Ernest Earick

Allan Ackerman

I had the privilege of working the 1999 Onyx convention with Ernest in Colorado Springs. Shortly after that my son moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico and when we went to visit I would always give Ernie a call. Ernest lived in Albuquerque, NM just a few miles away and I got to have three one-on-one sessions.

Watching Ernie work was breathtaking – because no matter how hard the move was, Ernie made the move look effortless. Ernie’s bottom palm technique simply is the best handling of all time and I think anyone that ever saw Ernie execute his one-handed bottom palm would agree.  He will be missed but his work will be remembered for as long as card magic exists.

Jack Carpenter

Without question, Ernest Earick was one of the most brilliant and innovative card magicians of our time. As a card manipulator, he had no peers. His creations left well versed and seasoned card men with no solutions other than, “It’s Magic.” And as it is with all true “Greats”, he was at least a generation ahead of the rest of us, and opened another huge door to what is possible with a deck of cards.

With that being said, he was so much more than that. He was a kind and gentle man, and was willing to share anything and everything he knew about improving our art without condition. He loved the art for its own sake, and his intentions were as pure as the ideal he held of his vision of card magic. He sought neither wealth, fame, nor notoriety of any kind. His ego extended as far as desiring his creations to be understood, and properly executed, and never entered the realm of petty infighting and braggadocio so common today.

He was a friend. He was a good man, and his passing has left a hole in my heart, and the hearts of all that knew him.

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Ernest Earick, Toby Wessel, Jack Carpenter
Seattle 1995
Ernest Earick, Jack Carpenter, Stephen Hobbs
Seattle 1995

Lisa Cousins

Ernest Earick did not feel that his work would have any value or interest to a beginner or even intermediate practitioner of card magic. He believed it would appeal to those who (to use his own metaphor) had already tried and wearied of the posted bill-of-fare at all of the usual restaurants, and who were curious to sample some snake meat grilled up in a back alley.

The “back alley” part of his self-description shows that he was aware of, and even enjoyed, his location well away from the beaten path, and yet he denied the “recluse” label so often applied to him. Yes, it required a sequence of steps AWAY from magic’s flashing neon signs to come upon his exotic wares - but he had a listed phone number and considered himself easy to find and perfectly accessible.

He was not a performer, nor did he seek to be one, but his manner of presenting his magic contained - and more importantly conveyed - the unmistakable personal joy in his work that is in fact the key to all successful performance.

His priority was his family life, and so magic took its rightful backseat in his world; yet even from there he gave a wink and a wave to magic by giving his son the initials “S.W.E.”

His splendid intelligence was immediately obvious to anyone who had even a passing acquaintance with him. A browse through the on-line guest book set up at the time of his death shows that those who knew him saw him as “the smartest,” “a genius,” “the smartest man I ever knew,” “inspiring,” “one of the most intelligent human beings I have ever met,” “quick wit,” “stellar intellect,” “well versed in many things,” “brilliant,” “so smart.”  His mind was playful and witty and completely devoid of arrogance.

His mind was also saturated with virtue. His considerations on anything whatsoever always included a moral and ethical angle. He genuinely thought and cared about good, and lived his life in harmony with his convictions.

Ernie’s unexpected and abrupt passing made me think of a comment made by Disney Imagineer Bob Gurr at a recent presentation to the Hollywood Heritage Society. Mr. Gurr was asked how he felt when an attraction he had put so much effort into creating was changed or removed from the park. He shook his head and waved his hand dismissively. “I never think about that at all, for that is the fate of all things.  I’m just so glad that it got to BE.”

I am so glad that Ernest Earick, and my treasured friendship with him, got to BE.

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Lisa Cousins, Ernest Earick
Albuquerque 2008

Jason England

I didn’t know Ernest Earick very well. We only met once at the ONYX convention in September of 1999 but I was able to spend almost an entire weekend discussing magic with him. That weekend with Mr. Earick remains one of my favorite magic experiences of all time.

Yesterday I was discussing Earick’s magic legacy with a friend. Although we didn’t say so in as many words, we both agree that Ernest’s book By Forces Unseen is a modern classic and will serve to cement his legacy in the minds of sophisticated sleight-of-hand experts for generations to come. But I want to take the opportunity here to specifically single out for special consideration one aspect of the book that I’ve always admired. It isn’t his brilliant One-hand Bottom Palm, or his wonderful Broadside Swivel Steal. It’s not the stunning production from Thought Manifest or the overlooked card reverse from Proteus. It’s none of the moves in the book and yet at the same time, in a way, it’s all of them.

I’m talking about the Apologia that appears at the beginning of By Forces Unseen and serves as its introduction. Written by Mr. Earick himself, and despite its title, the Apologia is an unapologetic proclamation that the author is fascinated by sleight-of-hand techniques virtually to the exclusion of all other aspects of magic. While a professional performer would correctly state that the overall effect is paramount, Ernest knew that he had the luxury of being passionate about only the moves and mechanics, as he did not depend on magic for his income. This uncommon, but no less valid stance is a reminder to me that magic and the study thereof has no rules. We are all free to blaze our own trail and have our own ideas. Mr. Earick’s trail was the dedicated study (and subsequent invention) of the movements themselves.

To me, this overt and unabashed love of pure sleight-of-hand and its subsequent effect on countless students of magic that feel the same way, is going to be Ernest Earick’s enduring gift to the magic world. Thank you Ernest, for sharing so much with us.

Eric Evans

I met Ernie in 1980. I had sought him out because I wanted to learn sleight of hand. Dusty Cravens, the local Ring President, said that Ernie was the man to know. And learn I did. Not because I was a capable student so much as for the fact that Ernie was a patient and exacting teacher. Those two qualities permeated all aspects of his life and served him well throughout.

When I met Ernie, he was a College student. How he ever found the time to create such beautiful card sleights, all the while maintaining a full course load at the University of New Mexico (UNM), I’ll never know. But I feel supremely privileged to have spent hours with him every week, during what was (magic-wise) perhaps his most prolific years.

After some five years, I moved away from Albuquerque about the same time Ernie’s love for magic was gradually pushed to the side by more immediate, practical considerations. Ernie married, had a family, and furthered his career: working for the University, signing authors for the publishing department at UNM.

We kept in touch over the years and when we would speak, it was as though I had never left Albuquerque, as if we had seen each other yesterday. During our conversations we’d touch upon other concerns sometimes, something about our families perhaps, but we would never speak of current events or other worldly concerns. Just our common love -- Magic.

The world of card magic is richer for having known Ernie, his influence was profound.

One memory comes to the forefront when I think back over the time I had the great pleasure of knowing him. He had just returned from Los Angeles, during which time he had the opportunity to meet several of his heroes at the Magic Castle.

Sitting in the Frontier Restaurant, across the street from the University, as we always did, he was recounting his evening at the Castle. It seemed that much of it had revolved around Dai Vernon.

The Professor was probably fascinated with Ernie in general, but most certainly he was interested in one of Ernie’s sleights. He kept asking Ernie to perform it for various friends throughout the night while they all sat around Dai’s table. Ernie sipping on his Coca-Cola, deck of cards in hand, having the time of his life.

Ernie described the people he met and the events of the evening happily.

He displayed some excitement, but you’d have to know him well to recognize that the calm smile on his face (with an occasional graceful gesture thrown for good measure), was about as effusive as Ernie got. Especially when he had good reason to be.

I always thought that he was somewhat reserved because I would have been screaming the experience from the nearest rooftop. But now, looking back, it seems as though for Ernie it was a high-point in his life that, when taken as a whole, was good. Really good. Not, however, anything to necessarily make a big deal out of.

And that was Ernie. Someone who loved the gears and levers of deception, but not someone who ever employed them. On anyone ever. Least of all himself. We were, after all, just talking about card tricks here yes?

On the contrary, humble from beginning to end. He was a treasure that so many knew, either through his love of magic, or his love of family and friends. He was always devoted to precision, with a gentleness that defied reason. And his absence will be adoringly felt the rest of my life.

Steve Freeman

He was a truly great thinker about advanced card technique, like no one else.

Bill Goodwin

I first heard about Ernest Earick from my good friend Ray Kosby. Ray used superlatives to describe the creative and talented magician from Albuquerque. Some years later, Ernie came to visit Ray and me and I was privileged to witness his sleight-of-hand magic. Ray’s comments were not unfounded. I was amazed at how slow and precise Ernie could execute the most demanding sleights.

I was fortunate to spend time with Ernie on three separate occasions over the years and to work with him when Gordon Bean and I published two items of his in The Penumbra. Despite his wavering interest in magic, he always had something new to share.

With Ernie’s passing, memories surface: watching him fool Dai Vernon; seeing the shocked look on his face as Michael Weber fooled him over and over at the airport; witnessing his work on the Hofzinser Bottom Palm at Jack Carpenter’s home in Seattle; seeing a deck of cards mysteriously spin between his hands at the Frontier restaurant in Albuquerque.

I was blessed to have known Ernie and I miss him.

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Ernest Earick, Bill Goodwin
Albuquerque 2008

Will Houstoun

I was visiting Albuquerque in May 2010 and Ray Kosby put me in touch with Ernest Earick via e-mail. I arranged to be in town for a day or two longer than the lecture required in the hope that might mean that Ernie would be able to fit in a meeting. I was thrilled when he replied to my e-mail saying that he was flattered to receive my e-mail but that he wondered whether I would really like to meet because he “thought so little about the conjuring arts in recent years” and was worried that his “apathy could be contagious.” He did agree that, if I was willing to take that risk, I could call him when I arrived in town and commented that he would make plans to attend my lecture as it “may yet rouse my sleeping inner cardician.”

Of course, when I arrived, I called Ernie and he was kind enough to meet me and take me out for dinner. During the evening he introduced me to Vietnamese food (as a vegan he was perfectly placed to guide me to the vegetarian dishes) and we talked about all sorts of magic and non-magic subjects. Within magic he told me about the time he had spent at The Magic Castle, visiting Ray Kosby and Bill Goodwin, and the impact of meeting Skinner, Vernon and Jennings (see the introduction of By Forces Unseen). He also talked about the process of putting together material for By Forces Unseen and why he would not want to put it on DVD, as well as the pleasure he took in seeing videos on YouTube of magicians performing material from his book well. I asked if he could show me his “Lazy-Susan tabled palm”, a move that I understood mechanically but for which I could not grasp the covering action and, after telling me he could not do it any more, Ernie did the move without the slightest flash. I now know the move can look fantastic although I am still not sure quite how it was covered! Ernie also showed me a selection of the other palms and transfers in the book, as well as a couple that didn’t make it, all of which looked flawless.

The following day I arrived at the venue where I was lecturing and, much to the surprise of the club members, Ernie came along too (He said he hadn’t been to a lecture there for about seven years). We went for dinner again, after the lecture, although, when one of the club members asked if they would see Ernie again soon he commented: “Probably not for another seven years.”

Once I returned to England I e-mailed Ernie to say thank you for the time he spent with me and he commented: “I thank you for getting me to pick the cards up again. We’ll see if Professor Houstoun’s cure lasts for more than a week or so.” I think it made it the week as, in June, he e-mailed saying “I will say that I have indeed broken out the cards and attempted to remove a few of the cob-webs from the items that I was last working on. We’ll see what comes of it.” Unfortunately I do not know what, if anything, came of it as, whilst I had hoped to meet Ernie again if I could get back to Albuquerque, that was the last time I heard from or saw him.

Ray Kosby

I am shocked and saddened by Ernest’s passing. His magic was inspiring. I met Ernest when I was 17. The owner of a magic shop in Albuquerque told me there was an amazing close up magician at the local club. When I met Ernest later that day, he showed me dozens of original sleights and effects. He was a creative force.  I have been trying to learn and apply what he showed me ever since.

A few years after we met, Ernie visited the Magic Castle. That night he met Larry Jennings, Dai Vernon, and Michael Skinner who were all there by coincidence. They were chatting and sharing with Ernie for hours that night.

Every year, Ernie fans from around the world tried to get in touch with him.   They wanted to express their admiration for his work and to ask when he will share again. Even when Ernie was taking a break from magic he would send them his contact information.

The other night I was watching a German magician showing Ernie’s tricks to English, French and American magicians. We were clapping our hands behind a deck of cards trying to do what Ernie did. Now that I think about it Ernie had got us to applaud him.  He earned it. 

I am so lucky to have met Ernie. He was great.

Ray Kosby was responsible for releasing Ernest Earick’s first published item. The effect, Rejected Coins, appeared in the August 1986 issue of The Magic Castle Junior Society News.

In an email to Lisa Cousins, Ernest wrote: “The newsletter for the Castle Juniors was actually (thanks to Ray) the first place I was ever published. A coin trick, if you can believe it.”

Knowing that most have not seen this trick, we reproduce it here.

Thanks to Ray Kosby for allowing us to share this effect of Ernie’s.

The following contribution comes compliments of Ernest Earick, a creative talent from Albuquerque, New Mexico.


Start with two stacks of two coins each resting on a table about six inches from the edge and about eight inches apart. Pick up one stack by the edges between your left second finger and thumb. Carry your left hand’s coins under the table until your left shoulder presses against the edge of the table. Next bend your left arm at the elbow toward your body until your left hand extends beyond the edge of the table. Bend your left hand inward at the wrist until your left fingertips point toward your body as in the illustration below.

rejected coins

Pick up the remaining stack of two coins by their edges between your right second finger and thumb. Turn your right hand palm up and let the coins drop onto your right palm. Open your right hand while keeping your fingers together. Also rest the back of your right hand against the table with your right fingertips pointing north-west.

Begin to rotate your right hand palm down by pivoting on the side of your right fourth finger which contacts the table. When your right hand has rotated forty-five degrees, classic palm the two coins in your right hand. When your right hand has rotated ninety degrees, it covers the following action performed by your left hand.

Toss the coins between your left second finger and thumb onto the table’s surface and under your rotating right hand, by twisting your left hand palm up and releasing the coins when they are above the edge of the table. After you release the coins, twist your left hand palm down so your audience can not glimpse the left fingertips. Next, reposition your left hand under the tabled coins.

Continue rotating your right hand palm down over the tabled coins. This completes Ernest Earick’s handling of the Han Ping Chien move which switches the two right-hand coins for the two left-hand coins.

When your right hand is palm down over the tabled coins, press downward as if you are trying to push the coins through the table. Lift your right hand, while keeping its two coins classic palmed to show two coins resting on the table. Cover the coins again with your palm down right hand and release the palmed coins while you slap the underside of the table with your left hand. Lift your right hand again to show four coins resting on the table. You have apparently pushed two coins upward through the table.

Ray Kosby

Stephen Minch

Ernest Earick was a quiet, modest man, whose hands spoke volumes when they touched playing cards. His skill was such that, when his book first appeared, many doubted he could do what it described—or at least do it deceptively. You had to see Ernie work. That was the key to belief. It was remarkable. It was inspiring. It gave beauty to illusion. Enough reputable reports have accumulated now about his ability, and among the current generation of aspiring card magicians, his work has become the new benchmark for sleight-of-hand expertise with cards. Ernest Earick was also a relatively young man, with a lot left to give, both to his family, friends and to magic. His death is a loss to all whose lives touched his, in person and through his creative output.

Jon Racherbaumer

Except for those living in the vicinity of Ernest Earick during the beginning of the 1990s, his name at the time was largely unknown to most cardmen. I had marginal knowledge of him (mostly due to information provided by Stephen Minch) and knew that a book was in the works. (Ernest did meet some heavyweights at the Magic Castle in 1986: Dai Vernon, Ray Kosby, Bill Goodwin, Larry Jennings, and Michael Skinner. These guys would spread the word.) At the time, I also realized that Ernest was probably reticent to showcase or show off. He was genuinely modest about his accomplished mastery. This was partly due to his standards of perfect, a goal he realized was impossible to reach but nevertheless “reaching” toward it was worth the effort. It also provided a sense of proportion and kept one humble.

When Ernest was diligently practicing in his insular “personal laboratory” the advent of “card artistry and hardcore flourishing” was just beginning. His approach to technique was to conceal it. It was meant to service the visual splendor of the ultimate effect. To create this kind of direct purity and visual potency, the underlying techniques were difficult—not only from the standpoint of sheer dexterity, but from the precise timing required. This is why his landmark book (BY FORCES UNSEEN) is aptly titled. Any cardman professing to love sleight-of-hand should carefully and slowly read Ernest’s “Apologia” in his book. Sentences such as the following should resonate with relevant majesty: “From the inception of this project [his book] the goal has been to place my beloved sleights, whenever possible, within some sort of practical and practicable framework.” There are others.

I met Ernest when he and I were invited to participate at Bob Weill’s Inn Event. My flight there required a change of planes in Chicago. While sitting at the departure gate I saw a man playing with a deck of cards. It was Ernest. I walked over and introduced myself. During our preliminary conversation, Ernest confessed that he was nervous about lecturing for the first time in front of magicians. This is understandable because, unless we have learned otherwise, first-time lecturers assume that other magicians know everything and can do everything—an assumption that is way off the mark. I assured him that he would find the audience to be congenial and supportive. For the next hour he dazzled me with material from his book. What I saw also fortified my belief regarding the dramatic disparity between the written explanation of a trick or sleight and how it looks in the accomplished hands of its creator! The same disparity should also be a strong incentive to put in the time and practice. These are the kinds of things that test the extent of our professed love of card magic.

Ernest was a committed swain of the pasteboards.

He was an artist.

No longer having him in the here-and-now is (as everyone so far has noted) is lamentable. As in so many other cases, I turn to the legacies left behind…with gratitude, sadness, and resolve to honor that legacy through my continued appreciation and desire to reach toward the same perfection Ernest always sought.


Chuck Smith

He was extremely innovative, and one of my closest friends. He will be missed.

Gary Plants sent us some video footage of Ernest that was shot by Chuck Smith in 1988 in Albuquerque. Thanks to Chuck Smith and Gary Plants for allowing us to share it with you.

Ricky Smith

I was very sad to hear of the passing of Ernest Earick. I had limited, yet wonderful, interaction with him personally; however, I received a most thorough education in card handling and vast quantities of delight from his beautiful and inspiring, not to mention challenging, book.

By Forces Unseen was first brought to my attention by Guy Hollingworth as part of a list he sent me of his favorite books. I thoroughly enjoyed the challenge in working through all the tricks and learning the back story and histories provided. It was because of his “Apologia” that I made great efforts to search out Ray Kosby and Bill Goodwin, whenever possible, and, partially due to the difficulty of Mr. Earick’s version, I made great effort to locate any and all references to bottom palming from The Professor, Larry Jennings, Dr. Daley, and Paul Curry. The latter situation, finding Mr. Earick’s version a challenge, seeking out everything related to it with the hope that these older versions would shed some light on the new one, and then practicing much more, was a typical scenario during my studies and, in hindsight, really improved my ability to learn the whole world. Apparently anything in life seems easy after the difficulty of learning any of Mr. Earick’s sleights.

Needless to say, it was one of my great dreams to meet Mr. Earick and see him work. I missed seeing him at the Onyx convention in 1999, but was very excited to meet Ray Kosby at a convention in 2001 in Sacramento, not just to see his wonderful sleight of hand, but to pester him with questions and make him watch and critique my execution of the various Ernest Earick sleights and tricks. It turned out that Mr. Earick was even elusive to someone as accomplished as Mr. Kosby, and, while happy to watch me do some of the sleights, he informed me that, even though he had been with Mr. Earick at that fabled evening at the Magic Castle, he had not spent very much time with him otherwise.

I did not give up hope and was very pleased to find Mr. Earick in the phone book when I was stuck at an airport in Albuquerque. While I was unable to arrange to meet him I did manage to get him to allow me to send him some copies of By Forces Unseen to have signed for myself and Dan and Dave Buck. I was in luck, though. Dan Block, Randy DiMarco, and Noel Stanko had arranged for Mr. Earick to give a lecture at a convention in Buffalo in 2004.

I had never been so excited and had to go, wouldn’t have missed it for the world. He did not disappoint. During the lecture he did a number of fantastic unpublished things. Some standouts included a flawless Hofzinser Bottom Palm where the palming hand seemed to never even come near the deck, a seemingly haunted flourish in which the deck spun mysteriously in his hands (I had heard rumor of this and worked on it with some colleagues; our approaches were way off the mark), as well as expert demonstrations of many of the things from the book.

My favorite thing, that just floored me, was, having just watched him perform an effect, seated, at a table, with the audience seated, and at the worst possible angle besides lying on the floor, when he said during the explanation that you then just do a pass and the trick is done. What pass?! I had not detected, let alone suspected this. It must be some new and crazy intricate version that flew by a group of well posted card men, situated perfectly to discover the ruse. Turned out it was just an expertly finessed, graceful and casually executed, version of the age old Classic Pass. What a lesson.

After the lecture, Mr. Earick was exceptionally gracious and spent a lot of time going over everything with people who had questions. It was one of my great joys to ask him questions and show him my progress on everything in the book. I had done nearly everything and exhausted the questions that were willing to come to mind. Yet he was still there and attentive. He asked if there was anything else, because I might not get this opportunity again. I thought I would go to the ends of the Earth to see anything this man decides to do, it is very unlikely that I won’t see him again, but it turned out to be a prophetic comment.

My last interaction with him was when he ordered one of the Conjuring Arts Research Center’s pocket sized Expert at the Card Table books. I have a copy of the book that I have been getting signed and had the audacity to contact him to see if he wouldn't mind signing it and mailing it back. After receiving the book he wrote me back to say that he had kept the book and spent a week trying to convince everyone that he had changed his name to Ricky, but with no luck, so he was sending the book back.

My friend Tony Chang has a similar passion for By Forces Unseen as myself and had graciously offered to take me on a pilgrimage to see Mr. Earick. It didn’t materialize until we got booked for a convention this May in Oklahoma. We made plans with Tyler Wilson to drive out to see Mr. Earick after the convention. Everything was settled, but Mr. Earick had to cancel due to some upcoming surgery. He passed shortly after.

In a letter he wrote me, he closed with “Erdnasally yours”, and I thought that was just fantastic, what a delight. May Erdnase be with you, Mr. Earick!

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Ernest Earick
The Buffalo Get-Together

Photos courtesy of Mike Powers

Copyright  2013 William Goodwin