Back in 1950, George Armstrong published a manuscript called Chandu’s Psychoanalysis. It was advertised as:
Here is an entirely new idea in Mentalism. Several spectators think of various objects. The performer Psycho Analyses them and divines the objects being thought of.
Positively No Force
Any Object Thought Of
No Chance of Failure
Performer is Right Everytime
No Skill Required – Just the Ability to Talk
It sounded like a mentalist’s dream. The manuscript had been long out of print when I read the advert in an old issue of The Magic Wand and it was some time before I eventually found a copy. Sadly, I found the method disappointing. That was more than twenty years ago. I’ve been rereading The Wizard recently, another magazine edited by George Armstrong, and was pleased to find it contained some contributions by Chandu. See Vol 6, No 63, April 1953 and the following issue). To my surprise, I thought them excellent. Chandu in his youth had an insight into mentalism that I didn’t. And just other day I reread his Psychoanalysis manuscript. What a gem it is! What a fool was I.
I’m not going to explain it here. You can probably buy a copy for a £1 at your local magic sale. It’s another one of those manuscripts that no one reads. Or worse still, like me, reads it and fails to realise its value.
But I will pass on the following idea, inspired by Chandu’s work.
Let’s call it Rorschach Revelations, purely for the sake of alliteration.
It’s a stage/club/television item. With several volunteers seated in a row on stage, you show a large pack of cards to the audience. “They’re used in psychometric testing,” you say, “to open up the subject’s innermost thoughts, like a word association test in which one image leads unconsciously to another.” The cards are in fact a series of Rorschach blots and while the audience may not have handled them they are familiar with them. You mix them up a little. They’re oversized and so not easy to handle, but you do your best. Then you go up to each volunteer and ask them to take one, “Any one, it doesn’t matter. We’re going to play a game of imagination.” The rest of the cards are placed aside.
“What I want each of you to do is look at your card quickly. Not yet, but when I give the command. Just raise the card, look at it then put it down. And then imagine whatever it brings to mind. Form a picture in your mind. Fill it with colours, even movement if you want. Use your imagination. Is that clear?” The volunteers say that it’s all perfectly clear. You snap your fingers, say “Now, look at your cards!” and they do.
Each volunteer is now thinking of an image that no one else could possibly know. Yet you can pick up a pad and marker pen and draw pictures of what lies only in their imagination.
How’s it done?
Very easily. As in Chandu’s Psychoanalysis, all you need is the ability to talk because the whole thing is a con from start to finish. While you show a set of Rorschach cards to the audience, the volunteers are actually selecting cards that have words written on them. And because the cards are marked on the back, they are selecting words that you already know. But when it comes to revealing those words, you talk as if the volunteers have been looking at inkblots and have been able to create any image from them. That’s the swindle.
Use a pack made up of a few Rorschach blots and the rest are word cards. And just make sure the volunteers never see the faces of the cards when you display them to the audience. Keep your patter ambiguous so that the volunteers and audience can read into it entirely different meanings. When each volunteer has an image in mind, have them drop the cards face down onto the stage, preferably just behind them. That puts them neatly out of the way.
Use your best mentalistic skills to make it appear that you are interpreting images not divining words. The pad lends you the authority of a psychoanalyst and is a good place for making all sorts of scribbles and even a drawing or two. Finish on a high note by asking the last volunteer what she was thinking of. Then turn your pad around to show that you have made a drawing of that very image. If you read the Chandu manuscript, you’ll get a better idea of how the demonstration can be framed to look like a genuine example of psychoanalysis rather than some unbelievable psychic feat.