The Origins of Wonder
Ottokar Fischer published the routine “Der gefesselte Wunsch” in the German magazine Magie, 1926, p. 81. It was included as an installment of an ongoing series called Blütenlese im magischen Garten, which was enclosed with the main issues. (The complete series was published as a book in 1931.) In that routine, two selections are chosen from a deck of thirty-two cards. Several heaps are made with the rest and the selection and piles eventually gathered. The performer deals the deck into two piles. One is chosen and the deal repeated until only two cards remain - the selections.
While no creator was given, the routine was published under the same title in Ottokar Fischer's Das Wunderbuch der Zauberkunst in 1929, p. 124. In the introductory comment, Fischer claims the effect. He repeats his claim to the effect in a letter to Victor Farelli, which Farelli published in his handling of this effect in a later printing of Lend Me Your Pack, 1936, p. 44: “Shortly after the publication of the first edition of this book. I received a letter from Mr. Ottokar Fischer—the famous Austrian authority on Magic—in which he informs me that he is the originator of the little-known mathematical principle above described.”
Other early publications include R. M. Jamison's “Elimination” in The Sphinx, Vol. 34 No. 3, May 1935, p. 71 and Stewart Judah's “Spectator's Choice” in The Jinx, No. 17, Feb. 1936, p. 92. Those handlings as well as Farelli's use the same procedure as Fischer, including the fact that only thirty-two cards are used for the effect. That is a further indication that the effect came from Europe, where that deck size is much more common.
The effect as it is most often seen today, with fifty-two cards and a more direct control, was contributed as “Last Chance” by L. Vosburgh Lyons to The Jinx, No. 54, Mar. 1939, p. 387.
In 1948, the trick was published in Hugard and Braue's The Royal Road to Card Magic, p. 112, and given the name that is now often used for it: “The Tantalizer”. No creator is given.