Resources for Mentalism

Discussion in 'Magic Forum' started by ShenkermanDavid, Sep 8, 2019.

  1. When I started out in Mentalism, everyone was recommending 13 steps, PME and bob cassidys fundamentals. So I studied all of them, and learned from them, and I have a repertoire. However, when I look at mentalists like Derren Brown, his work is inexplicable, none of the classics even come near it. What resources do I need to read to get to that level?
  2. There is a list in Fundamentals. Also, check our Craig Browning's Introduction to Mentalism (its free!). Another cheap book is Karl Fulves' Self Working Mentalism (it really isn't self working, but that is for another thread). There is a ton of stuff in the Jinx (free on Ask Alexander if you register) and in Genii (75+ years of electronic archives with a subscription -- especially Max Maven's column).

    In no particular order: Eliot Brescher's Switchcraft, Max Maven's Prism, Banachek's Psychological Subtleties, T.A. Water's Mind, Myth & Magik, Ted Leslie's Paramiracles, Ken Webber's Maximum Entertainment, Brown's Pure Effect and
    Absolute Magic and Paul Brook's Alchemical Tools.

    Then go back and reread 13 Steps.
  3. I have already read some of these sources, and I will read the others. However, will the sources improve my knowledge in mentalism, or help me grow as a mentalist? Because as of now, I can’t seem to find strong enough material. There’s always a catch in the effects I do, and with some mentalists, their effects are inexplicable.
  4. #4 RealityOne, Sep 9, 2019
    Last edited: Sep 9, 2019
    There always is a catch, unless you have real psychic powers. The key is whether the catch is apparent to the audience.

    The first problem is that as mentalists, we want to learn to be real mind readers. We can’t. It is just an illusion. The key is to view that illusion from the audience’s perspective not the performers perspective.

    The second problem is that methods are typically unsatisfactory. They seem too simplistic. Once you know the method, it just seems obvious and you can’t see how the audience is fooled.

    The third problem is that we cannot convey belief. We know the method, we know it is a trick and our performance shows it.

    Finally, we cannot convey context and meaning. Why would the audience care if we can determine what playing card they picked?

    If we could do overcome those problems, a mentalism effect would look like this:

    Do you ever think about lying? I don’t mean about whether you should lie, but about how frequently people actually lie. The famous poet Gordon Sumner once said that “Poets, priests and politicians all have lies to thank for their positions."

    How many times do we lie without thinking about it. When someone asks you how you are doing, you probably reply “good” unless you are a grammar nerd and say “I am doing well.” But you probably say that regardless of how you actually are doing.

    There are some questions we are required to respond with a lie. “Does this make me look fat?” “Wouldn’t it be fun to go to the opera for my birthday?” Or when your boss asks “Do you have any plans for the weekend?” knowing that he wants you to spend the entire weekend working on the important sales presentation due on Monday. There is even the question posed by the great philosopher Meatloaf asking “Will you love me, love me forever?” Those lies are hard to detect because we need them to be true and our answers are all but automatic.

    It’s the lies you have to think about that get you in trouble. “Why didn’t you get home until late last night?” “How much longer will it take to get that big project done yet?” “How much did you have to drink?” Or the one that always gets my son, “How many chocolate chip cookies did you eat?” We have to think about whether to lie and evaluate what would be the best lie. When you have to think about it... that is when you usually get caught.

    So how good of a liar are you? Most people don’t want to be lied to, but tonight I want to find someone who will lie to me. How about you. What is you name? (Spectator says "Amy"). Amy, do you lie often? ("Not to often"). Do you like lying? ("Not really"). Good, people who like lying are often better at it. Who are you here with tonight? ("My husband"). Do you ever lie to him, (laughing, "Sometimes"). [Aside to audience] At least she is honest about that.

    We are going to use your lies to determine the truth. We need to start with an incontrovertible truth - Something that can be verified at the end. I have a shuffled deck of cards [fan through cards with deck face up] and I'll shuffle them one more time [shuffle cards]. Take the deck, cut it anywhere you want. Now take the card that you cut to and put it somewhere where I can't see it. Put the rest of the deck in the box and put the box on the table so I can't touch it.

    I'm going to ask you two questions about the color of the cards. I want you to answer no to both questions - even if the answer is yes. That is, I want you to lie to me in one of your answers. Is the card you picked black? ("No"). Is the card you picked red? ("No"). I think you were lying the second time because you paused to think about your answer - but don't tell me if I'm right. We can see if my intuition is correct at the very end.

    I'm going to ask you about the suit of the cards. I want you to answer both questions no - even if the answer is yes. One of your answers will be a lie. Now make sure you do your best to lie with conviction. Is the card you picked a diamond? ("No."). Is the card you picked a heart? ("No."). That was harder to tell, but I think you were trying too hard to when you had to lie.

    Two more questions. I want you to answer no to both questions. I want you to deceive me this time. Is the card a face card... a King, Queen or Jack? ("No."). Is the card a number card, an Ace, 2, 3, 4 all the way up to 10? ("No."). OK, your getting better at lying. I have to ask the questions again. Remember, answer no to both questions. Is the card a face card? ("No."). Is the card a number card or an Ace? ("No."). I think I caught you that time.

    Now, since you are getting better at lying, I have to change the rules. It is easy to lie with a yes or no answer, harder to lie with a full sentence. For each of the face cards, I want you to say "My card is not a King" then "My card is not a Queen" and then "My card is not a Jack". OK, say each sentence as if they are true. (Spectator says each sentence). You paused before one of those sentences and unconsciously nodded at me after you finished the same sentence.

    So the question is... are you a better liar or am I a better lie detector? Let me draw your card on this big pad of paper. Now take two steps forward so you can't see what I've drawn. I'm going to show the audience what I think your card is. No peeking. You don't want to be both a liar and a cheat. (flip up pad to show Queen of Diamonds). Now I want you to lie one more time. When I tell you to, I want you to say "My card is definitely not..." and then name your card and show the audience the card you are holding. If you name the card that I drew, the audience will give you a big round of applause for being a lousy liar. If it isn't the card I drew, they will probably boo me off the stage for being a fraud. No pressure. Alright, lie for me one more time ("My card is definitely not the Queen of Diamonds"). [Cue Applause].
    You have strong enough methods. You just need to use your imagination to turn it into strong performance pieces. My question for you is: what would you consider strong enough?
  5. Derren's biggest secret is that he is a master showman. He's using many classic methods to accomplish his work.

    He does explain some of his secrets in the International lecture available here:

    Though he skips out on most of the methods...

    I think you'd probably like the work of Luke Jermay. He performs several effects that are very strong in his Penguin lecture. It may surprise you how the methods Luke uses are old and in Anneman and Corrinda yet he is able to inject them with life.

    His lecture is basically a sample of what you get in Jermays Mind. It's an outstanding DVD set:

    The unofficial sequel is great as well:

    Jermay consulted with Derren on some of his specials. He and Derren are outstanding performers, that's the biggest thing that sets them apart.

    Here's a video I put together with 3 super simple great pieces of mentalism:

    And here are some epic professional routines that I should probably just keep to myself:
  6. Thanks, RealityOne and Josh Burch, your replies were very helpful. RealityOne, you asked what I consider strong enough. Well, I consider something like Cassidy’s name and place and Cassidy’s 4D telepathy to be extremely strong routines, but there’s always going to be some part of the audience who says “he must have looked at the paper somehow”. With most billet work, they write it down, and you could justify that, but the catch of reading the paper is the thing most people resort to. So billets might be strong, but it is hard to make the audience forget about them and not consider them. The strongest mentalism, is probably when the catch is completely invisible. However, these effects are usually impractical or use dual reality, a principle that can’t be overused in a performance. I guess the resource that I would be looking for is something to mask the classic methods and make them invisible.
  7. The key is imagination to provide context.

    In my above description, the catch is that it uses a deck of cards and could be deconstructed as a card trick (although it would still be a mystery how I could know the card that a spectator choose from a shuffled deck that I never touched). I could change it to a pack of words written on index cards... but that loses some presentational luster and the use of words on index cards doesn't make sense. What if I used a bunch of postcards from vacation destinations? That looks nothing like playing cards and can be woven into the presentation - "most people lie about where they've been... I want you to lie about where you could go." I could even tell them that they get a free vacation to the place they picked if they are a good liar. As a result, the postcards then become invisible.

    A billet can be justified as a way to prove to the audience what they are thinking and to keep them from changing their mind. All you need to do is give it to a second spectator for safe keeping and then proceed with the effect. But add some imagination. Make it a restaurant order written on one of those green and white order pads. Use a cheap Valentine to write the name of a first love. Use a slip of paper that is designed as the entry in guessing contest (how many jelly beans). There is a good reason for writing something down on THAT piece of paper. It makes sense in the context of the routine and whatever piece of paper you use becomes invisible.

    The same goes for impression pads, nail writers and all the other tools of mentalism. Find a context that makes them invisible. Ultimately, you can construct an entire show from the concepts that are in any single book, including Anneman's Practical Mental Magic or even Mark Wilson's Complete Course. You just have to adapt them by giving them context in your routine.

    My recommendation for you is Banachek's Psychological Subtleties. This will give you some of the feel that you want and ideas to incorporate into routines that add a bit of mystery.

    If you like the idea of developing good contexts for effects, then I recommend Max Maven's Prism (or his column in Genii). He uses classic techniques with great context.
    ShenkermanDavid likes this.
  8. I see your points. Does Prism help with context, or does it deal with improving on original methods? I also hear it deals with a lot of cards. As for billets, it would be hard to create a separate justification for every effect. I will try to though, for the effects that are really good. Thanks for the suggestions. Are there any sources though, that specifically deal with taking a normal trick and turning it into a miracle, like some mentalists are known to do? I heard their was a Doc Hillford DVD about this.
  9. My recollection is that Prism has a lot of good plots with context. The methods are not particularly original and are involving using standard magic and mentalism methods. There is a lot of work with cards, but that is frequently the case with Max Maven.

    What do you classify as a miracle? I'm asking because you seem focused on methods where I am focused on presentations. As for methods, the closest thing to miracles is Banachek's Psychological Subtleties. The first volume isn't really effects but just subtleties to add into your performance. The second and third volumes contain more full on effects. For presentation, I think that Jim Steinmeyer's Conjuring (the book and the current Genii column) have a lot of great examples of providing context in terms of magic and that Larry Haas's Transformations is a great book for thinking about making presentations. However, both of those are magic and not mentalism (although Steinmeyer's book does have some mental magic effects).

    I strongly recommend Ken Webber's Maximum Entertainment. It will give you the nuts and bolts of how to improve your performance. It is the best advice.

    My last question is where you are looking to perform? Are you looking to perform for informal groups or to do stage or parlor performances. A lot of my advice is geared toward stage or parlor rather than informal performances.
  10. I do perform in a parlor environment, although I occasionally do close-up. As for miracles, I consider that a presentation where the effect is clear and completely inexplicable would be a miracle.
  11. So I went back and read some of the routines (especially the ones that I had marked as liking). The methods are standard, but the application of the methods are very unique and the presentations are wonderful. It does a good job of what I was trying to do with my examples by bringing the effect away from what you do with the props (i.e. the routine being about lying rather than a deck of cards or a deck of postcards).

    My sense for a parlor environment is that you need a more involved presentation. Give them something to think about other than what you are doing.

    So to a mentalist, every effect is (by the nature of our knowledge of the secret) completely explainable. If you are reading the effect, decide if it is inexplicable before you read the method. Or, better yet, learn to appreciate amazingly devious methods.

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