Re:  - James Randi responds again to Ali Sina and Sina responds back. - The trick

By James Randi

E-mail: [email protected] 

Sina’s three guesses regarding my trick – the one he quoted – were quite wrong. In order to show that he has no knowledge of conjuring techniques, I’ll reveal the modus here. Now, I don’t expect Sina to have conjuring/mentalism expertise, but at least he should admit to that lack, rather than assuming that he can figure out these puzzles just by considering that ordinary factors apply. They don’t. There are aspects about which he could not know, but which supply the data that show how I knew what I did – not through psychic powers, but through reason and deception. Read on. 

The tickets to the theater where I appeared, were being sold weeks before the show, only at the box office and door-to-door, and the seats were assigned by row and number.  My very presentable confederate, Terry Lawson, who was two years older than I, was the one got me the contract for the performance. And, he had been around selling tickets for the charity, to likely donors. He had a car, which I did not. He had waited around the lobby of the theater and observed ticket-buyers coming in, trying to get some advance information on those who would attend, but it was two of the tickets he himself had sold in the neighborhood, that really served us well. That pair of tickets went to an elderly lady, seats on the aisle, in the third row. So we now knew where she would be sitting and what she looked like.

The next day, carrying a briefcase, Terry went to her neighborhood and began knocking on doors acting as a college student who was doing a survey of political opinions for a research paper at the University of Toronto, for which he presented proper student identification. (In those days, this was much more common than it would be today, and he had good response to his asking for interviews.) At the home of the lady living next door to the ticket-buyer, he casually asked about the name of the ticket-buyer. The neighbor obliged, and commented, “We call her, Rose.” I recall that she was a Mrs. Leslie. 

When he then went to Mrs. Leslie’s door, he knocked and of course recognized the lady when she answered. He told her about his need for an interview, and was admitted to the living room, where she offered him tea, and he began asking her the list of questions he had. He also noted that she had an antique porcelain clock on the mantel above the fireplace, and the hands were dislodged, lying at the bottom of the face behind the glass covering “crystal.” There were three roses painted on the face. He observed that the "rose" theme was everywhere, and an embroidered "sampler" was framed by the door, with the woman's full name on it. 

The rest should be very clear. I must add that Terry and I made sure to contact Mrs. Leslie later, to inform her of the trick and how it was done. She was highly entertained with the explanation, and grateful for our caring to tell her.

As another, very brief, example of this technique at work, I’ll describe this: at that same performance, I was in a toilet stall when two young fellows entered the room and got into conversation while using the facilities. They obviously weren’t aware that anyone might be listening, and spoke about a used automobile that one of them was considering buying. They gave details about model, color, and condition of the vehicle. And at one point, one of them called the other by name. I peeked out from under the stall and saw that one of them was wearing sneakers of two different colors, one red and the other green. They never saw me, nor knew that their conversation had been overheard. Just before my performance, I saw that distinctively-shoed man going upstairs to the balcony. I followed him a bit, and saw him take his seat in the very back row. During my performance, I pointed up to that man in the balcony, called him by name, and referred to the car, advising him to have the transmission examined carefully, and mentioning the color as well. He was astonished, especially when I asked him, “Where’s the other green shoe?” I could not possibly have seen his shoes from where I was on the stage.  He slipped off his sneakers, held them up and showed them to the audience, who were very impressed with my mental “powers.”

I did not reach these two fellows to explain my trick, but I’m sure they weren’t harmed by my deception. I could tell you much more, but I’ve not the time to further pursue these matters in this forum, I regret.

James Randi.

Tue, 16 Mar 2004

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