Mentalism, or the act of appearing to read someone’s mind, has been around for hundreds of years, with the first recorded occurrence happening in the late 16th century by an Italian named Girolamo Scotto. While it was probably a bit easier for Girolamo to convince the townsfolk of his mental powers, these days it’s a bit tougher to wow the jaded and pessimistic people of the 21st century. Even though, in this age of iPhones and Google, most people already know or want to expose how something like this is done, there are still people out there that want to believe in this kind of thing, and will be more than willing to participate.
Today, we’ll discuss how to read people’s minds, explaining the “tricks” of the trade, as well as some fairly simple beginner mind reading tricks you can try out today. If you’re hoping to be an amateur mentalist, using the dark powers of black magic to make a quick buck at the bar, or just to mess with your friends’ heads, we’ll have you reading minds like the Sunday paper by the end of this article. Afterwards, check out this course on pro mind reading tricks, which will teach you how to stun and confuse.
Before the Magic Happens
Before you go up to a random person on the street and start asking them about their long-dead relatives, there are a few things to keep in mind when choosing the right mind to read. These tips are more for those performing these feats in front of a crowd, where you might pick a person out of the audience.
- Pick the right person to read. Who is the right person, you may ask? It’s the person that’s not the most eager to have their mind read, nor is it the wallflower sitting in the back row avoiding eye contact. You want to pick someone who’s right in the middle – someone who’s been noticeably engaged with what you’ve been saying and doing thus far. The people who are too eager to come up may just want to perform themselves, and the shy people might be no fun to perform with. Get someone who wants to interact, but not someone who will try to outshine you.
- Mimic the subject and work around their interests. If you mirror the person’s movements, you’ll make them feel comfortable on a subconscious level. This trick is a technique referred to as Neuro Linguistic Programming, and it will relax them and make them feel closer to you. Next, ask them what their interests are, and try to work that into the performance. If they play music, make the act musical. If they’re an artist, incorporate drawing into it.
- Keep current on the tendencies of the mind and statistical data. Keep a mental tab of your crowd, noting ages, clothes, and general attitudes. There are certain ways people will respond to specific situations and questions, and knowing what someone is going to say before they do can’t hurt your reputation as a mind reader. For instance, statistically speaking, if you ask someone to name a color and only give them three seconds to answer, they will likely say red. Use this type of information to your advantage.
- Use body language. Whether they know it or not, people have certain tells when they are keeping a secret or lying. Use that to your advantage. Also, if you have a light touch and are able to touch someone lightly while performing so that they don’t notice, you can feel changes in their body, like subtle muscle spasms, that may indicate you’re on to something. Our course on the secrets of body language will show you how to interpret participants’ unconscious movements, and this course on body language for entrepreneurs will show you how to influence someone without speaking a word.
- Really sell it. If you’re supposed to be concentrating on what someone is thinking about, and trying to read their mind, don’t rush it, and look like you’re really trying hard. If there’s a prop involved, wave your hands around a lot, as if there’s actual magic at work. That’s half the trick. If you need a bit of a boost in the confidence department to help you really sell these tricks, this course on improving self-confidence will program your mind to be more self-assured.
- Be ok with failing. You’re not going to do well the first time, and probably not the second time either. That’s fine; just be prepared to try again.
For a more in-depth look at the ins and outs of performing magic and what to expect as well as how to handle anything that may go wrong, this site will show you how to perform magic.
Tricks to Perform
These are the tricks that will make you famous! These are really simple tricks and require very few props, but just a bit of preparation. They are good introductions to mind reading, and if you find you can pull these off pretty easily, go out there and try more intermediate and advanced tricks.
- The Grey Elephant From Denmark
This is an easy trick and a great way to start off. It plays off the third tip from above – when presented with certain questions, people will statistically answer a certain way, playing right into your hands. The following directions are what you’ll want to tell your victim.
- Pick a number between 1 and 10.
- Multiply that number by 9.
- If that number is two digits, add the digits together.
- Subtract 5 from that number.
- With the number you have now, correspond it to a letter in the alphabet (A=1, B=2, C=3, etc.)
- Think of a country that begins with your new letter.
- Using the second letter of the country, think of an animal that begins with that letter.
- What color is that animal?
There are no grey elephants in Denmark!
- Telepathic Telephone Book
This simple trick requires a phone book, which may be especially impressive to a younger audience who may never have seen such a ridiculous thing. :) Besides the phone book, this trick requires two spectators who can do simple math. First, call on the first spectator and ask them to call out a three digit number, or to involve more people, get three different audience members to each call out one number, and combine them into one 3-digit number. Write this number down on a large sheet of paper or somewhere else so everyone can see it. Next, ask a new person to do some math with this number. For the example, let’s use 387.
- Ask this new person to reverse the number: 783
- Now subtract the smaller number from the larger number: 783-387=396
- Next, reverse this new number, and add it to the last number: 396+693=1089
- Finally, ask them to look in the phone book, open it up to page 108, then count down 9 entries.
- As the spectator is concentrating on this name, so are you. After a few dramatic seconds, you announce the name of the person in the phone book.
The trick of this is that no matter what three numbers are chosen, when you ask them to reverse and add in the way you did, the answer will always be 1089. Of course, you peeked into the phone book beforehand and saw the name on page 108, ninth entry down and had that in your head.
- Black Magic
This is a good trick that includes an entire group of people and is perfect for a party. You’ll first need to have an “assistant” that no one else knows is in on the trick – it might be fun to include the “star” of the party – perhaps the birthday boy or girl, or a guest of honor. Before gathering the group together, you and the assistant will discuss the trick, with you telling them that naming a black object will be the signal. Now, on to the trick.
- Gather everyone together in the room.
- Tell them that you are going to leave the room, and while you’re gone, they will, as a group, pick one object in the room, then you will return.
- You tell the “assistant”, the one who’s in on it, to start naming objects in the room, and that you will magically know the thing they all picked as a group.
- The person then begins naming objects found in the room: the clock, a chair, the carpet, etc., until they say something that’s obviously black (or red, or alive, or whatever you decide on beforehand), then you know that the next thing they say after the black thing is what they all picked. So when he or she is done listing the things in the room, you know exactly what they picked. (You have to really hope that the thing they pick isn’t the signal object!)
- A Dollar for Your Thoughts
This one involves math, a dollar bill, some index cards, and blown minds. To pull this one off, it requires a bit of preparation. First, find the dollar bill you’re going to use and note the first four numbers of its serial number. Then, on an index card write down three 3-digit numbers that, when added, come out to the first four numbers on the dollar bill. For instance, if the first four numbers on the bill are 2477, write on the index card the numbers 789, 912, and 776, vertically, with each number underneath the previous. Make sure to make these numbers look like three different people wrote them in order for this trick to be believable.
- To begin the trick, the mind reader takes a blank index card and a pencil, and hands it to a random spectator, then asks them to write down a three digit number on it. Then, he does the same with a second spectator, and finally, a third. The mind reader now has in his hand an index card with three randomly chosen 3-digit numbers on top of a stack of blank cards, then on the very bottom, the plant card he wrote down the numbers on before the trick.
- Now comes the distraction that is necessary to pull this trick off. The mind reader calls on a fourth person (it may prove helpful to really draw the group’s attention to this new person). This person is called on to add these three numbers up – and this is where the switch happens. As the group is paying attention to this person, the mind reader switches the bottom plant card with the top card with the random numbers on it.
- The person adds up the newly switched plant card to get a new 4-digit number, then announces it to the audience (don’t show it – the other participants will know it’s not their numbers). Then, with a little pizzaz and showmanship, tell the audience this new, seemingly random, 4-digit number “seems familiar to me”. Then, trying to remember where you’ve seen that number, you pull out your wallet, then fish for the magic dollar with the four matching numbers on it, passing it around to show everyone.
The crux of this trick is the card switching, with the distraction being a big help. You may either physically switch the two cards’ positions, or simply flip the deck over, so that your bottom card is now on top. Do you find you like doing magic with currency? Try this course on tricks using coins – it will improve your dexterity, as well as your confidence, turning you into a magic machine.
Tada! You can now impress your friends (or at least some kids) with your new mind reading abilities. As you can tell, these tricks, and others like them, simply require a little bit of preparation, maybe a little outside help, and the old magic standby: distraction. Don’t forget to practice these alone first, or at least with someone you know, like a friend or a family member, that won’t be too harsh on you when you blow it those first few times. If these mind reading tricks really tickle your magic bone, we have a few courses for you to check out that will really impress people: this course will show you some tricks using everyday items found around the house, and this course has over 100 tricks, using everything from coins, to cards, to math.