Summary: An ungimmicked version of David Blaine's popular Strange Travellers `card across' routine
David Blaine is a household name in magic courtesy of his many TV specials. One of his all time favourite effects in card magic, is a routine called Strange Travellers. This is a `cards across' style routine in which a spectator merely thinks of a card, which travels invisibly from one packet of cards to another. This stunning routine was available commercially with revised gimmicks and routines from Paul Harris, and is a highly regarded packet trick, considered to be one of the very best.
But Paul Harris want to refine the routine even further, by creating a version that didn't require any gaffed cards. So as part of his amazing True Astonishments Boxed Set, and inspired by a Larry Haas handling, he created "Naked Strange". The ad copy rightly describes it as: "A simple un-gimmicked version of Paul Harris's legendary Strange Travellers effect!" The basic concept remains the same: a card that a spectator is merely thinking of, invisibly travels from one packet of cards to another. Considering that the full 9 DVD True Astonishments set costs around $300, it's good news that this wonderful effect is now available for purchase separately as a adigital download, courtesy of "The Vault" series by Bro Gilbert.
The ad copy is entirely accurate in describing the routine as being much like the original. A spectator merely thinks of a card from a packet of cards, which they hand to someone else who counts them as 10 cards and holds the packet, while the first spectator then gets a second packet of 10 cards. The packet containing the thought of card is now counted again - but now there are only 9 cards, and the selected card is missing! But wait - the other packet now has 11 cards - including the spectator's chosen card, which has never even been said aloud but only thought of!
Definitely check the video trailer if you can, where you can see a great performance by Bro Gilbert. And yes, there really are no gimmicks or gaffed cards used!
What you get is an instant digital download of the video, which is about 100MB in size, and demonstrates and teaches the routine. The video consists of the following parts:
3 minutes: introduction
5 minutes: explanation
2 minutes: performance
Those who are already familiar with the Art of Astonishment video set will be aware that Paul Harris uses a rather unorthodox style of teaching. Aside from the introductory comments by Paul Harris, the video (including the performance) doesn't include any patter or spoken words. Instead, it features background music, while the trick is demonstrated and taught with the help of written captions on the screen. But the explanation itself however is very good, and there are multiple camera angles to cover exposed views, while the written text covers everything you need to know.
If I had a complaint it would only be that it's easier to make sense of the explanation if you've first seen the routine performed in a real world setting, complete with spectators and patter. Fortunately, that's exactly what you get in the video trailer, with Bro Gilbert performing the trick to several groups of spectators, so I highly recommend you watch that first. His patter and presentation are excellent.
A small amount of set-up is needed to perform, but an experienced performer could even accomplish that impromptu and on the fly if absolutely necessary.
While beyond the scope of a beginner, you certainly don't need to be an expert with cards to pull off this routine. With a borrowed deck in hand, the main sleight you'll need to manage is a certain steal, which is well within the capacity of intermediate magicians (and likely already in their grasp. And of course everything is fully taught on the video, so if you don't know it already, you'll learn it quickly. This trick is obviously not a self-working wonder, and you will need to master all the moves carefully so that you can focus on the presentation, which is especially important for making a strong impression with this routine. But it's really not a difficult routine to do overall.
The original Strange Travellers routine as performed by David Blaine and others is very strong. But it does have an obvious weakness - you have to protect those cards, because you're in real trouble if the spectator starts grabbing cards and examining everything, because it won't take much to tip the method. With Naked Strange, this difficulty is completely avoided, because you're genuinely using a normal deck of cards. The handling is perhaps not as clean, nor is the presentation quite as tidy, but considering what it accomplishes, Paul Harris has come up with something very clever to produce a very similar effect without the help of gimmicks.
What makes this routine so powerful is the fact that your spectator merely thinks of a card - they never pick a card, remove it, or state what it is. The fact that a card appears to disappear from one pile and move to the other (confirmed by the counting) actually helps disguise the method, thus making the overall effect even stronger. The plot is very simple to understand, and the idea of a card impossibly and invisibly moving from one pile to another is already impressive. The fact that it is the very card that a spectator merely thought of makes it appear a true miracle, and it really does have potential to blow people away.
It's true that there is some competition in the `cards across' niche, with a number of effects to choose from. The original Strange Travelers routine is brilliant, and really has the potential to stun people. But it does require gimmicked cards, and to my knowledge it's not been readily available for some time. That's where Naked Strange comes in. It does basically the same job, and while there are some things you can do with Strange Travellers that you can't quite do with Naked Strange, the overall routine is pretty close to the original, and can pack the same punch when performed well.
I'm especially pleased that Bro Gilbert has released this as part of The Vault series, for a couple of reasons. Firstly, this means that now you can pick up Naked Strange as an independent digital download, and learn how to perform this routine with ungaffed cards. But secondly, as a special bonus you get to see Bro Gilbert perform this routine in the video trailer, which is a welcome addition not included with True Astonishment set. This addition does a good job of giving the effect the final polish it needed, showing us what good presentation of this routine looks like, and the impact it can have on spectators. So an all round big thumbs up from me! - BoardGameGeek reviewer EndersGame