Mixing Mentalism & Illusions

Mixing Mentalism & Illusions


While most probably know me best as an illusionist and illusion designer, I have been performing a professional mentalism show in some form since 2002, although I have never marketed it as a mentalism show nor used the word “mentalism” unless talking to fellow magicians.

I have staged two mentalism-centric “mega stunts” that collectively garnered more than $50,000 worth of PR with multiple media features and interviews for TV, newspapers, magazines, online and magic media.

In one stunt, I did a lottery prediction but what made it unique from any other lottery prediction done before was that I had an actual lottery ticket inside the prediction box along with a printed prediction. I also donated $10,000 to a children’s charity as a result of the correct prediction.

I have released a visual book test, “Unwritten” that has been very well-received.

As an illusionist and show producer, I see the value (often the need) to play big, regardless of the style of magic show you do. Playing big can come in the form of scale of effects, personality, attire, props, cast, stage sets, lighting and music.

In a professional stage show, audiences, show bookers, clients and TV producers expect and sometimes even demand production value. This in no way undermines the importance and necessity of personality, entertainment value and the core material of the performer. It is the complete package that is so often talked about in show business.

A good singer might have the best voice in the world but recording companies still know the importance of packaging, costuming, theatrical show production, dancers, stage sets, lighting and pyrotechnics to sell an album and concert experience. A mentalism or magic show is no different.

Kyle Knight & Mistie (www.knightmagic.com) with Bob Kohler’s “Human Phone Number”

While not suited for every show for every market, there is a huge market, especially in higher value shows like big corporate events and TV shows who generally favour spectacular “showy” acts with visual elements.

Look at Uri Geller’s franchise TV show that has run in different countries in recent years. It is a mentalism-centric show but a lot of production value is added to the acts to make them more spectacular, visually appealing and more commercial.

For working performers, investing in scale and production value for your show can result in an increase in your asking fee; in turn increasing your commercial and brand value.

There are only a few stage illusions that have a mentalism presentation or utilize an illusion method or principle. Two that come to mind are Fred Culpitt’s “Costume Trunk” illusion and the “Motley Man” illusion that Mark Wilson performed on Magic Circus. In Illusion Works 2, Rand Woodbury adopts a unique method for a prediction effect and David Copperfield’s “Graffitii Wall” is an excellent example of dressing up a mass participation prediction routine.

There are quite a few stage mentalism routines that do play big. The most popular plot seems to be the roulette routines whether it is with rifles, handguns or with knives, spikes, nail guns and other dangerous objects.

Chair tests, blindfold acts, two-person code acts, spirit cabinets, gypsy rope ties and routines that can involve a large number of people like the Zimmerman Prediction Chest or Don Wayne’s “Dream Vision” also come to mind. These mentalism routines can be designed to play big. In fact, you will see this done regularly when mentalists perform on TV shows like “Got Talent” shows.

Stage routines for mentalism can also be found in the published works of Lee Earle, Larry Becker, Max Maven, Ted Lesley, Steve Banacheck, Richard Osterlind, Bob Cassidy, Al Koran, Maurice Fogel, Ted Annemann, Corinda and Andy Nyman to name some influential contributors to the mentalism knowledge base.

I think there is a place for mentalism in an illusion show and these specialized routines can play very well with the right presentation and audience. Such illusions will tend to be much more cerebral in nature and extra effort has to be put into developing the structure of the routine and the script. The approach to creating a mentalism illusion is very different from a regular visual illusion act.

I know there will still be a percentage of mentalists who will not like this material and may even be offended that the purity of mentalism effects is “ruined” by elements of magic, visual elements and production value as they feel it demeans the effect and presentation of mentalism.

To these individuals: I respect the point of view of believing that mentalism should only be performed with minimal props, ordinary items and presented with psychological premises to make routines believable. However, that is not the only way mentalism can be presented. If it makes you feel better, you can label the material in this book as mental magic or mental illusions.

If you are interested in mixing mentalism with illusions, you might want to check out the free online show below.

I have also written a book called “Illusionism” which deals specifically this specialized illusion subject. Check it out here.

My original book test, “Unwritten”, is a professionally designed and produced book that allows you to bring the traditional book test beyond just words by incorporating visual drawings as the focus of the thoughts and revelations.

It is perfect for performers looking to present a visual book test routine.

You can check out the details and discussion video here.