Dai Vernon (June 11, 1894 – August 21, 1992) – born David Frederick Wingfield Verner, in Ottawa,Canada, was and still is known for his contributions to the world of magic.
Vernon’s interest in magic was passed down to him by his father, whom would once in a while entertain his son with tricks. When old enough, he borrowed magic books from Ottawa’s Carnegie library and by the age of 7, Vernon was well seasoned in cardistry – so much so, that when he met his idol, Howard Thurston (1869-1936) he easily tricked him with a simple sleight-of-hand card trick.
In 1902, when Vernon was the ripe old age of 8, he purchased a book not suitable for children – “The Expert At The Table”, a how-to-guide on counting cards, shuffling, how to cheat your opponents and other techniques which would help him sharpen his cardistry skills. “The Expert..” became his Bible and by age 13, he had it memorized to mesmerize throughout the remainder of his life.
It seems Dai had his sites set on Houdini, as he didn’t believe Houdini to be a true magician. Vernon, an unknown at this time, as he was just a child, calmly handed Houdini a deck of cards and gave his instructions. After having boasted that he (Houdini) could figure out any magician’s technique after viewing the trick’s performance just 3 times, was eluded by the “Hand of Fate” – 7 times – putting Houdini’s foot in his mouth. You can hear in Vernon’s voice (in the video “Vernon Fooled Houdini”), that he may not have had all that much respect for Harry. You can also watch the “Hand Of Fate” being performed by Bruce Cervon.
Dai Vernon “The Spirit of Magic” is a 46-minute documentary which gives a sneak-peek into the life of Vernon. You’ll also get a small tour of the Magic Castle he enjoyed entertaining his colleagues in, by sharing his many tricks.
Hundreds of his tricks are still performed today.
His trick ‘Cups and Balls’ (video below ca. 1970’s – and at 42:53 of “The Spirit of Magic”) is still performed and is used as a template for most in the industry. Vernon was one of the first to levitate and saw women in half – YIKES! – and what a whiz at 3 Card Monty.
A favorite story Vernon liked to tell later in life, and which is told by himself in “The Spirit of Magic” – Vernon had caught wind about a gent named Allen Kennedy of Wichita, Kansas, who could deal from the center of the deck. Dai and a pal named Miller, packed their suitcases in pursuit of the talented ‘cheat’. The men tried to track him down in ‘venues’ where men such as Kennedy might turn up – gambling halls, pool parlours… When Dai and Miller had just about enough of walking through bowling alleys and not finding their man who could perform such an incredible feat, they packed up their belongings and started on their way. Dai noticed a little girl eating an ice cream in front of a store as they were passing through:
“And I said, ‘Do you know a Mr. Kennedy in town?’ and she said, ‘Mr. Kennedy lives in that white house at the top of the hill’ I’m not a Bible student, but I thought – a little child should lead them. I thought – I’ve been looking all around Charlie Miller and I – in banks and filling stations and here is a little child.”
Out of the mouth of babes…
We will now leave you with Dai’s trick, “The Cone and Ball”.
– altered by Hystoria