The Invisible Deck is a routine developed by Eddie Fields (detailed in The Greater Artful Dodges of Eddie Fields) using Joe Berg's Ultra Mental Deck very shortly after it was created in 1936. Fields stated the idea for his presentation was sparked sometime after 1942 when he was at an army hospital visiting a friend who was pretending to be mentally unstable. This friend shuffled an imaginary deck of cards and invited Fields to play poker with him. Fields saw the potential of the gag as a presentational framework and tied it to the Ultra Mental Deck.
However, in his 2008 book, Cocktail Card Magic, Bill Abbott reveals a discovery he made "while screening a short film entitled Oliver The Eighth, starring Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy, released on January 13, 1934... [in a scene] involving the butler Jitters... an invisible deck of cards is used. During this sequence the basic Invisible Deck handling attributed to Fields is showcased including many of the gags and bits of business popularized by Don Alan..." (pg.21). Frame-captures of the scene are also reproduced in Abbott's book. The film was released at least 8 years before Eddie Fields began working on his presentation.
In the classic (Fields) presentation of this effect, the magician hands the spectator an imaginary, or 'invisible' deck, hence the trick's title. On being handed the deck, the spectator is made to mime the acts of 'removing' the cards from their case; 'shuffling' them; 'spreading' them face-up on the table; freely 'selecting' a card; 'replacing' it face-down among the other face-up cards; and 'returning' the deck to its box.
At this point, either the spectator keeps the imaginary deck while the magician removes the real deck from his pocket, or the spectator hands the imaginary deck to the magician, which suddenly becomes real in the magician's hand. The magician then asks the spectator to name the card he/she selected, removes the deck, face-up, from its box and spreads the cards to show one face-down card. The spectator removes the card to find it is the one he/she named moments earlier.
A more serious routine can be performed, which focuses more on the magician's mindreading abilities and the fact that the spectator had a completely free choice of card. The magician could hand the spectator a box of cards to hold, ask them to freely think of, and concentrate on, any card in the deck, and then to name it. The spectator then hands the box back to the magician, and the trick completed as before.
In The Berg Book written by Joe Berg and David Avadon, with Eric Lewis, David Avadon includes a brief history of the deck which says that Berg developed the Ultra Mental Deck as a refinement of the Auto-Mazo Deck, developed and marketed by Sam Drielinger.
- Edward Bagshawe advertised his "Reverso" in the December, 1922 Magic Wand: The pack, after being cut a number of times, is slowly run through, showing that all cards face the same way. This done, it is enclosed in its case and stood upright on the table. The performer now undertakes to reverse any card in the pack, without touching it. A card having been called out, the pack is removed from the case, and without any false moves or manipulation, slowly run through. The chosen card is found reversed, now facing the opposite way to the others.
- A SUPER-REVERSE PROBLEM By JUDSON BROWN in Sphinx March, 1929 : any card called for is instantly caused to reverse itself in the pack!
- Auto-Mazo Deck (1934) which was used for small packet oil and water effect.
Other marketed names
- Harry Lorayne's The Imaginary Deck
- Ultra Invisible Deck
Sleight of hand versions
- Invisible Secrets Revealed by Michael Schwartz and Eddie Fields (1976)
- 50 Tips & Tricks with the Ultra Mental Deck By Geoffrey Hansen (1996)
- Invisible by Jay Sankey (2008). Comes with deck and teaches Eddie Fields' classic presentation, Dr. Jaks' five-card handling, Sam Schwartz's "Flight Time, plus Jay's own handlings and presentations, including "The Spectator Predicts," "Special Delivery," "Lucky 13" "Intersection," "Name This Card," "XDeck" and "Buckshot."