Field Report: Beginner's Magic

"I want to learn magic!" she says. Which usually means, "I would like to immediately have the knowledge and skill to do the cool, fun stuff you've shown me after you've practiced magic 20+ years. What I don't want to do is have to trudge my way through the dull, boring things and practice to actually learn this stuff."

It was my girlfriend, Lynn's, birthday and since she had shown an interest in learning magic I had planned this moment for her.

She opens up one of her presents and it's a beginner's magic book. "That one looks pretty good," I say. "It comes with a DVD which will probably make things easier to learn."

Later that evening we are laying together, flipping through the book. "Oh, that's a good trick," I say. "Let me try it for you."

I ask her to pick a card. She slides out one card, the ace of diamonds, and slides it back into the deck. I ask her to shuffle the deck. She hands it back to me. "Now watch this," I say. I cut the cards numerous times, each time reciting a letter to go along with the cut. "H-A-P-P-Y-B-I-R-T-H-D-A-Y. Now, you had a free choice of any card in the deck, and you shuffled it back into the deck, correct? All I did was spell "Happy Birthday" and we landed on one card, your card, the four of spades," I say, flipping the card over. 

"That wasn't it," she says.

"Ok... Oh, it's the one after the last letter. Sorry. Your card... the eight of spades?"

"No," she says.

I fan through the cards. "Huh.... well... whatever, when you learn the trick you'll have to show it to me because I guess I forgot it." We turn on the tv and watch for a few moments.

"Sorry," I say, "this is driving me crazy." I flip through the magic book and start reading and say under my breath, "But that's exactly what I did." I pause a moment. "Would it be okay if I watched the explanation off the DVD? If I don't it's going to bug me all night." She says that of course it's okay and I take the DVD and pop it into my laptop. I cue it up to the right segment and start watching the explanation with her.

The magician/author on the screen says, "At this point the selected card should be seventh from the top." He executes a series of cuts and says, "And that will bring their selection to the top of the deck. In this case, the king of clubs."

"Of course, the king of clubs wasn't your selection, was it Lynn?" the guy on the DVD asks my girlfriend. 

"Oh my god," she says.

"No," the magician says, "I think this was your card." He gives the King a flick and it turns into the Ace of Diamonds. "Happy Birthday, Lynn."

She sets the laptop aside and climbs on top of me and grabs my collar in mock anger. "I knew it!" she says. 

"Knew what?" I ask. "That the author of that magic book would make a special video for you where he changed a card into the card you freely picked earlier?"

She sighs. "No... I didn't know that. I just knew something was up. You wouldn't mess up my birthday trick."

"Good point," I say.

She leans down so our noses almost touch. "Tell me," she growls.

"Tell you what?"

"How he knew my card!" she whimpers.

"Oh," I say, "it's in the book."

It wasn't in the book. It was a one-way force deck with some indifferent cards thrown is as convincers. But I knew it would get her to read the book more carefully.

How did I do it?

Well, the first thing you need to do is write a somewhat popular magic blog and garner a few fans, one of whom should be a latent beginner's magic book author who is a good enough guy to be generous with his time for someone he doesn't know. This guy should be a Joshua Jay type. For me it was, in fact, Joshua Jay.

Then, five years after you shut down your blog you should email this guy and say, "Hey, I plan on getting my girlfriend one of your books for her birthday. Would you mind shooting a video and emailing me the file so I can use it as part of the gift?" Once you get the file you just have it on your computer and act like you're playing the DVD, but really you're just firing up the file that was sent to you. Presto.