By Luke Jermay - Saturday, July 18, 2020
Here is a card trick I enjoyed performing when I was fifteen years old. It was my imagining of an Ace Assembly, inspired by watching Ricky Jay. The result is very different from Mr. Jay's performance and one that I think would be every bit as powerful for an audience today as when I was a teenager.
Only years later, after learning of the history of the Ace Assembly plot do I now contemplate that the premise, gimmicks and force used within this routine all come from the visionary mind of Hofzinser, which in itself is astonishing.
If you have been performing magic for even a short period of time you will have encountered countless performances of the Ace Assembly premise. Most of them look exactly the same, with the only variation being in the technical aspects of the effect. This small presentational frame changes not the method but the appearance of the effect with a simple visual hook that is mysterious and memorable. It also adds a surprise to the climax.
The performer spreads the deck and has someone touch the back of a card. It is turned over and seen to be the Six of Hearts. The Six of Hearts is placed face up in the middle of the table.
The performer then turns the deck face up and removes the other three Sixes. These are then arranged on the table, in a triangle with the chosen Six in the middle. The performer displays three cards and then slides them face down beneath the face-up Six of Hearts in the centre of the triangle. He then lights small candle and places it onto of the packet of four cards in the middle of the triangle.
Three more cards are added to each of the Sixes and one by one the Sixes are turned face down and mixed into their small packet. The performer then holds each packet over the candle flame, and face-down Six is turned face up revealing it has transformed into another card. At one point the audience are sure they even see the printed Six through the back of the card, caused by the light from the candle, seconds before it's magical transformation.
The candle is dramatically extinguished and removed from the packet. The spectator is directed to then turn the cards over, discovering the three Sixes are now together in this packet complete with brown scorch marks from the candle flame on their faces.
The truth is any method you already use for an Ace Assembly could be applied to this visual hook. The nature of this trick lends itself well to more formal performance and would work very well in a parlour style magic show.
As described above, the performance is simply using the glorious method of Mac MacDonald as taught in "McDonald's $100 Routine" published in Dai Vernon's More Inner Secrets of Card Magic written by Lewis Ganson. This method is not mine to share here, but I am sure many readers will be very familiar with this wonderful classic of card magic. I simply use a double turn over to seemingly turn the Six face down, then openly mix it into the three other cards, extend the face down card from the small fan and gripping the fan at fingertips bring the face down, extended card to the candle flame. The other three cards appear to be used like a tweezer, isolating the face down card and allowing it to be heated without bringing my own fingers too close to the heat source. Clever card magicians will want to include additional subtitles to heighten the vanish.
In addition, I force a card to produce the feeling that any four of a kind might have been used eliminating the notion of gimmicks from the audiences mind.
The final additions to this, are the use of cards you have scorched final reveal and the use of a Hofzsiner transparent pip gimmick to add one more layer of deception. Today, these are commercially available but often not used to heighten the impact of an effect, as the use of a light source is hard to justify. Instead, they are often presented as a puzzle. In my opinion to best use this gimmick the audience should not believe the performer has even noticed the 'transparency' caused by the light source. It should appear to be a moment of pure chance, something that they audience 'caught' by themselves rather than it being something obviously built into the effect being demonstrated. In this way the gimmick becomes invisible as the audience fool themselves. In this routine it makes perfect sense and adds a great additional layer of deception since the candle is motivated allowing for it to be handled in this fashion.
As a teenager I streamlined this idea to work in walkaround settings. In this streamlined effect, I performed the classic John Scarne Two card Transposition, combined with the candle flame, transparent pip gimmick and surprise scorching on the transported card. It was a very strong and rewarding trick to perform and especially well suited to restaurant work where candles were often present on the tables. In this form, the entire concept of the effect described above was achieved all in one simple and pure piece of magic. My taste today would likely mean, if I were to perform card magic, I would favour this streamlined approach to the presentation over the Ace Assembly style but that is simply a matter of personal preference.
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