Twodoo Voodoo

Drawing Room Deceptions by Guy Hollingworth is one of my favourite magic books. It is packed to the brim with top-notch magic. But, unknown to many, one of the best tricks in the book is hidden in its introduction. It is an unusual demonstration of sympathetic magic with two playing cards. Terrible things done to a chosen card are seen to be happening to its mate. The trick was inspired by Jim Steranko's "Voodoo Card". However, the Steranko trick, a triumph-style effect, bears little resemblance to Guy's masterpiece (although it is still worth learning if you like this type of trick).

As the name suggests, "Twodoo Voodoo" is my two-person handling of Guy's trick. I've redesigned the routine so that it involves two selected cards. However, the effect is essentially the same, apart from the fact that both ripped corners remain at the conclusion of the trick.


The magician explains that, according to Hollywood, when a Voodoo witch doctor creates an effigy of a thing or person, whatever is done to the effigy, in turn, happens to the subject. He explains, "We will recreate this situation with a pack of cards. Conveniently, each card already has an effigy: its mate, the card of the same value and colour."

Two cards are selected at random by two spectators. Sarah is asked to play the part of a Voodoo Witch, and Peter the role of a Voodoo Sorcerer. The first card—the Ten of Clubs, for example—is turned face up by Sarah. The matching mate of the card, the Ten of Spades, also mysteriously turns face up in the pack. The same thing happens with the second selected card and its mate (the Jack of Diamonds and Jack of Hearts).

Both Sarah and Peter hold onto their selected cards so that the magician cannot possibly touch them.

Sarah notices a box of matches and suggests a ritual burning. The Ten of Clubs is burnt, leaving a black scorch mark on the back of the card. Sarah examines the card she holds—a similar scorch mark has appeared on the Ten of Spades!

Peter suggests that the Jack of Diamonds be subjected to torture-by-tearing. The corner is ripped from the card. The Jack of Hearts, held by Peter throughout, is ripped in the same way!

Background & Credits

"The Voodo Card" was first published in The Art of Astonishment (Book 3) by Paul Harris (A-1 MultiMedia, 1996). Guy felt that "Voodoo Card" by Jim Steranko was an exciting plot, but it lacked the courage of its own convictions and failed to fully explore the plot. Mr Hollingworth showed his version to Bob Stencel, who added the subtleties to allow your participant to "choose" the specific form of abuse.

The trick was subsequently published in Guy's book Drawing Room Deceptions (Magic Words, 1999).

A modified handling of the trick, called "Half Moon Voodoo", was included in the True Astonishments Box Set in 2009. This handling allows the pack to be freely inspected before the trick occurs.

Requirements & Preparation

You need a regular pack of playing cards and a matching double-backed playing card. You'll also need a candle and some matches or a lighter. Some artist/pastel fixative (or cheap hairspray) is also helpful.

Remove the Ten of Spades and hold it above a candle so that a black scorch mark appears on the back of the card. Make sure not to burn through the card. To stop the scorch mark from smudging, it is a good idea to spray the spot with a small amount of fixative or hairspray.

Remove the Jack of Hearts and, holding it face up, carefully rip the lower right-hand index corner from the card. Keep the ripped corner and place it in a pocket where you can retrieve it easily.

Arrange the cards in the following order, from the top of the pack down (all cards are face down unless stated otherwise):

  • Indifferent card
  • Jack of Hearts (face up, with the lower right index corner missing)
  • Indifferent card
  • Jack of Diamonds
  • Indifferent card
  • Ten of Spades (face up, with scorched back)
  • Double-backed card
  • Ten of Clubs (Face up)
  • Rest of pack

Method & Presentation

False shuffle the cards maintaining your stack on top of the pack (I use a simple overhand shuffle technique, shuffling the cards face up and returning the setup to the top at the end of the shuffle). You can also begin with the eight-card setup in your pocket. When ready to perform the trick, put the cards in your pocket, adding the setup to the top of the pack. Then offer to do "one last trick", removing the cards from your pocket.

Hold the pack in dealer's grip, with the ripped corner in the lower right-hand corner (this position is important later for the concealment of the missing corner). Establish a little finger break below the top three cards of the pack. The missing corner makes it easy to perform a double Pinky Pulldown. Double or triple-cut to the break, transferring the three top cards to the bottom of the pack.

Note: If you prefer, you can start with these cards on the bottom of the pack. Perform a tabled riffle shuffle, keeping the top and bottom stock in place.

Turn to Sarah and say, "Let's pick our first victim." Place the pack in front of your first participant and ask them to cut the pack "somewhere in the middle" and hand the cut-off portion of the pack to you. Next, turn the packet face up and say, "You almost cut to the..." naming the card at the face of the cut-off packet. Casually drop the face-up packet on top of the talon on the table. Next, pick up the entire pack, spread through the cards, and say, "You could have cut to any of these cards..." When you get to the first face-down card, break the spread at this point and carefully thumb the card to the table in front of Sarah. Continue by saying, "But you didn't. You cut to this one. Please don't look at it yet." This sequence will force the Ten of Clubs onto your first participant, thanks to the secret setup. 

Note: The more experienced card magician will recognise this as the Christ Force or the 202nd Force. Be careful when spreading through the cards; if you go too far, you'll expose the rest of your setup.

You will now perform the same force on Peter, your second participant. To do this, you'll need to complete a fancy in-the-hands cut. First, as you flip the face-up spread face down, contact the uppermost card with the pad of your right thumb, injogging it slightly before it coalesces with the rest of the cards. Next, push up on the injog with your right thumb and transfer the break to your left little finger.

Perform a modified Double Undercut in the following manner. First, hold the pack from above in right-hand end grip, transferring the break to the pad of your right thumb. Next, break off approximately a quarter of the pack and let it drop into a deep left-hand dealer's grip. Next, move your left hand behind your right and perform a Swivel Cut on the upper portion of the pack: contact the upper packet with your left index finger and move your left hand clockwise to your right. Done correctly, this will cause all the cards above the left little finger break to swing into your left hand, pivoting between both index fingers. Finally, let the remaining cards held in your right hand fall, landing with a satisfying "plop" on top of the cards held in your left. This innocent-looking triple cut preserves the cards on the top and bottom of the pack while burying the face-up cards somewhere in the middle.

You're now in a position to repeat the Christ Force on Peter. Once you have completed the force for a second time, flip all the face-up cards face down on top of the pack and square up the cards.

Situation Check: The Ten of Clubs is face down in front of participant number one, and the Jack of Diamonds is face down in front of participant number two. The Ten of Spades is faceup in the middle of the pack (with the double backer below it). The Jack of Hearts is hidden face-up second from the bottom of the pack.

Instruct Sarah to slowly turn her card face up as you say, "The simple act of turning the card face up begins the Voodooism! The mate of your card will behave in a similar way." Spread through the pack to reveal that the Ten of Spades has turned face up in sympathy, too. Cut all the cards above the Ten to the bottom of the packet. This shifts the double-backed card to the top, and the face-up Jack to the centre, of the pack.

Remove the Ten of Clubs, being careful not to prematurely expose the scorch mark on its back, and drop it on top of the Ten of Spades.

Tell Peter to slowly turn his selected card face up. Then, spread through the entire pack to display the face-up Jack of Hearts in the middle. Due to the card's orientation, the missing corner will be hidden by the spread. 

Upjog the Jack and carefully square up the cards. Pick up the Jack of Diamonds, and place it on top of the pack, leaving it outjogged like the Jack of Hearts. It is also essential that the card is sidejogged to the right by about half an inch. Pinch both cards between the index finger and thumb of your right hand. Strip both cards out of the pack as a single unit. Place the pair of Jacks on the table in front of your second participant. The sidejogged Jack of Diamonds hides the Jack of Heart's missing corner.

Pick up the two Tens and perform a Flustration Count, apparently showing both backs. Hold both cards in your right hand and spread them a little as if to compare them. Ask Sarah to hold out a hand and casually turn your right hand over, flashing the backs of the cards (the burn mark is hidden behind the unburnt card). Turn your hand back so that the faces of the cards are seen, and then push off the top card onto Sarah's outstretched palm. Instruct Sarah to cover the card with her other hand. The Flushtration Count implies that the card Sarah is holding has nothing on its back when, in fact, it is already burnt. 

Continue by addressing your audience, "What sort of damage shall we inflict on this poor soul?" Of course, you're trying to force them to burn the card; having a box of matches on the table will help in this regard. Generally speaking, most people will say "burn it" or "tear it", which is precisely what you want them to say. However, other options that might be suggested are "mark it" and "fold it". If anything other than "burn it" is mentioned, say, "That's not a very effective form of torture. What else could we do?" As a last resort, you can shake the box of matches!

Take the Ten of Clubs and scorch its back with a flame from a lighter, match or candle. Try and make the mark similar in size to the one on the pre-scorched card. Ask your participant if the card in her hand is getting hot. It is surprising how many people will say "yes" to this question when a naked flame is nearby.

Tell your participant to look at the back of the card they're holding. The mate of the selected card has also been burnt!

Pick up the Jacks, being careful not to expose the missing corner. Place them into Peter's hand and ask him to cover the two cards with his other hand. 

Secretly retrieve the ripped corner from your pocket and conceal it in a loose finger palm. Next, remove the topmost Jack (the Jack of Diamonds) from Peter's grasp, carefully sliding it out from between his hands. As you remove the Jack, secretly deposit the ripped corner on top of the Jack of Hearts. Don't put the loose corner on Peter's palm because he might feel something has already happened. 

Finally, rip one of the index corners from the Jack of Diamonds (or, better yet, get Sarah to do this). "Perhaps," you helpfully add, "you should rip off a corner with an index, thereby removing part of the card's identity. This will make it more difficult for the authorities to identify the body."

To conclude the trick, ask Peter to lift his hand to reveal that the Jack of Hearts also has a ripped corner!

Performance Tips & Additional Ideas

I'm still not happy with how this trick misrepresents Voodoo's religion, even if this is an accidental byproduct of a very entertaining card trick. 

I'm working on a script that clarifies that Voodoo is actually based on healing. I will explain that what has just been demonstrated is based on an inaccurate depiction of Voodoo as seen in Holywood films and reinforced by popular culture. 

I will then secretly switch the two damaged cards with two unharmed ones. In other words, the positive power of Voodoo will be used to undo the harm inflicted upon the two cards. This could easily be done with a Himber Wallet, a traditional card box, or a custom set of "Buddha Money Mystery" papers decorated with mystical symbols. I'm not sure which is the best approach. My gut feeling is that the "Buddha Money Mystery" papers would be most suitable from an aesthetic point of view. However, feel free to make some suggestions in the comments.

I think it is a good idea to use easily confused mates, such as the two black Tens and the two red Jacks. Hopefully, your audience will find it difficult to tell the cards apart and might think, for example, that they've seen the front and back of all four cards, which isn't possible given the method employed. I use one picture card because this makes it easier to personify the card. I wouldn't use two because this would cast doubt on the fairness of the selection process.

If you don't fancy palming the ripped piece of card, you can have it in a card box. Carefully slide both Jacks into the box to "isolate the cards from outside influence." Next, remove one of the Jacks "at random" from the box (you always remove the unharmed card) and close the tuck flap. You can then give the card box to your participant to hold. Once you've ripped the corner from the other card, ask them to shake the box, open it and tip out the contents.


I absolutely love Guy's original handling and still use it, but I like this two-person version better for several reasons. Firstly, it allows two people to be actively involved in the magic. It also provides an additional moment of magic (the second reversal). While this might not seem significant to most magicians—we see this kind of reversal effect all the time—this is a powerful demonstration of sympathetic magic. Seeing it twice makes it much more astonishing.

I also believe that the use of the Christ Force also strengthens the routine because this is one of the fairest forces in all of card magic. Guy points out that the trick is utterly dependent on your audience's belief that the card is freely selected. Once this is achieved, the simplicity of the method will not be suspected, let alone detected.

I also like the subtlety of having both ripped corners present at the end of the trick. I never liked that the ripped-off corner from the "victim" card effectively disappears while the corner ripped from the "effigy" remains. Logically, if you rip a corner off a selected card, the same corner from the matching mate should still be present. Obviously, there's an easy way to deal with this when performing Guy's original routine; simply destroy the corner ripped from the card by burning it, throwing it away, or perhaps even eating it (I don't recommend doing the latter regularly because it might be bad for your health). However, I prefer that the ripped corner remains; it suggests that the corner was ripped from the card while being held by your participant. This small subtlety strengthens the Voodoo presentation of the trick significantly.