Cold Reading

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Diego
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Cold Reading

Postby Diego » October 11th, 2009, 11:19 am

I was looking for the earliest use of the term, "Cold Reading", as used by mentalists/psychics, while doing readings for groups or individuals.
Not "stock" or "prepared", but the word "Cold Reading."

Robert Nelson uses the term in his writings by the late 1940's.
William lindsay Gresham uses the term in "Nightmare Alley" in 1946. There is supposed to maybe be a use of the term in, "A Magician Among the Spirits", by Houdini.

Can anyone verify earlier uses in print of "cold reading?"

David Alexander
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Re: Cold Reading

Postby David Alexander » October 11th, 2009, 12:26 pm

I always heard that it was a term coined by Gresham for "Nighmare Alley."

That book had the best ending line (and I may be paraphrasing slightly) - "We'll just use you until we can get a real geek."

Too bad the film had to have a happy ending. The book was better.

Richard Hatch
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Re: Cold Reading

Postby Richard Hatch » October 11th, 2009, 12:37 pm

According to google books, Proskauer uses the term "cold reading" in his 1946 book, The Dead Do Not Talk. Not sure if that predates Gresham.

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Joe Pecore
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Re: Cold Reading

Postby Joe Pecore » October 11th, 2009, 1:15 pm

Here is an interesting one I found using google books search, but it only has a snippet view:


American magazine‎ - Page 139 - 1940
"You're billed as a mind reader. Let's have a cold reading. I'll prime the pump a little. Freddie was with your act nine years ago in Tilden Falls. ..


http://books.google.com/books?lr=&as_br ... xy_is=1945
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David Alexander
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Re: Cold Reading

Postby David Alexander » October 11th, 2009, 9:57 pm

Unfortunately, we can't see who wrote the article that Joe quotes as it is one of the books that hasn't been allowed to be fully scanned.

Here's part of the entry on William Lindsay Gresham in the Wikipedia with regards to Nightmare Alley:

"Gresham wrote the novel, his first, while working as an editor for a "true crime" pulp magazine in New York City during the 1940s. He outlined the plot and wrote the first six chapters over a period of two years, then finished the book in four months."

Bill Mullins
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Re: Cold Reading

Postby Bill Mullins » October 12th, 2009, 1:25 am

The metadata on Joe Pecore's Google Books discovery is wrong -- the story in question seems to be Rex Stout's Nero Wolfe novella "This Will Kill You" (also published under the titles "This Won't Kill You" and "The World Series Murder"). The story first came out in the Sept 1952 issue of _American Magazine_.

If you search for the phrase "Tilden Falls" (as it appears in the quote in Joe's post above) in Google Books, the first "hit" is the same quote, but with the proper 1952 date (likely the result of the same magazine being scanned out of two different libraries, and the metadata being entered correctly for one scan, and incorrectly with another -- unfortunately, there are near-systematic errors with the metadata associated with periodicals in Google Books, and you almost can't trust it at all. Any research done in Google Books, particulary with periodicals or with works seen only in "Snippet View" shoud be viewed as suspect, until confirmed by internal data.)

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Re: Cold Reading

Postby Bill Mullins » October 12th, 2009, 2:33 am

The Gresham cite would be as follows:

Gresham, William Lindsay. _Nightmare Alley_ NY: Rinehart & Co., 1946.

p. 63
"Beside this was the notation, "Not a big item but a steady. Every audience. Can pull as cold reading during stall part of act." "

p. 80
"If I could hand this old fart a cold reading and get away with it I could do it to a senator!"

p. 84
"Stan, boy, you sure done noble. I always knew you were a mentalist. Imagine that -- giving a cold reading to a cop and getting away with it!"

p. 271
"A guy who's good at the cold reading will never starve."

The Proskauer cite:

Proskauer, Julien J. _The Dead Do Not Talk_ New York, London: Harper & Brothers, 1946

p.17
"To the practitioners of the spook racket there is a technique known as the "cold reading." "

_Nightmare Alley_ was published Sept 9; _The Dead Do Not Talk_ was published Oct 23.

Another early cite:

MacBride, James. "The Great Stanton -- and the Geek" _New York Times_ 9/8/1946 p. BR3
"He learns how to handle the Tarot deck, how to do a cold reading, how to manage the unbeatable code that her rum-dumb husband perfected long ago when his crystal-act was a headliner at the Palace." [in a review of _Nightmare Alley_]

[Technically, I suppose this review is the actual first published use of the phrase, unless further research turns up something else. It was obviously based on a pre-publication review copy of the book, and so was taken from Gresham's work, but the review was in fact published before the novel]

Diego
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Re: Cold Reading

Postby Diego » October 12th, 2009, 9:33 am

A new edition of "Nightmare Alley", will be published by June of next year.

Going back to the original topic/question, if others can cite references to the use of the term, "Cold Reading", before 1946, please let us know.

David Alexander
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Re: Cold Reading

Postby David Alexander » October 12th, 2009, 11:08 am

I looked in my 1971 copy of the OED and could not locate a listing for "cold reading." A newer edition may give a different result, but I do not have such an edition.

The other problem encountered in searching on-line is that "cold reading" is also a phrase from acting used to describe being handed a script and reading it without rehearsal.

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Magic Newswire
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Re: Cold Reading

Postby Magic Newswire » October 12th, 2009, 11:13 am

This is a really interesting discussion, but doesn't it belong in the "History" section of the forum?

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Re: Cold Reading

Postby Jim Maloney » October 12th, 2009, 11:17 am

David Alexander wrote:The other problem encountered in searching on-line is that "cold reading" is also a phrase from acting used to describe being handed a script and reading it without rehearsal.


Which is, in a way, very much related to the term as mentalists use it. In both cases, you need to determine information about a person/character on the fly, with no prior knowledge except your own skills, and project that in a way that makes it seem as if you knew it all along.

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Magic Newswire
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Re: Cold Reading

Postby Magic Newswire » October 12th, 2009, 11:31 am

In the 1984 issue of Genii, there is an ad for "The Psychic Table" (selling for $1250)

According to the advert, "In addition to the instruction and idea manual, we also supply a photocopy of a remarkable document, exactly as
written for us by the inventor. On one sheet of legal size paper, he gives you a legacy of 50 years of cold reading. This is invaluable information and not available elsewhere at any price. No pipe dreams, but the true hard-hitting and factual information word for word as he used it."

The "He" referenced is not named but is described as follows:
"In 1908, a young man set out on the road to play the small towns of rural America. His driving ambition and dream was to become rich and famous as a psychic and mindreader. With guts and talent, from the bayous of Louisiana to the
glitter of Hollywood, he fulfilled his dream. His bank account skyrocketed; his appointment book read like the pages of "Who's Who". "

50 years of "Cold Reading" would place that at 1934, but I have no idea if "He" was using the tern at that time.

If you aren't a member of the Conjuring Arts Research center with access to AskAlexander.com, you don't know what you're missing!

HERE IS A LINK to picture of that advert in case it is helpful.

BTW.. adjusted for inflation, that table would be listed for $2555 today.

In addition, In a column by Bob Nelson from Vol 29 (1949) Linking Ring, he mentions an article in Esquire Magazine by Bill Gresham on Fortune Telling & Cold Reading Methods.

Diego
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Re: Cold Reading

Postby Diego » October 12th, 2009, 12:16 pm

Whoever it was that had the "50 years of experience", whether they used the term cold reading, (even though that is what they were doing) prior to 1949 is not verified.

You're right, unless the power that be say otherwise, I will also raise this question in the "History" section.

Bill Mullins
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Re: Cold Reading

Postby Bill Mullins » October 12th, 2009, 12:23 pm

David Alexander wrote:I looked in my 1971 copy of the OED and could not locate a listing for "cold reading." A newer edition may give a different result, but I do not have such an edition.


The phrase "cold reading" appears nowhere in the current digital edition of the OED -- not as a stand alone entry, nor as a sub-entry under either "cold" or "read"/"reading", nor as part of a quotation supporting any other entry.

Anyone can submit new citations to existing entries, or data to support new entries, to the OED. For new entries, they like to see three separate quotes using the word/term, preferably from three different sources. Quotes should be from printed material, or from page images of printed material in online sources (that is, a general quote from Joe Blow's webpage isn't useful, but a PDF scan of a NY Times page is). They are always searching for older examples of terms they already have quotations for ("antedatings").

Brad Henderson
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Re: Cold Reading

Postby Brad Henderson » October 12th, 2009, 8:09 pm

Magic Newswire wrote:In the 1984 issue of Genii, there is an ad for "The Psychic Table" (selling for $1250)

According to the advert, "In addition to the instruction and idea manual, we also supply a photocopy of a remarkable document, exactly as
written for us by the inventor. On one sheet of legal size paper, he gives you a legacy of 50 years of cold reading. This is invaluable information and not available elsewhere at any price. No pipe dreams, but the true hard-hitting and factual information word for word as he used it."

The "He" referenced is not named but is described as follows:
"In 1908, a young man set out on the road to play the small towns of rural America. His driving ambition and dream was to become rich and famous as a psychic and mindreader. With guts and talent, from the bayous of Louisiana to the
glitter of Hollywood, he fulfilled his dream. His bank account skyrocketed; his appointment book read like the pages of "Who's Who". "

50 years of "Cold Reading" would place that at 1934, but I have no idea if "He" was using the tern at that time.

If you aren't a member of the Conjuring Arts Research center with access to AskAlexander.com, you don't know what you're missing!

HERE IS A LINK to picture of that advert in case it is helpful.

BTW.. adjusted for inflation, that table would be listed for $2555 today.

In addition, In a column by Bob Nelson from Vol 29 (1949) Linking Ring, he mentions an article in Esquire Magazine by Bill Gresham on Fortune Telling & Cold Reading Methods.



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