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Friday, April 18, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 52.0° F  A Few Clouds
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Pick a card trick, any card trick
I need one for an upcoming party

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I am a recent inductee into a family that loves to play cards. New Year's Eve is this night-long card party, which I went to last year, but I was only the girlfriend then, now I'm the wife. That means that, in addition to holding my own at euchre, I'll be expected to perform a card trick. This is a longstanding family tradition, and my husband says I don't have to participate if I don't want to, but I really want to. My problem is that I have absolutely no sleight-of-hand skills. I'm wondering, though, whether you know of any card tricks that don't require much sleight of hand. This is all going to happen in California, so don't worry about giving away any secrets. Can you help me?

Queen of Hearts

Queen of Hearts: You're in luck, because I happen to be a card shark on a par with the great Ricky Jay. The difference is that Ricky will take his secrets to his grave, whereas I will apparently spill mine to a woman who simply wants to impress her in-laws. But let's get down to business, shall we? Have you ever heard of "The Ghost of Charles Dickens"? Of course you haven't, because I invented it and have only tried it on highly select acquaintances, mostly children under the age of 5. To my knowledge - and I would know, since I'm the only one who's ever attempted it - no one has successfully pulled off "The Ghost of Charles Dickens," and that's a tribute to the trick's sheer difficulty, not to my sheer ineptitude. Nevertheless, I will now show you how to perform "The Ghost of Charles Dickens." Perhaps you will succeed where I have failed.

Okay, the first thing to do is ask for a deck of cards. This way no one can accuse you later of having used a marked deck. Now announce that you need a volunteer from the audience, someone who's susceptible to psychic phenomena. With any luck, this will supply you with someone who's both susceptible to psychic phenomena and a little slow on the uptake. Have this person stand an arm's length away from you and then tell him or her to pick a card, any card. But instead of putting the card back in the deck, he - let's say it's a he - should be asked to hold the card out in front of him so that he can see what it is and you can't. Tell him that, in order for you to absorb his psychic vibes, he must not move his hand under any circumstances. The only way the trick will work is if he doesn't move his hand.

He can look around the room. In fact, he's encouraged to look around the room. But he must never move his hand. Now test his ability to look around the room while not moving his hand. Move your own hand around in the air like a bird in flight and tell him to not take his eyes off the bird while also not moving his hand. Now tell him to look at something to the right of him while not moving his hand. Now tell him to look at something to the left of him while not moving his hand. And just as he's getting into the swing of this, and when he least expects it, look over his right shoulder, up toward the ceiling, and shout, "Oh my God, it's the ghost of Charles Dickens!" If he's been sufficiently trained, he'll look over his shoulder without moving his hand. That's when you lean over and see what the card is.

As I said, this has never worked on children below the age of 5. But it's possible it'll work on children over the age of 21, especially Californians. So consider it my personal gift to you. Just be sure to give me due credit if it works and leave me out of it if it doesn't. Oh, and don't let Ricky Jay know I told you. He'll try to make me disappear.

For how to cheat on your wife at cards, write to: MR. RIGHT, ISTHMUS, and 101 KING ST., MADISON, WI 53703. OR CALL 251-1206, EXT. 152. OR EMAIL MRRIGHT@ISTHMUS.COM.

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