From stunning your audience to a quick trick for a friend, mentalism tricks are the essential pillars of any aspiring or professional mentalist. There are quite a few types of mentalism tricks, all with different uses and purposes, and the main categories are telepathy, hypnosis, mind control, clairvoyance, and precognition.
As we know, you can’t actually use telepathy and get into someone’s head and communicate like Charles Xavier from X-Men but you can make anyone believe that you did – that’s the secret.
As a mentalist, you will use mentalism tricks that allow you to hypothetically get into the minds of the observers and blow them away with how scarily accurate you’re able to perform. In the case of telepathy and hypnosis for example, you’d use the power of suggestion and basic observational skills to make judgement on a person.
Hypnosis is extremely popular, effective and actually enjoyed by both the performer and the audience which makes the participant completely cooperative when being hypnotized.
While we’re gonna take a look at the most popular and effective mentalism tricks below, always remember that the key to all of them is confidence. Without the audience or participant believing in you, you won’t get anywhere. By exuding confidence and a strong, charismatic stage performance you can make the audience and participants believe that you have supernatural powers – the ultimate goal.
Any good mentalism trick will make the audience question everything they saw and even their beliefs. Now let’s dive in and get to know the most popular types and tricks (which encompass nearly all mentalism acts).
Mind reading tricks are the basis of any mentalist and they’re always my favorite mentalism tricks because they allow the audience to have the most control. The video below demonstrates some of the mentalism techniques for reading facial expressions. Things like dilating eyes or constricting based on positive and negative reactions are essential so keep an eye out (no pun intended) for those.
The girl selects the card, 4 of hearts. The mentalist starts by telling her that he is going to determine her card based off her reactions to cues he offers. Some obvious cues here include asking her “Is your card Red or Black?”. Now the presentation and subtlety of it is way off mark but in this case that’s better for us because you can clearly see the performer’s obvious moves, asks and techniques in order to guess the card.
Mind reading tricks are great because they actively involve the audience and they make them question if you actually have a supernatural gift like telepathy. When in fact, all that the mentalist is doing is looking at how you react or at how your micro-expressions show up when he asks different questions. Here he is very clearly studying her eyes and looking for any sort of fluctuation in mouth and brow line (he’s not being subtle at all though so if you perform this, you need to be MUCH smoother). Remember that microexpressions can go as fast as a 1/15th of a second so practice is crucial to ace this trick.
Another fantastic trick similar to mind reading is all about forcing an idea, an object, a color and in the end, a result into someone’s mind that you already had planned before. You do this by saying specific words or doing specific motions that all funnel the person’s mental image or final answer to the one you’ve already written, drawn or thought of. Take a look at the classic “Elephant Trick”, Red Hammer” or the “Triangle and Circle” for example – all super easy to learn and perform but very, very powerful.
This is the foolproof Elephant Trick script:
You were thinking of… A Grey Elephant from Denmark.
Short, sweet and pretty powerful isn’t it? Work on your presentation and you can make this one have quite the bang.
While most people wouldn’t instantly think of sleight of hand as a mentalism trick, you best believe it is. You’re not doing it to make the object disappear or move, you’re doing it to make the audience think that you did – take notice of the difference. It’s also not only a joy to watch for the audience but deeply satisfying to perform as well.
The basics of close up magic is essential to all mentalist performers as without the ability of misdirection you won’t be able to impress an audience. Take some notable Mentalists such as Derren Brown, Gary Kurtz, and Max Maven. What do all of these folks have in common? They are all very accomplished mentalists and their backgrounds are all in close-up magic like sleight of hand and misdirection.
You can think of misdirection almost as a means for suggesting something similar to mind reading. Below is one of the best sleight of hand performances you will ever see in both skill and theatrical humor – try to keep track of the misdirection! In some cases he just shocks you right in front of your face and it’s a joy for anyone to watch – amateur or expert – as you’ll either be blown away by the trick or blown away by his enormous amount of skill.
As a viewer and mentalist with experience in sleight of hand, even I lost track at some points. I had to actually slow down the video and see where he is pulling the objects from. There is nothing worse than as a sleight of hand and close up magician than to have someone catch something they shouldn’t have.
This is where confidence comes into play. If you are performing a mentalism trick I’m not saying to blindly accept that you are correct. That will make the audience not trust you and make you look bad as a mentalist and performer. I’m saying that you need to practice your craft to the point that you are always correct.
Becoming a better close up magician and then moving onto mentalism tricks like mind reading can be very beneficial. On paper, most card tricks and mentalism tricks in general are very easy. Your goal is simply to misdirect your audience and make them think they understand what is going on but sheer practice is what determines your success.
I will re-iterate over and over that mentalism is 90% performance based and it is all in how you present what you are doing. If you have confidence in what you are saying than the people watching you are more apt to believe you.
If you’re ready to take things up to the next level and want to truly become an expert, then it’s time for you to read the ultimate guide.
Teaching you every facet of the art in a step-by-step manner, this source of knowledge will turn you into a professional in no time, as long as you combine it with the most important skill of all – practice!
Due to popular demand, I’ve also written 2 other articles that focus on the:
Be sure to check them out if you want to know more!
More related tricks and how to perform them will be provided throughout this site and I will always try to find videos that demonstrate how easily they are performed. There have been some great mentalists on Britain’s Got Talent, for example, but my favorite ones are the extremely old school ones from the 50’s and 60’s all the way up to the 90’s.
As a performer myself I know how easy these tricks actually are but the way the people present them really makes or breaks their potency and success – that’s why you’ve gotta practice. If you can hear the crowd shrieking, people looking nervous and their faces showing signs of bewilderment and shock then that’s a telltale sign that the mentalist is doing the job effectively!