Magician David Berglas who perfected the holy grail of magic tricks that even baffled his fellow conjurors dies aged 97 – taking its secret to the grave
- Magician David Berglas, inventor of renowned Berglas Effect, has died aged 97
- Berglas inspired today’s top illusionists including Derren Brown and Dynamo
David Berglas, one of the most influential magicians of the 20th century who perfected the holy grail of magic tricks that even fooled fellow conjurers has died aged 97.
The Magic Circle, touted as the most famous magic society in the world, confirmed Berglas died in London on Friday night.
Also known as the International Man of Mystery, he was the first ever magician to have his own programme on British television, Meet David Berglas, in 1954.
In the 1980s he had a second television series, called The Mind of David Berglas, where he entertained a raft of celebrities, including Omar Sharif, Christopher Lee and Britt Ekland.
David Berglas (pictured in 1974), one of the most influential magicians of the 20th century who perfected the holy grail of magic tricks that even fooled fellow conjurers has died aged 97.
Berglas was awarded an MBE by the Prince of Wales in 2018 for his services to magic and psychology (pictured being awarded by the Prince William in May 2019)
Throughout the decades, he appeared frequently on British TV and radio and became a household name for his incredible stunts, one of which included driving a car around London while blindfolded.
READ MORE: Confessions of the teenage magician… who has now been crowned new head of the Magic Circle
Berglas was renowned in magic circles for a trick called the Berglas Effect, with which he could find a spectator’s chosen card at any position in a deck of cards, known amongst magicians as an any card at any number (ACAAN) effect.
It is regarded as the holy grail of magic effects, the secret of which he took to the grave.
ACAAN effects are among the strongest illusions a magician can perform, and hundreds of methods have been created to wow their audiences.
But no version has ever quite topped Berglas’s since he perfected it in the late 1940s, which eludes even today’s most accomplished magicians.
Most other ACAAN tricks – and in fact most card tricks in general – require some manipulation of the deck.
But in Berglas would place the deck on the table and not touch it until the revelation.
‘Think of any card and any number’, he would ask the spectator. ‘The four of spades and 16,’ they might say.
And then, as if by magic, the spectator would count through 16 cards and find the four of spades.
David Berglas with his family including his son Marvin Berglas (second right), the creator or magic maker Marvin’s Magic, after receiving his MBE
Illusionist Derren Brown hailed Berglas as ‘one of our greatest living magical performers’ when Berglas was awarded his MBE
Berglas is a favourite magician of today’s most popular illusionists, including Derren Brown and Dynamo (pictured)
Berglas was accused of using stooges, audience plants, by rival magicians, but he insisted that this was not the method. ‘If people can’t find an explanation for something, they always say it must be a stooge,’ Mr Berglas told The New York Times in 2021.
How does the Berglas Effect work?
Magician David Berglas started to perfect his take on an any card at any number (ACAAN) routine in the late 1940s before debuting it in 1953.
In an ACAAN effect, a spectator names any card, say the four of spades and any number, say 16.
And then magically, after counting down 16 places, the four of spades will appear to the delight/horror of the bewildered audience.
Hundreds of methods for this effect have been created in the nearly three quarters of a century since Berglas created his own spin.
But most will involve the magician manipulating the deck in some fashion. But not the Berglas Effect.
The world famous magician would place the deck on the table and not touch it until the revelation.
Berglas did the trick for New York Times journalist David Segal in 2021, after getting ‘angry’ about being asked to perform it ‘at m age’.
Instead he asked Mr Segal to do a trick for him, asking him to take three decks of cards out of a drawer behind him.
He asked the journalist to choose one of the three decks, open it and place it face down in front of him.
Mr Segal then chose a card and a number, the seven of diamonds and 44.
Berglas said: ‘I’ll take a chance. I might be off by two.’
Mr Segal then dealt the cards face up, one-by-one and as he turned over the 43rd card, it was the seven of diamonds. ‘One off,’ Berglas said, not hugely impressed with himself.
The Berglas Effect still remains the holy grail of magic tricks and one a budding illusionist wishing to join the halls of magic history will have to top.
Berglas was awarded an MBE by the Prince of Wales in 2018 for his services to magic and psychology.
He said upon receiving his award: ‘I am delighted to accept this honour but even more pleased that the art of magic has at last been recognised.
‘I have spent over 60 years entertaining people in person, on radio and television – ‘reading their minds’ – but I certainly didn’t see this one coming.’
Berglas revitalised The Magic Circle society during his tenure as president from 1989-1998.
It was under his guiding hand that The Magic Circle elected to admit women to the illusionist society in 1991.
His son Marvin Berglas, elected president of The Magic Circle in September this year, said: ‘My father was a giant in the magic fraternity, known for his originality, creativity and showmanship.
‘His mysteries have not only baffled audiences but also his peers. However, to us, his family, he will always be best remembered as a loving husband, father and grandfather.’
Berglas is a favourite magician of today’s most popular illusionists, including Derren Brown and Dynamo.
Illusionist Derren Brown hailed Berglas as ‘one of our greatest living magical performers’ when Berglas was awarded his MBE.
‘Generations of magicians owe him a debt of gratitude,’ Brown said.
‘Each of my shows is indebted to his artistry and astonishing body of work. I thank him for his constant inspiration.’
Dynamo said of Berglas in 2016: ‘He’s probably my favourite magician of all time. In the Fifties his TV show, Meet David Berglas, was watched by 20 million people.
‘Around this time he created a piece of card magic that came to be known as The Berglas Effect. That alone made him a legend. He became known as The International Man Of Mystery.’
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