Conjuring Credits

The Origins of Wonder

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Buckle Count

The first published description of the Buckle Count is believed to be within the context of a routine titled “Solo Flight Aces” in Hugard and Braue's Expert Card Technique, 1940, p. 255. This routine combines Stanley Collins's Ace Vanish with a second sequence using the Buckle Count, credited to Dai Vernon. Nine years later, the Buckle Count was described in another Vernon trick, “Mental Card Miracle”, in Stars of Magic, Series 5 No. 3, 1949. The Buckle Count was also credited to Vernon by Lewis Ganson in Dai Vernon's More Inner Secrets of Card Magic, 1960, p. 86, where it is stated that Vernon devised it over thirty years earlier. Vernon also told a number of cardmen, including Edward Marlo, that the Buckle Count was his invention. Curiously, ten years after the Ganson book was published, Vernon contradicted all this. In Dai Vernon's Expanded Lecture Notes, 1970, p. 8, the Buckle Count is referred to as the “Six Card Repeat Count” and is credited to John Booth. However, Booth explained in correspondence with Stephen Minch that he used a Push-off, not a buckling action, for his Six-Card Repeat Count. This information is detailed in The Vernon Chronicles, Vol 2, 1988, p. 23. When Vernon was asked, during the taping of the Revelations videos, 1982, who invented the Buckle Count, he said he thought it was Elmer Biddle, which is almost surely not correct. At that time, Vernon was around eighty-eight years old and his memory, although admirable, was probably muddled on this point. On other occasions, later in the 1980s, when asked the same question, he simply could not remember.

After reading the above information, Max Maven wrote on December 4, 2018: “When the Buckle Count came up in my discussions with the Professor, he did not lay claim to it. Rather, he made it sound like something that made the rounds among the 'inner circle' back in the 1930s—one of those ideas that was the subject of sessioning, without specific knowledge of a source.”

Bart Whaley, in Encyclopedic Dictionary of Magic, 1989, p. 140 of the third edition, states that Charlie Miller wrote in the 1930s that he had been taught the Buckle Count by A. J. Cantu. Whaley gives no source for this information. It was likely drawn from correspondence by Miller. In Frank Csuri's 1961 unpublished manuscript The Magic of Charles Earle Miller, there is a letter from Miller to Faucett W. Ross (undated, but Csuri says it was written before WWII) in which Miller describes the Buckle Count, taught to him by Cantu (see p. 46). He introduces the description with: “Cantu showed this to me a few seasons ago and I don't know where he got it. Maybe it's his.” In a letter closely following this in the Csuri manuscript, Miller writes: “Move as exactly same as Maldo's false count in 6 card trick”; see p. 48. From this it would appear that Miller slipped in one letter or the other, confusing the two Mexican magicians, Señor Maldo and Cantu.

Given the confusion and contradictions summarized above, until further information surfaces, it seems reasonable to leave the originator of the Buckle Count as uncertain. The Block Push-off and Pull-Down sewed the soil for the Buckle Count, and its invention may that been harvested by more than one magician, and the sleight then circulated. The time was ripe for the idea to appear.

For another recounting of the history of this sleight, see Jon Racherbaumer's essay, “What about the Buckle Count?”, in the April 1992 issue of The Olram File, Vol. 1 No. 11, np.

Also see Buckle