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Biddle Trick

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Biddle Trick is what has become the name of a card trick in which a spectator's selected card vanishes and appears reversed in the deck held by another spectator. The trick is based on ideas by Elmer Biddle and Richard Bruce Ferguson. It utilizes the Biddle Move.



Elmer Biddle published his "Transcendent" in April 1947.[1] He described what's now known as the Biddle Move, and two tricks utilizing the move:

  • First Effect: Card selected, placed back in deck, which is shuffled. Performer draws several groups of five cards off the face of the pack, and asks spectator which group contained his card. The cards are spread showing only four, and the selected card is produced from the pocket.
  • Second Effect: The magician counts ten cards into packet, one of which is selected card. He then draws off ten more cards, which don't come near first packet. Selected card travels from first group (leaving nine) to second group (making eleven).

Biddle's "Transcendent" was reprinted in Hugard's the following year, with the same two basic tricks described, although the editor (most likely Fred Braue) changed the name of the move to "The Biddle Card Vanish," "since it should henceforth be a standard utility move."[2]

In 1949, Bert Allerton's "Transcendent Trick" was published, which was similar to the first Biddle effect, except it used a packet of four instead of five, and, in Allerton's trick, the performer riffled through the deck and produced the selected card from wherever the spectator called stop. When he saw his card, the spectator spread his four cards to find only three.[3]


Published in 1951 by Richard Bruce Ferguson, under his pen name, Pvt. Richard Bruce, this trick was named "WOW!" after the editors at Hugard's saw it:

The effect is this: The magician has a spectator shuffle a deck of cards. He takes it back, and removing the top five cards, he spreads them face up on top of the face down deck. He invites a spectator to touch one card. The five cards are then squared, still face up, on top of the face down deck. These five cards are now counted off face up one by one, and placed in the spectator's left hand, to be held firmly. The magician then places the deck in the spectator's right hand, the hands being held as far apart as possible. Without again touching the cards in any way, the magician orders the chosen card to pass from the spectator's left hand and fly into the pack in his right hand, face upwards. After the hocus-pocus, the spectator spreads the cards in his left hand, and finds he has only four, the chosen card having vanished therefrom. Spreading the face down deck with his right hand, he finds the chosen card in the middle, face up, and staring him in the face. "Wow!"[4]

This is the first known description of the effect for the "Biddle Trick." But the method most magicians associate with this trick wouldn't be published for almost another decade.


Richard Bruce Ferguson's method involved doing the Biddle Move with a full deck, and then casually cutting the deck before placing it in the spectator's other hand. The idea of using only half the pack when doing the Biddle Move, and then recombining the pack to "load" the card face-up in the middle, didn't appear in print until 1960[5], when The Gen published "Biddle-Thru," a trick by the inventor of the move himself, Elmer Biddle. Ron Bauer independently developed the idea, along with several techniques for the Biddle Move, in the early 60s.[6]

In Ferguson's "WOW!", the packet and deck never came near one another after the cards had been counted. But in "Biddle-Thru," after the performer had so economically maneuvered the reversed card to the center of the deck, he placed the packet of cards back face-up on top of the pack. Then he tapped the deck, and spread to show the selected card had "penetrated" to the middle. The now-popular "Biddle Trick" is really a combination of these two items, owing its plot to Ferguson's "WOW!," and its method to "Biddle-Thru."


  1. Elmer Biddle, "Transcendent," Genii, Vol. 11 No. 8, April 1947, p. 241
  2. Elmer Biddle, "The Biddle Card Vanish," Hugard's Magic Monthly, Vol. 6 No. 1, June 1948, p. 434
  3. Rufus Steele, 52 Amazing Card Tricks, 1949, pp. 40-41
  4. Pvt. Richard Bruce, "WOW!", Hugard's Magic Monthly, Vol. 9 No. 4, September 1951, p. 835
  5. Elmer Biddle, "Biddle-Thru," The Gen, Vol. 16 No. 3, July 1960, p. 69
  6. Roberto Giobbi, "Bibliographic Notes," Card College, Vol. 3, 1998, p. 780