had been Luros’ art director. Pike might have been his successor.

Also in that year, the painted covers of the “Pioneers” took on a merrier aspect. No more meticulously cross-hatched dames stalked by rapacious louts. Instead, the bright smiling faces of impish gals flirted with and teased each other while expressionless male mannequins loitered in the background. I am not discounting the slim chance that Cole might have limned them,  but my bet would be on a female artiste.


Abruptly terminating this lengthy report–I ought to say that “LN” might have been integrated with Reuben Sturman’s WWNC (World Wide News Corporation). Its unique manner of scoring leftover books and magazines with a table saw can be witnessed on many of Sturman’s publications from 1965-1968, such as CHEVRON BOOKS, CLASSICS LIBRARY, MERCURY BOOKS, OLYMPIC FOTO-READERS, SATAN PRESS and VANGUARD BOOKS. 

That the typography and the layout of Sturman’s FOREMOST and CONNOISSEUR PUBLICATIONS mirror those of the American Art/ BRANDON HOUSE books is something to contemplate. If (as I have heard) Sturman appropriated American Art in the 1970s, it might have been a stealthy ambush. If there had been an “LN-Sturman-Pike-Luros network (Pike packaging Sturman’s books whilst employed by Luros), Sturman could have taken advantage. But that is another article! I hope I have shed some light on the subject of the “Pioneers”, and inspired the reader to peer into the shadows that obscure its ever-alluring  secrets.



I would be extremely grateful to anyone who can aid me in compilng an index of all of the novels that were lifted from CORINTH/ GREENLEAF, as well as other publishers, such as BEDSIDE and BOUDOIR. The swiftest mode of doing this is to stack up your authentic books (from about 1960-1965), skip to CHAPTER TWO, and write down the first line. Likewise, the first line of CHAPTER TWO in any  of the “Pioneers” that I don’t have would be of enormous benefit.


“Red, White & Blew” by John Keyes

26 Jun

EFFECT: The performer deposits two unopened packs of toy balloons (of various colours) on the table and asks a volunteer to choose one. The bags are opened and both the magician and the participant remove three WHITE BALLOONS from each. The challenge is to be the first to create, inflate, and tie-off a set of RED, WHITE AND BLUE balloons out of the three white ones. For this purpose, two felt-tip markers (one red, the other blue), are allotted to each of the contestants.

As a sort of ‘head start’, one of the white balloons may be inflated before the competition begins, leaving the other two to be coloured.

As the challenge ensues, the volunteer uncaps one of the pens and starts vigorously to dye one of the balloons, yet the smug magician folds his or her arms and encourages the participant to do a good job. “That’s great! It doesn’t have to be perfect–so long as you get some decent coverage….The ink will spread out (and get lighter) when you blow it up, anyway”.

When the volunteer is finished with the colouring, and is about to inflate the balloon, the performer merely wields the blue marker like a wand over a WHITE balloon, raises it to his or her lips and inflates it. It visibly changes to a BLUE balloon. The magician ties it off and sets it on the table.

The astonished participant is entreated to proceed with colouring the remaining white balloon, but again, as soon as he or she attempts to inflate it, the performer takes the red felt-tip pen, waves it over his or  her last white balloon and blows it up. It turns RED before the spectators’ eyes!

SECRET: This trick requires preparation. While the two packages of assorted, multi-coloured balloons are perfectly normal (as are the felt-tip pens), you need to have a few ‘gimmicked’ white balloons at the ready.

First, purchase a jar of LIQUID LATEX from a craft or art supply shop (or from a theatrical supply company that sells it for making masks, facial appliances, etc.). Preferably clear, white, or neutral in hue.

liquid latex

Open a pack of toy balloons and pick out a RED and a BLUE one. Knead the balloons thoroughly prior to rigging them, so that they shall be ‘pre-stretched’ and easier to inflate when you go into your act.

Carefully snip the mouth of each of these balloons with a pair of scissors (approximately 1/2″ from the top, but conserve at least 1/2″ of the neck) and fit the truncated body onto a small tube that is slightly larger in diameter than the flaccid balloon (say, 1″ in diameter). The “tube” can be anything cylindrical–a hairbrush handle, for instance.

Pull the balloon taut over the form until it can go no further without forcing (until the bottom of the tube touches the bottom of the balloon).

Now take two white balloons (of the same size and shape) and fit one over each of the coloured (red and blue) balloons that are on the forms–but make certain that the necks of the white balloons reach about 1/2″ HIGHER than those of the red and the blue. Eliminate any wrinkles or air pockets by gently tugging at the balloons on the forms as needed.

Peel the lip of each of the white balloons downward an inch or so and dab some liquid latex round the circumference of  the necks of the red and blue balloons with a small artist’s paintbrush, being mindful to avoid getting the substance into the actual bladder of the balloon. Then fit the necks of the white balloons back in place so that the adhesive is trapped tightly between the two layers. Allow to cure for several hours.

Remove the gimmicked balloons from the forms. You ought to have what appear to be two WHITE BALLOONS with a coloured balloon inside of each, secured only at the neck.


TO PERFORM: Provide two ordinary packages of assorted, coloured balloons (that have at least three white ones in them) and two sets of felt-tip markers consisting of a red and a blue.

Keep the two gimmicked balloons hidden in a pocket or elsewhere, but DO NOT place them on the table, as spectators will be eager to examine them once they suspect some kind of contrivance.

Instead, lay three of the ORDINARY white balloons from the pack on the table before you, and carry on as in the effect above. There should be sufficient opportunity to switch one of the regular white balloons for a gimmicked one while the volunteer is labouring to tincture his or her first balloon.

pen bluepen red

When the moment is right, mystically gesture with the appropriately coloured pen, raise one of the gimmicked balloons to your lips and inflate it. It is best however, to rehearse this all-important part of the performance in order to know just how much air pressure (breath) is called for to fill up the DOUBLE-WALLED balloon. Caution is advised, as if the balloon is inflated too energetically, it could burst and ruin the routine. Train yourself  to blow it up steadily and surely.

The white balloon, being distended, shall be virtually transparent, and the colour of the inner balloon shall become evident. Both balloons shall be snug together, producing the illusion that they are one. Tie the neck and set the balloon on the table.

If someone is suddenly moved to seize the remaining white balloon before you in order to examine it, they shall discover that it has not been tampered with.

Again–choose your opportunity to switch the regular white balloon for the gimmicked (RED-lined) one, and dumbfound everyone in your midst!


NOTES: For best results, use white balloons that are as thin and translucent as possible for your gimmicks. They should yet be opaque enough when lax to conceal the colour of the inner balloon. As for the blue and the red, they should be as RICHLY PIGMENTED as you can find.

Initially, the latex bond (having been established on the oversized forms) shall make the necks of the balloons unusually wide, but SEVERAL DAYS AFTER removing them from the cylinders, they will have shrunk to normal proportion. Set them near a moderate heat source in order to hasten the process.

Your gimmicks are going to look bulkier than empty balloons of course, so try to hide all but the head and/or tail with your hand until you begin to blow them up. Or at the very least, keep them in motion in order to deter close scrutiny.



John Keyes’ “Sure Shot” (Coin Toss)

1 Jun

EFFECT: The performer boasts that he or she can toss a coin into a drinking cup, placed anywhere that the volunteer wishes!

Three cups are provided, as the magician claims that he or she can accomplish the feat in “one of three attempts”. The cups are examined and determined to be ordinary.

An assortment of coins is procured, and the volunteer is asked to choose one (mark it if inclined), and hand it to the performer.

The cups are given to the volunteer, and he or she is asked to take one and set it in any location whatever. The magician then asks, “Where would you like me to stand?”.

The performer announces that “This is just a ‘warm up’–you realise?”. He or she tosses the coin and it misses the cup. No matter! The magician picks up the coin and gets ready for the next round.

“Now, as I have two shots left–what I would like you to do is to hold one of the cups in each hand, and stand wherever you want. But wait! In order to make it more of a challenge–a more dynamic goal–please recruit a member of the audience to tell us precisely when we should both go into action. Keep the stack in one hand, and when he or she counts to ‘three’, I want you to separate the two tumblers and spread your arms, or raise them over your head, wave them about–anything of the kind, so as to render my target more difficult to attain”.

No sooner does the volunteer pull the cups apart than the performer flings the coin and it is heard to drop into one of the cups! The astonished volunteer retrieves the coin and it is found to be the very one that he or she selected.

SECRET: There are no gimmicks involved in this trick, and virtually no sleight of hand. Just an easy move that may be accomplished with a modicum of practice.

The only preparation that is necessary is to have your own set of coins (a penny, a nickel, a dime, a quarter, etc.) stashed on your person, or somewhere nearby.

The cups may consist of almost any flexible material (plastic, paper, styrofoam, etc.) but they need to be opaque (non-translucent). Work with different types until you find the sort that is best for you.


Bring out the three cups and set them, one at a time, on the table. Ask a volunteer if he or she wishes to scrutinise them. Then either produce a bunch of coins from a jar, or gather some from the audience, and have the volunteer decide upon one of them. He or she may mark it if desired.

Vaunt that you can toss the coin into one of these cups from any distance designated by the volunteer.

Request the chosen coin and pretend to hold it in your left hand but actually retain it in your right (or whichever hand you favour). With the coin concealed in your right-hand fingertips, stack the cups in the following way.

Pick up one of the cups with your right-hand thumb and forefinger and drop it into another. Then grasp these two nestled cups and uncurl the fingertips that hide the coin so that you may press it against the side of the stack (the side that is hidden from the audience, of course). The consequent ‘click’ sound may be effectively muted by snapping the coin to the side of the cup at the same time that you drop the first two cups into the third cup. Lift the stack of two cups and plunge it into the third, simultaneously jamming the coin between the walls of the two cups that are now lowermost (that is to say, the two cups that have yet to be compressed) securely. Make certain that the coin neither slips all the way to the bottom of the cup, nor is visibly stationed above the rim!

A SIMPLE ALTERNATIVE: You may slide the stack of two cups into the third cup horizontally using both hands, so as to gently (and more quietly) press the coin to its side from below and fix it in position with your right index or middle finger before you squeeze the cups tightly together. But remember! You are supposed to have the coin in your left hand, so it’s a good idea to continue to imply that it is there, by clenching at least a couple of your left-hand fingers as you manipulate the third cup. This method is recommended if you have little time to rehearse, as it calls for less dexterity. It is also rather advantageous if you happen to be performing while surrounded, because no one can see what you’re doing underneath.

Give the entire stack to the volunteer and allow him or her to move as far afield as possible. Surreptitiously get a duplicate coin of the same denomination from your pocket or some other source. Wield it and adopt a “coin toss” stance, whilst instructing the volunteer to remove one of the cups from the stack.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Watch closely! If the volunteer pulls the first cup from the bottom of the stack, immediately pretend to toss the coin towards it (merely make the gesture, but reserve the coin in your hand). The coin that is lodged between the cups shall drop audibly into it. In this case, the effect is achieved instantaneously.

If however, he or she takes the top cup from the stack, ask that it be set anywhere in the room (preferably, in a relatively inaccessible place). Then actually toss the duplicate coin in the general direction of the cup. In the unlikely event that you are successful, you may take a bow. But otherwise collect the coin (from the floor or wherever it landed) and resort to your “two remaining chances”.

Ask the volunteer to separate the two cups left in the stack on his or her cohort’s signal as mentioned in the EFFECT above. Be ready to make the spurious ‘tossing gesture’ as soon as he or she does so. Timing is everything! For a bit of comedy, you may invent an unique style of tossing (over the shoulder, under the leg etc.).

Water Into Real Wine

30 Apr

Here is my original concept, adapted for use as a “bar bet”, like those presented on Brian Brushwood’s “Scam School” series.



Unlike traditional “water into wine” routines, this bit allows the beverage to be sampled by the spectators, who can confirm for themselves that it is genuine.




The performer states that he or she will demonstrate several ‘after dinner’ tricks, and proceeds to annoy the audience by picking up a wooden spoon and wiggling it between thumb and forefinger in a lame attempt to imply that it has “turned to rubber”.



Next the magician grabs two wax bananas from the centrepiece of the table and plunks them on the surface. Having arranged them as in the attached photo, he or she then asks the audience “which do you think is longer?”



“I’ll bet you a beer that you can’t pick which one” says the host. After a brief consultation with another participant, the clever observer remarks that “both are the same length”


Clearly disappointed, the magician attempts to save his or her rep by conceding the point, “even though technically I said you couldn’t tell me which is longer, which you didn’t!”.


The performer then confesses that he or she  “blew the entire budget for the show on wax fruit” so “frankly I can’t afford to pay for another glass of beer. However, I am willing to compromise. Or maybe…’improvise'”.


Grabbing a translucent pitcher of water from the table, the performer asks the volunteer to hand him or her a bunch of grapes. The host takes the artificial cluster and drops it into the pitcher with a splash. Then he or she picks up the wooden spoon and wields it like a magic wand, waving it dramatically over the pitcher.


Plunging the spoon into the pitcher, he or she crushes and stirs the fake grapes until ribbons and clouds of purple colour are seen rising and billowing from them. Soon the entire vessel is filled with dark red liquid. Smugly satisfied, the performer sits back with arms folded and gloats over the accomplishment.


After a brief pause in which no one seems terribly impressed, the magician says, “Hey! I did you one better. Wine is classier than beer anyday. Who wants a sip?”


“Are you guys acquainted with the “water into wine” trick? If that’s what this was, I wouldn’t be serving this to you right now, because usually the water is completely undrinkable. It’s got some kind of unpronounceable chemical in it that makes it red and we could get sued, it’s that bad! In low doses it was used as a laxative, but in high concentrations it’s toxic”


The host pours a glass for him or herself and all the guests at table. Raising his or her stemware, the performer proposes a toast. “To real magic!” and encourages everyone to imbibe.


To their astonishment, the drink tastes exactly like red wine! “You know why? Because it is!”.





In order to end up with real wine, you’re going to need to start with real wine. A white wine, with a relatively non-distinct flavour, such as  a  WHITE BORDEAUX or a WHITE BURGUNDY–that is to say, a blend of grape varieties (a CHARDONNAY or a PINOT GRIGIO or a SAUVIGNON BLANC might be too recognisable and spoil the trick). Because such wines are inexpensive, it is a good idea to buy several, and to determine which is the most amenable to drinking as well as the hardest to identify.


Next you will require a clear glass or plastic pitcher, but preferably one with a yellowish or greenish tint to it. This will disguise the colour of the wine.



You  must also obtain a set of wax or plastic fruit. A couple of artificial bananas and a decent sized cluster of hollow RED GRAPES, along with a few other sorts of produce (such as oranges, apples, pears, etc.) to make the setting complete.


wax fruit set




Lastly you shall need some kind of non-toxic food colouring or dye. The kind I recommend is BEET POWDER, which is available at many health food stores, but which might be difficult to find in your home town (and somewhat costly). The advantage of using this substance is that it actually enhances the taste of the white wine, rendering it earthier and richer, and making it savour more of proper RED BURGUNDY. Also, the undissolved particles of dehydrated beet pulp make most convincing “dregs”. As an alternative, you can resort to liquid food colouring (red and blue), which may be purchased at a local grocery.




Take the bunch of fake grapes and slit about half of them with a razor blade or a box cutter. Be careful to slit them ONLY ON ONE SIDE so they open like those old rubber “coin purses”. That is to say, so that they “pucker” when squeezed that  they may be filled, yet readily close themselves up again when released. For the neatest effect, slit only the grapes on one side of the cluster (the side you will lay it down on). Do not fill the grapes entirely (especially if you are using aqueous dyes, as they might leak out when subjected to even the slightest pressure). Now be sure to REVOLVE the slits (most artificial grapes are moulded separately and therefore may be rotated or ‘twisted’ on their axes) so that they are FACING UPWARDS FROM THE BOTTOM OF THE BUNCH–in other words:, so that the cuts are uppermost, and turned inward towards the centre.  If anyone at the table should be curious as to their authenticity, they may pinch the ersatz grapes on top without disturbing or discovering your plot.


Injecting food dye into the hollow grapes would be a viable (and more convenient) option, but it’s going to be more difficult to extract the colorant from the tiny holes when ‘crushing’ them in the pitcher. Also there is the temptation to pump them full of the water-based dye, which is a poor idea, as the uneven weight distribution might cause the volunteer to be suspicious when lifting the bunch.


How much food colouring you will need depends on how much wine you plan to have in the pitcher. Experiment with water until you get the right proportion. It’s better to have “too much” dye than too little. An excess will only darken the wine. It will not ruin the taste. Deposit some of the beet powder or the liquid food dye into at least eight or ten of the fake grapes. Then wipe any residue from the cluster with a damp cloth, LET DRY on a paper towel, and you’re all set.


As a further precaution against inadvertent detection, you may use a wine-dark placemat or a brown-varnished wooden bowl (ostensibly for display), either of which shall effectively camouflage any purplish splotches that might be exposed when the cluster is removed.





Be sure that the guests have their own refreshments in hand before bringing out the artificial fruit and the pitcher of “water”. Explain that you are simulating an “after dinner situation” at a fine restaurant. Hopefully, no one will reach for the water! Best to keep it out of reach of the spectators, at the far edge of the table for instance, with the wooden spoon, napkins, and/or other implements in the way of it.


In case the volunteer that you are playing to does not happen to know that the bananas are of the same length, it’s always best to have a stooge or cohort sitting by to lend him or her some “practical advice”.


Other than that, the effect is pretty much self-working. The above routine is only a suggestion of course. Make it your own, do it in your own style. When rightly managed, you will have your audience gasping even as they enjoy the fruit of the vine.





There is the slight possibility that a volunteer is allergic to beets. Ideally, you should ask your guests if they have any food allergies (either in reference to their menu selections, or in casual conversation) before you invite them to participate.



16 Jun




There are many variations of “The Book Test”, but–one man who popularised it and rendered it a ‘modern classic’ was called Chan Canasta. In the 1950s and 1960s, he presented an astounding routine in which a book was selected by a volunteer. Chan would flip through the pages of the book rapidly whilst obtaining a general consensus from the audience that it would be virtually impossible for anyone to memorise the thing.

He would again flip the pages of the book before the spectator’s eyes and ask him or her to utter the first page number that came to mind.

He would pass the book to the volunteer and ask him or her to open it to the chosen page, and to pick a particular line. He would then proceed to recite the line!

This was achieved in part due to Chan’s photographic memory.


Magicians have attempted to duplicate this effect in sundry ways, few if any of them possessing Chan’s phenomenal ability.

Many resort to gimmicked books and/or some sort of code.

Those that do not are essentially doing the same thing as Chan Canasta, but–rather than memorising an entire page, they content themselves with memorising a word or a phrase.

The means by which Chan would ‘force’ the pre-determined page is that of stopping or ‘stalling’ at it, and hesitating for a second before riffling the rest of the book, mere inches from the volunteer’s face (similar to the “protrusion” method of forcing a playing card, extending it towards the participant). Thus the volunteer would probably “think of” the right page number. Needless to remark, this method is not infallible.

Chan took many risks in his performances and occasionally fell short.

The following approach, when employed properly is genuinely fool proof; and this version has the distinct advantage of giving the volunteer a truly free choice of book from a library, a bookstore, or from any other source.


At a bookstore, or at a library (any place at all where there are books), propose an experiment.

Tell the audience that it is a fact that the cerebral cortex records subliminal images of quickly moving objects (like the frames of a film) even while the conscious mind is unaware of it, and that you would like to show how one might “maximise one’s brain power”.

Beseech a volunteer to choose a book from amongst all of the surrounding literature.

Request to see the book in order to confirm that it has page numbers (as some publications do not), and to ascertain its length–that is to say, the number of pages it contains. When you have assured yourself that the pages are numbered, turn to the back of the book and inform the crowd of the number of pages within it. Then induce the volunteer to get another book. This one for you. Encourage the participant to pick a book that he or she trusts that you are utterly unfamiliar with.

The book ought to be of roughly the same dimensions, but–it needn’t be precisely.

Politely interject that “What I would like you to do now is to decide upon the section of the book that we’re going to be using for this experiment.” Permit the volunteer to choose from the first hundred pages, the second hundred, the third hundred, etc. If the chosen book is a small one of less than two-hundred pages (say, a slim paperback), kindly urge the volunteer to choose a chunkier book that offers “more of a challenge”.

When the volunteer returns with the second book, give him or her the one you were holding and take the other one, saying “The idea is to try to read your book remotely, from across the room.

“That may seem fantastical, but I assure you it can be done. After years of research I have developed a technique I call ‘Subliminal Imagery Visualisation’, or SIV.

“Let me illustrate how your mind can absorb the contents of a book in seconds.”


Now impart to the volunteer the manner in which the books are to be flipped (not too briskly, not too slowly), by ‘flickering’ the one you grip so that he or she can see the right-hand (odd numbered) pages. Tell the volunteer to meditate on the page numbers (whether they be at the bottom, the top, in the right, or the left-hand corner, or even in the centre) and try to take in a word or a phrase near it, in an effort to impress it on his or her sub-conscious.

When this has been done, implore the volunteer to reciprocate by flipping the pages of his or her book for your perusal.


Further relate that in order to conduct the research, it is necessary to agree upon a page number that is common to both books.

“If indeed you and I have a capacity for psychic rapport, I would like to gain evidence of it”, you say.

“Take up a piece of paper and write down any page number (within the range you have chosen). Since we are focusing only on the right-hand pages of the book, all I will suggest is that it be an ODD NUMBER”.

“Now, visualise your page number and I’ll try to sense it”. After a dramatic pause, and a bit of scribbling on his own blank, the magician calls for the volunteer’s number. Sadly, when both are compared, they are not identical. In fact, they could hardly be more remote. “….How about Two-Out-Of-Three?”.

It soon becomes obvious that little or no telepathic activity is going on. “In that case, why don’t we compromise? We’ll use the two closest numbers and ‘average them out’–alright?”

The difference between them is halved, and a compatible number is arrived at.


Using the collaboratively devised number, both the performer and the volunteer then go to the matching page in their respective books.

The performer begins the exercise, on the pretext that it is easier for him to demonstrate than to expound upon the procedure of gazing at the word or words on the page (i.e., at the top or bottom corner–right or left–or in the centre, wherever the number happens to be), and endevouring to send a psychic ‘signal’ to one’s counterpart. Say that it is best to get plenty of light on the page (no shadows or obstructions, please!) and to look steadily on it whilst repeating the number in one’s head.

Confess that you are in no wise certain that psychic energy will do the trick at this juncture, but–that it couldn’t hurt.

In all likelihood, if you obtain success, it will be “due to the retention of subliminal imagery”.

When the volunteer fails to guess the word or phrase, give him or her some hints.

Congratulate the volunteer on his or her foray into Mentalism and do the reverse. Have him or her scrutinise the other book and try to send you a signal.

After some strenuous extraction from your gray matter, you manage to evoke the very word!


Naturally–the page number is precluded.

The word or phrase is gleaned when the performer scans the book initially (that is–AFTER LEARNING WHICH SECTION OF THE BOOK THE VOLUNTEER PREFERS TO USE). As the magician casually handles the book, the page number to be ‘forced’ is covertly accessed and the word or phrase at the end of either the first or the last line (depending on where the page numbers are situated–at top or bottom) is memorised.


The secret is a very simple algorithm. When the volunteer chooses a page number, the performer THEN deduces his or hers (although–it is supposed to have been already written). The magician’s number is afforded by a chart that is inscribed on, or printed and affixed to, the cardboard backing of the pad of paper that he or she is equipped with (see below).



( )49                                 ( )53
( )47                                 ( )55
( )45                                 ( )57
( )43                                 ( )59
( )41                                 ( )61
( )39                                 ( )63
( )37                                 ( )65
( )35                                 ( )67
( )33                                 ( )69
( )31                                 ( )71
( )29                                 ( )73
( )27                                 ( )75
( )25                                 ( )77
( )23                                 ( )79
( )21                                 ( )81
( )19                                 ( )83
( )17                                 ( )85
( )15                                 ( )87
( )13                                 ( )89
( )11                                 ( )91
( )09                                ( )93
( )07                               ( )95
( )05                               ( )97
( )03                               ( )99
( )01                               ( )01

The “force number” shall be “51” or “151” or “251” etc., based on which section of the book the volunteer chooses. The reason for this is that you will need an equivalent number of pages in either direction in order to compute your ‘average’. Simply remember to add the appropriate number (1, 2, etc.) to the LEFT-MOST or HUNDREDS COLUMN before communicating your numbers.

If the force number” is 151 and the volunteer says “183”, then the counter-response will be “119”. It is a simple matter of finding the participant’s number on your chart (in either the “DOWNRANGE” or the “UPRANGE” list) and claiming the opposite. The difference between 183 and 119 is 64. Halving this number yields 32. Which imports that the final figure (adding 119 to 32, or subtracting 32 from 183) will produce the number 151. This should be done with all three sets of numbers, so that regardless of which set is chosen, the result will be the same.

To begin the co-operative process of “electing a page number”, tear off a piece of paper from your pad and give it to the volunteer. Rip off the next sheet for yourself and place it over the backing board, so as to prepare it as a writing surface. In this manner, you can conceal the chart, but–easily refer to it by sliding the sheet to one side. As the participant is writing his or her page numbers, PRETEND to write yours.

Then demand his or her first number. Locate it on the chart and write both it AND YOUR CORRESPONDING NUMBER on the note paper. When all of the numbers have been exchanged, invite the volunteer (along with you) to calculate the difference between the two most neighbourly numbers. You can at last slap the sheet on the table for all to see, whilst pocketing the pad.

For the sake of brevity, the participant may be asked to decide whether or not the FIRST SET of numbers is satisfactory.


Try to get the volunteer to give his or her preference for the PAGE RANGE while he or she is still searching for the second book. This will allow you sufficient time to shunt to that section of the book that you are holding and skip to the page at the “force number”. Or, as you inquire which region of the book he or she wishes, you can blatantly separate the pages into ‘bundles’ in order to indicate the first hundred, the second hundred, the third hundred, etc. You can thereby mark several possible page numbers with your fingers (51, 151, 251, etc.), and when you hear which division the volunteer desires, you can deftly revert to it.

In the event that the volunteer should suddenly choose the second book, giving you little or no time to dwell on the page to be ‘forced’, prompt him or her to discover whether it has page numbers, how many pages it comprises, and/or where the page numbers are printed (at the top or at the bottom, etc.). With his or her eyes upon the second book, you may surreptitiously peer into the one you have in your hands. Memorise the word or phrase at the upper-right hand corner of the page if that’s where the page numbers are printed. If they are at the bottom, then memorise the word or phrase at the lower-right hand corner.

If you have a poor memory, you may write the word or phrase on the pad of paper as soon as you pick it up.


The chart is useful regardless of which section of the book the volunteer chooses. For example: if the volunteer settles on the 301-401 page range, your “force” will be 351. Mentally add a “(3)” to the left side of all of the numbers on the chart EXCEPT THE VERY LAST, which technically belongs to the next hundred.


There is a chance that there shall be NO TEXT adjoining the page number that you have ‘forced’. If that is the case, simply state that it appears to be blank or describe the photo or the artwork instead.


The drama may be enhanced to a yet–greater degree by feigning the difficulty of discerning the typography. Suggest a few alternate spellings of the word, as if you find it hard to distinguish between characters like “a” and “e” or “l” and “i”, before affirming your answer.

Ask the volunteer for clues if you wish to persuade the audience that you are straining to isolate the word or phrase.


‘The Berglas E…

2 Aug

‘The Berglas E….


‘The Berglas Effect’: A Likely Answer

2 Aug

‘The Berglas Effect’: A Likely Answer

by John Keyes

Note: Because of a lot of controversy betwixt myself and the members of an elite society [see the thread unraveled at] which I shall–in the spirit of levity that it afforded me–call F.O.R.K. (Friends Of Richard Kaufman), I feel it necessary to explain the meaning of my title. By “‘The Berglas Effect’: A Likely Answer”, I neither purport to discover David Berglas’ precise method for achieving the effect with which his name is inextricably and forever bound, nor the method given in the pages of “The Berglas Effects” by David Berglas and Richard Kaufman. Both of these avenues are negotiable by other media. What I am saying is that, in order to obtain the ideal effect–one that truly lives up to its seemingly preposterous claim in every detail, and which is reliable enough to be performed by the average magician without fear of failure, it were best to consider the simplest of devices.

David Berglas is a magician that may be described succinctly as clever, ingenious and engaging. His studies of the art of practical (as distinguished from mystical) magic, and in some respects, psychology, ought to be well considered in the investigation of his technique.

That a routine such as his “Any Card At Any Number” [“A.C.A.A.N.”], employing a single, or even several means (commonly referred to as “The Berglas Effect”) should confound nearly all of his fellows not to mention most of humanity for half a century is incredible. But–not inexplicable.

Essentially, the premise is impossible–that the performer somehow causes a random member of the audience to think of a pre-determined card, and another to freely decide upon a number from one to fifty-two; after which a third participant is urged to handle the apparently borrowed deck (which has remained in full view from the start), who counts either from the top or the bottom of the pack using the number selected, only to reveal that the nominated card is indeed at that position.

Ruling out chance, and taking it as a proper routine, a stunt that may be repeated at will any number of times with consistent success, it not only defies logic, but–is at odds with the very purpose of the craft, which is to devise a plot, a scheme by which to deceive the viewer. More to the point–it is utterly at variance with Berglas’ own way of doing things. Close examination of his videotaped performances proves him to be a highly skilled and well practiced card manipulator of the traditional sort. Were the effect to be what it is supposed to be, it would require virtually no involvement on the performer’s part, no preparation, no conception, and ultimately earn its author neither credit nor admiration.

The key to ‘the mystery’ is in the precise wording of the supposedly rigorous conditions under which it may be properly manifested.

In the business of Magic, nothing ought to be regarded as inadvertent–neither the explicit nor the implicit.

As for the former, it is proclaimed that there are four pre-requisites that govern the presentation:



1) The cards must be in view before the trick starts.

2) A spectator must freely name any card. He or she must not be a stooge and can freely choose any one of the fifty-two cards; no restrictions.

3) Another spectator must freely name any number between one and fifty-two. He or she must not be a stooge and have a free choice; no restrictions.

4) A third spectator must be invited to count down to the chosen number. The performer must not touch the cards.



The phrase “no stooges” is often used by those that misinterpret this carefully draughted declaration. To my knowledge, Berglas himself never argued that “no stooges” were ever needed in any way.

Here’s where the psychology plays a part: by truthfully saying that neither the person choosing the card nor the person choosing the number from one to fifty-two is a stooge, it is hinted (and thus generally assumed) that the third is likewise not in collusion with the mystifier.

In fact, the performer always (or has done, in every instance I have seen) takes it upon himself to elect the third participant, as if to convey nonchalantly that he or she is relatively insignificant and that the task at hand is so perfunctory as to be above suspicion; yet–this third ‘volunteer’ is nothing less than the magician’s agent, doing what he must otherwise have done with his own hands. In the definitive and most veritable sense, he or she is taking the prestidigitator’s place.

If any ‘magic’ is to be done, it is going to be enacted by him or her.

Should any of the four elements of the code cited above be violate, then the whole notion is balderdash. Just a cute trick whose attendant hyperbole and panache have raised it to a stellar height in the eyes of presumptious witnesses.

It is indeed worthy of its status because it does hold honestly to its explicit promise, but–by no means on account of that ideal which has been inferred by the public or implied by its ill informed or overly ambitious publicists.

Berglas’ self-assurance as a man of leger-de-main was and is well deserved. He always seemed to know how to make cracked eggs into omelettes in case something went wrong. He no doubt fashioned each performance according to the proposed event with intense forethought.

I believe there are two distinct variations of ‘The Berglas Effect’ (strictly speaking)–one for stage and the other for ‘close-up’ room or parlour.

Let’s start with the version most susceptible of analysis–the ‘one-on-one’. In this form, Berglas does not lend out the cards so readily as in the full-blown routine. He handles them quite dextrously all the while that he is asking the sole volunteer to choose a card. He fans the deck repeatedly and executes a number of quick moves. It is reasonable to guess that he is actually locating the chosen card after the volunteer has announced it and is sliding it out of fan formation with his thumb into a more advantageous position, somewhere beneath (or maybe behind) the spread. When the participant tells him which number he or she prefers, Berglas continues to sift through the cards for no good reason that I can adduce other than to count off so many cards and place them on top of the chosen card (or underneath it if he feels bold enough to ask whether the spectator wishes to deal from the top or the bottom of the deck). Any excess cards can be easily shuffled to the bottom of the pack (or to the top); thus completing the set-up. He then promptly slaps the deck on the table and instructs the participant to count the cards.

I have never heard of this particular method having been done with a borrowed deck, although–it certainly could be. I suspect that more often than not it is performed (especially on spontaneous occasions, in which it is impractical to resort to stacking) using marked cards, which make it easier to recognise the chosen one whilst looking at their backs.

The following video link shows David Berglas demonstrating this approach several times in succession, with various members of his audience, and I strongly recommend it:

In the phenomenal theatrical version, the performer handles the cards only at the very beginning. One might well ask: Why is it necessary for him to handle them at all, as he is making the point of doing nothing with them?

One possibility is that the borrowed pack is switched for a marked and/or stacked one of an identical design (for the purpose, several different brands might have been prepared. Conceivably–every brand in town).

In any case–it is outlandish to suppose that Berglas (or anyone) could co-ordinate this operation without a ‘stooge’, as I suggested.

A stacked deck will make it a simple matter to determine the actual position of the chosen card, in order to avoid exposing it during the countdown, before the accomplice introduces a duplicate card at the last moment (especially when choosing to deal the cards face up).

Understand also that the cards are never shuffled in this version  (or at least, never given a liberal mixing by an objective onlooker). The only spectator that is allowed to touch them is the third participant, whom as I have said, is generally (either directly or indirectly) appointed by the performer.

The magician simply asks a member of the audience to think of a card. Suppose it is the “Ten Of Spades”. Then he requests another to pick a number from one to fifty-two. Fancy that to be “thirty-one”.

Knowing how the deck is stacked, the performer may realise that the Ten Of Spades is in fact (let us imagine) seventeen cards from the top. The cards must not be dealt face up from the top of the deck or the chosen card shall be revealed too soon. Therefore, the ‘spectator’ that is called upon to count the cards has to be told to deal them face down–or else, face up from the bottom. If the number were as small as sixteen, the magician could grant anyone in the crowd the wish to have it done any way whatever–face up or face down from either top or bottom.

Recall that whilst David was asking the sole participant to pick a card in the close-up version, he was (I daresay) hunting for it himself. In this scenario, the performer’s surrogate (the third participant to be) may be searching in his own duplicate pack for the chosen card and preparing to conceal it in his hand (I say “his” as this person’s manual extremity should be sufficiently broad to obscure the card). Alternatively, the magician might be better able than a ‘stooge’ planted in the audience to draw it out of the lining of his jacket–or remove it from a piece of furniture on stage (a desk, a chair, etc.), well beyond the scrutiny of the spectators.

The third ‘audience member’ is chosen to come up on stage. He or she either has the duplicate card already, or the prestidigitator surreptitiously supplies it, after which it is palmed in one of the participant’s hands (the one not designated for turning over the cards, I should think).

The cards are counted and either dealt face up or face down. When the penultimate number is reached (in this case, the thirtieth card), the magician yells, “Stop!”, at which point the startled ‘volunteer’ covers the deck with his or her other hand (the one with the card in it), as if he or she were halted in the process of going for the last one. The duplicate card may be dropped on top of the pack under cover of this hand, mere seconds prior to showing that is in fact the Ten Of Spades.

I am unaware of any videotaped performances of the stage version by David Berglas himself, but–the following link gives at least an approximation (two examples in fact) of ‘The Berglas Effect’ by Marc Paul:

I await comments in response to this piece, especially from magicians and fellow admirers of David Berglas, and will gladly converse with anyone on this topic.