Conjuring Credits

The Origins of Wonder

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Knife Force with Deck

The basis for the card force in which a spectator inserts a card or knife into the end of the deck to choose a card comes from a card-cheating ruse recorded c. 1670-1730, in an anonymously written Italian manuscript called “MSS III, 18” or “the Asti manuscript”; see pp. 108-9 of the Lori Pieper translation in Gibecière, Vol. 8 No. 1, Winter 2013. This description is doubly notable in that the handling uses a heel break.

Stanley Collins's published an influential handling of this force in his Deceptive Conceptions in Magic, 1920, p. 13, using the insertion of a visiting card. Collins held a break below the force card, had the visiting card or a knife inserted below the break, then moved the packet above the break, along with the knife, forward to switch the location of the insertion.The force was later described in other sources using a playing card or a knife (Greater Magic, 1938, p. 194; and Lewis Ganson's Dai Vernon's Inner Secrets of Card Magic, 1959, p. 22).

The variation using a knife may have been inspired by an earlier force by Edwin T. Sachs in Sleight of Hand, 1877, p. 126 [2nd edition], p. 118 [3rd edition], that employed a knife inserted into the end of the deck, but slipped the force card from the bottom of the deck.

A very early form of the force is poorly described in an anonymous notebook written circa 1800, transcribed and published by Will Houstoun as The Notebook, 2009, p. 21. In Item 17, the force card is injogged for more than half its length and bowed downward against the performer's chest, so that it may be concealed by his hand as someone inserts the point of a knife into the outer end of the deck. The bowed force card is somehow repositioned above the point of the knife, but the description of this is difficult to understand: “the head of it [the force card] buried in one end is cautiously inserted by pressing the breast at the opening made by the knife and so lifted & shown as the under Card of the upper parcel.”