If you follow me on Twitter, then you know I’ve been studying magic as a way to keep occupied during the quarantine. Specifically, I’m learning mentalism. One of the main reasons this came about was because I don’t have the dexterity for manipulating cards and coins, but also because I find mental magic has a bigger impact. There’s a great level of astonishment that comes from discovering a hidden thought someone thought private, revealing that you knew what would happen long before the show started, or appearing to move an object with your mind. It doesn’t rely on elaborate props or skillful manipulation (most of the time); it just centers around establishing a close rapport between the performer and the audience to create simple but impossible miracles.

Theodore Annemann

With my excess of free time, I’ve devoted a great amount of effort into learning all I can about the art. I’ve purchased books and DVDs outlining routines by the masters in the field (Tony Corinda, Theodore Annemann, Max Maven, Colin Cloud, Steve “Banachek” Shaw, to name a few.) I’ve consulted professional mentalists to ask for their recommendations on what references and routines to learn. I even had online lessons with professional Italian mentalist Raffaele Scircoli. And I’d say the efforts have paid off. I can do several simple predictions now, learn what word someone picks from a book at random, duplicate a drawing that’s been sealed in an envelope, and divine the serial number on a borrowed, folded-up bill, among other feats.

But as with all creative endeavors, you can’t simply rely on established principles forever. You need to put your own spin on the craft. So I’ve been conceiving ideas for original mental magic routines that I hope to perform once it’s safe to have live entertainment again. Some of these I have the basic principles worked out and simply need to refine the performance, others I don’t think I could pull off yet without elaborate or expensive equipment, but maybe I’ll find a work around. Here’s what I’ve come up with so far. Please let me know if these seem like the kind of acts you’d want to see in a show.

Psychic Detective – Four to six audience members are called up and given an envelope, one of which contains a message that the person holding it is a murderer. The participants are free to switch them around if they wish before opening. The mentalist, not having seen who took which envelopes, interrogates each of them in turn (good for comedic or dramatic improv) before revealing who the killer is.

Off the Top of Her Head – A multi-phase prediction effect where three members of the audience select a card, roll a pair of dice, and choose a coin from a bag and then flip it, respectively. The mentalist then goes over to his lovely female assistant and removes her wig, revealing that she is bald. Written on her scalp are the results of each action. (Had to add this for personal reasons.)

Unlabeled – A spectator removes five DVDs or video games from their keep cases, places them in blank cases, closes them and then shuffles them around, all while the mentalist remains blindfolded or looks away. When they are finished, the mentalist is able to correctly determine which disc is in each blank case before opening them. (This one is currently being worked on with assistance from my friend Steve)

Subliminal Synchrony – Two audience members who are close to one another (in a relationship, very good friends, family members) are brought up and have a reference book rapidly flipped before them. The more creative member of the pair is asked to draw whatever image comes to mind on a pad of paper while their eyes are closed to evaluate what their subconscious mind picked up on. The more analytical partner is then asked to think of several numbers at random, and then circle whichever stands out to them. A third participant is then given the book and the papers, and finds that the image matches what is seen on the circled page number.

Animal Crackers – The mentalist is blindfolded and a cookie randomly selected from a box of animal crackers is placed in their mouth. After chewing and swallowing, they are able to determine what shape it was. The effect is then repeated, this time with another spectator who chooses a cookie without looking and keeps it hidden in their hands at all times, not showing it to anyone else.

Schniers’ Revelation – One spectator selects a card from a shuffled deck, while another picks out a marker from a box. Both choices are made while the mentalist is blindfolded or looking away. After they are done, the mentalist pulls out a balloon that matches the color of the chosen marker, blows it up, pops it, and a folded-up playing card falls out. When unfolded, it matches the card the first spectator picked. (Named in tribute of the aforementioned friend Steve)

Book Smart – Variation on a book test where the mentalist not only determines what word a spectator randomly chose from a book, but also reveals that they predicted which of several books they had the chance to choose from they were going to pick.

Easter Eggs – A spectator is allowed to freely pick one of several differently colored plastic Easter eggs from a basket. Opening it up, they find a slip of paper that says they were going to pick that chosen color. At first this is played off as a simple joke, but opening the other eggs reveal the slips in them also say they would have picked the color of the first egg.

The Angel’s Calculator – Several members of the audience generate a random number by selecting several two or three digit numbers while another participant multiplies them together. After the new digit is determined, the mentalist gives their cell phone to a different member of the audience and instructs them to open the calculator app. When they do, the newly generated number is shown on the calculator display.

Phantom Fingers – A variation of PK Touch where a spectator feels different parts of their body being touched or tapped despite the mentalist only interacting with a screen on which the participant’s image is projected on.

Anomaly – After announcing that they will alter a spectator’s color perception, the mentalist shows several painted cards to the chosen participant. The colors the spectator sees do not match what the audience sees.

Synesthesia – A member of the audience is asked to think about what different sensations they experience (sounds, feelings, scents, tastes) after being shown different images and listening to different sound clips. The mentalist reveals the specific sensation each stimulus triggers.

Tarot Telepathy: The major Arcana cards of a Tarot deck are laid out on a table. A participant is asked to think of one without touching it or writing it down. The mentalist takes the spectator’s arm by the wrist and slowly moves it over each card, trying to pick up on the “aura” of their chosen card, until they stop over the right one.

2 thoughts on “Ideas for Mentalism Routines”

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