Mentalism is a simulation of mental “super powers” demonstrated to the public. Among others it usually includes mind reading, hypnosis, prediction, clairvoyance, mind control, psychokinesis. Usually these abilities are being demonstrated as a performing act. In other words a mentalist can be called a mental magician.
Mentalism accumulates all sort of mentalism tricks into one category. This category can also be called mental magic. Magic in this case is a performing art.
Is mentalism real?
In this question people usually mean a certain type of super powers like telepathy, clairvoyance, mind reading, etc. And when they are asking if it´s real, they mean if a mentalist can read minds or move objects for real. I personally don´t have any proof of any of this being real. So I can´t confirm that. However, I don´t have any hard counter arguments to state that these things are not real. I prefer to leave this to your judgement so you can decide yourself if any of this is real or not.
If we are speaking about mentalism as an art of entertainment, then oh yes, it is absolutely real! I have to say that sometimes it looks so real that you unintentionally start thinking that the guy on the stage, the mentalist, has super powers for real! You will see yourself later in this article. So keep reading!
How Does Mentalism Work?
All depends on the type of mentalism trick that is being performed.
Some of the tricks demand some props from the arsenal of professional magician like invisible thread. These tricks can be quite easy to perform for beginners since all they have to do is to work on the performing itself.
Other tricks like mind reading can be one of the most difficult ones to demonstrate. For this a mentalist usually has to be exceptionally good in reading peoples body language and non-verbal communication. Basically you have to be able to read another person as an open book.
There are of course some basic mind reading tricks where you can trick the spectator to think that you are reading their mind. When you intentionally were manipulating his mind to lead their thoughts into the right direction. A great example of such trick is Triangle in a circle. A mentalist chooses the geometric shapes in advance and then forces the spectator to think of exactly those shapes that he chose.
From this you can conclude that mind manipulation is also a part of a skill set of a successful mentalist.
To sum it up, mentalism tricks usually work due to one (or few) of these points:
- Props. The audience either does not see any props being used or the props are not what they look like (a fake pen or ink is an example)
- Preparation. Quite often, few things have to be prepared before executing the trick. The audience cannot know about it.
- For example, a mentalist can ask a spectator a question which has 3 possibilities of answers. He puts down on a paper all 3 possible answers. Seals each of them in a separate envelope. Then puts each envelope into a separate pocket of his jacket. All this is done in advance, behind the stage, no one sees that.Then on the stage he asks the question. Listens to the answer of the spectator and takes out the envelopes that has the same answer.
- To the audience it looks like the mentalist knew what the spectator was about to say in advance, sort of predicted and sealed his answer before. But in reality he prepared all three possible options and pulled the one that was correct.
- Psychology. By this I mean mainly the ability to manipulate and to read body language and psycho-emotional reactions of a person.
- Manipulation. For many people the word “manipulation” carries a negative vibe. It feels that manipulation means making another person do or think something against their will. Well, at some point it is so. However, we are talking about mentalism – the art of entertainment – people expect you to manipulate them. They want you to show them that you “can” read their minds and predict their answers. There is absolutely no reason to worry about it.
The Most Famous and Remarkable Mentalists of All Time
Believe it or not, but mentalists exist centuries! Some of them were performing to the audience, others doing street mental magic here and there. There were also few historical figures who were using their mentalism skills outside entertainment industry and were trusted by important leaders and political figures.
I have to say, that apart from these outstanding mentalists that are mentioned below, there are many others worth attention. It would take a massive part of this article if I tried to include all of them. So I decided to limit it to just a few – the most significant in my personal opinion.
Alexander (Claude Alexander Conlin, 1880 – 1954), also know as C. Alexander, Alexander the Crystal Seer and Alexander the Man Who Knows. He specializes in mentalism and psychic readings. In addition to performing, he also worked privately for clients giving readings and was the author for few books.
Theodore “Theo” Annemann (Theodore John Squire, 1907 – 1942), also known as Ted Annemann. Annemann was an american professional mentalist and one of the greatest legends of all times in the industry. He is well known for introducing and refining many of the mentalism routines which continue to be taken as standard among mental magicians.
Banachek (Steven Shaw, born in 1960) is a living legend of mentalism. He is well known for his books (Psychological Subtleties 2, among others) and his input into mentalism development. He has invented various magic and mentalism effects, including the Penn and Teller bullet catch and the original “buried alive” stunt.
Tony Corinda (Thomas William Simspon, 1930 – 2010) was an English mentalist, magic dealer and magic inventor. He is the author of the mentalism classic read “Thirteen Steps to Mentalism”.
Uri Geller (Uri Geller, born in 1946) is a controversial Israeli performer of mentalism effects, illusionist, television personality and self-proclaimed psychic. He claims demonstrate his genuine paranormal abilities. However, sceptics believe that to achieve his results Geller uses magicians techniques.
Derren Brown (Derren Victor Brown, born 1971) is one of the best contemporary professional mentalists, illusionists and showmen. He is also author of various books for magicians as well as the general public. Unlike some others, Brown does not claim to possess any supernatural powers. Some of his acts are designed to expose the methods of those who do. The vast majority of his performances and effects are based purely on psychology.
In my personal opinion, if you want to see what mentalism is in action, Derren Brown is the one you should check out first. Here is one of the short examples of his performance:
How to Become a Mentalist?
It’s time to speak about the most interesting part. If you are this far in reading this article, there is a reason for that. And the reason most probably is – you consciously or secretly want to become a mentalist but don´t know how. Let´s clear this out!
I have to say straight away that becoming a mentalist take a tremendous amount of patience and persistance. It takes countless hours of practice and even more trials and errors. But hey, cheer up! The good thing is that the journey itself brings a lot of fun into your life. Trust me on this.
The most awkward and difficult part is only the first few performances of your very first mentalism trick. As in anything else that you start learning. All you have to do is to accept the fact that you are a beginner and let yourself be one. Let yourself do mistakes and fail as many times as it will take you to start seeing first success.
Where to start?
The best way to start your mentalism journey is to choose a simple mentalism trick and start practicing it.
First you have to understand the concept of it.
Second you have to split the trick into smaller steps. Then you have to take each step and fully understand it in its full depth. You have to catch and remember every single detail of it.
Third you have to learn it by heart as if it was the lyrics of your favourite song. You can actually start practicing before you learn it by heart. This way you will remember it naturally with little to no effort. You can use a cheat sheet to make it easier in the beginning.
It’s practice time!
Now it´s time to start practicing your first mentalism trick.
First I recommend you to practice it alone.
When you start feeling comfortable doing so, do it in front of the mirror. It sounds easy, but believe me it is not! While doing that, it is wise imagining that there is audience in front of you.
You have to reach the level of feeling so comfortable performing the trick alone and in front of the mirror, that you would find yourself a little bit bored doing so. You may even want to start improvising, changing lines or get creative about your movements.
What you have to do now is think of your friends and family members and choose those who are most likely to support you no matter what in any situation. Those who are almost never criticise you. Those who you trust the most. Those who are positive and like having fun. Got it? Good. These are the first ones who will be tricked and witness your mentalism abilities.
Why them? Although you may feel that you are ready to nail it in front of 10 thousand audience. And it may be true. It is still better to get your first in-person performance experience with someone nice. With someone who is not going to call you loser if something goes wrong. With someone who understands you and supports you in any situation. It is easier to get discouraged that you may think.
After you did it for few times with friends and family members, you can move on to your new friends. Or friends of your friends. People within your social circle. People you don’t that well.
Another way is to meet new friends using your “super powers”! When you are in the park or at the party – use your new skill to blow some minds away and make new friends!
Are You Serious About Becoming a Mentalist?
If your answer is yes, then keep reading..
You probably got the idea that mentalism is one of the most complicated types of magic. Of course you can learn some simple tricks here and there. And use them in the close company and social events for fun. That is one of the ways to go about it.
However you can’t really call yourself a mentalist at that point just yet, can you?
If it is your goal – to impress friends and new people that you meet – it’s totally fine! In this case instead of going deep into mentalism, I would suggest you to try to learn some card or coin tricks to enrich your repertoire.
However, if you are serious about becoming a mentalist, then you need a systematic approach. You need a guide, tutorial, lessons and explanations of all the subtleties that no one ever is going to reveal just like that.
What I recommend you in this case is Master Mentalism Course by Ryan Clark. It’s a professionally written complete guide to mentalism having both beginning and advanced mentalists in mind. The course itself contains 269 written pages of detailed guide on mind reading, hypnosis, levitation and much more. It is pretty much all you need to become a successful mentalist.
In addition to the main guide you will also take the part of the closed Mesmerize Member Club, that has incredible video collection of party tricks, interviews with legendary mentalists, and a lot more cool stuff.
I heard they started limiting the access to their course due to exceptionally high demand lately. So you better check yourself if it is still available following this link >> mastermentalism.com
Here you can find a detailed review of Master Mentalism Course:
What about the mentalism books?
Indeed, there are few fundamental and classic reads on mentalism. In addition to that, there are few contemporary books. And also those, that cover psychology and body language aspect. However, it is easy to get lost among those texts. They are not systematic. And if you are a beginner, you can easily get overwhelmed by the amount of information that you don’t need at this point.
What I do recommend, is to keep mentalism books for later stages of your mentalism journey. They will be of great use for you at some point, that’s for sure! They cover some great details and explanation of the concepts. You will know when is the right moment to switch to them. So, in conclusion, I personally would start with Master Mentalism, and use books a bit later as an addition.