David Berglas

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David Berglas

David Berglas appearing on "After Dark", 8 July 1989.jpg
Berglas appearing on television discussion After Dark in 1989
Born (1926-07-30) 30 July 1926 (age 93)
Occupation psychological magician and mentalist.

David Berglas MBE (born 30 July 1926) is a British magician and mentalist of German-Jewish descent. His secret technique of locating a particular card within a pack has been described as the Holy Grail of card magic. He was one of the first magicians to appear on UK television.


Early life

David Berglas was educated in several different European countries. He is German-Jewish, [1] and escaped to Britain from Nazi Germany, aged 11. [2] At 16 he wanted to become a Spitfire pilot. He lied about his age and managed to join the RAF. When his true age was discovered he was not allowed to complete his training.

Still keen to be part of the war, he discovered that the American Army was urgently looking for suitable recruits for an important role in the denazification of Germany. The requirements were quite stringent. They had to have some previous military training, and to be able to pass strict physical and mental tests. Most importantly they had to speak two languages besides English, one of which had to be fluent German. The required minimum age was 21. Berglas explained that he was only 19 but could meet all the other qualifications. He was accepted into the Intelligence Service of the US Army, serving an 'adventure filled' 18 months at the end of WWII. He then attended Bradford Technical College to study textiles with a view of joining his family business based in Wyke. [3]

He first became interested in magic in 1947, through a chance meeting with Ken Brooke. Magic became an all-absorbing hobby for about 5 years, during which time he studied psychotherapy, specialising in medical hypnosis. [4] [5] Although never performing as a stage hypnotist, his demonstrations gave him the experience of standing in front an audience and handling volunteers on stage. This gave him the confidence when he became a professional magician in 1952, working prestigious nightclubs and then in 1953 appearing at the famous Windmill Theatre, performing 6 times a day, 6 days a week, for 6 weeks. This was followed by an extensive tour of all the leading variety theatres and night clubs.

He devised numerous unique and entertaining sales presentations and product launches for household name brands. His specialised seminars included personal development, motivation, and memory systems.

David Berglas is the father of Marvin Berglas of Marvin's Magic, the world's largest supplier of professional magic sets. He is also uncle of South African cartoonist Zapiro.


In his 2009 Enigma show brochure, Derren Brown describes David Berglas as "One of our greatest living magical performers" and thanks him "for his constant inspiration and generosity. Each show is indebted to his artistry and astonishing body of work. Thank you David".

In the 1950s, Berglas created what is now referred to as the "Holy Grail" of card magic, known as "The Berglas Effect", [6] in which a magician appears to allow someone to freely name any playing card and freely select any position in a deck ("any card at any number"), and the specified card is found at the specified position in a random deck. [7] The effect was first named "The Berglas Effect" by Jon Racherbaumer in his 1984 book At The Table. [8]

The British Magical Society is the oldest magic club in the UK. It presents 'The David Berglas Trophy' annually (since 1988) to leading British magicians. [9]

In 1999 he established a non-profit organisation called the Foundation for Promoting the Art of Magic (FP-AM). The Foundation presents "The David Berglas International Magic Award" annually at the International Magic Convention in London. It was first awarded to the organisers of the convention, The MacMillan family, then in 2008 to Uri Geller (Israel), [10] [11] in 2009 to David Copperfield (USA), [12] in 2010 to Juan Tamariz (Spain), [13] in 2011 to Derren Brown (UK) [14] in 2012 to Jeff McBride (USA), [15] and in 2013 Lu Chen (Taiwan) was the recipient. In 2014 the award was given to Berglas himself. [16] The Award Committee had led Berglas to believe that the award was being presented to Dynamo. Dynamo presented the award to him but used sleight-of-hand to change the engraved plaque on the award to Berglas' name.


David Berglas has been involved with numerous major films, acting as a creative consultant and technical advisor, including:

And to date, four other James Bond movies.[ citation needed ]


Berglas first became a household name in Britain through his regular performances on BBC radio, an unusual role for a magician. He conducted what he called "Nationwide Psychological Experiments", involving millions of listeners in their homes. This part of the show required listeners to write in to confirm their reaction. To this day the BBC's archives have recorded this as being the largest collection of fan mail ever received. During the show's run it was not unusual for David to receive 3000 – 4000 postcards or letters per week.

His weekly broadcasts included sensational stunts, including hanging a box over Regent Street, London for a whole week. It had been officially sealed by the Diplomatic Corps of the Admiralty, and when opened, it contained the passport of a randomly selected member of the studio audience, sitting in the Playhouse Theatre by the Embankment. The passport had disappeared just moments before.

He appeared on sound radio, on and off, for about 17 years and when commercial radio first started he had a regular phone-in programme, late at night on LBC (London Broadcasting Company), which started in 1973.


He was one of the first magicians to appear on British television with his own show Meet David Berglas in 1954, which regularly attracted audiences of over 19 million viewers. Numerous other television series followed and were highly acclaimed in the Netherlands, Sweden, Norway and Germany. Commercial television started in the UK in September 1955 and the first ever series was presented by Berglas on Associated Rediffusion called Focus on Hocus.

In the 1970s he presented a one-hour television special from Las Vegas and in the UK he caused a sensation with his Channel 4 series The Mind of David Berglas (1985–1986) where he interviewed and entertained celebrity guests including Omar Sharif, Christopher Lee, Britt Ekland, Peter Cook, Graham Chapman and Max Bygraves.



In 1967 he released his best-selling Dutch book David Berglas onthult...bijna alles (David Berglas reveals...nearly everything), published by H.J.W. Becht's Uitgeversmaatschappij N.V. and in 1988 A Question of Memory (with Guy Lyon Playfair), published by Jonathan Cape Ltd. ( ISBN   0 224 025570).

He has written a substantial number of articles and lecture notes for the magical fraternity, including The David Berglas File No.1 (1976) and the much sought-after tome, now out of print, The Mind and Magic of David Berglas – As Revealed to David Britland, 2002, published by Jim Steinmeyer through Hahne Publications. This has become a collector's item and is selling for several times its original price.

2011 – He released a book with Richard J. Kaufman entitled The Berglas Effects – this is the book named after his famed "Any Card at Any Number" plot. The book has a foreword by Juan Tamariz, an afterword by Max Maven, contains 3 DVDs and also includes a pair of 3D glasses.

2012 – He provided both a contribution and foreword to the PSYCRETS book Liber Mentis ( ISBN   978-1-291-10732-6). A mysterium of effects essays and routines, edited and authored by Steve Drury.

2012 – Berglas provided the Foreword to Dunninger Knows, by Joe Atmore

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  14. "Magic Convention Guide » Blog Archive » Derren Brown Awarded David Berglas International Magic Award".
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