The Impostress Princess Expanded by Peter W. Tappan
Reviewed by Jamy Ian Swiss (originally published in Genii May, 2012)
THE LATE PETE TAPPAN was for many years, among otherthings magical, a fixture at the 4F convention, and if younever saw his miniature Floating Lady, well, let's just say,you missed something special. In 1986 he wrote a book,The Impostress Princess, an exquisitely thorough exposi-tion on the history, workings, and performance of thenow classic method of the "matrix" or "pairs re-paired"principle. (The trick has more recently come to be knownas the "Princess Card Trick," an unfortunate confusion—hence Tappan's addition of "impostress"—since the tricklong associated with that title is a different one entirely byHenry Hardin, a divination of one of five thought-of playingcards, now widely abused on the Internet as a website trick[and if you think the trick can't still be a small miracle, trackdown Bob Cassidy's handling. You're welcome.]).
While you may not immediately recognize the "pairs re-paired" terminology, it's likely you've come across the prin-ciple in one or more of many routines based upon it, mostfamously perhaps in the form of what was once a marketedtrick dubbed "The Paul Fox Miracle Gimmick." More recentversions of note have been published by the likes of JimSteinmeyer, Barrie Richardson, and many others.
In short, the effect consists of groups of shuffled cardsbeing handed out to groups of people—for just oneexample, perhaps five groups of five cards handed outto five people, but these numbers can all vary immenselydepending on the handling and routine you wish to use.Each spectator is asked to simply think of one of the cardsin his hand. The magician calls off the names of severalcards, inquiring as to who may have heard a card named.When one or more spectators indicate that they haveheard their card called, the magician focuses in on theseindividuals and identifies their specific cards more directly.This process is repeated until all the cards are divined.
This is the effect in its most basic form. While the callingof the cards is a somewhat odd process that can be a bitchallenging to logically justify, nevertheless the effect canbe extremely mysterious, as the conditions appear to bevery fair, and the selections are merely thought of by thespectators. The trick is essentially self-working in the sensethat it is a matter of math and management; there is nosleight-of-hand, other than perhaps the need for a falseshuffle or switch of a portion of the deck.
Tappan's book was very well received at the time, andfor good reason: it was a remarkably lucid, thorough, andthoughtful discussions of a single principle, guiding thereader through a tour of not only how to understand themethod, but of how to think about applying it, and aboveall, a wide range of choices of how to perform it.
Phil Willmarth helped Tappan out with the original work,and has now reissued the book, updating it with additionalmaterial. These additions further expand the history, meth-odology, and performance aspects of the trick. The latteradditions include reprints of routines that have appearedover the 25 years since the original publication, includ-ing by such names as John Mendoza, Phil Goldstein, IrvWeiner, Bruce Bernstein, and the aforementioned Mssrs.Richardson and Steinmeyer, and this section alone repre-sents a wealth of smart and commercial options.
And speaking of commercial, one would think that theappetite and time is ripe for such a routine, consideringthat it can produce a remarkable piece of either mentalismor mental magic, with either an ordinary or easily preparedpack of cards, involves a number of spectators, and canplay in close-up or stage conditions, depending on thepresentation and performance. If you think it's time forsomething other than another version of the "Tossed-OutDeck"—and, after all, isn't it indeed time7—you stand anexcellent chance of discovering a fine new working routinefor yourself here.
But having made mention of the "Tossed-Out Deck,"there is also a terrific version offered here by Ross Johnson,and well worthy of study if you are interested in that rou-tine. In sum, the book is a sophisticated course in thinkingabout effect and method, with detailed discussions of"fishing" techniques, for example, that will be invaluableto any magician or mentalist. And in the author's favoritepresentation, there are multiple effects included—not onlythe revelation of the thought-of cards, but also the divina-tion of a pocketed card, and finally the sealed predictionof a thought-of card. This is a lot of bang for magical buck,and there are many lessons in this invaluable work that willserve you well beyond the asking price.