This method of ascertaining the contents of a genuine billet is subtle because of its very boldness. No one would suspect that the performer would do this bare faced deed, yet it is accomplished with the greatest ease. It can be done before small groups, but is best suited to audiences of thirty, forty, or more.
We have witnessed a performance of this method, the billets, or slips of paper measuring about 2-3/4" x 23/4", or a trifle less. This particular performer used paper of a Golden Rod color but white would do as well. Prior to the show, the performer had folded each of these slips three times as in Fig. 1 (Note A, B, C, and D).
After which the billets were just one-eighth of the original size, and they were numbered consecutively on the outside from 1 to 40, or 150 or more, according to the size of the audience.
In his vest pocket the performer has a number of soft lead pencils, and with the folded billets in his left hand, on top of a few opened billets (but with creases), he is ready to proceed. He makes the usual opening talk about mind reading, etc., and explains that he has the spectators write their questions the better to concentrate on them. He steps down in the audience, and as he passes out the billets and pencils, he calls attention to the fact that the slips are numbered--each spectator is to remember his number, then open his billet and write his name at the top, the question underneath, and finally fold the slip in the original creases. No one is to show or tell what he has written
One Man Mindreading Secrets--Subtle Glimpse of Folded Billet but must concentrate his thoughts on the question.
The performer now and then opens a billet before handing it to a spectator. He moves about from one side of the aisle to the other, and sometimes steps back and forth, always keeping on the move, as he talks and passes out the slips. He finally has only two folded billets remaining in his left hand, on top of the open billets. One of these folded billets, say, No. 5, was originally given a bent corner when folded by the performer so he can distinguish it from the others. He has carefully withheld this No. 5 billet and now hands it to a spectator who is requested to hurry up "as the others are all ready."
Performer steps across the aisle, says "anybody else?" hands out remaining folded billet to a spectator, and at the same time watches No. 5 to see when he has finished writing, then speaks out "All ready, we will now collect the questions, who will volunteer? Anybody?" (man offers his services). "All right, thank you, sir, go down to the front, and start there--take your hat for the purpose." The performer turns and looks toward the rear, and acknowledges an imaginary request for a slip, by saying, "Yes sir, just a moment, I'll be right there." Performer quickly turns to No. 5, and extends his hand, quietly saying, "Are you ready?" and takes the No. 5 question, turns away quickly and walks toward the rear.
Now comes the bold move. Performer's hands are brought together and he quickly and secretly opens the No. 5 question as he walks rapidly to the rear, inquiring as he goes, "Who was it that wanted a slip ?--Where is that party?" Somebody will respond. "Oh, there you are, here's a pencil and paper--and hurry please." Performer takes the bottom, opened slip from left hand and gives it to the spectator, in the meantime getting a good chance to read the No. 5 question which is now lying open on top of the other open slips. This only takes a second, you need not get all the details if hard to read-merely the name, or initials and an idea of the subject matter, such as, "J. C. Wilson, sick father," or anything you can glimpse.
The performer keeps moving about and talking, he quickly refolds No. 5, and turns around, walking toward stage, and as he passes the volunteer collector, remarks, "That's right, get them all," and quietly places his right hand over the hat for a second as sort of a gesture to pull the hat down to see how many collected--but the right hand has the No. 5 billet gripped at the roots of the fingers, and the billet is allowed to drop in the hat with the others. This casual move will not be noticed, and even
One Man Mindreading Secrets--Subtle Glimpse of Folded Billet if it were, you would appear to be dropping in some stray billet that had been handed to you. Nothing is said about it, 'you just do it. If desired, the performer can stop just before he passes the volunteer assistant, and, as though to speed up things, turn to one row and say, "Pass your questions over, please," he taking them and tossing them along with No. 5 into the hat.
In any event, the performer returns to the stage, requests the collector to kindly come upon the stage and dump the folded slips out on the table, the collector returning to his seat. The performer has spotted the No. 5 question in the pile, either by seeing the number visible, or by the bent corner--he gives the pile a stir with finger if necessary to bring the No. 5 question into view. With right hand, the performer picks up a billet, or what to the audience appears to be one billet, but he really picks up two, the No. 5 along with some other billet, for example No. 9. The actual picking up is done with the right hand and the left hand immediately comes to the right hand, so the two billets are momentarily held as one, between the tips of the right and left fingers. The right fingers instantly let go and the right hand is withdrawn, leaving the billet (really two of them) in full view at tips of left fingers which then raise the billet to your forehead, and you pretend to divine the question--the one by "J. C. Wilson, who has a sick father, etc." This is done in the usual manner, announcing first the name, then the nature of the question, and finally giving the answer.
The left hand has been lowered, the right fingers approach the left, and with the aid of the thumbs, quickly and secretly slide the No. 5 billet into the right hand where it is held or palmed against the roots of the right fingers. See Fig. 1A.
In the meantime, the No. 9 billet is being visibly opened, the fingers concealing the No. 9 on the slip. The same pretense is made, confirming the answer just given, and mentally
One Man Mindreading Secrets--Subtle Glimpse of Folded Billet ascertaining a new question, as previously described. The No. 9 billet is refolded, and in the operation, the positions of No. 5 and No. 9 are reversed--No. 9 being now palmed in the right hand, and No. 5 in full view at left finger tips. No. 5 may now be returned to "J. C. Wilson," or may be tossed out into the audience, or simply thrown upon the floor. It would be well to use all three of these methods of disposal during the performance, as was the habit of John Slater in his demonstrations.
Of course, the readings are continued in the same manner, and all of the billets can be returned to the writers, if desired, but it becomes a bit tiresome to the balance of the audience, and it is much more dramatic to vary the final disposition, as suggested. The performer we witnessed, repeatedly thrust his right hand into his trouser's pocket, leaving the billet there so he could show his right hand empty but he had to dive into the pocket again to get the billet so he could make the final switch, and this pocket procedure did not look so good.
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