Magic Trick: Mnemonics as Applied to Conjuring

There are certain conjuring tricks frequently presented to the public as "Mental Phenomena," that have a system of this kind for their groundwork, as, for example, the following which depend, mainly, on numbers, for their effects: "Second Sight;" the memorizing of a long list of words at one reading; the instantaneous raising of any two numbers to the cube or third power; the memorizing of a pack of cards or a set of dominoes, etc., etc. "Second Sight" can not be considered here, for the trick as exhibited to-day, with its varied codes, would need almost an entire volume to explain clearly, and calls for deeper, longer, and more continuous study than most conjurers would care to devote to it. Some of the other tricks, however, while also requiring some study, will, we believe, prove interesting to our readers.

The first step in this study is to learn so thoroughly that they may be recalled without the slightest hesitation, (1) the Alphabet of Figures and (2) the Table of Fixed Ideas. In the first, the numerals 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 0 are represented by letters, as follows:

The Alphabet of Figures

 T and D represent 1 N represents 2 M represents 3 R represents 4 L represents 5 J, ch, sh, zh, z in azure, g soft as in genius, represent 6 K, C hard, G hard, and Q represent 7 F and V represent 8 P and B represent 9 S and Z represent 0

As will be seen, all these letters are consonants. The vowels a, e, i, o and u, and w, h, y are merely to form words, as, nail (n-1), = 25; chess (ch-s) = 60.

"But," asks the reader, "how shall I remember which consonant represents three or which eight?" Very easily by bearing in mind that t is made with one down-stroke; n with two downstrokes; m with three down-strokes; r is the last letter of four, which has four letters; L, in Roman notation is fifty, but with the cipher off it is five; J looks somewhat like a reversed six; K, inverted (???), is much like seven; ???f, in script, resembles eight; p is a reversed nine; c is the first letter of cipher and stands for naught.

The above are the primitive letters, and in practice each letter is pronounced as if it were followed by e, as, te, ne, me, re, le, je, ke, fe, pe, ce. Remember it is the sound, not the spelling, is the guide. The other letters are those that have similar sounds, as, for example, d, which sounds like t and represents 1; ch, sh, tch, zh, z in azure, g soft as in genius, sound like j, and stand for 6; g hard and q sound like k and stand for 7; v sounds nearly like f and stands for 8; b is almost the sound of p and represents 9; s and z sound like c in cipher and stand for 0. As proof that these sounds are similar, the foreigner often says dat for that, chudche for judge.

Silent letters, those that are not pronounced, have no value, as, for example, knife (n-f) = 28; lamb (l-m) = 53; gh in thought; l in palm. Double consonants are treated as one letter, as mummy (m-m) = 33; butter (b-t-r) = 914; but if the double letters have distinct articulation, then each letter has its own numerical value, as, accept (k-s-p-t) = 7091; bookkeeper (b-k-k-p-r) = 97794. As the cipher never begins a whole number, s, which represents the cipher, may be prefixed to any other letter, as stone (t-n) = 12; snow (n) = 2.

At first glance it may seem a difficult task to learn these letters and their equivalent numbers, but half-an-hour's careful study will generally prove enough for the greatest dullard.

The next study is that of a table of one hundred words, known as a Table of Fixed Ideas, and this will prove to be time well spent, for by its aid most of the conjuring "stunts" are effected. By sounding to one's self the letters that represent the numbers the word may be easily recalled. It is advisable to prepare such a table for one's self, but those who do not care to go to that trouble will find the following good and perfectly reliable. One thing, however, must be borne in mind, that this Table ought not be changed, once it is memorized.

TABLE OF FIXED IDEAS. NO. 1.

 1 Tea 2 Noah 3 Ma 4 Hare 5 Ale 6 Shoe 7 Key 8 Hive 9 Pie 10 Dice 11 Date 12 Den 13 Dime 14 Door 15 Doll 16 Dish 17 Dog 18 Dove 19 Tub 20 Noose 21 Note 22 Nun 23 Gnome 24 Nero 25 Nail 26 Niche 27 Nag 28 Knife 29 Knob 30 Maize 31 Mat 32 Moon 33 Mummy 34 Mare 35 Mill 36 Match 38 Muff 39 Map 40 Rose 41 Rat 42 Rain 43 Room 44 Rower 45 Rail 46 Rush 47 Rug 48 Roof 49 Rope 50 Lass 51 Lad 52 Lion 53 Lime 54 Lyre 55 Lily 56 Lash 57 Leg 58 Leaf 59 Lip 60 Chess 61 Shot 62 Chain 63 Gem 64 Chair 65 Shell 66 Judge 67 Cheek 68 Shave 69 Sheep 70 Case 71 Cat 72 Cane 73 Comb 74 Car 75 Coal 76 Coach 77 Cake 78 Cave 79 Cab 80 Face 81 Foot 82 Fan 83 Foam 84 Fire 85 File 86 Fish 87 Fig 88 Fife 89 Fob 90 Boys 91 Bat 92 Bone 93 Bomb 94 Beer 95 Ball 96 Bush 97 Book 98 Beef 99 Baby 100 Doses

This Table being perfectly mastered, so as to call instantly the letter or word which represents a certain number, the pupil is prepared to learn some of the tricks made possible by a mnemonical system. To begin let us describe one which was introduced to this country by Cazeneuve, a wonderfully clever conjurer, when he visited us in 1876.

Handing out a pack of cards he allowed several persons in his audience to shuffle it and then to distribute the pack among themselves, as it suited them. He then requested them to arrange their cards in any order they pleased and to keep them in the same order. Going from one to another he rapidly looked at the cards, and retiring to his stage called off the names in the order they were arranged. In like manner he distributed a set of dominoes and some Loto cards, and these he called off after looking at them a moment. Finally he allowed one of the audience to select one of four or five volumes offered, and requesting that it be opened, preferably about the middle, he read off the first three, four, or five lines. The trick made a hit, especially with his audiences, who were mostly educated people.

The cards, dominoes and Loto cards were all done on one principle, and as to explain one is to explain all we shall confine ourselves to an explanation of the cards.

Each card in the pack is represented by a word. The initial letter of this word tells at once the suit, the words representing Spades beginning with S, Hearts with H, Clubs with C, and Diamonds with D. So far it is simple. The other consonant or consonants in the word represent the number of spots on the card, according to the Alphabet of Figures, counting the Jack as eleven, the Queen as twelve, and the King, thirteen. As the preparation of these words requires some time and thought we give herewith the card list that we have used for years.

CARD LIST.

 1 Soot Hood Coat Dodo 2 Sun Hen Cone Down 3 Seam Ham Cameo Dam 4 Sore Hero Crow Deer 5 Sail Hail Claw Dial 6 Sash Hash Cash Douche 7 Sock Hook Cook Duck 8 Safe Hoof Calf Dive 9 Soap Hoop Cop Dope 10 Seeds Hothouse Cats Dots 11 Statue Hot tea Cadet Deadhead 12 Stone Heathen Cotton Dudeen 13 Steam Hay time King Diadem

King is used as no other word could be found that would as well express the King of Clubs; Deadhead may be represented by a skull; and as a Dudeen may not be a familiar word to some of our readers, let us say it means a short tobacco pipe.

In exhibiting the trick let us suppose that seven cards are taken from the pack at first, as, for example, the nine of diamonds, the deuce of hearts, the seven of spades, the four of spades, the six of clubs, the Queen of diamonds, and the ten of hearts. When the conjurer goes to the person who drew the cards, he asks, "How many cards have you, please?" and when he hears "seven," he at once pictures to himself a tea-table with, say, a large key lying on it, and remembers (without trying to remember) that seven cards have been drawn by the first person. Then he connects tea (the first word in the Table of Fixed Ideas) with dope, the nine of diamonds. How does he connect them? In any way, as, for example, by comparing the two words and seeing in what way they are alike, in spelling, in appearance, in characteristics, in color, taste, or what not, or how they differ, or he may make a mental picture of the two things (not words), as, for instance, a man refusing a cup of tea because there is some axle-grease (which is dope) floating in it. We believe that the latter method, that of making use of a mental picture, will prove the best for most persons. Proceeding he connects hen, the deuce of hearts, with Noah, the second word in the Table of Fixed Ideas, as, let us say, Noah looking out on the waters of the flood, while a hen is perched on his shoulder. Absurd, the reader may say, but absurd or not it does the work, and, in most cases, the more absurd the mental picture the stronger the impression will be, as he who does this work night after night can testify. For the second lot of cards let us suppose that twelve cards are drawn. The performer says to himself, seven and twelve are nineteen, and he immediately connects eight, hive, with nineteen, tub, and then the mnemonical name of the first card with hive, and so on to the end. Difficult and complicated as this may seem, we assure our readers that in practice it will be found most simple and always reliable.

The reading of a book is very different. The books are all the same, but with different title-pages and corresponding titles on the covers. Not only are they all the same, but they are made up of two pages only, repeated over and over. The performer, as will be remembered, asks that a page about the middle of the book be selected, and in that way is assisted by the person who opens the book.

Another trick that makes a good impression on the average audience is that of