Carter Beat The Devil & I Found Wonder

  1. You can see the poster image on this post of Carter the Great playing poker with the Devil himself. It’s a marvelous piece of art and a remembrance of the time when the Art of Magic had a public fascination with the fallen beings of the supernatural realm. (That’s another forthcoming post.) So of course, I, was thrilled when in August of 2001 mystery writer, Glen David Gold wove the exciting real-life magician Charles Carter into a cast of characters of that bygone era; Creating a fictional biography around the mysterious death of President Warren Harding, shortly after taking part in Carter’s show.

It must have been in about 2003, that I took the paperback copy of the book with me on a show trip to California. (If you can believe it, this was before those all-in-one-perfect-for-trips iPads transformed our culture.) The first leg of the trip was from Orlando to Denver, on American, I believe. I removed the book from my carry on and began to read. I love to read. I love magic history. I love books. As I tried to get “in” to the book (I am not a big reader of fiction) my underdeveloped knowledge of Carter was getting the best of me. And, I didn’t have Carter’s biographer Mike Caveney’s tome of Carter’s life with me to contrast and compare the fictional story now before me. So, as confusion overcame me, the plot line didn’t hold me, I started meandering through the pages of the book—reading pieces here and there—you know—like you would a book on card tricks or a magazine. Nobody reads those from front to back. Or back to front. But, I digress. I soon found myself studying the cover of the book. On which was duplicated that beautiful poster, Carter Beats the Devil, slightly recreated for this paperback. As I looked at the embossed image, I noticed bumps (and not the ones from the air turbulence!). At the very bottom. In small uniform patterns…there were bumps. The airplane seat’s lighting reflection was quite good to move the book back and forth to see the pattern. And, then viola! I realized that I was staring at and feeling braille! Small. Very faint, quite unnoticeable. Almost, invisible. Now here’s something amazing! As the plane began to descend into Denver, I thought “I wonder what this says…and how will I find out?” At this point, I was much more interested in this mystery than the plotline of the book.

We all have amazing stories. If we just pay attention. But, I’ve been told by friends, that I tend to have an uncanny knack for serendipitous moments. I like to refer to them as “God Moments”; when something so amazing or surprising happens, that common expressions just don’t do the moment justice. Many times these moments in my life are quite funny, too. Uncanny may be the best descriptor. And, although I should always write these moments down, as not to forget—some are unforgettable.

As I changed planes and boarded my seat on the next leg of this flight to California, I thought, “How am I going to find out what this braille says?” I took my seat. Just forward of the wing. This time, a window seat. Not my first choice. Then it happened. It’s a fact with my hand up. No exaggeration. She stepped out of the aisle and set next to me. A middle-aged woman. Blind.

Bam! Whaaaat?? We exchanged greetings, listened to the safety instructions, and jetted into the friendly skies. My mind was blown. I honestly couldn’t believe it. I personally knew no person that couldn’t see. If you had asked me thirty minutes earlier “how ‘ya gonna figure out what those bumps say?” I wouldn’t have an answer (remember it’s only 2003’ish at this point). We struck up a small conversation. She removed a braille reading machine from her bag. She began to read with her fingers. A bit later I removed the book from my bag. I said, “I am wondering if you might help me? I am reading this book, and I believe that there is braille on the bottom cover. Could you possibly read it for me?” “Of course,” she replied. “Hmm, it’s a bit hard to read. Seems poorly written. I think it says…She never dies, or died.” Wow.

In 2003 the author Glen David Gold was interviewed by the Honolulu Advertiser’s book review for an explanation of the braille on the cover of the paperback version. He, according to them, “refused point-blank” to address the meaning or words of the braille. Later, in an email, after discovering the meaning of the words, they asked again and he responded to the Advertiser’s book club this about the mystery:

“…Very few people have figured it out. I figured this: If people noticed the braille under my name, they would assume it was just my name, and when they met Phoebe (a blind character in the book), they’d perhaps feel that that was just making a nod toward her. However, I like how braille can be used for secret messages, and this seemed like a good place to indicate just how much that particular character means to the plot. I think I said in conversation that the book lives and dies (to my mind) with Phoebe Kyle. Explaining exactly what it says to an extent gives something away about her, but the format — the braille — is really a salute to her, generally speaking. Oh, and there are so many layers of meaning to the phrase in Carter’s life, really, given that at least one woman close to him did die.” (The Honolulu Advertiser, Sunday, May 4th, 2003)

I responded to my new sightless friend with a “Thank you, very much!” She went back to her reading. As the plane continued to soar above the beautiful clouds, I looked out the window and laughed to myself. What astonishing wonder-filled world this can be.

Sharing His Wonder,