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In 2009, I was invited to lecture to some of Germanys Elite mentalists in

Hamburg. The premise of that lecture was the following
The Pack Horse Problem
Pronunciation: (pak'hrs"), n.
1. A horse used for carrying goods, freight, supplies, etc.
2. A person who works hard or bears a heavy load of responsibility.
3. A mentalist who feels the need to carry more equipment than he/she will use.

The term Packhorse was commonly used in Yorkshire (the region of the UK
that I grew up). It was frequently used as a slang term, typically when a
husband had the unfortunate job of carrying the shopping bags as his wife
stopped at every shop window on the way home;
Thas got me as a bloody Packhorse woman!
The Packhorse term is also one I have coined to describe the Mentalist or
Magician who takes far more props to a show than he will actually perform
with. It is a common mistake and if you stop and think about it for a moment,
you will have done this at some point in the past. I know I have!
A typical walk around gig might consist of 250 people split into groups of 10,
sat around tables having a 3 course meal. (This is typical of a corporate
Christmas party in the UK.) If the performer is booked for 2 hours, then he will
only have on average 4.8 minutes with each table. Taking into consideration
that some tables will be served with their food in the middle of your
performance, you may only have as few as 2 or 3 minutes with each table.
Instead of filling your pockets and bag with as many effects and props at you
can physically carry, its time to re-evaluate just exactly who you are as a
performer and what you want to communicate to your audience.
The time spent with your groups may be short, but not too short that you
cannot leave a strong leave an impression. An impression that can either
make or break you as a performer - try to keep this in mind each and every
time you approach a table.
The following is a 4.8 minute routine (it can be shorter or longer depending on
you) that is simple, strong and covers a range of effects or abilities. It also
minimises any pocket space, since the whole set utilises just a small stack of
your business cards, a pen and a small manila envelope.

Welcome to 4.8 minutes A Lecture in Minimalism

Im going to need someone who has a strong mind, someone who believes
that their choices are their own
Do you believe your choices are for the most part, your own? Or are they
controlled by something else? Let me give you an example If you were to
imagine yourself in a supermarket, standing in the middle of an aisle, you turn
to face a shelf, you walk up to that shelf and take a product down... what do
you take?
Sweet corn.
Sweet corn? Is that a choice you made right then and there as a response to
my question? Could it have been predestined for you to say sweet corn at this
moment in time before you were even born?
Let them explain their thoughts and continue with
I think you will be perfect for this... do you have some personal items on you?
Good, please place a handful of different objects here on the table... Ill come
back to you in a moment
Turning to face a different participant, the performer explains:
To be fit and healthy we must train our bodies and exercise. For a mentalist
we must keep our mind as active as possible, and exercise it
We cant just jump in and do this though, we need to warm up. Id like to play
a little game with you now, almost as a mental warm up
Do you prefer words or numbers?
Words Great! Would you please write a word on my business card and turn
it over so I cant see it.
Numbers You prefer numbers? Excellent I will write a number on my card
and see if you can perceive it. I prefer words, so would you please write a
word on this card and turn it over so I cant see it.
Inset both cards into a window envelope, ensure participants card is the
bottom of the two, so the peek will be available when needed. Dont seal the
flap; just openly drop the envelope onto the table, isolating the two thoughts.
OK. Look at me. Id like you to visualise in your minds eye a field. The field is
covered completely in thick white snow. In the middle of the field is a child, a
young boy of about three years old. He is drawing in the snow

Its a number between one and ten what is it?

Write this number on the back (non window) side of the envelope and proceed
to pull the first (top) card out of the envelope. Turn it to face the participant
and at the same time turn the replicated number on the envelope, so they can
see both and the obvious match. This gives you a sneaky opportunity to peek
through the window to see the participants word.
Now have them focus on their word. You can present this so that it is
congruent with your character. I love to use Banacheks Letters in a Word
ploy from Psychological Subtleties. It seems so real if delivered properly.
If the focus is on your receiving the thought, make sure you congratulate
your participant for correctly transmitting it in the first place. Once you have
revealed the word, casually remove the remaining card in the envelope as if
you wish to check you are correct, then toss it on the table and crumple the
envelope and place it in your pocket.
Turn to another participant and hand them a business card and a pen. Ask
them to produce a doodle or a drawing of something and to not show anyone.
Whilst they are engaged in that, focus your attention of the participant you first
asked about the supermarket. By now he/she will have some personal items
out on the table.
Look at the items on the table, if there are less than 5, ask if he/she can add a
couple more, ideally you want between 5 and 7. A typical list of items would
Cash / Coins
Credit Card

Cash / Coins
Lip Stick

Look over the items as if you are studying them and turn the stack of business
cards so the backs are towards you. Hold them close as if you are guarding
what your write. To the audience you are making your prediction for the next
effect. In reality you are completing a pre-filled prediction with the words
sweet corn from earlier (or whatever their response to the supermarket
question was).
Once you have filled in the card, your thumb folds it length ways by moving it
down an inch or so (see image). This action is aided by the bent corner of the
card; it allows your thumb to grip it easily. This movement jogs the folded card
to the left a little. Keeping the stack close to your chest, slide out the second

from bottom card and place it face down on the table. (This is the card with
Mobile Phone pre-written on it). As you table this card, bring the stack close
to your body and use your chest as a lever to give a second fold to the
supermarket card. You now have a card folded into quarters which you can
ditch into your pocket in a moment.
Once the attention is on the tabled card, casually flip the stack over so it sits
atop the folded card which should be in position for a finger palm. Reach over
with your other hand to take the stack and table it, leaving your prediction
palmed and ready to ditch.
This can now be ditched in your pocket as you focus your attention back on
the participant who has done the drawing/doodle. Ask them if it is picture-side
down and to confirm that no one has seen it. Take this drawing face down and
insert it into the middle of your stack. Immediately flip the stack over and grab
the pen. By flashing the bottom card of the stack you are unconsciously
satisfying a slight moment of doubt the artist of the doodle may have in
regards to you being able to see their drawing.
Look at the artist and have them visualise their doodle. As you make eye
contact slightly jog the bottom card with your left thumb. Reach over to take
the bottom card with your right hand and glance down as you do, its at this
moment you take a sneaky peek at their drawing through the hollowed out
stack. Its very important you dont appear to pause as you peek. Look down
as you take the card, peek and continue to look at the card you just took
whilst pocketing the stack in your left jacket/trouser pocket. It should be a very
fluid movement.
Duplicate the doodle however you see fit. Be it Psychological or Psychic
ensure you are congruent with your persona/character.
Turn back to the participant with their personal items out on the table.
Reintroduce the concept of free choice by playing a game with them.
So, the reason I asked you to help out with this is because I needed someone
who is strong minded and makes their own choices in life.
You have already made several choices by selecting these personal items.
Youre right handed yes?
Pick up and hold any item with that hand.
The participant picks up his wallet.
And with your other hand pick up another object.
This time the participant picks up the mobile phone.
Great, now turn to face me. You have made a further two choices by selecting
these items. For your final choice, hand me one

The participant hands the performer the mobile phone.

With your free hand, pick up the face down business card and hold them both
out a moment, so all present can see you with one item and one card.
Have the participant place the remaining items back in their pockets. And
Most people believe at some level that their choices are free. There is some
truth in this, but one must realise that any for any choice made there must be
a consequence. In this case, a series of his choices have resulted in me
standing here with a personal item of his in one hand and one of my business
cards in my other.
Here I have a mobile phone...
And here, I have written, the 2 words... Mobile Phone!
Turn the card around to show everyone the correctly predicted item. Its a
natural applause cue so allow that to occur and subside then hand the card
and item back to the participant. They will more than likely pass comment on
the effect, there are times when the equivoque procedure has been quick, i.e.
the first item picked up. This can create a very strong impression on the
participant and cement your questioning of the nature of their free choice as
discussed earlier.
Even if the equivoque procedure was the worst case scenario (and lets be
honest, we have all experienced equivoque procedures that have resulted in
the force item being selected in the longest way), as long as your patter and
method of equivoque is sound (I recommend Docc Hillfords EVoque) you will
still have a super strong and unexpected killer finish to hit them with (not
Collect your pen and thank your table or group for their time and attention and
then just as you are about to leave, stop. Look back at the participant who you
have just performed the equivoque procedure with.
What was it you said earlier? When you were imagining being in a
supermarket and buying just one item...
Sweet corn.
Openly, slowly and fairly reach into your pocket and pull out the folded
business card. Hand it to the participant and say.
Wait till Ive gone...

They of course will be desperate to look inside. You should be making your
way to the next table by the time you hear a loud and strong response, turn
and acknowledge their reaction with a slight bow, smile or head nod
depending on whats natural for you. Their reaction will create interest for the
table you are approaching and make your introduction that much easier.
For this set, you will require very little but at the same time, quite a lot. Heres
how it breaks down from the audiences perspective:

Stack of Business Cards


From our point of view, things change a little bit, heres our list:

Stack of business cards (approx 10) with the centre hollowed out
Pen (and a back up pen in case it runs out)
Small manila Coin/Pay envelope with a window cut out of the address
6 extra business cards

To prepare the hollowed out
stack, you can use a sharp
scalpel or craft knife to cut
out the centre of 10 of your
business cards. Ensure the
centres cut on each card
are as consistent as
possible. I use a laser cutter
to cut my cards perfectly, if
you have access to one or
even a milling machine
please utilise it. If not, get
the craft knife out.
The manila coin envelope is
prepared in the following
way. Insert a business card
inside the envelope and
turn it address side up.
Using a scalpel or craft
knife and a metal ruler slice
a rectangle approx 50mm
by 30mm. Remove the
business card and youre
ready to go.

Write Mobile Phone on one business card.

Write I will make you will
choose ___________ on
another card and fold it into
quarters both ways to
loosen the card up, making
it easy to fold in any
direction. Then in the top
right corner of the card put
in a small bend. This will
make the handling for the
folding move later much
Set Up
Place a card on top of the
stack, this will be the one
the participant draws a
doodle on. On top of that
place 2 more cards, these
will be the words and
number cards that go into
the envelope as part of the
warm up sequence.
On the bottom of the stack
will be a further three cards:
One to duplicate the
doodle (3rd bottom)
One that has the predicted personal item written on it (2nd bottom)
One that has the predicted Supermarket item on it. (bottom card)
The cards are in the above order on the bottom of the stack.

The Moves
Setting up the Prediction
Ask for a participant who has a strong mind, someone who makes their own
choices in life. When someone has been selected, or more than likely
nominated by the rest of the group, ask them if the choices they make are
their own. Give them an example scenario to respond to, for example:
Imagine yourself in a supermarket you are stood on an aisle staring at one
product. What is it?
Imagine youre on a plane heading somewhere where are you going?

Youre sat watching your favourite football team playing in the cup final
whats the score?
Youre in a casino, you have just bet on a single roulette number, the ball
settles and it comes up what number is it?
As you can see, you can predict ANYTHING you want. You can tailor this for
a trade show or a corporate event, a wedding or a birthday, whatever fits in
with the theme of the event.
Once the participant has responded to your scenario, pause, act a little
unsure about using this particular participant but decide you will try and see if
this works. Ask them if they have any personal items on them, When they
respond, invite them to join you. (If in the rare case they dont have any
personal items, ask the group to each contribute an item to form a small pile
in the middle of the table, ensuring each item is different).
Once this participant is next to you, ask them to remove their personal items
and place them on the table.
Turn your attention now to another participant, ready for the mental warm up.
The Mental Warm Up
You can utilise any psychological force you like to transmit to the participant
during the mental warm up. The following come to mind and would be

Number between 1-10 (seven)

Number between 1-5 (three)
Circle & Triangle
Colour Blue/Red (PS1 Banachek)
ABCD Test (Writing the ABCD on the envelope)

You use a subtle equivoque / magicians choice to ensure that you get to
transmit the psychological force. You need to always ensure the participant is
the one that writes the word. For example, if I am performing the mental
warm up with the 1-10 force, I will say something along the lines of:
Do you prefer Words or Numbers?
Whatever they respond you can direct the participant to write a word.
You prefer words OK, please take one of my business cards and write a
word on it, any word you want

You prefer numbers OK, Ill write a number on my card and see if I can
transmit it to you. I prefer words, so can you write a word down for me
Once the word has been written and you have filled out the psychological
force of choice on your business card, place yours face down on top of the
participants card and insert them into the peek envelope you have
constructed. Immediately table the envelope, apparently isolating the two
thoughts before you begin the transmitting and receiving presentation.
Whatever the participants
response, write it on the
envelope in full view, reach
into the envelope and
remove the top card. This
will be the psychological
force card. Turn both the
card and envelope towards
the participant so they can
see hopefully a 100%
match. As they look, you
glance down and look
through the window cut out
on the envelope to peek the
word they have written. Its a
perfect combination or misdirection and time delay.
You can reveal the word however you prefer.
The Doodler
At this point, ask for someone in the group is who is a doodler. You may get
some blank looks but explain that in life there are 2 types of people, doodlers
and non- doodlers. Doodlers are the creative ones, those that like to doodle,
sketch or draw things, usually when they are in meetings or on the phone.
You will get a response from at least one person at this point. Hand them the
next card in the stack with a pen and invite them to secretly doodle something
on the card, being careful not to show it to anyone.
Turn your attention back to the first participant, the one who has a strong

The Forcing Sequence / Enabling The Prediction

By this time there will be a small arrangement of personal items on the table
in front of the participant. Look over the items for a moment and have them
reaffirm they have a strong mind and make their own choices. Confirm this by
saying something along the lines of:
Well clearly you have made a series of your own choices here, you chose to
remove the Visa card from you wallet and have 2 separate items there, most
people would have just left the wallet as a single entity
Im not sure if this will work with
you but we shall give it a try
Take the stack of business
cards and bring them close to
apparently make a prediction. In
reality you are going to fill in
their response to the
supermarket question, you will
then secretly steal that card
away under the guise of placing
the prewritten (second from
bottom) card onto the table.
Proceed with your equivoque
procedure. Im sure you all have
your own ways of doing this. I
use Doccs EVoque and
recommend those who dont
know it to give it a try. Some of
you may prefer the PATEO
(Pick Any Two Eliminate One)
force which will also work well
Replicating The Doodle
Taking the doodle card back
from the participant and
ensuring it is face down, cleanly
insert it into the middle of the
stack of business cards (the
hollow stack). Turn over the
stack and take hold of the pen.
By doing this you are satisfying
an unconscious curiosity that
somehow you may be able to
see what they have drawn.

Clearly you cannot as it is hidden inside a stack of cards. However if you jog
the bottom card out of line slightly you will be able to peek through the hollow
cut and see the doodle. This of course will be done under misdirection and
patter. Mine usually goes something like this:
Remember playing the game of 20 questions? Well I have a much more
condensed version of that game Its called 2 questions.
Your response to those 2 questions should give me an insight into what you
have drawn Im currently about 75% accurate
First question: I need to know the category that your drawing fits into. Is it
Organic, Man-made or Abstract?
I openly write their response (or at least the initial, i.e. O for Organic on the
top of the card).
OKsecond question: if you could give this a colour, what comes to mind?
As Im saying this Ive outjogged the card and began
to take it with my other
hand. I casually glance
down as Im doing this and
peek their drawing. The
stack goes into my left
jacket pocket as I focus on
the business card in my
right hand. Whatever
response to the colour
question I get, I write it
openly on the card also.
I can now continue to duplicate the doodle in any way I see fit.
The Big Finish Bringing it Full Circle
OK, so now you have apparently completed you set, you have demonstrated
the following to the group:

Mental warm up transmitting and receiving a thought

Duplicating a hidden drawing
Predicted the actions/choice of a participant

You are now ready to unleash your surprise ending. Thank the group for their
attention and effort and as you are leaving stop and take a step back to the
I almost forgot! Right at the start what did you say? Sweet corn was it?

That was your free choice yes?

Then this, my friend, is for you wait till Ive gone!
Hand them the folded billet from your pocket and leave with a knowing smile.

Credits & Inspiration

Let us not forget that no matter who we are, we in some way are inspired by
others. We stand on the shoulders of giants and we must ensure we give
In no particular order

Bob Cassidy
Dr Jacob Daley
Barrie Richardson
Bill Pugley
Ken Kline
Fred Kolb
Larry Becker

Tabula Mentis IX 16/04/2011

4.8 Minutes A lecture in minimalism by Looch

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