This book packs almost 200 mental miracles, many of which are creations of one of the masters of mental magic - Ted Annemann. You will find the best book tests, psychic codes, tricks with slates, blindfold reading, publicity effects, and much more. This book together with Annemann's Card Magic covers a good part of the famous Jinx magazine, of which Annemann was editor.
Annemann's Full Deck of Impromptu Card Tricks, which made its appearance about a year ago, has been enjoying a well deserved popularity ever since. There is no reason to suppose that Annemann's Practical Mental Effects, compiled in the main from the same source (the pages of The Jinx) and capably arranged and edited (as was the earlier work) by John J. Crimmins, Jr., will prove any less popular. It is, to be sure, a much more expensive book, but it is also much larger and much more elaborately gotten out. It is, moreover, a far bigger book than it seems at first glance to be. It numbers 310 pages, size 6 by 9 inches; but, because it is very compact and is printed in rather small type, it contains more material than is found in many a book which gives the appearance of being substantially larger. A simple calculation of the kind often made by printers indicates that if the format of Practical Mental Effects were the same as that of the Tarbell books, it would make a 400-page volume. We are not applauding the use of small type - and, indeed, would have preferred a larger size (though the excellence of the type-face makes it easily readable) - but are merely emphasizing the fact that there has been no "rationing" of material in the present book.
We learn from the Table of Contents (which is here labeled "Index") that Practical Mental Effects explains 193 feats, which are grouped into twelve chapters. The most we can hope to do, by way of reviewing this wealth of mysteries, is to give some idea of their authorship and the ground that is covered, and then single out a few individual tricks which happen to appeal to us as especially good. We note that feats by at least sixty-seven persons are described. As was to be expected, the name of Theo. Annemann heads the list. According to our count (which is subject to correction), he is responsible for fifty-eight of the feats - which does not mean that he invented all of them, but rather that he "wrote them up" in his journal, The Jinx. There are nine effects each by J. G. Thompson, Jr. and L. Vosburgh Lyons; seven by Orville Meyer; five by Henry Fetsch; four by Stewart James; three each by Dr. Jaks, Clayton Rawson, Jack Vosburgh, Eddie Clever, R. H. Parrish, Walter B. Gibson, Bruce Elliott, Charles T. Jordan, Dr. Jacob Daley, and Dr. L. E. Duncanson; and one or two by each of fifty or more others, including such well-known performers and writers as Joseph Dunninger, Al Baker, Sid Lorraine, Stuart Robson, Karl Germain, Tom Sellers, Otis Manning, Paul Curry, Ralph W. Read, Jean Hugard, Peter Warlock, Stanley Collins, Dai Vernon, Audley Walsh, Henry Christ, R. M. Jamison, and others whose names are familiar to readers of current literature on magic. Such a list of contributors is in itself ample guarantee of the high quality of the material which Mr. Crimmins, as editor, has brought together in this exceptional collection of mental effects.
Probably as good a way as any to indicate the scope of the book, and the relative importance of its several divisions, is to give the titles of the chapters, together with the number of pages and feats included in each. The contents of the twelve chapters are as follows:
- Ch. 1. Effects with Billets and Pellets (23 pages, 12 feats). Ch. 2. Publicity Effects (12 pages, 13 feats).
- Ch. 3. "Dead or Alive" Effects (11 pages, II feats). Ch. 4. Book Tests (24 pages, 15 feats).
- Ch. 5. Thought Foretold (12 pages, 9 feats).
- Ch. 6. Miscellaneous Mental Masterpieces (38 pages, 25 feats).
- Ch. 7. Envelope Necromancy (28 pages, 13 feats).
- Ch. 8. Miracle Slate Routines (57 pages, 38 feats).
- Ch. 9. Money Mentalism (12 pages, 9 feats).
- Ch. 10. Blindfold Reading (13 pages, 6 feats).
- Ch. 11. Mentalism with Cards (49 pages, 34 feats).
- Ch. 12. Psychic Codes (25 pages, 8 feats).
It will be clear, from even a casual examination of this list, that Practical Mental Effects covers the field of "mentalism" with surprising thoroughness. The absence of information on "radio mindreading" is doubtless attributable to the fact that these articles were written before Joseph Dunninger had demonstrated the possibilities of such feats over a nation-wide network. It may be noted that the book leans definitely to the side of "one-man" rather than "two-person" feats, though there are several first-rate "routines" of the latter type.
In citing a few specific items from among so many, we can only pick out those which, for one reason or another, particularly strike our fancy. We must not fail to mention a "billet test" entitled The Germain Gem, in which the name of a deceased person appears mysteriously on a cigarette paper which has been selected, rolled up, and held up on the point of a pencil by a spectator. (In an almost daily association with Mr. Germain over a period of five years, we saw him perform this trick hundreds of times. The method described here is authentic, but in Karl Germain's hands the feat experienced countless variations.) The OM (Otis Manning) Switching Box is a practical, easily constructed bit of equipment; and it and two tricks in which it is employed are certain to be welcomed by many magicians. There are several good "publicity stunts" by Annemann and others, including a simple but effective one by J. G. Thompson, Jr., entitled Impromptu Vision, in which a Robert-Houdin coin "move" is adapted to the manipulation of a business card. There are fifteen "book tests," some of which seem to us to be unduly complicated and long drawn out. If we were performing such a test, we should want to hand the book to a spectator, asking him simply to glance through the book and pick out any word (or passage) he might care to choose. But in the vast majority of book tests - including many of those in Practical Mental Effects - the selection is arrived at by the use of cards, dice, or other articles for which, from the spectator's point of view, there must be little if any justification. We fear that, in too many instances, the question aroused in the acute observer's mind is not "How did he manage to discover the word I selected?" but "How did he ever get me to select the word he wanted me to take?" - which is scarcely the effect the performer aims to get, but one that is almost inevitable when the customary measures are taken "to make absolutely certain that the choice is purely a matter of chance." Free from suspicious procedures of this type are two dictionary tricks (one by Sid Lorraine, the other by Otis Manning), which are straightforward and simple in performance, though the latter requires a little special tailoring of the magician's coat pocket.
One of the most valuable sections is Chapter 5, in which the device known as the "pocket index" finds frequent employment. If the reader is attracted by the startling feats explained in this chapter, he will doubtless be grateful for the detailed description of the Annemann Billet Index, which is so fully set forth in word and diagram that it should be quite easy to construct. The trick (in Chapter 6) entitled Sefalaljia, by Stewart James, is more in the nature of a spiritualistic than a mental feat, but in any case it is very fine and comes close to living up to Annemann's claim that "this one-man miniature spirit cabinet routine is far beyond, in merit and effectiveness, anything yet conceived." The spirits apparently move a rubber ball from the floor of the cabinet into a glass tumbler, tie a knot in a handkerchief, thread a borrowed ring on a tape, smoke a cigar, and drink a quantity of milk! The magician can make the cabinet for himself, work it himself, and (if he presents it properly) cover himself with glory. Telethot is the mental transmission of pictures from performer to medium, by a method which can be mastered "with but fifteen minutes practice." It sounds perfectly safe and sure, and could hardly fail to score a hit. A spirit effect by Harry Blackstone, in which the magician gets messages (via a rapping hand on a sheet of glass) from Thurston, Houdini, and Carter, gives a decidedly new twist to a trick which, in another form, we have been performing regularly for thirty years to the obvious satisfaction of our audiences. A modernization of the "one ahead" principle, by Dunninger and Annemann, used in connection with a special tray, should appeal to anyone who employs this time-honored method of securing secret information that has been sealed in envelopes; and an "original faked envelope," by Annemann, will doubtless be pressed into the service of many magicians.
There are so many good slate tricks in Practical Mental Effects that they would seem likely to meet fully the needs of everyone who has not yet come across the "ideal" method of performing this feat. Another chapter presents a test in which the medium (though blindfolded and covered from head to toe with a sheet) reads the contents of sealed envelopes - a feat which once caused great astonishment on the vaudeville stage. In the section entitled Mentalism with Cards are a couple dozen first-class tricks. Two that impress us most favorably are the justly popular Brain Wave Deck of Dai Vernon, and a "Do as I Do" feat by the editor himself in which he employs the "brain wave" principle. In the final chapter is a selection of "psychic codes," the most elaborate of which are a Silent Thought Transmission Act by the late Charles T. Jordan, and Moonlight Madness by J. G. Thompson, Jr. Both are step-by-step explanations of complete mindreading acts for two persons. Either of these routines, after a moderate amount of practice, should interest and bewilder almost any adult audience, and thus gain for the magician a reputation as a "master mentalist" of the "thought transference" variety.
We hope that this brief survey may give the reader some hint of the contents of the book, though it is quite impossible, in a short review, to do justice to the almost overwhelming mass of high-grade material that is found here. Its extraordinary value to "mental workers" will be immediately apparent to all who have had any experience in interpreting printed explanations in terms of actual presentation; and it is hard to believe that anyone could exhaust the possibilities of so huge a stock of mental mysteries in a lifetime of performing. We have, indeed, only one serious complaint to express about the contents of Practical Mental Effects, and this relates to the inclusion of a half-dozen or so tricks in which confederacy is employed. We cannot accept Theo. Annemann's excuse that in magic the effect is the all-important consideration, even though it involves the use of confederates. To do so would be to ignore the obvious truth that in conjuring, as in other fields, there are honest and dishonest methods of procedure. The magician who pretends to be a genuine mindreader or spirit-medium is clearly nothing but a swindler; and one who gets a confederate (presumably a bona fide member of the audience) to bear false witness is scarcely entitled to a better rating. We seriously question that any profession, unless it sets up for itself a higher standard than mere expediency, can long survive.
But even on the grounds of bare expediency, we are convinced that the use of confederates is a short-sighted policy. We know of one performer who asked a Program Chairman to "plant" certain questions with members of the audience, and promptly lost caste as a result. We once saw another magician perform the cut and restored necktie trick with a "borrowed" tie, and the whole town knew within a week that the lender had been "fixed." Finally, we know an exceptionally skilful sleight-of-hand performer who occasionally resorts to confederacy, with the consequence that his associates accuse him of confederacy at times when he is quite innocent of the crime. To us it seems as plain as two times two that, unless audiences are pretty certain that magicians may be depended upon never to use confederates, they will naturally assume that confederacy is being employed whenever a spectator takes any part in a trick, however slight or innocent that part may be. Our inevitable conclusion is that the use of confederates is neither good ethics nor good business - that it is all wrong all the time.
It may be in order to comment further on the physical make-up of the book. We have already mentioned the clear face but small size of the type. There is some lack of uniformity in spacing between the lines, such as is apparent on page 183. A curious innovation is the absence, from the first page of each chapter, of the traditional chapter number; all we are given in Practical Mental Effects is a pictorial headpiece and the chapter title. We much prefer the standard way of indicating the beginnings of chapters, and are sure other readers will feel the same way about it. We should have liked to see one of the eight blank pages moved from the rear and placed between pages 6 and 7, so that the reader would have been warned by the customary "half-title" page that the book proper was about to begin instead of being hurried unceremoniously from the Table of Contents to the first page of textual material; and we feel, too, that the proofreader should have caught many of the typographical errors that were allowed to slip by. (These are admittedly relatively unimportant matters, but all could have been remedied without the slightest additional expense.)
The paper that has been used is acceptable only because of wartime limitations; frankly, it is not very good. The book is well illustrated with some two hundred line drawings by Nelson Hahne, and a halftone portrait of Theo. Annemann. The editing of a work of this type and size is a burdensome task, but one which has been performed with distinction by Mr. Crimmins. The cover is one of the most attractive features of the book; it is of bright red cloth, gold-stamped on both front cover and spine. It is our guess that, for a great many years to come, Practical Mental Effects will hold first place as the outstanding work on mental magic.
[Note that the softcover version is the D. Robbins reprint which has a different cover than shown here.]