What do you see when you look at a house?
What would your answer to that question be?
"Some windows, a door, a roof, maybe a chimney...you know...it's a house."
I agree. It is a house. And when someone looks at it, that's what they will see - a house. If I was to walk by and point to it and ask my friend what that was, they'd say "It's a house."
Weird way to start a blog post, right?
I agree. It is kind of strange. But the point I'm trying to make is that people will tend to look at something and see the sum of the whole rather than its component parts. When you point out a house, it will be called a house, rather than a bundle of neatly arranged sticks or bricks or nails or windows or asphalt roofing shingles. They will see a house, just as someone who looks at an egg will call it an egg, rather than the amalgamation of shell, yolk, and white.
So, how is this relevant in any way to Mentalism?
The answer is simple:
When you perform a set, someone should be able to walk away from it remembering the "House" that you built, rather than recalling the individual components.
I know and agree that some parts of this "House" will be more memorable than others, and that is fine! Good houses always have an aspect that stands out or amazes. But if someone walks away having seen a doorframe, or the gutters and not the "House"... Well! Then your set needs to be examined and remodeled.
And that brings me to Dee Christopher's "413".
As is typical of Dee, what is offered here is solid thinking and good material - but I know that after you've read it, you will walk away thinking something like "Well, that was pretty good information, but I'm at a loss to know what to do with some of it really."
In point of fact, there are a LOT of books out there that will leave you feeling this way. It is simply the nature of sharing effects. The fact of the matter is that what works for one performer doesn't always appeal to the character of another and so not every piece of material in a book will be considered useful.
While this is the case, it is helpful to look at books like this one as offering component materials out of which your "House" can be constructed.
Let's use Dee's "413" as an example. It contains a card effect called "Schrödinger's Deck" which has (in my opinion) some phenomenal patter. It is simple and easy to perform. I mark it down as a great component.
Let's assume that I'm building my "House", and just like other homes can be considered "Tudor's" or "Craftsman" or "Rambler's", I have a specific type for what I am building - Mind Reading. Does "Schrödinger's Deck" fit into a set of mind reading effects? Not on your life. It would be like putting a screen door that opens out onto a pitched roof - when your audience walked away, that's what they'd have seen and remembered.
But if my house was built around "Mind Control" or "Suggestion", then I have a place on the blueprints that this effect is perfect for. When asked later on what they saw, they would be able to say "I saw a House", rather than just parts of it. And, after a set that is comprised of parts that fit where they should, they will walk away from a show saying "I saw a Mind Reader", or "I saw someone who controlled people's thoughts". Whatever your greater theme was, whatever the "house" was that you were trying to build, that is what would successfully be conveyed.
I think this analogy is slowly starting to take shape, but I'd like to give you an example that more fully illustrates what I am talking about with these types of "Building Block" effects.
Consider the effects listed below:
Banachek's "Ring of Truth" from Psychological Subtleties Volume 1
Banachek's "Subtle Coin Multiplication" from Psychological Subtleties Volume 1
Rick Maue's "Terasabos" from Psychological Subtleties Volume 2
Paul Carnazzo's "Salt" from Neil Scryer and Friends
Doug Dyment's "Penney's From Heaven" from Neil Scryer and Friends
Max Maven's "Positive/Negative" shared in Genii Magazine
Mike Adam's “Lucky Man” - available as a member of Psycrets
Dee Christopher's "Falling Coins" from 413
I say what follows with all due respect to the individual creators, but none of these effects are really show stoppers on their own. Some are very strong, and some are little more than subtle ideas. However, they each share a common theme - the involvement of coins. If you were building a "House" that had a casual "Just Using What Is In Your Pockets" theme, you could create a very memorable set with this group of effects and they would form ideal components.
How would this set look?
Invite three people to stand and take a coin out of their pockets. They toss them and you have correctly predicted how each coin would land. You then invite two of them to work with you, choosing two who have different denominations of coin. They hide one coin in their hand, and the other in their pocket, and try to deceive you as to who has which, yet you quickly tell them who was lying, who told the truth, and without any questions as to the type of coin held or which hand it was in, you are able to tell them just that. You then reunite the original group from the start. You hand them each white boards and black pens and ask them to write down what they think would happen if they flipped each their coins three times. You then write your prediction down on the same whiteboard in red ink. Each takes turns flipping their coins, and your predicted sequence is shown to come up before theirs in every instance. You then finish by saying that you don't even need coins anymore to be able to make a correct prediction, and offer one of the group an invisible selection of coins. They take one, mime flipping and then call it, and you show them that the prediction that you've had on display the entire time coincided exactly with their choices.
And, for anyone who approaches you after the show, you can have them correctly guess what type of coin you have in your hand, whether it is face up or down, and THEN be able to flip that coin repeatedly and have your spectator call it correctly EVERY time.
Read the above paragraphs again.
That doesn't sound too bad, does it?
Imagine that as a layman, you saw that set and were asked to describe what you'd just witnessed in one word. More than likely, you'd choose a word like “unbelievable” or “amazing” or break the rules completely and say something like “I really am not sure, I just don't know what to think”. Whatever your response would be, the word chosen would suggest that a previously held set of beliefs had just been challenged.
You most certainly would not have said “A bunch of coin tricks”, as what you witnessed transcends the coins used and becomes something greater than the sum of its parts. The component effects blend together so smoothly in the performance that you have cultivated a feeling of creating something larger than the building blocks that were actually there.
"413" is full of these building blocks, as are a lot of other books. If you will take the time to figure out how they fit together, you can take a series of minor effects and create something from them that is much larger and majestic than they are alone, and more importantly - you'll be a mind reader rather than someone who can just do some cool tricks.
Now, I know that some of you will have read the above set description and want to know how the routine comes together.
As noted, this routine combines the ideas from Banachek's “Subtle Coin Multipliation” in Psychological Subtleties Volume 1, Banachek's “Ring of Truth” from the same volume, and an idea that was inspired from Rick Maue's “Terasabos” in Volume 2. Of course, I am not going to pass on the workings of these effects as they are not mine to distribute, but I will say that if you read through them, you will find it is easy to perceive how they blend together.
Begin by performing "Falling Coins" from 413. Then ask two of the spectators to help you. You'll know which by the denomination of their coins.
From there, the routine continues as outlined in Banachek's “Ring of Truth”. When you've determined who is lying and who is telling the truth, you will use the technique outlined in “Subtle Coin Multiplication” to determine which coin was chosen.
Let's say that you determine that a nickel was chosen.
At this point, you would announce that you believe that the nickel has been chosen, and the PERSON (not the hand) that has the coin.
Once you know the denomination of the coin and the person who is holding it, you know it has to be in one of two hands. This is the part inspired by Terasabos. You should be able to work it out from the "reveal" portion of the text.
Then return to the final hand, reiterate the value of the coin chosen, that you knew who had it, that you knew who told the truth and who lied, and that you just conclusively showed that you knew in which hand they held it. At that point, open their hand to reveal the chosen coin and take your applause.
Now perform Doug Dyment's "Penney's From Heaven", but with three people simultaneously and with whiteboards and different color ink pens.
Finish with Maven's Positive/Negative.
For any aftershow work, use Paul Carnazzo's “Salt” and then combine that with “Lucky Man” by Mike Adams.
I hope you enjoy the routining I've outlined, but more importantly, I hope you can see value in these little ideas and find a way to combine them synergistically.