Conjuring Credits

The Origins of Wonder

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Riffle Force

A Riffle Force is described in an unpublished notebook c. 1800. Will Houstoun transcribed, annotated and published this work as The Notebook, 2009, p. 35. The anonymous author mentions this force was used by Philip Breslaw. (Unsurprisingly, it does not appear in Breslaw's Last Legacy, 1784, a hack work that recirculated previously published material.) In this handling, a long card is placed above the card to be forced. The outer end of the deck is “ruffled” and the ruffling stopped at the long card. It and those cards above are raised and the top card of the lower portion offered. The author's phrasing suggests he may be guessing at Breslaw's method, in which case a break might also have been possible. However, the long card is a likely tool for the time. Were it not for the odd phrase, “opening them like a book so as you could insert your fore finger and pull out a Card”, the rest of the description, which repeats the phrasing “raising and dropping the Cards” elsewhere would leave open the possibility that a Dribble Force is being described.

In the early 1900s, one source, a magician with the initials T. H. P. L., replaced the long card with a stepped pack. His approach involved a timed riffle force with the upper packet stepped forward a quarter of an inch; see The Sphinx, Vol. 3 No. 8, Oct. 1904, p. 100. In an apparent editorial slip, the same handling was later described by E. M. Morey as “A New Card Force” in the same magazine, Vol. 6 No. 6, Aug. 1907, p. 67.

The Riffle Force in its now popular form, using a little finger break and stopping the riffling where the spectator likes before simply cutting at the break, seems first to have been described in Theodore Annemann's The Jinx, Winter Extra 1938/39, p. 369. The force is used in the context of a Multiple Location Routine by Annemann and he writes while referring to this force: “Out of five locations I claim only two as being out of the beaten path.” This handling of the Riffle Force became more popular with the publication in Jean Hugard's More Card Manipulations, Series 4, 1941, p. 11.