Ask a spectator, preferably a bright and charming woman, to assist you on stage. Seat her at your table and ask her her name. Picking up your Working Performer's Switch Pad, jot her initials in the lower right corner of the page, then pass the pad to someone in the first row of the audience, asking that he write down a three-digit number. When he has done that, carry the pad to someone else and have her do likewise. Repeat this with two other spectators, choosing persons widely separated from each other, so that they do not later compare notes.
Having collected four numbers, return with the pad to the spectator on stage and make the switch of pages, handing her the sheet with your force numbers.
Next, turn everyone's attention to the stack of telephone directories on your table. If you are working in a hotel, you can claim that you have borrowed these from the front desk. (Most major hotels in large cities do have various directories from the surrounding area available, so you actually can borrow them from the desk, adding your prepared one to the stack.) Don't mention the particular cities covered by the directories. Speak only of "telephone directories and yellow pages from various cities, borrowed from the main desk of the hotel". Comments along these lines will defuse any suspicion possibly raised by the directories.
Ask your helper to select one of the directories. Of course, you must force the prepared book on her. Whatever force you use, it must look like a free selection. A clean equivoque procedure is probably best; for example, some variety of Annemann's take-two-hand-me-one strategy.
You now walk to your attaché case, take the sketch pad and Marker One and return to the audience, leaving your helper on stage with her directory. Have her freely select one of the three-digit numbers from the sheet and read it to the group. Then instruct her to open the phone book to that page and read the phone number of the first entry to herself.
It takes only a glance for you to see which quarter of the book she has opened. That gives you all the information you need for your first revelation. While you hold the pad casually under your left arm and gesture with the marker in your right hand, ask your helper to tell you only the name of the selected person or company. This is both a presentational ruse and a check to assure that she has followed your instructions correctly. You, with a credible dramatic flair, now name the profession or type of business, street address and phone number—all information you quickly glean from the marker in your hand. Phase Two
"I know what you're thinking now, ladies and gentlemen! You believe that I learned the names and telephone numbers on every page in the whole book by heart. I'm flattered that you think me capable of this!"
Having openly addressed a suspicion that will have occurred to many spectators, and using it to misdirect from the real method, you proceed to deflate the theory as follows:
Addressing your assistant on stage, ask her to think of another number from those on the page from the pad, this time telling no one what it is. Have her then open the directory to that page and select "one of the many bigger ads" there. Request that she put her first finger on the ad "to focus your concentration." Since there are four or fewer large ads on the page, all in different positions, you immediately know from the quarter of the directory she has opened and the portion of the page she puts her finger on which ad she has chosen.
While this is going on, take the pad from under your arm and ask your helper to concentrate on the phone number in the ad she has selected. You concentrate as well, glimpsing the number on the marker, then write it as large as possible on the pad. You can also divine the name, address and profession from the ad. This is left to your discretion. Some performers will wish to go further, others may feel this is going too far.
The freedom with which you have let the spectator handle the telephone directory will convince even knowledgeable men-talists that it is beyond suspicion. It would, however, be a big mistake to emphasize this fact. Instead, let the fact that you borrowed the books from the hotel desk, and the freedom of handling the spectator is granted speak for the innocence of the directory.
At the conclusion of Phase Two ask the volunteer to close the directory. Then have her take the knife or the letter opener and request that she "slip it into the middle of the book somewhere." The phrase into the middle is most important, since it psychologically guides the spectator to introduce the knife into the prepared center section. Meanwhile, you casually place the marker you hold into your right-front trousers pocket, and replace the pad under your left arm.
You can check the accuracy of the insertion your helper has made by spotting the black lines on the outer edges of the pages. Have her open the directory to the page she has chosen by pure chance. On that page she selects another large ad and puts her finger on it while she concentrates on the phone number. Again you have been given all the information you need to determine the chosen ad.
As the spectator begins to concentrate on her selected entry, you take Marker Two from your right-side jacket pocket. This switch of the markers may seem bold, but it is never noticed by the audience, who are intent on other things. From Marker Two you read the required phone number and write it large on the pad. After revealing your success with this, you proceed to get as much of the chosen name and address as you deem believable.
If you are fresh to the field of mental magic, you may be concerned that the spectator may insert the knife somewhere other than the prepared center section of the directory. If your instructions and wording are clear, and if you are in control of your performance, there will be no trouble, I assure you. However, while gaining confidence and experience, you may wish to assert tighter control over the spectator's actions. You can do so by grasping the directory by its top and bottom, holding it horizontally, with your forefingers laid along the front edge. Then ask the spectator to slip the knife somewhere into the middle. You can casually say something along the lines of "Would you please slip the point of the knife into the middle of the directory. The middle is approximately where my fingers are." Given this kind of guidance, only a deliberately troublesome person could do other than you wish. After all, she is the center of attention, she has probably never been on stage before and she wants to do everything correctly.
If the reader desires to present the third phase as an experiment in psychological persuasion or as a prediction, proceed is as follows:
The information from each display ad is written on a large sheet of paper, or even better is printed with a computer. These sheets are folded and each one is put into its own envelope, which is sealed (perhaps using decorative, red stickers). Then the envelopes are marked in one corner for secret identification. You must next construct an index for these prediction envelopes. Make it from card stock and place it in the bottom of your attaché case. It is important that you can recognize with a single glance the location of the desired envelope. I've organized my index in this manner: On the left side I have all envelopes that read Upper Left, Middle Left, Lower Left; on the right side are Upper Right, Middle Right and Lower Right; and the middle of the index contains Upper Center, Center and Lower Center.
When you pass by your helper, to put the pad and pen back in your attaché case, you can see where she is pointing on the page. You then remove the respective envelope from the index. I will leave each performer to decide how the prediction is dramatized. However, whatever presentation you choose, the audience must never suspect there is more than one envelope in the attaché case.
I wish to mention that the idea of using a switch pad to force pages in a telephone directory, the positions of which provide visible cues, is the exceptionally cunning idea of Peter Warlock, who published it in his trick "Telephonic".5
The methodology for this routine is reasonably simple, but to reap the highest reward from it the effect demands a great deal of showmanship and attention to presentation. Do give it your very best effort.
'See The New Pentagram, Vol. 4, No. 7, Sept. 1972, p. 53-54.
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