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The story is probably from the 70s or 80s. In English probably a US Paperback. It was set in contemporary times (1950-70s).

The story revolves around a small group of people (3-5?) who are trying to hide (it's possible they are humanoid aliens). They have ESP gifts. I think they each had different gifts (Telekinetic, Telepathy, Teleportation, maybe Pyrokinesis, etc.)

They happen to be wandering around a very rural or mostly farmland area and come across a Carnival. (or Fairground, or Circus) with the sideshows booths.

The one part of the book I remember was they come across a man (aka Carney) running a booth where for $1 he guesses the card you pick. (Or something like that) If he is wrong he gives you $3. But the Carney is winning every time, and very few people want to try, though quite a few people stand around to watch. The ESP group realizes he is cheating to know the correct answer. (I think some sleight of hand so he knows what card they get, or someone else in the crowd who sees the answer and signals him)

So one member of the group (telekinetic one?) goes up to him and "plays" a few times and whispers to him, "Don't win every time, lose sometimes" But the Carney does not listen and keeps guessing correctly. So he uses his powers to switch the card, so the Carney is wrong. Then loudly says "Hey I beat him!" and another of his group tries and after a few attempts, they use the power again so the carney loses again. And again loudly "look I beat him too!"

Now many of the other townsfolk who have been standing around watching want to "try their luck" and see if they can beat him too.

Now the Carney realizes what they were telling him, and does start to lose occasionally, but makes a lot more money because more people are playing.

I think he then puts in the good word to the operators of the Carnival, and they get jobs working there also. I believe they end up hiding as part of the traveling carnival company.

The teleportation guy doing Magic shows (i.e. pulling rabbits out of hats, multiple items out of his pockets, escaping from the locked box, etc.) The telepathy one doing mind reading tricks. The telekinetic doing trick shot stunts. etc.

I do not remember any more of the story. Mostly just the one scene described above.

I believe they might have been humanoid aliens who had just arrived (crashed?) on Earth, and the scene above occurs early in the book.

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1 Answer 1

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The Galactic Rejects by Andrew J. Offutt. It was published in 1973 so it fits your time frame.

The Galactic Rejects

It isn't quite as you remember. The people with psychic powers are Terrans and they are stranded on an alien world where they join the carnival. The scene with the card guessing is at the start of chapter 6. It's quite a long scene so I'll extract just some key paragraphs:

Take a card, any card,” the tall thin man with the pointed black beard called, and Rinegar paused at the edge of the smallish crowd. He watched. One of the onlookers reluctantly laid down a fiver, a half-sprolet, and slipped a card out of the deck the bearded man extended. The red-lettered yellow sign above his head proclaimed him Thertoono the Great: “thertoo-no” was the Borean approximate of “Marvello.”

...

“One fiver to take a card,” Thertoono told him, smiling, “and if I guess wrong you win double. Two to one, my man!"

“How many times have you misguessed this morning?”

Thertoono’s smile returned. “Not    once—uh, cousin; but you never know, you never know. Only the Sun Himself knows the answers to all things, you know,” he said, obviously quoting.

Rinegar sighed. “Thertoono, how long have you been doing this?”

“Listen, cousin, who are you anyhow?”

“Cousin, you have to miss every now and then, to keep the customers interested and coming. Here— here’s a fiver, and I don’t want your sprolet. Now for steen’s sake, lose!”

...

He slapped down another fiver, took a card, stared at the nine of buckles a moment, and replaced it in the deck. The magician shuffled once, twice, three times, and began snapping the cards off the deck and slapping them onto the counter with a flourish. He put down the nine of buckles, then another card, then frowned, turned his head on one side, and picked up the last card. Nothing like a little suspense, Rinegar mused. Then, You idiot! Thertoono had held up the nine, Rinegar’s card.

“The nine of buckles!”

"Wrong!” Rinegar cried with great jubilance

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  • I am sure that is it, I do recall that cover. And as you pointed out, I did miss remember who was stranded where... But that scene is pretty much as I remembered. Thanks!
    – NJohnny
    Nov 15, 2021 at 21:01

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