Max Maven - Verbal Control.pdf
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lfirst became aware ofthe process ofEquivoque in my early teens. Because so little information was available on this subject, I was forced to develop my own principles built on empirical research. As is often the case, these circumstances led me to an understanding of the subject that is probably greater than what I would have been able to learn from written guides, had they been available. Given the above, why have I written such a guide m~ self? The answer is that I hope my work in this area will help others in their own field testing. with the understanding that reading this manuscript in no way eliminates the need for such experimentation on the part of the reader. This is a difficult process to learn properly. and conveying this process through the printed word has not been easy. By itself, this essay is worth nothing. Combined with your own explorations. this treatise can hopefully aid you in developing your own skills with Equivoque. This essay wasfirst written in 1976. Phil Goldstein
entalism is not magic in cerebral drag. It is true that the two fields share common technical roots, and that many of the great practitioners of one faction have been highly adept at both. However, there are radical differences between the two. All of the great mentalists have eschewed the use of magician's props, preferring to utilize the most commonplace materials-at least in outward appearance. I am not demeaning the value of elaborately prepared working materials. Many such devices are quite worthwhile. However, I maintain that it is absolutely necessary for the working mentalist to avoid building a dependency on "things" with which to accomplish a performance. The late Theo Annemann once said about our art, "When you get to the root it is nothing but your personality and wits against that of your watcher, and a case of telling him to do as he pleases and then letting him do what you want him to do." Probably no other technique in mentalism is as "pure" in this respect as Equivoque-s-tue "Magician's Choice." Equivoque is one of the most valuable tools to the mentalist, if it is used properly. If it is handled poorly, it is embarrassingly transparent to the audience. If it is worked successfully, it is straightforward mindreading-without gimmicks or props. Every mentalist has had the experience of being approached by a lay person, offstage, and the request (or demand) made, "Read my mind, here and now!" Equivoque is a perfect solution to this challenge. By just grabbing a handful of change, or a few objects off the dinner table, and applying the techniques of verbal control, the performer can provide a lasting impression that will prove hislher abilities to the most cynical observer.
Given how valuable this technique is, it is most surprising to find how little information is available in the literature of mentalism giving detailed attention to this subject. Most often, Equivoque is given only the briefest of descriptions, if any at all. The only writing to cover the "Magician's Choice" in any intelligent detail at all is that of Gene Grant in his excellent 1956 treatise Phantini's Mental Key. Grant calls his approach "Phantinism," and it is very good. My own work in this area goes a bit further in detail, and I propose to break down my approach explicitly. Before I start, I should point out that my handling of Equivoque is by no means the only approach to this technique; nor is it necessarily the best. As with most presentational theories, what works well for one performer is not always sound for another. I suggest that you study my technique and analysis, and then apply it to your own work. When you evolve your own technique, you will have a valuable skill that will serve you well in a tremendous variety of circumstances. In essence , Equivoque is a process of psychological forcing combined with double entendre. The spectator is asked to choose an item from a small group . His/her choice is guided by psychological factors . If necessary , a "narrowing process" is used , in which the spectator's actions are manipulated by instructions which seem to be specific , but in fact are open to multiple interpretations. When a person is confronted with a horizontal row of objects, and asked to take one, hislher choice is not completely random to begin with. Assume the number of objects we're dealing with is five. In a row of ABC D E, the object in position C will almost certainly not be chosen, for its central Iocation makes it seem too "obvious" to the spectator's subconscious mind. For the same reasons, he/she is unlikely to pick either A or E, for they are at the ends of the row, and thus too "extreme." The spectator is therefore most likely going to select either object B or object D. Furthermore, if the spectator is reaching with the right hand, the choice will most likely be item D; reaching with the left hand will lead to a choice of B. The spectator's subconscious mind attempts to avoid the "obvious" choices-and thus plays right into your hands! We want to take advantage of this psychological set-up as much as possible. Also, we need to protect ourselves, by laying the foundation for the narrowing process, should the spectator's initial choice be wrong. In other words, if it becomes necessary to make the spectator do further selecting, we want himlher to assume that such was our intention from the very start. We must conceal the fact that these further instructions are being delivered after the fact. Aiding us in all of this is an approach that might be termed "verbal overkill." It is a manner of instruction which is designed to do several things. Most importantly, it will allow maximum flexibility should the "narrow process" phase be entered. In addition, it will convince the spectator that your instructions are precise and deliberate, when in fact
nothing could be further from the truth. Also, it serves to take the spectator off his/her guard-and thus in::rease your control over the spectator's actions. Before explaining this "overkill" technique, let me digress for a moment. There are situations in which the objects to be chosen from will be quite differeta, In such a situation, one or two of the objects may strongly stand oat from the others, due to size, color, etc. An outstar-ding item should not be used as the force object, for psychoklgically the spectator will avoid it via the same "too obvious" reasoning previously discussed. For the purposes of this technical discussXm, let us assume that the five objects are U.S. coins ~ diffe:reut denominations: a penny, nickel, dime, quarter, and fifty-«nt piece. The fifty-cent piece is a "too obvious" item: i1 is much larger, and of significantly greater value than my of the other coins. The next least likely selection will be the penny, due to the color difference between it and the rest of the coins, and its lesser value. The spectator doesn't k::.ow it, but the choice is already limited to three possible coins-abe nickel, the dime and the quarter. On his/her inizal choice, the spectator will almost certainly reach for OLe of these three coins. Let's assume our choice for the force coin is ~ quarter. We'll place the quarter in position D. The reason busing D instead of B will be explained shortly. Now, in oroer to move the spectator toward the right end of the row ~-:cn heJshe makes the initial selection, we'll position the fifty.....cent piece and the penny in the first two positions (A and 3). In this manner, when the spectator approaches the row, there will be a subconscious move away from the "extreme" coins on the left. Naturally, the positioning of the coins is don: casually. We don't want to give the game away by suggesting to the spectator that at the outset we are setting up the pcsitions of the coins toward a purpose. At the start of the test, you reach into your pocket and dump out a handful of coins, Remove the five different coins, and casually lay them out in the order from left to right: half-dollar. penny. dime; quarter, nickel. Your choice of positions should seem to bearbitrary. The prediction is made. You can write "quarter" on a scrap of paper, or else hold a sixth coilr-anOlher quarter-in your fist. Now you are ready to begia the test, but before starting your instructions to the specator, you begin your "verbal overkill." What I do in this type of situation is along mese lines: "Before you is a row of coins. In a moment, fOEr of these coins will be eliminated, for I only need one to match my prediction. As you look over the row, you will aotice that there are many psychological factors regarding Cese coins that might make you more attracted to one than the other. The penny is a different color. The dime is the snallest in size, while the half-dollar is the largest. The quarter is tailsside-up, as is the penny . The nickel is thicker than my of the other coins. The dime is in the center of the row; me nickel to one end, the fifiy-eent piece to the other. There are differ-
ent pictures on each of the coins which might appeal to you in one way or another. The light might be hitting the coins in such a way as to make one of the coins shine brighter than the others from where you are sitting. All in all, there are dozens of psychological factors involved with these coins, but think you will agree that there are so many factors involved that they more or less cancel each other out, and there is no way 1 could know which factors are going to affect you and which will not. Do you agree?" Let's analyze this pitch. First of all, note that the primary statement is not that a coin is about to be chosen; rather, it is that four of the coins will be eliminated. Note that this wording sets you up for the "narrowing process," should you need to enter that phase later. Also, note the use of the phrase, "1 ... need one coin." Again, this wording will be important if and when the "narrowing" phase is entered. You are laying the verbal groundwork for a potential future process of multiple interpretations. Observe that in all of the preceding verbiage, the words "select," "choose," "pick out," etc. are never used; they are instead implied, with the less-specific word "attract" The complementary concept of "elimination" is the one actually stated. Once again, you are setting up an ambience of multiple interpretations. The opening monologue serves other purposes . It functions as a focusing device, establishing the idea that you are controlling the situation. Note that you have yet to tell the spectator exactly what he/she is going to do. The spectator knows that a choice is about to be made, but he/she is waiting for your Iead. Psychologically, the spectator is feeling just a bit confused, and will therefore look to your authority as a guide out of that confusion. In other words, the spectator is ripe. Note also that this monologue makes the (blatantly false) statement that you have no psychological advantage in this situation . It is a convincing argument, which puts the spectator off-guard, and also adds to his/her confusion at the same time. if the subject has approached this test with the idea of "psyching out" the performer, that idea will now be dropped. You are, in this speech, talking more than you have to in terms of the specific information conveyed. In addition to confusing the spectator, you're setting up a "drone effect" In other words, by talking too much you are causing the spectator to be drawn toward the form of your speech over its content. Thus, once again you are building a framework for future multiple interpretation. Hence, the term ''verbal overkilL" The spectator is already off-guard. We'll push further in this direction by now stating, "I want you to relax." The minute this is said, the subject of course goes in the opposite direction: he/she feels very self-conscious, knowing that something important is about to happen, and that he/she is the one who will have to do it. Say, "Relax . Take a deep breath. Now I want you to reach out with your left hand, and touch one of the objects."
Why the left hand? You make this specification for three reasons. First of all, we know that the use of the left hand will cause most spectators to reach to the right, toward the force position (D) . Secondly, the spectator is (we'll assume for the purposes of this essay) right-handed. To make a right-handed person work with the left hand adds to the sense of confusion. Not being used to leading with the left hand, a person will be more likely to flow with the basic psychological factors and go straight for the quarter. Lastly, your emphasis increases the sense that you are following a deliberate plan which you've pre-thought. The specific direction thus gives you an "either/or" state. If the spectator picks up the force object, your specifically stated instructions makes that statement seem final, and suggests that you did not plan to go further. If, however, the subject does not pick up the force item, your specific instruction lends itself immediately for entry into the "narrowing" phase, for you instantly continue your instructions as if this was what you had planned from the start. Assume that the spectator has not taken the force object, but has instead opted for the nickel. You immediately bark, "Pick it up!" This is delivered with a shade of impatience-as if you had told the subject specifically to pick up the coin in your initial instructions. In fact, you did not: you told hirnlher to touch a coin. But by impatiently adding this extra instruction you throw the subject further into the confused state, and make it seem as if you'd planned to continue all along. You keep going by saying, "And now reach out with your right hand, and pick up another coin, for as I told you, an elimination must be made." Note that you have already introduced the term "eliminate" prior to this step, so that the use of the word here rings true. By using the left/right gambit, you give the psychological suggestion that you had planned from the start to have two objects picked up, one in each hand. By using the word "elimination" here, you again set yourself up for a further "narrowing" phase, should that be necessary. One of two situations now exists: either the spectator has picked up the force item in the right hand, or not. Assume the former . Here you would again assume a posture of deliberate instruction : tell the spectator, "Weigh the two objects carefully. We only need one of them, so hand one to me." Note the wording of this last statement. You've used the ambiguous term "weigh," and added the modifier "carefully." Again, the subject is made both confused and self-conscious. Recall that earlier, during the "overkill" monologue, you stated, "I only need one coin." This time, you've changed the phrase to "we only need one"-so that the spectator's , next action will be open to two totally opposite interpretations. Adding to this flexibility is, of course, the word "elimination" which you've just reintroduced. Let's say the spectator pauses, then hands you the force coin. You smile, and say, "'Remember, I said I only needed one coin. This is
the one you've decided to give me. It is the quarter. Would you now look at my prediction..." Note that you have reverted to the original first person pronoun., ignoring the ambiguous "we" of a moment before. As the statement is made, you raise your hand with the quarter. All of your attention is directed to that coin . You focus your eyes on it. holding it up prominently. The spectator's attention also focuses on that coin. You forget about the other coin the spectator is holding... and so does the spectator. If, on the other hand, you are given the other coin. you immediately put it down, and point to the force coin which the spectator has retained. Focus all of your attention on that coin, as you exclaim, "You have made your elimination; that is the coin you've elected to keep. Hold it up!" Again, by deliberately shifting the focus of your own attention, you shift the attention of the others . By bringing up the word "elimination" again, you once more establish the continuity of action, implying a pre-planned sequence of actions. Let's go back to the situation wherein the spectator has picked up a coin in either hand, and neither one is the force coin. In this case, we go back to our gambit of impatience. You quickly say, "I told you we had to make our elimination. Put those two coins aside!" The slight trace of annoyance in your voice again suggests to the spectator that you had planned for this to happen from the start. There are three coins on the table. One of them is the force coin . You are again going to tell the spectator to perform a specific action. The force coin was in position D . Thus, it is now either at the right end of the row of three, or in the middle. In either case, it is to our advantage to tell the spectator to use his/her left hand once again. We will vary the instructed action this time, to distinguish it from the preceding events. "This is important. I want you to extend your left forefinger... and push one of the coins forward." Note that by telling the spectator that this action is important, you have kept the action ambiguous , and again added to his/her sense of being self-conscious. A coin is pushed forward. If it is the force coin, you immediately pick it up and hold it high, exclaiming, "This coin. You separated this coin from the others." Again. you utilize the focus of your own attention to control the attention of the spectators. If the coin pushed forward is an indifferent one, you immediately sweep that coin aside with the first two. You exclaim, "Good! There are two coins left. Now this next decision is the most important of all. Pick the two coins up . Two coins, and two coins only. One is mine. Hand one to me." Again, the subtle impatience the used. Again, the twoway inferpretation of the situation is provided, for the statement "one is mine" is totally ambiguous until it is interpreted a moment later. Obviously, if he/she hands you the force coin. you promote the idea that the coin just given to you is meant to be the target coin. If the spectator chooses to keep the force
coin, you suggest that he/she has decided to keep only one coin after eliminating the other four. This, then, is the basic technique of Equivoque. Obviously, this has been an overly-detailed description. Details which loom large in this description are actually swift and subtle when put into use. You will observe that in every step of this hypothetical run-through we have constantly prepared ourselves for the next step, should we have to take it. providing an ongoing continuity as perceived by the spectators. If properly delivered, this technique should always come off as being exact and deliberate, as if you had specifically planned to carry it out in exactly this fashion-no more, no less. I most commonly use Equivoque with coins for an impromptu test. However, I should note that I usually do it with just four coins, as I rarely have a filty-cent piece with me. Using four coins makes the test just that much easier. In such a case, the force coin is usually the nickel or the dime. The four are laid out ABC D, and the force coin is at position C.
Having described this technique for you, I think it only right that I suggest some routines for stage and close-up using the process. Of course, as you piny with Equivoque you will find that new ideas occur to you constantly. You can use this verbal control concept with virtually anything. Scraps of paper can be used. On each you write something-s-numbers, words, colors, designs, etc., and then crumple the scraps into small balls which you layout ina row. For instance, you might take a wristwatch and set its hands at a specific time-say 9:10. Now put the watch into the spectator's pocket. On five scraps of paper, you write a different time: 2:34, 8:40,4:55, 11:02,9:12. You use Equivoque to force the 9:12 slip (having written the time two minutes ahead to compensate for the time it takes for the selection). When the spectator opens the chosen slip, it is the only one which matches the time on the pocketed watch. On stage, you display five identical packages. You 'explain that you're going to playa game of "Psychic Let's Make A Deal," This spectator chooses one package . The other four are opened. They contain lumps of coal.; while the selected package has a box of candy which is given to the spectator as a gift. You display a row of six miniature liquor bottles. The spectator picks the one that matches your previously written prediction, and thus gets to take the bottle home. For certain audiences you would change the product to different brands of soda, or cheese, cigarettes, etc. An Equivoque version of "Bank Night" would be simple enough-or how about a reverse "Bank Night." You display live envelopes. The spectator chooses one. When they're opened, the chosen envelope contains a blank piece of paper... the others all have bills.
Why not a version of "Seven Keys To Baldpate," where the spectator finds the only one of five keys that will open a padlock? The lock is ungimmicked. The keys are put into envelopes. The working key is- put into a nail-nicked envelope, and thus is easily kept track of so that you can force it with Equivoque. For close-up, take out five business cards. On the back of one you've marked a bold X. Force this on the spectator, and show that he/she located the only marked card through "psychic intuition." The spectator keeps the card-which helps advertise your business. Use a set of locking flap slates. Show them blank, and ask the audience to call out geometric shapes. As each shape is called, you draw it onto a surface, until each panel has one design on it. The slates are given to a spectator to hold, and DOW you draw the four shapes onto slips of paper. These are crumpled up, and another spectator chooses one. It is, say, the square. Upon opening up the slates, the first spectator finds that the square has been disfigured with chalk lines-the spirits have responded to the spectator's choice. The preparation and handling are obvious to anyone with a knowledge of slate work. Certainly there is no limit to the possibilities. ESP symbols, playing cards, colored balls, chess pieces, crayons, postage stamps, etc., etc. Once again, I remind you: when Equivoque is handled badly, its nature is completely obvious and transparent to your audience. When properly presented, it is infallible.
Copyright 01976. 1996 by Philip T. Goldstein