Any effect that you wish to accomplish through pre-show preparation can be achieved with the procedures I'm about to explain. Both employ envelopes that are specially prepared. One requires a single envelope and an adhesive backed label. The other requires two envelopes and a hand stapler. After you've read through both, I'm sure one or the other will find its way into your scheme of things. Personally, I prefer to use the single black envelope idea. In fact, I've had them custom made. If you're interested, drop me a line and I'll give you a price depending on the quantity.
The single envelope concept: At the conclusion of this explanation there is a schematic template for making the required black envelope. It measures 4 1/2" long x 3" wide. On the unseamed, face side of the envelope there is a 1 1/2" wide slit, centered and approximately 1" from the top flap edge of the envelope. You can easily make up one of these envelopes in just a few minutes using black linen stationery, available in better stationery stores, the simplest of tools and some double sided Scotch tape.
Let's assume you're attempting one of the more common mental effects, design duplication. Prior to your show, approach a spectator and solicit her assistance for a "test" you will later attempt, on stage. In your left jacket pocket you've previously placed one (1) Avery brand Red Bordered, self-adhesive backed label (#06009) which measures 2" wide x 1 1/4" deep. The label is temporarily affixed to a wax paper backing and can easily be peeled off. The only other items required are the black coin envelope, two 2" x 3" index cards, 2 pens, and two 9" x 12" manila envelopes with cardboard "stiffeners" inside. Quarter fold one of the cards and place it in the bottom of the black envelope. On the flap of the envelope, place a strip of double-sided Scotch tape. Be sure to leave the flap sticking straight out so the envelope will not be prematurely sealed. You're all set to proceed.
Explain that you want the young lady to draw a simple sketch on the small index card. Suggest that it could be a simple geometrical shape, a stick figure, a sailboat, any plain drawing which would be easy for someone to copy. Then, she is to fold the card twice with the drawing hidden from view. To enable her to do this in complete privacy, you turn your back until she has finished folding her sketch. Have her boldly initial the folded slip.
Assuming the spectator is on your left, place the black envelope flat on your left palm with the seam side up and the flap out straight. The four left fingers should be positioned below, across the unseamed side of the envelope approximately 1/2" below the slit. The left thumb is resting on top, across the seam side of the envelope. (Note: When doing a bill switch, described later on, in front of an audience, tilt the right edge of the envelope down slightly to enable the audience to see the bill enter the envelope and to prevent them from catching a flash of the bill exiting through the slit. Your right side should be facing the audience as this is done. You should also be close enough to the on-stage spectator to your left, to ensure he or she is looking down on the envelope and cannot see the bill protruding through the other side).
Take the folded slip, initial side up, from the spectator and slowly insert it into the envelope. A slight downward bend of the slip against the top half of the envelope (causing it to bend ever so slightly) as it enters the mouth of the envelope will help guide the slip right through the slit until you feel it touch the left forefinger. Leave a small portion of the slip sticking above the seamed edge of the envelope. The balance of the slip is hidden inside (and outside) the envelope, thanks to the hidden slit.
The fact that a tiny portion of the spectator's folded slip is still peeking out of the envelope while the envelope is handled so casually reinforces the fact that the slip is definitely inside of the envelope and the contrast between the white slip and the black envelope makes it stand out like neon. Since the spectator's initials are in full view as the slip is openly placed inside the envelope the possibility of a switch is also precluded.
With the right hand, reach down and grasp the lower left hand corner of the envelope between the right thumb underneath and the right forefinger on top. Immediately lift upward and simultaneously turn the envelope so the seam side of the envelope is facing the spectator. This sequence of action keeps the slit side of the envelope away from the spectator's view. With the fingers of the left hand, fold the flap down, sealing it shut (the act of bending the flap down will force the slip down into the envelope). The double sided tape takes care of sealing the envelope without having to lick the flap.
At this point, I grasp the top edge of the envelope between the right thumb on the slit side and remaining fingers on the other. I slap the bottom half of the envelope back and forth against the tips of my extended left fingers to apparently cause the slip inside to slide to the bottom of the envelope. You can now extend the envelope towards the spectator and ask if she can feel the slip inside. Naturally, she feels the folded duplicate in the bottom of the envelope.
Grasp the envelope with the left hand as the right hand releases its hold. The left thumb should be resting on the spectator's slip protruding through the slit. State that you will need a label. With your right hand, pat your right hand jacket pocket and then thrust it inside as if searching for the label. As you do this, the left thumb pulls the folded slip downward, until it is completely free of the slit. This action is completely hidden from the volunteer. At this point, if you took away the envelope, the left thumb would be holding the slip against the left fingers which is precisely what you're about to do.
Not finding the label in the right hand jacket pocket, the right hand grasps the envelope and pulls it slightly up and to the right as the left hand with the folded slip held out of sight behind the fingers moves down to the left hand jacket pocket. Thrusting the left hand into the pocket, the slip is left behind as the label is grasped and brought into view between the left thumb and forefinger. The right hand inserts the envelope between the left ring finger and pinkie where it is held in place between those two fingers. The right fingers now remove the backing from the Avery label and affix it right over the slit in the face of the envelope.
What beautiful choreography. Read it over again. Without one false move and practically in slow motion, you have inserted the spectator's initialled folded slip into an envelope. Sealed it and affixed a label to the front. A clean switch that leaves the spectator's slip safely in your pocket and the offending slit beautifully and permanently hidden behind the label.
Why the label? That's the rationale behind the use of the black envelope. There's now only one way to initial the envelope and that's to put a white label on it. Diabolical? You bet it is. Now, have the spectator initial the label and retain the envelope. Warn the spectator not to allow anyone (including her) to tamper with the envelope or let it out of her possession for even a second. She's also to keep an image of what she drew in her mind and not to divulge the nature of her drawing to anyone. After you've parted company with your volunteer, check the contents of the slip in your pocket and memorize what the spectator drew.
During your performance, you explain that earlier in the evening, you had a randomly selected member of the audience draw a simple sketch on a piece of cardboard(?) which she then folded and initialled. The folded "card" was then sealed inside an opaque, black envelope and the spectator initialled a label on the front of the envelope. The spectator is invited to come on stage with the envelope. Ask her to verify that what you just described is exactly what happened. Ask if there was anyway you could have seen what she drew, and if the envelope has been in her possession ever since it was sealed and initialled.
When she has acknowledged all of the above, take the envelope and ask if the initials on the label are hers. When she confirms that they are, hold the envelope over your head and begin to feel the envelope with the fingers of the right hand. You should appear to be attempting to get a visual impression of what the young lady drew. Immediately pick up one of the two large manila envelopes and drop the black envelope inside. Hand the other large envelope to the spectator along with a bold marking pen.
Ask the young lady to stand back-to-back with you (a turn of the head towards the audience and a slight smile will usually induce laughter). Tell the spectator to quickly duplicate on the envelope what she previously sketched so the entire audience can see it; you do likewise. When both drawings are compared, they're identical. Have her keep her drawing (the one on the large envelope, of course) as a souvenir. Toss yours in your case for later disposal.
I think you'd be hard pressed to find a better way to obtain pre-show information. Naturally you can use this method to obtain social security numbers, phone numbers, name and addresses and anything else you might require to demonstrate your paranormal abilities. Several spectators can be dealt with in similar fashion. It's also perfect for routines that employ the "one ahead" principle.
Midnight Miracle Envelope Template
In addition, you can also use this method on stage to switch a borrowed bill. In fact, using a ploy that I created in connection with "Monte Inferno," you can switch a borrowed, initialled bill for one of your own. This is a masterpiece of illusion. Simply meet someone prior to your show and state that to save some time during your show, you'd like to arrange to borrow a $20 bill. Have the spectator remove and hand you a $20 bill (note its condition, i.e. new, medium worn, old). Using a ballpoint or marking pen, print the spectator's initials on Andrew Jackson's forehead. Return the bill to the spectator stating that the initials will enable him to later identify the bill as belonging to him. Have the spectator place the bill in his wallet until you call upon him during your show.
As soon as you're alone, from a quantity of $20 bills showing varying degrees of wear and tear, pick out a bill that closely resembles the condition of the spectator's $20 bill. Now, using the same ballpoint pen, print the spectator's initials on Andrew Jackson's forehead similarly to the way you did on the spectator's bill. Quarter-fold the bill with the lighter side out and place it in the bottom of your black, slit envelope after you've memorized the serial number (if you have a problem remembering the number, simply write it on the marking pen using an ultra fine line "Sharpie" permanent ink marker).
During your show, introduce the spectator who agreed to loan you a $20 bill. Have him remove the initialled bill from his wallet and quarter fold it with the lighter side out. With the spectator on your left and slightly in front of you, and keeping your right side towards the audience, take the folded bill and clearly place it in the black envelope with a portion of the bill showing above the edge of the seam side of the envelope. Now, perform the switch in the same manner as previously described. After you've placed the blank label on the envelope, hand it to the spectator and have him sign his name across the label.
Finish in any manner you wish. For example, take the envelope and after "feeling" it, return it to the spectator and proceed to write a serial number on a sheet of cardboard. Ask the spectator to identify his name on the label. Have him tear open the envelope and remove his (?) $20 bill. Ask the spectator, "Are the initials on Andrew Jackson's forehead yours?" (A sneaky play on words) Naturally, he must agree. Finish by having the spectator read aloud the serial number on his bill as you record it below the number you previously wrote. Of course, they match. (Note: you can also use this method to switch the spectator's bill for a blank piece of paper. Naturally, this would enable you to burn the envelope and have his initialled bill reappear anywhere you like by sequestering a lookalike bill in a remote location. See "Monte Inferno").
Once you've mastered this diabolically clean switch, you'll find many other uses. In fact, check some of the routines included with the effect, "Transparen-See," elsewhere in this book.
The double envelope concept: For performing all of the effects previously detailed, with the exception of the bill switch, the following two envelope procedure can be utilized.
Required are two (2) 3 x 4 1/2" manila coin envelopes and a small hand stapler that will comfortably fit in your jacket pocket. Place the stapler in your left hand jacket pocket. Place an unprepared manila envelope in your right hand jacket pocket. Cut a 1 1/2" wide slit in the face of the remaining envelope, centered approximately 1" from the top edge of the envelope. Affix a piece of double sided Scotch tape across the gummed area of the flap. Be sure to keep the flap open and straight out to prevent the envelope from being prematurely sealed. Quarter fold a blank 2" x 3" index card and insert it in the bottom of the prepared envelope. You're all set to perform.
To steal information during a pre-show encounter with a volunteer, have the spectator print his information on a 2" x 3" index card as previously described, while your back is turned. Have the spectator quarter fold the card. Insert the folded card in the envelope, leaving a portion sticking above the seam side edge. Naturally the other end of the folded slip is protruding through the slit. Display as previously described with the seam side towards the volunteer and audience. With left hand, fold over the flap, which pushes the slip down into the envelope and seals the envelope. Transfer the envelope to the left hand. The left thumb should be resting on the protruding folded slip.
With the right hand, reach into the right jacket pocket and remove the second manila envelope. Hand it to the spectator to hold temporarily. As this is done, the left thumb pulls down on the slip protruding through the slit in the envelope until it's free. The right hand reaches over and takes the envelope as the left hand (the slip is held out of sight behind the left fingers by the thumb) simultaneously is thrust into the left hand pocket where the slip is dropped and the pocket stapler is removed.
Hand the stapler to the spectator. Fold the envelope in half so the slit side is hidden. Ask for the stapler. Place three staples through the envelope in random locations. This will discourage the spectator from later attempting to open the envelope. Give this stapled envelope to the spectator and request that he seal it inside the other envelope. When this is done, staple the flap shut with three more staples and have the envelope initialled. Naturally, the spectator retains the envelope until he is called upon during the performance. At that time, the performer explains what transpired before the show and the effect is completed as previously described.
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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.