Someone is asked to think of a card. He is then handed an "invisible deck" a purely imaginary pack, which he is encouraged to look through and remove his card. He is next given an "invisible yellow label", which he is told to affix to the back of his invisible selection. Following this he is given an "invisible pencil" with which he is asked to think of any number from one to a hundred and write it on the label.
After handling all these imaginary objects, the spectator is finally handed something tangible: an envelope. He checks it to make sure it is empty, then seals his invisible card inside.
The performer recaps the events leading up to this moment: A mentally selected number has been written on an imaginary label stuck to the back of an imaginary card, which has also been mentally chosen. He then hands the spectator a pair of scissors and asks him to snip off the end of the envelope. On doing this he discovers that the envelope is no longer empty. Inside it a real playing card has materialized— the same card mentally selected by the spectator! And on the back of the card is a yellow label—and on that label is written the number thought-of by the spectator!
After the applause has subsided, and as the spectator leaves the stage to return to his seat, the performer reminds him that he still has his invisible pencil. He is asked to toss it up to the performer, who pretends to catch it—and a long, yellow pencil suddenly appears at his fingertips!
This is my interpretation of an unpublished routine by Maurice Fogel, to which I've added several enhancements: One, the card thought of is not announced until after the spectator is holding the envelope. Second, thanks to the Teleport Envelope, the second envelope used by Fogel (and later by Alan Shaxon in his streamlining of the trick3) is eliminated. And third, the card appears in the envelope while the spectator holds it!
Purists will object that this routine transgresses the bounds of mentalism and strays into the domain of magic. That is so, but the elements of mentalism are pronounced enough in the presentation that it fits comfortably within the context of a mental act, just as the Linking Finger Rings and other chosen magical effects have been effectively employed in the programs of some of mentalism's finest performers. This transgression of genres didn't seem to bother Mr. Fogel or his audiences, and it certainly doesn't mine. If this theoretical
'"The Invisible Card and Envelopes" in Shaxon's Practical Sorcery (1976), pp. 12-15.
objection is not too great a hurdle for the reader to surmount, let's proceed to the discussion of a routine that provokes gasps of genuine disbelief.
The initial preparation is unquestionably intensive, and that will probably keep many from using this routine; however, once done, the reset necessary for each performance is a matter of five minutes, and the effect is worth every ounce of effort. You will need to construct fifty-three Teleport Envelopes, each containing a card with a yellow label stuck to the center of its back. These fifty-three envelopes cover every card in a standard pack, including the Joker, and are organized for quick access on an index board mounted in the lid of your attaché case. I inconspicuously pencil the initials of the concealed card on the outside of each envelope, and recommend that you do too. This serves as a check during performance, or if the envelopes should become mixed while in transit.
You will also need a new pencil, a nail writer and a pair of scissors. Use a bright yellow pencil for good visibility, and carry it in your right-front trousers pocket, eraser end down. The scissors and nail writer are also kept on your person, where they can be readily had.
The first challenge of the routine is to learn the identity of the mentally chosen card. There are many methods available in the literature. You might consider "Black Magic" in this volume (pp. 89-92) or some form of one-ahead system in which you learn the name of the card in the course of revealing the contents of several pieces of written information. If you do pre-show work, you can learn the card beforehand via an impression device or center tear. Clearly, there are many approaches one can take here.
Once you have learned the identity of the mental selection, take the corresponding Teleport Envelope from your index and place it in your inner breast pocket. You can do this before the show, if you have used a pre-show method, or during performance, as you go to your attaché case to get a prop or put something away. There is no need to hide the action. Just take the envelope from the index and put it in your pocket.
When you are ready to perform the routine, bring the person who has "thought" of a card on stage and toss him an "invisible deck". Here, if well-worn material doesn't put you off, you can use some of the classic Don Alan gags from his comedy "Invisible Deck" presentation. In any event, have the spectator go through the pantomime of fanning the deck and removing his mental selection. Next hand him the invisible yellow label and have him stick it to the back of his invisible card. Then hand him an invisible pencil and have him pretend to write any number from one to one hundred that pops into his mind.
Having run him through this dumb show in an amusing and entertaining fashion, bring the Teleport Envelope from your pocket and bow it open. Let him see it is empty and hand it to him, telling him to seal his invisible card inside.
Here you pause in the action to recap the events that have brought you to this point: Any card was thought of, a mentally selected number was written on a label attached to the back of the imaginary card, etc. During this review you should have ample opportunity to don your nail writer, if you have not already done so.
When, after your summary of events you have reconnected with the present moment, ask the spectator to announce the identity of his mentally selected card for the first time. Then hand him the scissors and request that he open the envelope. Take them back from him and ask that he look inside.
"Is there a card in there?" He will affirm that there is, and the look on his face will have quite an effect on the rest of the audience.
"Please reach inside and draw the card out of the envelope for just an inch—just enough for you to see if it is the card you thought of." Stay near him at this point, ready to stop him should he begin to pull the card too far from the envelope.
"Is it your card?" When he declares that it is, take the partially visible card from him and draw it completely from the envelope. As you display the card in one hand (that wearing the nail writer), with your other safely discard the envelope in a pocket.
"And do you remember sticking a yellow label to the back of your card and writing a number on it? What was that number?" As he reveals the thought-of number, you stride downstage to the first row of the audience, nail writing the number on the label as you go, and say, "They won't believe us. Here you look for yourself. Is there a yellow label on the card? And is there a number written on it? Please tell everyone what the number is."
When the spectator in the audience announces the number, you hold the card up high and display both sides of it as you return to your helper on stage and accept the resulting applause. Hand him the card, thank him for his help and invite him to resume his seat in the audience.
However, just as he reaches the edge of the stage, stop him. "Just a minute. Haven't you forgotten something? You still have my pencil. Just toss it to me." During the previous few moments you have casually reached into your right-front trousers pocket and slipped the pencil there up your jacket sleeve. Grip the eraser end between your thumb and forefinger and bring your hand nonchalantly from your pocket, concealing the pencil behind relaxed fingers. You should not, of course, look at your hand during any of this.
When the spectator pretends to throw the invisible pencil to you, extend your right hand to catch it and, at the same time, use the tip of the second finger to pivot the pencil out to the fingertips, causing it to pop suddenly into view.
This bit of business concludes the routine with a final touch of whimsy and charm that should bring you a second round of applause.
Before leaving this piece, I will mention one more thought: If you should opt to use pre-show work for the selection of the card, you could greatly simplify your preparation by having the spectator physically choose a card and remember it.
In doing this, you actually force a card on him. This force must be convincing and direct.4 If the possibilities for selection are narrowed to one or several cards, your initial envelope preparation is greatly reduced, and the necessity of learning the selection while on stage is eliminated. Of course, your working conditions and ability to "sell" the pre-show force as a purely mental selection5 will affect the attractiveness of this course of action. My personal preference, however, is to prepare the necessary envelopes and perform this extraordinary effect with a genuinely free and spontaneous choice.
'See, for example, the ridged-card forces in Chapter One of this volume.
5For an excellent example of this brand of mental double-entendre, see Phil Goldstein's "Four-sided Triangle" in his Red Book of Menlalism, pp. 5-6.
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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.