| The Box
By Ted Lesley
Ever since I was young I’ve had Corinda’s book “13 Steps To Mentalism” in my library, which is still one of my favourite sources for interesting material. In step No 4 “Predictions” of the aforementioned tome on pages 105 to 107 you’ll find an item called “DE PROFUNDIS”, which is in my humble opinion one of the best prediction effects for stage, cabaret and parlour. It is simple and direct and plays “big”.
Here is the effect, exactly as described in the “13 Steps”:
A spectator assists in the experiment. They are told to hold one end of a length of rope – perhaps some five feet long. On to the rope is threaded a ring which has a clip attached to hold a crystal clear box. Inside the box is seen an envelope. The performer holds the other end of the rope and slides the crystal box to the middle where it remains suspended in full view of the audience.
The performer now counts out loud from one to ten – and tells the spectator to call “STOP!” whenever he feels that he gets a “mental vibration on any number”. This is repeated three times – so that the number something like 854 – is finally selected. Following this, the performer runs quickly through a list of colours and then names of cities throughout the world – and each time the spectator calls “Stop!”. The performer writes the selections on a large slate or small board standing close at hand so that everybody can remember with ease what was chosen. We will suppose that we end with the selection “854- GREEN – PARIS”.
The box has been left suspended all the time – the performer now holds his end of rope up high – causing the box to run down the rope into the spectator’s hands. The spectator is told to remove it and open it, take out the envelope and read aloud the contents. Inside is a prediction which reads, “YOU WILL RECEIVE MENTAL INSPIRATIONS TO CHOOSE THE NUMBER 854 – THE COLOUR GREEN AND THE CITY – PARIS”.
This, dear readers is a spectacular and sensational effect. The “Modus Operandi” was invented by the late mental genius Dunninger and it was, to my knowledge, only used professionally by another world class performer, the late Punx in his routine “Real Magic, The Anniversary”. (See pages 34 to 66 in the book “Fourth Dimensional Mysteries”).
The gimmick is constructed out of a piece of magicians rope, which has the well known joke-item, a “plate lifter”, installed in it. The spectator holds the end with the “balloon”, the mentalist holds the end with the bulb. The trick as described above works with three diabolically clever forces, thus:
When you call out the numbers from one to ten, if you want to force say number five, as you reach that number you squeeze hard at your end and the spectator immediately reacts – more often than not with a jump! Oddly enough, they do not always associate the “vibration” with the rope – and even if they do, they don’t know why and the audience has no idea that anything like it is happening.
Obviously, you must buy the best quality plate lifter you can get. My plate lifters were already made with a five foot piece of tubing for my “Mentalist’s Table Cloth”, which you will find clearly described in my book “Paramiracles” on page 132. My craftsmen friend can make up such a Dunninger-type of rope for a few bucks. If you’re interested, inquire! You can even use the rope without any box! Try it, and you will see for yourself!
I advise you to read the trick in Corinda’s book, there are a lot of details and tips to put this trick over successfully! I don’t want to go into great details here. You must be a very good showman to also control the assisting spectator to insure that they follow your verbal instructions carefully! Admittedly, it’s not as easy to perform as it reads! I have performed the trick many times and it never let me down!
More than twenty five years ago I was sitting with my friend Ralf Wich-mann-BRACO (You remember his “Thread-Book”?) in his apartment and we talked a lot and brainstormed about this particular effect for a while. Suddenly I “hit” on the idea, to perform the same trick without using the rope. A friend of mine, who is an excellent craftsman, started to build a model of my idea, but it didn’t work successfully.
So I forgot all about it until two years ago when I discovered the “apparatus” amongst my junk in a box and discussed it with a clever magic mechanic who makes a lot of electronically controlled items for his friends. I must say that I HATE electronic props for my professional shows, because in my opinion they’re NOT reliable. Even with that in mind, I started to search amongst my props and I found a transmitter and a receiver, which I handed over to the mechanic with the request to build a perspex (plexiglas) box for me, which should vibrate, when I push the button of the transmitter. He made a rough model, which worked – sometimes – more or less perfectly and so I decided to have the prop built once more, but with some technical refinements to make the apparatus more reliable and now it works EVERY TIME!
Look at photograph No. 1 and see what the aforementioned box looks like when it’s ready for performance.
It’s approximately 8 inches x 5 inches x 5 inches. Into it we put a sort of a “cover” made out of shiny silver cardboard to hide the necessary electronics. This makes the box look like a presentation or gift box for chocolates or corsages.
Photograph No. 2 shows you the “works” inside after the shielding cardboard cover is removed. The white rectangular box beside it is the transmitter.
The hardest thing to do is to make the apparatus noiseless. So in my box the whole electronics and the “vibrating mechanism” rest on a bed of thin foam rubber. The specially constructed motor, which makes the “vibrations” is mounted at the bottom and at its sides with another layer of a little bit thicker rubber material. On the motor’s spindle is a round weight which is attached to the shaft near its outer edge, in other words, mounted off-center. Obviously if the motor is set in motion via the transmitter, the off-center-weight does its job and shakes the box ever so slightly, so that an assisting spectator can feel the vibrations if she holds the box in her hands or has it on her lap. You must admit that the box doesn’t look like a “prop”. In the viewpoint of the audience it looks like a handsome and expensive chocolate presentation or gift box.
The first model, which I have described here, I used only in my home if visitors where present, and I must say the trick worked very well. When I was working the “Magic Castle” two years ago I did show it to a couple of friends, including Docc Hilford, Larry Becker, Charles Reynolds, Max Maven and Phil Goldstein (yes, they were BOTH there!) and they where all more than impressed by it. I never used it in my professional shows for obvious reasons, because I don’t like nerve-racking props. So I decided to have the box made again with some important technical improvements, which make the trick professionally usable on any stage.
First, when a spectator holds the box and I push the button of the transmitter, I never know if the motor is working or not. For this reason a red coloured LED has to be installed at the back of the box which shines through a pin-hole when the receiver gets the signal from the transmitter. Then I KNOW that the motor is working, because I see the red glow shining through the tiny hole!
Second, you need an “out” when the electronics don’t work. For this reason a reed-switch must be installed into the cover of the box to set the motor in motion. The motor has to work on two SEPARATE electric circuits, one connected to the transmitter and the second one connected to a second battery with the special switch in between, and that’s very important! The switch can be camouflaged easily by an attractive design. This gives you the possibility to make the apparatus work, if for any reason the electronics fail, from interference as an example. One or more strong, tiny magnets, attached to the bottom of a felt-tipped marker will do the job nicely.
As a lady is holding the box between her palms at its sides and the bottom, you have to do is to move the marker towards the spot on the cover, under which the reed-switch is installed. That makes the motor work. Remember, you don’t have to touch the box with the marker!
Third, you have to know if the apparatus is switched on or off. A green LED shining through a hole in the top of the silvery cardboard cover when the apparatus is set to the “on” position allows this.
The new version of my “Box” will have these three “built-in-features” incorporated.
Let me tell you something about my experience with batteries, which I’ve learned because I use a wireless mike:
If you use electronics on stage, use fresh batteries every time you perform. Never, I repeat NEVER use rechargeable batteries, because they can run down from one second to the other even if they’re “fully charged”. I use cheap batteries, only because I can throw them away after I have used them once in a performance. This costs a little bit of money every time, but if you use electronic tricks in your show, you must be dead sure, that you have done everything to make them work properly and perfectly! With my “out” as described above you’ll never have trouble – and you can be more relaxed onstage.
I advise you to choose a lady to be your “medium” in this particular trick. Its also important that you set the box on her lap, because if she would hold the box between her palms there is a possibility that she might drop it when she receives the “Mental Vibrations”!
Another way to keep the lady from dropping the box is this: Put the box into a “gift bag” made out of fancy paper (they’re available in good stationary stores which deal with greeting cards etc.). These bags usually have handles. The vibrations of the box can even be felt if the assisting spectator holds the bag by its handles! Remember that you have to cut two small holes into one side of the bag so that you can see the red and green coloured LEDs! The fancy designed outsides of the bags hide the holes completely. Should you like to use the bag, a trick like Ned Rutledge`s “MINDING THE STORE” is possible!