When I wrote to Leo Boudreau to ask if he would contribute a previously unreleased effect for publication in this book, I should have known I was in for a treat. Leo sent, not one, but three effects. They all shared the same principle, but the effects were as different as night and day. I strongly favored one; a mental card effect that involved two jumbo cards. Between them, the cards bear the names of the fifty-two playing cards, 27 on one card and 25 on the other. In addition, there were also four "suit" cards, with one symbol on each card. I liked the underlying principle and set about doing my usual thing, changing an effect to suit my particular proclivities. As soon as I had completed the renovations, I sent the revised effect to Leo who immediately responded that he liked and approved the changes. So, here's the result. An excellent mental card effect, courtesy of the generosity and creative genius of Leo Boudreau.
The performer states that parapsychologists often use playing cards to test for Extra Sensory Perception. The reason? They're familiar objects, easy to visualize and they provide fifty-two separate and distinct images. The performer invites a spectator to stand to his right. Handing the volunteer a small ESP Testing card, the performer points out that the card contains all fifty-two cards found in a deck of playing cards, randomly printed on both sides of the card. One side contains twenty-five cards and the other, twenty-seven.
The spectator is asked to first concentrate on a card value. In other words, he is to think of any one of the thirteen values from Ace through the King, and not reveal it to anyone. The performer explains that since the spectator is the only one who knows which value he's thinking of, it will temporarily be referred to as "X," The Unknown value. To facilitate tuning in on his thoughts, the performer requests the spectator to look for the "X" of Spades on the small ESP Testing card. The spectator is instructed to snap his fingers as soon as he has located the card in question. The performer now asks the spectator to locate the "X" of Hearts and to snap his fingers when he has done so. The same procedure is followed with the "X" of Diamonds and the "X" of Clubs. So far, all the spectator has done is snap his fingers four times.
The performer removes a deck of cards and after momentarily looking through them, announces that he's having difficulty tuning in on the spectator's thoughts. "Perhaps it would help if you tack on a suit to "X" The Unknown Value and focus your thought on just one card," the performer states. The spectator is requested to call out any one of the four suits, Spades, Hearts, Clubs or Hearts. For example, the spectator selects Hearts. The performer cuts the deck and places it on the table. "What card are you concentrating upon?" the performer asks. The spectator, for example, states that the card he is thinking of is the Four of Hearts. The performer instructs the spectator to turn over the top card of the deck. It is the Four of Hearts.
To begin, you'll need an E.S.P. Test card. To make one up, simply photocopy the two pieces of artwork provided at the end of this effect. Glue them on either side of a piece of index card stock, then trim to size and seal the two-sided card with adhesive backed laminating film, which is available in most office supply stores. Arrange a standard deck beginning with the four Aces through the four Kings. Each four of a kind should also be arranged in the CHaSeD order, Clubs, Hearts, Spades and Diamonds.
The diabolical secret to "X" The Unknown is in the arrangement of the cards on each side of the ESP Test card which allows you, through the simple process of addition, to determine the mentally selected card. Side "A," which is the side bearing the words ESP TEST, is the "hot" side of the card, worth one "point." When you ask the spectator to locate the "X" of Clubs, for example, if he snaps his fingers while side "A" is face up, then begin your addition with 1 point. If the spectator locates the "X" of Clubs on the reverse side, "B" (the address side) and snaps his fingers, then the card has a value of zero.
Repeat by asking the spectator to locate the "X" of Hearts. Add 2 points to your mental total if he snaps his fingers while side "A" is face up, none if side "B" is uppermost]
When you ask the spectator to snap when he finds the "X" of Spades, side "A" contributes 4 points to your total. Side "B" adds nothing.
Finally, ask the spectator to locate the "X" of Diamonds. If it appears on side "A" it's worth 8 points. If it appears on side "B" it has a value of zero.
Ask for the cards in the Clubs (1 point), Hearts (2 points), Spades (4 points) and Diamonds (8 points) order, keeping a running tally of the value of those cards appearing on side "A" only. For example, suppose the spectator is thinking of a value of five. The Five of Clubs and the Five of Spades appear on side "A." A finger snap when the target is Clubs is worth 1 point, and on Spades, it is worth 4 points. The grand total is 1 + 4 = 5. The spectator is thinking of a five. When the spectator located the Five of Hearts and the Five of Diamonds on side "B," both had a value of zero and were ignored. The Binary System has struck again.
Having the spectator snap his fingers to signal that he has located the card he's looking for is extremely subtle. In fact, if you position the spectator to your right, facing the audience, you can peripherally see which side of the card the spectator is holding is face up. Since he has to hold the card in one hand while he snaps his fingers with the other, the card is always in plain view. If you gain your information with this furtive sideways glance, the audience will never be able to figure out how you can determine which value the spectator is thinking of. They simply see you asking the spectator to look for four cards of unknown value and the spectator signalling that he has complied by snapping his fingers. What a delightful swindle.
After the spectator has unknowingly communicated the value he's thinking of, pretend to look through the deck as if seeking a card. Actually, you locate the four of a kind the spectator is thinking of and cut them to the top of the deck as you feign a failure to perceive the spectator's thought. In our example, the spectator is thinking of a "four." As soon as you have cut the fours to the top of the deck, suggest that perhaps it would help if the spectator focused his thoughts on just one card. As soon as the spectator calls out a suit (remember each four of a kind is arranged in a Club, Heart, Spade and Diamond order) you simply push off with the left thumb, from one to three cards and obtain a little finger break over the proper card.
If the spectator chooses Clubs, don't do a thing. Just place the deck on the table. If he chooses Hearts, you double undercut (see Appendix I) the top card to the bottom and table the deck. The spectator's card will now be on top. If the spectator chooses Spades, double undercut two cards to bring the Four of Spades to the top. If the spectator selects Diamonds, simply double undercut three cards to the bottom and table the deck. The Four of Spades will be on top.
As soon as you completed the necessary cut, table the deck and have the spectator call out the name of the card he is thinking of. When he's done so, have him turn over the top card of the deck. If you have a problem performing the required double undercut, consider using a card index to produce the mentally constructed card. Believe me, I have totally baffled laymen with this effect. It seems truly impossible. I appear to be completely disinterested in their efforts to locate the four "X" value cards. Snapping their fingers four times doesn't bring them any closer to understanding how this simple action could communicate anything, much less a value they are thinking of. Finally, cutting the pack twice and placing the deck on the table before they announce their mentally constructed card seems to rule out any thought of sleight of hand. What more could you ask for?
For those of you who are allergic to sleights, here are a couple of alternatives that'll make this effect squeaky clean.
Alternative #1: Since you know the order of the deck (Aces through Kings in the CHaSeD order), you can easily determine the exact location of each and every card. For example, say the spectator's chosen value is "Eights." Finally, he selects a suit and it turns out to be "Hearts." All you have to do is subtract one from the value and multiply by four. In our example, that would be as follows: 8-1=7 x 4=28. If you assign a value of "1" to the Club suit, "2" to the Hearts, "3" to the Spades and "4" to the Diamonds, you simply add "2" (for Hearts) to 28 and the Eight of Hearts is the 30th card in the deck. It's really easy to do and the math involved is quite simple.
To use this bit of knowledge, place an adhesive backed, circular white Avery label on the back of the card box housing the stacked deck. With a marking pen, place a "cent" mark on the right side of the label. The deck is placed, label side down on the table. Have a nail writer in your right hand jacket pocket (unless you're using this as an opening effect).
When you have determined the location of the spectator's card, access the nail writer and pick up the boxed deck of cards. State that you recently picked up this deck at a yard sale. As you're speaking, nail write the numerical value of the selected card's location adjacent to the cent mark. In our example, that would be "30$."
Since the spectator still hasn't fully identified the card he's thinking of, you're ready for a spectacular finish. Explain that you paid 30$ for the deck (show the price on the label affixed to the card box). Have the spectator remove the deck and count down thirty cards in a face-down pile on the table.
Finally, ask him to call aloud, for the first time, the card he's been thinking of. When he responds, "Eight of Hearts," have him turn over the 30th card and show it to the audience. (Author's note: the delightful "yard sale" scam should be credited to Harry and Leslie Anderson).
Alternative #2: Prepare a prediction by typing, on a 3" x 5" file card:
To Whom It May Concern: I Larry Becker, on this (fill-in date) day of (fill-in month) predict that a member of the audience will of his own free will and accord, think of a playing card that will occupy the position in a deck of playing cards. Signed, Larry Becker.
Seal the card in an envelope and place it in your inside jacket pocket. At the beginning of the effect, remove the envelope and place it in full view. The stacked deck of cards should be boxed and also sitting on the table. State that the envelope will play a significant role in the demonstration that's about to take place. After you've determined the identity and location of the spectator's card, have the spectator remove the cards and hold them face-down, ready for dealing. Tear open the envelope and remove the file card. After flashing the print side momentarily, read aloud your prediction, filling in (miscalling) the actual location (in our example, "30th") between the words, "the" and "position."
Have the spectator call aloud the name of the card he's thinking of. As he turns over the 30th card, ditch the prediction card in your pocket and acknowledge the 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.