According to urban American folklore collected by Dr. Dawson Sou, the 52 Decker, also known as the Decker-of-52, the Cardman, the Shuffler, or simply the Decker, is a shadowy figure that dispenses fates written on the face side of playing cards. Some accounts have it as a grim reaper in black robes, while others give it a more hobo-esque or homeless appearance. All agree that it is always hooded and its face is never seen, though Dr. Sou has noted a few cases in which the telling recount isolated features of a face visible against pooled darkness.

Whatever its exact appearance, the 52 Decker arrives in an area and purchases a new deck of cards. It often gives its first fate to the person that sells it the cards, although some telling have the card-seller gifted with an antique gold piece or otherwise rewarded. Once armed with a deck of cards, the 52 Decker will scrawl a fate on each card in the deck, in turn, and place it at the home of a victim. This fate will bedevil the occupant for a number of weeks equal to the face value of the card, with jacks as 11, queens as 12, kings as 13, jokers as an indeterminate period, and an ace meaning either one week or forever.

A typical example from the stories is a card, often a low-value card like the two of hearts, with the word “INSOMNIAC” written on it. A person finds it and suffers from insomnia for two weeks. The legends differ on whether the card must be found or not, but all agree that the fate is binding. Other fates attested in legends collected by Dr. Sou include things like:


In darker manifestations of the story an “ANOREXIC” card with a high face value, like a king or ace, results in a victim starving to death. In virtually every telling, though, the cards are drawn and inscribed at random.

Defeating or driving away the 52 Decker seems to be contingent on seizing its deck. The rules card, in particular, is said to have power over the Decker, and anything written on it by a victim will supposedly effect the Decker, making the creature wiling to barter for its return. In some cases an additional card with a pleasant fate, like “FORTUNE,” is added to sweeten the deal. But in some tellings this is a trap, and the Decker will retaliate with a fresh card once it recovers its deck.

The only other way to drive away a 52 Decker is to allow it to hand out 52 fates, at which point it will discard any remaining parts of its deck and disappear.

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