Monthly archives for November, 2011

Turkey Day & REVIEW: Mental Miracles DVD

Happy Turkey Day!!

Yes, those of us in the US celebrate Thanksgiving, and many of us merely call it “Turkey Day,” in honor of the (typically) most often served dish. Rather than take this week off, I decided to get right to it this week with in my opinion, a true classic in terms of mentalism releases on DVD.

Of course I’m talking about….”Mental Miracles,” by Bob Cassidy! It’s available on DVD from Hocus Pocus. Here’s the link: It’s available for $34.95.

AD COPY: Bob Cassidy, one of America’s foremost mentalists, has been a professional entertainer for more than 25 years. Author of The Art of Mentalism, a modern day classic, he has the unique ability to convince any audience that he can read their innermost thoughts, while also amazing and entertaining them in the process.

On this DVD Cassidy performs his professional show in front of an amazed audience of mentalists and then explains everything. If you ever wanted to make people believe you can read their minds, you must see this tape. Cassidy teaches many of his original routines and discusses how to structure, present and create a mind reading show.

Routines Taught:

Chronologue: A predicted card matches what is written in a diary on a freely selected date. New work and psychology including stage and close-up versions.

Name/Place Routine: A couple of spectators think of a person and a place and you divine their thoughts.

Psychomatic Deck: A spectator looks at a card in the deck and you read their mind, telling them what card they are thinking of.

Fourth Dimensional Telepathy: You reveal the name of a childhood friend, the name of a pet, and reproduce a previously drawn illustration.

Card Memory: A rapid memorization of a shuffled deck of cards.

Techniques Taught:

Includes dozens of technical and psychological tips, theories and advice about prop management, pocket management, staging, checkpoints, prop construction, mnemonics, establishing actions, taking advantage of coincidence, prop selections, miscalls, billet preparation, covering of errors, precautionary measures, giving clear instructions, deck stacks, making mentalism credible, and much more.
Also includes discussions on how and why the show is structured, getting the whole audience involved, presentational ideas, patter and more. All items are easy to execute and are within anyone’s reach. After watching this program you will want to be a Psychic Entertainer.

WHAT YOU RECEIVE: An incredibly fun 90-minute DVD in which Bob performs a 30 minute show and then spends the next 60ish minutes explaining it all.

MY THOUGHTS: Okay, the first effect, Chronologue, is a classic in mentalism. It’s a tried & true effect that is ultra-easy in terms of difficulty. You can do this surrounded, it plays great for stage and I’ve even used it for strolling. You have multiple outcomes, so you really can do it strolling. The only ‘knock’ against using it for strolling is the fact that the verbal ‘set-up’ takes a bit of time. The verbal ‘set up’ involves some interesting coincidences between a deck of cards and our modern-day calendar and whenever I do this, audiences are always very interested, but then again, I primarily use it for stage. Nonetheless, this is an almost perfect mental effect and once you understand the principals involved, you can use names, locations, all kinds of things instead of a deck of cards.

The second routine, Name/Place, is just about as pure as you can get. It’s my favorite kind of mentalism – telling a volunteer to think about something then you reveal it. To me, this is what mentalism is most about…thinking of virtually anything and revealing it. Though I do use cards and other objects in my mentalism, this kind of minimalist mentalism amazes me the most. For this routine, there’s a bit of dexterity work involved. I would not call it ‘sleight of hand’ by any means…more simply a matter of choreography. It’s nothing too technical but will require rehearsal so you do it without ‘fumbling.’

Perhaps the biggest benefit of this rutine is the seamless switch Cassidy demonstrates, allowing users to simply ring in a dummy billet for the one that has information written on it. The move looks so casual and innocent PLUS it’s dead-ass easy. The biggest challenge? Making sure you don’t turn it into a ‘move.’

The third routine involves Bob performing the Psychomatic Deck. He does not explain how to do it as it’s an inexpensive dealer item but it is interesting seeing a professional mentalist use this. For my liking, this was the weakest part of the show, only because I feel Bob’s other material was so mind blowing that this card effect was simply overshadowed.

The fourth effect is my favorite: Bob’s take on the classic Fourth Dimensional Telepathy routine, popularized by Anneman, among others. To any armchair mentalists out there who don’t feel that a simple three envelope test based in part on the one-ahead principle can fool modern audiences, I can firmly say you’re dead wrong. I performed Fourth Dimensional Telepathy using Cassidy’s handling for about 6 years as the cornerstone of my mentalism act. In many ways, it’s almost the perfect routine: the choices are so wide open. There is NO forcing, no ‘range’ force, nothing restrictive. Really, the only reason a performer gives a person an idea of choice is to add texture and stability to the routine. (I believe if you told a person, “Think of anything in the world!” the person would stare blankly at you!)

The routine is a classic due to the freedoms you have as a performer. The biggest problem with so many similar routines is the fact that one item is forced – youve seen the amateurs do it: “Spectator one, think of any word in the English language…Spectator two, think of any person in the world…Spectator three, pick a card.” None of that here. As Bob does it, the first spectator thinks of a childhood friend, the second thinks of a childhood pet and the third spectator thinks of a drawing of anything. It’s bloody brilliant.

About the ONLY drawback to this routine is its length – as I performed it, the routine ran 12-14 minutes long and there is by necessity the writing down of the information along with the stuffing of the envelopes. Keeping the audience’s attention during all of this prepatory work until the actual mindreading happens is the real challenge of the routine.

Nevertheless, it’s powerful. I point to several instances when I was using this a lot when spectators would come up to me after a show asking about my ‘gift.’ I’m not kidding! Pretty awesome stuff for some bits of cardstock, pens and copin envelopes!!

The final routine is Cassidy’s card memory demonstration. For this routine, you’ll need nothing more than a deck of cards. When I watched this routine, I felt it was fairly impressive but had no real desire to put it in my act until I started doing memory workshops for school & corporate groups. Mnemonics (memorization through visualization) is certainly a valuable skill for anyone to learn (especially mentalists!) but using it in this kind of a performance can certainly be challenging – utilize memory techniques all the while maintaining performance – but the good thing is this demonstration uses NO mnemonics! It only took me a short while to memorize the deck stack Bob uses and it’s not one of the usual suspects, as far as deck stacks.

Once I started using this routine, I was delighted at the response it generated!

MY RATING: This is an obvious 10 out of 10. This is one of the few DVD releases where, if one wanted, you could put EVERYTHING into your show and be pleased with the results. Too many DVD releases have ‘filler’ effects to pad out a 3-DVD release, but this baby is perhaps the single greatest value in mentalism DVD history.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Since this week was about mentalism, I want to echo my buddy Paul’s enthusiasm for his new book, Performing Mentalism for Kids. Without tooting my own horn, the two routines that I contributed to the book are great routines for real-world workers. Judging by the list of contributers, this book is going to be a benchmark for the field! I can’t wait to tear into it!!

Enjoy your holiday weekend!



A Bittersweet Standing Ovation and REVIEW: The Impossible Box

Hi all,

Whew, a rough week of performing…three days in Canada, one in Gettysburg, PA (one of the most picturesque towns I’ve ever visited) and parts near home in addition to my slowly growing clinical hypnosis client base.

A standing ovation is something I normally cherish, but last night’s was bittersweet. I called up the WRONG volunteer during a corporate event but did not realize it til I was well into my handcuff escape….I was doing Anthony Lindan’s routine with the red curtain and one of the volunteers kept lowering the curtain, saying inappropriate things and just being an ASS. I somehow got through it without blowing my stack.

The rest of the show went fantastic and at the end of the show, I received a standing ovation. The FIRST person in line (there were many) to shake my hand was the ASS I mentioned. “You were f—ing fantastic!” was his comment. I wanted to punch the guy, but simply accepted the compliment.

The show was my Murder By Magic show, available here at Hocus Pocus. Just to remind everyone, the product will be pulled after December 31st. The way the show is designed, it has a built-in emotional hook that will get the audience on your side and keep them there!

A quick shout-out to my buddy Paul Romhany as he’s relocating the family back home. Safe travels, my friend.

Keep your eyes out for new Cris Johnson products after the first of the year! I’ve got several projects in the works. The first will be the long-awaited “Cause & Effects: Volume 3″ a third book of real-world routines…coming soon!!

This week’s review is The Impossible Box by Ray Roch. It’s available for $25.00 from Hocus Pocus. Here’s the link:

AD COPY: The PERFECT walk-about and close-up effect.

Never throw away your old playing cards again. Use them for this amazing routine by Ray Roch.

Effect: The performer brings out six cards and quickly makes a box. The box can then animate in the spectators hand or on a table, the lid then taken off and an object, such as a lemon produced.

This 60 minute DVD goes in to detail with step by step instructions of how to do different loads including large die, a lemon, signed card to box, a small bottle of whiskey, and golf balls. He also shares two methods he uses to make the box animate and float, then produce a ball from the box that floats up in to his hand. This DVD is filled with gems from years of performing and perfecting Ray’s signature routine.

The perfect routine for the magician who wants to leave his audience with a gift. Not only can they keep the contents but they also get to keep the box itself.

Ideal for trade shows, walk about, restaurant magicians and promotions.

Now you don’t have to throw away your old playing cards – use them to perform The IMPOSSIBLE Box.

You will learn:
How to construct a box and how to put one together quickly
Various loading techniques that happen right under the spectator’s nose
Signed Card to Box – a card is signed lost in the deck and later found sealed inside the card box.
Various loads from the box – learn how to produce as many as three different items from the box including golf balls, dice, a lemon, a bottle and more.
Two different methods on floating the box – Ray shares two methods, both of which are easy and can be set up at all times ready to go.
Tips and stories – Secrets that make this effect easy to perform and a few stories from Ray that have happened while performing this over the year.
Ray also shares his complete award winning five minute box routine. This includes all four routines taught on the DVD and put together to form a single five minute close-up show. One box with A LOT of magic. This is perfect for

those who perform in restaurants or are looking for something special and very different to present.

WHAT YOU GET: A very well produced DVD. This is released by Paul Romhany and like everything he puts out, it’s TOP notch.

QUALITY OF INSTRUCTION: I found Ray’s verbal instruction to be a tad too quickly paced for me. He kinda breezes through some of the explanations. I was a little concerned about this, but Paul provides viewers with slo-mo clips from the magician’s viewpoint of various things, particularly the construction of the box and some of the loading procedures. Happily, this makes the learning experience very easy.

DIFFICULTY: Since the crux of the effect is putting together the box in front of your spectators and then doing cool things with the box, you’ll need to practice putting it together quickly and smoothly. It’s not a difficult procedure, but fumbling and struggling with the box construction certainly won’t be fun for the audience to watch so put in the practice to get it into your muscle memory.

The loads and animation are all relatively easy, too. On a scale from one to ten I don’t think anything would be harder than a 3.

ANGLES: Some of the loads are easier than others and since this is intended for a walk around performance, all of the angles are something you should be able to work with. The animation/floating part of the routine can be done surrounded, providing your lighting is right, if you get my meaning.:)

VARIETY: Ray teaches viewers how to do several different handlings in terms of producing items from the box and in particular several different themes. In particular he has a routine themed with golf, a routine themed with gambling with different sized dice, etc.

There’s also a handling involving making the box animate, floating, and then causing a ball to levitate out of the box. All of the handlings involve building the box in front of the audience and eventually producing things from the box.

It should also be noted that in each handling, you are clean at the end and can really give the box away at the end of the routine…though if you’re doing a strolling gig where you visit 20 tables or groups of people in one night (as many restaurant/corporate magicians do) you obviously would be hard pressed to give the box away at every table.

THOUGHTS: There’s a LOT I LOVE about this release and only a couple of things I did not care for. First, the positives.

There are a couple of productions that are truly magical – that slo-mo shot in the promo video of the lemon coming out of the box is soooo cool looking and with mutiple handling options, within reach of anyone. There’s simply something satisfying about putting the box together and then pulling something out of it.

The box itself, being made of bright white cards with splashes of black and red, is very attractive to the eye. Additionally, I’m certain this would play just wonderfully in a parlor situation. I myself plan on using it in school shows. I wear dark colors, so the white box against the background of my dark clothes will look great. Plus, the animation of the box will look great and very visible, too.

I also love the animation of the box itself, as it looks very magical turning up on it’s edges. The idea of the ball floating out of the box is also wonderful.

Ray also provides a signed card to box effect which is nice, too. His handling is attainable and the effect looks great too, but as the signed card to impossible location plot doesn’t particularly excite me with any handling, I wasn’t too taken for this, but if you like card work, this is another great idea.

Finally, the entire idea of the impossible box is open to so many different presentational possibilities that it’s staggering. For instance, just to shoot an idea out there – instead of playing cards, I may use alphabet cards and build the box as I talk to school children about the possibilities opened up by reading skills and producing something thematically relevant out of the box.

The BIGGEST thing I love about this entire release is that it’s PRACTICAL. This isn’t a pipe dream with severe angle problems like some of the torn & restored card releases I’ve seen over the years. The Impossible Box is intended for the real world.

Now, just a couple of things I did not care for…

1. I did not care for some of the productions. Like I said, MANY of the handlings look wonderful and the spectators can see the production come out of the box. With some of the other productions, I thought, “Hey, it looks like the item is coming from _____.” Turns out I was right.

I don;t consider this a huge problem, though, as the psychology of magic and spectator attention is wayyy different to playing for the camera. Nevertheless, I like the earlier referenced productions better.

2. I did not care for the actual floating of the box. The animation/movement of the box looks great and I’ll use it, but as far as actually making the box float, I will quote Eugene Burger – “Less is more.”

FINAL RATING: I’m going to give this a 9 out of 10. I did not care for a couple of things, but this release is so incredibly open-ended with possibilities and so practical that this release is going on my “best of” list at the end of the year.

This is advertised as a close-up product (and it rocks) but if you work parlor gigs, I really think this will shine for you, too.



New Car, Murder By Magic Countdown, and REVIEW: Five Minutes With a Pocket Handerchief


Whew, after having over 220,000 miles on my car over the last 6 years, I finally buckled and bought a new car this week. My wife & I were both nervous about the car stranding me on the road with so many miles…especially they were all MY miles!! (I bought it new in 2006).

So this week, I rolled out in my nice new 2012 Hyundai Tucson, the steroid-injected version of my old car!! The sucker is incredible…I can talk to it and tell it who to call, tell it verbally where I want to go, etc. Unreal.

Plus, it’s sleek and black, but looks bad-ass, kinda like the Christopher Nolan-directed Batman movies Tumbler vehicle. (OK, I’m a nerd!!)

I wanted to also mention that time is running out to buy my Murder By Magic: The Ultimate Corporate Magic Show program. At the end of the year, I will have the team at Hocus Pocus pull the product. I don’t want a zillion people doing it. I’ve sold a dozen or so to multiple countries around the world, which means you’re not going to have a ton of competition. In fact, in years past, I booked a ton of corporate Stage Hypnosis gigs, but despite hypnosis being a “bigger deal” than magic to most HR directors, I actually book Murder By Magic more easily because it’s so unique and that’s what HR directors and corporate booking agents are looking for: something unique!

So, the clock is ticking!!!

On to this week’s review….I decided to review an older product: 5 Minutes With a Pocket Handerchief by Quentin Reynolds. It’s available for $29.95 from Hocus Pocus.

Here’s the link…

AD COPY: An entire act that fits in your pocket. Featuring the hilarious Magic Mouse.

Quentin Reynolds is a professional magician whose specialty is children’s shows. The routine taught on this DVD/Video is the highlight of his show — a polished five-minute act which is accomplished with nothing more than an ordinary pocket-handkerchief.

You are treated to a live performance in front of a classroom of children where Quentin brings the kids to a frenzy using this handkerchief routine and the many gags and touches which make it a masterpiece. Following the performance you are taught everything you need to know to perform the act.

The routine is a brisk and upbeat sequence of effects that begins with a stretching handkerchief, a series of knots and culminates with the animation of the Magic Mouse. It is adaptable for most performing situations such as stage, parlor, close-up, walk-around, kids, adults, yet it still fits in your pocket and is very easy to do.

Effects and sequences taught:
The Stretching Hank: A handkerchief is stretched to twice its original size.
The Jumping Hank: A handkerchief repeatedly jumps out of your hands and into the audience.
Karrell Fox’s Knifty-Knot: No matter how hard you try to tie a knot in the handkerchief it keeps disintegrating.
Karrell Fox’s No Not: You finally make a knot but it magically unties when a spectator blows on it.
Stand-Up Hank: The handkerchief is made to stand on end and fall on command.
The Magic Mouse: The handkerchief is folded into a hat, an iron, an earring, a moustache, and finally into a mouse. The mouse is wound up and begins to wiggle its tail. The mouse seems to come to life as it runs up and down your arm, around your neck, and then leaps into the audience — making them scream with fright. The mouse’s tail is pulled and it turns back into a handkerchief. The handkerchief is folded and put back in your pocket. The act is now completely reset for your next show.
In addition to the above you are also taught: Frank Garcia’s Iron Gag, Stewart Judah’s Watchwinder Gag, tips from George Sands, Harry Blackstone, Sr., Dan Garrett, Martin Gardner, and tons of jokes, gags, by-play, tidbits, and advice which can only be learned from years of continuous performance. Includes a discussion on making the routine even stronger and much more.

Special DVD Features:
An additional 17 minutes of footage discussing presentational ideas, routine development, how to create your own act, a production finale and more.
Instant access to performances and explanations
DVD trailers
Dolby Digital sound
Encoded for worldwide viewing

WHAT YOU GET: A nicely produced video. My copy was a VHS tape because I bought it years ago. I’m considering upgrading to the DVD for the added material. You’ll need to provide your own hanky and watch-winding gimmick.

QUALITY OF DVD: The DVD includes a live performance of Quentin performing the act in a school in front of around 40 children. Their reactions are amazing! The rest pf the DVD is Quentin explaining the routine in painstaking detail. The lighting is good, the explanations crystal clear.

QUALITY OF INSTRUCTION: As I mentioned, Quentin leaves no stone unturned. He really goes into incredible detail for such a simple routine from a technical standpoint. The detail he gives without a doubt shows that he has performed this thousands upon thousands of times. He has this routine ingrained into his DNA and has mastered it.

Quick sidebar…I love the fact that he has mastered this routine in the real world. I hate it when I buy a book or DVD and the creator reveals that a particular routine or effect was developed specifically for their lecture tour! I couldn’t care less what magicians think of a routine, only paying audiences.

DIFFICULTY: There are some simple folding procedures you’ll have to master as well as some simple vanishing knots. You’ll also need to rehearse the movement of the mouse. None of this is particularly difficult, but to master these simple demands while maintaining a performing pace will take time. It’s not hard, but put some work into a killer 5 minute act and you’ll be rewarded in spades!

ANGLES: No problems at all – do it surrounded!!

AGE LEVELS: Quentin says, in addition to parlor/stage kid shows that he sometimes uses this in strolling performances for families. Personally, I feel it shines best in front of kids in a parlor setting. I have used it for audiences up to 100 kids, providing they are close to me and it just kills. In terms of ages, I find it works best for younger children, ages 4-7, so for me I use it most often in child care/daycare shows where it’s been the backbone of my act for 8 years.

MY THOUGHTS: This routine is absolutely priceless. If Quentin ever puts out an extensive kids’ show course, I’d buy it in an instant. This man KNOWS kids. The routine is funny, with plenty of kid humor and visual gags and when the “mouse comes to life,” it generates huge belly laughs and screams that it’s an amazing thing to see and experience as a performer.

Quentin understands that kids like to laugh and that ‘amazing’ magic is really secondary for younger children. The lessons to be learned in this video are legon for the budding kids show performer.

This is an amazing value and receives my highest recommendation. I should also mention that I chose to review this particular product as a way to remind all magicians to explore older products…not just the new stuff.

I still can’t believe the reactions this gets…all from a simple hanky.

I should also mention that while I LOVE the watch winding gag and gimmick Quentin uses, when I originally bought the tape I could not find such a gimmick anywhere so I changed the routine and use a squeaker gimmick (usually I just steal one from one of my dog’s well-worn doggie toys) and use a squeaker sound instead of the watch winder. If you can find the watch winder gimmick, by all means, use it – the gasps of amazement from the kids is priceless.

OVERALL RATING: This is or should be considered a kids show classic and I can’t praise it enough. A perfect 10 out of 10. It simply does not get any better than this.

NEXT WEEK: The latest review of the stellar Paul Romhany booklet series!


Cris Johnson

My Little Dogs, The Impossible Box and REVIEW: Mes(s)merize

Hi All,

Crazy busy this week. Isn’t that how I start all my blog entries??

I do have to say, however, that most of November involves me working fairly close to home, which is great for my relationship with my family: namely my wife and our two little dogs, Frodo & Sophie. Frodo is a 17-lb “cock-a-poo” and Sophie is an 8=lb Bichon, but my friend Rodney said she looks like a cross between a hamster and a poodle, so my wife & I call Sophie our “hoodle!” They’ve missed me and it’s great to spend time with them – the hoodle is stepping on my keyboard.:)

My buddy Paul Romhany sent me a couple of video clips of his new Impossible Box release that his associate has been performing for a looooooong time. This baby looks like one of the best new releases of 2011 in my eyes. Check out Paul’s blog to check out the video. (And this looks like a real-world worker as I’m guessing those arm chair magicians from “that forum” will whine and cry, but I think the presentational possibilities are endless!)

On to the review….Mes(s)merize!

Here’s the link:

It’s available for $30 from Hocus Pocus.

AD COPY: An impossible prediction effect

A clear wine glass is seen on a table center stage, containing a black envelope with a prediction. The spectators are asked to concentrate on a single thought, write it down on a card and seal it in an opaque envelope. At your command, they all throw their envelopes onto the stage. A random spectator selects any one of the envelopes (again: NO force!). Let’s assume the thought inside reads “ICECREAM”. She removes the prediction from the glass and opens it. She reads the prediction out loud: it matches the freely selected thought!

Now for the FINAL kicker: The lady is asked to open up the crumpled paper ball that was used to randomly selected her as a volunteer. It reads: “Tonight, a beautiful lady called Annie will thing of ICECREAM!”

*The spectator is randomly selected
*No switch of the paper ball
*No stooges
*No secret Assistants
*No pre-show
*No fumbling
*No sleeving
*No electronics
*They can really write down any thought
*The other envelopes all contain different words
*Spectator opens and reads the prediction herself
*Prediction and envelope, both are completely unprepared

“Brilliant and clever indeed… this gentleman has forged a total masterpiece.”
- Larry Becker

“I think it’s terrific prediction, and I love the final punch-finish. Clever and very practical.”
- Peter Duffie

“It’s perfect. The method is wonderfully simple and direct and I image it plays extremely well. I give it my highest recommendation.”
- Sean Waters

“Brilliant, yet, simple, the only way to do it.”
- Marc Salem

Pages: 42 – Saddle Stitched

WHAT YOU RECEIVE: a 42-page, saddle stitched booklet.

QUALITY: Very good, here. There are plenty of photos to assist the learner and the instructions are clearly written. You’ll have no problem understanding the mechanics of the effect.

ANGLES: Quite good. You can do this in living rooms, on stage or parlor situations.

DIFFICULTY: This effect primarily relies on a very simple move that is properly motivated by good blocking. Stefan has thought this through.

MY THOUGHTS: I like this but I don’t love this. When thinking about the impossibility of the ad copy, the fact that the spectators really do write down any thought, the fact that there’s no pre-show. etc, and most of that is true, the fact is that the “prediction” envelope being claimed as not being prepared is not entirely true. To be sure, the preparation is not hard and only takes a few moments, and therefore can almost be done at a moment’s notice.

All of this is juicy for a good effect and the visual of the audience flinging their envelopes at the performer is very appealing to me in terms of theatricality.

This is all good stuff for the main prediction effect, now let’s move for a moment to the kicker part of the effect, the bit where the ball of paper describes the revelation as well as the name of the randomly selected volunteer.

The kicker’s method actually has TWO methods. The first is a gutsy, ballsy classic “method” of mentalism that many pros will recognize and embrace. It’s also a method that magicians looking to add a mental flavor to their acts will likely reject as being, in Eugene Burger’s words, “Not very interesting.” It’s a reliable method that requires intestinal fortitude.

The second method is something that Stefan refers you to another source, which I always find a little annoying.

He also includes several bonus ideas and routine frames to get your creative juices flowing and this is nice.

FINAL THOUGHTS: There’s not a lot I can talk about in this review about the product without tipping the work. The method for the “main” revelation is rock-solid while the method for the kicker is something I’m guessing many will reject. the idea of referring the reader to another source may turn off some readers. Still, the routine has that great visual of all the envelopes being thrown on stage and the elegant simplicity of the glass with the prediction envelope will look great in terms of staging.

I think this is a good effect, worth consideration. I’ll give this a 7.5 out of 10.

Until next time…