This Gravestone Knows What Card You’ve Chosen

OK, let’s do a magic trick. Think of a card – any card. Got it? Now let’s take a a trip to Forest Lawn Cemetery in the Hollywood Hills.


Head into the cemetery, then bear right in front of the Old North Church (an accurate recreation of the Boston landmark)…


Turn left after the church and park, then walk north toward the graves, going up to the second tier.


Take a left on the pathway…


…and stop at the last quadrant near the end. Look down at your feet…


I’ll let the grave ask the question:


Er, OK, given that there’s only a 1 in 52 (1.9%) chance you picked the 3 of Clubs, I’m guessing the grave was wrong. But how cool would it be if your card had been the 3 of Clubs?

This is what inspired magicians Penn Gillette and Teller (yes, his legal name is just Teller) to install this cenotaph at Forest Lawn Cemetery, then devise a surefire card trick to go along with it to blow your friends’ minds. Here’s how it works:


You will need: a deck of cards, a pen, an envelope, and a victim (ideally, someone visiting Los Angeles who wants to go sightseeing).


Before starting, remove the 3 of Clubs from the deck and put it under the envelope. Set them aside.


Next: go to your victim and ask them to shuffle the deck, then cut to any card in the middle.


Hand your victim the pen and ask them to check what time it is – the person will likely have to look at their watch or pull out their phone. While they’re busy, bring out the envelope, with the 3 of Clubs held underneath, and drop it onto the cut deck. The 3 of Clubs is now at the top of the pile.


Ask your victim to write the time and date on the envelope, and then to put the topmost card in the envelope.


Have them seal the envelope and put it in their pocket with a promise that you will “finish the trick later.” Then? Go sightseeing!


At some point in your travels, swing by Forest Lawn Cemetery in the Hollywood Hills, saying that you want to find some celebrity graves, like Lucille Ball, Laurel and Hardy, and Penn & Teller. “But they’re not dead,” your friend will likely say. “Are you sure?” you ask. “I heard they were both killed in a balloon animal demonstration gone horribly wrong.”


Follow the directions above (GPS coordinates: 34.14427, -118.31628) and simply point at the marker. As Penn & Teller recommend, be sure to have your camera ready as dawning realization hits your victim, they pull out the envelope from hours (or days) before, and marvel at your masterful abilities.


According to Penn, Forest Lawn was dead set on not allowing them to install something so whimsical into a “place with dignity,” but they persisted with the help of a tough lawyer, and the cemetery had no choice but to comply (personally, this is a selling point for my choosing eternal rest here, but that’s me).

And hey, if you’re a really good magician…


Maybe you can somehow work this herd of deer I saw wandering the cemetery into the trick?


PS – This trick was detailed in their 1997 book How To Play in Traffic, and then again on the second season of their Showtime show Bullshit (Episode 09: Death, Inc.), so I think it’s safe to say Penn & Teller are OK with my breaking the magician’s code in the interest of possibly getting a few more people to be stunned by their genius. 🙂

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  1. Ahhhh grasshopper……you have chosen your mentors well…..

    ……..however, beware their Castration Celebration trick…..NOT for amateurs!

  2. Well I don’t know what to say. I read the first sentence and started going with the Ace of Spades. Then I started thinking “no, ace of spades is so obvious” and started thinking of another card. The three of clubs popped in my head. After scrolling down, imagine my surprise. I had to scroll back up and see if there was some subliminal message, but apparently the three of clubs is a favorite.