When I was a lad, I had an ambition to be a magician. It was all David Nixon’s fault. (Pictured) He was one of, if not the first tv conjuror (that’s tv as in telly and not in frocks) and I was big fan, so much so that one Christmas a David Nixon Magic Set was one of my main presents. (The link is to a later version, but you get the picture.
Behind this ambition was not any desire to appear on prime time tv, nor any Harry Potterish wish to do ‘real’ magic. That sort of thing you leave to blokes like Father Christmas. It wasn’t even the prospect of an adoring beautiful assistant prancing round me dressed in spandex in an “isn’t he magic” sort of way. (Well I was quite young. Might be different if I thought about it today.)
No, what it was was the thought that a young lad could fool family and friends that this was magic. That smug feeling of “I know how it’s done, and you don’t.” The one thing that stood in my way was the magic set — it was rubbish. Mum and dad would ooh and ah, but even at that age, I knew when I was being patronised. I may only have had a primary school education at the time and I was armed with enough worldly-wisdom to see through them.
Later, I moved on to card tricks, but again I had my own inbuilt stumble — I’m not very dextrous. I could probably have fooled David Blunkett, at least if his guidedog wasn’t in the room, but nobody else.
Only one became my stock-in-trade for amusing the gullible, ie anyone under the age of five. It’s the palming the bottom card trick, the basis of which is to have control of the deck of cards. First clock what is the bottom card, then hold it in your left hand and start pulling the cards back into your right, asking your mark when they want you to stop. When they do, let them point at which card they want to choose.
“Are you sure? Not the other one?” is the patter. Then as you draw the cards towards you, your right thumb drags the bottom card out. Hold it towards the mark and ask them to remember it. The trick can then proceed in at least two ways.
1. Allow the mark to shuffle the cards as much as they like. Next you take the pack and turn each card after another until the card you know they picked lands.
Pause for dramatic effect and announce, “The next card I turn over is the one you chose.” They smile, thinking he’s got it wrong, and you pick the face-up card and turn it over.
2. This method requires more prep. Pick the card you want on the bottom of the pack and put it there. Then find a sliver of soap, the sort that ends up useless in the shower. Use this to ‘write’ the card on the back of your left hand and go through the above.
Once the mark has picked their card, put the pack down and ask them to write its name on a piece of paper. Next burn the piece of paper, crumble the ashes, rub them on the back of your hand, and lo the name is revealed.