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Page 15

The Battle Mental Magic vs. Mentalism


After reading Luck be a
lady I thought it would be
appropriate to make some
comments on the dierence
between Mental Magic and
Mentalism. There really is a
dierence. A magician who
does mentalism, in my opinion, has no notion of convincing his audience that he has
any special powers. When
book-ended by a card to
pocket routine and perhaps
the Misers dream, the mentalism eect becomes another
trick. This is not to say that it
is a bad trick. But think
about this for a moment. The
audience knows you are using
sleight of hand when youre
doing a card trick and many
magicians make an eort not
to down play this by acrobatic
cuts and shues. In the back
of the mind there is the idea
or solution: hes fast with his
hands. The card or coin
eect, for example, can be
very powerful nonetheless but
I believe it to be hindered by
what the spectator is thinking.
It is as simple as the human
mind back-tracking a French
Drop they saw the coin last
in the other hand and their
minds tell them to look their.
But if the mentalist avoids
these ashy cuts and hands
the deck to a spectator to
shue and then tells them the

name of the card just thought


of there is no apparent solution. For example, watch
Derrick Dingle or Michael
Ammar do the Rollover Aces.
Then watch David Berglas fan
a deck of cards, a card is
merely thought of, and he
tells the spectator what the
card is. Both are great eects,
but one is more powerful than
the other.
I learned this in performance. Barry Richardsons
new book, Curtain Call, has
an eect named All Gone.
Essentially a divination eect
with the revealing of a
thought of name. Now, when
you reveal a card it is a fairly
impersonal thing. The 4 of
Hearts does not provoke an
emotional response. But after
eliminating the 4 extra business cards in the eect above I
revealed the thought of name
of a close friend that I couldnt possibly (!) know. The
impact was physically staggering to the spectator. There is
no framework of personal experience around the name of a
card that was selected. But
there most denitely is with
the revelation of a personal
name. All of the inertia of the
personal relationship is behind that name and when it is
revealed that inertia is immediately brought to the fore-

front and adds itself to the


impact of the trick itself. And
there is no visible possible solution to the eect.
This highlights another
dierence between mental
magic and mentalism. The
impact of mental magic does
not mess with the belief system of the spectator. Adding
numbers together, using apparatus that is shiny and other
props lend itself to the world
of magic equipment. The
spectator might even think, if
I had that special wallet or
box I could do the trick as
well. But when Berglas does
his card at any number there
is the natural attribution of an
ability far beyond the normal
senses of a human being. Im
not advocating trying to impress your audience with the
idea that you have special
powers. But the impact of the
eect should leave the spectator with not only the art of
astonishment but with the
lingering experience of the
eect far beyond the moment
of presentation.
Here is an example of what
I mean. The magician shows
a spectator a business card and
asks them to write a time
down. Then another spectator randomly sets the watch to
a time only he knows. They
match. This not only is very

Page 16

The Battle Mental Magic vs. Mentalism continued


impersonal but leaves the impression in the mind of the
spectator that the watch is the
method, whatever that means.
Now the mentalist he asks
the female spectator to think
of a time that was important
in her past the birth of a
child, the time she got married, or the moment she said
yes to a proposal. Then her
husband is asked to set a
watch time hoping to tune
in on his mates thoughts
(note he is not instructed to
guess the time on the card).
All the emphasis is upon the
people and not the procedure
or props. The watch matches
the time the spectator thought
of.
What Im really advocating
is an intrinsic part of story
telling. The key element of
story telling, other than the
careful use of words, is the
personal investment of the
hearer in the characters of the
story. Stephen King is a master at this. In his horror novel, It, for example, the reader
is introduced to a small group
of adolescent mists children
who for one reason or another
are outcasts who come together, bonded with each other
because of their backgrounds.
Each of us can relate because
our past experiences hook
us into the experiences of the

characters a boy who lost a


brother to death, a geeky kid
who likes to bird watch, a little girl abused by her father,
an asthmatic, undersized and
over-mothered child and the
class bully who takes it out on
all of them. The bridge between the reader and the characters is the identication of
experience. This is what is
terribly lacking in mental
magic. Im not advocating, as
do some, that every eect be a
tear-jerker, heart-rendering
trek to ones past experience.
Nor am I advocating that every eect has to have some
emotional story framing it.
But I am advocating placing
the spectator as the central
prop (I know that sounds
bad) in the small play let).
Heres another example.
There is now a standard plot
in mentalism where three
items are secretly hid in the
spectators pocket. The magician tells them where they
placed them. The emphasis is
all upon the method, or so it
seems to me. But my presentation of this, See Saw, changes it all (Wayne Dobson markets a version of this and Alakazam markets their Stealth
Assassin Wallet with the eect
Cash Cabaret). Instead of
three bills being hidden, a
20.00 bill, a credit card, and a

business card are merely


touched to the spectators
head, heart, and soul (sole
of their shoe) away from the
magicians sight. They are
then placed on the table and
mixed up. The presentation
focuses upon the spectators
emotions concerning each one
of these items; i.e., the 20.00
is easily spendable, the credit
card has to have a number
that is known and the business card is relatively worthless nancially. It is not terribly emotionally heavy at all,
but draws upon our common
experience with these three
items. One is a puzzle. The
other is puzzling because the
implication is the mentalist
has to tune into something
other than a prop that enables
him to know which has gone
where.
One excellent example of
what Ive been saying is Barry
Richardson. Either watching
his L&L videos or in his
books you discover the personal stories that frame his
presentations and are drawn
into the eects such as
Angels Flight - a cards
across routine of all things.
Heres to better mentalism
and mental magic.