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Finally unearthed: The Little Egypt Book of Ghosts from H&R Magic Books.
It's to die for!
Check out Jamy Ian Swiss' review in our Bookstore.

October 2010

Boo! Welcome to the Halloween edition of Little Egypt Magic. I've just returned from a local rock concert featuring John Mellencamp, and I am reminded that many entertainers work so much harder, and are so more innately talented, than most magicians. We can all learn from them, whoever your favorites might be. This month: a look at J.K. Hartman's most recent work on The Berglas Effect, a Ross Bertram retrospective at Magicana, a Tim Burton coffee table book and music collection, a scary silent movie, and a bunch of guys reading each other's minds in Chicago.

Happy Halloween!

COUNTDOWN -- I love the twists and turns of card scholarship, the intense studies of such focussed areas as the Slow-Motion Four Aces, Collectors, Oil and Water, the Hotel Mystery, the Open Prediction, and so on. A recent favorite, of which dozens of variations abound, is A Card At Any Number (ACAAN), or The Berglas Effect, whose current upswing in popularity is partially fueled by an impending Richard Kaufman book on Berglas card material. A recent tandem to tackle the effect is Gordon Bean and J.K. Hartman, the two devising variants on a Tomas Blomberg idea to "use a second selection to facilitate a true ACAAN outcome." Gordon is pursuing gaffed methods while J.K. is pursuing those with an ordinary deck. The latter have been compiled in a slim hardback collection of eight widely divergent effects called CAAN CRAFT. (Note: two additional sleights--methods for seemingly mixing the deck--are added that would come in handy for any methods requiring a setup.)

All of the methods require the magician to do the counting and the dealing, though little of this should incite suspicion if the sleights and ruses are properly executed. Three of the methods use a stacked deck, the other five are impromptu. A few use a relatively easy sleight called Slipswitch which allows you to make the top card appear at any named location in the deck. Others sport even easier ways to achieve that end.

Eight solutions.

The most intriguing version to me was the opener, CAAN CAAN. The spectator names any card and cuts the deck to allow the magician to select a second, random card, and each poses a number between 1 and 52. The two cards are revealed to be in the named positions. The method involves an amazing stack and new sleights worthy of Jerry Andrus, yet it all looks fair and convincing. Perhaps the simplest is CAAN KIN (kin because it isn't quite ACAAN): Magician names any card, such as the five of spades. Spectator names any other, such as the queen of diamonds. Magician spells five of spades from the top of the deck and arrives at the queen of diamonds. It relies on a dead easy sleight called Cullocation that you will find many uses for. But my favorite of the lot is CAAN KICKER, which uses a specially printed "instruction card" (supplied with the book). As with cards that rank poker hands, this seems to be a normal insert card to the deck, with the tantalizing headline "AMAZE A FRIEND/AMAZE YOURSELF." The instructions are simple: "1. Ask your friend to name any one of the 52 cards. 2. Ask for any number from 1 to 52. 3. Count down to that number ..." and so on. Needless to say, the card turns up at the proper location. The extra card does all the real work. I think this would play extremely effectively if the audience didn't know that you were a magician. That is, if you broached the subject of this instruction card that you "found" in a deck, and then you and your friend followed it, a la the game in the movie Jumanji. Spooky.

The book is only 85 pages, but its length belies its surprising depth. Hartman takes us on a long journey of the mind. As usual, he supplies excellent patter to accompany the magic and to justify the stratagems. The volume is nicely laid out by Steve Mitchell, nicely illustrated by Tony Dunn, and published by Bean's Magic, Schenectady. I am happy to say that I failed to spot even a single typo. $35 plus postage from Gordon Bean Magic.

As we are discussing ACAAN, I would be remiss in not mentioning my favorite of this genre. It also uses a second card to set up the climax. It also is the brainchild of J.K. Hartman. And it lets the spectator do the dealing. The trick is titled Patent Portent and first appeared in Genii, December 1999. It later appeared in J.K. Hartman's book, Card Dupery (2007). It's been in my repertoire from the getgo and is the trick I always do if someone says, "What if I just name a card?" Nice.

Ross Bertram in costume.

OH, CANADA -- This month, on his Magicana web site, David Ben posted a fascinating multi-page, multimedia retrospective on his friend and mentor Ross Bertram. Although the entire production is a treat, there are some particular gems among its pages, including video clips of Ross performing the Cups and Balls and several card tricks, and an audio clip of Dai Vernon performing in his prime, when his voice was still deep and commanding.

My favorite of the special features was the exquisite Cups and Balls routine. Although it climaxed with large balls and live chicks, the early phases with small balls fooled me badly. Mixed in were fantasy sequences with live dancers under the cups. It's like no routine you've ever seen. The card sleights and flourishes were also swell, and performed blindfolded. If only those kids on Youtube were this smooth.

Long before Johnny Ace Palmer ...

THE MASTER COLLECTION -- The Tim Burton web site has finally come of age and is a delightfully mysterious place to hang out on Halloween. Follow Stain Boy as he wanders among the gallery. One of the site's surprises for me, just in time for Nightmare-Before-Christmas shopping, was a new book, The Art of Tim Burton. Touted as a "first time ever comprehensive look at the personal and project art of Tim Burton," it contains over 1000 illustrations in 430 pages plus foldouts.

For the discerning coffee table.

The standard edition is $69.99. The signed deluxe edition is $299.99 but is currently out of stock. The book will not be sold on Amazon or in bookstores, so be warned.

If you'd rather treat your ears than your eyes, there is the Danny Elfman and Tim Burton 25th Anniversary music box ($499, limited to 1000 sets), with a sixteen-CD Elfman/Burton music library housed in a collectible working zoetrope box (large enough to hold a human head), unreleased Elfman music, a bonus DVD with a Burton/Elfman interview, a skeleton key flash drive that also holds all the music, and a 250-page hardback book. Lovely, but outta my league.

HORRORS -- In 1969, young Indiana University student Dennis James decided that he would, on a lark, play IU's enormous pipe organ to accompany a silent film. He sold out the house and hasn't looked back. Dennis now tours worldwide with the Silent Film Concerts production company, providing solo organ, piano, and chamber ensemble accompaniment along with presentations involving major symphony orchestras. For his Halloween performances, when he returns annually to IU, he swoops on stage in a batlike cape and strikes fear in his costumed audiences. (This year, a couple of guys from the cyclotron lab stole the show, each dressed as Pippi Longstocking.)

Dennis James haunts a theater.

I've seen Mr. James accompany such films as Phantom of the Opera and Nosferatu, but it was hard to mistake this year's offering as you approached IU Auditorium. Cast high on the front wall of the theater was the clear image of a bat, the original bat signal if you will. The movie was Roland West's 1926 silent version of The Bat, based on a play by Mary Roberts Rinehart. Bob Kane would later cite this movie as the inspiration for Batman, and it contained such notions as a bat signal and the idea of The Bat having a secret identity. But the bat in this comedy thriller was a murderer, lurking in (to quote the program) "the spooky old mansion of mystery writer Mrs. Cornelia Van Gorder, where a number of innocent bystanders, chiseling crooks, murder suspects, and cowering bystanders converge." There is some magic in the film -- notably some candles that blow out mysteriously on their own -- but I mention the movie here, as well as Dennis James' extraordinary talent, to encourage you to seek it out. There were numerous laugh out loud moments, and the mystery was all one could hope for.

MEETING OF THE MINDS -- Because I have family in Evanston, IL, I occasionally have the pleasure of dropping in on a Ring 43 magic meeting in that town. October was Mentalism Night at the Ring, one of its most popular themes. It was a treat to see, actually performed, such classic effects as Pseudo Psychometry and those that used center tears and nailwriters, such modern classics as John Lovick's I Dream of Mindreading, and such clever gizmos as an Anverdi die, all presented by a great bunch of fellows. All this plus attendees received a free copy of Merrill's Knife Book. Fun for all!

I love you, Lance, even though I know you are The Bat.


Sarah and Simon (Vixen and Spike to old Gazette readers) were married on April 1, 2006. You may access their wedding photos at wedding photos.

Little Egypt Magic is the erratically updated web site of Steve Bryant, spawned (the site, not Steve) by a former internet magazine known as The Little Egypt Gazette/for magicians only.

Steve Bryant is an obscure magician and writer who generates this site from an iMac in Bloomington, Indiana. He frequently journeys to and performs magic in Little Egypt, the local name for extreme southern Illinois, where the towns bear such names as Cairo, Thebes, and Karnak.

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