There’s Magic in Memory (Jan, 1954)
Of course the whole trick falls apart if your confederate doesn’t get to speak after every single card is picked.
There’s Magic in Memory
No need to be a Houdini or a Trilby to work these amazing card tricks or mind-reading feats.
Just let Dr. Bruno Furst train your mind.
By Dr. Bruno Furst
(Dr. Bruno Furst, lawyer and psychologist, is the director and founder of the school of Memory and Concentration with headquarters in New York and branches all over the country, South America, and Canada. Its Correspondence Course Division extends over five continents. Dr. Furst’s system is taught at many Universities, Colleges, Adult Education Centers, Business Firms, and Trade Associations.)
YOU’RE at a party. Someone calls to you fro ti across the room and asks you to name a card which has just been selected from a deck. Without shuffling through the pack, without even seeing or touching the cards, you name the pasteboard promptly.
Other cards are chosen and, one after the other, you snap them out with unerring accuracy. The baffled spectators hide you in a closet, send you into the next room or even outdoors—but you can still reel off the cards people pick, unhesitatingly, tantalizingly and correctly!
Sounds utterly mystifying, doesn’t it? But there’s actually no magic, telepathy, or anything occult involved. The answer lies in just one word—memory.
In fact, through memory training you can perform this and other incredible card tricks that startle and amaze with ridiculous ease, stunts which can neither be duplicated or exposed by the uninitiated.
In this article, I’m going to show you how.
You see, I run a memory training school, attended by doctors, lawyers, business men, college students, housewives—who are tired of forgetting what they read, of forgetting names and faces of people, or their addresses and telephone numbers. I help them to improve their memory for everything that they have to remember in practical life.
And the same system that is useful for professional or business purposes, can also be applied to fun and entertainment.
Let’s start with the “mind reading” act I have just described. The stunt is worked by two persons, one who offers the cards to the spectators and one who divines them. Each has memorized the following simple numerical code. Pay close attention—it’s the key to a lot of card magic.
1 is indicated by the letter t, because the t has one downstroke.
2 by n, because n has two downstrokes.
3 by m, because m has three down-strokes.
4 by r, because the word four has four letters of which r is the fourth; and. besides, r is the emphatic consonant in the word four.
5 by 1, because the Roman capital L means 50.
6 by J. If you turn 6 around, you practically have J.
7 by K. The initial stroke in writing a calligraphic K is similar to a 7.
8 by f. The small hand-written f and the number 8 both have two loops.
9 by p. If you turn 9 around, you have P.
0 by z, because z is the last letter in the alphabet, and the familiar Latin word zero, which means “nought,” begins with z.
You notice that we use only consonants; the vowels have no numerical value, and can be used wherever they are needed.
The entire system is phonetic, which means we follow the sound, and use all the consonants, which have the same or a similar sound, for the same number value; for instance: Hard C (as in car, card, etc.) equals K which is 7 V equals f which is 8. B equals P which is 9.
Soft C (as in ceiling, certain, etc.) equals z which is 0.
Furthermore, we give each suit a certain number, such as Clubs—1. Diamonds—2. Hearts—3. Spades—4.
Fine. Now a card is picked. One partner glances at it and asks the other—-who is far away—to name it. The secret lies in the simple, apparently inconsequential words or phrases he uses in asking the question. You see, both of you have agreed that the first consonant in the first word spoken by the partner giving out the card indicates the suit, while the first consonant in the second word refers to the value of the card. Ace is best considered as one, and the ten as zero.
Suppose one partner calls out: “Now, let’s try to guess this card.” The first word “now” starts with an n—you know that n indicates 2 or diamonds. The second word “let’s” starts with an I, indicating 5—hence the card chosen must be the Diamond 5 or the 5 of Diamonds.
Suppose the question is: “Read this one, can you?” The r in the word “read” is 4, the t in the word “this” is 1. You know 4 equals Spades and 1 is the Ace, thus the card is the Ace of Spades.
One more example: “Try just one more card.” The t is 1, the j is 6. Therefore, the card is the Clubs 6.
What about face cards? In formulating the code, just add 5 to the suit number. That gives us the following suit values for face cards: Clubs—6 Diamonds—7 Hearts—8 Spades—9 The face cards themselves may be valued like this: Jacks are 2, Queens are 3, and Kings are 4.
So if the question is: “Concentrate now on this card,” the c (sounding like k) is 7 and the n is 2. The 7 is Diamonds for face cards and the 2 represents a Jack; therefore it is the Jack of Diamonds.
Another example: “Please read this card” means 9-4, or the King of Spades.
Just a little practice with a partner will bring the words and numbers sharply into focus, and you will be amazed how rapidly you will be able to code and decode the cards.
You can pretty well rest on your laurels with just this one trick. I can assure you that my students who have mastered it have flabbergasted gatherings of prominent men and women who spent hours vainly attempting to trip them up and solve the stunt.
But there are plenty of others with which you can pad out your repertoire. Remember the “Mr. Wizard” puzzler? It’s an old trick, and goes like this: You announce at a party that a fabulous wizard has just arrived in town from India. He’s a famous conjurer gifted with the power of reading minds over the telephone. To prove it, you ask someone to select a card, then dial Mr. Wizard’s number. There, of course, is a confederate. He isn’t planted there—you just agreed with him that each can call the other whenever the opportunity to play the game presents itself.
As soon as you ask, “Is Mr. Wizard there?” he catches on and starts calling off the suits slowly. When he reaches the correct one, you merely say “yes.” Then Mr. Wizard begins counting slowly, from Ace through to King, and you interrupt with “yes” at the right number or picture. Thus Mr. Wizard, the old fraud, now knows the card and you can hand the phone to the doubting Thomas who chose it. He listens and is properly amazed.
The effect is startling, but an even bigger bombshell can be exploded by using the same code as in the “mind reading” act. Try it this way: Tell the person who picked the card to go to the phone himself and call a number you give him. Make it very plain that there will be no contact between you and the wizard, hence no opportunity for skullduggery. The victim asks the Great One if he can read the card he holds in his hand. And the wizard unhesitatingly does!
The secret? Simple. After the card is selected, quickly invent a name for the wizard based on the code. If it’s a 4 of Clubs, the name might be Tom Redding— t for 1, r for 4. The 1, remember, is Club; the 4 is the card’s value. Give your victim the phone number of your partner, and tell him to ask for Tom Redding. The moment the name is uttered, your confederate can immediately translate it into the card.
But caution—don’t try it more than once at any gathering unless you’ve got a few wizards strategically spotted around the community.
You’ve probably seen vaudeville and night club acts in which a swami, blindfolded on the stage, guesses objects shown to an assistant by members of the audience. It’s all done with codes and memory training. Once my wife and I on a vacation trip passed a theater where a phenomenal mind reader was starring. Curious, we went in, and I was astonished to see that the star was one of my former students who had developed memory cultivation into a baffling, and highly lucrative, stage asset.
If you are somewhat more ambitious and not quite satisfied with such simple stunts, you can show your friends that you are able to memorize an entire deck of cards in a short time. How to do it?
Based on the number code, it is easy to construct a Basic List of 99 words. Since only the consonants count, we are at liberty how to insert the vowels. We follow the sequence of the alphabet, which means: a-e-i-o-u-y.
If the insertion of the first vowel (a) leads to a word, we are satisfied; if not, we proceed to the following vowels. For instance, according to the number code, 12 consists of T and N. If we insert the first vowel—a—we find the word Tan, which is satisfactory.
13 consists of T and M. If we insert the first vowel—a—we find the word Tam; since tam is frequently used as an abbreviation for tam-o’-shanter it is satisfactory.
Although we need only 52 words for the playing cards, I am giving you the entire Basic List, because it can be used to remember shopping lists, appointments, schedules, anniversaries, in short, almost everything that we have to remember in every-day life.
Here is the list:
The translation of playing cards into the words of the Basic List is easy. We always use the suit first. Thus Clubs 2 becomes 12 or Tan. Diamonds 7 becomes 27 or Neck. Before you proceed make sure that you know the Basic List, and that you are quick in translating the cards. The ace is translated as 1, and the 10 as zero, which means Ace of Diamonds equals Net, and 10 of Hearts equals Mass. Then ask somebody to shuffle a deck at random and call the cards out one by one; ask him to call them slowly, since you must have time enough to translate each card into the proper word of the Basic List. Construct a little story while you go along, using these words in the same sequence as your friend calls out the cards. Example: the first 5 cards which he calls may be: 2 of Hearts, which you translate into 32— or Man King of Diamonds, or Car Ace of Diamonds, or Net 8 of Spades, or Reef 5 of Clubs, or Tale While he proceeds you form a story of your own, which could run like this: A man takes his car out to go fishing; he takes his net, fishes from a reef, and tells us a tale, about his good luck.
It takes some imagination to construct such a story rapidly, but a little training works wonders. My advice is to try it first alone, and with not more than ten to fifteen cards, then with 20 and 30, and only when you can do it with 30 without making a mistake, proceed to 40 cards, and then to the entire deck. It is useful to stop after 10 or 12 cards and to make sure that you can repeat that part of the story. The vast majority of my students master this experiment with the entire deck after a short time. Needless to say that it can be combined with the mind-reading stunt in a startling way. If somebody draws a card and I have memorized the deck, all I have to do is to look at the preceding card, and I can ask my partner the proper question without so much as glancing at the card which has been drawn. Knowing the preceding card enables me to know the following card, which must be the card which has been drawn. I don’t have to see it.
Another exercise which is easier to perform and still looks like black magic to the unitiated, uses the Basic List in order to find the “missing cards,” or the “fourth hand” in a bridge deck.
You ask for four volunteers at your party, and have them seated around a card table. Give them a bridge deck, let them shuffle and distribute the cards among themselves. Each one receives 13 cards. Then three of them will slowly call out their cards. The moment they have finished you will be able to reel off the 13 cards which the fourth volunteer is holding; mind you, the one who did not read his hand. Sounds like magic, doesn’t it?
All it needs is the application of the Basic List in connection with proper associations. This time it is not even necessary to form a story; all you have to do is to form a quick mental picture with yourself in connection with the Basic List word for every card which has been called. Afterwards you run mentally through the words of the Basic List, from 10 to 49, and the 12 numbers for the picture cards. You will find immediately the words for which you have not formed an association. These are the cards in the hands of the fourth player.
Let me give you an example just for one suit -(clubs). Suppose I call out: 6 of Clubs (Tissue). Imagine yourself wiping your forehead with tissue paper.
Ace of Clubs (Tot). Imagine yourself walking with a little tot.
9 of Clubs (Tap).
2 of Clubs (Tan).
Jack of Clubs (Chain)
10 of Clubs (Toes).
4 of Clubs (Tar).
King of Clubs (Chair).
8 of Clubs (Taffy).
Then you run mentally through the Basic List from 10 to 19—the number cards for Clubs—and from 62 to 64—the picture cards for Clubs.
Ask yourself: Did I form an association with Toes? (yes)—with Tot? (yes)—with Tan? (yes)—with Tam? (no)—with Tar? (yes)—with Tale? (no)—with Tissue? (yes) —with Tack? (no)—with Taffy? (yes) — with Tap? (yes)—with Chain? (yes)—with Chime? (no)—with Chair? (yes).
This way you find immediately that you have no associations for Tam—Tale—Tack— Chime—which means missing are 3-5-7 and Queen of Clubs.
Of course, this example covers only one suit while the correct procedure comprises the entire deck with all four suits distributed indiscriminately among the four participants. However, the system that you apply remains the same.
Again some advice: Try it at first without the picture cards, which leaves you 40 number cards; eliminate 10 of them and look slowly through the balance of 30 cards. Form your association with each card, and then run mentally through the Basic List, the way I described it before. I am sure you will find immediately which words—and therefore which cards—are missing.
You must realize that our memory works like a muscle, and must be trained like a muscle, if we expect it to work properly, even at a higher age.
In my classes at Steinway Hall, New York, I have seen innumerable self-admitted memory duds of both sexes not only flip through a deck of cards in an incredibly short time, but they increased the efficiency of their memory in general to a degree which seemed unbelievable before they started this course. The headquarters of my correspondence course division at 365 West End Avenue, New York City, receive numerous letters almost every day, saying in effect: “I can always become the life of the party whenever I so desire, and my memory, which used to work like a sieve, became so reliable that I can trust it at any time and with regard to the most difficult subject material.”
(Editor’s Note: Word 22 on Basic List should be “noon” not “moon”)