A Tribute to the Professor
My close association with the Professor Dai Vernon, began in 1959. A privilege most cherished and shared by few. Of course he had countless friends and admirers the world over, but only a select few were able to earn his true respect and be taken into his confidence. Once accepted, the Professor became a brutal task-master, He had a very low tolerance for mediocrity and his reprimands could be quite harsh at times.
However, his demeanor portrayed the fact that here was a man who cared more deeply than most about the art to which he had devoted his entire life.
When confronted with mediocrity, his response to the fledging student quite often would be, "You’re very clever." Those close to the Professor knew the real meaning behind that statement. It was his own way of saying, "My friend, you have absolutely no understanding of what you are trying to accomplish and probably never will!" He realized that he was dealing with someone that had little, if any, respect for the art of magic and was on the proverbial ego trip. On the other hand, those he considered to be serious students felt the wrath of his criticism when a lack of understanding was displayed. He became quite vehement in order to make his point and then unselfishly shared his valuable wisdom with those he felt were worthy.
The Professor delighted in putting you to the task. Often he would divulge a little known dodge or ruse and challenge me to apply these stratagems to classical effects. In many cases, these were sub rosa maneuvers he had gleaned from the dark side of the gaming tables. This was a passion with the Professor: adapting the sleights and subterfuges from cross-roaders and con men and applying them to magic.
One such sleight has gained enormous favor among card men over the years and has become known as the Vernon Transfer. This is an undetectable method for transferring a card, or cards, from one location to another. A variation of the Vernon Transfer was shared with me 30 years ago. I am most certain that this cunning and most diabolical move has never been revealed to the fraternity at large. In my private notebook, I have titled this little gem … Vernon’s Deadwood Getaway. The original intent was to secretly dispose of extra cards being "held-out" in a game of poker. The unwanted card or cards were deftly added to the discards or "deadwood" in the act of gingerly pushing them away with only the tip of the thumb.
The move consists of securing the unwanted card or cards in the right hand in a modified Tenkai palm. A clear description of this palm can he found within Edward Marlo’s Revolutionary Card Technique series entitled the Angle Palm. Marlo’s technique required the card(s) to be secured against the Palm by a light pressure of the thumb more toward the center of the left long edge as opposed to the Tenkai position nearer the upper left corner.
To apply the move, the right hand with palmed card(s) moves above an unsquared packet of cards on the table and the thumb is placed against the left long edges of these cards. The palm of the hand, with fingers naturally extended, remains well above the packet as the thumb slides these cards a few inches to the right. The onlookers witness an innocent hand moving the tabled packet with only the very tip of the thumb.
Nothing could be more disarming! The placing of the thumb on the edge of the packet automatically releases the palmed card(s) atop those on the table. When the above actions blend into one fluid motion of the cards being slid a couple of inches to the right with only the thumb, the move is totally invisible. There is no hesitation from start to finish and the operator leaves the impression that he doesn’t want to even touch the cards but merely wants to draw attention to them.
At the gaming table, the cheater’s ally would apparently inadvertently toss his unwanted cards a little too near his partner and under the guise of pushing them away, the palmed card(s) were unloaded on the deadwood.
I accepted the Professor’s challenge and applied this concept to the classical "Stop Trick." The method has an overall hands-off look to it and has flown-by many of the most observant brethren over the years. For the record, let’s call it…
"Dead Stop" R. Klause/1967
A chosen card is controlled to a position fifth from the top of the deck. The performer deals cards face-down on the table in a slightly uneven pile; taking them into the right hand between the thumb above and the first and second fingers below near the upper left corner. As the fifth card is apparently placed on the tabled pile, the left hand, with deck, gestures toward the spectator requesting that he call stop at any time. During the momentary distraction, the right hand, with the selection, retires to near the edge of the table and while in transit, secures the card in Angle Palm. The right hand assumes a very relaxed and innocent appearance resting idly on the table.
The performer further states that he will deal very slowly and fairly using only his left hand to do so. The left hand continues to deal cards on the tabled pile until the spectator calls stop. At this point, the performer says, "I don’t want to even touch them! You turn it over!" As this is said, the transfer is executed and the final result is all one could ask for.
A few trials will convince the seasoned performer just how valuable this Vernon contribution really is.