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Mark Elsdon

Published in the United Kingdom

Limited First Edition, 2010

Copyright© 2010 by Mark Elsdon. All Rights Reserved. Do not scan it, do not upload it. Thank
you. 2

Many thanks to: Paul Ingram Ben Earl Noel Qualter lain Moran Michael Murray Peter Nardi lan
Rowland For continued inspiration, kindness and friendship.

Special thanks to the contributors: Michael Weber Chris Carter Lee Earle Sean Taylor Chuck
Hickok Ran Pink For being so generous with their time, thinking and material.

And the deepest bow of all to: Deborah Elsdon You know everything- and thank goodness you're
not telling! You are not remotely interested in anything in this book, and that keeps me balanced
and grounded. Thank you. Love you always.

Table of Contents Page 7

Introduction

Part 1- Mentalism Genesis Chapter 1- A Clarion Call To Originality

Page 11

Chapter 2- So, You Wanna Be A Mentalist?

Page 19

Chapter 3- Who Do You Think You Are?

Page 23

Chapter 4- What Is Wrong With You (Michael Weber)

Page 31
Chapter 5- Playing Your Trumpet

Page 35

Chapter 6- Imagining Superpowers (Chris Carter)

Page 41

Chapter 7- Being Memorable And Unforgettable

Page 49

Chapter 8- Why Most Mentalism Is (Insert Your Own Derogatory Word Here ... )

Page 59

Chapter 9- Comedy Is No Laughing Matter

Page 65

Part 2- Mentalism Revelations Chapter 10- A Manifesto: Motivational Mentalism (Lee Earle)

Page 69

Chapter 11- There Is Just One Rule: No Rules

Page 75

Chapter 12- Moving The Moment (Sean Taylor)

Page 79

Chapter 13- Making Connections (Chuck Hickok)

Page 85

Chapter 14- ONVI (Ran Pink)

Page 95
Chapter 15- The Revelations

Page 105

First of all, a very sincere "thank you!" for buying this book. It represents a lot of time spent
studying, thinking about, discussing, performing and refining mentalism. Ever since my friend
Paul Hallas inspired me to grow a goatee beard and cross over to the 'dark side' I haven't really
looked back. Although the industry at large knows me primarily as a close-up magician, my
friends and audiences will attest that I'm really only interested or happy when performing
mentalism. Following my conversion (on the road to Huddersfield!) it wasn't long before I
realised that it is the very last part of a mentalism performance, the revelation, which has the
most impact on the success and memorability of an effect. This led to a search for techniques
and

strategies that has so far lasted over a dozen years and is still far from over! In this book you will
find much of my current thinking about the state of the contemporary mentalism scene as well
as its often poor but occasionally brilliant performers. As the Chinese curse declares: we live in
interesting times. Mentalism is riding high and the mystery arts are proving ever more popular
with discerning audiences around the world. So please read this book in the spirit that it was
written: with the intent to share some powerful, proven ideas and techniques that I have
discovered on my travels. We're all in this together and I'm very happy to share with you some of
the fruits of my studies (of both the mentalism literature and human nature) and offer you some
direct paths to becoming a stronger, more memorable performer. Because that's what this book
is about: performing. If you are just reading this book for knowledge, then I think you'll enjoy it;
but if you are looking for some practical instruction on how to improve as a performer you will
get much, much more out of it. I must let you know. that I could well have titled this book " I've
Read A Ton Of Books, So You Don't Have To", or "Amazon Here We Come". There are a lot of
book recommendations herein, as well as constant admonition to read mhre. Quite a few of the
topics discussed in Mentalism Reveals are the subject of excellent books by people who are
experts in their field. Rather than plagiarising or quoting huge chunks of material from these
books I have in every case pointed you to the relevant author, title and publisher. Usually, on any
of the subjects at hand I have read pretty much all the relevant books (whether you think that
sounds boastful or simply sad tells me everything I need to know about you!) that are available
and always recommend the one(s) I think are the most applicable to mentalism performance. A
few words on terminology are probably a good idea so that we are working off the same page. I
completely agree with Paul Harris' 8

assertion that 'Astonishment Is Our Natural State Of Mind.' See his essay on page 5 of The Art of
Astonishment Volume 1 (Murphy's Magic, 2007) for further details. However, to describe the
more cerebral kind of impact a mentalism effect usually has (as opposed to the eye-candy of
magic effects) I prefer to use the word 'amazement' than 'astonishment' and that is the term
which is used throughout

Mentalism Reveals. Likewise, I am not a fan of the word (or role) 'spectator' in mentalism.
Consequently I use the words 'participant' or 'audience' throughout the book instead. I
genuinely work hard to ensure that anyone who sees me perform does participate and interact,
rather than just standing passively by and spectating, so the language I use reflects this. Finally, I
would like to thank Michael Weber, Christopher Carter, Lee Earle, Sean Taylor, Chuck Hickok and
Ran Pink for their invaluable contributions to this book, all of which are examples of brilliant and
insightful thinking from these gifted performers. So, enjoy, and I hope that the book proves as
stimulating for you to read as it was for me to write. Mark Elsdon Llandudno,2010

:'

"Always remember that you are absolutely unique. Just like everyone else." Margaret Mead
(probably) lfthere is one thing that can giveyou a high unlike anything else, it is concluding a
performance of original material and receiving the applause and comments that tell you that
people were completely amazed and thoroughly entertained. You come off stage thinking: "/

created and wrote everything that they just enjoyed so much".

11

Except of course that none of the material you (or I) create is ever truly 100% original. It might
be that you have a devised a brilliant new method for 'Sneak Thief'. But is that piece really yours,
or is it at least half Larry Becker's? What about if you have devised a powerful new
demonstration of mind-reading which uses one of Craig Filicetti's incredible electronic products,
is that all yours, or is some of it Craig's? In fact complete originality is almost impossible to
achieve, but nevertheless a lofty goal worth pursuing. The truth is that the more of yourself, the
more of your own ideas, premises, methods, lines or whatever that you put into your
performance then the more it will fit your persona, the more believable your performance will
be and the more enjoyment you will get from performing. And of course, as per the quote
above, you have the ability to add into the mix something which is unavailable to everyone else:
you! Whether you think it or not, you have the potentia l to devise and successfully perform
origina l and entertaining mentalism. What stands between that and where you are now?
Learning some new mental skills, some hard work and lots of play! Read on ... Closely allied to
being original is being creative, and this is far easier to accomplish. In fact If you look up the
word 'create' in the dictionary you will see that its Latin origins also mean 'to originate, or
invent'. ;

There are two very different paths to creativity (in a magic/mentalism context): 1. Complete
isolation that forces original thought and the development of original effects, sleights, methods
and presentations. This isolation is almost always enforced due to geographical isolation, but is
getting less and less likely thanks to the internet. However, those that have created material
borne of this isolation are usually startlingly original. Examples: Jerry Andrus, Gary Kurtz, Lennart
Green.

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2. An openness to new ideas and combinations based on a wide knowledge-base. Building up a


library is essential, as is time spent in creative thought and brainstorming sessions, either alone
or with other performers. Trying out combinations of different effects and methods and a
willingness to play. Adapting single ideas to multiple contexts. Examples: Jay Sankey, David Regal,
Steve Beam. Although I have only given three examples of this second path to creativity, I could
easily give you dozens more, as it would include almost every magician and mentalist who relea
ses tricks, books or DVDs, myself included. As Isaac Newton wrote in 1676: "If (have seen a little
further it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants". That's all of us. At the end of this chapter I
will give you some suggestions that will help you to be more original, but for now here are my
four essential tips for developing your creativity:

1. Keep a notebook and write in it everything you think about, even if it doesn't seem relevant to
anything at that moment. Effects that you like, methods that seem particularly clever or
deceptive and presentational ideas. Details of any performances, shows or lectures that are
inspirational because of how good they are or are instructional because of how bad they are.
Titles or concepts from TV shows, films or books that intrigue you. Poems, puzzles, websites-
anything and everything that might inspire your creativity. Keeping a notebook is essential. 2.
Study books on creativity and work through some of the exercises. Here is my 'Recommended
Reading' list: Roger von Oech- A Whack On The Side Of The Head (Warner Books, 1983) Roger
von Oech -A Kick In The Seat Of The Pants (HarperCollins 1986)

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Michael Michalko- Thinkertoys (Second Edition, Ten Speed Press, 2006) Todd Siler- Think Like A
Genius (Bantam Press, 1997) Jack Foster- How To Get Ideas (Berrett-Koehler, 1996) Linda Perigo
Moore- You're Smarter Than You Think (Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 1985) Tom Stafford & Matt
Webb- Mind Hacks {O'Reilly, 2005) John Middleton- Upgrade Your Brain (Infinite Ideas, 2006} 3.
Make sure to exercise your brain daily. Just like your body, it gets flabby and tired easily without
regular exercise. And I mean proper exercise, not reading the TV listings! Try a crossword-puzzle,
or a Sudoku, or better still invest in Rubik's Cube and an instructional DVD (see what I did there?)
The brain has a section called the cerebral cortex. In this area, there are over twenty billion
neurons that link up with ten thousand synaptic connections. In fact, there are one billion
synapses in just one cubic millimetre in the cerebral cortex. I don't think that having a
conversation with someone about the weather or last night's game is going to get enough of
them fired up, do you? If you want to get serious about exercising your brain, buy a copy of Dr
Kawahima's Train Your Brain (Penguin Books, 2007). :You'll thank me. 4. Read as much as you can
about everything you can. Reading and processing new information is especially useful in
exercising your brain, plus it provides inspiration and fills your memory with knowledge that
allows you to make creative connections more easily. As well as these four tips I could have
quoted some of the many excellent exercises from the above listed creativity books, but there is
no need, since they are so well developed and explained in the books and half the fun is reading
about them and trying them out yourself for the first time. If you are short of time, just buy the
Roger von Oech books. Whilst I have learnt from all of the books listed, Roger's had the

14

most impact on me and were most instrumental in me developing good creativity skills.
However... it's all very well for me to wax lyrical about how wonderful it is to create original
effects with original presentations and how great that is, and to offer tips on how to become
more creative. But how do you get started? Well, as with everything, one step at a time. There is
no set way to do this, but, as Eugene Burger has written about building a repertoire, you just
need to get started and to take it one effect at a time. Maybe choose an effect that you
particularly enjoy performing and come up with your own presentation for it: Or, you might
choose to write a presentation that takes the form of a (true) story, or an account of something
that happened to an older relative . Or maybe it's a psychic research test, or a project you are
working on . Or a demonstration of group dynamics, or the fact that you've trained yourself to
recognize subtle vocal inflections, or... I' m sure you get the idea. Likewise, when you read a new
{maybe just new to you) effect, don't just learn the method which that particular writer offers
but do some research. There are some great resources available online that can really help you
with researching mentalism material. Lots of great books and magazines that were long out-of-
print are readily available again now through the Learned Pig project and lybrary.com . Most
importantly, buy books! Start building up a library and as well as providing you with much
pleasure, the knowledge it contains will repay you many times over. When you research
additional methods for an effect you are considering learning, again make notes in your
notebook. Make notes about anything that catches your eye, whether it seems relevant to the
project at hand or not. Using the skills and techniques that you learn from the books on the
Recommended Reading list above, you will learn how to combine old methods and how to
devise lots of new methods; some will turn out to rubbish & completely impractical, some will
be 15

crazy, some will be boring and some will be brilliant. But for now, don't make those value
judgements, but simply make notes. Lose your fear and persist in creating lots of ideas, lots of
notes. Keep at it! If you get bored or stuck working on a method try something else. Go back to
writing that script that you started in your notebook. Carry on developing the presentation that
you had a great idea for but never got around to working on properly. Read the latest Hermetic
Press book. Read one of those old books on your shelf that you've never got around to- maybe
that Alan Shaxon book or that bound volume of the Jinx. Do something, anything! Have fun,
enjoy yourself, keep playing, keep reading, keep learning and keep taking notes! You'll soon
marvel at how creative you become.

Ten Tips On Being Original

1. Do the New: Do something that you've always wanted to do. Especially if it takes you out of
your comfort zone and even if it frightens you. Embrace the excitement of something new and
enjoy the thrill of fear. Go skiing, or riding, or dye your hair blue. Anything you want. 2. Invert:
Anything you can. Do something you wouldn't normally do, something that everyone you know
would bet that you would never do. Or take one of your beliefs and decide to thin k the
opposite. Really do it! And then genuinely try to justify this new point of view. 3. Play: Stop
concentrating on work and being so serious! Spend (extra) time with children, your own or
someone else' s. Don' t try to teach them anything for once- just play with them and get onto
their level. It is very liberating. 4. Lead: Stop following everyone else. Don't want an iPhone?
Then don't buy an iPhone. Stop following trends and believing that 16

anything you buy can make you a 'cooler' or more interesting person. Trends change all the time
and it is an expensive and futile pursuit trying to follow them. 5. Reject: If you find yourself going
over old ground, stop! You've been there, done that. Delete, remove, throw away or withdraw
(from) whatever it is and head in the opposite direction. 6. Express: Do exactly what you want;
however you want to do it. Stop worrying about what anyone else thinks. It's irrelevant. Realise
that everyone else is worried about what you think of them. And none of it matters. 7. Express
#2: Stop worrying about trying to look good. Nobody cares how you look as much as you do, so
it's a waste of time. Think about some of your friends and how much you love, respect and
admire them and then picture how badly they dress or style ·t heir hair and realise that it doesn't
matter. So stop acting like it does. Dress how you want. Dance how you want. Smile more. 8.
Expand: Read as much as you can, meet as many different people as you can, travel as widely as
you can. Have meaningful conversations- ask questions and express opinions. Broaden your
horizons. 9. Contemplate: Spend a week w ith just your own thoughts. Be your own muse,
meditate on what you know. Don't read a book or a newspaper. Don't watch TV, don't watch a
film, don't play on your X-Box. Turn off the computer and don't constantly check Facebook and
Twitter on your phone. How impossible does this sound, eh?! And yet it is not only doable, but a
very eye-opening, frantic-thenrelaxing way to spend a week. I only know because I' ve actually
done it! I dare you to give it a go...

17

10.
Read: Another book recommendation for you and another

one of my favourites: Hugh Macleod -Ignore Everybody (Portfolio, 2009). Hugh's book is based
on his Change This Manifesto (Google it) and is about being original, being creative and much
more.

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t~

So, rather appropriately, let's start at the beginning, with the milliondollar question: w hy do you
wa nt to perform mentalism? Here are some possible reasons: It's my job, and it's an easier way
to earn a living than having a 9-to-5 job. It's easier than perform ing magic. Because to laymen
mentalism is more believable than magic. 19

I love the attention I get. I'm not very confident and performing rnakes me seem more
interesting. It's a good way to meet people, especiallY women . I like freaking people out. I enjoy
showing people the potential we all have within us. A mixture of several of the above. I don't
know, I've never really thought about it. The fact is, unless you make a decision about the real
rea son why you are performing mentalism then you are never going to be the best performer
you can be. It's as simple as that. Of course, it doesn' t matter to me what your motivation is, but
is sure as hell does matter to you and your audiences. If, at the moment, your sole reason for
performing is to earn money, or to impress people (both perfectly acceptable motivations!) then
maybe, just maybe, the first part of this book will prompt you to want more from performing. If
you already have aspirations, maybe even needs, to accomplish more with your performance, to
make it matter, to really connect with people, then read this book carefully. studY it, think about
it. Not because I believe that !'have something special to say, but simply because I have spent a
lot of time thinking about the questions which might prompt you to decide on your own
answers. Without those answers you will be ju~t another performer doing 'material'. So sit back,
right now, and ask yourself that question: Why do I really want to perform mentalism? Write
your answer(s) down here:

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There are no 'wrong' answers (and if you are like me, there will be more than one), but whatever
you wrote, it will colour everything which follows. Only when you have decided on your true
motivation for performing can you really set a goal as to what you hope to accomplish as a
performer.
I know that sounds like a chicken-and-egg situation, so let me start by telling you my
motivations, and what I hope to accomplish when I perform mentalism and it might help you to
make a decision about your own goals. My motivations are simple: I want to enjoy myself by
performing material that makes people feel amazed and prompts them to question what they
know about how the world works. And I want to get well paid for doing that. As to what I hope
to accomplish, well that will take a little bit more explaining. First of all, I approach mentalism
from the angle that it is 'magic for adults'. As Derren Brown wrote in Pure Effect (H&R Books,
2000) "I find that most intelligent spectators are more interested in the psychological techniques
than the sleight-of-hand". And we all know where that led... As my friend Alain Nu said to me
once: " Magic focuses heavily on what is impossible, whereas mentalism, in contrast, focuses
heavily on what is possible. So, j ust a slight shift in perspective changes the experience." And
that to me is everything. As much as I love close-up magic (it's one of my favourite hobbies!) it
can never be as strong as mentalism, because everyone knows that it is simply a trick. Likewise
with cabaret magic, using an egg bag, linking rings, rope etc. Sure, it can be brilliant
en~ertainment, but on no level is it perceived as anything other than 'a trick'. A good mentalism
effect, on the other hand, when presented with a plausible premise, can provide genuine
amazement for the 21

audience as they catch their breath and ask themselves, "did I j ust see that?" or "what the hell
just happened?" or my favourite, "is that really possible?" What 1particularly like about that last
question as a response (whether it is said aloud or just thought) is that it means that the
participant definitely just had a genuinely affecting experience. It fits in beautifully with Alain's
thought that mentalism focuses on what just might be possible. Of course the question "is that
really possible?" would have been quickly answered if what they have just seen was a magic
trick; the answer would be "No!" But with mentalism the answer is "Maybe ... " or even "Yes!"
and in that moment you have the opportunity to make a real connection with the person. So to
put it succinctly : to me, mentalism is the only believable type of magic, so that is what I choose
to perform. This aspect of believability will be discussed fully in a later chapter, along with
premise and powers vs. skills. However, performing something incredible that just might be
possible is not the real goal of my performance; far from it. You see, what I really want is to play
with people's perceptions, mess with their head a little and impress them as a very unusual
(extraordinary?) individual, making myself memorable in the process. So my goal is this: when
people who have seen me perform describe their experience to their friends the following day, I
want them to say something along the lines of, "We met this guy last night called Mark Elsdon.
He was incredible! He had a way of faking reading your mind so that it seemed like he was really
inside your head. It was so weird!! He knew where I was born and he made a coin bend in my
hand without even touching it -look here it is!" 1don't even mind if they can't really remember
any of the actual effects or demonstrations I perform, so long as they remember me. If what I
did was so odd that they can't really describe it, or they became a little 22

overwhelmed with the cumulative effect of the weird 'stuff' going onthat's great. Basically, I want
to be the coolest, most interesting person they meet this week, even if they are Bono! Now of
course, my age, weight, style and a million other factors prevent me being 'cool' in the usual
showbiz sense of the word, so I use the other tools that are at my disposal. I mix mentalism,
some (very off-the-wall} magic, humour, poetry, puzzles, general knowledge, charm and bravado
to be someone unlike anyone they know and someone they would love to spend more time
with. Now of course this is an idealistic goal and so I know that whilst this approach works very
well for me with most people, it is not going to make me universally loved, or even liked. For
every 95 people who think I am the coolest person they've met this week I' m sure that there are
another 5 who dismiss me as a fat show-off! I can, however, live with that. So there you have it.
My goal. My 'mission statement' if you like. So now you know mine, it's time to start working on
your own. Give it some thought. You don't have to do it right this second, and anyway it will
probably change quite a bit as you read the rest of this book. But do think about it because if you
have no goal in performing other than to show a few tricks or to get paid, then you are missing
out! And so are you r audiences.

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.,

..

~·~ . .;:~ ... ~ ,•

-~

-~

'7oday you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You." Dr.
Seuss. Most contemporary magic books that discuss character and persona offer a choice of two
very distinct paths. Either you can be a 'complete character', effectively act ing as an entirely
separate person, often replete with a costume or outfit of some sort, or you can be yourself,
albeit an amplified version of yourself.

25

The 'complete character' act is difficult to pull off, requiring as it does major commitment to both
the planning of the character and then inhabiting that role on a long-term basis thereafter.
Effectively, the performer then has to act out that role every time he performs, and ind eed often
outside of performance as well. This begins to make matters very complicated, particularly if
your work as a performer leads to other roles as a host, speaker or even trainer of some
description. Further, it is difficult to build anything other than superficial relationships with
colleagues and clients with whom you could otherwise build on going friendships. In fact I can
only think of one person who has managed to commit to this 'character act' for what has
effectively become a lifetime, and that is Uri Geller. And he is a special case (and I mean that in
the most complimentary sense) . So for most, if not all of us, using our own personality as the
basis for our character is not only easier, it is also smarter. At its most basic level, the goal of
developing your persona, is simply a matter of being yourself, only more so. The practicality of
developing a performing personality built on what is basically your own personality is obvious,
but there are still a lot of decisions to be made and work to be done before you can confidently
claim that you have truly established a persona. Further, the work you do to establish and
develop your persona will have a very direct and tangible impact on the premises and material
you choose as well as on your style of performance. Since so much depends upon it, and you will
have to live with it for the foreseeable future, it is obvious that you need to get your persona just
right, as it will provide you with the basis for everything else. Some writers recommend that you
watch DVDs of a wide variety of magicians and mentalists, in an attempt to decide on a style that
you think you might enjoy adopting. I don't think that this is a good idea. 26

The likelihood is that instead you will see a style of performance that you enjoy watching and
decide to try to adopt that style whether it fits your personality or not. Here is a better way. You
are going to ask twelve people you know well to help you out. Tell them it is for a 'performance
training program' that you are helping to develop, and that will be the end of their curiosity
about the matter. Four should be family members, four should be very close friends (who have
known you for a long time) and four should be magician/mentalism friends. You need to ask
them to make a list of your three best personality traits. Tell them that they can write anything
they choose but that they must be honest. Further, tell them that you honestly don't mind what
they write, since it is all just data that is being used for this 'performance training program' that
you mentioned. Don't make a big deal out of it, and they won't either. If anyone presses you for
more information, tell them that you can't talk about it until after the whole thing is over
(whatever that means!) · When you read what these people write about you two things will
happen: firstly you will get a surprise and secondly you will have the basis of your persona. Since
this is how people already perceive you, then it makes sense to use these characteristics as your
building blocks. If ten out of the twelve people write that you are a kind and gentle person, then
pursuing your character as a sarcastic funnyman is never going to work! Basing your persona on
the opinions of other people (whom you trust) rather than on your own opinion is by far the
most practical and direct route to success. Most performers have an overly-positive and
sometimes idealistic view of themselves (their natural personality) that isn't quite in tune with
how the rest of the world views them. It's not that they are delusional, just that they are very
optimistic! By the way, I include myself in this group. Self-awareness and honesty in this regard is
notoriously challenging and thus enlisting the help of others is definitely advised.

27

What you are essentially doing is shaping a persona that takes the best of your personality and
allows you to express it in performance environment. Look for a hook, something that makes
you stand out from the crowd. Overall, whilst your persona will have many character traits, there
will be one that best describes you. Amplify the strongest. Are you intelligent? Rude? Gentle? Qu
ick-witted? Deep? Weird? You might th ink that some of these six descriptions would be difficult
to build a persona on, and yet they are each the defining characteristic of my six favourite stand-
up comedians! Don't make too much hard work out of this. It should be an enjoyable though
perhaps eye-opening exercise and remember that you are simply building on who you really are
anyway. However, if you do struggle with this, then there are a couple of options open to you .
Firstly I can recommend Victoria Lynn Schmidt's book 45 Master Characters (Writer's Digest
Books, 2007). It is ideal for magicians and mentalists looking to adapt an archetypal character to
fit themselves. You can engage with the book as deeply as you choose, and there is plenty of
useful information if you just need a helping hand to developing or finetune your persona.
Alternatively, think about asking another performer whose work you respect to give you some
help. Tell him what you goal is and ask for some.direction. Most performers will be pleased to
help. Please bear in mind that whilst this project, that of perfecting your persona, is an essenti'al
one, that doesn't mean that it is particularly difficult or that you should overthink it. Whilst
playing to your strengths and amplifying you strongest traits you also want to stay natural!
Almost as bad as the performer who hasn't decided on or developed a persona is the performer
who has no fluidity because he is overanalysing everything. To practice being this new or newly
adapted performing persona I suggest doing what you would do if you were learn ing to classic
palm a coin: do it when there is no need, outside of the performance environment. The best way
to learn to classic palm a coin is to keep one classic palmed throughout the day, at work, whilst
eating, whilst 28

watching TV etc. At first allowing you to get used to how it feels, and then forgetting how it feels,
because it is just there. Likewise with the 'enhanced and amplified personality' which is your
performing persona. Act as if you are performing whilst you at work, out for a drink with friends,
having dinner with your partner. I don't mean being over the top, but being more attentive, with
better posture, more expressive gestures, better diction, more awareness, a readier smile, a
more attentive listener, generally more ... magnetic. All traits that make for an attractive and
dynamic persona. Being likable is the key to having a successful and cohesive person a.
Remember that ultimately, performing is not about the tricks or material, it's about you. So learn
how to turn this persona on and off, so that you can step up into your performance mode at a
moment's notice. You never know when the ability to be able to do this will pay dividends. To
conclude: remember it's great to be you, and you can do it better than anyone else on the
planet.

29

A4J . '

Are you fat? Are you bald? Do you stutter, stammer, mumble or lisp? Do you have a limp, throw
your head backwards in a nervous tic, suffer from dyslexia, and have eyesight so poor that your
glasses are thicker than bottle bottoms? Do you look like a troll? Lucky you. Lucky because you
have a potentially challenging aspect to your daily life which will make your mentalism persona
exponentially more interesting, real and complete. 31

In 1990 I had a sudden insight: classic Super Heroes like Spiderman, Batman and The X-Men
were having a very good time at the movie box office. Audiences were willing to leave their
homes and pay money because they wanted to watch the stories of these characters that were
unlike the people in the audience in profound ways. Short of reincarnation on another planet
doomed for destruction, or being the orphaned child of millionaire parents, one would have to
hope they were bitten by a very radioactive spider to have any chance of thinking these stories
could ever be their stories. I wrote a lengthy essay and a talk on my 'Super Hero Theory of
Mentalism' which was presented at the first Luke Jermay Workshop in Las Vegas. Since then, the
basics have been discussed at length with some of mentalism's finest exponents and have been
used to more fully develop the stage and screen performance personas of some serious players.
Someday the entire approach will see publication within the fraternity, but for now, here is a
small and counter intuitive part of the larger theory. All of the classic super heroes have their
above and beyond abilities, but these are balanced by several other factors, one of which is this-
when we watch them we cal} think to ourselves "As amazing as it would be to have those
abilities, I would not want to pay the price he had to pay." Most mentalists do everything they
can to be superior and imposing to their audiences and perfect in every way over which they
have control : slick hair, dark clothes, big vocabulary and themes that make their special skills
enviable. They can know your thoughts, control your thoughts, sense and avoid both the acid-
filled beaker and the cupcovered dagger while they find the envelope with all the money all
leading up to telling who is lying and telling the truth, finding the right key to the lock, knowing
the word you peeked in the book, able to do the rapid and seemingly complex mathematics
necessary to construct a Magic Square and after all that still have enough energy to memorize
which cards from a shuffled deck are being held by two or more

3Z

spectators. Phew. Barely enough energy left to link those finger rings and see through that
blindfold. I suggest one of the overlooked problems with that approach (besides too many
powers") is that the spectator is left watching a performer who is much easier to hate than love.
My proposed solution is a big fucking dose of reality and incorporating that truth into your
performance persona in a way that the audiences go home knowing it without you ever telling
them about it. In other words, show, don't tell. 11

You are allowed to mention your defect if it is not visibly apparent from the back row seats, but if
you go into some lengthy "I discovered I could know the word people peeked at in the upper left
corner of a book I was holding after being struck by lightning" story and I am in the audience and
forced to suffer through it, I wil l be waiting for you backstage where I will give you the gift of a
permanent and more obvious physical malformat ion so you can keep your yap shut and.just let
the audience figure it out for themselves in all future performances. What will this do for you? It
will make your stage persona a more real, a more fleshed out, complete and complex character.
Your audiences will be able to enjoy you and your show even more when they can go home and
honestly remark "that guy could do the most amazing things I have ever seen in my life. But you
know, I don' t think I would want to be him. I wouldn' t want to pay t hat price." When you figure
out what is real and true for you and you alone, when you truly and deeply understand what is
wrong with you and can incorporate it into your performance and stage persona in a way that is
natural, subtle and effective, you will grow, your show will grow, and your audiences will love you
more and never understand why.

33

Mark Elsdon's notes on Weber's essay: 1was originally going to write a chapter for Mentalism
Reveals titled 'Killing The Hero', ~ut Weber's enlightened and enlightening essay has made it
redundant. It reminded me of something very telling which Derren Brown has talked about at
length, both in his books and in lectures (back when he was still giving them) : " However you
decide that mind reading is achieved, and therefore what it will look like, you should then do this
without explaining the supposed 'method' to the audience. You should just believe,
wholeheartedly and unquestioningly, that this is what you are doing" (pl17, Pure Effect). He goes
on to explain that this gives the audience something to latch onto, without the performer having
to explicitly state th at he can read minds. More about this is the next chapter. And Weber's
insistence that you let your 'flaw' make itself apparent without necessari ly talking about it is
fundamental to the success of this approach. People are usually a lot smarter than we give them
credit for, and they can quite easily follow the map themselves, as long as we just signpost the
way.

34

Another component part of your success as an entertaining mentalist which is closely related to
your persona is whether you choose to present your mental abilities as powers or skills (or both).
During a close-up or casual performance of ll)entalism, this issue is not as important, since you
can instruct each individual as to how they should perceive what you are doing and can easily
blur the lines between powers and skills and still keep complete focus and clarity. You also have
the opportunity to respond to people's questions and theories there and then, adapting your
choice of material and even presentation as you go. 35

But up on stage, whether for a corporate, cabaret or theatre audience, things are quite different.
Your premises and claims need to be well worked out in advance. A show outline that has
worked very well for many performers, including myself, is Pascal de Clermont's Pyramid of
Believability. The idea is to start with something that is very believa ble (perhaps so me rapid
memorization, or a magic square), progress to things that are more unbelievable, but still just
maybe within the realms of possibility {lie detection, some psychometry) and finally concluding
with something that is obviously impossible (maybe some metal bending, or a prediction). The
standard story structure as used in literature also usually has a three act (beginning, middle and
end} outline: 1. Set-up 2. Confrontation 3. Resolution This provides the 'introduction-tension-
climax/denouement' story arc which is the basis of all good storytelling. Similarly, Pascal's
Pyramid fulfils the same need. Incidentally, if you would like to know more about storytelling,
probably the only book you'll need is Nancy l amb's The Art and Craft of Storytelling (Writer's
Digest, 2008}. Following t his basic three-step outline sidest eps the usua l magic or mentalism
show outline which looks more this: 1. Introduce an effect 2. Perform an effect 3. Repeat until
your time is up That outline is to be avoided at all costs! 36

Another writer who employs Pascal's outline is Chuck Hickok, and in his book Mentalism
Incorporated (Development Productions Press, 2002) Chuck groups mental abilities into a three-
level ranking. It is a very useful idea and one which will allow us to discuss the whole powers vs.
skills question from a more meaningful base. Here are the levels:

Level One: (Most people believe these mental abilities exist and can be learned or developed.)
Enhanced mathematical abilities Enhanced memory skills People-reading skills Truth or lie
detection Psychological persuasion, or mentally influencing someone's choices

Level Two: (Some people believe that these abilities exist and may be possible to learn or
develop.) Aura reading, or other kinds of reading Clairvoyance (the ability to gain information
about an object, person, location or physical event through means other than the known human
senses. And with that information being gained directly from an external physical source, rather
than being transferred from the mind of one individual to another as in Telepathy) Psychometry
(the· ability to make relevant associations from an object of unknown history by making physical
contact with that object) Telepathy (the ability to read others' thoughts and mental contents)

Level Three (Most people think that these mental abilities do not exist.) 37

Precognition (the ability to successfully and consistently predict (know?) future outcomes and
events) Remote Viewing Q & A Demonstations Psychokinesis (the ability to move, control,
influence, transform, levitate or teleport a physical object or system with using any physical
energy or contact} Sightless Vision Invulnerability The abilities in Level Three are such a big ask
for an audience that is impossible to perform them right at the start of your show without
either: a. Claiming that you really have this ability, which is tantamount to claiming that you have
some kind of (super} power. b. The audience concluding that it is obviously a trick and they are
watching a magic show. The problem with point a. is that extraordinary claims require
extraordinary proofs a(ld things will quickly get out of hand and you will be discredited (at b~st)
or derided as a fraud (at worst). Likewise, the problem with point b. is that it is heading in the
wrong direction from where you want to be; i.e. performing an entertaining mentalism show. So
these Level Three abilities must be placed into context, by building up to them. During the
course of the show, if you start with something believable yet impressive, the audience will
accept your initial claims, and will continue to do so your show builds. As things move from
completely believable through to absolutely unbelievable, they move incrementally, with each
claim being only slightly greater than the one before, until at the conclusion when each audience
member looks back on the show the line is so blurred that they will find it impossible to decide
where fact became fiction. And this is the brilliance of Pascal's Pyramid! It offers the perfect
structure. 38

You are the only one who can decide exactly which mentalism effects and which abilities you
decide to include in your show, and heaven knows, there have been enough books and
manuscripts published (never mind the glut of tricks and props released) for every performing
mentalist in the world to perform a completely different set of material every single time they
perform. So why perform the same six effects (magic square, book test, design duplication,
spoon bending, nail, knife or spike-roulette and newspaper prediction) as everyone else? Make a
conscious decision to show your mental abilities using different powers, different skills and
different effects to everyone else. Or, if you really love one of the aforementioned six, make sure
you have something very different to say with your performance of it. I use one of those effects
in every single show I do, and no apologies here! But, I have a presentation that gives it meaning
and that is what makes all the difference. As an example to get you started, I have just looked at
my copy of Larry Becker's book Stunners Plus (Aplar Publishing, 2002). This is one of the best
known and best-selling books of mentalism material ever released, and is rightly regarded as a
classic. I have just looked through the Table of Contents and discovered that it contains 73
effects and routines (excluding the bonus instructions for Larry's marketed items). However, out
of those 73 effects I have only ever seen about 5 or 6 performed and 3 of those were separate
commercial releases at one time or another. So what about the other 60+ effects? Are they not
as good as the well-known Sneak Thief, Some Total Radio and Russian Roulette? Hardly! I think
that the far greater likelihood is that both you and I have only ever really read or tried out the
ones that we have seen other people do. I don't mean everybody and I know I'm generalising,
but I hope you get the point. Well, don't settle for it any longer! Don't follow the herd. Get off
the path, follow the road less travelled. Seek out material that no one else is performing.
Demonstrate your mental abilities with displays of powers

39

and skills that are completely unlike what everyone is doing. Read, keep notes, explore, play,
build, transform and shine! The final question you must answer is how many different abilities
should you display in a single performance or show? As usual there is no right answer, but in this
case I do believe there is a wrong answer: lots. I think the more powers and skills a performer
shows (or claims), the weaker their impact. Go back and read the preceding chapter again.
Whilst I don't stick to this myself, I think a very convincing argument could be made for
demonstrating just one ability, but in a variety of ways. Certainly, once you move past a certain
number of professed abilities there is a credibility factor involved. Also, remember that each
individual effect can have multiple demonstrations of the same amazing ability (back to Hickok's
'Multiple Moments'). This is definitely one situation where less is more.

\.

40

Imagine you have a superpower. Imagine that you have the ability to fly. As far as you know,
you're the only human on earth that can do this, although you suspect that others may one day
be able to as well. You just discovered this ability a few days ago, and it doesn't come easy. You
need a running start in order get aloft, sometimes you have to push off a chair or dive off a
ledge, oc.casionally you don't get airborne at all, but instead come crashing to the ground.
However, and this is important, the discovery of this power is quite simply the most significant
event in your life until now. You suddenly realize that there is a vast, 41

undiscovered territory of physics that no scientist has yet described. Who knows what other
untapped potentials remain dormant in each one of us? But more importantly, the feeling of
flying, the emotion you experience, is one of pure joy. It's better than you ever imagined it in
your dreams. You'd love to find a way of describing this emotion, but words fail utterly. Now
imagine you have the ability to fly, but this time, instead of it being something new to you, it's
something you've been doing all your life. It takes no effort at all; you simply think about it, and
up you go. Being aloft is no more novel to you than taking a walk to the corner grocery. There's
no particular emotion associated with it, it's just something you do. As far as you know, you're
the only person in the world who can fly. But to be honest, demonstrating your power has
become a damn nuisance. When people hear about it, they assume you're lying. Then, when you
do prove yourself, they look at you as if you're some sort of freak. As a consequence, you're
inclined to keep your skill to yourself, and when you do share it, you can't help feeling a little
resentful. Finally, imagine you are a witness to a demonstration by each of the above aerialists.
Which do you think would be the more exciting or theatrically satisfying. p~rformance? What
would be your emotional state at the conclusidn of each? What might you be thinking the
moment each flier left the ground? Think of the flying as a moment of revelation. At first you
were doubtful that the performer could pull it off; now you know he can. Both experiences have
this in common. But beyond that, what? Can we not see that your reaction to this moment of
revelation depends entirely on the context that led up to it? With the first performer, you would
sense his eagerness to share this discovery with you. With the second, you might sense his
reluctance, even his bitterness. With the first performer, even though you may be doubtful, you
may also be cheering him on, hoping that he succeeds. With the second performer, perhaps you
are hoping he falls flat on his face. Each demonstration 42

may be theatrically compelling in its own way, but each will tell a very different story and engage
your imagination in a very distinctive way. Can we not also see that in each case, what is
'revealed' is much more than the fact that the performer can fly? What is revealed is a snapshot
of who the performer really is. It offers a brief glimpse of his personal journey, his feeling about
his unique ability, perhaps more importantly, his relationship to you, the spectator. What is also
revealed is a shadowy view into the way the universe is constructed. It hints at a world of unseen
forces and untapped potentials. I was tempted to say that the 'reveal' is in fact the least
important part of the demonstration, but that isn't quite correct. It would be better to say the
reveal is the consummation of it all. It is the end result of an organic whole, but has no meaning
and creates no emotion without all that has come before.

Getting A Superpower When I was a boy, the one thing I wanted more than anything else in life
was to become an architect. Or a ninja! To me, each was an equally realistic option . It wasn't so
much that I actually believed I could become a ninja. Rather, I believed that a world in which I
couldn't become a ninja was a world I wanted no part of. To my mind, the greatest cosmic
injustice of all was the fact that I was born without superpowers. lm~gine my delight when, later
in life, I discovered that I could give myself superpowers, even if for only an hour a night. As
mentalists we each play the role of superhero for a few moments each day. I believe that how
we construct this role is crucial in guiding our audience toward the moment of the 'reveal.' There
are, of course, many possible things to consider when creating our roles. We will want to
establish a backstory to explain how we came about our special talents. We will certainly want to
establish the parameters of our abilities. What are the things we can and cannot do? But to my
mind, the most important thing to establish is our attitude towards our abilities. Are we excited
by them? Are we frightened by them? Are we 43

bored by them? Are they abilities we want to share with others, or are they abilities we would
rather hide? Establishing our attitudes about our special powers is a necessary first step in part
because doing so goes a long way toward providing a motivation for performing at all. If you hate
your powers, or if you're bored by them, or if you consider them something to be ashamed of,
you will probably have some difficulty justifying their demonstration. On the other hand, if you
make the theatrical decision that your skills are forever exciting and fresh to you, that you
cannot wait to share them with others; the act of demonstration is a natural result. Think for
example of Uri Geller bending a spoon. Imagine his excitement as the spoon begins to bend. It's
as if each demonstration is an excuse to peek through the veil into another world. Why would
somebody want to bend a spoon? Perhaps because each bending of a spoon illustrates that
what you thought you knew about the very fabric of the cosmos is utter trash, and that fact is
exciting! It is in fact the Most. Exciting. Thing. Ever. In Geller's case, the unique timbre of the
'reveal' is produced in part by his attitude toward his ability. So it is with all of us.

An Example: One of Chris's Reveals Consider the following possible scripts. In each case, the
opening circumstances are that a female audience member has been asked to concentrate on
the name of her first childhood crush. Script One:

Mentalist: "Concentrate on the name. Really focus. I'm getting a letter 'T'. Is there a 'T'? Yes?
Keep thinking. (Pause)
I don't know if I have this. I'll write it down. Now, what was the name? 44

Helper:

"Peter~"

Mentalist: (turning over his notepad to reveal the word 'Peter.') "Got

it!" Script Two:

Mentalist: "This is going to require some imagination. Look at me, but

see this boy. (Pause)

Look in my eyes, but see his eyes. (Pause} Look at my face, but see his face."

"How old was this boy when you had a crush on him?" Helper: "Eight." Mentalist: "Eight? Then
you might want to imagine him a little shorter. And possibly with more hair! But try to see him.
(Pause.) Now, say his name in your mind. Not out loud, but hear your

inner voice say it... Say it now!" "Really?! Wow! Say it again! (Mentalist laughs to himself.)

"That's amazing. Even after all these years, I can still hear passion in your voice. I can hear you
saying, 'Ohh, Peter!.' Is that it? Peter?" Helper: ''Yes." Mentalist: "Wow! That mvst have been
some crush!" 45

Of these two possible 'reveals', which one strikes you as more interesting theatrically? Which
one seems more powerful? Which do you think will garner the strongest reaction from the
audience helper? You probably won't be surprised when I tell you that I think the second one is
better. I'm biased, of course, since that is the actual script I use during a billet routine I
constructed for walk-around purposes when I'm entertaining on college campuses. It's
something I use as a 'teaser' when I'm walking through a campus cafeteria drumming up an
audience for my evening show. The former script, on the other hand, is what I imagine as a fairly
typically unimaginative presentation of a mindreading effect. Perhaps it's something of a straw
man, but then again I'm not so sure. But assuming the second script is better, why is it so? First,
let's look at what the first script is lacking. In Script One, what is the performer's attitude toward
his superpower? It's barely discernible, but to the extent that it can be detected, it might best be
defined as 'look at the cool thing I can do.' The actual moment of mental contact, by which I
mean the moment the thought is received, produces no apparent emotional reaction in
performer number one. Apparently there' s soflle challenge to it, but it couldn't be much or he
would show some surprise and delight upon its completion. In truth, the only emotional reaction
the performer shows at all is when he demonstrates that he;got it right, and that's really more of
a strut than a genuine emotion. Seriously, if you really could pick up thoughts, wouldn't you feel
something? Now, for the performer in Script One, what is the process of mindreading? Again, it's
barely discernible. Apparently the helper must 'concentrate.' But how? What exactly does that
mean? The performer is not certain he got it right. Why not? What is the source of his
insecurity? Don't you think that if these questions are left unanswered in the minds of the
spectator, the statement "I don't know if I have this," is going to strike the helper as a trifle
insincere? Will she be rooting for the performer to be correct? I doubt it. 46

How about Script Two? In this one the character of the performer expresses something that
could be called a point of view. It's only a very brief bit of dialogue, but his attitude toward his
power is much more discernible than the first. As with the first performer, this one finds mind-
reading to be somewhat difficult, but now we know why: the helper has to concentrate in a
really specific way. The performer here is also excited by the act of mind-reading, and not only
because of the attention it draws to himself, but also because it seems to be fun simply to make
a mental connection with another person. We know this because the moment of mental
connection produces in him an experience of surprise and delight. Something about the way the
helper is thinking is so enjoyable that he asks her to think it again. And the process of mind
reading in Script Two? Again, it's more clearly defined. The performer explicitly spells out how
the helper must concentrate, and as she goes through each step, the performer is . apparently
receiving information from it. The moment of thought reading is not disconnected from the
process as it in the first script. Instead it seems to be the natural result of a necessary
progression. There are many other differences we could examine, but the most important
difference, i submit, would be the difference in the way the audience reacts when her thought is
revealed. In think it's possible that the helper in Script One will be amazed, but I don't think she
will react with shock. In fact, I think there her reaction will be more one of puzzlement. The rest
of the audience, I expect, will be similarly detached. I know from experience that the helper in
Script Two will turn red, let out a little scream, and hold her hands in front of her face, and there
will be no doubt in the minds of the onlookers that you didn't merely guess her word, you read
her mind. The reason for the difference, I believe, has everything to do with how you've set up
the reveal. Unless it follows naturally from context, the reveal has no meaning. In Script One,
crucial elements of context are ignored. There is simply no path down which the audience can
be guided. 47

Conclusion Imagine you have a superpower. Imagine you can read minds. Isn't that basically
what we do as mentalists? Imagine that we can read minds? When I was a child, the one thing I
wanted more than anything else in life was to grow up to be an architect. Or a ninja! But I didn't
imagine these things. I fantasized them. There is a difference. A fantasy is a wish. A hope. It's
pure ether. When a thing is imagined, it is fleshed out, detailed. When we fully imagine
something, we construct it, metaphorically, on a foundation of ideas. Imagination requires work,
but that work is what enables us to guide the imaginations of others.
48

't '

.~;· .

...:·· '

."'!"'.···

~-

.•.

-:..

::Ji~C .:.l- 1

So now you have decided why you want to perform mentalism and you have established (or are
on the way to establishing) a persona which will allow you to be the most effective and powerful
performer that you are capable of being. You have decided on what you want to say with your
performance and the format that it will take . 49

What next? Well, you need to make it memorable. More importantly, you have to make yourself
memorable. In fact, it goes beyond that. You have to be impossible to forget. Are you happy to
just perform a bunch of tricks that you like? As long as you are performing them in an
entertaining way which provides the audience with an amazing experience then that is of course
great! But what does that tell them about you? If it doesn't tell them anything about you then
that is a shame, because it means that it could have been any other (good) performer doing
those tricks and the audience's experience would have been just the same. But with j ust a little
bit of work you can do better than that and avoid the pitfalls of being just another
interchangeable performer. One of the saddest and strangest things about contemporary magic
and mentalism is the effort that has been collectively expended to make the tricks memorable
rather than the performers! Sometimes when I used to do a close-up magic gig I would meet
people who had seen some close-up magic somewhere else before. Every single one of them
was able to recount to me an effeq (or their wildly inaccurate recollection of it!) but none of
them could ever remember the performer's name. Is that a sad indictment of the performers
involved or the state of our industry as a whole? Probably both. : Note, before we go any further:
the selection of material is discussed at length in other chapters of this book. Maybe some of
your performance (close-up) or show (stage) will showcase the extraordinary skills you have,
some of it will demonstrate an unusual talent you've developed and some of it will showcase a
strange power you claim to have. Whatever your choices, for the purposes of this chapter it will
be assumed that you are performing strong, impressive material which is congruent with your
character and can connect with an audience.

50

Walkaround, Close-up and Casual Performance Although these days when I perform a
walkaround or close-up gig the material I perform will be almost entirely mentalism or my SRS
reading system, I still use the same techniques that I developed severa l years ago. These
techniques are designed to make me and my name, and from now on you and your name,
memorable to the audience. I have already explained in an earlier chapter what my goal is in
performing, and the goal of these techniques is similar. My aim is that when people recount the
details of my performance to their friends, family or workmates, the conversation goes
something like this:

"We were at a party at so-and-so's house and the other night and we met this guy called Mark
Elsdon. He was doing the most incredible things, telling us where we'd like to go on holiday and
the date on a coin in my pocket, and then get this- he made the coin bend in my hand! I've still
got the coin here, have a look!" "No way! So, was he like a magician or something?" "I suppose
so, but he wasn't really doing any tricks or anything like that. It was more like psychology and...
and... I can't really explain it! He was just doing crazy weird stuff. He put a word inside Jill's head
and made her think of it! I checked him out on You Tube and he solves a Rubik's Cube with a
blindfold on, in Jess than a minute!" And so it goes... So, that's my goal. And the techniques and
strategies I am sharing with you here in this chapter are designed to maximise the chances of
something like the above conversation taking place. About you .

51

What's In A Name? If they are going to remember your name, t hen they have to learn it. It
seems obvious I know, but you'd be surprised how many performers never properly introduce
themselves. Further, they have to hear your name more than once. Whenever I am introduced
to a group, I make sure I shake everyone's hand and introduce myself to them individually, using
my name: " Hello, pleased to meet you (handshake), I'm Mark Elsdon. Hi, I'm (next handshake)
Mark Elsdon . Mark (handshake) Elsdon. Hello (handshake) Mark Elsdon. Mark Elsdon
(handshake), pleased to meet you."

And so on . A group of six people will get to hear me say my name six times. Usually. It should go
without saying that if someone has their hands full I won't force them to struggle in order to
shake my hand. But you get the idea. By the way, I don/t try to remember the name of any of the
people whose hands I shake, even if they tell me! I'm not being rude, but the practicalities of the
situation are that I want them to remember me and not vice versa. If I need to use someone's
name when I invite them to be a participant in something I perform, then I will simply and
politely ~sk. them for it. Another technique I use is the 'projected future conversation',
effectively writing the 'future in advance. Let me give you an example (the following effect is fully
described in Part Two of the boo k): I am about to reveal the name of a playing card that the
spectator has written down on a piece of paper/ which they have folded up into a tiny packet
and which they now hold on the palm of their hand. I say, " When you are telling your friends
about what happened here today, you'll say And then this guy Mark Elsdon freaked me out by
telling me bit by bit,' exactly what I had written an the paper/ and they'll say 'Well he must have
seen you write it!' So I want you to remember and fix in 1

52

your mind, right now, that no one in the whole world saw what you wrote down. Agreed?"
"Agreed." "And then your friends will say, 'Well there must have been some way that this Mark
Elsdon could se_e into the paperr So I want you to check it out, right now, and be certain that no
one in the worldcould see what's written on that paper. Are you certain?" "Yes. " "Okay, let's give
this a try then... " Can you see what I'm doing here? There are multiple techniques in action, but
the two I want to point out to you in this context are the pre-suppositions that:

1. The spectator will have a future conversation with their friends about my performance and
describe what they saw in glowing terms. 2. During that future conversation both parties will use
my name. Now, I know that it is very likely just wishful thinking that the spectator's friend will
use my name, but describing this future conversation does two very useful things:

1. It allows me to repeat my name, twice, in a context that makes sense. Which, as explained
above, pushes me further towards my goal of the spectator remembering who I am, as opposed
to just what I did? 2. It provides a model for the spectator to use (subconsciously) about how
they are to react to my performance.

53

You Or The Tricks? As I've already mentioned, one of the things that always strikes me as so
strange is the time we put into buying and learning the most memorable material that we can
possible find, at the expense of making ourselves memorable. This is one of the benefits of
building a repertoire of material based on your persona- it becomes difficult for anyone to
remember what you did without simultaneously remembering you. Your persona should
completely inform what you do, inasmuch as it should seem very natural to an audience that
someone like yourself would be able to do these amazing things. There should always be this
congruence between who you are and what you do. This subject is explored more fully in several
other chapters in the book. One approach that that works very well is to choose effects which
are more of a slow-burn, where the impossibility of what the audience has just witnessed
increases the longer they think about it. Since mentalism is a more cerebral form of enterta
inment than the eye-candy of magic, this is quite easy to accomplish. Also, I often aim for quite a
cumulative feeling of amazement, along the lines of Chuck Hickok's 'Multiple Moments of
Amazement' as discussed in his seminal book Mfi.ntalism Incorporated (Development
Productions Press, 2002). This means that you are displaying the sa me mental ability several
times during one effect or routine. This can be quite overwhelming to the spectators and
afterwards they might find it difficult to remember exactly what happened. This can be a good
thing! They might not remember the details of what you did, but they will remember that it was
you that showed them something incredible. Magicians believe that the best tricks have a plot
that can be easily explained in one line: the signed card sticks to the ceiling, paper turns into
money, their ring vanishes and reappears on your keyring, etc. I have long thought that this was
nonsense, and even more so when it 54

comes to mentalism. I'm not talking about confusing the audience; there definitely must be
clarity of effect to everything we do. Rather, I mean that instead of worrying about how
concisely the audience can describe the effect, allow your material to be structured in such a
way that they might not even be able to put it into words, but what they will remember is that it
was amazing and how that made them feel. I have another book recommendation for you which
discusses this very subject: Roger Ailes' You Are The Message (Bantam, Doubleday & Dell, 1989).
Aside from its relevance to the subject at hand, it is a great book on communicating and should
definitely be in your library.

What About On Stage? Things are a lot different on stage, where you are addressing a much
larger group of people even though most effects will only require the physical participation of a
handful of people at most. There are still plenty of techniques you can use though to emphasise
and reinforce your name and enhance memorability. Some performers, those who have a
particularly conversational style, will be able to use the 'projected future conversation' with only
a slight change of pacing. If you decide to use it, makes sure that you keep it sounding natural.
Another strategy is to use your name in a prediction. The standard way is to begin a written
prediction with your name, along the lines of: "1, Mark Elsdon, hereby predict..." This can easily
be adapted to a verbal prediction, by making quite a formal announcement of wh.at you are
saying. It is an easy matter to deliver this 'formal announcement' tongue-in-cheek, so that it is
obvious that you are simply having a bit of fun with the way that you are performing, whilst still
managing to increase your name recognition.

55

You can adapt it even further by jokily referring to the audience. An example: you are on stage
about to bend a spoon which your helper has just examined . With a smile on your face you can
turn to the audience and say, "Ladies and gentlemen ... I, Mark Elsdon, ask you all to witness that
Karen has just examined this spoon and found... nothing! Why? Because it's just a spoon! (Smile}
Nevertheless ... " and on you go.

Again, adapt this to your own style of speaking and keep it upbeat and amusing. A thoughtful
examination of your scripts and presentations will suggest other opportunities where you can
deviously name-check yourself. It should go without saying that this should be done sparingly, in
such a way that the audience never spot it happening. And please, never refer to yourself in the
third person! Unless you are royalty.

Banner Stands Another way to increase your memorability and name recognition when
performing on stage' is to use a roll-up banner or Barracuda stand (Google them if you don't
know what they are). I'm always surprised that more performers ~on't use these. A pair of them,
one on either side of the stage, lends an air of professionalism to a corporate show far out of
proportion to their cost. They can contain your name, the name of your show, some interesting
(and appropriate} background images or artwork and if you are wily enough, perhaps a hidden
prediction. Two things they should not contain are your website details and phone number-
these banners are there to create mood and recognition, not as an advertisement. And please,
have them designed by a graphic design professional, don't do them yourself no matter how
good you think you are.

56

Business Cards A great business card is still an invaluable tool, even in this era of iPhones and
smartphones, where people can Google your name and browse your website as soon as you
finish performing (and sometimes whilst you are still performing!) When I say a great business
card, I actually mean a killer business card. Too many mentalists (more about that word in a
moment!) neglect to have a great business card, or sometimes even one at all. When you give
one of your business cards to someone, whoever it is, they should be fascinated by it. It should
be unique. In design, size, shape, print or some other way it should be completely unlike any
other business card in their wallet and ideally unlike any business card they have ever seen
before. You are going for the 'wow' factor. It is really important to have something special done,
by a professional graphic designer. Have a search online for 'awesome business card designs' to
get some ideas. One great feature of business cards is that they can so easily become a souvenir
of your performance. I have several effects that use my card in an intelligent way, not simply
using the card's unprinted reverse as a blank piece of card to write on. If that is all you need, use
a billet! Giving the participant a business card that you used in an effect which amazed them
provides a tangible reminder of you and your abilities. Okay, so now the eternal question: what
should it say on your business card? Here are some things, job descriptions if you like, that I have
seen on the business cards of different mentalists: Magician Mind Magician Mentalist Mind
Reader Hypnotist Psychological Entertainer Psychological Illusionist 57

Entertainer Thought Reader Paranormalist Psychic Entertainer Mind Controller Sleight-of-Mind


Entertainer

Etc. At the time of this writing (2010) more and more people are aware of the term 'Mentalist'
due in no small part to the CBS TV show The Mentalist in which Simon Baker plays a consultant
to the police, using his skills and knowledge from his former career as a successful (fake) psychic
medium to solve cases in a variety of clever and entertaining ways. Previously the term was little
used in popular culture in the USA, and in the future that may well be the case again. Amusingly,
here in the UK a 'mentalist' has long been a slang term for a crazy or deranged person, following
its use in a popular TV comedy show, I'm Alan Partridge. That is changing somewhat as the US TV
series becomes more popular. Whatever you decide to put on your business card, it should be
something you are completely happy with and a description that you can live up to. 'Mind
Reader' would be inappropriate for someone who claims to accomplish their effects though an
understanding of body Ia nguage and micro-expressions. So what do I call myself? That depends
who I'm talking to! As to what I decided to put on my business card, you can see for yourself- I've
tucked one into the last page of this book.

58

Boring? Bland? Unbelievable? Dull? Embarrassing? Did I mention boring? Your call. For every
Earle, Derren and Banachek, there are another two dozen who make you want to cry. Or sleep.
Or both. {Again, I am talking primarily about cabaret and stage performances.) So what's the 59

problem? Well there are two main ones: the performer and the material. So let's take each in
turn.
The Performer Snapshot 1 - Entertainment Value

It doesn't take a theatre director to see that many mentalism performers have not thought one
jot about how entertaining their show is. You just need to look in the eyes of any of their
audience members. These performers have started with the question 'Am I technically capable
of performing this effect?' and ended with the question 'Is it something different from the other
items in the show?' They have also made the classic mistake of thinking that audiences are as
fascinated by mentalism as we are. They are not. Whilst some premises and effects may have an
inbuilt curiosity factor, this does not mean that they do not need to be properly and theatrically
presented. Each effect needs to be performed in an engaging and entertaining way, preferably
with as much audience participation and interaction as possible. Ken Weber lists the six. key
elements of entertainment success as: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6.

Master your craft. Communicate your humanity. Capture the excitement. Control every moment.
Eliminate weak spots. Build to a climax.

Since entertainment value is such a crucial part of your success as a stage mentalist, I think it is
high time I recommended the book that I'm hoping is both already in your library and well-read.
The book is Ken Weber's Maximum Entertainment (Ken Weber Productions, 2003). It 60

should be your performance bible and if I had to reduce my many book recommendations
throughout Mentalism Reveals down to just a single volume, it would be Ken's. On the subject of
interacting with the audience, we are in a privileged position. Mentalism is unique in the
theatrical arts in that it breaks through the fourth wall and allows the audience to become part
of the show. Not just as onstage spectators, but as participants. I would like to recommend that
if you haven't yet read Gay Ljungberg's excellent Audience Management (Gycklaren Magic, 2010}
yet, then you do so as soon as possible. Snapshot 2- Technique

Despite the claimed belief (it usually seems like wishful thinking to me) of some in the mentalism
community that modern mentalism is not really a branch of magic, but rather a descendant of
the spiritualist movement, almost every single mentalism performer I've ever met has come to it
via the magic community, and the odd one or two that haven't, come from a hypnosis
background. Before the old guard at the PEA have me barred before I've even applied to join,
please understand that I am not talking about readers (cold, hot, shut-eye or any other flavour)
whose involvement in mentalism always seems to me to be both a bit odd and unnecessary. I'm
sure that some of them genuinely have no knowledge of the double lift or the French drop. But
for those whose primary performance outlet is mentalism, magic is definitely a hands-on father
or a half-forgotten brother. For many who make the switch (progression?) from magic to mental
ism the reason is similar to my own: they come to realise that mentalism allows a much greater
connection to people and that it offers a more powerful form of mystery that is both palatable
and enjoyable to a sophisticated adult audience. For others though, the reason is more prosaic:
standard magic, whether it is cabaret or close-up is 'too 61
difficult'! Sleights and moves are just confusing, and they would "rather just concentrate on the
entertainment". I put that last little bit in quotations, because that is exactly what one local
mentalist said to me. Thus we have technically deficient performers, whose attention to
scripting, practice and rehearsal is no doubt about as great as their devotion to learning sleight-
of-hand skills. Their mistaken belief that mentalism effects and routines are pretty much self-
working, allowing them to "just concentrate on the entertainment" is proven by their lacklustre
and embarrassing performances. On the other hand, most of the performers I've seen who were
technically proficient and well-rehearsed magicians and who subsequently turned their attention
to mentalism are both entertaining and engaging. Not only because they are able to concentrate
fully on performing and being 'in the moment' since they are not worried about any of the
technical handling details of what they are doing, but also because they have sufficient mastery
of technique to allow them to choose from the whole range of available mentalism material.
Unlike their unskilled counterparts, they can comfortably use nail-writers, sleight-of-hand, metal
bending techniques and control all manner of electronic gadgetry witpout any fear of detection.
As both John Carney and Jamy Ian Swiss (if you haven't read the chapter 'In Defence
ofTechniq{Je' in Jamy's book Shattering Illusions (Hermetic Press, 2002) please do so
immediately) have both implored their readers, there is no substitute for technical excellence.
And to paraphrase what John Carney wrote in 'Secret Philosophy', the introduction to his
wonderful book Carneycopia (L&L Publishing, 1991) being "good enough is the hymn of
mediocrity". Strive for excellence. So, if you' ve never read it properly (or at all!), it' s time to dig
out that

copy of Corinda and work your way through those 13 Steps. Think of it as li ke being in recovery,
but in reverse. Unfortunately, owning ten different book tests and twenty different wallets does
not constitute

62

mastery of the craft of mentalism. Why not have all the techniques and tools which are available
at your disposal? Swami, boon writer, band writer or thumb tip writer? If you haven't got an
opinion, it most likely means that you've never tried any of them and therefore can't use any of
them. And that's a shame, because the ability to nail-write affords the ability to do effects that
simply aren' t possible any other way. And)t is the ultimate ' out'. It gets worse. If you can't nail-
write (or thumb-write) but you do know the difference between the MindSpy Pad, The Janus
Pad, The First Impression Pad, The Tommy Pad, The Sniper Pad ,The Butterfly & The Moth & The
Superfly, The Platt Pad, Psypher and The ParaPad then there may be no hope for you! Seriously
though, it might be time to get back to basics and see what you're missing. Spend half an hour
less a night browsing the magic forums and half an hour more reading Corinda & Annemann.
Expand your knowledge base and your skill set. And ·I don't mean by buying more DVDs or tri
cks.
The Material So, assuming that the performer is capable, in every sense of the word, of
delivering a good performance, we arrive at the second reason why so many mentalism
performances are so poor: the choice of material is terrible. And whilst rememberi ng our long
term goal of being original, I t hink that starting with a blank page and hoping to fill it up with a
listing of completely or even partly original material is not only unrealistic bit also impossible.
The perfectly-acceptable and there-really-isn't any-otherchoice way is to start out by using
material created and published by other people, and preferably material that no one else is
performing (except maybe the creator). Ideally look for material from creators who are also
professional performers, although this isn't a hard and fast rule. You can choose material which
perfectly fits your premise and is ideal 63

for demonstrating your specific abilities. You can then begin the process of starting to become
original by developing !writing} your own personalized presentations for these effects.
Remember, one of the keys to entertainment success is 'Communicating your humanity', so
these presentations need to tell the audience something about you, your history, your
emotions ... your life. So where should you look for this exclusive material? No doubt can already
picture me chanting my mantra again: 'Read More Books!' So with that in mind, here is a list of
ten good, no, make that great books lor sets} to get you started: Larry Becker- Stunners Plus
(Aplar Publishing, 2002} Lee Earle- Mentalism In New Directions (Syzygy Press, 2003) Jim
Steinmeyer- The Conjuring Anthology !Hahne, 2006) T.A. Waters- Mind, Myth & Magic !Hermetic
Press, 1999) Barrie Richardson- Theater of the Mind and Act Two !Hermetic Press, Various dates)
Chris Woodward & Richard Mark- Maurice Fogel: In Search of the Sensational (Hermetic Press,
2007) James Biss- Messing With Minds (Wyllie Publishing, 2004) Sean Taylor- Mindstorrns (Self-
published, 2008} Joshua Quinn- Panilies (Mentally Impossible, 2008) Phil! Smith- Mitox, Yokai &
Mokele (Self-published, Various dates) Yes, I know! No Annemann, Banachek, Berglas, Bernstein,
Brook, Cassidy, Grant, Hilford, Hu ll, Joseph, Mann, Maven, Osterlind, Nelson, Riggs or Tillar. But
it's my list so I've included who I wanted! Seriously, though, I have simply listed some favourite
books that contain lots of strong, varied and contemporary material. In fact you could build
enough repertoires to last you dozens of lifetimes from just those books . Good luck!

64

. . . .·. ;.·:.._ · .i!ttltt ·~ '~

Air · '

Ha hal Except I'm not joking. Remember, the basic goal of a performance of mentalism is to
entertain the audience by amazing them with your abilities, not to make they laugh. When
people go to the theatre to watch a play, to the cinema to watch a drama, thriller or horror film,
to the opera or to a music gig, they can be thoroughly entertained without having laughed once.
And yet there is an unspoken opinion that a magic or mentalism show 65
without comedy is not as entertaining as it might have been, that it is a bit boring. Why should
this be? I think that part of the problem, especially with magic (as opposed to mentalism) is that
much of the effect relies on surprise and of course surprise elicits laughter. With mentalism, the
fact that very often the premise sets the scene for the effect means that the climax is not
surprising in the same kind of way as that of a magic trick; there will be surprise that the
performer was indeed able to demonstrate the incredible ability he claimed, but it was not
completely unexpected.

The Competition Between Comedy And Mentalism There are two ways to make your audience
laugh during a show:

1. Humour that occurs naturally borne of the situation. This is organic and is inextricably linked
to the mentalism performance. 2. Humour that is the result of a gag, line, gesture or prop. This is
stand-alone and can happen independently of the mentalism performance. :The first way is far,
far preferable. There is a real problem with the second way and it is this: if you are going to use
funny lines and gags, they had better be comedy-club-level funny. If they're not, what is the
point? In fact this is the biggest problem (and it is a major problem} with this kind of comedy.
Even if you are genuinely as good and as funny as a professional stand-up comedian, who cares?
Not the audience, despite what you may think! The f act is that instead of being a unique
entertainer, performing amazing material and demonstrating abilities that they have never seen
before in their life, you are now just another comedian, like the ones they saw on some TV show
last night, except probably not as good. 66

You have gone from being a distinctive, exceptional individual to just another funny guy, of which
there are thousands. Dozens of whom are on the TV. They probably even work with someone
who is 'a right laugh', meaning that you are now down at the level of some guy they work with.
Great! (Said sarcastically) Also, since the comedy is the result of gags that are added to the
mentalism, rather situations that arise from it, it can very easily seem unrelated and bolted-on.
The jarring feeling which arises can lead the audience to sense that you don't have enough faith
in your material and/or your own abilities as a performer to get on with the job of entertaining
and amazing them, without the support of the gags to fall back on . Finally, you must make
certain that you never make a gag either at or just after the climax of the effect. Laughter steps
on the feeling of amazement and kills it dead. Losing out on giving the audience the feeling of
amazement because they were laughing is counter-productive and renders the mentalism
meaningless. When it comes to the more fitting and useful first type of humour listed above it
won't surprise you that I'm going to recommend something to read which you will find
beneficial. As you work through this list and try out the games, scenarios and exercises taught
you will realise two things: 1. Everyone has the ability to be funny. 2. Writing funny stuff is not
difficult, but it does involve work. If you want to write some comedy lines and develop moments
which naturally fit your show (because they are about the situations and details of your show)
then you can definitely do it, but you will have to put some time into it. But it is so worthwhile .
So here is my Comedy Recommended Reading list: 67
1. Logan Murray- Be A Great Stand-Up (Teach Yourself Books, 2010) And that's it! Surprised it's
not a longer list? Don't be- Logan's wonderful book really is all you need. If you sit down and
read this book and learn from it, I mean really work through it and do the exercises, you will be
funnier than 99% of mentalists, magicians, and for that matter, comedians.

68

'

Since most of us find our roots in conjuring, some perceptive triage is in order. "Mentalism"
requires a definition before proceeding. Conjuring (doing magic tricks) implies an understanding
between performer and audience: Both understand there is no such thing as magic - a
suspension of the laws of physics. However for the purposes of entertainment, we will all
suspend our disbelief in order to "enjoy the 69

moment." Everyone understands that what they experience is a simulation of an alternate


reality. It's a trick. Mental magic is much the same- a conjurer is still performing tricks, but with a
mind reading theme. All agree what they witness is still a theatrical presentation only.
Mentalism, however, is at its best when the audience is left to assume that their participation
verifies a previously held fantasy or belief. The craft allows participants (not spectators, who only
watch or observe) to experience what it is like to explore beyond the 'norma l'. The key here is in
the concept of participation; Mentalism is impossible without the eager participation of others.
Absent that element, it's merely pretentious 'showing off.' Participation encourages belief, an
essential element for the successful performance. My approach is one of motivational
Mentalism; the process of eliciting a benign belief - not in miraculous super powers, religious
mumbo jumbo, or magical thinking but instead a faith in self and our unrecognized,
unacknowledged human traits. Intuition is one of my favourites. Memory is qnother. Essentially, I
use my performance to reinforce the notion::that not only are such abilities real but are also far
more useful than most people realize when embraced and utilized. Denial and disbelief are
strong elem ents in most peoples' thinking and prevent them from emotiona lly or intellectually
investing in themselves and their potential. When they experience (personally or vicariously) an
intuitive moment during my presentation, stacked though the deck might be to guarantee
success, they become more open to the possibilities. Not just for the duration of the show, but in
their lives as well. Heady stuff. Thus, there is a strong element of TRUTH in that which I present.
Intuition is indeed real and can be a source for insight that both parallels and supplements logic,
analysis, experience, and formal 70

education. When no longer dismissed as 'female instinct' or 'male gut feeling' and actually
employed as an additional ta lent used in our behalf, it can become a powerful tool. The same
can be said for mnemonic (memory) skills. When people experience for themselves the small
successes that are part of the performance they are much more accepting of the premise that
we all have superb memories and that what we call"bad memory" is merely untrained recal l.
Not only can an audience enj oy a performance, when their minds are opened to this new
potential, they can realize substantial benefits in their everyda,y lives. An additional benefit in
anchoring my presentations in valid concepts is that I don't betray any contradiction through
negative body language -something only a long-trained actor can successfully achieve. This
allows my audience to 'read' me subconsciously, dare I say 'intuitively'?- as genuine. In return, I
am qu ite careful not to abuse the trust that the audience invests in the process. I provide the
successes they yearn for but never pursue out of fear of failu re or ridicule. I cert ainly don't
want to start a religion - but I'm flattered when people suggest it. One of my favourite quotes:
"Teaching is the art of assisting discovery." In performance, I encourage the audience to discover
talents, strengths, and attributes of personality they never realized existed, something I find far
more r ewarding than mere applause following a magic trick. There is an additional benefit-
Mentalism is much more difficult to effectively present than magic tricks. It requires superb
communications skills, a strong platform presence, good interpersonal capabilities, and a focus
on others rather than self. That's why conjuring narcissists and clowns restrict themselves to
push-button prestidigitation; Mentalism is no fun for dilettantes. When I perform Pseudo
Psychometry, it's in a " Lie to Me" format. Although the modus operandi is marked containers,
the 71

presentation is all about the myriad 'tells' we cannot conceal when attempting to conceal
information or emotions. The premise is absolutely factual even though I've guaranteed success
through subterfuge (clients don't hire me to fail). The audience goes away with a strengthened
understanding of why it's important to be forthright in everyday dealings rather than deceptive.
As well,·they take away 'evidence' that there are micro-expressions, body language, verbal
intonations, grammatical nuances, vocal inflections, and other skills that will help them in
interpersonal communication. These things exist perhaps not in tonight's show- and they do,
indeed, function as advertised. If I'm inclined to do a 'prediction', it's never the magical, how-
did-he-dothat sort of impossibility. No matter how many layers of 'security' involved- sealing in
an aspirin tin which is baked into a loaf of bread to be sealed in a safe hoist high above the
audience- everyone instinctively understands that, somehow, trickery is involved. Instead, I
speak of deja vu, that mysterious threshold every human has crossed when we apparently
remember an earlier dream of a moment now being experienced. It's universal. Valid or not, it
makes a wonderful premise for a 'future forecast' that almost everyone can buy into.

'

In performance, I remind the audience of the phenomenon and then ask the obvious question,

"Wouldn't it be wonderful if we would dream of winning Lotto numbers, Superbowl winners, or


stock market moves? Sadly, the mind doesn't work that way but delivers to us instead visual
metaphors - a plethora of dots we fail to connect (or often fail to remember) until the full,
complete image is before us. To illustrate what I mean someone here this evening has an
envelope I mailed two weeks ago. It contains some bedside jottings of 'dots' fram my dreams, all
of us will connect those dots shortly. " Then I produce that evening's newspaper and the
headline shouts, "PAN-AM FLIGHT 543 CRASHES", accompanied by several photos of the 72

scene. We proceed to have someone read the envelope's contents which mention, " ... crumpled
aluminium ... houses burning ... death from above ... " and awards credit for amazing prescience
without the accompanying accusation of, "Why didn't you warn someone?" I have nullified
(excused, explained in advance) the prime contradiction. Just as with everyone's deja vu
experiences, the visions don't make sense until 'remembered' during the event. While doing a
Question and Answer routine, I prefer a multiplicity of methodology. I'll ppenly read aloud
unsigned questions and deliver a compelling analysis in a manner that will never embarrass a
participant. The answer is validated when I return the questions to their authors without asking
them to identify themselvesL all of whom will acknowledge that I was spot-on. Other
participants will have been requested to write a question and then fold the paper twice before
inscribing a single related word on the outside. Those billets remain folded·and I do a riff on the
single visible word, successfully answering the question within as well. These still-folded billets
are set openly aside until four or five have accumulated. At the conclusion of the routine I ask
those who wrote the questions within the folded billets to raise their hands. Since there are
several, none are specifically linked to any individual query which allows me the freedom of
delivering some sensational or semi-scandalous and entertaining answers with no risk of
embarrassing any individual. Of each, I ask, "Did I fully address your

concern?" "Yes." "Was your question dealt with?" "Yes." "Have I given you new insight on your
problems?" "Yes." The finish is an image duplication of the contents of one final billet placed
aside earlier because the outside bears the words, "What am I thinking?" My reply, as I hand it
to someone to hold for later- still folded - is on the order of, "I suspect this might contain more of
a challenge than a quest for insight. Let's save it for last." For the finale I ask, "Who wrote that
sceptical comment? (A person raises his hand.) Join me in front of everyone please. You're about
to experience something you will remember until the last day you draw breath." That's when I
ask him to close his eyes, grasp the wrist of my pen-holding 73

hand, and to re-create the billet's contents in his mind as I write on a large foam-core panel.
When done, I conceal the information and suggest that my participant open his eyes and
describe in detail what he originally inscribed on the billet. When revealed, my sketch is a
nearperfect rendition of his earlier image. Bonus: The guy holding the billet almost always opens
it to see for himself! My performance is more of a theatrical seminar in which the audience is
guided to an uplifting expectation of the possible -as opposed to "I have no idea how that
conjurer made that tiger disappear" and the negative connotation of a failed intellectual
confrontation that follows. The audience share moments of awe and wonder at what they might
achieve and never feel disappointment because they can't imagine doing such things
themselves. In other words, I am not a Dunninger-esque personality who superciliously implies,
"I have skills that you do not. You may applaud now." Rather, the message is that all of us
possess awesome unrealized potentials that are there for our benefit if we choose to accept
them. That's when the audience rises to acknowledge that I have opened their minds.

74

The goal of this chapter is to encourage you to open your eyes and then open your mind. We are
all too easily shackled by what has come before, by the 'classics', the presentational concepts
and the paradigms of what we perceive as the correct way to perform mentalism. But there are
those who have broken free of these habits and patterns, and started to approach performance
in a different way. Who look at things with a fresh perspective. A future volume will focus on
other areas, but for now we are concerned with several specific techniques to 75

amplify the impact of when and how we reveal information and then some powerful new
revelations themselves. The two overriding factors in determining how I personally create a
revelation technique are these: 1. Is it believable? 2. Does it make a connection?

Believability I want it to be incredible and amazing, of course, butt also want it to be able to
convince people that I am genuinely capable of something extraordinary.

After a gig t often have people say to me something along the lines of:

"You must be a nightmare to live with! You wife must hate it that you can make her do what you
want all the time!'' Or "You must find it very easy to get women with what you can do". Other
times people say something like "It mus~ be great that no one can lie to you" or they will
genuinely ask "Do you uses these skills/powers (I've been asked both) all the time in your
everyday life? You must be very wealthy." I suppose this is the successful mentalist's version of"/
wouldn't want to play cards with you!" and tam again reminded of Derren's words: "I find that
most intelligent spectators are more interested in the psychological techniques than the sleight-
of-hand". The fact is that using the kind of material and techniques described herein (and others
that are in print elsewhere) I am able to convince intelligent, successful people that t genuinely
possess some kind of phenomenal abilities or skills. And t don't just mean for the duration of the
performance, I mean in everyday life!

76

By the way, don't think I buy into this nonsense! And I'm not telling you about it for any
egotistical reasons, simply to let you know that these are the kind of responses that powerful
revelations can get. Maybe you already get these types of reactions after you perform. Great!
You'll soon have a few new weapons to add to your arsenal.
Connecting It has to be about them, their thoughts, their choices and their participation. In
short, I want to make them care. It is far preferable to reveal something that a person is
interested in, i.e. something about themselves. A banknote serial number divination is rightly
considered an impressive effect by mentalists, but which do you think is more impressive to a
participant: telling them the serial number on a banknote that you've never touched or asking
them to remember exactly how much money they got in their first ever wage packet and
revealing that you know the figure? Remember, it's all about fresh perspectives. You can make a
serious impact revealing something abstract, but you have to work far harder to make it matter.
So whilst I do use playing cards in close-up mentalism, I use exactly the same type of technique
as Chuck Hickok (which he explains in Chapter 13) to reveal extra information which is about
them, rather than just the cards. The ultimate goal is to build affecting, memorable experiences,
so anything I can do to tip the scales in my favour, I will do it. The gloves are off. There are no
rules ...

77

I discussed in my book MindStorms~ some of my views on act structure and I'd like to flesh that
out in more detail with particular focus on a specific area of that theory. I honestly believe that
this thinking, more than the individual routines, can enhance your journey to becom ing a
successful menta list. The basis of this idea is in changing, not necessarily the order of the
effects, but the management of the procedures and climaxes of those effects and the overlap
between portions of different effects. I enj oy playing with the possibilities presented by varying
the tempo from the 79

usual set up, cl imax, set up, climax, setup, climax. Old fashioned 'joke' based comics worked like
this and most magic acts also follow th is pattern. They try to create a routine or act by having
the tops and tails of effects in some way relate to each other to then attempt to build a seamless
transition from one effect to the next. This is fine, but there is another approach. Watch any
good modern stand-up comedian and you will see something different, namely call backs-
references to earlier rout ines sprinkled throughout the act to gain extra laughs from essentially
the same gag repeated in a different context. A really good comedian may also create something
of a 'web' whereby seemingly unrelated material meanders and suddenly becomes part of a
master plot which leads to a super strong scene or punch line. The television show Seinfeld is
also a great example of several unrelated and diverging plots which ultimately become
intertwined. This principle applied to mentalism allows for several key advantages over the usual
fare. Separating the set up procedure from the climax gives, through time misdirection, a
heightened sense of pure mind reading. A lot of mental effects are overly procedural and have
ranges and limits put on the spectator which can affect the picture of fairness. The ability to
come back to a spectator later in the act and use clever wording to redefine the effect allows for
a much stronger outcome. Secondly, the dead time created by certain effects can be covered wit
h minor effects or perhaps the set up for something which is to follow. An example for me is in
my handling of Sneak Thief. Rather than silence or, worse still, rambling whilst the pictures are
being drawn, I reveal a word previously selected from a dictionary. This is done in a casual way
and, unbeknownst to the audience, sets them up for what is to come later in the book-test
sequence. It also places a location on the dictionary for a later call back. "I'm not sure what this
means but since Michael has a

dictionary..... "

80

Thirdly, it allows you to load up the end portion or finale of your act. I talked briefly in my book
about the work of Australian magician Phil Cass. Phil has a corporate act which is as near to
perfectly structured as I have ever seen. As a busy and successful professional, Phil has
performed essentially the same act for many years; quite literally thousands of t imes. He has
ironed out the problems and weak points of the act and has structured the act in such a way as
to leave the audience with a very strong memory of a funny, clever and successful magician. In
fact, the act is a series of disasters and accidents which befall the items loaned by audience
members. Money, a watch, a ring and a tie are destroyed or lost and all are found/restored in
the last few minutes of the act. I would suggest that the laughter and situation comedy Phil
creates means that the audience remembers little of the details of the early part of the act. The
final five minutes of the act has so many strong climaxes that the audience is left with a huge
wave of emotion and his ovations are . among the strongest you will see. I assume that we all
accept that the finale or closer of any act should be the strongest moment. I firmly believe that
Phil's brilliant thinking improves on this. He has taken some of the climaxes which would usually
exist in the middle of the act and moved them to the finale. It is important to tread carefully with
this approach since repeated failure during the act could easi ly lead the audience to lose
interest. Phil manages this with direct and very strong humor. The 'accid ents' are playful and
hilarious and he plays with the audience members, apparently blaming them for trusting him.
This approach is very specific to Phil's character and I doubt many performers could make it
work. Nor am I advocating that they should try. For over 15 years, I have used this basic idea of
loading the last few minutes of the act with climaxes and for me it has been very successful. My
current corporate act has many reve lations in the last few minutes. This 'avalanche' of successes
and highpoints has a huge effect on an audience and since there so much being thrown at them,
they are 81

unable to backtrack on any individual piece and therefore the level of impossibility is raised a
notch or two by sheer volume. It appears as if I am purely pulling information out of the minds
of the spectators and it is almost as if the spectators were not present during the set up. As a
mentalist, failure is very often used as a way to strengthen effects. The premise being that a
magician would not do a trick which failed but if you were a genuine mind reader, you'd make
the occasional mistake. This is a key difference in the two approaches. I have always enjoyed and
am still playing with the 'magician in t roubl e' hook; however in mentalism the audience
perceives it differently. The magician is often obviously acting and a call back appears inevitable.
With this new found principle, I can now have occasional failures during an act and then call
back to them with either an explanation of why they occurred or a fix to make right the error. To
give you an example of this, I use one of the many lists which have be·en published by users of
the MOAB. The list allows you to show that although you had been wrong about the word, there
as a reason.

"Remember when I wrote scarf? That's what I saw, I now realise it was a visual mistake, you were
actually thinking of a handkerchief weren't you?" Audiences need to be taken on a journey
which has peaks and troughs, light and shade and e~periences which play with their emotions
and curiosities. An act can have loud moments and quiet (or even si lent) moments. It can
equally have success and failure. This is what I like to call the 'roller coaster'. Some effects can
allow you to play with failure and, by making it a feature, create a stronger final revelation. There
are t imes incidentally when failure is not going to help. I used to perform an effect where the
spectator's watch and my own suddenly became set to the same random time. I found out
through experience that 7.55 and 7.57 is not a hit in the eyes of the spectator, its either right or
wrong.

82

By using failure to strengthen the illusion of the act and then giving myself the opportunity to go
back to it, I am in the fortunate position of the failures also being successes in the minds of the
audience. You have to love mentalism for that! As someone once said "even when you are wrong
you are right." Well now, I am able to be genuinely right. The tempo of the set-ups and climaxes
is something I've spent a lot of time on. In my book-test sequence, I use five spectators, nine
books and as many as six or seven words are chosen and revealed in one way or another. I began
ten years ago by having selection followed by revelation four or five times. This is repetition no
matter how you try to play it. I now have three or four words selected in quick succession. I
reveal those all at once in a fast and dramatic way. This is now one revelation sequence- sure it' s
three words but, in a sense, it is the climax to one effect. I now have some more information
selected and drill down into some more detail with numbers, drawings etc. I then have two or
three words selected under seemingly more impossib.le conditions and reveal those with more
drama. This changes the tempo, heightens the revelations, allows the routine to build in big
steps and gives me a series of impossible but quick-fire revelations one after another.
Understand this: these are the same effects I was doing before, in the same order and with the
same set-ups, methods and revelations. The only thing which has changed is the order and
timing of the revelations. It's made all the difference. I have always worked really hard to ensure
that the effects I choose suit my on stage character (persona) and style perfectly. We must do
that. Simply seeing a good trick and then deciding to put it into your show is not the way to
construct an act. It is important to take a big step back and get a clear idea of what you are
purporting to do, how, why and with what 'power'. Making the assumption that you have a clear
idea of what your set is, I'm suggesting you now try to look back over it (most likely by filming it)
and take into account the following three suggestions.
83

1. Look at the tempo. Can you move or delay any revelations? Can you group them together or
reveal them one piece of information at a time? This increases what my friend Chuck Hickok calls
the 'moments of amazement'. Can you change the pace and delivery to heighten the drama and
theatre that they create? 2. Try to identify the dead spots, the times where something is going
on which is not under your control. Can you begin to set up the next portion of the act, hand out
a pen, pencil, pad, dictionary, book, dice or whatever? Can you reveal some extra piece of
information from before? Can you go back and right a wrong? Can you refer back to an earlier
effect and remind the audience of what happened and give some kind of potted description of
why? In short, can you make better use of that stage wait? 3. How does the last five minutes of
your act look? Since it's the piece people will remember, what else can you put in there? Can you
load some extra revelations in there? Can you boost it up by delaying something from earlier in
the show? How can you make it more memorable? This process is always oard to manage by
yourself. The advice 'get a director' appears in·many places and realistically I know that 95% of
you won't do that. An easier way is to talk this stuff over with a friend or partner and just to do
\the exercise of looking over your act with reference to these three guidelines and seeing what
you can move or group. Doing this been something of a revelation for me. I hope you are able to
find it within yourself to try it. I can attest to how much it has helped me and my own
commercial act.

84

...r. ,

Presentational Concept: Co~mect with people by revealing more than the thought ... reveal
information that connects the thought and the helper.

Telepathy demonstrations normally involve the performer revealing a 'thought' he or she picks
up from the mind of the helper. At least that's the illusion most mentalists attempt to create. But
while revealing a thought is often amazing, it isn't automatically entertaining. The serious
mentalist needs to seek out techniques that 85

also make his or her telepathy demonstration fun, believable, and entertaining. Consider these
two ideas: 1. What a performer says after becoming aware of the 'thought' ... but before
revealing the thought can make a telepathy demonstration more interesting and believable. 2.
Statements linking the thought and the helper multiply the impact of the revelation. For the lack
of a better name, I call the combination of these two ideas Post-Awareness Personal Revelations.
Not a great name, but a powerful concept. While I suspect these ideas can be found in
mentalism books somewhere, I can't remember reading about them in any book on mentalism I
own. I don't do readings, but I suspect similar methods may be found in books on cold reading.
Note: I'm not claiming J:hese ideas as mine ... but rather I' m writing about what I actually use in
my shows so these ideas can be more widely used by others serious about mentalism. I believe
they will enhance any demonstration of telepathy. To better understand the benefits of this
presentational concept, let's examine one of the revelations in my book test presentation- the
drawing of a football. (Note: I know a football is on the chosen page because I forced that page.)
First, let's examine what I could have said knowing that the person is thinking about a football.

86

Concentrate on what you see on the page. I'm picking up two objects on the page you are
looking at. One is a person ... and the other is ... a football.

This revelation may amaze people. But it lacks any drama lit's direct, but impersonal. And, you
get only one "Yes." But the revelation of the football could be made more amazing by revealing
more than the name of the object. A good performer can also easily reveal information about: a.
the unique properties of the thought in the person's mind b. how the person and the thought
may be connected . With some common sense and a bit of creativity, it is very easy to present a
more entertaining demonstration by adding a few simple, easy-to-observe Post-Awareness
Personal Revelations. Now examine what I actually during my presentation- knowing that this
man is looking at a page that contains a picture of a football: Hello, my name is Chuck Hickok ...
you are? Kevin. Kevin, please look at poge 92. Kevin, I could be wrong ... but I sense you are a
more visual person. Looking at you, I sense you learn things faster by watching someone do
something rather than reading an instruction manual. Great. The reason I sense you are more
visual is I'm picking up that on page 92 there are a few pictures or drawings. Great. Since you are
more visual, focus on just the pictures or drawings ... and block out any words on the page. I'm
picking up two drawings on the page ... one of a person and one of an object. Kevin, forget about
the person ... and focus on the object. This object is something you owned at one time. You used
this object in some type of game. It is something you throw. I will attempt to draw 87

what I'm receiving. I'm not the best artist, so I will also write down what I think you are looking
at. It's not a baseball ... or a basketball ... you are sending me a picture of a football. During my
presentation, by combining a few true statements with some safe guesses, I reveal much more
than that my helper is thinking about a football ... I reveal that: The person learns faster by
watching. {About 85% of people admit this.) The person sees two objects on the page. {100%
true.) The person owned the object. {At least 80% of males owned a football.) One object is used
in a game. {100% true .) One object is thrown in a game. {100% true.) Revealing this much
information about the person and the thought surprises and amazes most helpers. And my
helper's amazement is also easy for the rest of the audience to see. Yet noth ing I reveal is
embarrassing or im~olite. And, alii did was add five statements that are likely to be true about
most males ... and a football. (I have several different statements fpr a female ... and a football.)
Ju st as important, if al l goes well, the audience hears my helper say "Yes" four or five times
before I revea l my drawing of the football. To the audience, it appears my mind is full of
thoughts coming from this person. And even if I miss on a revelation, I present these revelations
so fast that the audience leaves remembering that I was correct with most of my statements.
Thoughts on Visual Revelations: when a helper is concentrating on a physical object, it is possible
to reveal that thought with a drawing. I 88

prefer to mix visual revelations (drawings or printing on a large pad) with verbal revelations
(announcing their thoughts) during my telepathy demonstrations. But, I don't hide my drawing
from the entire audience until the end. In this example, I hold my pad so part of the audience
can see the sketch of the football as it slowly develops. While I'm drawing the football, I'm also
making Post-Awareness Personal Revelations. Doing two things at once (drawing and making a
correct revelation) not only helps the demonstration move faster ... but holding the pad so part
of the audience can see what I'm doing gives this part of the audience a different experience.
They experience something that others don't. And, this part of the audience can see I' m correct
before my final revelation. They see the drawing develop. They see I'm not 'switching in'
anything. This can add to the amazement these people experience. If I use a pad more than once
in a show, I let different parts of the audience see what I'm drawing. I always use the thickest
black marker available so everyone can see my visual revelations.

The Deception During this presentation I say, "Focus on just the pictures or drawings ... and block
out any words on the page." In fact, the page I use has only two pictures ... and no words. But
this statement creates the illusion that there are words and pictures on the page. Some people
will be impressed that I would know that there are words and pictures ... and also know my
helper was "more visual." It's the small lies that make this fun for me. Let's examine another
example where I reveal accurate information about the person and the person's thought. Using a
simple forcing method, I know this person is thinking about the word horse: 89

Look at and concentrate on the first word on page 93. This is strange ... but I'm picking up that
you're the kind of person that likes animals ... am I correct? Yes, because I'm picking up the name
of an animal. This isn't an animal you could hold ... it is a rather large animal. Yet some people
have this animal as a pet. You don't own one of these, do you? Keep concentrating. This is an
animal you could ride. I'm starting to see a picture of a horse. Is the animal you were
concentrating on a horse? You have a great mind. Before revealing the word horse- which is
amazing- I reveal accurate information about the person ... and the thought in the person's
mind. The person likes animals. (True for 90% of the people.) The animal can't be held. {100%
true.) Some people have this animal as a pet. (100% true.) The person doesn't own this animal.
(True about 95% of the time.) This is an anima l yo~ cou ld ride. {100% true.) Each of my shows is
d!fferent. It is easy to add additional PostAwareness Personal Revelations by just looking at the
person ... and using your own intuition! Sometimes, during this presentation, I will add one or
more of these pure guesses to ma ke the demonstration even more amazing:

You have ridden this kind of animal. You almost fell off when you went riding. The animal you
were riding was brown or beige.
90

Please understand that making these additional statements isn't that risky. Even when I'm
wrong, I still end by revealing the name of the animal the person is thinking about- the horse.
Let's look at one final example that includes something different. I know the person is looking at
the name Cozette. Here is how I reveal the name.

Please look at and concentrate on the first word on page 92 in your book. Just relax and let your
eyes scan the entire word. The word you are concentrating on isn't a thing ... it isn't a place ... it's
a person's name. I thought so. This is interesting- because when someone reads or sees the
name of a person in a book, that person often starts thinking of someone they know with this
name ... ond then starts unconsciously sending me a picture of that person. If they see the name
Mary ... they send me a picture of a Mary they know. But, I'm not getting a picture of a person ...
I'm getting only letters. This must mean you don't know someone by this name ... am I correct? I
am ... I thought so. Sarah ... forget about picturing anything and just send me the letters in the
person's name. I'm getting a Z ... and an E ... and a few Ts. Say the name silently to yourself I'm
getting a "K" sound- but the name starts with a C. The name is Cozette. Am I correct? Amazing.
Here's a certificate. At this point in the presentation I incorporate another small
deceptionstatements that claim people send pictures when thinking of a person' s name. This is
pure fiction but it sounds believable to most audiences. This deception works because I know
the person is concentrating on a very uncommon name- Cozette .

... it's a person's name. I thought so.

91

This is interesting- because when someone reads or sees the name of a person in a book, that
person often starts thinking of someone they know with this name ... and then starts
unconsciously sending me a picture of that person. If they see the name Mary ... they send me a
picture of a Mary they know. But, I'm not getting a picture of a person ... I'm getting only letters.
This must mean you don't know someone by this name. This deception is possible because I
force a truly uncommon nameCozette. I suspect only 1% of the population know a Cozette. I' ve
never had someone say to me they knew a Cozette. This is a safe guess I can combine with some
wonderful fiction to make my audience believe they are learning something. In addition to
revealing the fact that the person doesn't know a person with this name, l also reveal: The name
has a Z. The name has an E. The name has a few T~ . Sometimes, revealing a few letters is alii can
do before revealing the thought. But since I control the words I force on most of my helpers, l
normally have an opportunity to reveal more than just the word ... or the letters in the word. It
just takes some common sense and creativity to develop several statements about the person or
the t houghts you force. If you reread my entire presentation, you will notice each of my
revelations involves several Post-Awareness Personal Revelations, statements that reveal more
than just the word, object, number, feeling or name the person is thinking about. With some
thoughts like the

92

name (Cozette) or the number (55,000) I didn't add as many statements as I added to the animal
(horse) or to the illustration (football). In each revelation, my audiences experience much more
than the revelation of a single thought from each person. Using this concept also makes my
show more fun for me to presentit's fun to see how many guesses I can get correct. And, when
audiences pick up on the fact that I'm enjoying what I'm doing ... they tend to relax and enjoy
the show more.

93

Open Number Verbal Index

This is something I've been keeping to myself and inside my close circle of mentalists friends for
quite a while now. Paul Carnazzo of Mental Voyage has been brainstorming this with me and is
the only other mentalist currently using this, and with great results. I hope you enjoy this as
much as we have. When I begin a demonstration of mind play, I'd rather just be myself and
perform something interesting and hands free that doesn't require 95

any thinking about gimmicks or props. I admit that l love using my swami gimmick and pocket
writing for more impossible number revelations, but ONVI is something I'll do before I pull out a
card or write anything down. In other words there is nothing else to look at but me, and my
natural display of speaking with my hands and using gestures to express my thoughts. This
allows me weave a story or 'jazz' around the appropriate premise in a way that is most
comfortable and natural for my speaking style. I use ONVI to set up the gestures that will be
useful later in the show. Such as: my hands will go in the pocket when I'm asking for the number,
though I'm not doing anything secret in there for now. Or when I gesture to breathe in, I do it in
such a way that mimics the way I gesture when I'm using my business card peek, which I might
use later. After the opening demonstration, I'm more relaxed, I've clicked with the audience and I
can easily move into something more impossible using the tools of the trade to build up a whole
routine. I've also just used ONVI as a stand-alone display of subliminal influence for a fascinating
little moment. So I bet your asking yourself what the#@%& is ONVI? Read on my friends. ·

ONVI For One on One I've always liked effects using the 37 and 68 forces when performing for a
large audience but as we know it's not 100% reliable one on one. ONVI allows you to remove the
odd/even restrictions and allows the participant to choose any number. You can prove that you
knew they would choose that number. So here is ONVI, a simple opener that will allow you to set
up the rest of your effects.
96

After you establish yourself as the mentalist and what it is a mentalist does, you ask the willi~g
participant to close their eyes and take a deep breath in and out. Have them repeat the
breathing and as they exhale, put them into the right frame of mind by saying:

"Wonderful! Before we proceed, feel free to take several moments to put yourself into a relaxing
state and you 'II do fine ." Have them name the first2 digit number that comes to mind making
sure that each digit is different. Whatever 2 digit number they say, you ask if they felt it was a
free choice. You tell them in fact that it was not a free choice and that you were able to influence
them to pick that number by using subliminal linguistics and you can prove it. Here's how: This is
the opening sentence, as the mentalist should see it . lderful! Be-4 we proceed. Feel3 2 take 7
moments. 2 put yourself in 2 a relax-6 st8 and you'll do (fine) 5 or 9.

The word 'moment' is emphasized because it is another option for the number One. The number
2 is represented by the word 'to', which appears three times. This will increase your options.
These extra options will be covered later. As you speak this sentence, you'll want to subtly muffle
the word 'free' and when you say 'relaxing', swallow the end of the word. Now whatever digits
they call, you will only recap the part of the sentence that matters. You can also define where
you began and where you ended. Another ploy is to re-phrase the other irreleva nt words from
the ONVI sentence. All will be demonstrated in some of the examples.

97

Notice how 37 and 68 are grouped together. This is useful when applying the 37 and 68 forces
with a larger crowd and using only that part of the sentence as a pseudo explanation. {You'll find
more on this in the Stage version of ONVI). You'll have to practice the recap with different
combinations to get used to all the possible outs but you'll find it's easy to make it work off the
cuff. Just pay attention to the number called out and repeat it out loud several times so you
don't forget it. You need to appear confident and full of conviction that you have proof that you
influenced that specific number. You cannot ask the participant to repeat their second digit
halfway through your explanation because you forgot. Let's try some examples:

49 "49 is exactly the number I wanted you to say. 49! It's unbelievable how easy it is to influence
the number 49. I' ll show you how I did it. Remember at the beginning I said 'be-Four we
proceed, you need to relax ...' {hold up 4 fingers) and at the end I said 'you'll do fine'. I
accentuated the 'ine' ip 'fine', which sounds like nine and since these numbers were the first and
last things I told you, that's what you picked up on.'' 65 "65! Exactly right ! Remember I told you
to get into a relaxing state. That's an odd way of saying that. It should be 'a rela xed state'. What I
actually said with a bit of a slur was relaxsix and your mind picked up on that. The last thing I
said was you'll do fine. I accentuated the F on fine and you picked that up as five. Isn't it amazing
how the mind works ...
98

27 There are several outs for 2 as you will have noticed. This allows you to move the 2 to where
you need it to be. You might need to use the In Reverse gambit, explained in a moment. So you
would recap, "When you were breathing, I said 'feel free 2 take (hold up 2 fingers) SEVeral
moments' ...by accentuating the SEV of several, I was able to influence you to name SEVEN as
your second digit."

In Reverse Let's say someone names a number like 84. The order of the sentence doesn't match.
Instead you will tell them you were actually trying to get them to say the number 48 and instead
they got it reversed.

84 " I was trying to influence you to say 48, but you said 84 which I consider a hit anyways. At the
beginning I said 'beFour we proceed' (hold up 4 fingers), that you need to be in a 'relaxed
stEight'.Like the number 8. That's why you got those digits". Explain that now that you
understand their mind senses things in reverse, you will make the proper adjustments for the
next experiment. This would be a great moment to continue with "non verbal suggestion" and a
swami gimmick to send a 3 digit nu mber into their mind.

,. Here are some examples for d~aling with the number One :

31 Option 1-derful (wonderful)

99

For 31 you could apply the In Reverse ploy. You'd point out that you began by saying
"Wonderful" which influenced the digit 1 and that "Feel free" was actually "feel three". Option 2
- 'Moments' and More. Here are other options to represent the number One using the word
moments instead of wonderful, since the word wonderful might be awkward coming from some
mouths. "Remember I said 'feel free to take several moment'. What I actually slurred was 'feel
three' (hold up 3 fingers) and normally one wou ld say 'several moments' but I swallowed the
son moment. Your mind picked up on that interruption and thought of a singular moment. One.
That's why the number 31 popped into your head." Another out for the One is to state that you
held out one finger when you said moments. "The subconscious noticed this inconsistency. So
you chose 1 as one of your digits." Or you could point out the word "Yourself'. Which made them
think of their singular self, therefore, One. Not my favorite option, but worth expressing since
this may give you other ideas if you feel like making adju stments in the script. Paul Carnazzo
likes to begin ONVI sentence with "ONE thing I want to show you is...", and uses the "one" as an
out for when the number one is chosen. You only need to review the parts of the sentence that
apply. Also it's a good idea to hold up your fingers as you recap the numbers. Here's how to
cover for 59 or 95. This is one of the best scenarios.
100

95 or 59 "It's amazing how that works. The last thing I told you as you were exhaling was that
you'll do fine. Notice how fine is a combination of five and nine and it was the last word in the
sentence. It's known that if you want someone to easily remember something, put it at the end
of the list." Now you can follow up ONVI with a 3 digit number revelation using your favorite
secret writing method.

ONVI for Stage I recently used this idea for a speaking engagement at the Soho House here in Los
Angeles. I had four minutes to present for over one hundred people followed by a Q & A
regarding my creative process. This was an event with speakers from all walks oflife and the
audience was full of young successful entertainment industry people and successful creative
entrepreneurs. It was a meeting of the minds. I offered the idea that we could all have a meeting
in our minds. I decided to present a simple thought projection of numbers and talked about our
shared human condition and how at a basic level we all think alike. I only used the middle part of
the ONVI sentence. "Feel free to take several moments to put yourself into a relaxing state" At
this event there was a screen behind me that was being used for the other speakers'
presentations. I had the audience imagine the same room we had all been sitting in with their
eyes closed. I had them focus on the screen that they were visualizing in their minds and did the
classic 37 force followed by the 68 force. I revealed that I was projecting

101

those specific numbers. After the gasps and after using the subtleties to get all the hands up, I
decided, because of the circumstances, to reveal the sentence as a pseudo explanation.
Everyone loved it and I developed a sense of trust with the audience because I let them in on
something very interesting.

Notes and Brainstorms I've discovered that sometimes the ONVI sentence is truly influential. I've
had success with the 37 and 68 force without eliminating options by giving too many examples. I
only eliminate numbers with repeating digits. It works over the phone as well and if you use the
whole sentence you are prepared for any out. Find out if the number has any meaning to the
person and take credit for knowing that as well. Remember you can have them reveal their
number and then continue with having them think of another set of numbers before you reveal
the subliminal langu age. prediction . This applies to one on one situations. If you offer a limited
choice of a 2 digit number between 1 and 50, without any restrictio~s aside from no repeating
digits, you'll find that 37 is still a common choice. So it may be worth asking, "you're not thinking
of 37 are you?" See Paul Carnazzo's handling below. If the answer is yes, you don't have to use
the Verbal Index. The effect has just morphed into a direct mind read. If no, you say, "Great! That
means that my subtle influence worked over the power of common choices." Then use the
verbal index to explain further.
102

Paul uses a presentation along the lines of: "You were in my dream last night, and something
weird happened! Let's see if this will work ... " Deliver the ONVI sentence, and continue, "Now,
think of a two digit number, lower than 50, with different digits. Got it? Ok, you're not thinking
of 37 are you?" If so, continue with: "Great! That's exactly what you chose in my dream!" If not,
say: "Great! That's what you said in my dream, and what I was trying didn't work in my dream ...
let's see if it worked now, which number did you choose?" continue with ONVI. Note that in this
case he doesn't give the restrictions set forth in the classic 37 force. This is one way I've been
using the Verbal Index. It can also be applied to drawings. The 37 and 68 forces are explained in
Banachek's Psychological Subtleties. Bill Cushman also has some great work on this in his e-book
The Fource, which I highly recommend. You should be sure to study both of these resources.

103

One of the most unusual aspects of contemporary mentalism (beginning let's say about 15 years
ago) is the shift away from any claims of paranormal power whatsoever. Hardly any mind-
readers are actually reading minds anymore; almost all of them are claiming to use NLP, body-
language reading, persuasion, micro-expression recognition, psychology and other pseudo-
scientific skills. There is very little 'psychic' activity going on amongst psychic entertainers. (Surely
it can't it be long before the P.E.A. changes its name to the Mystery Artists Association? Just
kidding guys!)

105

Whatever specific premise you claim for each of your effects or demonstrations, you must make
sure of two things:

1. Your premise is congruent with and supports your persona. 2. It is consistent and compatible
with any other claimed power or skill which you claim in your show. With these two points in
mind, you can start to make a list of the premise of each particular effect that you choose to do,
the ability it will demonstrate and the specific way you will reveal the information pertaining to
that particular effect. Broadly, revelations fall into two categories: the spoken and the visual (a
written prediction, a duplicated drawing etc.) Whilst my favourite is definitely the spoken, and
this is perfect for close-up use, when on stage it is important to give the audience something
visible to focus on. This allows you to concentrate their attention and means that the show plays
a lot bigger, so for that reason I use written (either in advance as a prediction or in real time)
revelations, using a hand-held whiteboard (I use James Biss' 'Impressionable Mind Board'). You
could, if you preferred, use a drawij1g pad. An easel is not as good, as it anchors you to one spot.
I will give you some general examples, then two very specific example~ where I will teach you an
effect from my close-up repertoire, an effect from my stand-up show and my then favourite
revelation using a commercially available item. Finally, I will point you in the direction of what I
believe to be the strongest revelation there is.

General Examples You could choose to demonstrate your prodigious maths skills by drawing a
magic square, or your memory skills by memorising a long random string of digits called out by
the audience and recorded on your 106

whiteboard or pad. (There is an excellent version of this effect in Lee Earle's Syzygy magazine,
including a clever follow-up from Earle himself. No, I'm not going to give you the exact reference,
because if you find it for yourself you'll stumble across several other gems in that magazine that
you've forgotten about ...) You could choose to reveal your ability to detect when someone is
lying by pointing out the specific vocal inflection in their lie which tipped you off. You could invite
other members of the audience to guess what someone has written by listening for clues as that
person reads out a list of items, withyou 'helping' them by drawing attention to specific aspects
of that person's body language. You could demonstrate your telepathy by making a drawing on
your iPhone and sending it to the participant whose mind you have just read. You could text him
a prediction of a completely free choice of what he would like to eat for supper, or the phone
number of a take-away . restaurant where that meal is on order. You could use suggestion and
waking hypnosis to have someone confirm your (correct) identification of objects during a
psychometry demonstration. You could demonstrate your PK powers by revealing a coin to be
actually bending whilst. it is in the participant's hand (thanks Ben Earl- if you're not using Skin,
why not?) In future, when you read mentalism books and magazines, and watch DVDs or trick
demos, don' t focus so much on what the creator intends the effect to be, but instead focus on
how you could adapt the outcome/climax to a powerful revelation that would connect with an
individual or group. Starting to examine new material in this light is a revelation in itself (pun
intended!) and allows you to choose material that will slip past everyone else. This is a good start
towards your goal of being original- starting to perform material which no one else is doing and
which specifically suits you. 107

A Close-Up Revelation The bare-bones is this: I have someone choose a card from a deck and
write its name on a piece of paper. I reveal exactly what they wrote and how they wrote it. It
doesn't sound like much does it? You couldn't be more wrong! Here's a detailed description of
the handling: Let's start with the selection. I force the card using the cleanest method I know. I
want to be able to force the card directly from a shuffled deck and without looking at the deck as
the card is taken. A classic force would work well, but by far my favourite option is Gary Kurtz's
handling of the slip force. You'll find it on page 26 of his book Unexplainable Acts (Kaufman and
Greenberg, 1990). In my opinion it is the greatest card force ever devised. After the participant
shuffles the deck, take it back and shuffle any picture card to the top of the deck. It doesn't
matter what it is, only that you know it. At the conclusion of the force, the participant is holding
the (forced) selection, the deck is face-down on my extended left hand and my head is turned
away, as it has been the entire time. I ask the participant to take the deck from me, put the card
they picked back into it somewhere and place everything into the card case, closing it when they
are do~e 'and pocketing it (or putting it out of sight). They then pick up the .piece of card and
the pen I gave them earlier and write down the name ·of the card they are thinking of, making
certain that no one else sees what they write. I make a big deal out of this. They then fold the
card in half four or five times (as many times as they can). Only now do I finally turn back around
to face them. )

They place the folded little package of card onto one of their palm up and hands, and I touch the
fingertips of that hand with mine. I caution them not to give me any clues or say anything for the
moment. I count aloud twice from Ace to King and then repeat the names of the four suits
several times. I slowly hone in on the card, finally revealing its identity. The participant confirms I
am correct. I then reveal exactly how

108

they wrote on the piece of card. The piece of card is opened up and again I am correct. Here is
the entire script:

"We are going to play a little imagination game. Are you up for it?" "Yes." '

"Excellent! This p!ece of card and pen is for you to write with in a moment, but for now.please
shuffle these cards up... Thank you. I'm going to turn my head away and a// I'd like you to do is
call stop as I run through the cards. Here we go... Please take the card and remember it, and
please make certain that no one else at all sees it. Picture it in your imagination, focus on it and
remember it. Now, take the deck, put that card back in somewhere and put the cards away into
the box and close it up. Finally, put the box into your pocket or out of sight somewhere. This isn't
about the real cards, this is just about the card that is in your imagination. Done?" "Yes." "You'd
have to agree that there is no woy that I or anyone else in the whole world can see what your
card is or even where it is in that deck, agreed?" "Yes."

,·,.

"Good. Now pick up the piece of card, turn around and write down what the card is that you're
thinking of, making sure that no one gets even the tiniest glimpse of what you are writing. Then
fold the card in half, then in half again, then again and again until it's the smallest you can make
it. Tell me when you are done. " "I'm finished. " 109

"You didn't fold it more than eight times did you? Because if you did I think it's a world record
and we're going to have to stop the show and call the Guinness Book of Records people!" "No, I
think I folded it four times." "Okay. I'm going to turn back around now. I want you to hold out
one of your hands, palm up and place the little folded package onto your palm. When you are
telling your friends about what happened here today, you'll say 'And then this guy Mark Elsdon
freaked me out by telling me bit by bit, exactly what card was in my imagination and they'll say
'Well he must have seen you write it down!' So I want you to remember and fix in your mind,
right now, that no one in the whole world saw what you wrote down. Agreed?" "Agreed." "And
then your friends will say, 'Well there must have been some way that this Mark Elsdon could see
into the paper!' So I want you to check it out, right now, and be certain that no one in the world
could see what's written on that paper. Are you certain?" "Yes."

"Okay, let's give this try then. I'm just going to rest my fingers lightly on yours and count up
through the values of the cards, from Ace up to King. Don't give me any clues, and don't say
anything that might help me. Are you ready?" "Yes." "Good. Here we go: Ace, Two, Three, Four ...
Five, Six, Seven, Eight, Nine, Ten ... Jack, Queen, King. Just relax... remember, no clues. Ace, Two,
Three, Four... Five, Six, Seven, Eight, Nine, Ten ... Jack, Queen, King. Did you feel anything
happening?"

110

"I'm not sure!" "Good. Keep concentrating. Hearts, Diamonds, Clubs1 Spades. Jack, Queen, King.
Queen, King, Queen, King. King! Hearts, Diamonds, Clubs, Spades. Hearts, Diamonds, Hearts,
Diamonds. Diamonds! The King of Diamonds! Tell us what is the card in your imagination?" "The
King of Diamonds! I can't believe it! That's impossible." "Open up the card and show us... wait!
In your imagination, just picture exactly how you wrote it down. I think I can see it... You wrote a
large K, King, but then you didn't write the whole thing did you? You didn't draw the shape
instead of writing it, did you? Open it up and let us see... (The spectator unfolds the card and
sure enough they have written K+) Ah, I thought so!" "That's just impossible. How could you
know that?"

Finis. So there you have it, the handling and the full script. All that remains is to explain how I
know how they wrote what they wrote. Basically, a very educated guess and some ambiguity in
my statements. First of all by forcing a picture card, it forces them to write the full word for the
value. Had I forced a number card, they would likely have written the actual number, e,g. 8,
rather than the word for the number, 'eight'. Although it is just that -likely, not guaranteed. With
a picture card, although we might be used to using the letters J, Q & K to represent Jack, Queen
and King, a spectator won't be, and so will usually (19 times out of 20) write the full word. lf you
are worried that poker players might be used to the abbreviations, no problem. Just check with
your participant that they don't play cards. Secondly, from a lot of experience performing this
effect I've found that most people, and women in particular, almost always draw the 111

diamond symbol instead of writing the word, often draw the heart symbol instead writing the
word, rarely draw the club symbol and never has anyone drawn the spade symbol, in thousands
of performances. Almost always- Diamonds Often- Hearts Rarely- Clubs Never- Spades Further,
although I appear completely uninterested in proceedings when the participant is writing down
the name of the card (and please notice how I avoid saying that terrible, laymen-confusing
phrase to the participant) I am actua lly paying great attention to how long it takes them to write
it. Th is will give me another clue to how they wrote it. If I forced the King of Diamonds and they
take a long while to write it, I will assume that on this occasion they probably wrote the full word
'Diamonds' rather than drew the symbol. And so on. Finally, the script is a little vague in parts. It
sounds very, very specific when I am correct, but when I am slightly wrong it can cover up for
me:

"You wrote a large K, King, but then you didn't write the whole thing did you?"- this can cover,,
on the odd occasion when they do happen to write just the letter rather than the whole value. It
also sets up for them drawing the suit symbol instead of writing the whole word.

"You didn't draw the shape instead of writing it did you? Open it up and let us see ... Ah, I
thought so!" The double negative which begins this sentence means one thing when you follow
it up with, "Ah, I thought so!" It means that you knew they had. However, if they open up the
card and you see that they have written both words out in full, it is easy to change this last line
to "Ah, I thought not!" which confirms that you knew they had not (inferring that most people
do). Either way it fits perfectly. 112

A Stand-Up Revelation I won't be going into as much detail with the script with this one, since it
is the set-up and premise of this revelation that provides its strength. The audience
unquestioningly buys into what you tell them and from there the revelations get stunned silence
culminating I applause. The jury is still out for many on whether Russian Roulette type tricks are
a good idea for mentalists to use. Certainly, there are credibility problems about whether you
would perform the effect if there were really any danger of you harming yourself. Then there is
the question of what, power or ability you are supposedly demonstrating? Invulnerability?
Intuition? Spidey sense? Quite the conundrum. And yet, when performed at the right time, for
the right audience, I have found this version of the Russian Roulette plot gets an incredible
reaction, without needing much justification at all on the performer's part. In fact, the
explanation I give for why I do the trick at all makes perfect sense, and no sense at all. All will
become clear... The version I use is 'Spike', by World Magic Store. It looks like it could really,
seriously hurt you and is visible on the largest stage. Rather than using the detection method
provided, which is perfectly serviceable and which I do in fact employ as a back-up, I prefer to
use Mozique's brilliant 'Cobra Sharpie 2.0', which is available from Alakazam UK. If you don't
already know the method, I can assure you that not only is it very reliable, it is also absolutely
safe. Providing, of course, that you remember that you are meant to be avoiding the spike, not
slamming your hand down on it. If you are worried that you might get confused and mixed up in
the heat of performance, may I suggest that you avoid all other dangerous activities in life. For
example, driving a car, where avoiding hitting the other cars is at least (and maybe more)
important. Just a suggestion ... Several people are invited to examine the spike and I explain the
premise of what I will attempt to: cover the spike with an upturned 113
paper cup and then have it freely mixed among several decoy paper cups whilst my back is
turned. I will then smash my hand down on four of the cups, avoiding the cup with the spike
beneath and certain serious injury. Here is the reason I give for performing this effect: I explain
that I have been booked for a TV appearance the following month and that the producers want
me to do something dangerous. Obviously, the pressure will be on during the TV filming, so I'm
practicing the most dangerous stunt I know as often as possible. And tonight they are going to
see it live, here in the ... People completely buy into this explanation of why I am going to do this
effect, without giving any further thought as to whether I am demonstrating an intuitive ability
or a an advanced perception skill or invulnerability or ... anything else for that matter. Their
critical faculties simply switch off as soon as I say the magic words "It's for TV ... " It really is quite
unbelievable! Very little you see on TV makes any sense anyway and for most people simply
being on TV is a justification for nearly anything. After all, lots of people will eat bee.s, or bathe
in a bath of pig' s urine or all kinds of stupid and despera·t e endeavours just to get their face on
the box. So, if some unnamed producers want me to do something dangerous, then of course
that's what I'll: do. Trust me, this 'it's for TV' explanation will cover almost anything. Obviously,
since it's not true, I am purposely vague about which show it will be on, muttering something to
the effect "that I can't say any more about it at the moment, until the contract is signed later in
the week". Or whatever. Just be vague. So I have everything set-up on a table and the spike and
the other empty bases covered with white cardboard cups. These are numbered (using my Cobra
Sha rpie, no less) and then mixed up behind my back as I caution the crowd not to give me any
clues. I make a big show that 114

there is no way that I can see or follow where the spike is. I have several spectators do the
mixing, so that none of them are sure where the spike actually is. I slam down the first two
empty cups, one at a time using my right hand with about a five second gap between. I am silent
when I do this. I then crush the remaining two simultaneously, one with each hand. I take about
twenty seconds to deliberate over which two to crush, building the suspense. I have found that
crushing these two at the same time is much more effective than doing them separately (the
rule of threethink about it!) As soon as I have crushed the last two cups I let out a short,
seemingly involuntary and fairly quiet shout of "Yes!" If I had really just done what I claim to be
doing, without using any trickery I would be both relieved and exultant. So that is how I act. I
look visibly relieved. Through the performance of this effect I try hard to project an air of both
excitement that I am going to be on TV and fear that I don't really know what I' m doing! The
response from the audience leaves nothing to be desired.

My Favourite Revelation This is going to be short and sweet, and is something that I would never
have shared if I hadn't decided to write this book! First of all you need to track down a Gary
Kurtz 'Ghostwriter'. He released it in 1991 and it hasn't been available for a long, long time, so
eBay is probably your best bet. I am a huge Kurtz fan and the 'Ghostwriter' is probably my
favourite thing that he ever released. Basically, it is a double-writer which lets you duplicate
anything written onto a billet (piece of paper) on the billet underneath it. No carbon or
impression devices, no chemicals, no nail-writers and no messing about. Just a brilliant little
mech an ical gimmick that is invisible to use. 115

What I do with it is very, very simple, but incredibly powerful. I ask a woman to think back to the
first boy she ever kissed. I then seem to read her mind (premise be damned!) and tell her the
name, well show her that I' ve written it down actually, but that' s not how she' ll remember it.
The combination of recalling a long-forgotten and happy event and me knowing something
about it that I couldn' t possibly know is very potent. Actually, there is slightly more presentation
to it than that (direct mind-reading) but not much. What happens is that very quickly I get a
queue of people waiting for me to 'do them'! If I am at private party and I use this effect I will
never get the opportun ity to perform anything else for the entire evening. It is like running the
most popular booth at a psychic fair! For men I tell them the name of the first person they ever
slept with, rather than kissed. Add in some intelligent cold-reading (for either women or men)
and you won' t believe the reactions. This is powerful stuff, because this is about people' s lives.
Thanks, Gary.

The Technique You Must learn There is a revelat ion technique which is incredibly powerful and
which seems absolutely real.: It genu inely looks li ke the real thing. I have been using it for the
last five or six years, and whilst I have developed it independently it is by no means original with
me. I do, however, have quite a bit of work on t he subject and ta ke it in directions that have not
been explored elsewhere. What I'm talking about is a form of Contact Mind Reading where just
by tou ching the subject you can receive information that he is giv ing you involuntarily and
completely w ithout his knowledge! As I say, it looks like the rea l thing.

116

There are two places where you can learn the basics of it: Pascal de Clermont's Pure Telepathy
DVD, which is available from http://www.jardonnet.com/ Pascal calls his handling the 'de
Clermont move'. Nefesch's Right ivow ebook, which is available from http://www.lybrary.com/
Nefesch calls his handling 'The Pure Thing' . You should read both, and get started on learning it,
because there will be very large chapter on this form of Direct Contact Mind Reading in
Mentalism Reveals Volume 2.

Whilst you're at it, these books are worth studying too, to provide you with a wider knowledge
of the subject: Robert A. Nelson- Hellstronism (Hades Publications, 1987) Edward R. Scwartz-
Practical Contact Mind Read (Hades Publicatio ns, 1989) Satori- Making Contact (H&R Magic
Books, 1998) Banachek- Psychophysiological Thought Reading (Magic Inspirations, 2002) There
are other books available, but these will give you all the information you need to know. Mastery
of the technique, on the hand, will take work and practice. Start now, so that when Mentalism
Reveals Volume 2 is released you already have an understanding of _the ba sic techniques
involved. You won't be sorry!