Seer of teTrivial

aeffect is based on the very popular game Trivial Pursuit. During the last decade, millions of copies have been sold in many languages, and this game has enjoyed tremendous popularity. Since so many people are familiar with it, or at least know of it, it struck me as a good premise for a mental test. You are about to read the results of that idea. I am aware of only one other colleague who performs an effect based on this game: Ross Johnson of Chicago, who demonstrated his routine in early 1988, on the occasion of Bob Haines' Invitational gathering. Ross's method is quite different from mine.

Trivial Pursuit is an elaboration of an old question-and-answer game. It comes with a large number of cards, on each of which are six questions. The questions cover different fields of knowledge and call for a well-rounded and rather comprehensive education. Here is what I do with it as a mentalist.


The performer shows a large padded mailing envelope, which he places in full view of the audience. The envelope is clearly marked with the word "Prediction".

He next brings out a Trivial Pursuit box containing more than four hundred cards, each of which has six questions on it. A spectator removes a packet of them from the box, then shuffles and cuts them. She then takes the top card, and the audience freely selects one of the six questions printed on it. The spectator reads this question—chosen randomly from over twenty-four hundred possibilities—to the group.

The performer opens the envelope and a smaller envelope falls out of it. Someone from the audience opens this envelope. It contains a sheet of paper with something printed on it in large letters: the coirect answer to the chosen question!


You will require a complete general edition of Trivial Pursuit (currently, in the United States, these sets as called Master Editions) and additional cards from one of the special-topic editions that are available, like Music or Sports. For this trick three duplicate special editions are necessary. These games are available in the toy departments of most large department stores. The Master Editions come with approximately eight hundred question cards, and the special editions contain four hundred. With the cards from these two sets you should have an ample stock from which selections can be made.

The three duplicate sets of special cards are needed to provide you with three identical Trivial Pursuit question cards, each of which you must make into a ridged card. The ridges are raised on the question sides of these cards. Because all of the cards have a colored frame, I apply Jontay ridging to these borders. My friend Bill Palmer prefers to use the Koornwinder preparation, placing the tiny bumps of glue at the decorative corners of the cards.

Having three duplicate sets of these cards also allows you to change the force questions when doing repeat shows. It would certainly attract undesirable attention if spectators witnessing different performances were to hear the same question being chosen.

Distribute these three ridged duplicates in a group of about forty-five normal question cards, with the duplicates lying reversed (question-side up) in the stack. When the spectator later cuts the packet, the reversed condition of the duplicates provide a clear signal to you, visible from a great distance, that a force card has been brought to the top.

You carry these cards in the box manufactured for that purpose, which comes with the game. However, this box is also slightly prepared. Securely tape or glue one end of a piece of red ribbon, about six inches long, to the inside bottom of the box, near center. Insert a few cards into the front end of the box, answer sides turned forward, and run the free end of the ribbon over these cards. Then set your forty-five-card force bank into the box and on top of the ribbon, trapping it between the two group of cards. The answer sides of the non-duplicates in this bank should also be turned forward in the box. The end of the ribbon should project from between the cards at their top edge for about half an inch. Fill the rest of the box with more cards, facing the same direction as the rest.

If you now pull on the end of the ribbon, it will raise the prepared stack of cards and a few more behind it from the box, making them easy to remove.

You will also need:

♦ A large padded mailer, approximately nine inches by twelve, preferably one with a self-sealing flap.

♦ Six normal letter envelopes, either Baronial or No. 6 size.

♦ Six straight pins with black bead heads. Such pins can be found in stationers and sewing supply shops. With a permanent marker, blacken the metal portions of the pins.

♦ Six letter-size sheets of paper, on which you prepare six different predictions, each prediction being an answer to one of the six questions on your force cards. Write these predictions in the largest letters you can fit on the sheets, using either a felt-tip marker or a computer printer. Then fold each sheet in sixths, place it into one of the letter envelopes and seal the envelope. Subtly mark the envelopes with a pencil, so that you can tell which envelope contains which answer. I use the colors of the subject categories for this purpose. (Each of the six questions on a Trivial Pursuit card is printed beside a colored oval, each color representing a different subject category.) These marks help to ensure against mix-ups as you complete the preparation.

Now put the six smaller envelopes—in the same color sequence used on the question cards—into the bottom of the padded mailer and pin each in place with one of the black straight pins.

This pinning is accomplished by slipping the first prediction envelope into the mailer, end first, until its far right corner is near the corresponding corner at the bottom of the mailer. Hold the envelope in place as you push the pin through the back of the mailer, then out again, piercing the far right corner of the smaller envelope as well. This fixes the envelope in place, so that it can't drop out. Insert the second envelope into the mailer, so that it overlaps the first envelope, but lies a bit to the left, and pin it in place. Fix each of the four remaining envelopes similarly in the mailer. Near each of the six pins place a colored dot on the envelope. These dots match the color of the subject category for each sealed answer held in place by that pin. The drawing makes this arrangement clear.


Important: Take care as you pin the envelopes inside the mailer, to assure that you don't accidentally run a pin through two envelopes at once.


Coming as late in the chapter as this trick does, little else needs to be explained concerning procedure. You invite a spectator, preferably one who is familiar with the game of Trivial Pursuit, to join you on stage. Ask her to remove a stack of roughly forty-five to fifty question cards from the box. To aid her in this, you point to the end of the ribbon and indicate by gesture (not speech) that she should pull it. When she does, the force bank is raised for her to take. Your helper is the only one really aware of the ribbon, and to her, or any one else who might be close enough to notice it, it will seem nothing more than a thoughtful courtesy, provided for her convenience.

Once you have the prepared stack of cards in the spectator's hands, you proceed to have her mix the cards, then cut them, forcing one of the three identical question cards on herself.

During the mixing and cutting, you step well away from her, across the stage to a table where you have placed your prediction mailer. Pick it up and hold it with the pins toward you, one hand near them. When you see that she has cut one of the reversed force cards to the top of the stack, point out to her that there are six questions on the card she has randomly cut to, and that each question has a colored oval beside it indicating category. Have her call out the six colors and point to anyone she likes in the audience. That person then names any one of the colors. When you hear the choice, you secretly pull the corresponding pin from the mailer and let the pin drop to the floor where, because it is completely black, it becomes invisible. (The reason I blacken the pins is to eliminate any silver glint in the stage lights as the pin drops.) This action releases the correct envelope inside the mailer.

You next ask the spectator to read aloud the question signified by the chosen color. Ask her if she knows the answer. Chances are she will not, in which case you ask if anyone in the audience has the answer. As you indulge in this by-play, which can often be made amusing, open the flap of the mailer and let the loose envelope drop out of the mailer. While the method of releasing the proper envelope is something I am rather proud of, its merit should not cause you to place undue attention on the actions of removing the envelope from the mailer. Instead, place the mailer aside in a careless seeming manner and focus all attention on the prediction envelope. (You can at this point also check your pencil mark on the envelope, as a double-check that you are holding the right prediction.)

In the event that no one knows the answer to the question, have your helper read it to the group from the back of the card. Then proclaim, "Now everyone knows the answer, but I knew it many hours before you freely selected that question out of thousands. Look!" Neatly open the envelope you hold and dramatically display its contents.

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The Art Of Cold Reading

The Art Of Cold Reading

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.

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