You begin the effect by opening an envelope, then emptying it, removing a column of newsprint, two smaller coin envelopes, and a large folded piece of paper. You explain the folded paper is your prediction regarding the newspaper column. You replace the prediction in the envelope, seal it, then place it aside in full view of the spectators.
You explain the newspaper clipping is a column of want ads, then show what you've said is true by displaying it to several spectators up close. Holding the strip of newspaper at your very fingertips, and without changing position, you pick up the scissors as you invite a spectator to call stop as you run down the column with the open blades.
When the helper designates you should stop, you do so, exactly where indicated, snipping the column. The lower part flutters to the floor. Not going near the snipped-off piece, you ask the helper to pick it up and seal it in a coin envelope — either — he's free to choose.
You approach another spectator, requesting he follow the identical procedure. He tells you where to stop with the open-bladed scissors, you snip off the lower part of the column. Ask that he pick it up, and seal it in the remaining coin envelope. Again, you stand away, emphasizing you will not come near the cut off piece on the floor.
You now ask the first helper to put both envelopes behind his back and mix them. Requesting he make his selection carefully, he chooses one coin envelope, retaining the other.
With you standing away, the helper opens the envelope, and removes the strip of newspaper within. You now stress the piece of newspaper he's holding has two sides with different wording at the uppermost line of each side. The spectator confirms it does. You direct him to choose one side — he has a completely free selection — then read out loud the top line of the side he's chosen, so the rest of the audience can hear it.
You direct attention back to your sealed prediction, which hasn't left the audience's sight for an instant. You remind the spectators you showed the prediction before you started and haven't touched it since. You recap that each helper indicated exactly where they wanted the newspaper strip cut; the strips were mixed without you ever touching them; one was freely selected — the other is still in possession of the helper. The side of the strip the helper wished to use was also freely selected, then read to the audience. Everything is completely aboveboard.
You now pick up the prediction envelope and snip off the end. Clearly showing the envelope otherwise empty, you extract the single sheet of paper and unfold it. Written on the paper in large bold letters are the exact words the assisting spectator just read to the audience!
After the climax, the assisting spectator not only leaves the stage as baffled as the other audience members, but takes the envelopes and pieces of newspaper he's used with him. No clue remains.
Inspired by some thoughts by Charles Reynolds at the 1988 "Thirteen Invitational" get-together using the Hobson's Choice idea, and several ideas of my own, you've just read the effect I finally settled on.
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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.