another utility item of great potential. I always use it in my Close-up Corner and in many other circumstances where I am called on to perform mentalism for audiences of modest size. It is not, however, an item that can be employed for table-hopping. As you will see, its uses and the effects it makes possible are extremely impressive.
To construct a Mentalist's Tablecloth you will require two square pieces of velvet, one blue, the other black, each a yard square. I have had the twelve signs of the zodiac embroidered in a circle on the blue velvet. You could also cut them from felt and sew them on. This is an optional idea, but these symbols can be useful for various presentations (for example, see
"Guiding Star" pp. 251-254). If you decide to put zodiac signs on your cloth, be sure to use clear, recognizable renditions of these astrological symbols, as you will desire to have spectators identify the signs correctly during performance. As a further precaution, I've had the names of the signs embroidered next to them.
You will hem the blue and black squares together, but before you do this, we will install several secret devices on the black velvet panel. These devices include a couple of plate lifters and a few rope magnets or flexible rubber magnets.
With a black felt-tip marker, blacken the tube and squeeze bulb of the plate lifters. Then, with double-sided tape, fix the small inflatable balloon end (the palpitator) of one of these gimmicks near a corner of the black square. Since the tablecloth is always laid diagonally on the table, with its corners draped over the four edges, you want to position the balloon near the corner lying opposite the side of the table where you will be seated. The balloon should rest on the table top, lying somewhere in the vicinity of a spectator seated at the table. You must be able to locate the position of the balloon by some detail in the embroidery of the blue velvet top square. Stitch the tube loosely to the opposite corner of the square. You may have to lengthen the tube, for the end carrying the squeeze bulb must be taped to the floor where your foot can operate it. If you find you must extend the tube, this is not difficult. Obtain a slightly larger gauge of tubing, then cut the balloon and squeeze bulb off the gimmick, leaving about an inch of original tubing on each. Force the original tubing into the ends of the new tubing and blacken all with a felt-tip marker.
In the same manner, attach the balloon end of the second plate lifter to the center of the velvet square. Shorten the tube so that the squeeze bulb of this plate lifter hangs two to three inches past the near (performer's) corner of the square. Once more stitch the tube loosely to the cloth.
I tape the magnets strategically on the square in positions to affect a magnetic pendulum and other gimmicks that I use. This pendulum is a marketed item, so it isn't my place to detail its use here; but effects with it and other props can be found in magic's literature and on shop shelves. I just wanted to alert the reader to the enticing possibility of concealing small magnets for various tricks in the tablecloth.
When you have the plate lifters and magnets fixed in place, neatly hem all four edges of the black square to the embroidered blue square. You may wish to decorate these hems with an attractive fringe.
Finally, sew a decorative tassel, roughly seven to eight inches in length, to each corner of the cloth. The tassel sewn to your corner of the tablecloth must be altered to conceal the hanging squeeze bulb from the center plate lifter. The illustrations to the right help to clarify the arrangement of the plate lifters in the cloth.
This special cloth is draped attractively over your white-cloth covered table. The corner plate lifter can be activated by pressing its squeeze bulb with your foot under the table. The squeeze bulb for the center palpitator can be operated either between your knees or by one hand in your lap.
I don't know who to credit with the idea of using a plate lifter under a tablecloth or in a close-up pad to create a magical animation. The idea reappears periodically in magic's literature, and quite likely was independently conceived by more than one clever mind. The plate lifter has been used to create Bizarre and telekinetic effects for years. Here are three applications that I think demonstrate the potential of this special cloth:
TJ^e Dung Beetle Revelations
It was probably Dunninger (or David Lustig, his man behind the scenes) who first used a plate lifter to cue a spectator,
doing so in a manner that left the person believing that he or she had felt some supernormal vibration. Dunninger concealed the plate lifter in a length of rope. The Mentalist's Tablecloth provides an even subtler application of this marvelous principle. For example...
A Tarot card is freely selected, noted and lost back in the deck. Nobody, including the performer, knows the position of the chosen card.
A second spectator is asked to place her hand on top of an Egyptian scarab and to call "Stop" whenever she senses a vibration from the small stone icon. The first spectator then deals through the face-down deck until the second spectator suddenly exclaims, "Stop!" having quite obviously received some inspiration from the scarab under her hand. The next card from the pack is dealt face up and—it is the selection!
The reader, knowing that the Mentalist's Tablecloth is in use, will easily surmise the source of the second spectator's inspiration. It is not, as she believes, the scarab under her hand that cues her, but the plate lifter under the scarab. You have positioned the scarab over the palpitator that lies in front of the spectator seated directly opposite you (preferably a woman, because women generally react more openly). But how do you know when to step on the squeeze bulb and send the signal for her to call Stop?
The card on the bottom of the pack has a marked back. After the deck has been shuffled (the marked card being secretly maintained on the bottom), you have a spectator freely select a card, note it and place it on top of the pack. You next have him give the cards several straight cuts, unknowingly placing your marked locator directly over his selection.
You then have only to watch for the marked back as he deals the cards face down into a pile. Place both hands to your temples during the dealing, feigning intense concentration. When you see that he has the selection in his hand, step on the squeeze bulb, signaling the second spectator to call Stop.
This effect is capable of interesting variations using numbers, names, colors, objects or cities, all of which can be transmitted in an offbeat manner to an innocent spectator.
Plate lifters, along with jumping disks" and the Glorpy handkerchief12, can also be used for psychokinetic presentations where objects seem to move without the performer's intervention. Three examples:
Someone is asked to write the name of a dead person on a slip of paper. Several of his companions write the names of living persons on other slips of paper. All slips are crumpled into little balls and placed on the table, and everyone concentrates—until one of the crumpled slips unexpectedly moves. When it is checked, it bears the name of the dead person. Performance
The slip of paper on which the name of the dead person is written has been secretly marked for identification by you. This slip is placed over the plate lifter. The others are placed in other locations on the tablecloth. After a brief period of concentration you operate the pump, making the desired slip move in an uncanny fashion.
"See U.F. Grant's "The Cracking Crystal" (the second marketed version) and Phil Goldstein's "Chaos" in his Blue Book of Mentalism, pp. 27-28.
l2See "The Spirit is Willing (to Write)" ibid., pp. 16-17.
After shuffling a deck of cards, a spectator freely chooses one and replaces it in the middle of the pack. Then, while the deck sits isolated on the table, it eerily cuts itself precisely at the chosen card! Performance
This version of the Self-cutting Deck or Haunted Pack is a favorite trick of mine. The secret is a clever combination of Herbert Milton's salt location with a concealed plate lifter in the tablecloth. The wonderful advantage of this method is that the deck is entirely ungimmicked. I first saw Dany Ray perform this trick more than thirty years ago. I don't believe he ever published it, and I'm not sure if the idea was original with him. In November of 1978, Edward Mario conceived the same idea, calling it "Undercover Haunted Deck".13 T. A. Waters also describes the idea under the title "HC1" in his Mind, Myth & Magick14.
For those readers who aren't familiar with the salt location, it is quickly explained. After the spectator has shuffled the deck and picked a card from it, you cut off approximately half the pack and ask him to replace his card on the bottom portion. In making this request, you point to the bottom packet with your forefinger and secretly deposit a small quantity of salt. It is the salt and a very slight tip of the pack, provided by the hidden plate lifter, that cause the deck to split at the chosen card. For further details, see the sources cited above.
Patrick Page suggested a small but valuable improvement to this method. Instead of salt, use a product called Reflex-pearls or Reflection Pearls. These are used by manufacturers of reflective street signs and can be purchased through them.
"See Jon Racherbaumer's book, At the Table (1984), pp. 144-145.
Reflex-pearls are virtually invisible in small quantities and act like microscopic ball bearings. For our purposes, we need very small quantities. Reflex-pearls create a much "slicker" or more "sensitive" surface than salt granules, and thus require less motion to cause the upper block of cards to move; and they can be cleanly and easily brushed off the cards at the end of the effect.
Grand Mai Geiier
A silver spoon is placed inside a simple silk bag and laid on the table. The performer concentrates on it and, after a few moments, the spoon is seen to be moving in the bag! When someone takes it from the bag, the spoon is found to have been twisted like a corkscrew by the performer's powers of thought!
The spoon is actually twisted, not by mental exertion, but by a vice, long before the performance. The sturdier the spoon, the better. This spoon is already secretly in the bag. A duplicate, straight spoon is displayed and seemingly placed in the bag. However, in reality it is stolen out again and concealed in your sleeve through means of a pull or holdout. If you wish to have the spoon examined before you place it in the bag, you will need to attach it surreptitiously to the pull without a hint of hesitation or fidgeting. Various attachment devices can be designed, using spring clips or strong magnets. I prefer to have the spoon attached to the pull from the start. I'm not concerned with having the spoon examined at the beginning of the trick. There is more than enough time for examinations after the spoon has been bent.
Since I've raised the subject of pulls and holdouts, let me describe the one I use, which is a combined pull and holdout device. I created this extremely simple and handy tool after reading of more far more elaborate mechanisms in Ed Mish-ell's Hold-out Miracles booklet.15 In 1989 I contributed a description of my design to Magische We/f.16
The gimmick is made from lengths of silk cord and transparent fishing line, two safety pins, an elastic wrist band, three small plastic curtain rings and a couple of rubber bands. The rubber bands are each about two inches in length. Begin by linking them together with a simple hitch, as shown in the illustration, bottom right. Then tie the length of silk cord to the free end of one of the joined bands. This cord must be long enough to travel from your left wrist, up the arm, across your shoulders and down the right upper arm for a couple of inches. To the free end of this line attach the elastic wrist band.
Thread one of the curtain rings onto the piece of fishing line and tie it in a loop, the length of which is much shorter than the silk cord: a little less than the length of your right forearm from elbow to wrist. Thread the other two curtain rings onto the silk cord; then hitch the loop of fishing line to the free end of the second rubber band. These hitches make it quick and easy to replace the bands and line when necessary.
Link a safety pin through each of the two rings on the cord and pin them to the lining of your coat, one at each shoulder near the sleeve openings. Slip the elastic band over your left wrist and don the coat while grasping the ring on the fishing line in your right hand. The holdout should now pass up your left sleeve, across the shoulders and down the right sleeve, as shown in the illustration. Silk cord is used for the holdout because it will slide smoothly through the rings with almost no drag, assuring a dependable give and take action.
You can now connect whatever sort of attachment you wish to the ring on the end of the gimmick. By first tying the
"See "Meine Version des 'Hold-Out'" in Vol. 38, No. 3, Sept. 1989, p. 211.
Curtain-ring guides attached by safety pins
How holdout-pull is worn under coat.
Curtain-ring guides attached by safety pins
How holdout-pull is worn under coat.
attachment device to a short loop of fishing line, then linking the circle of line through the ring with a girth knot, you can change attachments quickly and easily.
To attach the spoon to the holdout, first drill a tiny hole in the end of the handle, then thread a short length of thin, transparent fishing line through the hole and tie it into a loop. Hitch this loop around the ring of the holdout with a girth knot.
I do not begin my performance with the spoon hanging in the right sleeve. Instead, I prefer to store it in the inner right breast pocket of my jacket. This allows me perfect freedom of motion. When I'm ready to perform the animated spoon-bending, I casually pick up the silk bag into which I will put the spoon. My bag has a drawstring; and inside I store several small props I use in my show, like Tarot cards, dice—and the twisted spoon. I pick up the bag by its bottom edge and shake out all the props while secretly pinching the spoon through the cloth to hold it back. I then set the bag in the center of the table, its mouth toward me, and gather the various small props I've spilled out. These I deposit in my inner right breast pocket. While doing this I take the spoon on the holdout out of the pocket and drop it down my right sleeve.
The vanish of the spoon is not difficult. As you introduce the subject of psychokinesis, drop your right hand to your side, while you bring your left arm in against your body. This allows the spoon to drop out of the sleeve just enough for your right fingers to grasp it. (Some experimentation with the length of the cords will be necessary to get the holdout to operate as required.) Your right hand then draws the spoon out of the sleeve, stretching the rubber bands. You should be seated at the table as all this is done, so that the procuring of the spoon is out of sight. Once you have grasped the spoon by the end of its handle, you pretend to bring it from your right-side jacket pocket.
Raise your right hand, bringing the spoon into view, and show it to be solid and normal. Then, with your left hand, lift the mouth of the bag open and pretend to put the spoon inside. Reaching forward with both hands to do this increases tension on the rubber bands, so that, when the right hand, inside the bag, releases the spoon, it flies up the sleeve. Remove your obviously empty right hand from the bag and pull the drawstring, closing the bag. Then gently lay the bag back on the center of the tablecloth, over the central plate lifter.
All you need now accomplish is to make the twisted spoon in the bag move as you pretend to concentrate on it. After a few twitches, pick up the bag at the very tips of your fingers and lay it in front of the spectator opposite you (and over the other plate lifter). Concentrate a bit more, making the spoon move in the new location. Then ask the spectator to remove the spoon from the bag. The movement of the spoon is eerie enough, but when its twisted condition is seen, I assure you, the result will be audible gasps, screams of surprise and genuine shivers.
Having described this holdout-pull, I might mention one other use I put it to in the genre of mentalism: I employ it to steal billets in a Dunninger-style question and answer act. To the working end of the holdout I attach a small alligator clip capable of gripping roughly half a dozen billets. The billets are slips of paper three inches square, which are folded twice, once in each direction. A number of these billets are distributed in the audience for people to write brief questions on; after which they are gathered in several large envelopes and deposited in a transparent container on stage. I help with the gathering of the billets, taking them from those around me and putting them into one of the envelopes. (The other envelopes are circulated by the spectators through the audience.) In this activity, I let the clip drop out of my sleeve when the moment is right, and I secretly push a few billets into it as I move from place to place. These then go up into the sleeve and out of sight. I manage to do this several times, in different parts of the audience.
After all the billets have been collected in envelopes and placed prominently in view on stage, I stand at another table, talking and casually gesturing, letting my hands be seen empty. On the table rests a large bowl from which the blank billets were originally distributed, and there are a number of blanks still in it. I reach in and seem to take several. Actually, I let the holdout clip drop from my sleeve and I retrieve the stolen billets from it, pretending to bring them from the bowl.
The clip goes back up the sleeve as the hand comes from the bowl. I then pick up a clip board with my free hand and drop the folded billets onto it.
Opening one of the billets, apparently to jot down thoughts as they come to me, I read what is written on it and begin the question readings. As I finish this first reading, I crumple the billet, toss it back into the bowl and continue to the next billet, until all have been dealt with. This method may seem rather bold, but it is subtler than Dunninger's, who used to palm the stolen billets from the envelope and put them into his trousers pocket while in the audience, then palm them out of the pocket to read behind the cover of a three-sided hood on his clipboard. This obviously worked for him. With my holdout idea, your hands never have to go into your pockets and the stealing of the billets and their retrieval for reading is indetectable when done properly. This procedure is, I believe, much cleaner and less suspicious—unless you are a master showman of the stature of Dunninger. If you do this sort of work, consider my holdout method. It has proven extremely successful for me.
I trust these few examples will illustrate the possibilities the Mentalist's Tablecloth opens for weird and unusual effects. It has made it possible for me to perform quite a few sensational feats at the close-up table.
Chapter Four Pro-monition
Rolf and Inge Bialla these artists traveled all over the globe with their masterful nightclub illusion show. Most readers will not know that Ralf Bialla started his career as a billiard-ball manipulator. He has always been supported by his exciting wife, Inge. When I met him at the Red Rose, he was doing small illusions with livestock—but how he did them! I will never forget that he was the first conjurer to receive a standing ovation in this nightclub. I would like to be as successful as him, just one time! His ideas for trick techniques were unique and uncopyable. My favorite item in his show was the vanishing radio, which has to be the most perfect version ever performed. I have since obtained it and all performing rights to it from his wife Inge.
Unfortunately, Ralf Bialla suffered a fatal accident. He left a void that will be very difficult to fill. He was a true master of his craft.
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