Magic spelling tricks have a special appeal to those of us with a passion for recreational linguistics and mathematics. Provided of course that they are well done. This means that the mathematics should be subtle (sometimes the performer does not even fathom it) and the denouement should be dazzling. In a recent letter to us Martin Gardner indicated his top two choices. He was commenting on his Word Ways article "An Amazing Spelling Trick." (Ref. 1)
I've written a history of this trick, which has had upteen variations, in a long, as yet unpublished article, titled "The World's Second Best Spelling Trick." It is the best presentation of dozens of different versions that have appeared in magic journals over the past decade or so.
In the same letter Gardner adds: "The best is a nine-card trick invented by California magician Jim Steinmeyer." Steinmeyer's effect was written up in Gardner's August 2009 Word Ways article "Word Magic" (Ref. 2). Both of Gardner's articles with our extension in the November 2009 Word Ways issue (Ref. 3) will be posted on the website www.wordways.com for interested readers to review.
Jim Steinmeyer's's remarkable career began years ago in Chicago when he became a member of the Junior Magician's Club at the late Jay Marshall's Magic Inc. He later became a prolific inventor and author and has developed tricks for Doug Henning, Orsen Welles and David Copperfield. He is responsible for Copperfield's vanishing Statue of Liberty trick for instance. His website is www.jimsteinmeyer.com.
Inspired by several of Steinmeyer's books (see References) we have devised our own spelling trick which we present as:
A MAGIC SPELL
EFFECT: From an ordinary deck of cards the magician hands a portion of the stack to the spectator.
MAGICIAN: "Please shuffle and mix these cards as much as you please. While you are doing that, I am going to write a prediction on this slip of paper."
The magician places the prediction slip on the table and anchors it with the remaining deck of cards. The spectator completes his shuffling. The magician takes the packet of mixed cards.
MAGI: "I want this packet to have the cards face up like so, Now I want you to think of any single coin."
SPECTATOR: "Does it have to be an American coin?"
MAGI: "I suppose not. Any coin you can spell will do -- and you don't need to tell me what it is."
The magician hands the face-up packet to the spectator.
MAGI: "We are now going to use your freely selected word in a repeated spelling effect. Spell your word and for each letter, place the current top card on the bottom of the packet. After you complete spelling your word turn the very next card over and place it on the bottom of the packet. Got it?"
SPECTATOR: ":Yes that seems easy enough. There I've done it."
MAGI: "OK, I want you to do the same thing again and again and again until I tell you to stop. As you are spelling and run into a face-down card, treat it as any other card and spell it to the bottom."
The Spectator continues the process until the magician interrupts.
MAGI: "Stop now and spread the packet out. Notice there is exactly one face-up card. Recall that you shuffled the packet, you chose a random coin, and before all of this I had written a prediction. Please read my prediction now."
Amazingly the prediction has matched the Spectator's last card up!
METHOD: Give the Spectator exactly 12 indifferent cards. As you begin to write your prediction, secretly palm, face-up, any card. This card will be your prediction.
When you take back the packet after the Spectator shuffles, place your selected card at the bottom of his face-up packet. There will now be 13 cards in the packet. …