BeAi Steele JecAeĆ¹i

Down through the ages have come hut few noted billet readers, and Invariably such men have been able to fool Kings, Premiers, Presidents, and scientists. Or. Lynn,and Foster, the medium, were two of renown, but In the past 30 years one man stood out as a charlatan par excellence at the business of reading the folded slip. The man was Berthold Riess, born in 1841 In Posen, which was then Prussian but now Polish. Later he became known universally as Bert Reese and before his death In 1928 had crossed the ocean over 50 times to humbug such people as Charles II. Schwab, Ignace Jan Paderewski, Premier Mussolini , Woodrow Wilson, Warren Harding and Thomas Edison. Professor Hugo Muensterberg, of Harvard, became such a believer in Reese's powers that he was preparing a book on him when death prevented its finish.

As I look through my file of articles, clips and stories about the doings of Bert Reese, I marvel at the constantly appearing statements that he never touched the written on paper. It is a psychological point of importance to any and all performers who do anything of this nature. Only a trained observer of such things can give an accurate account of every move, even though they may not know the method of trickery. What, to the ordinary spectator, may be the most natural of movements, can be the one detail that would solve the problem In recounting the experience.

Thus, what may seem like a bare faced and rather open action to a performer not acquainted with this type of deception, it being psychologically different in its entirety from the technique of magic, may be looked upon as a phenomenon by the most educated, and far removed from the realm of what would be, in their eyes, sleight-of-hand or Just trick stuff. It is important that a performer remember then, that an audience is In a different frame of mind at the time it watches a billet reading exhibition, and traditionally magical gestures of sleeve rolling or of showing the hands empty are ridiculous, not mentioning ruinous. The last detail I want to bring out is that the only really great and successful humbugs in this line have not demonstrated from the theatrical stage but rather fran the lecture platform and In the semi-privacy of the home and drawing rooms where the theatrical atmosphere is not present, 'id the demonstration Is cloakeu with a scientific or almost religious demeanor.

Reese did not care whether his subjects called it telepathy or spiritism, being content to let people credit him with whatever solution of power they deemed most fitting. Here was a good point as he did not antagonize any particular group but left it to their own individual credulity and gullibility.

He ever was ready to demonstrate at any moment or place, another point which emphasized his benign sincerity of purpose In making use of his apparently strange faculty.

Above has been illustrated one of his routines using three sitters. Reese is sitting at the left. Borrowing a piece of writing paper, he tore it Into slips about two by three inches. He would be standing at the time, and this done while the others were sitting down and making ready. Five slips were put on the table, the rest of the sheet being crumpled up and tossed away. However, Reese really would make six slips and retain one, folded once in each direction, as a dummy for his own use. A detail here was that afterwards, the sitters would relate that he had used their own private tinted or watermarked paper rather than any of his own. How he walked around the room while questions were being written to dead people on the slips and folded once each way. The folded papers were mixed together on the table and Reese would take his seat, the dummy billet being finger palmed in the right hand. He then said, "Give one to this lady to hold," pointing to the one farthest away, and the sitter opposite him (a man In this case) would hand her one paper. Reese had not touched it but the pointing was being done to aocustom all to the gesture. "Give one to this lady," he'd say next, pointing as before but to lady next to him. The gesture was once more planted, and moreso when he repeated it again by having another paper given to the first lady. Now he would tell the gentleman to keep the remaining two, but as an after thought would say, "Perhaps we'd better let this lady have another." This time he would casually take the slip being passed over to the lady next to him, complete the six or eight Inch journey, but in that space make the switch for the dummy which she would hold. The stolen slip was dropped into his lap and opened with the left hand while, with his right, he'd make marks on a sheet of paper on the table and apparently get his answer from these while attention (please turn back to page 139)

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