Conjuring Credits

The Origins of Wonder

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Four Ace Location by Spectator

The general effect dates back to the 19th century. Classic forcing four of a kind on a single spectator, one card at a time, was described in R. P.'s Ein Spiel Karten, 1853, p. 58 of the Pieper translation. Johann Hofzinser was also sowing seeds in similar fields around that time. He would begin his trick, “The Four Eights”, by classic forcing the four Eights on four spectators. See Kartenkünste, 1910, p. 33 of the Sharpe translation. In “The Power of Faith” (ibid. p. 69), Hofzinser accomplished the same effect by switching three of the selections out with a packet top change.

William Larsen, Jr. approached the effect by palming the four Aces, spreading the deck for four selections, and then performing a four-for-four palm change. This was published in The Sphinx, Vol. 20 No. 5, July 1921, p. 173.

Louis Lam described the idea of a spectator making four piles to find the Aces. It was an inversion of the now-common cutting sequence, with the spectator dealing any number of cards he desires into four piles and finding an Ace at the bottom of each. This was published in “Would You Believe It?” 1935, p. 5.

David Michael Evans points out that Audley Walsh included the idea of a spectator choosing the four Aces as one phase of “The Audley Walsh Coincidence”, in The Jinx, No. 21, June 1936, p. 122.

The best-known progenitor of the plot has a spectator cutting the deck into four piles, and then ducking three cards, followed by dealing three, with each pile, after which he finds the Aces on top of the piles. This is Steve Belchou's, and was described by Oscar Weigle in his “Themes and Schemes” column in Dragon, Vol. 8 No. 6, June 1939, p. 7. It was given no title. However, in the previous issue (May 1939) the same trick was run, using four selections in place of the Aces, under the title “The Million to One Trick” by Steve “Belchan”. In the following October 1939 issue, editor Vernon Lux apologized for this editorial lapse and for misspelling Belchou's name.

It is possible an earlier Ace location by Frederick Moorhouse may have been Belchou's inspiration. Moorhouse's “The Return of the Aces” was published three months before Belchou's, in Goldston's Magical Quarterly, Vol. 5 No. 2, Mar. 1939, p. 407. Moorhouse's method for distributing the Aces from the top of the deck to four piles cut by a spectator is more obvious than Belchou's, but the effects and procedures bear more than a passing resemblance. Moorhouse introduced his trick by saying he had “worked it with definite success for some 20 years.”