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Mentalism FAQ

What is the difference between a magician and a mentalist?

Magicians and mentalists have two distinct approaches and goals for their performances. For example, magicians tend to display their skill and use colorful props and equipment to defy the laws of physics by making people or objects appear or disappear, levitate, transport, or change in some way, while mentalists downplay any manipulative ability and use everyday objects to convince audiences they can read minds, influence thoughts, or even predict future events.

Who was the father of modern mentalism?

Without a doubt, Theodore "Theo" Annemann, born Theodore John Squires (1907 - 1942), had the greatest influence on the contemporary performance of mentalism. A prolific author and editor, Annemann was responsible for many of today's standard mentalism effects and routines. He was also an advocate for subtle methods and the use of ordinary, everyday objects as properties, if any.

What is the best book to learn mentalism?

Practical Mental Effects by Ted Annemann - CoverIf you're interested in learning to perform mentalism, the best general mentalism books are either "Practical Mental Effects" with 200 top mentalism effects originally published in Ted Annemann's "The JINX," or Tony Corinda's "13 Steps to Mentalism" which breaks down each area of expertise in the mentalist's arsenal. Bob Nelson's "Encyclopedia of Mentalism" is one of the most comprehensive and authoritative guides for the advanced mentalist, especially those interested in learning to perform a Question and Answer (Q&A) Act.

13 Steps to Mentalism Cover
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What is a billet?

In mentalism, a billet is simply a small slip of paper on which a spectator writes or draws something. This might be a name, date, simple design, or other information. Afterward, the billet is usually retained by the spectator or openly destroyed before the mentalist reveals the spectator’s hidden thoughts.

The Complete Guide to Billet-Switching (Tony Corinda and Ralph Read) includes mental effects with billets by Tony Corinda, Punx, Al Koran, Stanley Jaks, and Maurice Fogel. This publication also includes Corinda's explanation of the mentalist's workhorse technique, the Center (Centre) Tear.


The term “Propless Mentalism” simply means that the mentalist does not employ any physical props. Rather, he uses words and psychology, as well as other clever methods, to modify and reorient his or her audience's perceptions. This form of mentalism is particulary challenging to perform since the subject usually never writes anything down and the mentalist, if he does write anything, only does so to reveal what the subject was thinking or other information to prove an experiment was successful.

One of the pioneers of this concept was Gene Grant who introduced his multi-level, psychological forcing technique, "Phantinism," in "The Mental Key," first published in the 1950s.

What is a mentalism clipboard?

Mentalism clipboards have long been used to obtain impressions of something a spectator writes or draws. As traditional impression clipboards have become increasingly difficult to obtain in recent years, contemporary mentalists have turned to do-it-yourself impression devices, like mentalist's pads, impression card cases, and even a clear clipboard system developed by the Amazing Maurice in the 1950s.

Is it acceptable to use playing cards for a mentalism effect?

There are two contrasting schools of thought on the use of playing cards in mentalism. Some mentalism "purists" believe that playing cards should never be used because your audience will dismiss the effect as merely a magic trick. Other mentalists have no issue whatsoever with the use of playing cards in their mentalism performances. This latter group has included many top mentalists over the years, including Ted Annemann, Al Koran, Ted Lesley, and the leading mentalist in the world today, Derren Brown.

What is the difference between a mentalism effect and a mentalism test or experiment?

All three terms are synonymous. However, the latter two imply that the outcome is uncertain, unlike a magic trick that always works. This helps build suspense and elicit an even stronger audience reaction when the effect is ultimately successful.

What are some popular mentalism effects or routines?

The most popular mentalism effects include Book or Magazine Tests, Pseudo Psychometry, Add-a-Number effects, Question and Answer Acts, Two-Person Telepathy Acts, Hellstromism, Predictions, Three Article Tests, Borrowed Bill Divination, Master Memory Feats, Billet Reading, Living and Dead Tests, and Psychological, Life Span and Cold Reading.

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