Wizard Trick

by: Gary Allen Sledge


At the conclusion of this story you will encounter the secret of the WIZARD. Mr. Sledge will have to spend eternity where ever it is that people like him, that tell the world “magical trick secrets, ” go upon their death. May God have pity on his most wretched soul.

HOWEVER; now that he has done this dastardly deed (in print) for the whole world to see, it will not hurt anybody if I take a moment and throughly discuss how to do the trick properly, as my brothers, Harold and Joe and I, have successfully done for the past 50 years. (Which has never discussed, outside the family, before in all that time.)

If you care to learn this trick - - -skip the article (the excuse Gary used to expose the secret) because it serves no other purpose than that----and go to the red type word WIZARD found at the finish of the article. GOOD LUCK!

W HEN I WAS IN THE EIGHTH GRADE I felt a profound and pressing need for money of my own. I decided that the couple of bucks I earned doing chores around the house was never going to be enough to buy comics or model planes, a one a “BB” gun or a new bike. I needed real big money—the kind that at the age of 12 in the mid-195os a kid could only get as a newspaper boy.

A friend was working as a delivery boy for the afternoon daily and tipped me off when a route became available. My dad seemed to welcome this rare bit of initiative on my part. So I went for an interview at the newspaper office, which in my home- town of Antioch, California was located in an old garage with green double doors. It was called “The Station.” The man in charge, manager of Oakland Tribune District 251, was Warren Barry. Mr. Barry’s office was at the rear of the garage, demarcated by a desk built of rough pine boards. He looked up at me when I presented myself before him. Mr. Barry was in his early 30s, with a round face, wire-rim glasses, and hair cropped so short you could see the pink, sunburned skin on his scalp. His twinkling blue eyes checked me over the way a horse trader might have sized up a foal of unimpressive stature.

His first question surprised me. “How’s your work in school?” This seemed real irrelevant to pedaling a bike and tossing newspapers. “Okay,” I responded. His frown said that might not be enough. “The rule is: school first. I don’t want you to have to quit because of your grades,” he said. “Route Three has 55 papers. And on Sunday, they have to be delivered by 8 a.m. Think you can carry that many?” “I guess.” I muttered. “You can’t guess. You either can or you can’t. It takes confidence, initiative and plenty of hard work to keep a route.” His hands were as animated as his face, dancing to every nuance of his voice.

“You afraid to ask for money? Because you’ve got to collect maybe a couple hundred dollars every month.” I thought about how hard it was to ask my dad for money, but I answered “Nope.” “Service is the key to your business. You miss a house, and you get a complaint. That’s ten points off.” Then he explained the arcane system by which each boy was measured: five points for each new custom-er and ten points off for each complaint. I had imagined that simply showing up would be enough to get the job. Now I was running into elements I hadn’t antici-pated. This was no weekly-quiz kind of thing; it was more like an end-of-semester test of character.

“Think you can solicit?” came the next question. That was the term for going door- to-door to beg people to take the paper. It seemed somewhat demeaning compared with the noble art of throwing papers in perfect arcs onto front porches. But with enough orders, Mr. Barry explained, the Tribune awarded prizes—model cars, trips to the state fair, even a week at Disneyland. No one from Antioch had ever made it to Disneyland. “Think you can make it?” Mr. Barry asked. “Well, if nobody else ever has—” He cut me off: “Be the first, be the best!” “I got lots of relatives in town, I stammered. “That’s a start,” he said. “But you’ve got to have a goal, Sledge, and I’m not quite sure you even have a direction.”

I didn’t know either. I was a self-absorbed, ditsy kid with a mind that didn’t stretch much beyond my next chili dog. Still, I got the job, and the first month, selling to my relatives, I won Mr. Barry’s prize for the most orders: a four-inch-high gold and ivory plastic cup. I was ecstatic. My mother put the cup on the mantel of our fireplace.

Channeling Energy. When I ran out of aunts and uncles, Mr. Barry taught me how to get orders by door-to-door canvassing. It became a thrill, a test, a personal dare to turn a reluctant resident into a compliant customer. In no time at all, The Station became a second home to me. Our routine was invariable: We’d come in from school, talk and horse around, check the point board for progress and start folding papers on the well-worn wooden counters. Sometimes, for excitement, a rubber-band or water-gun fight would break out.

Mr. Barry always knew how to channel this energy into more positive pursuits. “All right,” he would say. “Candy bar for the guy who can open his bundle and fold 20 papers first.” He’d blow his whistle (which he’d also blow whenever we got too rowdy) and we were off. Or he would set up a cardboard box outside to test who could throw papers most accurately. There was always a kid who was good at one thing or another, and he seemed to know it. So different guys were winning all the time.

Sometimes, to keep our interest high, he would come up with tricks that had nothing to do with delivering newspapers. Our favorite was calling the Wizard. “Barry knows this Wizard who can read his mind,” a big kid named Frank told us neophytes in my second month on the route. “What’s the Wizard do?” I asked. “You pick a card and tell Barry. He holds it to his forehead and calls the Wizard and the Wizard tells you what the card is,” Frank explained. “Barry says it’s telepathy.”

I marched over and asked Mr. Barry to call the Wizard. “ No”, he said, he didn’t think the Wizard was home. Besides you couldn’t pester a great man like the Wizard all the time. Soon all the guys were goading him, however, and he agreed to call. “Remember,” Mr. Barry said, pulling a deck of cards out of the top drawer of his desk, “if you have confidence and concentrate your mind you can do anything. Now pick a card!” Frank’s fingers pounced and he pulled out the Jack of clubs,

Mr. Barry looked at the card. Then as 25 of us were climbing over one another’s shoulders to see what would happen next, he covertly dialed the Wizard’s number. Pressing the card to his forehead, he waited. “Hello, is the ‘Wizard there?” Mr. Barry asked when the phone was finally answered. A long pause. “He is?” Pause. “Could you call him to the phone? There’s a young fellow here who doesn’t believe he can read minds.” Mr. Barry handed the phone to Frank. “Hello, Wiz,” Frank said, trying to be cool. Then his face went blank. “What did he say?” we all yelled. “Jack of clubs.” “He’s lying. Frank’s in on it with Mr. Barry,” someone yelled. Frank gave him a clout with his knuckles. There were always a dozen explanations, but Mr. Barry would not say how he did it. Only that “a focused mind can achieve anything

A New Level. Soon after, Mr Barry got the idea for the ultimate contest. So far, guys competed with one another in The Station. What if we were divided into two teams, competing for a team prize—ice cream at the Foster’s Freeze across the street? The guys went for it. My best friend Tony Poveda and I, as captains, chose up teams. In the end Poveda’s Pros and Sledge’s Solicitors were almost too evenly matched.

That first month orders went up for everybody. Soon, District 251 was the best in our zone, and one of the best for the entire Tribune. We all had a lot of ice cream. When May rolled around, the Tribune’s biggest contest started. Each kid who got 64 orders in three months would win a trip to Disneyland. At our next meeting, Mr. Barry announced that our goal was to send every kid in The Station on the trip. The team captains were to make sure as many as possible qualified. The sales effort was going to a new level—cooperation.

We started soliciting in teams. Mr. Barry loaded us into his green Chevy, and Tony and I took the slower kids out. We canvassed the town, and we went to other towns. At the end of July, Mr. Barry announced the results: 18 of 25 had won trips— an unprecedented number. Cheers! It’s time to call the Wizard ,” I declared. “Wizard, Wizard, Wizard,” everyone chanted.  “Okay,” Mr. Barry said, “pick a card.” I picked the nine of hearts and got to hear the Great Man on the phone. A strange, low, obviously Wizard-like wheezing voice said, “Nine of hearts,” and then hung up.

The Right Time. That summer trip I won to Disneyland marked the end of boyhood. I was going into my junior year in high school, and it simply wasn’t cool anymore to be seen on a bike. Also my strong, silent grandfather died. Then, a nascent romance went sour. I entered a long, gray hall of depression.

One autumn day I was slow folding my papers. Just Mr. Barry and I were left in The Station. I went up to his desk. He leaned back in his chair and put his hands behind his head, waiting for me to say something. “I’m going to quit,” I blurted. “I got all academic subjects this year, and I have to keep my grades above an A-minus. I want to go to college—and my grandfather died.”      There was a long pause. “I thought you might,” he said. “And it might be the right time.” He came around the desk and put an arm on my shoulder. “Sometimes everything seems to change at once. Sometimes things seem unfair. But a man takes what life gives him and makes the best of it,” he told me. “I figure you got some growing-up business to take care of now. “I don’t know if I can take care of it.” “Just remember,” he said, his eyes twink-ling, “you can do anything you put your mind to.”

ONE EVENING a couple of years later I ran into Mr. Barry. He was then home- delivery manager of 26 districts and had returned to Antioch on a supervisory visit. “You ever do the Wizard anymore?” I asked him. “How did you do it, anyway?” He looked me over carefully, trying, I suppose, to see if I was enough of a man to handle the weighty knowledge.

“Easy,” he said. “My friend Bob Provine at the paint store was in on it with me. I’d say, ‘Hello, is the Wizard there?’ and he’d start counting suits. If diamonds was up I’d interrupt him with, ‘He is?’ after he said diamonds. Then he’d start counting up from ace and I’d interrupt him after the right number with ‘Could you call him to the phone?’ I’d hand the phone to a kid and Bob would speak in a spooky voice. That’s it?” I asked, both incredulous and disappointed. That’s it. Simple but not easy.

I spent the rest of the night thinking how the Wizard was just like a lot of other things in adult life—phony and disappointing. There was no magic in it at all. It was all a façade, a word I had recently learned and used a lot because I thought it made me seem worldly.  I was 18 then, just old enough to see the performance and not the meaning. I’m a lot older now. I’ve worked with kids myself for many years—Cub Scouts, Sunday school, and other organizations. I can appreciate a good façade—and what’s behind it.

Mr. Barry had made it all seem simple, I now realize, but it had not been easy motivating boys like me who had come to him without direction or purpose. And by being energetic, exacting and entertaining, he had lifted us to an unimagined level of performance. I had totally misunderstood who and what the Wizard was. He was not an invisible genie with a stage voice at the other end of a phone line. He was standing right before me with twinkling eyes behind wire-rim glasses the whole time. His magic had nothing to do with mind reading and everything to do with mind molding. And the magic was not an act. The magic was the man.



Published Monthly by: The Reader’s Digest Association

                                         Pleasantville, N.Y. 10570

                                         Copyright @ September, 1995, Reader’s Digest Assoc.





Johnny Carson started his fabulous career by learning some magic tricks in his own home. You can now start your team effort to astound and confuse you friends and associates. I said “team” because you need to decide on one of your smarter friends to be your team “Wizard.” (You can change off and be the Wizard from time to time after you get good at your part)

First: you need a new or used deck of playing cards. (Unlike gambling: it doesn’t matter if it contains 52 cards) However, you don’t ever use the joker.

Anyone can mix the cards up in any fashion that is familiar to them. Take the deck and ask someone to cut it into two piles with them handing you the top card from the exposed pile. After you see it hand it back to the one that cut the deck.


Ask them to stare at the card - Say the card, number and suit to themselves. The better they can concentrate, the harder they try to concentrate on the card only ---–the easier it is for the WIZARD. (You will develop a pitch yourself that is very natural to you as you continue to practice. Johnny Carson is just himself—real natural–and look where it gotten him.


The WIZARD can be anywhere in the world as long as he can be contacted by phone. He can be as many people as you want to let in on the trick so that you can always perform the trick, where ever you happen to be at the moment. I used my two brothers so as to have a back-up Wizard available.

ANYTIME your Wizard answers the telephone, Day or night, and he hears that someone uses the word “Wizard must immediately , SLOWLY, say ;                     “HEARTS----DIAMONDS---- CLUBS---- SPADES                     HEARTS DIAMONDS CLUBS SPADES”

                                                             until you say: “May I speak to the Wizard?

          YOU WILL SAY THAT SO AS TO STOP HIM TALKING (RIGHT—Just as soon as he says the suit you want)

IMMEDIATELY the Wizard starts counting from one to ten , SLOWLY, plus JACK, QUEEN, KING, (Remember, the Ace is one as he counts.) Everyone knows you are holding for the Wizard to answer.

This is a good time for you to remind the card holder to concentrate – don’t be listening to you–remember that helps the Wizard get the message faster.

Now- when he says the right numerical number- you say; “Hello Wizard”

Then: Ask the Wizard if he would please tell your friend what card has been concentrated upon all this time. (Or something like that question–more on this later)

The Wizard should (NO! Must) disguise his voice when answering. My brothers and I sound just alike in our speaking voice so we knew we had to remember and change our voice. This is very important — because – if someone recognizes who your partner is and calls his number and asks if he is the Wizard, the response will be: “Hearts - Diamonds – Clubs – Spades.” (And that’s what it should be every time he hears the code word - Wizard.

WELL! What a waste of time..Nobody will fall for that. Isn’t that simple.

The great mysteries of the world are simple after you are told how it works. Every inventor knows what the reaction will be when he tells you his secret idea – isn’t that simple. All the inventor did was move the hole in the needle from the back end of the needle to the front, pointed, end of the needle and he made the sewing machine work. Simple idea.

The young, 24 year-old boy from a small Midwestern town had a simple idea. It seems the local commissioner needed to remove a 65-foot water tower because it was an eye-sore now that they had joined a large water servicing company. They knew it would cost a considerable amount of money to build the scaffold of timbers required to cut the tower up safely and remove it as required, They were really surprised to receive a sealed bid from Ferris, the young man, for one-half the estimated cost furnished them by the city engineer to do the job. They call him in for an interview before awarding the contract because they didn’t want to see him lose so much money on the job. This would destroy the young mans life. However, he assured them he was confident of his idea and the cost involved. He was awarded the contract.

Ferris proceeded to pull some small timbers to the top of the empty tower and build a small raft therein. Next he filled the tower with enough water to float the raft to the top of the inside of the tower. Then as they floated around inside they used their torches to cut the shell into pieces which they pushed over the side , and they fell to the ground. Round and round, cutting and cutting, as they removed more water each trip. Simple idea. (This young man went on to finally building the access road to the bottom of a large canyon so that they could start the construction of what was then Boulder Dam, now Hoover dam.)

Now–back to the Wizard.

The young man was in New York to see all the sights and he stopped a man on the street and asked him, “How do I get to Carnegie Hall?” PRACTICE! PRACTICE! PRACTICE! was the answer.

Your team must now practice - practice - practice.

The Wizard should always recite the suits and numbers required of him in the same order and the same speed. That way you have time to anticipate the one you want and therefore stop him or else he will continue and give you a second chance. It take practice for you to get your timing down. All the great stand-up entertainers you know and like are master of timing. You and your partner want to be professional at this and so you must practice in preparation for your debut.

ALSO REMEMBER - Everyone knows in their heart that you are telling the Wizard what the card really is. There’s no magic involved. It has to be so. SO! Confuse them by saying different things with each new card request. You might raise you voice, change the words in your request, anything different. With their solution to the trick you would have to have 52 different ways of passing on the information you want the Wizard to know. (A good guess would be that you have learned 14 phrases - 1 for the four suits plus 10 for the number of the card)

Still no small feat.

For the small amount of effort you will have to put into perfecting your timing and chatter and the return you will receive from the amazement created by the outcome you will be eternally indebted to us for letting you in on this 50 year old family secret. Good Luck from your show-business friends.

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