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great mentalism

Aug 19, 2008
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I'm getting more interested in mentalism. I've been doing magic for several years and I know a few mind reading and mentalism effects, but I want to take this to the next level. What are some great mentalism effects? What are the best ways to practice mentalism? If you know of any lesser known mentalism resources, what are they (i.e., I have the 13 Steps to Mentalism)? Anything on this subject would be very appreciated.
 
Sep 1, 2007
723
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Hey man, I've just made the transition to doing mentalism over the last 3 years (yes, 3 years). I'll share some of what I've learned about mentalism with you.

Things I've Learned

Mentalism, like great magic, is a combination of several performance techniques. It's also not for everybody, and that's important to understand.
Before you start with mentalism, you need to lay out some ground rules that you wouldn't necessarily have to lay out when doing magic. You should know things like, who you are (performance wise), HOW are you accomplishing these feats, what's in it for them, etc.
You also need to learn some advanced performing techniques, some of which you have probably developed unconsciously whilst performing magic. Scripting, timing, pacing, blocking, etc. Pick up some books on how to script write, or just some writing books in general. Watch the way a comedian uses a stage, how is he creating applause cues? Physical movements? Words? Pace? How are you building context and environment, then how are you playing off of that? How do you create drama?

What I suggest you do
First, start learning to write. Second, pick up "An Actor Prepares" by Stanislavsky, and start creating a character.
If you haven't picked up "Structural composition of magic" by Arturo Ascanio - stop and pick that up first.
If you can find Absolute Magic by Derren Brown, that's your best bet. Otherwise, pick up Showmanship for Magicians by Fitzkee (and buy the whole set while you're at it)
Paul Brook has a book called "Alchemical tools" (I believe) that will help you with starting out.
After you've got your character figured out, your scripting matches your character, and a good knowledge of your "how"s, go out and practice.
The ONLY way to practice mentalism is to go and try it. You'll eat it. As Jake said, "Sucking at something is the first step in being awesome at it".
Don't give up.
Ask yourself why they didn't believe you, why didn't they feel you crawling around in their subconscious? If you're lucky, they'll tell you. Something as simple as, "Everyone probably says 7". Tells you exactly what they didn't buy, you didn't sell their choice.

Look at your favorite performers through these new lenses, and ask yourself what makes them so great? Why are they so awesome?

A great place to start performing mentalism is to set the regular magic down, then begin your effect. If you get a reaction like the rest of your awesome magic effects, you missed. If they stop in their tracks, you may have hit something. You're looking for a genuine reaction that doesn't quite reach "amazement". If anything they're "mystified". The fun they were having hasn't stopped, but it's turned into an experience. THAT's what you're aiming for.

Final Thoughts-

This helped my magic so much. It helped me realize what did, and didn't work for me. How people saw me, and how I could use that to my advantage.

It's important to know that straight mentalism might not work for you. Max Maven-esque performances are INCREDIBLY difficult to maintain. You'll have to find a balance of how they perceive YOU and how you want them to perceive what you're doing.

At the moment, you're thinking like a magician. In mentalism there's hardly such a thing as a great "effect". If you want to go the mental-magic route, then that's what you're looking for. However, even a journey to find out that mentalism just isn't you, is a journey that will make you better.

I've been in magic for almost 10 years, professionally for the last 5, and I can tell you that the last 3 years has changed everything. I've never been happier or bored with the material I'm doing.

Enjoy your trip, if you want more help I'm always lurking the forums.

-Austin
 
Dec 18, 2007
1,610
14
62
Northampton, MA - USA
Interesting list, Austin I agree with most of it but there are a few other stops, one in particular, my own MENTALISM Resource & Guide. While there are those that have "problems" with this book, at least it will give you an honest purview as to what Mentalism is all about vs. the more censored points of view we've seen surface in the years since the 1997 summer of Blaine & Angel and of course the British invasion that never was -- Derren Brown (he failed miserably in this country, especially given his "you're a fool for believing in things" approach).

(Does it show that I'm jaded?)

Mentalism is in fact performance reliant; the effects are typically simple when it comes to method but it's your patter and general presentation along with your ability to actually be your character/claim that makes things come together. Unlike magic, mentalism depends on that investment of belief from your patrons so don't treat it as you would a magic trick or performing a magic show. A true Mentalist needs little more than a few bits of paper and a writing instrument and he can deliver a full hour show . . . and I do mean this as it sounds -- a "True" Mentalist doesn't rely on gimmicks other than maybe a trusty Swami or impression system; we don't run around with a pocket full of junk but rather, a head filled with know how and a body full of skill.

Understand, there is a big difference between a Mentalist and a Mental Magician; the latter does tricks that are designed for public amusement, most of which looks like they came off the shelf at the local magic shop. Many of the effects they do you will see in Magic shows and sin of all sins, they seem to love enjoy getting the cheap laugh using the same corny lines magicians have used for over half a century now.

A Mentalist shoots for realism and yes, that includes people like Banachek and Brown. They shoot for believability and not all of them believe in the use of disclaimers because of the adverse affect such things can have on your program and related claims (which is to say that many of us do not mimic the current "safe" persona or antagonist we've seen in the past few years.)

SKILLS?

Cold Reading -- it goes with most everything we do, so learn to be proficient at it. Don't waste your monty on the Rowland book; a.) it's not based on real world work; b.) it is based on cynical bias and encourages some very dangerous as well as cruel practices so simply ignore it! For the basics in Cold Reading start with two key resources; Lee Earle's Gentel Art of Cold Reading and Bob Cassidy's The Real Work of Cold Reading followed by the two most important books; Richard Webster's Psychometery from A-Z and Brad Henderson's THE DANCE (it is a limited release with less than 2 doz. legal copies remaining available). There's a lot more to this niche but this will get you rolling; the link I provided will give you a ton of other resources to look at.

Know Your Billets! It's one of the most important skills you can learn so put your money to best use by subscribing to SWITCHCRAFT followed by the Alan Zingg Master Billet Course DVD Collection.

Muscle Reading -- This is one of the primary skills that will allow you to do most anything a Mentalist/Psychic is known to do without the need of a single "prop". It is, in my experience (close to 25 years doing Mentalism & Bizarre Magick exclusively) the second most important skill you could ask for in this niche area of study. I would recommend that you start with the Banachek book PSYCHOPHYSIOLOGICAL THOUGHT READING and Disc 3 of this PSI Series DVD collection followed by Jerome Finley's THOUGHT CHANNEL I & II and finally (after about 3 years of practicing the basics) get Jerome's Full Contact Mind Reading course. There are many other books on the subject including the Wolf Messing and Erik jan Hanussen materials from Bob Cassidy and Hanussen's own course (which is pretty good -- I also suggest you get the biographic works on Messing & Hanussen, you'll learn tons from them and just what is possible with this method).

Words, Command of Words & General Psychology is the next biggie and something you won't find in those "Bibles" of Mentalism but you will find intimated in many of the older compositions by Hull, Nelson, Boarde, etc. specifically, you want to learn about Ericsonianian or conversational Hypnosis and related linguistic techniques which includes NLP long before it became the pseudo-science it is today. Being able to manipulate people by way of your words is priceless! Schooling in this arena is, especially for the 21st century Mentalist, a must in my book (at 54 I'm seriously thinking about going back to school just to learn these techniques).
Related to this are other communication techniques such as FACS (which ties to Muscle Reading and "Tells") and general body language study.

When it comes to this niche I will point out that it includes things like Forcing Techniques as well as the use of Progressive Anagram systems.

Memory -- the old timers were sticklers about mnemonic systems none of which I was ever able to master in that most I felt were illogical, given that you had to remember your abstract anchor as well as the item you anchored to it. . . this is why I developed my Easy Reading system (currently heading to a major expansion & up-date btw. . . ER II due out next spring). My system is based on known factors which is an extension to the Paul Hadley Code system (How to Develop Mental Magic -- Hades Publishing), which uses what we already know -- things that are first, second, third, etc. as the anchor but allows for other flexibility such as numeric & color associations. While I'd love the business, I'm suggesting you wait till the new book comes out (save your pennies, it's a big two volume set that will prove a bit expensive); the new book has loads of corrections & up-dates when it comes to the original release plus, dozens of additional techniques associated with Reading work as well as the mnemonic keys. In the meantime try your hand with Harry Lorrayne's The Memory Book or the original Roth system it was based on.

Master Your Swami -- I'm not a big one for gimmicks and admittedly, I don't use this sort of device as much as I could (it's just personal preference) but the Swami is the single most powerful physical tool in a Mentalist's arsenal, so learn it! You'll be glad you did.

I know you asked for "tricks" but I believe in the old axiom about teaching a person to fish rather than giving them one; with little other than the skills I've listed here, you can do a two hour show totally impromptu -- you've only to rehearse the sequence and your script, everything else will flow naturally, based on what you know. You will be able to execute the miraculous whenever you desire and under most any set of circumstances.

When it comes to effects go back to your Corinda & Annemann texts, there's dozens of little gems that will give you that Wow factor, don't think they're worthless just because they are old -- think of them as proven!

Authors to Study, in my opinion, starts with everything penned by Richard Webster, Ron Martin, Kenton Knepper, Bob Cassidy, John Riggs and as you advance I'd have to include both, Jerome Finley & Neal Scryer. From the yesteryear vault I'd track down the Burling Hull, William Larsen (Sr.), Robert Nelson, Will Dexter, Ormond McGill, and Orville Meyer collections.

Hope this gives you some perspective and serves you (anyone curious about Mentalism) well.
 
Sep 15, 2013
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Hey I'm getting into mentalism too. I have a book thats called something like Simple Mental Magic by Karl Fulves. It teaches some of the underground mentalism effects and ways. Pretty good book if you want to get started or polish up on some new tricks. Hopefully I helped :)
 
Sep 1, 2007
723
2
Craig,

I agree with your additions, however a few of them seem advanced to begin with. I know it's been a long time since you've been an amateur mentalist, but when I went to apply things like cold reading and muscle reading - it seemed overwhelming to add in addition to all the new information I had to keep in mind.

(you do seem a tad bitter, but it's subtle. I'm just good at picking these little signals up.)

I wasn't sure how to apply cold reading to what I was doing before I figured out who I was on stage. I think it's something that should be applied lightly when starting out. When I transferred to mentalism from magic, I found that some of the methods were TERRIFYING, and I felt like I had my hands full on stage as it were.

Memory, billets, and Swami I wish I had started learning earlier and absolutely deserves to be on the list. I can't believe I forgot it! Ironically, during a show if I had missed something so obvious, I'd have swami'd it on a billet.


Onto the reason I'm actually posting, is to offer Craig some help as well. I'm currently in college as a Psychology and Interpersonal Communication major, so if there's anything I can help you with, book recommendations, theories on particular subjects, etc. Let me know. You're the most helpful voice on these forums, I'd be happy to give back.
 
Sep 1, 2007
3,786
15
What are some great mentalism effects?

That's magician thinking. To be a mentalist, you have to adopt a new mindset. It's not about the tricks, it's about the systems, which comprise both mechanics and performance theory.

If you know of any lesser known mentalism resources, what are they (i.e., I have the 13 Steps to Mentalism)?

Obscure is not necessarily better. The classics are classic for a reason. Start with Karl Fulves' Self-Working Mental Magic and figure out if this is truly something you can get into, otherwise you'll be spending a lot of money on stuff you'll never use.

I agree with your additions, however a few of them seem advanced to begin with. I know it's been a long time since you've been an amateur mentalist, but when I went to apply things like cold reading and muscle reading - it seemed overwhelming to add in addition to all the new information I had to keep in mind.

My experience has generally been that cold reading seems daunting because it looks so big to the outsider looking in. Readers have cloaked their work in such thorough layers of deception over the years that it looks nigh impenetrable to the neophyte. The truth is that cold reading is actually easy to learn, just difficult to master. The same is true of most skills. Anyone can learn in a couple of weeks to strum an acoustic guitar at parties, but it takes years of dedicated practice to play stuff by Joe Satriani, Al di Meola, or Stevie Ray Vaughan.

A lot of people inquire about learning psychology. As an armchair scholar myself, most of it is less applicable to performance theory than they imagine for the same reasons they perceive cold reading as being so daunting: it's a pretty huge field. Hey, I love science as much as anyone and I've dedicated a chunk of my life to learning about the mind, but people are often surprised when they take an actual psychology course and it doesn't turn them overnight into Batman because so much of it is rooted in medicine and academia rather than the direct applications they're looking for. There are specializations within the science that it's better to focus on, such as how it applies to marketing. Take Robert Cialidini's book "Influence" as my Exhibit A.
 
Dec 18, 2007
1,610
14
62
Northampton, MA - USA
What makes "Cold Reading" so daunting, in my opinion, are books like the Rowland "Full-Facts" book or "Tradecraft" in that they were penned by skeptics trying to presenting an argument -- people that don't want the simplicity of the art to be seen, as it had been for most of the century prior to them did. Just look at the Robert Nelson and Richard Webster books that cover this subject or for that matter George Anderson. . . you can't get much simpler when the bulk of the topic can be covered in one thin booklet that rarely exceeded 50 pages (most older composition were well under that).

Herb Dewey & Co. brought us the first "beefy" books on the concept and even I find those compositions "Daunting" far too much to memorize but also a load of nice chestnuts (as well as pure B.S. in some cases. . . pro-Readers rolling their eyes when they run across things like T.H.E. S.C.AM. -- later usurped by Luke Jermay without offering proper credit, btw. . . so much for his Sainthood).

My FREE pdf. (linked in the above) offers one of the simplest and most legit Reading Systems a novice could ask for. When combined with Webster's PSYCHOMETRY FROM A-Z one become nigh near unstoppable. Layer onto this both, knowledge about the Forer THEORY of cold reading (which really has nothing to do with actual Cold Reading, btw. . . skeptics imposed the formula and related distortions over the past 15 or so years so as to blur the lines), and at least one other oracle like Tarot or Palmistry and you'll fly with genuine success as a Reader. . . one year for the basics, two years to become a Journeyman at this skill.

BILLETS. . . this has been the bane of many when they approach Mentalism in that they are afraid of getting caught coping the Read; while the switch can be a bit nerve racking magicians are used to swapping one coin for the other, etc. so it's not that big a deal, but when it comes to opening and reading the slip, especially in the more covert mode of doing things, causes fever blisters. In truth, it's easier to get away with than learning to do the Pass.

Why?

Because people don't suspect a Psychic of cheating them. . . it's that simple.

When you present your claim as being real vs. a "trick" (and that means divorcing yourself from magic), then people tend to forgive a great deal, including the illogical. When handled properly billets can be a lifesaver and on that note, there is a reason why they are located so close to the front of the Corinda & Annemann books. . . I promise anyone that moves on this path that if they learn the Bert Reese system outlined in Annemann they will be sold on billet work for life; you will see the power of the billet first hand; the only other routines I know that do this are Bob Cassidy's 4th Dimensional Telepathy and the Where & When routine that he usually follows-up with. You simply can't get much simpler than this but I will point one other thing out from Cassidy; in his book Theories & Methods for the Practical Psychic pgs. 18-23 you will find one of the most important lessons on doing billet work I've personally ever found. It is a simple single billet Reading explained from the perspective of being a Reader and how they would do a billet session with clients (NOTE: contrary to the drama given it, the term "Billet" and "Billet Reading" is part of the vernacular of the Spiritualist culture and a service still offered by the old time Spiritualist Readers, so don't whence when you hear this term in public).

Sadly, I know of guys (recovering magicians) that have been "into mentalism" for more than a decade and still refuse to learn how to work with billets, do effective Readings, etc. -- they don't believe and refuse to allow themselves to view this work as anything but trickery and that is hurting their ability to grow and actually become "Mentalists" vs. clowns that do Mental Magic and delude themselves. My list being the same list handed me when I first started corresponding with masters like the late Jack Dean and Millard Longman, let alone a 30+ year friendship with people like Ed Fowler, Max Maven, (Carlyle) and Leo Kotska of Magic Castle fame; I learned a lot about the old school process through these individuals even though I failed miserably in certain areas, like the memory development and not being overly comfortable with certain secret writing methods (though I do use them from time to time).

Corrinda as we know it today, was a 13 lesson 18-40 month long correspondence "school" in Mentalism. You bought each lesson one by one and spent anywhere from 6-12 weeks on that one lesson, until you KNEW more than 80% of the material in that chapter well enough to use it at most any given moment. Granted, things like working with codes wasn't as practical but familiarity with them was important; especially routines like the "Head to Toe" sequence (a list of items that is always the same when you do the act).

Given this fact I'd think you can see why I've said the things I've said but there is a hidden agenda by old Tony when it comes to this layout; it weeded out the magicians that wanted to learn tricks and appealed to the more serious minded student. Robert Nelson and Burling Hull both did the same wort of thing with their various writings over the years. That said, I think you can see where my outline above, really is a proper foundation guide for any serious student.

Yes, the Fulves book is most excellent for the beginner and pro alike in that most any self-working effect can be done over the phone or via radio, something that many tend to forget as they progress with things.

Hopefully I've clarified a few things. . .
 
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