Conjuring Credits

The Origins of Wonder

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Spread Cull

Published descriptions of the Fan or Spread Force remained relatively stagnant over three hundred years, but off the printed page, performers began innovating new applications of the underlying principle in the 1800s. In an unpublished notebook, c. 1800, n.p. (later transcribed by Will Houstoun and released as The Notebook, 2009, p. 19), the anonymous author describes the first “culling” handling of the force, whereby the bottom card is pulled clear of the spread to slide freely beneath the cards above. In the mid-1800s, Johann Hofzinser pushed the idea in other directions. He seems to have been the first to recognize that the principle of sliding the bottom card beneath a spread could be applied to cards lying elsewhere in the deck. This turned the concept into a card control, in which a card is culled from the center of a spread rather repositioned from the bottom. Hofzinser's innovations weren't published until Ottokar Fischer's Kartenkünste, 1910, p. 25 of the Sharpe translation. Right on the heels of Hofzinser's work being released in German, Jean Hugard described the technique in English as a pass substitute in The Magic Mirror, Vol. 3 No. 9, Sep. 1911, p. 69, where he mentions having used the move for “a number of years.”

From the 1930s onward, the spread cull gained momentum. The Fischer book was translated into English in 1931, and Jean Hugard and Frederick Braue described a multi-card over-the-spread cull in Expert Card Technique, 1940, p. 129. In the 1960s, Edward Marlo began publishing a variety of approaches and variants of spread culling; most notably his Prayer Cull in The New Tops, Vol. 6 No. 6, June 1966, p. 28.

Some magicians found more subtle uses for the spread cull. For example, Ellis Stanyon didn't use the technique to control a card or force a selection; instead, he used it to place a key card next to the selection as it was replaced in the spread. He published the idea in Magic, Vol. 4 No. 2, Nov. 1903, p. 20.

For a further summation of the history and credits for card culling techniques, see Racherbaumer's “The Call to Cull” in Antinomy, No. 11, 3rd quarter 2007, p. 4; and also Convincing Control.