Excerpt from Vibrations interview with Robert L. Bluemle
Q. How do you rehearse?
A. Once I've assembled the routine and mastered the mechanics of the effects, I structure the patter and blocking. The resulting script is refined until it's as lean as I can make it. I then record the patter on an audio cassette player. I repeatedly listen to the recording and make whatever changes that are required until I'm satisfied with the delivery. Then, I rehearse by recording the routine on videotape.
Notwithstanding the above, only constant repetition before a live audience can hone the act to the degree of perfection any responsible entertainer would wish to achieve.
The RothBeck Box was the result of a very long drive that my good friend, Roy Roth and I endured from South Wales, England to Frankfurt, Germany. We were on our way to attend a magic convention and to reduce the tedium of the drive, we discussed various challenge effects. As we sped down the Autobahn, our conversation centered on creating a non-electronic method to duplicate the effect of Anverdi's Die Box.
It was about the time of the disastrous Chernoble nuclear incident in Russia. The weather was horrendous and dark clouds signalled the arrival of a major storm. As we closed in on a solution, Roy glanced up at the ominous clouds and declared that if the trick worked the way we thought it would, it should be called "The Chernoble Box." After stopping at a roadside restaurant, we committed our solution to paper (the back of a napkin) over a cup of coffee and proceeded on our way. Fortunately, the craftsman who later manufactured the boxes for us was able to decipher my doodling and the "Chernoble Box" was born. As time went by, and the nuclear incident faded from memory, we changed the name to the "RothBeck Box."
While the performer's back is turned, a spectator places a large die in a small opaque wooden box, remembering the number of spots showing uppermost on the die. After the spectator has closed the lid and locked the box, the performer covers it with an opaque cloth and places the covered box between the palms of the spectator's hands. Without a moment's hesitation, the performer quickly sketches something on a pad and holds it over his head without showing anyone what he has drawn. The spectator is asked to reveal the number of spots showing uppermost on the die in the box, for example, he responds, "5!" The performer turns the pad towards the audience and there is a bold drawing of a die with five spots showing on top.
The box is beautifully constructed in wood with brass fittings and measures, 2 1/4" square. In addition to a large, colorful die, other objects could also be discerned -colored silk handkerchiefs, colored beads, foreign coins, etc.
The interior of the box is lined with a mirror finished, adhesive backed mylar. There is a hinged secret door which appears to be the bottom of the box. It is so beautifully constructed, from the outside you can't detect a thing. There is clear plastic floor on the interior of the box which prevents the contents of the box from falling out when the secret door is opened. When that secret door on the bottom of the box is opened, the mirrored mylar lining permits you to see the reflected image of whatever has been placed in the box. Anyone inspecting the interior of the box when the secret door is closed looks right through the clear plastic retention floor and can't see anything but the bottom of the box.
To view the contents, the bottom is hinged open, dropping the secret door approximately one inch. You will now be gazing at a mirrored surface that reflects upward through a clear plastic window, into the interior of the box. If the box is held approximately chin high, with the left arm extended about 12" from your chest, you should be able to see a reflection of the bottom of whatever you have placed in the box. In our example, it is the bottom of a die.
Experimentation is necessary to find a comfortable position for you to catch a glimpse of the die. Naturally, the back of the left hand provides all the cover you need to mask the open secret door when it is in the down position. To explain away the mirrored finish of the interior, I always refer to the box as being constructed from wood, lined with aluminum to ensure that it is waterproof, lightproof and absolutely opaque. It has never been questioned.
Begin with a handkerchief draped over your right arm. Dump the die from the box into your right hand and display it to the audience and the spectator who has
volunteered to assist you. Hand the die to the spectator on your left and turn your back to him. Place the empty box behind you, with the top open (the back of the lid will be facing the audience). Instruct the spectator to place the die in the box with any side up. Naturally, he is to remember the number of spots showing uppermost on the die. Flip the lid shut and you ask the spectator to fasten the clasp that locks the box.
As you turn to face the audience, you remind the spectator not to forget the number he has in mind. As you say this, your left little finger is positioned as shown in the illustration. Make sure that at least one inch of the inside surface of the left little finger is firmly pressed against the edge of the secret door in the bottom of the box. The left little finger drags the secret door down approximately one inch. When the door is open, the left middle finger (which is resting on the front right corner of the secret door) pushes the box in a backward direction pressing the lid of the secret door firmly into the flesh at the base of the left thumb in the open position.
Practice this move until you have mastered it to perfection. It may seem awkward at first, but once you've got the knack, it's easy as pie. Now, bring your left hand around to a position in front of you, waist high. Reach over with the left hand and grasp the hanging corner of the handkerchief on your right forearm using the left middle and ring fingers (the box is still held between the left thumb and middle finger). The left hand drags the handkerchief off the right forearm. The right fingers now grasp the handkerchief to the right of where the left fingers are holding it. Running the right fingers along the hem, it is stretched between the two hands. You have all the opportunity and masking you need as this is done to glance into the mirrored surface of the secret door and note the number of spots showing on the bottom of the die. Naturally, all you have to do is subtract this number from "7" and you know the number showing uppermost on the die.
Drape the handkerchief over the right hand which immediately tosses it over the left hand, covering the box in the process. You can now close the secret door using the left little finger which pushes it upward. Grasp the box with your right hand, through the cloth. Have the spectator extend both hands, palms up. Place the covered box on the palms of the spectator's hands for safekeeping.
Pick up a pad and marking pen and proceed to draw a rough 3-dimensional sketch of a cube. On the top surface of the cube, draw the same number of spots he is concentrating upon. Show the drawing and ask the spectator to confirm that you are correct. Retrieve the box and acknowledge the applause.
That's the "RothBeck Test." It's still available, however, there's no guarantee as to how long they'll be around. Write to me if your interested. Roy and I are quite proud of our brainstorm. In fact, that would have made a better name, come to think of it.
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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.