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Elmsley Count

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Originally named the Ghost Count by Alex Elmsley in Elmsley's The Four Card Trick (1959), it is a false count with a packet of four cards designed to hide one card.

The Elmsley Count is probably one of the most popular card sleights created.

It can be used to hide an upside down card, a different color card or a special gimmicked card. It has been used in routines to make a card appear, vanish, or change.

After the count, it usually leaves the cards in perfect order to do a Jordan Count.

The biggest flaw most magicians tend to make is to incorrectly interpret the action as an actual count, probably due to the name. You normally should treat it as a display, not as a literal counting of the cards.

There are two typical "grips" used when performing, the finger-tip to finger-tip and the mechanic grip. Each has it's usefulness depending on the card routine you are performing.

Handlings and Variations

  • Five-as-five Ghost Count by Elmsley which combines this Ghost Count with Eric de la Mare false count which shows five cards as five while hiding one. Independently developed by many in the 1970s.
  • Underground Elmsley by Phil Goldstein - a regular Elmsley Count, with the last card going to the bottom of the packet.
  • Revolving Elmsley by Jim Krenz.
  • Elmsley Flustration Count

Some favorite effects using the count

  • Twisting the Aces (Vernon)
  • Vernon's Variant
  • Elmsley's 4 Card Trick
  • New Four Card Trick (Elmsley)
  • Marked (Derick Dingle)
  • Alien Invasion (Danny Archer)
  • NFW (Gary Freed)
  • Capitulating Cards (Jim Swain)
  • Paradigm Shift (Gerry Griffin)
  • Twixter (Jason Alford)
  • Cascade (Roy Walton)
  • Overture (Phil Goldstein)
  • Illogical Conclusion (Roy Walton)
  • 4 Card Repeat (Williamson)
  • Brothel (Sadowitz)
  • Impact (Roy Walton)
  • Backflip (Sam Schwartz)
  • BOMB! (Walt Maddison)
  • Famous 3 Card Trick (Williamson's Wonders, Kaufman)
  • Elmsley Assembly (Brother Hamman)
  • Underground Transposition (Brother Hamman)
  • Hamman's twist (Brother Hamman)
  • Jazz Aces (Kane)


The Elmsley count was first published by Alex Elmsley, although unnamed, in the marketed trick "The Four Card Trick (1959)".

The count is an adaption of the E-Y-E Count by Edward Victor (which used only 3 cards) in his E-Y-E routine (a trick marketed in 1955) and from a move shown to Alex by Eric de la Mare called the Fingertip Block Push-off Count.

Alex Elmsley has always been forthright about the provenance of his Ghost count. He discuses the item and teaches the Ghost card trick in his videos.

Jack Avis may have shown Vernon an effect that made use of this move with jumbo cards. Since you can't deal jumbo cards into dealer's grip, Avis was forced to use a finger-tip to finger-tip handling. Vernon learned the move from Avis, thus initially believing this was how the move was executed.