Monday, May 26, 2008


One trick that puzzled me for a long time was Trevor Hall’s Direct Mind Reading. He famously performed it at The Hoffmann Memorial Lecture at the Magic Circle in 1951. In 1956 he advertised it as a limited edition dealer item in The Magic Circular. I’ve never managed to locate a copy of the instructions (almost, but that’s another story) and I’d be very surprised if Hall ever sold all his 100 sets, hence its rarity. What follows is my guess as to the basic method. I’m including it here not only because it is a great trick but I think it deserves a place in the history of the Koran Miracle Deck. Those of you who have the Not The Berglas Effect manuscript will see how it fits into the chronology.

Let’s start with the effect as reported in the notes for Trevor Hall’s 1951 lecture entitled The Creation of a Magical Effect. The lecture was devoted to thought-of card effects.


I am frequently asked whether direct mind-reading is a possibility. The answer to that is 'Yes and No.' [To Peter Warlock] : If you say to me now, 'What am I thinking about?' I haven't the faintest idea, and neither has anybody else. But if you are prepared to help by forming a vivid mental picture of an everyday object, then direct mind-reading is sometimes possible. If we take a pack of cards as 52 everyday objects, again if you think of a card on the spur of the moment and ask me what it is . . . I don't know. I might have a hunch about it but there would be no guarantee of success. But if you will look at one of these cards and think intently of it, then between us we may succeed. [Pack is spread into the widest possible fan, and shown to Peter Warlock.]

Will you look at these cards, Peter, and think of one? I would like you to think of it so intently that you can imagine yourself putting out a finger and pulling it out of the fan, but without, of course, doing so. Have you done that? Thank you. You will agree that you have of your own free will looked at and just thought of a card. I haven't asked you to write it down, or even touch it . . . it is a secret locked in your mind. Yet it may be thought that I have in some mysterious way influenced your choice, so we will have a second card thought of in such a manner that everybody may be satisfied that these thoughts are genuinely haphazard.

[To Peter Warlock] : Will you cut the pack? Cut it again . . . and again if you wish. You must now be satisfied that nobody in the world knows the position of a single card in that pack. Do you agree? Are you satisfied, therefore, that the card now lying on top of the pack could be any card amongst the 52? You are? Good. Will you please give it to Ernest and ask him to look at it and think intently of it.

[To Peter Warlock] : Now, in order that you may know both cards, will you take it back, look at it yourself and remember it, and push it anywhere you like in the pack to lose it. [Cards put away.] We have finished with the cards and the conditions have been fulfilled.

[To Peter Warlock and Ernest Wethered] : You are now literally thinking of two everyday objects, and you, Peter, are the only living; soul who knows them both. I am sorry to burden you with this double work, but in mind-reading" one is sometimes up against a difficulty. For example, the other night I named the two cards as the Seven of Clubs and the Nine of Spades and I was wrong. They were, in fact, the Seven of Spades and the Nine of Clubs, and I need hardly tell you where I went astray. My two helpers were thinking intently of very similar mental pictures, and you will readily understand how they superimposed themselves on me.

As the success of this experiment depends upon you, Peter, may I ask you a simple question? All I need to know is whether I am in the same difficulty tonight, because if I am I must take special precautions. Can you confirm that the two cards are entirely dissimilar in colour and value? They are? Good. I think then that with the smallest amount of concentration by you I shall be able to divine your card. You will agree that you just thought of a card, of your own free will, in the spread out pack? And that as a member of Council of the MAGIC CIRCLE you will agree that there is no conjuring principle which would enable me to divine it? And that therefore it is a fact that at the moment nobody else in the world but you can possibly know that you are thinking of the Two of Clubs? And yet that was in fact the very card you decided to think about? Good.

[To Ernest Wethered] : Now, Ernest, will you think intently of your card? You will agree that it was chosen absolutely at random by Peter and handed to you, and then given back to him to be buried in the pack? And that I have neither seen it nor touched it? You will admit, therefore, that if I can say that you are at this moment thinking of the Nine of Hearts, there is perhaps something to be said for direct mind-reading? And the Nine of Hearts is correct? Thank you very much.


I think Hall used a deck that combined elements of the Ralph Hull Nu Idea Force Deck and the Koran Miracle Deck. There are many ways to put these two principles together and what follows is just one.

The deck is made up of 54 cards. 27 of them consists of 3 x 9 banks of cards that are arranged so that you can divine any card thought of by a process of interrogation. The set up is similar to the Koran Miracle Deck.

Here is the set of cards. The should appear in a random order but are shown here grouped in suits for clarity. The backs of all these cards are lightly roughed:

KD 10D 3D JC 2C AH 5H QS 9S

26 of the cards consist of the 9H. This card will always be forced as one of the two selections. The faces of each 9H is lightly roughed. Also each 9H is a short card of the kind found in the Svengali Deck or Hull’s Nu Idea deck.

The 9H cards are alternated with the three banks of cards. A completely different card , say, King of Spades, is now placed on the face of the deck. Its back has been treated with roughing fluid.

What you have is a rather peculiar rough and smooth force deck. If the faces of the cards are spread towards the spectator, other than the KS on the face of the deck they will only be able to see cards from the 9-card banks. All the 9H remain hidden. The roughing should be very light because later the spectator will need to remove one of the 9H from the deck.

If the cards are squared and given to the spectator to cut he will always cut a short card to the top, thus forcing the 9H.

The deck restricts choice when handled in one manner and forces a choice when handled in another. Time to move on to the handling and a rather clever divination idea of Hall’s.


The presentation is covered in earlier in the description of the Effect. Pay attention to Hall’s careful presentation before trying to vary it. What you say really matters.

The mechanics of the trick are relatively simple. When the deck is spread with the faces towards the spectator only the 9-card banks show. The spectator thinks of one of these 9 cards. You square the deck and give it a couple of cuts to indicate to the second spectator what you want him to do.

The second spectator cuts the deck several times and then takes a look at the top card. It will always be a short card, one of the 9H. This card is now handed to the first spectator who now knows the identities of both cards. Here the interrogation begins and introduces a brilliant idea of Hall’s.

Ask the spectator: ‘Can you confirm that the two cards are entirely dissimilar in colour and value?’

This one question drastically reduces the number of possibilities. Let’s assume the answer is YES. This means that the thought-of card must be one of the following:


One question has reduced the 9 possible cards to only three. With a bit of guesswork it will only take you two more wrong guesses at most to nail the card. I'm assuming that, for obvious reasons, not all of Hall's interrogative questions were included in the Magic Circular write up. However, it is also possible that Hall refined the interrogative technique even further or used fewer cards in the force banks to enable him to achieve a quick hit.

If the spectator says NO and tells you that the two cards are the same colour, the thought-of card must be one of the following:

KD 10D 3D AH 5H

This time the question has narrowed the selection down to five possibilities.

Regardless of the outcome you now interrogate further using the usual method of identifying whether the card is high or low or quizzing the spectator about the suit. If you are familiar with the working of the Koran Miracle Deck you should have no problem.

Finally, if the spectator answers your initial question by saying that both cards are the same value you know immediately that he thought of the 9S. Easy.

NOTES: I like Trevor Hall’s thinking. The addition of a second card is clever way of disguising the interrogation and offers the opportunity of a brilliant first question. it also gives you the added security of knowing the identity of one of the cards from the very beginning. You can make the deck up with banks of five, six, eight or ten cards as per any of the many Koran Miracle Deck variations.

One final point. If you are nimble of mind, you can do this trick with a marked and stacked deck. Or even just a stacked deck. Ask a spectator to select a card and put it in his pocket. You do all this without looking at the cards. But you cut the deck at the point of removal so that later glancing back at the deck you can deduce the identity of the selection.

Next ask the spectator to call stop as you spread the cards face-down from one hand to the other. When he stops you raise the cards towards him and ask him to think of one of the cards he can see. You spread that portion of the deck so he can only see about half a dozen of the cards. Because the cards are marked you know the identity of the first card of the batch. Put the cards away.

The spectator is thinking of a card and you already know the names of the cards in the small batch he looked at. Ask him to take out the card from his pocket. He is now thinking of two cards. Using exactly the same opening question and interrogation technique you can deduce the identities of both selections.

You should make the conditions under which the trick is performed seem impossible in order to get the most out of it. But other than that I think it's worth playing around with and that there is more to be done with Hall's basic idea.