S. W. Erdnase
is the author of The Expert at the Card Table
, a book detailing sleight of hand and cheating techniques using playing cards and in continual publication since 1902. Erdnase's true identity is one of the enduring mysteries of the magic
has proposed that a small-time con man named Milton Franklin Andrews was the author (S. W. Erdnase spelled backwards is E. S. Andrews, lending support to the theory that Andrews was the author's last name). Others argue against Andrews being Erdnase because the known examples of his writing are very much inferior to the polished writing of The Expert at the Card Table
Andrews was wanted by police for questioning in relation to a murder inquiry. When the police found Andrews he shot himself dead after fatally shooting his female companion. Andrews was only 33, as stated in The Expert at the Card Table.
It is assumed that he took most of his highly skilled techniques to the grave which thus were never published.
Some argue that Erdnase was probably a well educated, locally prominent individual, hiding behind an alias to protect his social standing. The most prominent individual mentioned in this regard is a mining engineer named Wilbur Edgerton Sanders, proposed by magician and private detective David Alexander. (Note that "W. E. Sanders" is an anagram for "S. W. Erdnase".)
Todd Karr has identified a Midwestern-based con artist named E. S. Andrews who was active around the turn of the century and whose biography seems to fit Erdnase's.