Examine the accompanying illustrations, and mount a paper-thin mirror (mirrored mylar, available at most printers) to one side of a hinged flap cut from the face of a manila coin envelope. This is the subtle secret that allows you to "peek" at a spectator's drawing without ever turning the envelope over.
Note that the opening cut in the face of the envelope is a window, with a clear piece of acetate as the "glass." This allows you to use any small size piece of card for the spectator to draw on, so all of it will show through the opening. The acetate prevents a small card from falling through the opening when the mirror flap swings open. Use a small card to ensure that everything the spectator draws on the card is visible through the window.
To make the gaffed envelope, use a gummed flap, manila coin envelope, 5 1/4" deep by 2 7/8" wide. Using an X-acto knife, cut a window in the face of the envelope (center it) approximately 2 1/2" deep by 1 3/4" wide. Cut a piece of stiff acetate to a size larger than the window and, using scotch tape, affix it inside of the envelope, over the window.
To make the flap, cut out a piece of index card stock 2 3/4" deep x 2 1/8" wide. Cover one side of this flap with manila paper obtained from a matching envelope. Cover the other side with adhesive backed mirrored mylar film. Lay the manila envelope flat on the table with the flap side up. Using a piece of clear scotch tape, hinge the mirrored flap over the window (the hinge should be invisible when the flap is closed). The hinged side should be on your left as you look down at the envelope. Your gaffed envelope is ready for action.
To prepare, you'll also need a larger clasp-type manila envelope that will accommodate the smaller envelope comfortably. Place a blank card in the smaller envelope. Be certain that the card you use is thick enough so anything that is drawn on it cannot be seen through the card. (Note: I rubber cement two or three pieces of index (file) card stock together to provide a totally opaque surface for the spectator to draw on). The spectators must be convinced that there's no way for you to see the drawing through the card from the back. Next, slide the small envelope, seam-side up (mirror down) into the larger envelope which should also be seam side up. The envelopes are now able to be freely shown.
The effect may be presented at a table or standing up. The handling is a bit different, but both are easy. If you're working at a table, simply toss the envelope(s) on the table, seam-side up. Open the clasp and allow the small envelope to slide out. Place your fingers and thumb across the middle of the small envelope and give it a gentle squeeze to open it a bit. Use the fingers of the other hand to withdraw the card.
Leave the envelopes on the table and hand the card, along with a pencil or pen, to a spectator. Instruct him to make a simple drawing on the card. (Note: I usually sketch a simple picture frame, complete with wire and nail to simulate it hanging on a wall, to subtlety restrict the area the spectator can use for his drawing to the middle of the card). The reason you should require the spectator to draw a simple object or geometrical shape is to facilitate recognizing what it is when you obtain the peek. Words or numbers will appear backwards in the mirror and unless you're adept at mirror-reading, it's best to use a drawing. While he does this, it's best to turn your back. When the spectator has finished, instruct him to place his card, drawing side down, on the table.
When you approach the table, ask the spectator to confirm that the card is totally opaque and that it's impossible to see what was drawn, through the card. With your left hand, grasp the small envelope in the following manner. Turn it so the flap faces to the right. Grip the far long edge with your left fingers and slide your fingertips slightly under the envelope. Your left thumb grips the near edge. Squeeze slightly and the envelope will bulge open. Remember, the seam side of the envelope remains almost flat against the table top to keep the mirror flap closed.
While your left hand is doing this, your right hand retrieves the spectator's card and slides it face-down into the envelope. The card should not be lifted from the surface of the table any more than is necessary to guide it into the envelope. As you slide the card inside, push it to the center of the envelope so the area where the drawing is located is directly over the acetate window.
Now for the secret peek. It's so easy. You will do it as you pick up the envelope with your left hand to and transfer it to your right. As you pick up the envelope allow the left fingers to slide well underneath it. Your left thumb still grips the near edge. Tilt the envelope slightly toward the spectator and at the same time, relax your fingers ever so slightly to allow the mirror to hinge open like a book. Glance down and you will see the spectator's drawing in the mirror. A bit of experimentation will show just how little the mirror must be open to glimpse the spectator's drawing.
Once you've seen the drawing, close the mirror and tilt the envelope back. The peek should be done naturally as you pass the envelope into your right hand. The envelope is received by the right hand, thumb on top and fingers on the bottom (which holds the mirror flap closed). Immediately pick up the large envelope with your left hand and slide the small envelope inside. Close the clasp on the large envelope and drop the nested envelopes on the table, or hand them to a spectator to hold. You never need touch the envelope again to discern whatever was drawn by the spectator.
If you work standing up, the working is much the same. Use the large envelope as a "table" by holding it flat on your left palm with your thumb on the seam side. Remove the small envelope and set it on top of the large one. Hold it down with the left thumb while the right hand removes the card. Hold the two envelopes together while the spectator draws his picture. When he hands you the card, slide it into the small envelope while still holding both envelopes together (to hide the mirror). Tilt both envelopes forward and allow the left fingers, as before, to relax so the mirror and this time, the large envelope with it, hinge down for your peek. Immediately pull the small envelope free and insert it into the large envelope. It's all over but the revelation and applause.
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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.