Saturday, November 04, 2006


EFFECT: Six spectators are given six slips of paper. One of them writes down the name of a dead person. The other five write down the names of people still living. While the mentalist’s back is turned the people mix themselves up and then one by one step forward and hold their slip of paper to the back of the mentalist’s head. Although he cannot see who is behind him, the mentalist unerringly picks out the dead name.

METHOD: I’m not overly keen on Living and Dead Tests but am using the premise here to describe a very simple principle that enables you to identify a spectator who is standing behind you and out of your range of vision. It has other applications too.

When you select your spectators for this experiment you do so by the watches they are wearing. You are looking for those who wear the more conventional kind of watch. One that ticks!

Everything should now become clear. It is not the sixth sense you are using but one of your usual five, hearing. The person who writes down the dead name should be wearing a ticking watch on his left wrist. The others aren’t. Alternatively, have the odd guy out be the only one not wearing a watch.

You must be sure that he holds the slip of paper in the same hand that he wears his watch. When he holds it to the back of your head, you will hear his watch ticking. Conversely, you won’t hear anything when the other people hold their slips of paper to your head. Not much more to it than that other than conjuring up variations.

You could use it in a mental Just Chance routine, divining which of three envelopes contains the banknote.

Or you could have a bag of black and white marbles, which is really a change bag. Force two spectators to choose black marbles and the one with the watch choose white. Even though they do not know which colours they hold, you are able to tell them despite the fact you cannot see them.

You need not even be that ambitious. It makes a nice impromptu effect. Ask a spectator to take out a coin and hold it in one of his hands. Note whether it goes into his watch hand. Now turn your back to him and ask him to hold either hand to the back of your head. By listening for the watch you can tell him whether or not that hand holds the coin.

You will need quiet to use this principle successfully and you will have to concentrate, otherwise the ticking will disappear into the ambient noise of the room. Other than that, I think it is a bit of business worth knowing about.