In The Mind's Eye by Minnesota Mind-PSI Collection
Reviewed by Jamy Ian Swiss (originally published in Genii August, 1994)
This volume of mentalism is a compendium of material contributed by a dozen
mentalists and bizarrists who form the "Minnesota Mind-PSI," a group which meets
every month in members' homes to create and swap ideas about mentalism, psychic and
bizarre magic. This book contains six close-up mentalism routines, four stage routines,
two presentations for the bizarrist, and a brief but interesting interview with Jim
Cunningham, who in 1987 and 1988 performed a version of Eugene Burger's spirit
theater show. In the interview, Mr. Cunningham provides some pointed advice on the
subject of performance character.
As is often the case in magic generally, and perhaps particularly in the case of
mentalism, this is a book of technical variations on well-known methods, and original
presentations for mostly well-known effects. There is, thankfully, little in the way of
outright pipe dreams; all of the contributors claim to have performed this material, at
very least in amateur settings, and in many cases in professional ones. The material is
clearly and simply written, and the book is designed in a basic desktop publishing style
with a minimum of illustration and only a slight tendency to succumb to the ever-tempting
lure of clip art. Probably the greatest value of this book to the student of
mentalism is that, as pointed out in the introduction, every item is explored in
reasonable detail, including background and credits, description of the effect, method
and materials, complete presentations, and in some cases additional variations.
To note in passing what some might consider the hazards of the literature of mentalism:
out of twelve items, five involve playing cards, two are modified card tricks that utilize
card-related handlings, but wherein words are written on a deck of blank playing cards
in one case, and on a handful of business cards in another. Two methods require
mnemonics. In other routines, prerequisites include the ability to do aura reading, cold
reading, and what is commonly known as "pre-show work." Obviously, these latter three
subjects could well require (and indeed have produced) entire volumes of their own. But
it is worth noting that the literature of close-up magic is not the only genre which
routinely, and often appropriately, fails to describe all the details of the requisite skills.
Included are presentations and variations on the Impostress Princess; Seven Keys to
Baldpate; two variations on the Spackman newspaper test; and a number of plots
wherein select information is forced and then later revealed, an aspect of mental magic
that I am often skeptical of, especially when the effect is laden with procedure, the force
stems from an extremely narrow selection, or the source of the revelation is particularly
contrived. Much of this material is more in the vein of mental magic than straight
mentalism, albeit that this distinction is often problematic.
The standout item, to me, is an idea of professional mentalist Bob Fellows. In essence it
is an addition to the newspaper clipping prediction, which provides a powerful climax to
a three part routine intended to be used to close an entire program of mentalism. I have
seen Mr. Fellows use this item to great effect before paying audiences, and the idea is, as
the saying goes, worth the price of the book to a working pro who can handle the
necessary pre-show skills. The remaining material will no doubt be of interest to the
mentalist who is ever on the lookout for ideas and inspiration.
By the way, if you obtain this book from Thaumysta Magic Company, you might want to
ask for a copy of their catalog at the same time. They make some of the most beautiful
bizarre magick props I have ever seen.