Performing mentalism as a psychic

Discussion in 'Magic Forum' started by ChaseC6, Apr 29, 2020.

  1. So I have been getting into mentalism and after the quarantine is over I want to start performing. I have researched and from my understanding their are two main ways to convey your mentalism. Either as a psychic, or just being able to read body language and stuff. I would like to perform as a psychic for multiple reasons, however, some mentalists say performing as a psychic is wrong. Is there anyone on the forum who performs as a psychic who has an opinion on this? Also, how do I perform as a psychic without coming across as silly?
  2. I think there are several choices here. You can perform as if you have psychic abilities, as if you are demonstrating psychic abilities or as if you have abilities other than psychic abilities (reading body language). I think you can tell the differences with how you script the introduction to your show.

    For a claim of psychic abilities:

    Ever since I was young, I could read people. I could tell their mood and sometimes guess what they were thinking. Often, I would just seem to know the next thing a person would say. My mother said I had good intuition. But there was more than that. I would get a sense of something that would happen -- a premonition. Sometimes it was a general feeling that something good or something bad would happen. Sometimes it was more specific. As I got older, I started reading more -- everything from studying psychology and neurology to studying psychics and the occult. I wanted insight into how the human mind works and to understand how much we don't know about how the human mind works. Tonight, I want to share my insight into what the human mind is capable of with you.​

    Notice how you don't come out and say you have ESP or physic powers. If you said you were psychic, the audience would automatically reject that idea and you would lose credibility. By leaving it vague (without a disclaimer), the audience can draw their own conclusions. You also set up your "powers" to know what people are thinking and to know things that are going to happen. Each performance piece in the show should relate to one of those powers.

    As an aside, I don't think you need a disclaimer. The "I'm not a psychic and all this is tricks" line kills any believability and people just end up look for methods. It trivializes what you do. The "I'm not a psychic but you may not believe that after you see my show" isn't much better.

    For the claim of demonstrating psychic abilities, this is the introduction that I've written for a show I'm developing (read it using the narrator voice from the Twilight Zone):

    What you are about to see is a demonstration of the paranormal. You will see things you cannot explain, experience things you do not understand, confront things that you will refuse to believe and find possibilities that you never thought existed. Tonight, I invite you to explore the distinction between what you know to be reality and the potential of the human mind.
    Now, you can't follow this introduction with a tossed out deck routine - the show has to live up to the hype. As with the first introduction, it leaves the audience to draw their own conclusions. This allows me in my show to work on exploring different "powers"' and to have the audience participate in the demonstrations (I am actually trying to develop a piece that has an audience member act as a psychic to solve a murder mystery).

    The "reading body language" introduction would be something like this:

    I consider myself an astute observer of my environment. Watching people, you can discover patterns that are typically only noticed by our subconscious. They say you can't tell a book by its cover, but I've found that I can learn a lot about a person through a momentary interaction. We all do that to an extent. We can tell if someone is lying, if they are afraid, if they are upset or if they genuinely care about something. What would happen if you took those feelings or those senses about people, combined them with a knowledge of human nature and consciously analyzed people's voices, reactions and non-verbal cues? Tonight, I hope to answer that question.
    Again, it is the suggestion of powers, not the claim. As with the "psychic" introduction, you start with things that people can relate to and you claim to be able to do the same thing just at a higher level. As with the other introductions, you effects need to follow the claimed powers.

    Don't trivialize you performance pieces. Give them the seriousness they deserve. Care about the people you are performing for and the people who assist you. Don't use playing cards. Don't do magic tricks (like a floating table). Develop a character that is interesting. Select effects that fit your show and your character.
    JoshL8 likes this.
  3. Thanks, the opening for one with psychic abilities is what I was going for. I like how it sets it up but still leaves it up for the audience to decide.
  4. Some things to consider, on top of what David said above. I'm assuming zero knowledge here because I don't know you - YMMV

    When you perform as a psychic, you are stepping into the realm of possible charlatanry. It's a delicate line with several unique challenges.

    1) People will absolutely believe you, if you do it right. You cannot avoid this - if you perform correctly a lot of people are going to think you have genuine powers. This means a few things - first of which is that people will absolutely want to talk to you about your powers outside of your shows. This means you cannot ever be 'out of character' if you're in public. It also means you're going to have to think about how to field possibly uncomfortable questions such as "Will you help me contact my dead father?"

    The best way to handle this is serious consideration of your character before starting to perform. You have to know what your powers are, what the limitations of those powers are, and then work to develop answers relating to that power that make sense to deny people if you're going to.

    This also means you have to be very selective of your material. What magicians think a psychic would do, and what psychics actually do, is a Venn diagram of circles that barely touch each other.

    2) Because you're trying to be 'real' you have to be extremely selective about your material. As David mentioned, there's a lot you're going to have to avoid. I strongly suggest just basically ignoring all magic stores.

    2a) To piggy back on that, abandon the magician mentality. Psychics don't have "tada" moments. If you're doing things that feel like a "Tada" style reveal, like words in books or a playing card or a 'randomly generated number' - people are going to think you're a magician doing tricks.

    3) You absolutely need to know what you are talking about. Study the shut eye content related to whatever your claims are. Because, again, you will have audience members want to talk to you about it. If you're claiming to use esoteric systems, you better know those systems (and be passingly familiar with ones that are related). If you're claiming more the ESP/Rheine route, you better be up to date on the research they are doing in PSI and related fields. If you can't hold your own in a conversation about your claimed powers, you will be thought of as a magician at best, and a fraud is more likely.

    4) Be aware that your audience will not be the same as a magician's audience. Most likely, if you're any good, you'll pull more of the new age/witchy crowd. This is a bit of a double-edged sword. The new age community spends -bank- without even thinking so that's cool. You can charge a lot and no one will bat an eye. On the other side, if you get exposed as a fake you'll lose that entire crowd for your entire region. All those groups talk to each other and they get gossipy fast.
    JoshL8 and RealityOne like this.
  5. Thanks for the advice. I will definitely make sure I am well versed in any esoteric topic i present. I do have one question though, how do I get rid of the tada moments and still have an impactful show
  6. By connecting emotionally to your audience.

    This is what I mean when I say that mentalism and magic are related but theatrically distinct forms of performance. They require different approaches.

    Two sort of 'case studies' we can use are Book Tests and Q&A.

    Quick aside - the origin of "book test" is nothing like what we see today. Originally someone would have a question, and the psychic would go into a trance or whatever, then generally name a bible verse. That bible verse would be the answer the spirits are giving.

    The modern incarnation of the book test is generally, "Open that book up, focus on a word, this is what word you're focusing on." Almost always with tons of restrictions the performer has to use their scripting to minimize. ie: You have to use -this- book, you have to focus on the first word on the page, or the last word, or you have to count down this many lines and then over this many words, or you have to think of the longest word on the shortest line of the page, etc.

    Compare that to Professor BC's "Doppelganger" series. Doppelgangers are everything I think a book test should be - The volunteer picks up the book, opens it, and begins reading silently. You then begin to tell them details about what they are reading, including emotions, imagery, specific words, and full lines, and they can flip back and forth through the books throughout the presentation. No forcing, no restrictions.

    The "name a noun" type of book test is a magician thing. "You're thinking of the word ... Gentleman! Tada!" The Doppelganger style is mentalism - it's more about connecting to the volunteer (and by extension, the audience) and going on a journey with them rather than a big reveal.

    For the Q&A -
    This is where looking into accounts of professional psychics comes in handy. In a "real" Q&A session with, say, a Spiritualist, they don't guess the contents of an envelope. They open it up and read the question, then they provide an answer for it. The answer is what matters to the person asking the question. The focus is on the question asker, not the performer.

    Magicians don't like not being the focus, so they show off first and divine the contents of the envelope before providing an answer.

    I think the best way to start learning how to do effective mentalism Q&A is by learning an oracle system of some sort. I use a couple different types of oracle cards (Tarot and Lenormand). An oracle system will teach you how to internalize the act of creating answers that connect with an audience. Other options are things like runes, bone casting, tea leaf or Turkish coffee reading - these have a fun side effect of having a lot of ritual built around them which creates a lot of engagement. For more portable options there's always palm reading or aura reading. There's tons of others as well if you look around. Personally, if I'm not using cards, I tend to default to my own style of 'person reading' which I developed on my own.
    JoshL8 and RealityOne like this.
  7. I also mean to mention -

    For "magician" sources - check out Lewis LeVal, Luke Jermay, Paul Voodini, Bill Montana (if you can find any), and Jerome Finley (Again, if you can get ahold of it). Richard Webster is popular for readings but I haven't read his stuff yet.
  8. Thank you for the help
  9. Just a follow-up on @WitchDocIsIn's posts.

    I think there is a difference between performing mentalism as if you have psychic abilities and performing as a psychic. The main difference is to whom and how you market yourself. If you market yourself as a "Mentalist" or market your performance as exercises in telepathy, clairvoyance, precognition, mind reading, etc., I think you convey that you are demonstrating a skill for entertainment purposes. That marketing is not inconsistent with performing as if you authentically have powers. Your audience is the general public who wants to be entertained.

    If you market yourself as a "Psychic" or "Spiritualist" you are implying something more. I think those implications are what @WitchDocIsIn is addressing. Your audience is the people who seek out psychics and spiritualists.

    With that said, BOTH performing styles would benefit from a deep knowledge of the area and the development of a show on the basis of what that show would look like if you were the real thing. Authenticity matters.
  10. That's what I was confused about. My plan is to perform as a mentalist as if I had psychic powers. Not as a spiritualist.
  11. True I was addressing the more extreme side of it, but my statements still apply.

    If you're performing as if your psychic ability is real, you will either A) have people asking you about the abilities like when you developed them or how you do it, or B) you are not convincing as a psychic performer.

    And, if you want to perform as if your abilities are real, you can't drop that character outside of the show. Well, more accurately it's very difficult to convince anyone during a show that you're using psychic abilities if you don't bother keeping the character up outside of shows. If someone sees you outside of your show and you tell them you can't do it outside of a show, then they'll assume it's tricks and you're a magician.

    Being a mentalist is, in very sweeping terms, a bigger commitment than being a magician. It impacts more of your life. Other than, you know, guys like Chun Ling Soo or others who played their characters 24/7 in public.
  12. I understand, no matter what character I choose I must maintain that outside of my shows as well. Thanks

  13. Yes, and if you want to perform as someone who truly has these PSI-Abilities I agree with @WitchDocIsIn as far as commitment...

    there are a lot of Performers that use 'character' to excuse and apologize for their Magic/Mentalism, there are ways to... convey a sense of true PSI-abilities, without having to tell people that is what you are doing, sometimes by not saying anything people will come to that conclusion. there have been many times during performances where people are asking me if I am a Shaman... and that is really based on me being Native

    audiences are not sheep, just because you have this entire presentation on how you can read body language, etc doesn't mean people will automatically and fully believe you, especially if your performance proves otherwise, if you claim you have these abilities, but your performance doesn't support that... your audience will know

    so, while your character should be strong and committed, your magic/mentalism/PSI also should be stronger and more committed than that, and should include ways in which every other explanation has to be ruled out except for true PSI-abilities
    JoshL8, ChaseC6 and RealityOne like this.
  14. Which is why I am happy with the non-complex nature of mental magic. :D

    (But I think some of my friends genuinely believe I can read their body language, in my defence, there exists actual people who can read other's body language really well, so I don't consider myself as 'cheating' them! :p )

    To the OP, I think as mentioned above, don't outwardly claim you are a psychic, and you should be fine.
    ForceProof101 likes this.

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