Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Engel's Quadruple Coincidence

The other day my friend Shiv Duggal mentioned he’d read a really excellent trick in Hugard’s Magic Monthly. It was a You Do As I Do trick and had a nice moment of bluff in which the performer appeared to randomly cut the same number of cards from the deck as the spectator. It reminded him of the improvised work of contemporary performers like Dani DaOrtiz.

The trick was George C. Engel’s Quadruple Coincidence and you’ll find it in the May 1949 issue of Hugard’s Magic Monthly. The moment I read it I recognised the trick as something I’d seen many years ago in Scarne on Card Tricks (1950). There the trick is also called Quadruple Coincidence and was said to be a favourite of George Starke. Starke wrote the instructions for a number of Scarne’s marketed effects and also for the Stars of Magic series of which John Scarne was the first contributor.

Scarne on Card Tricks makes no mention of George Engel who said he’d been performing the routine for more than seven years when he published it. I did a little searching around and found a reference to Engel performing a trick that sounds very much like the one published in Hugard’s Magic Monthly.  It was a local SAM report written by Harris A. Solomon and published in The Sphinx (April, 1949).

George Engel, who is a perfectionist in his close up work, has a “doozee” of a “you do as I do” effect. He will gladly teach it to you, but a nickel will get you a dime if your version looks like his.

In December 2001, in a Dai Vernon issue of Genii, Vernon’s version of the trick was published and again credit was given to the Scarne book not Engel. Vernon’s trick was titled Triple Coincidence but the effect is exactly the same. He employs the set up described in the Scarne book but his addition, keeping all the revelations to the end of the trick, is the same as Engel originally described.

The version in Scarne on Card Tricks does use a more easily managed set up involving only two key cards instead of three. And it might be that is the reason Engel’s version and credit has been overlooked.  On the other hand the Engels’ handling might be more suited to a totally impromptu performance because the key cards are memorised on the fly.

Still, we shouldn’t forget George C. Engel’s original handling which is why I’ve described the working here. You can find the complete write up in Hugard’s Magic Monthly. You need two decks of cards, one red and one blue. I’ve added a little to the original description so that everything is clear but other than that the trick is all Engel’s.

Procedure and Presentation: ‘At the card table last night, with a group just like this, I had a very strange experience. I can’t quite understand it. So I would like to set up the same circumstances and see it if happens again. Would you mind shuffling these cards?’

Hand the red deck to one spectator and the blue deck to another.

‘I will spread one deck face-downwards on the table and have you do the same with the other.’

Take back the decks and in handing one to a spectator opposite to you glimpse the bottom card and remember it as your key card. Spread your deck in a long line, face-down, on the table and have the spectator do the same with his deck.

‘Watch me very closely. I am going to run my right index finger along my cards until I feel an impulse to stop. I will remove the card at that point, look at it, remember it and then place it face-down on the top of my pack. I want you to do exactly the same. You understand? Very well. Let’s go.’

Move your finger along the line of cards, stop at any card at random, pick it up and pretend to memorise it. In reality, take no notice of it. Place the card face-down on the top of your pack. The spectator does the same but, of course, notes and remembers his card. Carefully square up your cards and ask the spectator to do the same with his.

‘Now, will you cut your deck and complete the cut while I do the same with mine.’ The decks are cut and the cuts completed. This places the spectator’s card below your memorised key.

‘I shall give you my deck asking you to look through it. Take out the duplicate of the card you chose and place it face-down on the table in front of you. I will take your deck and do the same thing with my card.’

While giving the spectator these instructions casually glimpse the top and bottom cards of your deck*. Let’s say they are the Five of Diamonds and Queen of Clubs.

Exchange packs with him and immediately run through his deck, place the Five of Diamonds on the top and the Queen of Clubs on the bottom. Then find your key card. The card below will be the spectator’s card. Take it out and place it face-down on the table. The spectator, meantime, has found the duplicate of his card and placed it on the table.

Turn to the other spectator. ‘Will you cut off about two-thirds of that deck.’ Point to the spectator’s deck, ‘and place the cut on the table between the gentleman’s chosen card and the rest of the deck. I will do the same with this deck’ The cuts are made.

‘Now please count the remainder of the cards face-down on the table like this.’ Pick up the remainder of your cards (the smaller packet) and start dealing them rapidly so that you get well ahead of the spectator. Take no notice of the number of cards you deal. Listen to his count and just before he puts his last card down, announce the total of yours. ‘I have sixteen cards’ you say, actually announcing the number of cards you saw him deal. ‘How many have you?’ Sixteen.’ It seems that the strange thing is working again. But that may be only a coincidence.

‘Let’s go further. My sixteenth card is… the Queen of Clubs.’ Name it as you turn the card over. This card was originally the bottom card on both decks. Leave both cards face-up on top of their packets.

A moment ago we both cut our respective packets. I cut to… the Five of Diamonds,’ you say as you turn the top card of your other packet face-up. ‘Let’s see what card you cut to.’ Grip the sides of your chair and lean forward tensely. ’THE FIVE OF DIAMONDS TOO! I don’t quite believe it.’

‘Here is the final test. A moment ago we each chose a card at random from a face-down, thoroughly shuffled deck. I chose the Ten of Spades.’ Turn your card face-up.

‘Would you mind showing what card you chose. Don’t tell me that it was the Ten of Spades!’ Shake your head, frowning. ‘I still don’t understand it. How can such amazing things happen?’

Leave the three pairs of identical cards face-up on the table for the moment and for all to see.

*NOTE When Engel says, ‘While giving the spectator these instructions casually glimpse the top and bottom cards of your deck,’ I think he means you demonstrate what you want him to do by raising the deck and spreading it towards you as if looking for your selection. That makes it easy to note the top and bottom cards. Square the deck and then hand it to the spectator as you take his.

After having selected a card and cut it into the deck you could add two more cuts to lose it if you think it adds to the mystery, the spectator following along. I recommend an even number of additional cuts, two is fine, to maximise the chances of the selection remaining in the centre of the deck.