Dai Vernon and the trick that fooled Houdini

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In 1922, Harry Houdini was the most famous magician in the world. The forty-eight year old Houdini was so confident in his knowledge of magic that he had an open challenge to all fellow magicians - 'show me any trick three times in a row and I'll be able to tell you how you did it.' At the Great Northern Hotel in Chicago, Dai Vernon took the great Houdini up on his challenge. But Vernon would not repeat his trick three times in a row - Dai Vernon repeated it SEVEN TIMES and Houdini could not get it!

The trick Dai Vernon chose to fool Houdini with was his own version of the classic ambitious card routine, so named because the spectator's chosen card always wants to get to the top of the deck. Vernon had Houdini choose a card and then sign the chosen card with his initials 'HH'. Houdini returned his card to middle of the deck and, with a snap of Vernon's fingers, it magically appeared on the top. Houdini was astounded and Vernon repeated the trick. And then again, for the third time. 'You must have a dupilcate card!' Houdini guesses, Vernon calmly points outs: 'With your initials, Harry?' Houdini then suggests that Vernon must have used a well-known mentalist's device. But Vernon points out that Houdini's initials are written in ink. 'They make them in ink now!' Houdini splutters but no magician in the room has ever heard of these devices using ink. 'Harry you are fooled!' cries Sam Margules, a Magic Show producer and former assistant of the Whirlwind Illusionist , Horace Goldin.

Outraged and indignant, Houdini demands Vernon does the trick again even though he had already performed it three times, Houdini's challenge limit. Dai Vernon, in front of some of the best magicians in Chicago, repeats the trick four more times. Seven times in a row, Harry Houdini's signed card appears on the top of the deck over and over again. Houdini even tried pushing his card slowly and deliberately under the top card of the deck and it made no difference. Dai Vernon's card trick soon found fame in the magic world as The Trick That Fooled Houdini .Houdini never admitted that he had been fooled by Dai Vernon. However his wife, Bess Houdini (who was to became godmother to Vernon's son Ted), later told Vernon that Houdini had stayed up half the night trying to fathom out the trick, without success.

Harry Houdini was a proud man and jealously guarded his reputation as the World's Greatest Magician. This he may have been but Houdini certainly wasn't the world's greatest cardsman. A few years after being fooled by Dai Vernon, he found himself performing some card effects over dinner for fellow magician - and then being offered what was meant to be friendly advice. Houdini was once again the President of the Society of American Magicians , and after a meeting, a bunch of magicians were eating out in Riggs Restaurant, New York. Dai Vernon was there, as were Sam Horowitz, Sam Margules, Al Baker and some other magicians and their wives. Houdini performed a few effects, and in one executed a very clumsy palm. Later, Margules innocently suggested that Houdini should ask Vernon to teach him, his now-famous, palming technique know as Topping the Deck . Harry Houdini went mad! The suggestion that another magician could teach the great Houdini some magic enraged him. Perhaps, the fact the the magician in question was Dai Vernon, creator of 'The Trick That Fooled Houdini' made it all the more harder to bear