Monthly Archives: December 2010
TRICKTOPIA BLOG – My experience of The Berglas Effect
A few days ago I was lucky enough to spend several hours with the legendary magician David Berglas. I’m interviewing him at The Session Convention in Gloucester in January so we met up at his house in London to discuss what we’re going to talk about in the interview. However, during the day he suddenly offered to “show me a few things”. David’s card magic, as this blog has already mentioned, is the stuff of legend. In particular, “The Berglas Effect” – Any Card at Any Number. (Just Google “The Berglas Effect” to get an idea of its notoriety). Few people have witnessed it and it’s been heavily discussed online and between magicians for decades. I’ve read many accounts of it myself and I never believed I’d get to see it. Well, I saw a version of it and a whole host of other card effects. I wrote these notes as soon as I could after I’d left his house because I wanted to put in print what happened and exactly as I remembered it….
David and I talked for several hours about the interview. He has so many great stories to tell. Many of which I hope we’ll get to at The Session. As we stopped for some food I mentioned that, of course, magicians at the convention would want to hear about “The Berglas Effect”. David joked that he didn’t know what I was talking about so I offered to send him a few notes on it! A few minutes later he suddenly said to me “If I asked you to mention a card now, what would it be?” I thought about it carefully and said “Seven of Hearts”. He asked whether I thought I’d been influenced to say that by what we’d been talking about for the few hours beforehand. I said no and he told me to make sure I remembered everything that happened from now on. I started to get nervous. He said he’d show me something later.
Twenty minutes or so later we were talking again about the interview and throughout this time I was watching him carefully, trying to see if he was doing anything. He wasn’t. Then all of a sudden he told me to go over to a huge cabinet he has in his lounge and open the drawer on the right and choose a deck of cards. I stood up and nervously walked over, smiling to myself. In the drawer were a few decks and I took out a deck of red bicycle cards. He then came over to join me at the dining table and we sat down. He DIDN’T touch the deck. He asked me to relax and if I remembered the card I’d mentioned earlier. I said I did and said it was the Seven of Hearts. He told me to take the deck out of the card case and put it on the table and then cut some cards from the top of the deck and look at the card I cut to. It was the Queen of Diamonds. David looked at me again and told me to replace the cards back on the top of the deck and, this time, really relax. He said “Now cut straight to the Seven of Hearts”. I gave another nervous laugh and cut the deck again…..straight to the Seven of Hearts! I was flabbergasted. I don’t want to know how he did it as I had that rare moment of wonderment of being completely fooled. It was incredible. Remember he never touched the deck at all.
We then chatted some more and I said I wanted to have a look through the deck to satisfy my own curiosity. I started spreading through the deck and they were, of course, all different. Then he got out of his chair, came over and told me to spread through the deck again and just think of a card as I did it. I tried my hardest not to give David any clue as to the one I was thinking of. I saw the King of Spades as it went through the spread and decided on that one. He took the deck from me, casually cut it and walked over to the other side of the table. He asked me what card I’d thought of and as soon as I told him he lifted the deck up to show me the card on the bottom of the deck. It was the King of Spades. It was THAT clean.
We then got talking about The Berglas Effect and he said that he hadn’t shown me that. I said I knew and that I was just interested in how he adapts his tricks to the situations he finds himself in. Then once again he asked me to just mention a card. I said “Four of Clubs”. He then asked me to give him a small number. I hoped I knew what was coming. “Six” I replied. He pushed the deck towards me and asked if I wanted to count from the top or the bottom. I chose the top and counted six cards down. I nervously turned over the sixth card and it was my four of clubs. “That”, he said, “is The Berglas Effect”. It was a moment I won’t forget. This may not have been “The Berglas Effect” in its “purest” form though. By that I mean in some notable examples the deck isn’t handled by David at all. Having said that I didn’t see him do anything! So, I feel now that I’ve joined a select club of those who have been privy to this legendary effect. I couldn’t resist taking this photo shortly afterwards. OK, it doesn’t prove anything but it’s my snapshot of my own experience of “The Berglas Effect”.
But, of course, it didn’t stop there. I was to be treated to one more effect. I have to say my memory of this is slightly woolly as I was still going over The Berglas Effect in my mind. But this is as close to it as I can remember. David asked me to get another deck of cards from the drawer in the cabinet. Then he fanned the original deck and asked me to think of a card. Once I had one (without mentioning it) he closed the deck and put it on top of one of the card boxes. I then gave him the second deck. He took the deck out and just put it on top of the card box. David then asked me what my card was. “Ten of Spades” I replied. He turned over the first deck and my card was on the face. He then turned over the top card of the second deck, which he hadn’t cut at all and had just taken out of the box. It too was the Ten of Spades. Great stuff.
David left it at that and I’m glad he did. I didn’t want to muddy the memory of what I’d seen already. I felt privileged to have experienced these effects. He got me and it felt great. I was excited about magic again.
What was satisfying about the whole experience was that the effects were never rushed. We chatted awhile between each one. It gave me time to digest and think about what had happened. I learnt a lesson here. So often magicians are keen to show several tricks at once – often because the spectator demands them to “show us another one”. That dilutes the previous experiences. Seeing David work has changed my approach to doing card effects.
The greatest thing to come from this experience? I’ve stopped trying to think of a method for it all because I just couldn’t piece all the different elements together. I have a couple of ideas but they don’t add up to produce the whole effect. Some of you may know and some of you may not. Me? I just sat back and enjoyed the show and feel satisfied at being properly fooled by one of the greats.
When I first became interested in magic again about 15 years ago I was, like 99% of hobbiests, obsessed with buying magic. With no ties, cheap rent and a good disposable income I pretty much bought what I want and when I want. I ended up with a lot of rubbish but some great stuff.
I always had a different approach for magic books. I truly saw them as an investment and a font of knowledge from the historical texts to the latest and greatest. I always saved for the good ones – not in the selfish hobbiest desire to own the “must haves” – but because I wanted to read and re-read something that was tangible and would always be there to go back to. To get more from when I felt the need.
These days with a mortgage and a family I choose my purchases carefully. Yes, I still suffer from buying the odd bit of crap at conventions and also some great effects, but nowhere near as much as I once did. But I always save up for good books. There are two on my shopping list that should arrive in the next few months.
Bulletproof – Andy Nyman
I’ve always been a fan of Andy’s magic and mentalism. I first met him about ten years ago when he was dealing at a Mark Leveridge convention in Bath. His effects always have a great hook and his thinking is original. He’s now put it all in print with a limited edition book produced by Todd Karr’s Miracle Factory. I’ve been patiently waiting for this book seeing as I pre-ordered it in September 2009. I hear it’s back from the printers and should be shipping soon. Todd’s material takes time due to the quality of the production. If I’m honest, I think this one has taken too long, but as long as it turns up soon I won’t become grumpy about it.
The Berglas Effects – David Berglas
Next year Richard Kaufman publishes a long awaited book on the card magic of David Berglas. I was lucky enough to buy one of the last copies of “The Mind and Magic of David Berglas” (below). It’s an incredible work authored by David Britland and is a fascinating read about the career and effects created by a man who’s legendary status is well deserved. The card magic book is anticipated by magicians due to “The Berglas Effect” – the holy grail of card magic. An effect where a spectator names a card and a number and the card is at that position in the deck. Just google “The Berglas Effect” to see what I mean. Also stay tuned to this blog for my own personal experience of it.
Welcome to Tricktopia. A place for my obviously random thoughts about conjuring and the related arts. I’m hoping to keep this regularly updated but only if I really have something to say. It’s also going to be a weblog for my own experiences and memories – somewhere to put down my thoughts where they don’t get lost in a forum amongst the usual detritus of inane and irritating users.
With that last comment in mind I’m also tempted to dig through some of the posts/reviews I’ve made on forums and stick them on here.
update – march 2013
This site may well be up and running again soon as my current blog provider, posterous, is closing down.