Magic vs Mentalism?

Instead of mentally projecting your mentalism thoughts, type them here.

Postby Brian Marks » 03/09/04 11:59 PM

I don't get it. I simply don't get it. Explain why magicians should not do effects of mindreading. I understand why mentalists shouldn't break out into a cups and balls routine during their act, it just has no place. Why cant I do a thought of cards across or bend a spoon, or do a mental card effect? Invisible deck is nothing more than a prediction. Rising card could use telepthy.
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Postby Guest » 03/10/04 12:20 AM

There is no reason you shouldn't, and visa-versa.
Depending on the performer's persona and premise, might determine that. It has been said before, those who don't think you can do one or the other, should remember the most (commercially) successful mentalists: Dunninger, Kreskin, Maven, Leslie, etc.) have done card, ring, and other effects, in their shows.
Pre-1940, some of the most successful mindreaders,(Alexander, Raboid, Richards, Mel-Roy, etc.) did entire illusion shows, combined with their crystal-gazing.
Likewise Carter, Blackstone, and others had mindreading segments, in their shows.
Do what you want to do, and your audience(s) will tell you if they like it or not.

Postby Guest » 03/10/04 09:50 AM

Not really has to be a debate, more of discussion, there is no absolute right or wrong side. Reading the names/examples,(above post) of those who have combined both, it depends on the performer, if they can make it work. Again, it does depend on the premise/persona/venue of the performer. It would look silly for John Edward or Uri Geller to do card effects, or even a book test or tossed-out-deck.(If you were psychic, would you want to use your powers doing a book test?) But for other entertainers performing in an entertainment venue, (Virgil and Julie, another example) some can and have made it work. I personally like to do/see one, or the other, but others have made it work. I like Ted Leslie who entertains his audiences, without needing to make claims or dis(claim)ers, and just jumps in and dazzles his audience, they taking the results whenever they want to.
"You should be convincing to those who believe, and mystifying and entertaining, to those who don't." (Dr. Anton LaVey-1997)

Postby Guest » 03/10/04 06:22 PM

I went to see David Copperfield last weekend and I estimate that almost half of his show was mentalism based.

Of course after he revealed the audiences selected numbers on license plates held by a spectator he made the whole car appear... :0

I think the blend worked very well for him, but not everyone can be him.

The more I lean my presentation to mentalism the more I can find "magic" tricks in my stash that can be mentalism by the patter presented.

I just picked up "Pre-Thoughts" by Shaw and he also states that mentalism and magic can co-exist in the same routine. I think seeing Copperfield really cemented this idea for me.

Postby Guest » 03/11/04 02:42 PM

Nothing wrong with magicians doing mental effects (notice I did not say mentalism) except that they will not be perceived in the same light. Magicians are known for their "trickery" and truthfully, now adays, mentalists are too. Psychic Entertainers (some will say that is too fine a line to draw though) perform things that just might be real. It is all in the perception.

mentalism is generally perceived that it might be real. Mental magic is not. We are talking about the same trick being performed and only it's perception from the audience on it. That is where the difference is.

A magician that does the linking finger rings is applauded for his great skill at manipulating the truth and creating a great illusion. A Psychic Entertainer is credited with using his "mental powers" to link the rings together. The same goes for the revealing of a thought of card.

Copperfield does not, no matter how strong the mental magic he does is, get credit for reading the minds of his audience and instead gets a "How on earht does he do that?" whereas Kreskin gets a "Oh my! The things he can do is amazing. I wish I had that power".

Now that perception sometimes is credited anyway. Years ago when I was performing magic publicly and NOT mentalism, I still had some people that truly did beleive that I could control their thoughts even though they knew I was a MAGICIAN. They were convinced that what I was doing was of supernatural origin. No matter what I told them, they were sure they were right in their perception. Dunninger was right. For those that know.....

PSIncerely Yours,
Paul Alberstat
AB Stagecraft
Supplying unique mentalism world-wide

Postby Guest » 03/12/04 11:31 AM

LOL. A rose by any other name. For me, and I find that it also affects public perception, by calling myself a "psychic entertainer" tells lay people more about what i do that calling myself a "mentalist" PLUS I also find that it allows them to assume that HOW I accomplish what I do is via psychic means as opposed to wondering if it is real or tricks. It works in the same way as the hype you have before a hypnosis show. The audience comes with a preformed opinion and expectations and when they arrive at the show already under the impression that you can do what is advertised (such as hypnotising the audience) your job is far easier.

PSIncerely Yours,
Paul Alberstat
AB Stagecraft
Supplying unique mentalism world-wide

Postby Brian Marks » 03/14/04 02:08 PM

Audiences are more willing to suspend disbelief for mentalism than magic shows, even if you the same exact tricks, with the same exact presentations. People are less willing to believe you have magical powers than if you have psycic abilities. Hmmm...Thay automatically think there is a trick if a card magically appears in my wallet but think I am amazing if I keep a prediction of their card in my wallet.
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Postby Guest » 04/21/04 04:38 AM

I have decided to resurrect this old thread because I see that Scott is chattering away. I want him to continue getting $1500 fees on a more regular basis so that he has better ammunition to fight Opie with.

For years and years I believed that you should never mix mentalism and magic. I thought that it was all right for a magician to do mentalism but not the other way around.

I have changed my mind. Nowadays I believe that not only is it acceptable it is ADVISABLE. In a strange paradoxical way by including magic (the right sort of magic)audiences are MORE LIKELY, not less likely to believe you are real.

Surprised by my analyis? Don't be. You must remember that I am an unparalled genius in these matters. Actually I have thought about this a lot and I do believe I have sound psychological reasons for this belief. It sounds odd and does go against the grain but I do believe I am correct in my analysis.

Many mentalists have included magic and have been very successful. They probably did it because they wanted to and instinctively sensed it did no harm. They may not have analysed why it did no harm and in fact may have felt guilty that they were including the magic because of the standard wisdom that you shouldn't. However, I [censored] whose word is naturally gospel, have decided in my great and wondrous brilliance that the standard wisdom is WRONG.

Not only do I think it is OK to include magic I think it ADVISABLE. I actively advocate it.People are more likely to think you are real if you do.

There that should get Scott all excited. Other people too, no doubt.

However I have an advantage over them in this argument. I am [censored] and they are not.

I rest my case.

Postby Guest » 04/21/04 11:10 AM

Scott. If you wish to earn those $1500 fees you must first remember that the average laymen does not believe a mentalist reads minds anyway. Unless of course the layman comes from California.
There they really think that David Copperfield can fly.

We British know that he can't because we see people flying in pantomine every year.

If you wish to go down the road of convincing people that you really can read minds then include some magic at the beginning of your show.Kreskin does this and this induces people not from California to believe he is really psychic. There are plenty of daft people in the world. Look at the members of your local magic club if you don't believe me.

There are sound psychological reasons for this which I do not have the energy to explain at the moment.

Besides if the wisdom is given out too freely it will not be appreciated. Other people have found that my approach works yet they have no idea why it works. They are doing it with a sense of unease because magic books say they should not do it.

I say they should do it. And I know exactly why it works. Naturally this is because I am a master psychologist.

Various members of the Psychic Entertainers Association will tell you that I am talking nonsense. The proof that I am not talking nonsense is the very fact that I am not a member of the PEA.

I shall discuss the matter with you later. Let us hope that Chicago is not raining today. I expect you need to earn some money. You have no doubt blown the $1500 you earned recently by wasting it on wine and women. I won't say song. I do not wish you to sing. I expect your mentalism is agonising enough. Your website pictures certainly are. I do wish you would stick your tongue back in. You will put potential corporate bookers off their breakfast.

And it doesn't make you look very psychic either.
Mental perhaps. Mentalist I am not so sure of.

I think you will make it in showbusiness though. You seem to have sufficient nerve and determination.

Postby Guest » 04/25/04 09:25 PM

It all has to do with the context you are selling yourself as. If you are a mentalist, who also knows a few tricks, that usually seems to work, as long as you draw a distinct line between the two.

It also depends on the context of your entire performance. Copperfield flying around the stage immediately after telling his story about dreaming to fly is a thing of beauty. It is a pretty piece of theater and is amazes the audience.

If Copperfield was to fly around the stage during intermission of a theatrical production of Peter Pan, the audience would not care, because they see everyone else onstage doing it also.

Perform a mentalism effect on its own and it a thing of beauty. Stick it in the middle of a bunch of magic tricks, and the audience will not care how good it is, they will dismiss it as another trick.

Postby Guest » 04/26/04 04:57 AM

All I'm going to add to this is Magicians are way more fun to hang out with. They don't take themselves as seriously as some mentalists I won't mention.


Postby Brad Henderson » 04/26/04 10:17 AM

Then apparently you aren't hanging out with any of hte mentalists I know.
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Postby Richard Kaufman » 04/26/04 11:45 AM

There is actually a decent discussion to be had on this topic, but it isn't yet happening in this thread.
I will leave the thread open if some of you want to take a stab and discussing the idea of magic versus mentalism.
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Postby Guest » 04/26/04 12:12 PM

It is unfortunate what is intended to be a discussion, decends to personal, childish, "so there", blurbs.
This topic and similar ones, have been repeated over and over.
Again, it is the performer's persona, premise, and performing venue, that can determine what you want to do.
Realize those, no matter how hard,(and well) you work at being taken seriously, there are those who will regard/dismiss you as simply an entertainer...Likewise, despite giving disclaimers, and doing hippity-hop rabbits and balloon animals, while you do a light, even farcical mental presentation, there are others who will have no reason to believe that it WASN'T real.
(I have just counted how many posts I've left, and realize I need to stop this paying attention to all this, and go out and get a real job.)

Postby Brad Henderson » 04/26/04 01:17 PM

I think we as performers need to ask ourselves, how are we "really" accomplishing the effects we present. By that I mean, what skills or powers are the apparent cause as far as the theatrical vision is concerned.

If our "method" is sleight of hand or concealed trickery, then any mental presentation you offer will be seen as a trick. If the method used is "the manipulation of perception" then I think magic and mentalism work well together.

Now if you are presenting your effects as being the result of the possession of some "power" or gift, then as long as that gift could possibly exact the results you require, then magic and mentalism fit.

So, the key in my mind, is trying to understand what is it as a performer which is our motive power. I think this should be applied to all facets of magic. When we do that, our work will benefit from a greater clarity.
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Postby Guest » 04/26/04 07:24 PM

One of the reasons, I switched from magic to mentalism is that I found it was generally regarded as children's entertainment. Even when I spent months working on routines for grown ups, I'd get comments, like I wish my kids were here to see this. btw I think kid's shows are much harder to do than mentalism. So I'm not putting down kids shows
I don't think any rational adult sees magic as real. No matter how well you produce that dove or 6 of spades. They believe it's a trick or illusion
Some will try to figure it out, some will enjoy the entertainment. I believe which depends on their persona and the quality of the entertainment
Many people, on the other hand, find mind reading plausible. Not to say they are buying it hook line and sinker, but plausible. I sense magicians are annoyed by this difference and suffer from premise envy. While mentalism appears to be easier to do, I think it's harder to do well
Many of the best mentalist have a strong background in sleight of hand, which alllows them to accomoplish the type of sleights used in mentalism. Admittedly many less
As to who's more fun to hang out with, I guess most people prefer those who agree with them

Postby Brad Henderson » 04/27/04 12:43 AM

I think Ford has hit on something, that I would like to expand upon. I think the reason that many people think of magic as a children's event is because most magic is presented childishly.

The magician wears cartoonish clothing. They treat the spectators like marks, and insult them in order to get others to laugh at them like a schoolyard game. And they manage to trivialize wonder into puzzles and guessing games.

If someone were to offer sophisticated presentations then, if they can overcome the prejudice left by others who have come before, they can change the minds of their audience members. But many magicians don't want to do anything really "interesting" with their magic. Instead they pray to this god called "ENTERTAINMENT" which is really, in their work, nothing more than goofy diversions, albeit in a playing card vest.

Schindler's List was a great movie, but I wouldn't call it ENTERTAINING. I was in tears at the end of Les Miserables, was that entertaining? I can stand for hours at the MOMA, am I being "ENTERTAINED?"

Entertainment/entertaining is really a lousy word and much damage had been wraught in its name. Think about it, how many magicians say "I'm not a magician, I'm an entertainer." Now think of how many of them do magic which is non-deceptive with hackneyed jokes. (Now, there are some exceptions, but not many.) What they really mean is, "I offer a diversion of dubious originality and caliber." Is magic merely a "diversion?"

Mind reading transcends mere entertainment into the realm of ENGAGEMENT. Now, great magic is engaging as well, don't get me wrong. But the magician has to work a little harder to create premises/presentations which are engaging to intelligent adults.

As Ford pointed out, the mind reading premise is automatically engaging for many audiences. Sadly, this allows many mindreaders the opportunity to perform long, drawn out routines that are often lampooned. Because the premise is so engaging, the mind reader is not forced to develop engaging presentations and proceedures. The audience will often tolerate this due to the power of the premise. Sadly, this often results in not only bad entertainment, but more importantly, bad THEATER.

Our audiences deserve great presentations and proceedures regardless of the premise. (And presentations are linked to method. Method AFFECTS the EFFECT.)

See, there are people out there who believe a booktest is a booktest. They cannot see the difference between having three cards selected, adding their values, counting down that many lines, rolling 4 dice, adding their values, counting across that many words..... and "Grab any book on the shelf, open the book to any page, look at ANY word."

But the later is a better trick and offers the potential for a more engaging presentation if the situation is truly taken advantage of. Of course, in a poor performer's hands both will suffer. And a great performer can make the first scenario fly. But a great performer seeks out the best tools, because more can be crafted with them. The best method, with the best presentation, and an inherently engaging premise is a recipe for success.

Now, can the same be made of magic? Of course, but one must divest themselves of childish trappings and learn to think and act like an adult if they expect to have their work respected by adults. They must offer magic which is bullet proof and deceptive. They must offer premises and presentations which engage and intrigue. And they must cultivate a respect for our art, not an aversion to it.
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Postby Steve Bryant » 04/27/04 06:12 AM

Americans (older Americans) were conditioned by Ed Sullivan. Whoever he had on -- Jay Marshall, Marvyn Roy, Richiardi -- Ed would always say, "And now, something for the kids in the audience ..." Mark Wilson of course also emphasized that magic was for kids. It wasn't until Doug Henning came along that magic became acceptable for adults, both on tv and in the theater. And then David Copperfield, the Gary Ouellet series, etc.
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Postby David Alexander » 04/27/04 01:32 PM

Well, not exactly. There were hundreds of nite club magicians who worked all through the 30s, 40s, and 50s in venues that did not permit children, so it hardly required the coming of Doug Henning to show that magic could be for adults. Theatrically, there was Blackstone, Sr, Virgil, Faust, John Daniel, and a host of others who produced large-scale theatrical magic that was commercially successful well before Doug came on the scene. Television put something of a dent in the theater for a period of time, but it bounced back.

Doug established himself via a successful Broadway muscial that helped make him a viable theatrical attraction.
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Postby Steve Bryant » 04/27/04 02:20 PM

I was thinking in more modern times. Going back only a little more in history, there was Dunninger on tv, profiled in The New Yorker, etc., and was considered an adult, not children's, entertainer. Which gets back to the topic at hand.
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Postby Brad Henderson » 04/27/04 04:35 PM

I am curious. Even though these men were successful in a night club venue, what were their patrons intial reaction to them and magic? Was it something they had to overcome?

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Postby Guest » 04/27/04 09:44 PM

Why Magic vs Mentalism?

They are both of the same craft. The persona and attitude of presentation may be different -- but the principles are the same. Direct the public's attention into thinking something entertaining, mysterious and extra-normal has occurred. Something beyond their ken. Paranormal like Rowland -- gutsy ala Richardi -- darkly funny ala Burger -- full of wonder ala McBride -- humor in "old" magic ala Thomsoni (& Co.)?

Where some mentalists get into it with "magicians" are when the mentalists start fooling with the public's belief systems. Gellar/Randi clashes abound at a quieter level. In another forum -- some are discussing Copperfield's Powers (rather than his genius.) Some thought Houdini was a medium who did not know it.

If a carefully considered character entertains -- in the magical arts -- and peoplmostly suspect the fan club is not a cult -- both presentations of physical magic (from producing bunnies up and down in scale) to wondering how Osterland discerned what was on the billet he just burned -- or Ian Rowland drew that picture -- or Banachek bent that fork -- are all achieved by means we mutually study.

Having said that -- how do you mix them???? Could -- say-- Mac King Read Minds ----- sure -- and he would get a laugh (and wonderment) too. Could Banacheck cut people in 4? Sure if he wanted to pay and work on an illusion that was well and gone a lot heavier than a dozen forks.

Penn and Teller challenge physical magic and get raked (unjustifiably) over the coals. They too firewalk - and do geek magic (a form of bizarre mental control, no?) to gain great lines of publicity -- and for their shows.

I am not in love with Kreskin's persona -- and I do not make the sums he does. Johnathan Edwards ??? A magician or charlatan? It was only in the 1800s the terms were more synonomous than today.

My latest personal challenge -- a skeptical seance with magic and mind-f mixed to educate and astonish. Not easy -- but only accomplished by using both magic and the deceptions of mentalism from Corrinda, Anneman, Becker, Riggs, Denomolos and Brother Shadow. Ask the creator of the Lizzy Borden Seance whether he mixed magic and mentalism. The drama of magic MUST affect the mind, and the magic of the mind must have an effect that dramatically affects the audience.


Entertain! Use the Whole arsenal! If you have a psychic bunny --and can maximize your fees and entertain with it --- god bless. (Funny coming from an atheist,)

Just as bad magicians unknowingly expose tricks or bore people - so do bad mentalists. My feeling is that mentalism -- done well -- takes a lot more work than the average "magician" who is not a full time pro -- is willing to put in.

That same magician also thinks mentalism looks easy --- and light to carry. Those are not good reasons to be a mentalist. As with magic -- it is the love of the craft and the careful delightful presentation of it that matter.

So -- rather than Magic Vs. Mentalism -- how about Magic and Mentalism -- improving both, particularly in the same "act." How to????

Postby David Alexander » 04/27/04 10:34 PM

No, they didn't have to overcome the burden of being a magician. The successful ones were interesting people so the audience was curious about what they were doing. Think of Frakson and Russell Swann, the two I'm most familiar with...and Paul Rosini who could control an audience with the simplest of card effects. They were interested to see how it all turned out.

Gene Roddenberry once succinctly summarized the "secret" of his success and, by extension, that of every successful performer when he asked me rhetorically, "What's more interesting than people." People are interested in other people. It's just that simple. If you're interesting, people will pay attention, but, of course, you'd better deliver on the unspoken promise.

People paid money to see Dunninger or Blackstone or Calvert or Faust or a whole variety of people because they were interested in seeing what they did.

I make certain that in my introductions the audience knows that I have performed in over 30 countries, in seven languages, that I was the first entertainer who worked for Princess Cruises. The last thing they're told before I walk on is that I wrote Gene's authorized biography. Suddenly, I'm "somebody" and I'm about to do a lot of interesting they pay attention and enjoy themselves because I'm interacting with them, validating them in a certain way because while they're paying attention to me, I'm paying attention to them. They preceive that I'm an accomplished person, therefore what I do must be good and important. It is an interesting "dance."

I once pointed out to Ormond McGill that the hypnotic induction actually begins with the performer's poster. Ormond was surprised that anyone else knew that because it had never been published, but he said I was absolutely correct.

The necessity of establishing a interesting performing persona cannot be over emphasized because you set the audiences's expectations at a high level. The quality performer then delivers.
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Postby Brad Henderson » 04/28/04 01:14 AM

David, you make very good points. I think the danger comes when someone sees a performer and can go "magician." There is baggage there, baggage which we have packed for our art over the years. Maybe it is their look, their swagger, their rhythm; but they are immediately "pigeon hole-able" and no longer worthy of curiosity or interest except by those already interested in "magicians."

In your example, you circumvent the "magician" connotation by listing an array of accomplishments, so even if you are a "magician" you are clearly of a "higher order." You create interest which superceeds the mere appelation of "magician."

And I think the "interesting people" observation is important. From the pictures I have seen, I think the men you have mentioned would have turned heads as they walked into a room, and NOT because they were wearing a playing card vest or ballon hat.

I think great performers transcend what their audiences think of magic and even magicians. The danger comes when you fall too closely in line with what they expect, perhaps?
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Postby Guest » 04/28/04 08:05 AM

[QUOTE]Originally posted by C.H.Mara:
[QB] Why Magic vs Mentalism?

They are both of the same craft. The persona and attitude of presentation may be different -- but the principles are the same. Direct the public's attention into thinking something entertaining, mysterious and extra-normal has occurred. Something beyond their ken. Paranormal like Rowland -- gutsy ala Richardi -- darkly funny ala Burger -- full of wonder ala McBride -- humor in "old" magic ala Thomsoni (& Co.)?

From Ford
I really don't think they are the same craft. They use , very often similar methodology. But the psychologu os different. The presentation is different. Cetrtainlty, I don't see mentalism done in mime being successfull

Where some mentalists get into it with "magicians" are when the mentalists start fooling with the public's belief systems. Gellar/Randi clashes abound at a quieter level. In another forum -- some are discussing Copperfield's Powers (rather than his genius.) Some thought Houdini was a medium who did not know it.

From Ford
I'm not sure what you mean by that. If you're saying that, some performers, show no respect for audiences belief systems. And if they believe in the paranormal or supernatural, they're moronic. Than we agree

Just as bad magicians unknowingly expose tricks or bore people - so do bad mentalists. My feeling is that mentalism -- done well -- takes a lot more work than the average "magician" who is not a full time pro -- is willing to put in.
From Ford
We agree here
That same magician also thinks mentalism looks easy --- and light to carry. Those are not good reasons to be a mentalist. As with magic -- it is the love of the craft and the careful delightful presentation of it that matter.
From Ford
Here too!

Postby Brian Marks » 04/28/04 05:33 PM

If mentalism is a different craft than magic, the same could be said of illusions from close up. They are the same craft, just different aspects of it.

Mentalism works better for adults because it doesnt carry the persona of children's entertainment. My uncle pulled a quarter from ear, he didn't read my mind. Mentalists dont mention they are doing tricks. Everyone knows a magician does tricks.

I often find someone who does good mentalism for a over 20 minutes in a stage show begins to bore me. This is because after seeing a mentalist do the impossible, the show will continue along the same rythym and is visually boring. A magic trick or two would break this up and the show could return to normal
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Postby Guest » 04/28/04 06:21 PM

I came across this posting on another group. It is a long post but it seems to be relevant to the subject under discussion.
Anyway. Here it is:

This subject has been discussed a million times. It has been done to death, in fact.
Yet has it?
I think I have a new perspective on the matter. Actually it is not a new perspective from my point of view. I figured this out years and years ago.

When I first started performing decades ago I used to believe the standard wisdom that you should never mix the two. It took about 25 years for me to realise reluctantly that the standard wisdom was WRONG.

It became obvious to me that I had followed the wrong philosophy for a quarter of a century. Not only is it perfectly acceptable to mix the two I have discovered that it is ADVISABLE. Nowadays I do not merely say vaguely that you can perhaps mix the two. I say that you SHOULD mix the two. I was almost tempted to say that you MUST mix the two but I will resist it because there are always exceptions.

I first got suspicious of the rule because there seemed to be too many exceptions to it. A few exceptions here and there I can accept but when I noticed that 80% of the really big names in mentalism mixed the two I thought that there had to be something else going on.

Dunninger mixed the two. Kreskin still does.
Berglas mixes the two and in fact always used to finish his mental act with pickpocketing!
Al Koran bragged and bragged to me that his Linking Rings was a show stopper. His actual words " I open my mental act with the rings and it is a show stopper. Yes. A mental act!!!"
He seemed to be very proud that he did the rings in a mental act and emphasised the seeming incongruity of such. He seemed quite delighted by it.

With great trepidation I introduced magic into my mentalism show expecting to be struck down by lightning and great disapproval of the multitude. Instead I was astonished to find that not only did I get stronger reaction from the audience I found that the belief in my clairvoyant powers was ENHANCED!

I have found that to be the case ever since. Whenever I have performed mentalism alone it has gone over well but less people believed that I was real. Paradoxically when I performed magic I noticed it seemed in some weird way to make the mindreading more genuine.

This was not only against standard wisdom it seemed at first to defy logic.
Could all the books I had read be wrong? I was sick as a pig to realise that they were. I had wasted 25 years following the wrong belief system.
For the last 15 years I have been trying to make up for lost time and I would suggest to newcomers that they don't waste all the time I did. You have to be very careful when reading the advice in books it seems and you must not be afraid to break the mold once in a while.

I analysed the matter and decided to figure out what was going on. After all it seemed logical that if you mixed magic with mentalism that people would think that the mentalism was just a trick like the magic they had seen.

Wrong. And I believe I have figured out why. I often suspect that people who mix magic and mentalism with good results do it out of instinct based on audience reaction yet feel a vague sense of guilt that they are not doing it the "proper" way. They may think that somehow they are an odd exception and this is why it is working. It might be helpful to these people to realise why it is working and why what they are doing is producing seemingly illogical results but successful nevertheless.

I believe that it is all to do with the subconcious resentment people have against being fooled. Every magician has come up against this. This is why hecklers appear and why certain people show as little reaction as they can to magic. There are ways to overcome this problem but it is beyond the scope of what I have to say here.

A mentalist is subject to another difficulty besides the resentment one. He has a scepticism factor to deal with. He has double trouble. Scepticism and resentment.

If you do mentalism alone you get this in spades. I well remember a fine mentalist performing at a certain venue. I remember that he only did mentalism with no magic of any kind. I also remember the comments afterwards.

"No such thing as mindreading" and "is he trying to insult our intelligence?" and "who is he kidding" and "he is pretty good but it is just a trick"

Contrary to what some self deluded mentalists think laymen can be a bit more astute than they are given credit for. Sure there are a few laymen who will believe it is real but the vast majority do not. Some people do have a bit of common sense.

The natural scepticism and defensive resentment factor worked against this fellow even though he was a fine performer.

Now perhaps you can see where I am going with this. If you start with some magic a strange thing happens. A kind of reverse psychology. It is like you have made a disclaimer without having to say it out loud. You are implying that you are not real. That what you do is trickery and entertainment. However, subconsiously the audience relaxes. When you do the mindreading it seems that you are not claiming anything at all. The scepticism and resentment factor has been removed.
Paradoxically this brings out the belief in weird things that lurks in all of us. All the more so because you have not claimed anything. You have let the audience believe the idea was theirs alone.

Dale Carnegie once said "let the other fellow believe the idea is his"
By doing magic first (I recommend starting with it and keeping it separate from the mentalism-do not mix and match) a strange thing happens in the spectators mind. They form the idea that what you do is real OF THEIR OWN ACCORD. It is not pushed down their throat in the same way it is if you do the mentalism alone.

As I have said many mentalists have instinctively known that they can mix the two but may have wondered why. I believe the above reasoning is why.

Think about it.

Postby Guest » 05/27/04 11:54 AM

:eek: WOW! Some very good thinking going on here and I do agree with a great deal of what's been said. My problem in "the mix" is when a 13-14 year old kid presents MOB at a birthday party, simply because mommy and daddy have the bucks to get him the latest trendy effect that's "in vogue."

Magic & Mentalism are "cousin" systems just as Juggling and Ventriloquism are said to be related to this estranged craft we all love and hold dear. In each and every instance we are creating ILLUSIONS of one form or another and typically do so for the sake of amusement and/or education.

My personal transition away from stage magic and big illusions took place in a very slow way, but mainly occured for two very practical reasons. Firstly, audiences enjoyed the psychic stuff far more than the big funny looking boxes and silly costumes. Their reaction was stronger and far more supportive. Secondly, mentalism (and bizarre magick) were more comfortable for me to deal with. 90% of the time I need nothing more than a pendulum, some business cards and a pencil or two vs. a semi-truk full of overpriced junk and headaches.

The biggest draw, from a business point of view, is that I can getpaid the same amount of money I was getting when doing illusions but put more into my pocket vs. paying a crew, tending to storage, repair, etc.

Finally, there is the fact that "life gets in the way" at times and forces us to change. My health challenges have forced me away from the big stage and thus, I require magic that is powerful as well as practical -- mentalism is the answer! It allows me to be creative, to use established and legit credentials from my past and weave a much more mystical image around myself when it comes to public perception of me as "the real thing" (though I never really claim such... I walk a very thin tight rope when it comes to that issue.)

Truth is some of us are far more proficient in one or two primary fields of this craft than we are all the others. When we find our niche, as it were, we tend to get a bit defensive when Joe Schmuck from down the street puts a bit into his weekend show that we've invested hundreds of hours into... his application of said effect, no matter what it may be, robs us as Mentalist/ Psychic Entertainer from the psychological strengths said demonstration would otherwise extend.

I personally stink at doing card tricks and most slight of hand. I know this and that is why I chose not to do much in way of close-up magic. It's simply not my forte' and I am obliged, as a professional, to leave that kind of work to the guys that do it justice vs. ruining it for them and lay people alike. Thus, I do the things I do that come natural, that work for me. I keep it very low keyed and subtle. I want that investment of belief, even when I know that they know I'm spinning a yarn or two via my tall tales and set-up.

I've touched on this issue from several angles in past issues of VISIONS. There is a "right" and "wrong" way that the two can work together in my opinion. I also believe that certain aspects of "Psychic Entertainment" can be greatly enhanced and made much more commercial if and when we chose to incorporate illusion based technology, sets, costumes, special effects into a full evening program. I see this more as "Production Value" and putting a new skirt on an old dame so that she's a bit more presentable and acceptable by those viewing her.

Again, interesting thread and some dynamite responses! Keep it up!

Postby Necromancer » 05/28/04 07:08 AM

Originally posted by Craig Browning:
My personal transition away from stage magic and big illusions took place in a very slow way, but mainly occured for two very practical reasons. Firstly, audiences enjoyed the psychic stuff far more than the big funny looking boxes and silly costumes. Their reaction was stronger and far more supportive. Secondly, mentalism (and bizarre magick) were more comfortable for me to deal with.
Seems to me, your audience may have perceived your greater "comfort" with mentalism and bizarre magick (in that it was a better fit for you as a performer), and that's why they responded better to you in that guise than as a big-box illusionist.

I wish all performers, part-time and full-time, were as self-aware (for their audiences' sake as well as for their own).

Neil Tobin
Neil Tobin, Necromancer
Posts: 219
Joined: 01/22/08 01:00 PM
Location: Chicago

Postby Guest » 05/29/04 03:16 PM

Bravo Craig --

Your idea of mixing the technologies, stage dress and atmosphere of mentalism and stage magic is a direction needing exploration well outside the bizarre label it is often stuck with.

I do not know when the sterile atmosphere of presentation began to pervade the practices of mentalism -- maybe during the Houdini expose's of the fraudulent uses of stage technologies in Spiritualism's mediums. (Interesting, BTW, magicians learned more than a few things from those mediums.)

With the USA seeming clash between things scientific and some things religious -- removing the stigma of superhuman powers to attract larger audiences who might have conflict in belief systems is another reason I see many mentalist as distancing themselves from the more mysterious trappings. As part of this opinion -- based on no knowledge - just opinion -- is that Kreskin developed his presentation and character with the puchy zaney thing in a reaction to the somber and pitched battle between Geller and Randi - and continued outcries against the Jonathan Edward style of performance.

As with magic being persecuted in the middle ages -- I feel that mentalists have to be aware that societal belief in powers can start religions (even though L. Ron Hubbard was not a magician per se) and religions can use "magical means" to aid followerr's belief (billet reading - remote hidden radio transmission of information to a speaker's ear). Whether either are ethical is a matter of an individual's belief.

Why not use a seance as a place to mix both mental and physical magic? Intimate -- classy -- easy set-up --?

Postby Guest » 05/29/04 08:32 PM

Pre-1940, mentalists, especially the crystal-gazers, who did Q&A acts, often had elaborate sets, gaudy ("Eastern"/"Oriental"/"Hindo") costumes, and turbans, complete with dancers and other assistants.

This changed by, if not before 1940, as the mysterious "Oriental mystic" who had strange powers from the Far East...looked like a parody of themselves.
By that time, J.B. Rhine, with his experiments at Duke University, helped legitimize
mindreading/paranormal phenomena as a scientific endeavor...and created a term that became part our language:"E.S.P." Now audiences could/would see the mentalist dealing with the latest scientific possible-possiblities of the mind!
How unscientific not to consider what scientists had studied and verified.(?!)
Those who couldn't accept mystical powers could accept/consider the New Frontiers of the Mind, that they were just learning about in Universities.


Dunninger's popularity, certainly helped...he and to a lesser degree, Annemann, were like Robert Houdin: Take away the gaudy trappings and outlandish claims, and sell their medicine as entertainment to be enjoyed by those sophisticated enough to enjoy it.
Some were amazed, jealous, and resentful, that Dunninger, (as did Kreskin) could walk on stage and do a show, (at top dollar), out of a briefcase.

Kresking is fortunate, in that he knew who he was and what would work for him. If he tried to act/speak like Dunninger, it would have looked silly. (although his detractors say that anyway)

Important to remember Kreskin was doing this, having acheived national prominence, by the late 1960's, before Geller,(the best friend Randi ever had) became known in the 1970's, and Randi was able to create a career, by nipping at Geller's heels.

Postby Guest » 06/02/04 08:41 AM

You're 100% correct Diego BUT, what is old can become new... we see things "cycle" in this business (show biz as a whole) regularly. I don't think wearing a Turban (sorry Gregg) is a good idea unless you're tossing in some solid comedy, but I do believe a blending of things "theatrical" with the "more traditional" ways that have been used (to death) the past 40+ years, can and will open doors that are presently "closed" to us. I also believe that the guys/gals that embrace this reality NOW will gain the upper-edge on the next phase of the entertainment wave, as it applies to magic on the whole.

Let's face it, Blaine managed to change the public's expectations when it came to the idea of MAGIC. It was no longer big fancy boxes, but a guy in jeans and a T-shirt delivering the impossible 18" away from you. The Shaman-like image Blaine exploited has likewise become a "fixture" of sorts, as to what the public wants to experience. Those ignoring such things are going to come up short. Obviously Copperfield hasn't ignored it and is trying desperately to meld this mode of "image" into what he's doing. Greg Wilson did so "ahead of the curve" so to speak and guys like McBride, and J.S. Berry have been aware of this fact and putting it to use for at least two full decades now.

The only true constant in the Universe is CHANGE followed closely by the aspect of Cyclic Law. Magic is heading into such a cycle, a time when the public not only "wants to believe" but actually needs something that will reinforce their faith so that "hope" exists at some level. They don't care if it's real or not, only that it serves as the much needed placebo they're looking for -- an escape from life's chaos!

It's going to be interesting to see what unfolds over the next ten years. :rolleyes:

Postby Guest » 06/02/04 01:06 PM

Craig --thank yopu. I had not thought about changing that pix on line (shot before 9/11) until now.

The clash between mysticism and science in presentation of mentalism and very real feeling textured magic seems to fall along the same thought lines as the fractures between religion and science. Belief is belief. Methods of generating belief offer fertile battlegrounds for the mind.

I think we all know of the tremendous flaws in the Rhine research as "proof" of the paranormal - but it is pure science to explore the idea. Hypotheses must be tested and evaluated constantly before being accepted as theory -- which by definition must be tested and evaluated constantly to maintain the status as "accepted theory.

The idea of "truth" and "belief" are tested constantly in science.
In the presentation of what I call "intimate" magic of the mind -- even to larger audiences - a performer must respect the resonances of personal belief in his audience -- but still raise questions (rather than the loaded word "doubt") in the spectator's mind of just what he/she is witnessing. Is telepathy real - or a construct of coincedence. Is clarivoyance possible -- or a construct of memory?

The dramatic presentaion of an effect that is powerful in involving more than the eyes and ears of the spectator, but also includes the emotions is a communication tool not understood by many practitioners of magic - and more than a few "mentalists."

The trappings to get the spectator into that frame of mind can be as modern as the sterile waiting room or comedy club stage for some. Others -- prefer to be lulled with reminiscance or New Age mantra in a plush surrounding. Some (goths) even seek discomfort and "darkness."

Each of the above is a valid audience -- but may not be commercially or politically viable.

As seance workers (for entertainment) we know that recreating the historical atmosphere of the Victorian age adds to the drama -- but the reality of that age was a time of deprevation in the midst of economic disparity, superstitious belief and the struggle against subserviance by many. If we try for that FULL atmosphere -- our audience will probably not get it -- and will be very uncomfortable in not having a base of emotional acceptance for the work IN THEIR BACKGROUND.

Should a close-up mentalist wear a tuxedo to work a restaurant? And, when a turban (even guilded as I used in the past for stage work) becomes politically incorrect in our commercial marketplace -- we are best served by honoring the audiences taste so we can perform.

Maybe we should also consider that changing ideas and taste is part of our work -- not just the reflection of it.

To wit: Many magicians too often reflect current taste -- mentalists may have a better chance of changing it.

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