How is this card trick done?
May 8, 2006 7:45 PM   Subscribe

How is this card trick done? It freaked me out.

A standard deck of cards was shown to me and the Queen & Jack of Hearts were taken out. I held them together (one on top of the other), both face down, between my fingers after inspecting them. The trickster asked me to rub the cards together and then flip them over face up. I did this and they had turned into the 6 and 9 of Clubs. No one touched the cards except me during these 5 seconds. What the?

I think it has something to do with the cards themselves as I asked if I could use the Queen & Jack of Spades and the trickster insisted on using the suit of Hearts.
posted by meerkatty to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (68 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
 
The Q&J were swapped with the 6&9 before it was given to you to hold. At no point did you ever touch the Qh&Jh.

It has nothing to do with the suits - that's just a red herring tossed out to keep you guessing.
posted by unixrat at 7:48 PM on May 8, 2006


I saw that the cards were the Queen and Jack of Hearts when they were in my hands. Turned them over, inspected them, rubbed them, and 5 seconds later they were the 6 and 9 of Clubs.
posted by meerkatty at 7:50 PM on May 8, 2006


I'm pretty sure I saw this on one of the David Blaine specials where he was walked around doing tricks for people on the street. Not that I know how it's done, but it may point you in the right direction. I vaguely remember thinking it was slight of hand combined with distraction.
posted by loquax at 8:02 PM on May 8, 2006


It was magic, dude.

I'm seriously curious how they did it, though. I'll be perched on this thread like a deranged owl.
posted by evariste at 8:02 PM on May 8, 2006


I promise you they weren't.

At some point between the time you last saw the front of the cards and where you rubbed them together, the magician swapped them out on you.

Kudos to the Mystery Magician, he/she sounds quite good.
posted by unixrat at 8:03 PM on May 8, 2006


I'm with unixrat. I mean, think about it. There are basically two possibilities: The cards changed while only you were touching them, or they changed before that. I suppose it is technically possible that the cards were some kind of very special card that actually changes somehow, but that seems highly unlikely, not to mention extremely expensive.

It seems much more likely that the trickster switched the cards before he took his hand away. A good stage magician can perform a switch like that very quickly, and with only a very small amount of misdirection.
posted by cerebus19 at 8:27 PM on May 8, 2006


It's called 2 card monte. You can learn it for 17 bucks here. Look hard enough and you'll find the answer online.
posted by whatisish at 8:43 PM on May 8, 2006


unixrat is correct and so is loquax (it was on david blaine).

not sure exactly how your magician did something very similiar. Blaine did it by holding 2 cards at the same time as one card and turning that "one card" over from the face down deck. He then shows you, say, Queen of hearts. But when he turned the card, both cards remember, back over on top of the deck, what he is doing is dropping the Queen of hearts and handing you the other card.

easier to show than explain i suppose.
posted by freudianslipper at 8:44 PM on May 8, 2006


oops! messed up my answer....should be:

"not sure exactly how your magician did it but Blaine did something very similiar."
posted by freudianslipper at 8:45 PM on May 8, 2006


As I learned not that long ago to my surprise and disappointment, one should never post to the green asking how a magic trick is done.

People will patronise you.

People will not read the original post.

People will refer breezily to similar tricks which differ in some significant detail so that they aren't actually relevant.

I never got an answer to my question at all.

This is interesting:

I suppose it is technically possible that the cards were some kind of very special card that actually changes somehow, but that seems highly unlikely, not to mention extremely expensive.

because that may very well be a perfectly good explanation. To quote grumblebee from my thread:

Another obstacle to figuring out tricks is the people tend to refuse to believe that magicians will go to great trouble. [snip] Think, "what's the WAY it could be done?" If it could only be done with three weeks of setup and thousands of dollars worth of equipment, then that's how it was done.
posted by AmbroseChapel at 9:07 PM on May 8, 2006


Watch the movie at whatisish's link, and you'll see that the trickster turns over the top of the deck in his hand to show a queen, then turns it back over, deals off the top card, and puts it between your fingers.

He turns over the top of the deck to show you another queen, and turns it back over, and again puts the top card between your fingers. But this time when he turned over the top of the deck, he was turning over more than one card, and the card he put between your fingers is not the queen he showed you.

Then he pulls the first card back out from your fingers to show it to you, and while keeping your eyes and your brain busy by talking about what he's doing, or about something that seems barely related, he takes it back to the deck in a casual motion. And then brings it back from the deck and tucks it back with the other one between your fingers.

Because you don't notice the queen go back to the deck, you're sure that it's the card he puts back between your fingers. And because the slightly weird mechanism of flipping the top of the deck, and flipping it back, and taking the top card and pushing it between your pinched fingers was the same twice, you're sure that the other card you're pinching was second one you saw.

But it never was, and neither's the other.
posted by nicwolff at 9:08 PM on May 8, 2006


nicwolf is right on. In your example, the cards would be originally stacked K, 6, 9, Q. He gives you the K, does a triple lift twice (to show you the Q and then hide it again). Then he trades you the 6 for the K and stealthily switches the K for the 9. At the end of the trick, your cards are on the top of the deck... but are quickly buried in the middle at your astonishment.
posted by whatisish at 9:20 PM on May 8, 2006


meerkatty's comment that:
"I saw that the cards were the Queen and Jack of Hearts when they were in my hands. Turned them over, inspected them, rubbed them, and 5 seconds later they were the 6 and 9 of Clubs."

Seems to indicate that the magician gave him the cards then did not touch them again. meerkatty looked at the cards, turned them face against eachother, rubbed and the cards changed. I would guess perhaps some highly sensitive thermal material? Which would have difficulties of course, but... ?
I agree with AmbroseChapel
posted by edgeways at 10:18 PM on May 8, 2006


edgeways, what you're saying doesn't make any sense. The cards could not change. Think of the logistics... getting them to change at the right time in a way that makes them look like real cards in the end without anyone looking at the faces when it happens. It's impossible.

Here's the thing regarding figuring out magic tricks: there IS NO SUCH THING AS MAGIC. It's all an illusion or a sleight of hand or misdirection. ALL of it.

Part of being a good magician is convincing your audience that

a) what they saw "happen" really happened and
b) doing so in such a way that when the person later recalls the event, they do so in a way that makes it even more impossible that it really happened.

There are people above who have explained how this trick works. It is, indeed, how it works. It is far more likely that the OP is misremembering the events than that there were "magical" cards that changed.

I myself have done tricks and then heard people explain what I "did" and in their telling they elaborate in ways that are simply wrong. As the magician, however, I simply let them tell it the way they do as it makes me look better and the trick more impressive. However, there is no such thing as magic.
posted by dobbs at 10:54 PM on May 8, 2006


I agree with dobbs.
If I saw watisish's link as a live person I would be totally fooled. I wouldn't of noticed all the tricky movements of cards that you can see in the video, especially with the magician telling me a distracting story.

The way I would of described the trick would be the way meerkatty has, which would not technically be completely accurate.

The human mind is a funny thing.
posted by phyle at 11:06 PM on May 8, 2006


Another obstacle to figuring out tricks is the people tend to refuse to believe that magicians will go to great trouble. [snip] I suppose it is technically possible that the cards were some kind of very special card that actually changes somehow, but that seems highly unlikely, not to mention extremely expensive.

I've been a magician for over twenty years, and the unbelievable expense part is dead on. I've spent thousands dollars on cards alone. The variety of inks and powders they employ is key to many of these demonstrations. In this case, all I can tell you is that the suit absolutely matters.

...one should never post to the green asking how a magic trick is done.

I also agree with this. In addition to the reasons that AmbroseChapel mentions, magicians will often lie to you outright to protect their livelyhood.
posted by Jeff Howard at 11:14 PM on May 8, 2006


I've had the pleasure of chatting with a longtime professional musician, and he could pull this trick, over and over again, on me. I could not figure out how he was doing it, even after he told me that he was doing a switch. Good magicians understand human behavior to a degree that seems impossible to the uninitiate, and they can take advantage of this knowledge to fool you.

There's not enough information in the original post to describe for sure how this particular trick was done.
posted by ikkyu2 at 12:05 AM on May 9, 2006


Here's the thing regarding figuring out magic tricks: there IS NO SUCH THING AS MAGIC. It's all an illusion or a sleight of hand or misdirection. ALL of it.

I don't normally swear on MeFi but, fucking hell. You patronising dick.

Nobody posts to AskMeFi "how is this card trick done?" and believes it's actually magic.

If they believed it was magic, then they wouldn't need to ask, would they? They would just think "how is it done? Magic, that's how" and go back to answering the emails from Nigeria.

I just can't believe how condescending people are when this subject of "magic" comes up.

Please, please, please, next time someone asks how a trick is done, can we at least start from the assumption that they know that it's an illusion and just want the illusion explained.

meerkatty appears to be claiming that the cards were visible in her hands, didn't leave her hands, and changed without the magician touching them. I think the ball's in her court now. is it possible that's not what happened, meerkatty?
posted by AmbroseChapel at 3:33 AM on May 9, 2006


I just watched the linked video for "2 Card Monte".

Here are the differences:
  1. The trickee never looks at the cards face up
  2. The trickee doesn't hold the cards or move them at all. They're lodged in the tips of her fingers and her hands never move
  3. The cards don't get rubbed together by anyone
That video is a perfect demonstration of ... another trick entirely. Unfortunately it's not the trick under discussion.

The revelation that a magician can show you one card, appear to turn it over and give it to you but actually give you another one is not much of a revelation. meerkatty wouldn't have posted if that's all that happened.
posted by AmbroseChapel at 3:44 AM on May 9, 2006


When you perform magic regularly and for a while, you quickly realize that no one can ever rely on laymen (and sometimes even magicians) to give a proper account of how a routine went.

It's not uncommon to have an old spectator tell you about this trick you did, and you end up wishing you could actually do what he thought he saw. Doesn't have to be a long period like months, either. A lot of magic is built on or enhanced by ways to prevent spectators from reconstructing a trick later, and to influence their perception of what's happening and what happened before.

I've had people recount the exact same "no one touched the cards except me" after I've done the two card monte. That doesn't mean it's the way it was done in this case. The point is, it could have, it could have been a different method, and unless you filmed it and can study what went on in detail, your recollection of the trick can't really be trusted to produce an exact answer.
posted by splice at 4:36 AM on May 9, 2006 [1 favorite]


Alright, to quell the nay-sayers like AmbroseChapel, and to counter Jeff Howard (who simultaneously says he's a magician, and then says magicians will lie to protect their secrets...hint hint)...

The suit does not matter -- could have easily swapped a pair of 2's for the jokers -- and the trick was revealed by nicwolff, and whatisish right below him. And while there is such a thing as a "trick card," I've never seen one that changes appearance, or one that will pass even a casual inspection out of a magician's hands.

To edgeways, who says "the magician gave him the cards then did not touch them again..."

That's what the magician wants you to believe. Through misdirection and other psychological tricks, the magician has completely distracted you from the fact that he did, at some point, either take the cards back, or manipulate them before handing them to you.

The best part, by the way? Even knowing how the trick is done, a good magician will still be able to fool you every time. I watched a magician friend perform a trick that I know inside and out three times in a row, and he got me with it every time.
posted by CrayDrygu at 4:44 AM on May 9, 2006


I'm not a nay-sayer.

I'm objecting to the attitude of some posters, but more to the point, I'm reminding you that the trick you guys say happened to meerkatty is not the trick she says happened to her.

Your explanations rest on an assumption. The trick she describes is not the trick that actually happened. It's a completely different trick altogether. I'm saying that doesn't help.

You can explain anything away by saying "she's mistaken, the magician tricked her into thinking she was holding the cards when she wasn't". That's easy. How about this explanation, she's the magician's accomplice, she's lying to us! Your explanations are just as good and just as helpful.

I don't even have an explanation, but at least I'm not saying "it never happened" and sneering at everyone for thinking it did.
posted by AmbroseChapel at 5:23 AM on May 9, 2006


I wonder if magicians, with their knowledge of deep deception, view people the way that carnies or con men might, after a while.
posted by mecran01 at 5:56 AM on May 9, 2006


A magician once had me pick a card and look at it while holding it face up, then turn it over and I continued to hold it upsidedown. He waved his hands around, I turned it over, and it had changed. I had been holding it the whole time.
I've never been able to figure it out. It freaked me out.
posted by CunningLinguist at 6:01 AM on May 9, 2006


Magician: You now have the Queen and Jack of hearts… say Abracadabra…

AmbroseChapel: I will not say Abracadabra… you are sooo condescending.

Magician: Ok then, just rub the cards together and they will change in your hands – without me touching them.

-----

Your explanations rest on an assumption. The trick she describes is not the trick that actually happened. It's a completely different trick altogether.

You don't know the trick any better than the rest of us. The assumption is that she's not recalling/disclosing all elements of the trick accurately - which is valid. It could, of course, be a variation of the explanation given. Nobody disputes that.
posted by whatisish at 6:15 AM on May 9, 2006


You can explain anything away by saying "she's mistaken, the magician tricked her into thinking she was holding the cards when she wasn't". That's easy.

It's also almost certainly true. AmbroseChapel, I understand that you're upset about the way people dealt with your own question, but this isn't even yours and you're getting so bent out of shape you're not thinking clearly. Surely you acknowledge that a large part of "magic" relies on convincing people they experienced something they did not in fact experience? Magicians are a lot like conmen—in fact, they are conmen, except that their goal is to entertain you (and get paid for it) rather than to steal your life savings. Have you ever been taken by a conman? I have, and it's a very disconcerting experience. At one point I could have sworn I knew exactly what was happening and how it all made sense, but then when I tried to explain it to skeptical friends it stopped making sense, and then I realized "Shit, I've been taken," and it was extremely embarrassing. But it made me realize how a good con artist (or magician) can convince you of just about anything they want to.

Yes, it's possible that what people in the know are describing doesn't apply to what actually happened in meerkatty's case; we can't know without seeing a videotape (probably from a couple of angles). But if you think about it I suspect you'll agree that it's far, far more likely that meerkatty is simply mistaken about what happened. That's what magicians do; that's how magic "works." I'm not being condescending either to you or to her, I'm just pointing out the facts. When people say "there's no such thing as magic," there's no implied "...you dummy!"—it's just a rhetorical reminder that we all need to keep from being dazzled and focus on the probabilities when we think about this stuff.
posted by languagehat at 6:30 AM on May 9, 2006


Or, on non-preview, what whatisish said so concisely.
posted by languagehat at 6:30 AM on May 9, 2006


I'm not going to get into the debate of how this was actually done. I just want to point out that there are a surprising number of security inks available that do a number of things. In particular, the thermochromic ink looks interesting. Bearing that in mind, have a look around. Look at what is being done without professional manufacturing equipment. The deck your trickster used is probably out there but it will have a name we don't know, so we can't find it. None of the decks on Hank Lee's site mention the effect or how it is done (heat, etc.), just what the view from the audience is. That's part of the trade. If they told us, we'd know and they'd be out of business.
posted by jwells at 6:31 AM on May 9, 2006


Yes, I'm quite aware that it wasn't magic....lol. I looked at the video link and that's not it. To clarify:

I inspected the deck and placed it down on the table. I watched him pull out the Queen & Jack of Hearts from the deck. He placed the cards one on top of the other, faces down and handed them to me.

From this point on, he is across a table from me, at least 5 feet and no one comes near me and the cards again. The deck remains on the table. I flip the cards over and see that they are the Queen & Jack of Hearts. I did this several times. He asked me to hold the cards together face down and rub them. I did this. He asked me to flip them over face up and they were suddenly the 6 & 9 of Clubs. The trickster and the deck of cards had come nowhere near me.

It sounds like the trick done to CunningLinguist. I know there had to be some sleight of hand somewhere - I just know it didn't happen when the cards were in my hands. I was very precise about my movements because I wanted to try and catch the trick. Man, this guy was good!
posted by meerkatty at 6:35 AM on May 9, 2006


meekatty, the trick was pulled on me while in a bar (it used to be the NYC hangout for magicians and wonderful crazy shit was always going on in there) and I had had a few drinks, so I've always been suspicious of the integrity of my recollection of the event. I'm glad to know it's happened to other people!
posted by CunningLinguist at 6:54 AM on May 9, 2006


I know there had to be some sleight of hand somewhere - I just know it didn't happen when the cards were in my hands.

I interpret this to mean that you acknowledge that he likely switched the cards at some point rather than the cards being special in some other sort of way. Correct me if I'm wrong.

When do you acknowledge that this switch may have taken place, before or after you received the cards?
posted by whatisish at 7:38 AM on May 9, 2006


meerkatty, what you're saying doesn't make any sense:

1. The cards were definitely QH and JH while in your hands.
2. They never left your hands.
3. The sleight of hand didn't take place while you were holding the cards.

You're remembering the trick wrong because, since you don't believe in magic, #s 1-3 are impossible to all have happened.

In the future, don't "be very precise about your own movements". Your own movements are not relevant to the trick. In the future, watch where the magician doesn't want you to watch (which can be very hard if the magician is any good).

As in the video linked above (I know, not your trick), watching the "stationary" deck in the magicians hand holds the key to solving the trick.
posted by dobbs at 7:41 AM on May 9, 2006


meerkatty: are you quite sure that the order of events is as you say?

1. He pulls Q & J from deck, shows them to you, stacks them, and hands them to you...

2. THEN allows you to flip the cards over and examine them...

3. THEN has you face them together, rub, and reveal.

If that is indeed the pattern, the "magic" had to occur during the stack, before he hands them to you. Which, of course, is the reason I'm asking about the order of events. There's no good reason to stack the cards to hand them to you unless there's a substitution or other slight of hand occuring then...if the cards were pressure or heat sensative, he could do far more impressive tricks than this with them. If the cards are gimmicked, he could simply hand them to you seperately, face up, and the trick would STILL work, and it would be far better looking.

So, with all apologies, I'd have to guess that there was something missed. As described, there are far better tricks to be done than the one he did, and it's very unlikely that it was done in that manner without there being a reason. The most logical reason? You missed a palming, and are somehow mistaken about the order of events.

As many others have said, that's actually the "magic" part of magic, so don't feel bad.
posted by griffey at 7:50 AM on May 9, 2006


whatisish - The cards could have been special, I have no idea. I just assumed that sleight of hand would have been the easier trick to pull off.

dobbs - Sorry, but #1-3 did all happen. That's why I'm so freaked out. I doubt very much that I'm remembering the trick wrong.
posted by meerkatty at 7:52 AM on May 9, 2006


It sounds a bit like Double Back by Jon Allen. (There's a video as well.)

That trick is based on a double-sided card that sticks to another one so they appear as one card.
posted by bloo at 8:16 AM on May 9, 2006


meerkatty, your belief is irrelevant. I've had people argue me until they were blue in the face that something happened during a trick a did, but I know as the person who did it that it did not happen. Arguing didn't change his recollection, and short of revealing the trick to him I could not have convinced him.

You may doubt you remember the trick wrong, but I can assure you that it's very likely. It probably is a small detail you didn't notice, but if you saw a tape of the performance I'm fairly sure you would see your recollection was incomplete, and that small detail changes everything. I could give you examples, but I would have to expose secrets. That's why it's always hard to talk about how people are fooled during magic routines; unless you've performed them and seen how people get it wrong and how gosh darned sure they are that they remember everything right, it's hard to credit that it could happen to you and easier to believe in what you think you saw. After all, you were there, so you know, right? The whole point with magic is, you don't, and if the performer does his job, you shouldn't, and no one should be able to figure out the trick based on your recollection. Because you missed something.

I don't think you can have a trick that meets your description. I sure can't think of any way to do it, and IMHO I'm pretty educated in these matters.

Regardless of all that, magic is in the presentation, not the techniques. If you want to know how to do similar effects, if you want to create this effect in the minds of your audience, just start studying magic and it will come. If you just want to know how THIS very specific trick was done, well, ask the person who did it. Without a tape, it's near impossible to know what was done and whether or not your recollection is correct.
posted by splice at 9:20 AM on May 9, 2006 [1 favorite]


This is the thing: the magician's job is for meerkatty to have a subjective experience that obscures what actually happened and makes it seem like what she is saying happened was what she actually experienced.

So meerkatty's assumption that she is not "remembering the trick wrong" is almost certainly false, because the magician set the whole thing up for her to perceive it falsely in the first place.

Either at some point after the last time she saw the cards face up, those cards left her possession and were physically switched for different cards, or the cards were rigged somehow to change their appearance while in her possession. There are no other possibilities.

So, sorry, meerkatty, but unless somebody comes up with a commercial product with cards rigged in that way (I can't tell if bloo's link fills the bill, I can't see the video) it is going to be easier to believe that you simply got misdirected at the right moment by a competent magician.
posted by nanojath at 9:26 AM on May 9, 2006


bloo, Double Back is pretty simple to figure out, and it doesn't match the trick described here. I don't mean that it couldn't be adapted to produce a very similar effect, but it wouldn't be the same.

I thought of a similar methodology inspired from Super Cards from Sanders. Same idea, of course. I won't tip it, but meerkatty does say the cards were held one on top of the other, both face down. Double Back couldn't work that way.
posted by splice at 9:28 AM on May 9, 2006


"You must be remembering things wrong" translates to "You must be remembering things wrong, because I'm not smart enough to think of how the magician did it based on the facts you've given me, and I'm far too smart to be duped."

Being duped is the point of the illusion.
posted by Robot Johnny at 2:51 PM on May 9, 2006


Robot Johnny, who exactly are you arguing with? It's the people who agree with you that "being duped is the point of the illusion" who are telling the poster "You must be remembering things wrong."
posted by languagehat at 5:08 PM on May 9, 2006


Languagehat, meerkatty acknowledges that she was duped, but when faced with the facts, people's repsonses are that because they can't figure it out based on the way she remembers it, she must be remembering it wrong. Why can't it have happened the way she said it did? Close-up "magic" is such a particular and skilled art that unless someone who wasn't there can with 100% confidence say that it didn't happen the way she said it did, then their explanations are as faulty and questionable as meerkatty's memory.

I'm not saying meerkatty's right, but why is she automatically wrong because MetaFilter can't figure it out?
posted by Robot Johnny at 5:52 PM on May 9, 2006


Not "automatically," but those are the overwhelming odds. Again, the whole point of "magic" is to make you think you're experiencing something you're not, so of course you're going to remember inaccurately—what you think you remember is not what would show up on a videotape. Nobody can know for sure that meerkatty's memory is wrong, but that's the way the smart money bets. Go back and read splice's comment again—he's had people argue about what happened with him when he's the one who did the trick! People are far, far too ready to trust their own senses and memories.
posted by languagehat at 6:10 PM on May 9, 2006


I cannot bloody believe you people.

We asked meerkatty for clarification, she gave it, over and over, in detail, with further clarification when asked and your explanation continues to be "Despite the fact that you believe this happened, it didn't happen. Magicians are smart and people are dumb".


I've got an idea.

meerkatty, why don't you post "OK, I remember now, there was a point where the someone let off a fire alarm and we all had to evacuate the building. Perhaps the cards got switched around during that brief thirty-minute interruption?". Then all the sneering people can say "see!" and stop reading this thread.

Yes, people can be fooled by magicians. Yes, people do sometimes remember things incorrectly. And if that's what happened, the answer is very dull and you're entitled to sneer.

If that isn't what happened, it's an interesting new trick or variation on an old one, which you don't know.

You don't want it to be that. You want it to be something boring, that you already know how to do. That's a terribly sad judgement on your personalities and what draws you to be interested in "magic" in the first place, I would have thought.
posted by AmbroseChapel at 6:35 PM on May 9, 2006


AmbroseChapel, you've got it wrong on at least two counts.

First of all, it has nothing to do with "magicians are smart and people are dumb." Falling for misdirection has nothing to do with intelligence. It just means the magician was sufficiently talented, and the spectator was... well... pretty normal.

And second, it also has nothing to do with "wanting" it to be one thing or another. There's two very simple facts in play here. One, not one single magician who's replied to this thread has ever seen or heard of a technique for doing this. Two, it's a well-known fact (among magicians, anyway) that people almost never accurately recall what happened during a given card trick.

The evidence is overwhelmingly in favor of meerkatty having missed some crucial detail. That's the magician's job, after all -- to make you miss that one crucial detail. If he hadn't missed that one detail, he probably wouldn't be asking how the trick was done.

The only other possibility is cards that look and feel like normal playing cards, but can completely change their appearance on command, and will pass inspection by the spectator, who will be holding them while the changing happens. However, none of us here have ever head of such a thing, and furthermore, there's no reason to go through all that expense and effort when some simple (and I do mean simple) sleight of hand will achieve the exact same effect in the spectator's mind.

That's why you have people insisting that meerkatty missed something. We've performed these tricks, we've seen people's reactons, and we've seen how badly they remember the facts of what happened.

Don't take it as an assault to your intelligence. Sometimes it's the most intelligent people who are the most easily fooled. (Usually because they overthink it, and come up with ridiculous ideas like cards that can change their appearance.)
posted by CrayDrygu at 7:30 PM on May 9, 2006


The evidence is overwhelmingly in favor of meerkatty having missed some crucial detail.

What evidence?

There's no evidence except what she's telling us. The "evidence" you're talking about is your opinion.

So what you're saying just equates to "because a number of us think we know about magic, but we can't figure it out, we're going to say she's telling it wrong".

I don't take as an "assault" to my intelligence that I can be fooled by a sleight of hand magic trick (I think you mean "insult" by the way).

But, you don't think it was an insult to my intelligence, or rather meerkatty's, when someone posted that it wasn't actually Harry Potter style hocus-pocus magic, which doesn't exist, it was just a trick?

Nobody has explained how this trick could be done as told.

I suggest that we wait for meerkatty to post again, if she wants to, and clarify anything that might shed light on the situation.

And in the meantime, those of you in the "it didn't happen the way she tells it" faction, for god's sake.

We know your explanation.

Please stop elaborating on it.

We've heard it.
posted by AmbroseChapel at 9:09 PM on May 9, 2006


If there were gaffed cards available that could change suit and rank in the subject's hands, they would be used in thousands of otherwise impossible tricks, and centuries of card magic based on sleight-of-hand would be obsolete. So either meerkatty has met the Man Who Fell To Earth, who amused himself by baffling her with alien technology, or the magician tricked her into not noticing that when he said to hold the cards face down and rub them together, he reached out and took her hands to show her what he meant and help her do it just right. She can say "I remember everything that happened - the cards changed after he last touched them", but the question in the post is "What the?" and the answer is that the trick is not in the cards or in the hands but in the patter and its power to misdirect her attention.

For example: all that letting-you-inspect-the-deck business was pointless if the only cards you could take were the J♥ and Q♥. He could have just said, "Hey, here's two cards, look at them and then hold them out in front of you." The deck business was just there to get you used to the idea that the deck was in the middle of the table, and get your attention on whether or not he touched it. Unless you counted the deck or saw the 3♣ or 6♣ in it after he last touched it, all that was just misdirection. You say you were "very precise" about your movements because you were "trying to catch the trick": so is everyone. That's what the trick depends on, getting your attention very focused on something besides the switch.

On preview:

Nobody has explained how this trick could be done as told.

We've done better than that, we've answered the question, because making the subject fail to accurately remember and recount the trick is the trick. Sorry if that isn't the answer you want to hear, but your take-charge attitude (and grammar flame! classy!) aren't going to stop people from coming back to this point as long as meerkatty keeps saying what every flummoxed subject of every successful magic trick has ever said: "But I was watching so carefully!"
posted by nicwolff at 9:30 PM on May 9, 2006


lighten up AC

I know there had to be some sleight of hand somewhere
- but she says she was the only person who touched them.

The cards could have been special, I have no idea.
- and yet over and over she says she inspected the cards.

Those are meerkatty's words. The evidence is that even her own statements are contradictory.
posted by whatisish at 9:43 PM on May 9, 2006


even her own statements are contradictory

No they're not. She may be using 'sleight of hand' in a rather broad way to mean 'trickery' and she's saying the cards may have been special, but obviously, if they were, it was in some way she couldn't detect.

OK one of two things can happen now.

meerkatty can come back and post once more and reveal further details that make you guys right.

Or ... not.

She's asked how the trick was done, and nobody has explained it, except by proceeding on the assumption that the person asking is mistaken.

I think you guys should apply this to all AskMe questions. Why not?

Q: My USB drive won't mount on WinXP

A: Yes it will. You're mistaken.

Q: My three-year-old won't eat her vegetables
A: Your three-year-old is eating her vegetables, she's just hypnotising you into thinking she doesn't.

Q: What's the best way to drive from New York to LA?
A: You just think you're in New York. Really you're already in LA. Problem solved.

I think it could revolutionise the green...
posted by AmbroseChapel at 2:15 AM on May 10, 2006


AC, we can't explain the trick because there is no explanation possible unless we see it on tape.

I cannot even figure out how I could do what people believe I've done in the past. I believe this is what happened here. I don't have an insignificant amount of experience in this subject. I have quite the large library. I have seen countless routines that are similar, but none which meet the requirements here. No methodology I know could reproduce what meerkatty believes she's seen. I've thought of many ways to come to the same result, but changing a small detail or two. I am sure some people would take away the same memories as meerkatty does, in fact this type of thing happens often.

I freely admit that perhaps the trick was done as explained using some method none of us is aware of. As a magician, it doesn't seem likely. Where do you take your certainty from? Why is the experience of those that perform these things and see these results irrelevant here, and this one time the spectator must be right about what she's seen? I didn't wake up this morning and decide to convince someone they can't remember a magic trick they've seen well, and I'm not speaking out of my ass on this subject either. I've done this stuff for years, I've seen a hell of a lot of things, and I can tell you that I find it doubtful the trick in question was done exactly as it was described here.

I have foundations for my opinions, and I've tried expressing how this effect of misremembering tricks is built into the magic. You seem to think we're idiots for not trusting the layman straight up, regardless of what all our experience says. You base this on your long experience performing and studying magic, right?

meerkatty, very sorry for the derail. But I think it is a valid answer: magic is designed to deceive, and a lot of the times trying to figure out how a trick was done based on your memory instead of videotape will have you looking for an imaginary pot of gold at the end of an imaginary rainbow.
posted by splice at 3:14 AM on May 10, 2006


She may be using 'sleight of hand' in a rather broad way to mean 'trickery' and she's saying the cards may have been special, but obviously, if they were, it was in some way she couldn't detect.

You ask us to trust meerkatty implicitly and yet you dont do the same. 'Sleight of hand' does not broadly mean 'trickery'. In the context of magic, it means to maniulate small objects secretly, and that is what she wants to know - the secret. Dont insult her by saying that's not what she meant and that she doesn't really believe what she said.

The fact that she claims to have inspected the two cards used in the trick is important. It leads us down the path that there isn't a gaffed card. You claim to know a lot about magic... so tell me three card tricks of the (conservatively) thousands of card tricks invented that use a gaffed card where that card can be inspected.

Apply Occam's Razor and we're back to a switch somewhere (which she readily admitted likely happened) and we're back to helping her figure out where that switch occured.
posted by whatisish at 4:54 AM on May 10, 2006


What's the best way to drive from New York to LA?

Or, more appropriately, AskeMeThis:

Titled "How was this trick done?"

A cab driver picked me up in LA and drove me to Honolulu. During the drive, I was very aware of my surroundings - never did I leave the roadway or cross the ocean. Yet, in the end, there I was.

Would you, AC, expect people to try and find this mysterious yet undiscovered route that meets all of her criteria or expect people to explain how she may have been duped, already admitting that she knows it was a trick?
posted by whatisish at 5:34 AM on May 10, 2006


AC, you've by far been the most insulting person in this thread. You're telling people who are offering legitimate answers and explanations to shut up or go away. You've offered ZERO answers to the question. None. You don't have an answer to the question so what the hell are you even doing in the thread?
posted by dobbs at 9:04 AM on May 10, 2006


The question has been answered. Either sleight of hand and misdirection fooled meerkatty's memory the way it was supposed to be fooled, or it is some technical trick that has not yet gotten noticed by the mainstream and commerical magic scenes. Jeez, AmbroseChapel, that unsatisfactory 6 month old Criss Angel thread really got under your skin, huh?
posted by nanojath at 9:16 AM on May 10, 2006


I freely admit that perhaps the trick was done as explained using some method none of us is aware of.


Thank you.

You're telling people who are offering legitimate answers and explanations to shut up or go away.


No, I'm not. Because they're not answers or explanations at all. They're generalised excuses for not coming up with answers and explanations.

You ask us to trust meerkatty implicitly and yet you dont do the same. 'Sleight of hand' does not broadly mean 'trickery'. In the context of magic, it means to maniulate small objects secretly

Oh my god, you're doing it again. You're explaining something that the other person clearly already knows in a patronising, condescending manner. Plus you're twisting what I said. There's a huge difference between her not using a technical term correctly and not being able to trust a word she says.

Either sleight of hand and misdirection fooled meerkatty's memory the way it was supposed to be fooled, or it is some technical trick that has not yet gotten noticed by the mainstream and commerical magic scenes

Thank you.


that unsatisfactory 6 month old Criss Angel thread really got under your skin, huh?


Do you have an explanation for it?

The fact that I didn't get a satisfactory explanation for it didn't get under my skin, but the attitude of people who post about magic did. And it still does.

I mean just look at what happens.

Someone who appears to be quite intelligent asks a question, the clear and stated basis of which is that she knows she was fooled, but she wants to know how she was fooled. Rather than help politely, people come along and patronise and sneer and condescend and tell her that there's no such thing as magic! Just think about the implications for that person's view of the world and his fellow human beings. What kind of complete idiot does he think this person is?

There's obviously something about the practice of magic tricks that encourages the practitioners to regard their fellow humans as fools. I mean, the people who answered, both here and in my thread, didn't even read the post. They just started right in with their stock responses about how, despite the fact you think you saw something, you really didn't. Their impulse to show off their superiority overcomes any ability they might have to actually give an answer, or ask for more detail. Sneering is what they're here for.
posted by AmbroseChapel at 1:30 PM on May 10, 2006


To pursue this metaphor for a while:

A cab driver picked me up in LA and drove me to Honolulu. During the drive, I was very aware of my surroundings - never did I leave the roadway or cross the ocean. Yet, in the end, there I was.

Would you, AC, expect people to try and find this mysterious yet undiscovered route that meets all of her criteria or expect people to explain how she may have been duped, already admitting that she knows it was a trick?


For a start it doesn't quite work as a metaphor in the first place, because being in NYC and being in Hawaii are externally, empirically-verifiable facts which she was at her leisure to check, not just illusions which only need to be sustained for a second for the trick to work.

But what happens is that people reply, not by saying "please tell us about every step of the journey in detail and we'll help you figure it out" or "are you sure you were in Hawaii not just in the tropical-plant section of Central Park?", but by saying "Aha, where you've gone wrong is believing that taxis can't fly. Taxis are what we call cars and can't fly because they don't have wings. And if a taxi tried to get across the Pacific to Hawaii, it would sink, because cars don't float. So you see, you were fooled."

Some posters' love of "explaining" such facts, which any reasonable person can take for granted and move on, is what gets me mad.
posted by AmbroseChapel at 1:51 PM on May 10, 2006


Here's meetkatty's explanation of how it appeared to happen again, just so we can get back on track:
  1. I watched him pull out the Queen & Jack of Hearts from the deck.
  2. He placed the cards one on top of the other, faces down and handed them to me.
  3. From this point on, he is across a table from me, at least 5 feet and no one comes near me and the cards again.
  4. The deck remains on the table.
  5. I flip the cards over and see that they are the Queen & Jack of Hearts.
  6. I did this several times.
  7. He asked me to hold the cards together face down and rub them. I did this.
  8. He asked me to flip them over face up and they were suddenly the 6 & 9 of Clubs.
  9. The trickster and the deck of cards had come nowhere near me.
Now, between 3 and 8, she says he didn't come near her. She quite specifically says he was five feet away. Presumably his arms aren't five feet long? She doesn't mention unusually long arms, but perhaps he fooled her.

If your explanation is "She's wrong. Somewhere between 3 and 8 he or someone else touched the cards" then that's fine.

We'll call that Explanation A, shall we? And we'll acknowledge that it's possible and that we've heard it. If that's your explanation, you can just say "I agree with Explanation A".

Just please don't explain that it's not real magic. We know.
posted by AmbroseChapel at 1:59 PM on May 10, 2006


Um, Ambrose, you seem to be taking this awfully personally. You've gotten far more indignant than meerkatty, and she's the one who, you know, asked the question. I'm not even sure what you're doing here, since you haven't even tried to answer it, all you've done is insult everyone else. It's clear you have issues with this, you've made that abundantly clear; now why don't you relax and go do something else?
posted by languagehat at 3:10 PM on May 10, 2006


AC, you claim to "know" that it's "not real magic", but you don't know that at all! Your arrogant and closed-minded statements rejecting the possibilty of magic, or advanced technology of non-human origin, are infuriating! What evidence do you have that the "trickster" meerkatty met wasn't a god, or an alien, or a mutant with magic-like powers - or with stretchy arms like Mr. Fantastic? None! Those explanations - we'll call them Explanations B, C, D, and E, shall we? - may be less likely than Explanation A, but to reject them out of hand is just condescending rationalistic intellectual blue-state snobbery and I won't have meerkatty patronised to in this way, you insensitive clod.
posted by nicwolff at 4:07 PM on May 10, 2006


all you've done is insult everyone else

This is clearly not true. And clearly, my point is that the insulting didn't begin with me.

Why am I here? Because it's an interesting question and I want to know the answer. But lots and lots of people post their "answer" which is no answer at all.

Why do I have issues? Because I like AskMeFi and find it a very useful and interesting place ... until someone asks a question about magic tricks in which case this kind of thing happens.

If it wasn't for me and Jeff Howard, the entire thread could be boiled down to this:

meerkatty: I saw this trick done. How does it work?

everyone else: it was done with a trick.

meerkatty: I know. How exactly?

everyone else: We're not going to tell you. You were tricked. Whatever you say happened, didn't happen. That's the nature of the trick.

meerkatty: I could give more details?

everyone else: we don't want to know. In fact we didn't even read your original post. It was a trick. It was done with trickery. It's like this other trick, which is also a trick. You were tricked by being tricked. That's how magicians work. They're tricky like that.
posted by AmbroseChapel at 4:17 PM on May 10, 2006 [1 favorite]


Right then, I think we got it.

If you don't care about the opinions of people who have not unconsiderable experience in the field, the person you want is the one who performed the trick. There's no other way you'll learn how it's done, and while I doubt he'll the tip the secret, I wish he would so we would all see what's what.

I hadn't seen your Criss Angel thread before. I would give you references that could help you think about his trick, but obviously since I can't outline an exact procedure to reach the exact effect shown on TV I would just be insulting your intelligence.

meerkatty, I would love to at least see what you think about what we wrote and whether you find it useful or not. I don't see why we should take flack from someone with a chip on his shoulder because of a past thread, but if you think we should just provide an explanation that matches with your memory or just shut up, I for one will butt out. Actually, I won't reply to the thread again unless you wish me to address something.
posted by splice at 6:02 PM on May 10, 2006


"Because it's an interesting question and I want to know the answer."

The magician's "job" in this trick, I will remind you, was not to swap two Hearts for two Clubs. Anyone can do that, but you'll probably see them do it. The magician's job was to do it without meerkatty noticing, or seeing any way he even could have. He seems to have been successful.

I'm sorry that's not the answer you want to hear, but it's the answer. I don't know why this doesn't make sense to you. Perhaps you should find it significant that many, many other people in this thread are telling you the exact same thing -- including a few magicians.
posted by CrayDrygu at 7:46 PM on May 10, 2006


obviously since I can't outline an exact procedure to reach the exact effect shown on TV I would just be insulting your intelligence

For what seems like the fifteenth time, you wouldn't. You would be insulting my intelligence and everyone elses if you posted, as people have done here and on the other thread, things like:

At no point did you ever touch the Qh & Jh.
...Because she did
there IS NO SUCH THING AS MAGIC. It's all an illusion or a sleight of hand or misdirection. ALL of it.
...Because she's not three years old
You're remembering the trick wrong because, since you don't believe in magic, #s 1-3 are impossible to all have happened.
...Because that's what made it an impressive magic trick that she came to ask about
meerkatty, your belief is irrelevant
...Because it's her question and she came to AskMefi with at least a hope of being treated like an adult
The evidence is overwhelmingly in favor of meerkatty having missed some crucial detail.
...Because there's no evidence at all. There's just people with opinions

posted by AmbroseChapel at 8:01 PM on May 10, 2006


Because there's no evidence at all...

* Of the many magicians who have replied, none have even heard of, let alone seen, any method of performing the trick as described.

* Of these same magicians, all of them (myself included, even in my very limited amount of experience) can testify as to how untrustworthy a spectator's memory of the events usually is.

* The spectator's memory is unreliable primarily because the magician has years of practice and experience in making the spectator's memory unreliable.

* A device, having the appearance of a normal playing card, that can reliably change its appearance to that of a different card on command, and do so without physical interaction by the magician, would either be immediately obvious upon handling, or be prohibitively expensive. (Or both.)

* There would be no reason to purchase such a device when sleight of hand, misdirection, and a $1.50 pack of cards can combine to create the exact same effect in the spectator's mind. And doing so will always be more satisfying than a gimmick which does the work for you.

You can call those "opinions" if you want, but you'd still be ignoring a basic fact -- magicians are con artists. They have years of practice in both physical (sleight of hand) and psychological techniques to distract you from what is actually happening, and focus your attention on meaningless events instead.

So I ask you: what is the more likely explanation?

A) The magician did his job properly, and meerkatty's recollection of events does not accurately reflect the trick that was performed, or
B) Someone has gone to great expense to invent a device that allows the trick to be performed as described, and has successfully kept its existence a secret.

I'll even give you a hint: despite what the "magician's oath" may have you think, magicians are always eager to give away their secrets -- for a price.
posted by CrayDrygu at 9:07 PM on May 10, 2006


If your explanation is "She's wrong. Somewhere between 3 and 8 he or someone else touched the cards" then that's fine.

Now AC is saying it's ok for us to conclude that her recollection is inaccurate on some counts - oh, but not the others.

Unbelievable.
posted by whatisish at 10:42 PM on May 10, 2006


I flip the cards over and see that they are the Queen & Jack of Hearts

Did you see the entire face of each card, or just part of it? Ordinary playing cards are designed so that the card's identity can be determined just by seeing the upper left corner, because that's convenient for ordinary play. The correlation between one part of the card and the rest of it may not hold for trick cards.

He asked me to flip them over face up and they were suddenly the 6 & 9 of Clubs.

Again, did you see the whole of each card, or just part of it?
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 8:52 AM on May 11, 2006 [1 favorite]


I invite posters to notice that the trick meerkatty describes and the trick CunningLinguist describes are essentially the same, in that they both looked at the card(s), held them in their hands with no further opportunity for contact from the magician, turned them over and saw that the cards had changed. CunningLinguist's experience, if we take it seriously, allow us to eliminate double-backed or sticky cards, and to tenatively conclude that the rubbing meerkatty reports was misdirection.

I think these tricks could be managed relatively straightforwardly by having cards which develop an image over time like an old Polaroid. The image of the club, in meerkatty's account, would have been latent in the transparent coating of the card. The problem with this theory, and it is a considerable one, is controlling the timing of the appearance of the image. Only two reasonable possibilities occur to me as I write: exposure to light and exposure to air (Oxygen). These would start the clock, and the magician would have to control the situation so that the image appeared while the cards were face down in the subjects' hands. I suppose a developer could be contained in microsomes in the transparent coating, which would be broken open by rubbing, but in that case, CunningLinguist's magician would have had to rub the card before letting him have it.

AmbroseChapel's points, by the way, are very well taken, and two of his posts made me absolutely laugh out loud.
posted by jamjam at 12:17 PM on May 11, 2006


Thanks for the support, jam.

Because my reply to this got deleted, quite justifiably really, I'm going to answer it again, without the deletebait:

If your explanation is "She's wrong. Somewhere between 3 and 8 he or someone else touched the cards" then that's fine.

Now AC is saying it's ok for us to conclude that her recollection is inaccurate on some counts - oh, but not the others.

Unbelievable.


Someone in this thread is unbelievable, but it's not me. I'm not saying that at all and no reasonable person could think I was.

What I said was, the explanation "You're Mistaken", has already been given, over and over again. She says something happened, you say it didn't. You're entitled to your opinion. Yes, she may very well be mistaken. To pretend that I've insisted that she can't be mistaken is strawmannery of the worst kind.

It's the tendency to insist over and over again that this is the only explanation, and should be accepted as an answer, is what I object to. If the amateur magicians here answered in the spirit of "I've thought about it, I've done some research, and I'm going to have to politely suggest to you that you re-think your account because I don't know of any way to do the trick as described" I wouldn't be annoyed at all.

Instead we get "You were fooled, case closed".

But hey, at least we're discussing the actual trick again.

I hope meerkatty comes back. Though who could blame her if she didn't?
posted by AmbroseChapel at 6:07 PM on May 11, 2006


My apologies if it seemed like I abandoned my question. Apart from saying that yes, I saw the ENTIRE card when I flipped the J & Q over in my hands, I've explained the trick to the best of my recollection.

All of the "What you are recounting is wrong" and "It couldn't have happened" didn't actually answer my question. But thanks also to the "magicians" in the house who don't want to reveal "their secrets". And I thought AmbroseChapel provided some great points as to the ridiculous debate that popped up here that had nothing to do with the question. As for the Metatalk....meh. I think it's becoming a trend here to flag people who have opinions that don't match your own.

I freely admit that I must have missed something, and thanks to people who had some good suggestions. I'd just love all of you to experience this trick and then post back here.

Magic rocks!! (And to all of you who are now going to post, "There's no such thing as magic" - yeah, I get it.)
posted by meerkatty at 5:13 PM on May 12, 2006


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