Paramiracles by Ted Lesley

Reviewed by Jamy Ian Swiss (originally published in Genii November, 1994)


Ted Lesley's name will already be known to many magi for his "Working Performer's Marked Deck," one of the most widely pirated dealer's items in recent years—don't buy it unless you see his name on it! But Ted Lesley is far better known on his home turf of Germany as a full-time performing mentalist and magician. This book, first published in German but considerably revised in this English version, is a remarkable treatise on the performance of mentalism. Given that the already limited literature of this field is frequently clouded with fantasies of the wrong kind—impractical ideas rarely if ever tested before paying audiences—the wealth of effects, routines, methods, and practical advice that fills this volume will be a refreshing and indeed exciting change for anyone interested in mentalism. I don't think I have ever enjoyed reading a book of mentalism as much as I did this one. I devoured it in two sessions, and couldn't wait to get back to it during the interim.

There is a definite "voice" present in this text, and it is a voice that is clear, accessible, and bolstered with the power that comes of imagination, expertise, experience and perspective.

The book begins, fittingly, with an Introduction by T.A. Waters, and a Foreword by Mr. Lesley's friend, Toni Forster—and seldom have I enjoyed a Foreword more, for it is alive with humor and point of view. The author then provides us with "Notes on My Life with Friends," a biographical encapsulation which also pays tribute to many of Mr. Lesley's friends and influences in magic, a habit he continues throughout the book.

The material that follows is divided into eight chapters describing some three dozen items, only a sampling of which can be mentioned here. First comes a detailed discussion of what the author refers to as "ridged cards." This type of key card dates back at least to Will De Sieve in Hilliard's Greater Magic, and has since been explored and sometimes varied by Waters, Dick Koornwinder, Gene Gordon and others. As applied by Mr. Lesley, the principle allows for some remarkable card controls while the cards are in the hands of the spectator. In the first trick in the book, The Kismet Connection, the performer removes a card from a red-backed deck and, without revealing its identity, places it in an envelope, which remains in view from then on. A spectator shuffles and cuts a blue-backed deck, then places a card aside or in his pocket. This card is never handled by the performer, who very cleanly tips his red-backed card out of the envelope, revealing its identity. Examining the spectator's selection, the two cards match! This is a killer trick, the first of nine in this chapter.

"...The Linking Finger Rings and other chosen magical effects have been effectively employed in the programs of some of mentalism's finest performers. This transgression of genres didn't seem to bother Mr. Fogel or his audiences, and it certainly doesn't mine." Ted Lesleys Paramiracles

The next chapter includes a remarkable name and symbol divination routine, a clever idea the author uses with his own business cards to secretly gain access to information written by a spectator, and finally, a discussion of the center tear along with a routine that, in the right hands, will look like pure mind-reading. There follows a chapter on practical tools and devices for the mentalist, including extremely simple but useful versions of switch pads, cuing devices, a great hybrid hold-out/pull, work on the Bagshawe deck (commonly associated with Al Koran), and descriptions of "The Mentalist's Close-Up Corner" and "The Mentalist's Tablecloth," the latter which includes an excellent spoon-bending effect. This impressive material is all the more so because it is so clearly borne of practical experience.

Another chapter describes the author's approach to the modern classic, Premonition, generally associated with Eddie Joseph, in which a spectator merely thinks of a card, which then immediately vanishes from a deck and is produced from the performer's pocket. This version, designed for the stage, also includes the author's extremely useful design for a card index. The next chapter concerns psychometry effects, followed by a chapter featuring a supremely useful switching envelope applied to several routines, including one entitled Sign Onboard, in which a spectator seals an envelope, retains possession of it, and later unseals it to discover the arrival of a card selected and signed by another spectator! The penultimate chapter is a collection of powerful routines, mostly designed for stage. And the final chapter describes an astounding effect in which the stem of an isolated crystal wine glass is seen to visibly bend in full view of the audience. Yes, this one is the miracle that will no doubt be heavily touted in the ads; the few who make the necessary effort to construct the apparatus will be amply rewarded for their efforts.

The book closes with a worthy and sincere plea concerning ethics in the magic community. Would that some will heed the call, but in essence, the entire book is a call to arms of sorts. The reader will find himself confronted with a number of ... obstacles? Challenges? Opportunities? ... which present themselves repeatedly and increasingly throughout the text. That is, this is a book of the real work on the real thing: mentalism that a real performer makes real money with in the real world for real audiences. A number of the treasured assumptions of mentalists are questioned, for example, and indeed, summarily dismissed. These include the author's endorsement of playing cards, and narrower issues such as his claim that, contrary to the conventional wisdom, Annemann's Pseudo-Psychometry is often "too long-winded for today's audiences," rarely serves as an effective or believable vehicle for cold reading, and the method is often transparent. Of course, Mr. Lesley provides his own version which ably addresses all of these common flaws.

Furthermore, as a result of Mr. Lesley's unblinking eye on the need for entertaining mentalism—almost an oxymoron these days—he unabashedly eschews the use of difficult sleight of hand. This will be good news to many mentalists. (In a wry moment, I have observed that "Those who can, do sleight of hand; those who can't, do mentalism.") But there are other demands apparent in this material that will quickly weed out many performers, from mechanical preparations to sophisticated performance skills—as his routine with the center tear will quickly attests. Yet while Mr. Lesley is clear about the presentational necessities of these routines, he provides very little of his personal scripts. Hence it is left to the reader to devise his own solutions, and many will never get past the reading stage. None of this is intended as criticism; in fact, quite the contrary. Mr. Lesley has provided what seems to me to be the perfect pathway: astonishing and well-constructed routines relying upon relentlessly deceptive methods, and clear road markers toward the path of successful, entertaining mentalism. The trail has been blazed, but the reader must make the trip himself.

6" x 9" hardcover, three-color laminated dust jacket; 293 pages; illustrated with photos and drawings; 1994; Publisher. Hermetic Press

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