Conjuring Credits

The Origins of Wonder

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Psychological Card Force by Hesitation

The idea of forcing someone to think of a card by displaying all the cards but one too rapidly to be noted appears in the literature of the late 1800s. One approach is to pause while riffling through the ends of the cards, to display them to the person. Prof. Hoffmann describes this procedure in More Magic, 1890, p. 12, although the card forced is not one predetermined by the magician. It is a random card, which is controlled by a break after the card is forced by a pause. Hoffmann does not mention riffling off the rest of the cards after the hesitation, but this would be an obvious stylistic variation, and is mentioned by Ellis Stanyon in Magic, Vol. 15 No. 5, Feb. 1920, p. 36, No. 15. Holding a break below a particular card and hesitating at the break is another inevitable development, and has become the standard handling.

Other means than a break for marking the spot to pause at have been suggested: a thick card (Stanyon's Magic, Vol. 12 No. 12, Sep. 1912, p. 94, No. 31), an injogged card (“The Prodigious Card” in Eddie Joseph's Greater Card Tricks, 1942, p. 57) and a short card.

Another application of forcing by hesitation is to form a break beneath the card you wish to force, then hold up the deck with the faces of the cards toward a spectator and spread them rapidly from hand to hand, pausing when you reach the force card, just long enough for it to be recognized; see Stanyon's 1920 article cited above, No. 16.