Conjuring Credits

The Origins of Wonder

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Card Location by Compass

In Guyot's Nouvelles récréations mathématiques, Vol. 1, 1769, p. 34 (first ed.), a small table is described, its top consisting of a compass hand suspended on a spindle over a disk bearing various numbers. The disk can be rotated to bring a particular number to the north. The spectators are not told the hand is magnetized. When it is spun, it naturally points north—and to the desired number—when it stops. This number has previously been forced using a Change Bag.

In an untitled notebook from c. 1800, a trick is described where a compass hand stops on a chosen card in a circle. The method is a subtle bend in the support pin, which causes the needle to settle by gravity in a predetermined direction. Will Houstoun transcribed the manuscript and published it as The Notebook, 2009, p. 21.

These two tricks are precursors of the better known “The Hand of Cleopatra,” 1980, marketed by Zauber Zentrale Muchen and later by Ken Brooke.