In this article, I'm going to show you a simple solution to a problem that many magicians and mentalists have been facing. This solution is easy to make, it will cost you nothing (because it does not rely on an expensive prop) and, that's the cherry on top, it can be adapted to other situations but I'm going to show you how I apply it to a book test, as explained in the instructions of Babel. At the end of this article, I will give you other examples.
Let's imagine the following situation. You're doing a book test. The spectator chose a word under impossible conditions. He thinks that his choice was free but actually you forced him to choose a long word out of the 16 long words that are contained in your book test. And you know that word, unbeknownst to your spectator.
Before developing the technique that I'm about to show you, I would guess the word by simply writing it down on my notepad and showing that I wrote the correct word. It works, it's impressive, fast and impossible for the spectator, but there is a way to go much further. I'm going to show you a short video clip to illustrate that. Bare in mind, I already know the spectator's word, but he doesn't know that I know.
Instead of just revealing the word, I developed a revelation method in several phases, based on the fact that the spectator doesn't know that I already know his word. I'm going to give the impression that I'm guessing his word step by step, each of these steps being an opportunity to make a new revelation. In this way, I multiply the hits that I get.
Since I know that the spectator will think of a word out of 16, I can prepare 16 different scripts, one for each word. But it would be hard to memorise 16 different scripts, so I use a crib. Now we come to the technique that I wanted to show you. It is extremely simple but also very effective.
For a crib to be practical, it must contain all the information I need, I must be able to access the information quickly, easily and without suspicious moves, and it must be perfectly hidden. The crib that I'm about to show you fulfils all these criteria.
The paper you see me holding in the video is an A3 format, which is about 30 centimetres by 42 centimetres, or 11 inches and a half by 16 inches and a half. To prepare the crib, I made a table of 4 rows by 4 columns. In each of the 16 boxes, I wrote one of my scripts. I will also need a second paper of the same size, and I place it underneath the crib.
The spectator is sitting and I'm standing slightly behind him. I have the crib right in front of me so I can quickly, easily and secretly go to the box corresponding to his chosen word. I will then use the script to do my revelations, while pretending to write down every letter that is confirmed. Of course, I never write anything on the paper, I only mime it, as if I was taking notes.
At the end of the script, I say: "This is a bit messy, let me write this down again." I take the crib sheet and I put it aside, face down, as if it was too messy to be used. This action is perfectly logical and justified from the point of view of the audience. I'm left with a blank piece of paper in my hands and it's on this paper that I write the full word before showing it to the audience.
Of course, I have described the technique for stage but you can easily print the crib on an A4 format or a US letter format, or even on a small notepad for close-up.
At the beginning, I told you that you could use this crib technique for other situations. Let's imagine that you are using a fortune telling deck, like the Tarot cards. The spectateur thinks he is choosing a card at random, but in fact you force him to take his card within a limited set (for example, 16). If the cards are marked, you secretly know his card and you now use the crib I showed you to reveal his selection while making additional revelations about the card and the spectator.
Or let's imagine that you have a group of about twenty people for a cocktail. One of them has to hide a coin in his hand while you are not looking. When this is done, you come back and you use a logical, or mechanical, or electronic technique to secretly know who is holding the coin. Before coming to the event, you gathered information on each person (birthday therefore star sign, partner's name, kids' names, pets' names, postal address therefore possibility to describe their street and home thanks to Google Street, and so on) and you wrote all these details in the boxes of your crib, using a different box for each person. The revelation could then look like this:
"If you're holding the coin, don't show me anything but focus on your star sign. I think I'm dealing with a Gemini. [pretend to write this element down]
Focus on your house or appartement. Ah, I see a house, two stories, with a front yard. [pretend to write this element down]
I also see a cat with a small bell attached to its neck, a brown cat with white spots. [pretend to write this element down]
I see all this but I still need to find the person holding the coin."
You then put the crib on which you pretended to take notes) aside as if it was not useful anymore, and you draw a big arrow on the blank paper underneath. Use this arrow like a compass to point to the correct person.
Now you see that this crib idea can be useful for any situations where you need to store a lot of information to access it in front of the audience. I used this technique on many occasions and it always served me well.
In the next article, I will reveal another technique, a sneakier one. That's the one I'm using these days.