Revealed: Magic Tricks Displayed on Playing Cards (4)

Click here for Part 1, here for Part 2 and here for Part 3!

The final take on exciting research revelations from the Schaffel College for Industrial Pasteboard Paraphernalia in Ryffling, Denmark on the magic tricks which artists shown on our familiar court cards have supposedly been performing for up to hundreds of years, yet unnoticed until today!

Further Pasteboard Secrets

Despite the important breakthroughs in magic and playing card history featured in the previous three episodes, some other court card motifs remain the subject of intense scholarly debate for the time being, explains visiting postgraduate fellow, Tang Acapao, who also happens to be a passionate card magic amateur. Here they are:

Jacks of Diamonds and Clubs: Pole Levitation?

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In some cases, the diagonally mirrored images of all court cards make it difficult to identify the provenance of the originally featured magic trick, especially when both arms or hands would actually exercise the same movements. That’s why, in this case here, the pasteboard researchers are still debating whether the Jacks of Clubs and Diamonds are both performing an early version of the two-hands pole levitation, as junior researcher Les Kerfol speculates in his forthcoming B.A. thesis.

Queens of Clubs, Hearts and Diamonds: Flower Act?

It is also conceivable that the three Queens holding flowers so obviously inconspicuously in their hands were actually three sisters performing a lavish act with spring flowers or are shown here right after performing a choreographed triple silk-to-flower effect. Researcher Anna Gramm is still devoting much of her scholarship time to this particular florid question.

Joker King on a Bicycle: A Grand Illusion?

Joke_r

Another mystery yet unsolved: Why is the USPS Joker depicting another King, and why is he riding, among all vehicles in royal possession, an ordinary bicycle? “We have yet to determine when and how the first bicycle prototypes were introduced to the French and English Courts,” says the teams’ documentation officer, Sheldon Gitlip. “We are also checking some Court magicians’ papers for possibly lost information on early productions of performers using vehicles. But it really takes a maximal maven to find that needle in a haystack!”

Team leader Gioberto Robbi and his young research assistant, Farhad Fahrar, however, are on a different trail here. “The banishment of Philadelphia from Berlin and his famous exodus through the city gates got us thinking,” Robbi says. “Maybe a fun-and-riddle-loving King like Louis XIV of France rode out of his lavish ballroom at one end, while his then still unknown, but not yet incarcerated twin brother reappeared at the other end two seconds later, thus demonstrating the King’s legitimate absolute power over time and space to his astonished courtiers!” He hastens to add, “Of course this is, unlike our other findings, pure conjecture at this point.”

We hope that time will tell and that these imaginative, undisputed card experts will continue to unshuffle further secrets at Schaffel College, and you will make up your own mind about this paradox pasteboard pocus!

Be that as it may, but from now on you will certainly look at your familiar court cards from a different angle, won’t you?!

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Addendum:

Some more facts you probably didn’t know about playing cards (with a big thank you to the real Reinhard Müller!)


 

Revealed: Magic Tricks Displayed on Playing Cards (3)

Click here for Part 1 and here for Part 2!

Further exciting research revelations from the Schaffel College for Industrial Pasteboard Paraphernalia in Ryffling, Denmark on the magic tricks which artists shown on our familiar court cards have supposedly been performing for up to hundreds of years, yet unnoticed until today!

King of Hearts: Jastrow Illusion (held vertically!)

KingofHearts_frame

This discovery tracked down over time by researcher Juanita Marz triggers another necessary rewrite of a chapter of magic history: Obviously, the venerable optical illusion described first by Joseph Jastrow in 1892 had already been around for one hundred years plus before that and was performed as an amusing diversion and paradox at royal courts! “Had the pieces been held horizontally and parallel to each other, we would have advanced much quicker on this magic way,” admits Marz.

KingofHearts_close

In this context, the third hand with a presumed sword in the background, behind the King’s head, has been identified as a large knife, which was probably used to cut a long strip of paper into two pieces of equal length before performing the illusion.

King of Spades: The Indian Rope Trick (under Glass!)

KingofSpades

You have to marvel at both the ingenuity of the creator one hundred or more years ago and of the scholar who finally unlocked this genius mystery! Likely 999 out of 1,000 contemplators of this card would claim that this King was simply holding his sword and looking at it somewhat quizzically, if not hypnotically. But, owing to her intimate knowledge of magic history, Fay Knjus, the youngest member of the research team, had a sudden brain wave “right after studying Dr. Samuel Hooker‘s legendary illusions,” as she recalls. “Then suddenly it dawned on me that what we had always decoded as an ordinary sword was in fact a piece of string rising under a glass dome in best Dr. Hooker fashion! Both the strange shape of the dome and the uncommon knob for holding it had been misdirecting us for a long time.”

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Further research has yet to determine whether this strange design was caused by slip of the drawing artist or an imprecise briefing, or whether these artful versions of early portable glass domes simply got lost over time.

A tiny dot way up the rising string on an early print run of these cards may indicate that a little boy figure was probably once attached to it, maybe climbing to its top before vanishing, just like in the centuries-old famous story of the Indian or Chinese Rope Trick.

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Check out the final Part 4 with more exciting discoveries!


 

 

Revealed: Magic Tricks Displayed on Playing Cards (2)

For Part 1, click here!

Further exciting research revelations from the Schaffel College for Industrial Pasteboard Paraphernalia in Ryffling, Denmark on the magic tricks which artists shown on our familiar court cards have supposedly been performing for up to hundreds of years, yet unnoticed until today!

King of Diamonds: Palming Cards

KingofDiamonds

This image was more tricky to decipher than the others for the researchers, as it was hiding its secret in plain sight! But team member Liam Erdnus finally cracked the code: The artist’s hand is evidently shown empty, yet the body profile (necessarily turned sideways) and the familiar position of the flat hand and the fingers tightly pressing against each other can only lead to one scholarly conclusion: This artist is an early master of the back palm, and he is just about to make a playing card (or even more?) appear!

KingofDiamonds_close

According to research fellow Grennart Leen, it is not unlikely that this particular image served as the inspiration for young Harry Houdini to bill himself as the “King of Kards” in 1895. He also sharply rejects the notion recently suggested by Prof. Silke Kloeppelt from the University of Yarnmouth that the diamond pip is supposed to represent a red handkerchief which has just appeared out of the the artist’s empty hand, unfolding in flight. “This idea is really off-center! It escapes me how any serious scholar of our pasteboard art could come up with woofledust like that,” Leen says in the upcoming paper in Glibecière.

The Jack of Hearts: Color-Changing Silk

JackofHearts

This image has fooled and mislead many a scholar — until now! Traditionalists among cardboard historians have always held up the romantic belief that the Jack of Hearts represents a sensitive, woeful lover writing moanful poems to his mistress crush with a quill. Duh!

Magic researchers know better now. Just look at the tight grip of the hand: “You don’t hold a feather in an unnatural position like that when you want to write something,” explains junior researcher Reinhard Pithart-Muellinger. Thus, the closed fist likely covers an early dye tube, and what we see is the artful display of two different silks as one in order to perform the now classic color-changing silk trick!

It is wisely assumed that the lower tip of the silk was once printed in red color to emphasize the effect in action, but this detail obviously got lost over time in the declining craft of fine printing of playing cards, as it moved on into the age of less careful mass production.

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Check out Part 3 now with more exciting discoveries!


 

 

Revealed: Magic Tricks Displayed on Playing Cards (1)

Cardicians and card historians, take notice: Recent research conducted at the Schaffel College for Industrial Pasteboard Paraphernalia in Ryffling, Denmark has revealed astonishing facts about some of the key images of our beloved standard poker playing cards: Most of the men and women on court cards are actually portrayed performing magic tricks! And the biggest trick of all: This open display of the magical skills of some Jacks, Queens and Kings has gone wildly unnoticed in our card-crazy community for at least 100 years!

“In the light of these exciting revelations, the history of some classics of magic may need some serious reshuffling,” says Gioberto Robbi, research director and current chef artist in residence at Schaffel College. The results of his team’s research are currently under benevolent peer review and will likely be published in an upcoming issue of the renowned magic history magazine, Fibecière.

Thanks to our tightly-knit global research network, we are happy and proud to offer you an exclusive sneak preview here over the next few days. Read along and marvel with us why we all haven’t spotted these obvious performances from the past before?!

The Jack of Spades: Paddle Trick

JackofSpades

His magic prop is obviously a paddle, likely made of wood, big enough for good visibility in the spacious parlors and ballrooms at any Renaissance court. The artist displayed here is left-handed and just about to execute the paddle move.

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Robbi and his research team believe that the diamond shape in the middle of the paddle could not only be made to appear and disappear, but also to jump freely to the top and the bottom of the paddle. This is possible due to some clever flipping mechanism probably furnished by Johann Gaugann the Elder in the early 18th century! (Further proof pending.)

The Queen of Spades: Torn and Restored Paper

QueenofSpades

Once set on the magic trail, it doesn’t take an expert to realize that the female artist on display here has just torn a royally imprinted sheet of fine handcrafted paper, and she is about to magically restore it instantly.

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Notice the flowers which are held in each hand, apparently serving, just like a magic wand, for misdirection and for the concealment of the secret paper ball in one hand!

Robbi speculates that this trick may have been a simple forerunner of the later and more elaborate illusion of cutting, burning and restoring a royal silk handkerchief.

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Check out Part 2 now with more exciting discoveries!


 

 

Magic Heinrich Does the Trick (17)

The other day, my eager apprentice, Heinrich the Magic Hare, studied the guarantee cards of various manufacturers and asked me whether I knew of any majishun or card player who, annoyed by rough edges or asymmetrical cuts, had ever send in a card or a deck for a replacement. I couldn’t think of anybody.

HHGarantie

A War Fought with Playing Cards

Holger Steigerwald has pointed fellow magic historians towards an interesting piece of academic research on 17th century English playing cards. It was written and published as a diploma thesis (in German) by Florian Völkerer at the University of Vienna in 2018. Its title can be translated as “Playing with Memories. On the Exploitation of the Spanish Armada on 17th Century English Playing Cards.” It is available for download in PDF format here.

Völkerer Playing Card Spanish Armada

Here’s the English abstract from the author:

The thesis deals with a set of english playing cards from 1679 depicting the events of the Spanish Armada. After a number of supplementary investigations it attempts to identify the narrative conveyed by the cards, as well as to address the probable reasons why this narrative was constructed in a specific manner. Main results are that the production and distribution of the cards appears to be closely linked to the english exclusion crisis, during which the cards where part of the anglican propaganda-effort against the catholic James II. The narrative therefore serves as an historical argument in the political debate and is consequently constructed in a distinctly anti-catholic manner. While staying close to the facts for most of the time, it differs from our current knowledge about the Spanish Armada mainly in overemphasizing the impact of the actual fighting (and therefore of the english fleet) on the eventual outcome of the events. Furthermore, the role of individual actors is put into focus, to the extent that the whole campaign appears almost as a personal squabble between Elizabeth I. and the pope. Thereby the historical events are used as an allegorical depiction of the struggle of anglican England against a counter reformatory catholicism led and controlled by the pope, while the depiction of Elizabeth I. serves as a stark contrast to James II. The playing cards investigated in this thesis therefore show exemplary how historical narratives can be shaped and used to construct arguments in contemporary political debates.


Jerry’s Chicken Sh*t Nuggets

JerryNugg
Kickstarter project website screenshot

A very special Kickstarter project has just closed: It pledged to revitalize the already hopelessly overhyped Jerry’s Nugget Casino Playing Cards big style.

According to the project page, this one is run by the Expert Playing Card Company/Bill Kalush. The project also offers a long “special thanks to” list, featuring, among others, Lee Asher, Danny Garcia, the Buck Twins, David Blaine, Garrett Thomas, Harapan Ong, Michael Weber, and the Chief Genii, Richard Kaufman. Wondering what nuggets all theses gentlemen contributed?

And boy, this thing flew: When the hammer fell, this project had collected more than 477,000 Dollars from almost 4,100 supporters and had generated 1,200+ commentaries! Which comes to show again that us majishuns are a nostalgic, money-blowing herd of unimaginative copy cats, aren’t we? (Yet a lovable bunch!)

I’m afraid magic videos and magazine photos will soon be littered with this cheap, inelegant, eye-cancer causing design. Yuk! (Just my opinion. I better hide now before Jerry’s Nuggeteers spread all over me to cut me and palm me off!)

If you are slightly annoyed about this, too, you might want to try the Chicken Nugget Playing Cards instead (see below). Go find them on ebay if you think these are even more irresistable. I could see a great but meaningless mental card food trick coming up with these…

ChickNugg
ebay Screenshot

 


 

Jim Avignon Plays With Cards

Saw this simple yet interesting rendition of playing card pips on an unassuming box in painter and performer Jim Avignon‘s current exhibition, “A Bigger Brother”, at Museum für Kommunikation (Communications Museum) in Frankfurt. Now I’m trying to come up with a magical use for these.

Meanwhile, go see the exhibition before it closes soon, if you have a chance to! It’s a both critical and funny examination of data, surveillance, control, and privacy in today’s world.

JimAv

Spione, Tricks und Täuschung

In Berlin, der Welthauptstadt der Spione in der Zeit des Kalten Krieges, gibt es seit einiger Zeit ein Spionagemuseum. Die umfassende, schön aufbereitete und teils interaktive Sammlung informiert von Geheimschriften der Antike bis zur ausgefeilten Spionagetechnik der Stasi in der DDR. Auch ein Exemplar der berühmten deutschen Verschlüsselungsmaschine Enigma ist hier zu bestaunen. Unter den Exponaten zum Zweiten Weltkrieg befinden sich auch Spielkarten für Kriegsgefangene (offenbar keine Originale, sie sahen ziemlich neu aus), zwischen deren Kartonschichten sich Landkarten als Hilfe für eine Flucht verbargen. (Mehr darüber gibt es hier und hier zu lesen, allerdings auf englisch).

Ein Besuch ist absolut empfehlenswert! Zudem bietet der Museumsshop coole Spielsachen (neudeutsch: Gadgets) für kleine und große Spione an.