As I write this, the nastiest and tightest federal election in memory has just occurred in Canada. The media and the pollsters were dead wrong in their prediction of the results of the vote and have been eating humble pie (as much as they ever do) ever since. Yet after just a few days, the newspapers across Canada have carried a small item entitled "Kreskin Correctly Predicted Election Results" or something like that. Sure enough the article explains how the Amazing Kreskin had predicted the final tally, almost exactly, in an envelope which he had sent out weeks previously. He's not even Canadian - although he largely built his career on television here - but here's the Amazing One himself getting awesome PR using his "favourite method"!
The media love headline predictions and nothing seems to get more attention for mentalists. Although I'm reminded of a comment Lee Earle once made at a lecture when he suggested that it's always best to predict pictures not actual headlines. Otherwise you may find yourself in a bizarre ethical dilemma when you "predict" but fail to "warn" some terrible human tragedy which happens to occur on the day your revelation is opened. For example, predicting a photo on the cover of the national newspaper on September 12th of "two tall buildings ablaze", is a lot more appropriate and believable than having your prediction opened to reveal that you knew clairvoyantly that two planes were going to fly into the World Trade Centre on September 11th killing scores of people! (It would also probably keep U.S. federal agents from knocking on your door as well.)
I've had remarkable success with such things as predicting such things as lottery numbers, front page photographs and sports scores using the routine I'd like to share with you now. Canadian television has been particularly good to me with this method. While this sort of thing works best "on the air" it certainly can fit nicely with a special stage performance. In such an on stage performance, the credibility of the person entrusted to hold the prediction envelope in the days leading up to the performance is a major concern.
The methods used by celebrated news getters like Dunninger, Doug Henning and Kreskin obviously employ a switch of sort, just before the contents of the prediction are revealed. The special tape or letter with the correct revelation needs to be substituted from the one in possession of the official guarding it. Usually this happens right under the noses prior to the performance or revelation.
Over the years I've employed various methods to achieve this. One of the coolest involved an update of any approach using a specially prepared tape recorder. The idea evolved out of a method developed for Doug Henning. He used to use a big gimmicked cassette tape recorder that concealed a secretly played back second tape. The previously guarded prediction tape was dropped into this machine which he brought along and the supervising official or reporter hit the Play button. This triggered the second tape which played out the speakers instead of the prediction tape. The audio illusion was perfect!
Here's what I used to do instead. A blank mini cassette in a clearly sealed envelope was couriered in advance to the event organizer, DJ or show Producer and they were told to keep it secure for days or in some cases, weeks. 1 deliberately used a small micros cassette in a well sealed envelope to discourage tampering or premature peeking. On the big day, when my prediction was going to be revealed with me present to take credit for it all of course, I'd have the
official remove the tape and sign it so that I couldn't be accused of switching it. I'd pop it into my trusty micro tape player and hitting the play button my voice would boom out of the machine, as confidently as Kreskin, with my splendid and astonishingly accurate prediction! I'd even give them their signed cassette tape back as a souvenir, which of course they could play back any time to hear it over again. (I once even GAVE a radio host from the C.B.C my little recorder which he had seemed sceptical about). Very cool stuff indeed!
< Blackened Record & Play Button
My secret was that the little tape player was, of course, also a recorder. The cassette tape was generally blank at the start. (Although later on I started to record prediction nonsense to open up a Plan B, just in case). When 1 was pushing Play to allegedly play it back, in actuality, I was simultaneously pushing the record AND play buttons. (Which is generally how the recording function works on these things anyway). As a subtlety, I blackened the typically red Recording button to match the Play button, to fiirther enhance the deception. The Panasonic brand I used accommodated my needs farther by embedding the smaller record button right within the Play button!
So if the machine was recording where did my prediction come from? Hidden under my shirt, I had another small cassette player hanging from a long neck chain. Once I had the blank prediction tape in the visible machine, with my right hand Fd hold it in front of my chest in proximity to the other hidden machine's speaker (and typically a microphone for the show) and press Play AND Record. The hidden machine's Play button could be activated, through my shirt, at a convenient moment with my left hand, when the attention was elsewhere. (I found that the act of fiddling with the little tape recorder, with my right hand, to ''adjust it" for the studio or stage microphone was plenty of cover, to do my secret business with my left hand, behind it.)
This all sounds a bit complicated perhaps but it was elegantly simple for me in execution. In recent years however, Fve found all of this technology too much of a hassle and contrary to my quest for minimalism in my mentalism. I want the same impact but with much simpler method ... and props. Harland Tarbell game me the method I was looking for one day as I browsed through Volume 5 of his astonishing resource The Tarbell Course In Magic (Circa 1925!). [Note: Ted Lesley also developed his own version which he dubbed the "Teleport Envelope" and it is lovingly described in his seminal work "Para-Miracles".]
Here's how 1 perform it today. It's pure and simple and boggles everyone, especially the media. One well known television host once said to me after doing this to her, as soon as we were off the air, "I've seen a lot of things on this show, but that's the most f***ing amazing thing I've ever seen".
Long before show time, I courier an envelope to an official or V.I.P. whom I'm certain will be attending my performance. If it's a television or radio appearance I send it to the show's producer. I meet with them just before the show starts to insure they still have the envelope and to confirm that they have hidden it previously and insured that no one has tampered with it.
During the show, I invite the same official up on stage and ask them the same questions. They assure me and the audience that nobody has come into contact with the envelope and that its content has not been touched by me or anyone else. The courier markings are clearly visible. I hand them scissors and they cut the courier envelope open. I do NOT touch the envelope at any time on stage. Inside is another envelope which has been signed previously, and again they open this envelope and remove the letter inside. Again, I do NOT touch this envelope or letter either.
Despite the fact that no switch could have taken place under these conditions, the letter contains a series of statements which refer to things that have happened since the show began as well as specific predictions of the day's lottery numbers, sport scores or voting results! The letter also predicts wild applause and this too comes true.
This is exactly how it appears in performance...
(For the secret please turn to page 35]
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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.