Amazon. Hope you enjoy it.
Houdini did mention Sherlock Holmes in his 1906 book The Right Way to Do Wrong, an exposé of the work of con men and criminals, when he described a particularly baffling jewel theft that took place in a locked train van as it travelled from London to Scotland. It's a method that is still in use today. In fact many of the tricks and hustles that Houdini described are still in the repertoire of the criminal and we used them as inspiration for many of the stunts in The Real Hustle television series for the BBC.
The observant will also spot something in Houdini's book relevant to the short story. I won't spell it out here because it will spoil the mystery but Houdini said it was originated by an 'English crook.' You'll find it on page 61 of The Right Way to Do Wrong. I like to think that in an alternate universe Houdini learned of the method from his visit with Sherlock Holmes.
You can find my short story as a Kindle book on Amazon. Read it on any device with a Kindle App. If you are an Amazon Prime member, you can even read it for free on Kindle Unlimited. Happy Halloween.
Get Holmes & Houdini Here
Friday, October 30, 2015
Many years ago I wrote a book about Sherlock Holmes. It was for my friend Martin Breese, who published Sherlock Holmes' pastiches. Unfortunately Martin never got to publish the book. But some years later it was picked up by another publisher and issued in paperback. And now a Kindle ebook is available.
The adventure is set some time after the notorious Jack the Ripper murders. A serial killer appears. Has the Ripper returned? And will Holmes triumph against a psychic detective who Scotland Yard appears to be placing their faith in?
I've always been a fan of Sherlock Holmes and the possibilities for story telling that the Victorian era offers. As a magician you will recognise some of the elements that are used in the story. And as a bargain hunter you will enjoy the fact that for the next couple of days the book is on offer for a very reasonable price. If you are an Amazon Prime member you can also read it for free as part of Kindle Unlimited.
If you don't own a Kindle, you can use the Kindle App to read it on your computer, phone or tablet.
You can find the book here:
Saturday, October 10, 2015
Magic magazines are often started by the young. Amateur magicians sharing their enthusiasm and that of their friends for the craft. They gather the material from their contemporaries. Stacked one upon the other magazines form the strata of the history of magic as a hobby and a profession. While the latest issue of any magazine has much to offer the contents can mature over the years. Much later you read the material in a different context. Forgotten ideas sparkle like gems. At least that’s the hope I have when flipping through old journals.
Stephen Hobbs began Labyrinth in 1994 while living in New York. In the preface to this volume he describes it as ‘an incredibly inspiring and creative period of my life. I was meeting magicians on a weekly, often daily, basis. Everyone was coming up with new ideas and techniques, constantly trying to better himself or herself and improve the art.’
Those magicians included Jack Carpenter, Steve Mayhew, Ernest Earick, Jamy Ian Swiss, John Lovick, Bill Goodwin, Bob Farmer and many others who are well-known names today. All contributed to Labyrinth.
Thirteen issues were printed over a period of several years. They’ve been reprinted here in one volume as a facsimile of the original magazine. I think that’s a good decision. The layout is clear and simple. The illustrations by Kelly Lyles are excellent. It gives you a much better flavour of the era. It also makes for a substantial book of 448 pages.
One of the benefits of having a slow publication schedule is that Stephen Hobbs was able to curate some excellent magic. Half of the issues were devoted to a single contributor. Alain Nu, Aaron Fisher, Erick Dockery and Gregory Wilson each have entire issues devoted to their magic. Steve Mayhew has two issues!
Most of the contributions are card magic and some have found their way into other publications and DVDs over the years. The majority, however, will probably be new to you not least because, aimed mainly at friends, only 100 copies of each issue of Labyrinth were published. Which is why issues and the occasional volume turn up on auction sites at high prices. But it is not rarity that gives Labyrinth its value. It’s the magic. You can flip to almost any page and find something of interest and a glance at the very first issue sets the standard for what follows.
The first trick in issue one of Labyrinth is The Close-Up Billusion. It’s a three-card monte style effect the result of a brainstorming between Stephen and friends. A dollar bill visibly jumps from the middle of a two-card sandwich to the bottom and back again. It uses the topological method pioneered by Tom Sellers and J. C. Whyley and is very effective.
Jack Carpenter contributes Fate or Free Will? This is an almost self-working effect in which a spectator locates three cards that matches your prediction. I like the speed at which this happens. It’s very quick and surprising.
The Big Fat Hairy Con is Steve Mayhew’s ‘magician fooler.’ It’s another quick trick and takes advantage of your fellow magician’s lack of interest in selecting a card. By the time he discovers his card reversed in the deck he will have no idea how you did it. Very good thinking and I like the idea in the notes about how to turn the trick into the location of three-of-a-kind.
The old ‘I have as many cards as you’ trick gets a makeover from Jack Carpenter in A Quickie Revisited. I’ve always been intrigued by this effect and I really like Jack Carpenter’s handling and the addition of a kicker prediction. Carpenter contributes another routine in Carpenter’s Cannibals. Four Kings devour two spot cards before turning into four Eights for the ‘Ate and ate’ finale. It’s a simple set up and efficient handling.
The final trick in the first issue is The Grippo Transpo. Steve Ehlers and Jack Carpenter had seen Jimmy Grippo perform in Las Vegas and been amazed by a trick in which a card held by a spectator changed into their signed selection. Discussing the effect with Steve Mayhew they came up with the solution published here. It requires a double-face card but the handling is simple and the effect is straightforward and very visual.
The hallmark of all the magic in Labyrinth is practicality. There are tricks you can use right away. Ideas you’ll be able to twist to your own requirements. And inspiration for future routines. With so many good routines and notable contributors, Labyrinth is not just another volume to add to the shelves but one you’ll spend a lot of time actually reading.
Labyrinth: A Journal of Close-Up Magic - Stephen Hobbs – 6.25” x 9.25” – Hardback – illustrated - 448 pages - $60. Published by Kaufman and Company. Available from Kaufman and Company.
Wednesday, July 15, 2015
Persi Diaconis has been known to perform a card trick during his mathematical lectures. Five people choose cards from a deck that Diaconis never touches. Diaconis asks the people who have red cards to stand up. They do and Diaconis reveals the names of their cards. He then reveals the names of the remaining five cards. He described the trick in Magical Mathematics, an excellent book co-authored with Ron Graham.
The deck is stacked in what is known as a de Bruijn sequence. Magicians call these sequences, mistakenly says Diaconis, Gray codes. The key is the moment some people reveal they have red cards. Let’s say, three people stand up. The five people can now be seen as a sequence of red and black cards, for example, R, B, B, R, R. This is enough information to tell you which section of the stack you are in. And all the cards can be identified.
It does take some work to translate the red black sequence into the names of playing cards and Diaconis only describes a method that works with a 32 card deck leaving the reader to work out their own method for a 52 card deck. There is, however, a simpler way of achieving the effect. It has its own compromises, of course, but the trick is very easy to do and you might already have the skills to do it.
The stack used in this case is Si Stebbins. It’s a simple mathematical sequence. Each card in the stack has a value of 3 more than the previous card. A thirteen-card sequence of values looks like this:
3 6 9 Q 2 5 8 J A 4 7 10 K
Suits are arranged in familiar CHaSeD order.
Hand the deck to a spectator and have him give it a cut or two or three. He then takes the top card of the deck and passes the deck to the spectator next to him. She takes the new top card and passes the deck on. This is repeated until four spectators are each holding a card. The deck is placed aside. Apparently there is no way you can know anything about the chosen cards.
In fact you do know two things. First that there is one card of each suit among the four. Secondly that there is a court card or an Ace among the four. You use these two pieces of information as follows.
First you say, to everyone:
I get the impression that one of you is holding a heart. Is that right?
One spectator will either nod or otherwise indicate that they are holding a heart suit. From this you know the arrangement of suits that the spectators hold.
Next you say:
And I’m getting… a high card. A court card. Okay?
One of three things will happen:
- The person with the heart card also holds a court card and thinks you are talking to them. They say yes.
- Someone else says yes.
- No one says yes.
In the case of the first two answers, you now know there is a J, Q or K in play. Because the four cards are in CHaSeD order you also know the suit. So announce that too.
From the spectators’ point of view you’ve made two good guesses so far. Let’s continue to divine the court card.
Announce that it’s a King. You’ll be right one out of three times. If they say you’re wrong, ask them for the name of the card. It can only be a Jack (looks similar) or Queen (nearest value card). Even when you’re wrong you’re pretty close. Make the most of a minor mistake that you hope the audience will forgive because you now have enough information to reveal all four cards.
Let’s assume no one says yes when you make your guess about there being a court card. If no one says yes, you know that the Ace is in play. In fact you now know all four cards because the only combination that features an Ace without a court card is A, 4, 7, 10.
But segue into this by correcting your previous guess about it being a court card by saying:
It’s definitely a high card…. An Ace… Ace of Spades
Naming the suit which you nailed without further prompting. You can also now reveal the rest of the cards. Do this in the most interesting way possible, going from one spectator to another.
That’s all there is to it. A miracle using a stack you already know. There are other strategies for working the trick if you prefer to use five selected cards instead of four. But, like Persi Diaconis, I will leave you to figure that out for yourself.
NOTES: Si Stebbins (William Henry Coffrin) sold his system to the public in a number of booklets from the 1880s onwards. He said it had been shown to him by a Syrian card manipulator, Selim Cid, who worked alongside him in a travelling magic store. Although Stebbins sold a system involving a 3-card progression, the one he used himself featured a 4-card progression and he published at a much later date in1935.
St Stebbins performed what is known as a ‘rube act’ with the Barnum & Bailey Circus. It was a kind of clown act, which, judging by his publicity photo, he was perfectly suited for! You can download one of Si Stebbins’ booklets here. Fans of Chan Canasta will be intrigued by Trick no 5. See how it pays to read to the end?
Wednesday, June 24, 2015
In 1951 Eddie Joseph released a manuscript called The Invisible Influence: The No Touch Card Act. The manuscript can still be bought from Abbott’s Magic.
The trick seems little known these days, which is a pity because the principle upon which it operates is very interesting. One reason it might be overlooked is that The Invisible Influence was a six-part routine using a deck that had to be stacked in a particular and unorthodox order. It was a coincidence effect played out with a deck of cards cut into two portions. Cards chosen from one portion would turn up matching cards in the other.
But if you manage to read through the first five phases you get to the crux of the method, which is best highlighted in the sixth phase. And that’s what I’m describing here. The only adjustments I’ve made are a simpler set-up, the use of two decks and some ideas that might be useful in presenting the trick. The genius is all Eddie Joseph’s. Do give it a try. And then seek out the rest of the manuscript from Abbott’s.
EFFECT: Two decks of cards are shown, one red, one blue. The spectator chooses one. The other is used as your ‘prediction’ deck.
From the chosen deck the spectator now cuts to three cards. And leaves them reversed in the deck. The two decks are now placed face-down, side by side.
You deal through the two decks simultaneously until you reach the first face-up chosen card, for example the Six of Hearts. The card at the same position in the neighbouring deck matches it exactly. It too is the Six of Hearts.
The cards either side of the Sixes do not match.
The dealing is continued until the next face-up card is reached. Once again, the card at that same position in the neighbouring deck matches exactly.
This is repeated with the third face-up card. Another match. All three selections were apparently correctly predicted.
METHOD: This is the sixth phase of the Eddie Joseph routine and the trick is completely self-working. Take a deck of cards and shuffle it. Now take a second deck and set it up in the same order as the first but in reverse. So the top card of one deck is the face card of another.
In performance you place both decks on the table and have one chosen. It’s a free choice. Put the other deck aside for the moment telling the spectators that it is your prediction deck.
The trick works because of the way the spectator will choose and reverse the three cards. Begin by asking the spectator to cut a few cards from the top of the face-down chosen deck. And place them face-down on the table.
The new top card of the deck is now turned face-up, noted and dropped onto the tabled packet.
The spectator now cuts more cards from the deck and drops them face-down on top of the packet, burying the reversed card.
The new top card of the deck is turned face-up, noted and dropped face-up onto the tabled packet.
The spectator now cuts a third packet of cards from the deck and drops them face-down onto the tabled packet, burying the reversed card.
The new top card of the deck is turned face-up, noted and dropped face-up onto the tabled packet. Three cards have been chosen and reversed.
Finally, you take what remains of the deck and drop it on top of the face-up selection. The deck is now complete, face-down and with the three selections face-up and buried somewhere inside.
To finish, place your prediction deck face-down beside the chosen deck. Remove cards, one at a time, and simultaneously from both decks, placing them face-down on the table.
When you reach the first face-up card you also turn the card at the same position in the other deck face-up. It will match.
Drop both face-up cards onto the table.
You can, if you wish, now turn over the top cards of the dealt packets. They will in all probability not match. Neither will the new top cards of the decks. Turn them face-down and continue dealing through the decks until you come to the next face-up card.
You repeat the previous procedure. The card at the same position in your prediction deck will match the face-up card. Deal the matching cards to the table and continue dealing until you reach the third face-up card. Again you can show that the card in the opposite deck matches.
Deal the matching pair to the table. Reassemble the decks and, if you want, spread the cards. The two decks are not in the same order.
NOTES: The working is very simple. The effect very strong. With a little thought it might become something even better. There is the possibility that in turning over cards either side of the selection, you will find a match. But that’s purely accidental. And it’s unlikely this will happen more than once during the trick. You can actually show lots of different cards as you deal through the deck, none of which will match. It's very convincing. However, if you want to know how to predict such matches, then it’s worth consulting Eddie Joseph’s manuscript and employing his original card set-up.
SIGNED PHASE: Another presentation you might want to try is instead of the spectator turning the cut-to cards face-up, have him sign the back. Then place the signed face-down card on the cut packet as per the original handling.
This means the spectator never sees the faces of the three cards but he has signed them. Now when you deal through the two decks you take out each pair of cards, signed and card at the same position in the opposite deck, and place these pairs of cards aside. You can turn over these pairs of cards at the end of the trick, rather than during the deal, to reveal the match. It’s just an option but might some might prefer to present it this way.
SINGLE PHASE: Nick Trost mentioned the Eddie Joseph trick in one of his New Tops Conjuring with Cards columns (October 1991). Nick Trost suggested another way of reversing the card and cutting the deck, one based on what he called the Hen Fetsch Force.
This inspired the following, a prediction for a single chosen card using a handling similar to the Bill Simon Business Card Prophecy. The starting point is the same. Two decks, one in reverse order to the other. Have one deck chosen and spread it face-down between the hands, from left to right, so that the spectator can point to a card. You divide the spread so the selected card is on top of the left hand portion.
Now with the left thumb push the selected card to the left. The right hand turns over, completely, so it is knuckles up. It takes the sidejogged selection between the right thumb and the deck of the inverted right hand.
Turn the right hand back to a palm up position. The selection is face-up on top of the right hand packet. The card is noted by the spectator. And you now place the right hand packet of cards below the left hand packet, burying the face-up card in the centre of the deck. This also effectively cuts the deck, setting up the single reversed card for a coincidence with the matching card in your prediction deck.
ADDITIONAL PREDICTIONS: There is room to make additional predictions. It would be great to show that you have predicted the three matching pairs in advance. But that would require a lot of extra work. However, there is a very simple prediction you can use at the beginning of the trick to lay the foundations for what comes later.
When you ask the spectator to choose one deck for himself and leave the other as your prediction deck, wouldn't it be good to show that he chose the right deck? An easy way to do this is using a two-way prediction. For example, have the decks cased. On the underside of one case it says 'Your deck.' On the underside of the other deck it says 'Prediction Deck.' The cases contain the decks and each deck has a Joker on the face. On the backs of the Jokers you write similar captions. But each Joker contains the opposite caption to the one written on the card case. You now have a simple two-way prediction. When the deck is chosen, you either turn it over to reveal the caption or when you remove the jokers you turn them over to reveal the captions. That's it. Good luck and don't forget to check out the original manuscript, Eddie Joseph's Invisible Influence, which you can order from Abbott's Magic.
Thursday, May 08, 2014
To complete a trilogy of Einstein related magic stories let’s take a look at the invulnerable Mirin Dajo. Dajo might be described as a fakir though he believed his skills came from God not practise. He was a Dutchman, born Arnold Gerritt Johannes Henskes in 1912 who adopted the name of Mirin Dajo which, apparently, in Esperanto meant ‘wonder.’
Dajo was indeed a wonder, demonstrating the ability to withstand 24” rapier swords pushed through his torso in various directions and under the closest scrutiny. In one instance a double-edge flat bladed sword also penetrated the wonder worker. It wasn’t a trick and was observed, photographed and filmed by reputable experts. You’ll find a lot of the footage on You Tube. It was shot in Switzerland during May of 1947 and is most impressive.
Dajo declared he could not be destroyed by any kind of weapon and even referred to having survived a bullet to the head. He claimed he heard messages from angels telling him that his great gift would be of service to all mankind. The idea being that having been inspired by his healing powers all wars would cease. It was less than two years after WWII so not surprising that world peace might be at the forefront of everyone’s mind.
Many articles and several books have been written about Dajo but what puzzles me most is how Dajo managed to convince his friend Jan de Groot to become his official swordsman. At what point in your life do you ask your friend to push a sword through your body? And what kind of friend says yes?
In December of 1947 Dajo wrote to Albert Einstein who was at Princeton University. He asked Einstein to facilitate his travel to the USA so that Einstein himself might supervise more tests and that together they could collaborate in bringing peace to the world. This four-page letter is reproduced in Luc Bürgin’s book on Mirin Dajo entitled Das Wunder (2004). The author is less sceptical than I am about the supernatural origins of Dajo’s powers but it is here that I discovered the letter containing Einstein’s reply and for that I thank him.
Einstein might well have already heard of Dajo, in fact Dajo suggests as much in his letter. The story of the tests conducted in Switzerland had made the US newspapers but Dajo had also enclosed some photographs that depicted his various miraculous impalements so that Einstein would be in no doubt about the importance of the matter. Einstein’s reply was brief, saying that he hoped there was some trickery to the demonstration because he did not like to believe that Dajo was truly mutilating himself. Regardless, Einstein said he did not want to be part of Dajo’s project and did not want to encourage others to carry out Dajo’s demonstrations. It seems clear that Einstein did not consider the matter supernatural. Both Dajo’s and Einstein’s letters can be found in the Einstein Archives.
One year on from the demonstrations that made him world famous Dajo came up with another feat, possibly to repudiate a sceptical article published by E Schläpfer in the Swiss Medical Weekly.
On instructions from his guardian angels he announced he would swallow a long needle and, according to some reports I’ve read, it would dematerialise from Dajo’s body. Dajo did swallow the needle but a couple of days later, May 13th, it was removed by surgical means. Quite what that was supposed to prove is not clear to me and ultimately it might have lead to his demise. Barely two weeks had passed when Dajo began to feel ill and retired to his hotel room to rest. He was dead when he friends found him three days later, May 26th 1948.
The autopsy revealed he’d died of an aortic rupture. As expected it also found numerous scars all over Dajo’s body and internal organs. But it found no evidence that he’d once been shot in the head as he claimed.
Aside from God-given powers the most reasonable explanation for Dajo’s invulnerability compares the slow pushing of a sword through the body to a far more lethal violent stabbling. The tissue of internal organs move aside, blood vessels too, to allow the sword to pass rather than tear the body open. It is also thought that Dajo had a higher pain threshold than normal although if you look closely at the video, at one point he seems to be sweating a lot and far from comfortable.
In 1948 a researcher in Brussels, Albert Bessemans, investigated the effect of Mirin Dajo style skewering on anaesthetised animals and found that they survived their ordeal perfectly well. I haven’t read the paper but it reminds me of an 18th century magic trick entitled To Thrust a Knife in the Head of a Cock or Hen without Killing it. The secret was to push the knife through the bird’s head but miss the brain, which, fortunately for the conjuror lies to the rear of the skull. The instructions said that the chicken would feel no ill effects and that the conjuror could “suspend the bird on the knife as often as one pleases." It’s not a trick you’ll find in many repertoires today. And, to date, no one has duplicated the feats of Mirin Dajo.
Tuesday, April 29, 2014
NOTES: Thanks to Richard Wiseman for directing me to the following article. It appears that the meeting between Einstein and Gene Dennis caused some controversy. Upton Sinclair, author of Mental Radio (1930), waded in on Einstein's behalf. You can read it here.
Following on from the post about Al Koran not baffling Einstein it seems a good time to mention the Girl Who Amazed Einstein. It’s a story I first came across while browsing past copies of The Linking Ring (April 1932 issue). Lewis A Miller wrote:
Gene Dennis,"the girl who amazed Einstein," showed her mental wares at the RKO Orpheum in Oakland, San Francisco. Her act, presented somewhat differently from many acts of this kind, seemed to please the people “who lay it down at the box office."
Gene Dennis might well serve as a template for many famous psychics. She claimed to have discovered her gifts at a young age, had a magician as a manager that saw advantage in the situation, toured the theatres, played radio, courted publicity and went to the grave with her secrets intact.
It was in 1921, when Gene (then Eugenie) was only 16 that she first hit the headlines. She had used her powers to help someone to find lost money and that someone promptly told The Kansas City Star. The story was picked up by other local papers and before the year was out Gene was giving psychic demonstrations in local theatres and clubs.
The following year magician David P. Abbott invited her to his home so that her psychic powers could be tested. Abbott had built a reputation on debunking psychics. Behind the Scenes with the Mediums (1907) was his magnum opus on the fakery of Spiritualist mediums. But, weirdly, instead of debunking Gene Dennis he became her manager. He wouldn’t be the last magician to swap sides either to share a psychic’s limelight, affections or profits.
Abbott explained his actions by telling the story of how Gene Dennis passed a stringent test of her powers in his booklet The Wonder Girl, a name claimed to have been bestowed on her by Arthur Conan Doyle. But Abbott’s manuscript didn’t see the light of day until Walter Graham published it in 1992. Todd Karr casts more light on the arrangement the magician and psychic came to in his book (written with Teller) House of Mystery (2005) which is I think the most complete account of Gene Dennis’ career and contains many wonderful photos and ephemera.
Gene Dennis’ repertoire consisted of a Question and Answer act. However, instead of trying to secretly access questions written down by members of the audience she simply had members of the audience ask them openly. Newspaper reports of the day give us some idea of the kind of questions that were asked and the answers she gave:
Q: Will the coal business be good this year and will the retail dealers make any money?
A: Sure, the retail men will make money.
Q: How much longer will my husband be working at Carey’s Salt Co or be in Hutchinson?
A: He will still there until fall and then make a change.
Q: Where will I go to on my next vacation and will I stay there?
A: You will go West. Yes and marry there.
Given that people had paid to hear answers to their questions and not everyone else’s, you can imagine that question and answer sessions weren’t always orderly. One advert suggested that 'to avoid the confusion of last week' people write their names on slips of paper and present them at the box office. The names were called out and Gene answered their questions for an hour.
Perhaps to ensure that performances didn’t consist solely of finding other people’s lost objects or telling girls they would marry, Gene offered predictions on all kinds of matters. In June 1921 she was asked to predict the outcome of the Jack Dempsey, Georges Carpentier boxing match, a title fight that was one of the most popular topics of the day. She replied with all the wise ambiguity of a professional Nostradamus, “The shortest fellow.”
Solving murders and other crimes guaranteed the act was sensational. Whenever something nasty happened in a town, Gene would be asked for her psychic advice. Dramatically she’d raise an arm and point from the stage to a part of town and tell the audience that the culprit was sure to be found there. Her publicity listed all the problems she’d helped the police solve: recovered 15 stolen bicycles, a long-lost bond, a parole breaker and 23 missing diamonds. It seemed that nothing was beyond her psychic grasp.
She got caught out in New York in 1924 when she said she could solve the deaths of Carl Hostetter and Natalie Wills of Staten Island. Asked about the crime she described the motive, jealously, took issue with the questioner over some of the details and then went on to describe the murderer. But, as the newspaper reported, that particular crime existed only “in the mind of the person who asked her to describe it.” Gene Dennis had solved a crime that never happened.
In 1932 Gene Dennis was vacationing in Palm Springs. So too was Einstein. The two met and, according to the Chicago Herald Examiner (Jan 13th, 1932), Einstein was impressed by the young psychic.
“She told me things no one could possibly know, things on which I have been working, and she demonstrated she has the power to do things I cannot explain. I must tell some of my associates about this. It was miraculous indeed.”
That quote followed Gene Dennis around wherever she went. “The Girl Who Amazed Einstein” became a feature of her advertising. It wasn’t long before she was one of the highest paid stars on the circuit. And, unlike Al Koran who missed the opportunity of a photograph of the Einstein, Gene Dennis didn’t. You can check the original photo on the Corbis website.
But back to the boxing match between Jack Dempsey and Georges Carpentier. It was called the Battle of the Century and it lived up to its name being the most watched and broadcast event of the time. 9000 people saw it in the arena. They made a $1,000,000 in ticket sales. And 300,000 are said to have heard it on radio. Gene Dennis had a 50/50 chance of picking the winner and settled for the short guy. Jack Dempsey was the winner and, as it happens, the taller too.
NOTES: Thanks to Richard Wiseman for directing me to the following article. It appears that the meeting between Einstein and Gene Dennis caused some controversy. Upton Sinclair, author of Mental Radio (1930), waded in on Einstein's behalf. You can read it here.