Su Lum: Unraveling The Wizard’s secret
August 21, 2002
Over 30 years ago, I was at a small party in a long-gone cabin on the bluff of Red Mountain with a young man named Bocco. A couple of hours into the event, Bocco told me that he had a friend in Los Angeles called “The Wizard,” who could name, over the phone, the number and suit of a playing card held by the caller.
“Bullshit,” I said.
“I’ll prove it,” he said.
Sensing that a contest was in progress, the room got quiet. Someone called for a deck of cards, and there was a scramble through drawers and a search of bookshelves. “Couldn’t she just THINK of a card,” someone asked? No, it had to be a real card, that everyone could see.
The contest was about to end by default and we were going back to our beers when our hostess cried, “I found them!” and produced a deck of cards, from which I plucked the four of diamonds.
There was a hushed silence as Bocco dialed the phone. When he asked to speak to The Wizard, it turned out that The Wizard was not at home. Yeah, yeah, yeah muttered the Greek chorus of the audience. “Wait a minute,” he’s giving me another number, said Bocco, calling for pen and paper.
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Bocco dialed again, and this time it was clear from the expression on his face that he had made the connection. “Wizard?” he said, “Wizard, can you tell this lady what card she’s holding?”
Bocco passed the phone to me. I could hear The Wizard breathing on the other end.
“Are you there?” he asked me. “Yes,” I answered. Pause. Then The Wizard said, “I think – no, I KNOW, that it’s the four of diamonds.” Click.
I was not just impressed – my whole sense of reality was shaken. I know that we only use a fraction of our brains, that we have untapped powers of focus and perception, but how in the hell did this guy in Los Angeles know that I had been holding the four of diamonds?
As we drove down the hill back to town, Bocco was silent while I ranted on, trying to make sense of it. I was less cynical then than I am now, but I couldn’t wrap my mind around THAT.
I barely knew Bocco, he could have kept the secret, but he was a nice guy and finally he couldn’t stand it any longer. “It was a trick,” he confessed. “I’m sorry – it was a trick.”
Here’s how the trick worked: when Bocco first said, “Wizard?” the guy on the other end would start naming the suits: spades, hearts, diamonds, clubs until Bocco interrupted him with the word “Wizard.” The Wizard would then go through the denominations: ace, two, three, four until Bocco interrupted him again, saying, “can you tell this lady …”
The Wizard could then name my card.
Well, for a minute there, all things seemed possible.
[Su Lum is a longtime local who thinks she was glad to learn the truth. Her column appears every Wednesday in The Aspen Times.]
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