From the world’s worst card trick to the world’s best?

I have always enjoyed the principle underlying MIRASKILL by Stewart James. Whilst I admit the effect isn’t an incredible one – the principle is durable enough that it is handy when performing under stringent conditions. Borrowed deck, hands being burned and so on…

Now – I quite enjoy MIRASKILL – but at the same time I am aware that a few magicians (who I really respect) consider it to be one of the worst card tricks ever invented. And for those with a more ‘commercial’ way of thinking than me – I can fully understand that point of view. Anyway – I am mentioning all this since I want to pass along a fascinating piece of information that was first drawn to my attention in THE JAMES FILE. It details a link between MIRASKILL and OUT OF THIS WORLD.

Remember OUT OF THIS WORLD is often voted the greatest effect in the history of card magic

Firstly – from the MAGIC CIRCULAR (1948):

There is no disputing the accuracy of this, for invention
in magic is largely a matter of evolution. Not only are
methods evolved from previous work, but effects themselves
develop similarly. As an example, Paul Curry’s remarkable
card effect, ” Out of this World,” was a brainchild
brought about after witnessing’ an effect by Walter B. Gibson
entitled ” Payoff ” (see The Phoenix, page 1), and
though I have not Walter Gibson’s word for it I should say
that his effect was evolved after reading or seeing Stewart
James’ ” Miraskill ” (see The Jinx, page 147), and thus it
goes on ad infinitum.

Secondly – check out this from Fred Braue in HUGARD’S MAGIC MONTHLY (1948):

Background Note: The genesis of
“Out of this World” is fascinatin’.
Curry and Scarne watched Audley
Walsh do Gibson’s ‘Payoff’ and began
figuring angles. Scarne devised a
trick in which a spectator cut groups
of cards, then Scarne told him how
many red cards each contained, the
method involving seconds, bottoms,
shifts, palms and prayers. Even Johnny
couldn’t do it.

Curry struck off on another tangent,
speculating on the idea of a
self-working face-down color separation,
and came up with “Out of this
World.” “I didn’t think much of my
method,” Curry writes. “It wasn’t
until a week later that I actually did
it. On the basis of my very-suffering
wife’s reaction I realized that the
effect was fairly good. It’s a funny
thing – all the details of the stunt
came to me in about 15 minutes. Since
then my mind has been in a complete
fog and I haven’t figured out any angles
that differ to any extent from
the original method.

But to this day- I don’t quite understand why it
should fool magicians,” That’s the
history of the greatest self-working
trick of our time…

Isn’t that great? I love finding out about the history and connections between old card tricks.

I should add that Walter Gibson’s PAY OFF effect is a clever little effect which makes use of ‘the number of black cards in one half of the deck will be the same as the number of red cards in the other half of the deck’ principle. So it is easy to see how it relates conceptually to both MIRASKILL and OUT OF THIS WORLD.

Lastly – be sure to check out Bob Farmer’s chapter on MIRASKILL in THE JAMES FILE. There is a lovely tip in there which made my performances of this effect both easier, and about three times stronger.


4 Responses to From the world’s worst card trick to the world’s best?

  1. Bottom Palm says:

    Thanks for pointing that out. Very interesting.

    Gotta love Bannon’s version. So far it’s my favorite.

  2. KiKeNiCo says:

    Precious information there, Joe.
    Yeah, Miraskill is one of those things you could only pull off with a pretty decent amount of showmanship: otherwise, you may as well stick pointy things in your spectator eyes for a much painless death.

    I should mention the Aunt Myrna thing from Williamsom, tho: great effort, not bad at all. Bannon has a couple of sneaky points about Miraskill worth the read, too.

  3. KiKeNiCo says:

    *Bottom Palm*

    Damn if I’m not the hell of a slow typer!

  4. Bottom Palm says:

    Heh, fastest hands in the West.

    Good call on the Aunt Mary routine. And that’s what it is–a bona fide, full-blown routine.

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