Mentalism, Magic and Mystery are three very different things – at least in our tattered book. We have never gotten into trouble with Magic and Mystery but on a couple of occasions have experienced harsh but understandable reactions from Mentalism.
First of all, we are out of the Mentalism biz. It used to be the cool thing around the time of people bending things and using specially patterned cards to read minds. There was a time in our business when everyone claimed they could read minds. Why they did that was always a mystery (little “m” mystery) to us. It gained them some notoriety but it would seem to invite constant challenges.
Slowly the world of Mentalism evolved to not claiming to be capable of reading minds. There were some who continued to make the claims but they were now considered psychics and not Mentalists. We were always in the Mentalism camp – back during our Mentalism days. We would, contrary to psychics, affirmatively tell audiences we cannot read minds. We could influence choices and perhaps pick up tells given by volunteers but never, ever could we read minds.
Except one time.
The following story is an amalgam of two events to protect the innocent and make our point.
We performed what Magicians would call a one-in-a-million shot. Our hole card is the Four of Hearts. We don’t know why but it seems like a good even number and has pretty hearts that can be read from the back of the audience. We were performing for some Boy Scouts and held an over-sized card before us and asked a woman in the far back to name a card. Our intention was to fail to have predicted the card and then go about our act explaining why we do not claim Mentalism power.
She called out in a loud and clear voice, “The Four of Hearts!”
We were far less mature then.
We should have joked it off, not shown the card, and said that was why we did not claim to have special powers. But we couldn’t resist. We milked the moment and when we finally turned the card to face the audience, there was true amazement. Unfortunately, there was also deep concern in the heart of the woman – the mother of one of a young scout.
She asked us almost immediately after finishing our routine, how we could possibly know the card. She had told no one and didn’t even know she was going to be a volunteer. Again, we were immature and in need of validation; even at the cost of someone else’s emotional toil.
“I don’t know for sure, we have a talent to read minds sometimes,” we said proudly.
It wasn’t true and still isn’t. We can’t read minds. We can’t even read fortune cookies without bifocals. We do have a very special talent in reading The Racing Form but our mounting losses over the years have proven that talent does not lead to accurate predictions of horse races.
The scout mom became upset. She asked if we could read her mind at that very moment. We paused as if trying to gather psychic messages and had to admit that we could not. But now she did not believe us. We were lying and reading minds. A very bad combination at a scout meeting.
“The Bible is against false prophets,” she told us as she took her boy behind her back and walked away from us.
We felt terrible. Horrible. We had offended – unnecessarily but for our own self-aggrandizement – a seemingly innocent, concerned mother and likely her son.
That is where the Mystery comes into the equation. Magic, to us, is clean. Things vanish, appear, and change shape or quality. Birds come from places you would least expect and disappear into places far too small for them. Magic is the kind of thing you would do (or we would do) for children, teens, adults and even people our age. Mentalism requires some advanced thinking on the part of the audience and if introduced as a real power can cause real concern.
We don’t want to concern anyone with our act. We do our double-lifts, false shuffles, second deals and what passes for a bottom deal and no one is emotionally concerned. We do a short card divination but never describe it as Mentalism. It is merely a demonstration of influence and picking up “tells.”
There are performers with more experience and ability than us. They would handle the troop mother incident in a far better manner. Perhaps they could even devise a method of proclaiming psychic powers that would cause no concern. We lack those abilities. But we can drink whole milk without having stomach or intestinal upset so we are all blessed in different ways. (We are not saying and would never say all self-proclaimed psychics are lactose intolerant; only that most are and we are not).
The Mystery is why we would do such a thing? Why would we concern a troop mom by persisting in the “gag” and asserting an ability we do not have and have never possessed? We learned our lesson years ago but pass it along for those starting out in our wonderful Art. There are very real consequences to what we do and how we choose to entertain.