for the center tear have appeared in magical publications, but few authors have made the effort to consider the correct "sell". One of the few is Punx. In a recent booklet, Punx concerned himself with the center tear, developing such a thoroughly new approach,4 it makes one feel trivial and unperceptive as a mentalist. His technical refinements leave even an intelligent spectator without a hint that the center of the billet plays a role during the tearing of the paper. I have mentioned this work at such length because it contains the correct way to present the center tear, the topic we are about to discuss, and Punx's work on this subject is invaluable and will prove worth every second of the reader's study.
4This work appears in Punx's Fourth Dimensional Mysteries (1990). See "The Oracle, or 'The Three Wishes'", pp. 159-177.
The greatest mistake one can make when doing the center tear is to reveal the information obtained from the center section immediately after reading it. This practice reduces a possible miracle to a simple trick. The presentation must be correctly constructed! The best center-tear handling is useless, even if it is perfectly indetectable, if you fail to reveal your information effectively, feeding it back in a well-considered and convincing manner.
We are about to discuss secrets that will make you a performer people will talk about. I owe more than I can reckon to the center tear. Please, though, do not adhere slavishly to what I present here. You are not me, so you must tailor your presentation to fit your personality. Then you will be successful with it.
The center tear is at its most effective when performed impromptu, when you must seemingly improvise the entire test. Let's assume you are sitting in a bar with some business acquaintances who know you are a magician; or perhaps you have been invited to a party. Calmly wait for someone to invite you to do a trick. "Unfortunately," you explain, "I didn't come prepared to do anything." However, after a bit of thought you have an inspiration. You pick up a menu or a piece of paper found lying on a table and tear out a billet of the correct size for the center tear. Next you borrow a ballpoint pen from someone and draw a circle in the center of the billet. "Since I don't have my crystal ball with me, I may be able to make this circle serve as a point of concentration."
Ask a woman at the table5 to write the first name of a person with whom she has some connection, and the city where
5By now I think my reasons for using female spectators in this type of effect have been made clear. However, for the center-tear routine, let me elaborate on the choice of spectator. When I'm doing corporate or banquet-show work, I always pay special attention to the head tables, and I'll make it a point to work with the most prominent woman at each one. She might be the general manager for the firm that hired me, or the wife of the manager, a prominent this person lives. (The individual shouldn't be present.) Afterward the paper is folded twice by your subject, so that the writing is concealed inside. Take the billet at your fingertips, and have the subject and, if possible, another spectator as well, place some identifying mark on it. Each person puts a mark on one side of the folded billet, so that both outer sides are marked.6
Look at your subject and start to tear up the billet in a playful fashion as you say something of this sort: "Miss, when you write something down, that imprints it more firmly in your memory. Perhaps you already knew that. I am not revealing any great secret if I tell you that, for example, a poem is much more easily remembered once you have written it down."
By the time you have said this, the billet must be completely torn up. Timing is very important here. Now ask someone to light a cigarette lighter. At this moment, use your thumb to pull the center of the billet back on the fingers, away from the other pieces. Take these remaining pieces into your other hand, so that you can ignite them. Do this over an ashtray. Hold the pieces over the flame of the lighter and, once they are lit, drop them into the ashtray. Call attention to the spectators' marks on the burning pieces.
Pick up the balance of the menu or paper from which you've torn your billet, using the same hand that contains the folded center. Then address your subject: "I must now ask you celebrity or the companion of one. She might be an actress, an author or simply well-connected in society. I want to do my personal reading for such a woman, for when she informs her friends of the wonderful things I told her, I find myself hired for more shows, thanks to connections I often could not otherwise have made. Of course, if there is no lady seated at a particular table, I will choose the best assistant available from the gentlemen present. 'If you perform straight mentalism, you will probably want to eliminate the marking of the billet. However, I perform magic in my shows before I do my mental tests. This raises thoughts in the minds of my spectators of "fast fingers". Consequently, I find that having the billet initialed is necessary, to avoid any suspicions of switches.
several questions, to which I wish you to answer me with a simple yes or no; nothing more." You have not yet opened the billet and read its contents as you start to ask questions. As the subject replies, you take up a pen and begin making notes on the menu or paper you hold. This question-and-answer procedure is the best misdirection you could desire for covering the opening of the billet.
What you ask is important, and this is the secret, the real secret, that makes you appear to be a mental phenomenon. The sequence that follows is an example of this questioning system, which once its technique is understood should be varied to fit each set of performing circumstances. When you understand the psychology of this questioning, you will be able to transform an effect found in children's books into a small miracle.
question one: "Is the person you are thinking of related to you?"
question two: "Are you familiar with this person's home?"
question Three: "Have you ever looked out the window there?"
Question Four: "Can you see trees there?"
By the time you have asked these questions you have opened the center piece behind the large paper you hold and read it, under cover of making notes about the subject's answers. Let's say you read, "Karen, Hamburg".
Question Five: "Does this concern a younger person?"
Question Six: "I see a young lady—is that correct?"
Question Seven: "Are you thinking of your daughter?"
Now is the time to touch the subject; that is, to ask her to give you her hand. Touch the surface of her hand with your fingertips and act as if you are concentrating. If you can manage to tremble slightly, that's fantastic! But don't overact. Look at the subject, breathe deeply. Then let a bright smile pass over your features. "When you return to Hamburg, please say hello to your daughter Karen for me. She is really an enchanting young lady!"
If you hear a loud thump, the subject has fallen out of her chair.
The previous series of questions and answers represent a set of perfect circumstances, in which every question you pose draws a positive response. In a few moments we will consider several examples that present you with a harder task.
But first you are probably wondering how I knew that the topic of my subject's thoughts was her daughter. The woman I was working with here was about thirty-five to forty years of age. The name she had written down is a currently fashionable one. This name caused me to ask Question Seven because, given her response to Question Five, I could hardly come to any other conclusion. Also, it has been my experience that women of this age generally write down the names of either their children or their parents. If you read the names Violet or Ralph, eighty-five times out of a hundred it will be the subject's mother or father. The name Violet is less modern, so the probability is great that she is not thinking of her daughter. You make certain of this by asking Question Five differently: "Does this concern an older person?" Naturally, if you get a hit, you must change Questions Six and Seven to suit the situation.
Older women who write down currently popular names are almost always thinking of their grandchildren. When you encounter out-of-fashion male names with elderly women, the target is almost always a husband.
Pay attention! Look closely at the hands of older ladies. If she is, for example, widowed, you can often deduce this, as she will be wearing two wedding rings. Turn this silent information to your best advantage.
Ninety-five percent of all men, up to about the age of forty-five, will usually write the name of their mother. If a man is alone at a party, but wearing a wedding band, he will quite often think of his wife. Such men will also write down the name of a son, but a well-considered question or two will quickly ascertain the relationship of a male name. A man accompanied by his wife will often think of a former girl friend instead. If he answers Questions One and Two negatively, it is wise to abandon Questions Three and Four. You can assume that the name must be that of a former girl friend. After all, would you, if you were sitting with your spouse, write down the name of your present girl friend?
When performing these experiments, always try to choose intelligent individuals for your subjects. They are usually cooperative, polite and appreciative of this sort of work. Be on your guard with people who are constantly disruptive. If you have just given a show and you are demonstrating your mental abilities afterward, either for an impromptu gathering or at a scheduled close-up performance, these sorts, if you haven't already silenced them with verbal pyrotechnics, will be gunning for you. (I recall one fellow who wrote down the name of Günter Grass, the famous author, on a billet for me. After I had secretly read the name, I revealed the information appropriately and concluded by saying, "I would never have believed that you can read!" The other guests rewarded this quip with laughter and applause, and my troublemaker stopped interfering with my performance.)
An early indicator of trouble is when someone refuses to follow instructions. If possible, finish such customers off with some other trick (especially if you are a green performer). A nailwriter in excellent here. Have him think of a number from one to a hundred. When he calls it out, show that you have previously written it down, proving to him that you have influenced his thoughts. This most often takes care of the problem.
If I have received negative answers to Questions One and Two, and I still haven't read the billet, I use an added ploy in the form of an extra question. question Two-A: "Do you know the phone number of the person you are thinking of?" If the answer is yes, you continue, "Is there a seven in this number?" If this is also reaps a yes, your subject will swear that you even knew the telephone number of the person!
On the other hand, if Question Two-A is answered by "No," move on to question Two-B: "Did you at first think of another person?" Seventy percent of the time the answer will be yes. When you hear this, immediately hit them with question Two-C: "Does this person have a seven in his phone number?" If your subject turns pale, you will know you are right, and your audience will know it too. You can insert this sort of additional question anywhere, when you need time to think and contrive new questioning strategies.
Since I have broached the topic of telephone numbers: If you are engaged several times by the same chain of hotels, make every attempt to learn the names of all the directors and the telephone numbers of the individual hotels. This rule holds true as well for other clients by whom you are often engaged! Additionally, make an effort to know something about the leading employees of these firms. Sooner or later you will certainly come into contact with them. It may take months or years before such an opportunity presents itself, but when it happens you will be armed and able to tell these persons surprising things about themselves, things that they will never, I repeat never, forget you revealed about them! Let me give you an example, one from early in my professional career:
The leading employees of a well-known hotel chain were relaxing and having a good time in a bar after a business meeting. Coincidentally, I walked into the same bar and, since I was known to most of the group, they called me over to their table to join them. During the ensuing conversation I steered the topic eventually to clairvoyants, setting up the gathering for my center tear presentation. Although I asked one woman to write the name of a person she was closely associated with, she instead wrote down the name of someone else. However, because I had memorized certain things about this woman, including the specific hotel in the chain at which she worked, I was able to do a successful reading with the name. After she answered "No" to Question One of my list, I knew that Questions Three and Four were superfluous. I still asked Question Two, though, and it also received a "No". I then began to concentrate deeply, which gave me time to read the billet, providing me with the first name and the city of residence. These bits of information matched the name of the director of the hotel and its location, things I had made a point of memorizing. However, just to play it safe, I asked this woman to think of the person's phone number, which I also knew. I proceeded to reveal it number by number. After she had recovered from the shock, I told her that she was thinking of the director of her hotel, but I identified him by his last name, rather than his first, which mystified the woman even more. To draw as many yes responses as possible from her, I fed her the rest of what I knew piece by piece. The response from this woman, and the group, was indescribable, and worth far in excess of the time I spent memorizing the necessary data!
While we are talking about problems that can arise in center tear and billet reading presentations, here is another: What do you do if some skeptical spectator decides to write his thought in an unfamiliar alphabet like Cyrillic, Hebrew, Arabic or Japanese? This happened to me once some years ago, and I had to figure out a method on the spot. I concentrated like crazy, because the whole trick had gone beautifully until I reached Question Five. At that point I had the center piece opened and looked down to read it. He had written in Cyrillic—and I could only recognize several letter A's, a character shared by both alphabets. One A was at the end of the name. From this I deduced the name was most likely a woman's, because many more Russian women's names end with an A than do men's. So I continued on to Questions Six and Seven, to which I received two yeses. I then talked about foreign countries, verbally maneuvering myself as close as possible to Russia. A mentalist must be very inventive and have a good memory as well. I took the menu from the table, asked the man in question to think of the name while he grasped the wrist of the hand in which I held my pen. Slowly I began to draw, letter by letter, what I had seen on the billet. This was easier than it sounds, as pure shock had imprinted the foreign letters indelibly in my memory. Then, as I saw the whole name take shape under my hand, I read the letters— don't ask me how—Tatiana. His reaction left no doubt in anyone's mind that I had hit the name exactly! This was one time that I was as astonished as my audience. There have been a few others.
Now a related problem: What do you do if you find the handwriting on the billet unreadable? Because you are working swiftly, you can't afford to stare at the billet, trying to decipher the script. All is not lost! In Corinda's Thirteen Steps to Mentalism I found an invaluable stratagem: Innocently ask if your subject has printed the name or written it in longhand. Since it is his miserable handwriting that is giving you trouble, he must answer that he wrote in longhand. "Oh, that may be the problem. You must concentrate clearly on the name, and to do that you must form a clear impression of it in your mind. Please write the name again, but print it in block letters this time." Hand him a new billet and turn away while he writes. Now, during the twenty or thirty seconds it takes him to write the name and fold up the billet, you can study the stolen center at your leisure, your back turned to everyone! If you need still more time, ask the subject tear up the new billet and burn it. This by-play gives you ample opportunity to decode the handwriting or memorize its pattern, so that you can at least duplicate it, treating it like another foreign alphabet!
Yet another problem that can arise: What if the billet doesn't burn completely, and skeptical spectators afterward go to work on the remains in the ashtray? Punx recommends the use of his famous "astral fluid" (perfumed lighter fluid with a few drops of food coloring). A clever and professional solution; but if your performance is impromptu you probably won't have a vial of astral fluid on you, and even if you did, producing it would shatter the extemporaneous appearance of your performance. Here is a better answer for these circumstances:
With the experiment over and the spectators' attention relaxed, secretly tear up the center section and sneak the pieces into the ashtray as you move it aside. If later someone thinks to examine the remains of the billet, what they find should leave them even more astonished.
It occasionally happens that certain incorrigible persons will reach immediately for the ashtray. Thankfully, I have had the foresight to have the billet marked, as you may remember. When I see trouble arising, I quickly tear up the stolen center. I then point to the partially burnt pieces, and pour the remains into my hand to look for the marks that prove my innocence—and in doing so I secretly add the torn pieces. Finally, I toss everything back into the ashtray. Suspicious spectators nearly always think of a switch before anything else, and the marks are evidence against this solution.
One final tip: It is wise to learn several methods of billet reading, so that if you are requested to repeat the effect, you will be able to obscure your trickery further by employing a different method each time.
After you have done the center tear or any other billet reading method several hundred times, you will reach a point where you feel you can really crawl into the minds of your subjects. You will learn to draw the correct conclusions from the smallest reactions you observe in the person across from you; and you will react automatically in such a way that you will sometimes wonder, yourself, at the accuracy of your answers. It will often happen that you reveal things that your spectators will never forget. After a while, you will make some startling statements about persons you have never met. From time to time you may find yourself believing that you really can read minds. When you have gone that far, you will one day ask yourself, after a particularly successful experience, "Was that psychology, or was it intuition, or...?"
Well, most excellent reader, you will have to decide that for yourself!
Chapter TÍ?ree Arsenal
WHEN I was young I got to know my friend and colleague Raxon at the variety club Kaiserhof in Cologne, where I sometimes supplemented my income with a part-time job, permitting me to obtain new tricks at the magic shop. I saw Raxon again later in Berlin, when he appeared on the "Variety Afternoons" at the Urania. Raxon is—as are many other professional magicians, myself included—in his heart of hearts still a passionate amateur, who must obtain absolutely every new and interesting trick. When I met him again in Berlin, before I started my career, I was on short rations: a fact he seemed to know telepathically, for he always invited me to eat with him after his show. Later he recommended me to a well-connected booking agency and nothing any longer stood in the way of my entry into the ranks of the professionals. In 19741 was, thanks to Raxon's help, contracted to work at the Hanover Fair, which was a very successful engagement for me. Once more to you, Raxon, go my heartfelt thanks for everything you have done for me!
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Today I'm going to teach you a fundamental Mentalism technique known as 'cold reading'. Cold reading is a technique employed by mentalists and charlatans and by charlatan I refer to psychics, mediums, fortune tellers or anyone that claims false abilities that is used to give the illusion that the person has some form of super natural power.