Conjuring Credits

The Origins of Wonder

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Mahatma Pass Substitute

This is a shuffle control, in which a break is held above the returned selection, and the performer picks up everything above the break and overhand shuffles those cards beneath the lower packet, leaving the selection on top. This control appeared in Mahatma, Vol. 5 No. 2, Aug. 1901, p. 495, in an article by Hal Merton (stage name of Walter G. Peterkin) titled “Three New Passes.” Merton makes the odd opening statement, “In presenting to your readers the three passes with a pack of cards as illustrated below, I claim without fear of contradiction, that the first two are of my own invention, and that all three are absolutely new to the profession and have not before appeared in print.” The third “pass” is the shuffle. This shuffle is also described in Farelli's Card Magic, Part One, 1933, p. 32, where he acknowledges the source as Mahatma.

David Devant claims a similar “false shuffle” in Secrets of My Magic, 1936, p. 29. Others have identified it as the “Mahatma shuffle,” but Devant's shuffle is a related but different procedure. He writes: “I receive back the card on the lower half, bring the top half to it, and keeping the two separated by the little finger of the left hand, leave it thus for a few seconds, then separate again by commencing to 'false shuffle.' To do this I naturally take the top half. This leaves the chosen card on the top and I continue to 'false shuffle' by slipping the chosen card each time I transfer cards from the back to the front of the pack.” Devant is describing what appears to be a series of cuts meant to resemble an overhand shuffle. First he cuts to the break and throws the full packet under the other one. This brings the selection to the top of the deck. He follows this cut with several slip cuts, during which the fingertips hold back the selection as he cuts a top packet from the deck and throws it beneath the rest. This slip-cut is performed with the deck held on edge, in overhand shuffle position, and is repeated several times.