“Alex Elmsley was one of the most influential thinkers in the history of card magic.”
“The Greatest Packet Magician ever”
“An expert in close-up magic”
Alex Elsmely is a name that carries a lot of weight within the magic circle, if you’ve ever begun learning sleight of hand then you’ve already heard of him because you’ve probably tried to perform the ‘Elmsley count.’
A master of his art and a wonderful performer, Alex Elmsley is a magician that will not soon be forgotten.
I have to say I thought that I was pretty good at applying his Elmsley count until I dug a little into him and found a few videos of some of his famous tricks. He takes this stuff to a whole new level! If you think you know how to apply his magic, you’ll have to think again. Just watch this:
I know, I was pretty dazzled myself, Alex Elmsley has a classic way of performing magic and sleight of hand so perfectly mastered that it’s almost impossible to recreate his performances.
So where did all of this prowess come from? What led the man to the place he is today? What is he all about?
About Alex Elmsley
Alex Elmsley was born in Scotland (from the video it seems like he lost his accent) on the 2nd of March 1929, so as far as classic magicians go, he definitely lived among them. While working as a magician part-time he worked as a computer programmer, which perhaps explains the amount of mathematical tricks he was able to compile along with his fabulous sleight of hand.
However, before becoming a computer programmer he began practicing magic in 1946 while he was still a teenager. Afterwhich, he went to Cambridge University to study science and mathematics (I have to say neither of which would be my first choice.)
It was perhaps this intelligence that allowed him to develop his routines later in life, which he did. He was awarded an Academy of Magical Arts Creative Fellowship in 1972 and he also briefly toured the US with his hugely praised lecture called the “Dazzle Card act.”
So, that should be enough for you to understand a little of the history behind the man! Shall we dive a little deeper into his actual magic?
Alex Elmsley’s Magic
Perhaps Elmsley’s most famous trick that many magicians still learn to perform today he dubbed the ghost count but which later became called the Elmsley count.
Essentially the Elsmley count is a sleight of hand move that allows you to count cards for the audience in a way that looks entirely fair, while hiding a card secretly from your spectators. It’s a clever move with a number of applications, the Dazzle performance certainly shows you a lot of them.
So how is it done?
It’s usually done with four cards, the card you want to hide resting in the third position (which is usually faceup.) An important thing to note if you want to do the trick yourself is that you need to count the cards out in the same way throughout the routine. If you randomly begin doing an Elmsley count it will certainly appear suspicious to the audience members.
Another important note is this: the key thing to focus on is the SOUND. You want each card you count to have the same sound. When you count cards for real, often you’ll simply just focus on the sound – so it should be no different during this faux count. That’s a tip that we first picked up from Aaron Fisher, and I’d advise you to make good use of it!
In simple terms what you want to do is push the second card out with the third card hidden underneath it. You count the first card normally, then the second has the card underneath it, so at the same time as counting that card. You’ll need to use your right hand (if you’re right-handed) to slide back the first card that you counted, after which you count the last two cards as if everything were normal.
Probably because I did a bad job explaining it, if you want to know exactly how it’s done and see if for yourself you’ll have to click the link above.
I have to confess that I’ve spent hours doing this move in order to perfect it, so if you don’t get it first try I really wouldn’t worry about that in the ‘sleight’est.
The Elmsley count, however, was not all that he was known for his tricks included but were not limited to:
- The Four Card Trick
- One Poor Lion
- Power Poker
- Separating the Men from the Boys
- And of course Dazzle
Most of these were included in his Tahoe sessions which are still available on DVD for anyone to purchase.
I would really advise if you’re into mathematical tricks of sleight of hand picking up the DVD and having a look, he’s a great teacher and an even better performer and his English accent is really easy to listen to.
Well, that’s everything on Alex Elmsley!