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  • Madison Hagler

Architect of the Mind - Drew Backenstoss

This review is from three years ago (has it been that long already!?) This book is one of the best books on commercial mentalism that you can find. It's one of my absolute favorites and Drew is one of the best, kindest guys in the business.


R.M.R.- This is a DEVASTATINGLY powerful card effect. It is extremely hands off and the spectator has no chance of working out the method (they also do all of the hard work for you.) This passed the girlfriend test with flying colors and it will be added into my set. I stray away from performing mentalism with cards in a professional setting, but for casual performances, I don’t mind it. This is the perfect casual piece to pull out and fry everyone who sees it (magicians as well.) There are also several variations taught including a totally impromptu one. This gets my highest recommendation. It’s a combination of classic techniques blended seamlessly into one effect which is SO strong while also being very simple. Love it. I will be using it.


Seven Year Ordeal - This is Drew’s brilliant take on ACAAN. It is truly a demonstration of mind reading rather than coincidence or luck. The Crusade by Atlas Brookings and Andrew Brown has been my go to ACAAN since I learned it those years ago. Well Drew’s iteration is very similar in the feeling the routine musters, but achieves the results in its own, creative way. The biggest benefit with Drew’s routine is that it uses the entire deck opposed to a chunk of the deck as in the Crusade. I also believe the selection of the card is a bit more logical in Seven Year Ordeal than in the Crusade. Seven Year Ordeal is also a bit more straight to the point. This whole routining and presentation is structured so that the performer gets all the credit; it is a thing of beauty. Honestly, I feel this will replace the Crusade for me. I think it offers some significant advantages with very little compromise. Oh and once again it is simple tried and true methods blended beautifully. I will use this.


The Personality of a Date - This is a lovely combination of several published ideas into an effect and presentation which will be long remembered by the audience. It is very conversational, and the end climax will hit them out of left field. As Drew states, this is perfect for mix-and-mingle type performing because you are creating conversation amongst the group and they are all getting to take part in somewhat of a game of storytelling. Admittedly, it takes quite a bit of time to make up the item needed for the routine. It is simple to make, but time consuming. However once you have it made, it will last for a very long time. It is simple, but very effective. I am still in the process of making mine up, but once it’s complete, I’ll be road testing it. For those close up gigs, I will carry this with me and I will use it.


Never to be Repeated - This is Drew’s presentation for a marketed effect. He doesn’t explain the method, but if you think about it about, there are enough clues in the text to explain it. However, I highly suggesting purchasing the original to support the creator. Drew’s presentation turns it into a piece for stage and gets the whole audience involved while making the trick very visual. My only problem with it is it is a card effect which may not be able to be seen that clearly in a large venue. That said, it’s a great presentation for a solid effect. I have made it up but I am on the fence about whether or not I will use it in my show. Also, just to be clear, it plays as a memory demonstration which your spectator’s do, so it isn’t a magic trick; it is, rather, a memory demonstration using cards.


The Usual Suspects - This uses a tried and true method to produce a wonderfully fun and organic routine. It is propless even though it uses props… the props are actually the spectator’s items. The method is solid and workable with no guess work. My only qualm is that it is a one moment routine. It’s a strong singular moment, but for a finding the murderer plot, I prefer there be more than three people involved. (Marc Paul has one that I have used with great success. He taught it on his penguin lecture.) That said, the presentation is very fun and engaging and will get everyone talking, laughing, and thoroughly enjoying themselves. What more could you ask for—especially in a mix-n-mingle scenario? The moment of reveal may not last with them, but I would be willing to bet the experience would resonate long after you’re gone.


Concealed Carry - This is a wonderful rock, paper, scissors routine played with three participants. There are two versions taught. In the basic version, you play the first participant and win and then play the other two participants at the same time and beat each of them. (Or you can lose all three if you so choose. Drew lets the players decide collectively whether you should win or lose the three rounds.) In the advanced version, you beat the first two players, then the third player changes their mind and your prediction, which you wrote in the start, proves you were able to anticipate their thought process. Both versions are great and easy to do. The advanced version takes a little more thinking or memory work, but it’s nothing you couldn’t handle. This is another great piece for mix and mingle. It isn’t a show stopping piece, but it is a fabulous warm up and introduction to the group. It’s the perfect propless effect to keep in the back of your mind because it does actually play quite large.


Common Cents Prediction - You may not be able to tell, but this routine and the two that came before it all utilize the same core method. These are three different presentations for the same method (which is a lesson within itself.) Of the three, this is my favorite presentation. I am absolutely in love with this. I have been carrying it on me since I read it and the reactions are out of the park. I love this because it plays very big and the final climax leaves them with their jaw on the floor with no way to back track. The more they think about it, the more confused they will be. They think it’s something quite simple and then when the final revelation comes, their brains melt slightly as they try to comprehend just how complex the whole scenario truly was. It uses just a bill and 2 quarters but my oh my, it’s a killer. Love love LOVE this. It reminds me of Prometheus by Manos, but with the help of three people instead of two. And in this one, there’s not a single question asked. It is brilliant. I will be using it no doubt.


Group Dynamics - This is so good. Its structure is so well thought out. They get a strong effect with your first prediction and then an impossible kick in the teeth with the second prediction. This routine could be used in almost any scenario: mix and mingle, table-hopping, casual close up, around the card table, even on stage (although it is better suited for close up.) These are classic techniques used in an innovative way. I just love the way the routine comes together. Drew has used some genuine psychology in his thinking to help facilitate the initial effect. This is a worker’s dream. I’ll be using it.


Pseudoesthesia - This is simply a presentation for a word reveal (no method for gaining the information is taught because that’s not the emphasis,) but holy cow, what a presentation. I can honestly say, the presentation is perhaps the best, most interactive, most logical, most intriguing word reveal I’ve ever come across. I don’t know how to discuss this routine because the routine is what is special about it. All I will say is, this will be my go to reveal of a word. It works one-on-one, but there’s some additional logic added in if there’s at least two people other than the performer. It’s a solid presentation and sure to be remembered. I absolutely love it and will be using it. P.S. Scott Creasey’s peek from M.M.M. seems made for this presentation.


Phishing - DANG this is another hit. It reminds me of some Paul Carnazzo thinking. This seems like the type of effect he would come up with (he is credited.) It also reminds me of Thought Association Card a bit. What improvements this offers is that it is logical. It’s a logical list and it feels very casual. The method used to get the first spectator’s password is very clever and totally hidden. The way you’re able to reveal the spectator’s childhood memory feels about as real as it gets. It’s a lovely, logical progression from revealing a password to revealing something much deeper. This routine allows you to connect with your spectators on a very emotional level. It is very practical (in fact, Drew keeps a screenshot of the list on his phone) and very hard hitting. Once again, Drew is using classic methods in a fresh way which leaves for a hard hitting moment of mind reading.


You Were Missed - Oh, it hurts me that this us being released to the public. This is a technique you can use which I believe would almost guarantee your booking after a meeting. It’s a solid, workable method. Admittedly, you won’t be able to use it every time (well you can, it just loses the biggest part of its impact,) but you will be able to use it more often than not. What I love is that the biggest hit occurs after you’ve left the building. You leave the meeting, they read your letter and have an incredibly hard-hitting, inexplainable reveal which will leave them talking and saying “when can we hire him!?” This is genius. You’d be a fool to overlook the strength of this from a booking perspective. I’ll be using it.


Let’s Agree to Agree - This is one of the most valuable chapters in the book. Drew walks you through his entire contract and provides commentary on what everything means and why it’s included. This is such wonderful, real world advice which you can begin using immediately. I found a lot of value in this chapter as someone who isn’t well versed in contracts/business jargon. Great value in this chapter, even for those who have been using contracts for years. You may find some of his points worth considering.


Leading the Witness - This technique is so simple to execute, and yet will leave you with some great testimonies to use on your site. As Drew states above, it kind of seems like the logical thing to do, but this one simple step will no doubt give you much stronger testimonies than not doing this step. I will be implementing this technique from now on. It is well thought out and I believe also works on many psychological levels as well which I don’t have time to discuss here. Again, this chapter is more valuable from a business standpoint than any single effect could be.


Bernstein Dynes on a Cloud - Talk about a POWERFUL way to start a show. This is straight up genius. A prediction mailed to the organizer of the event weeks in advance not only predicts something the organizer would choose, but also what the entire audience will choose. Wow it is seriously brilliant. I’ve always loved the method behind “Sporting Prediction” but couldn’t find a use for it that I liked. Well this is it! It is used in such a smart and out of the box way with additional subtleties which really keep everything above board. It is such a great combination of ideas; each method cancels out the one before it making it seem impossible. I guarantee I’ll use this at the right time and right place for the right event. I love it.


Social Insecurity - This is very clever and very clean. This uses a knowledge base of something I’ve never seen utilized before. Drew was very clever to see the potential in this; he squeezes as much out of it as humanly possible. It really doesn’t get any fairer than this effect. This will feel like real mind reading to everyone watching AND everyone participating as there’s quite literally zero process. They think of something, and you tell them what their thinking. It’s LITERALLY that clean. I like it a lot, but there are some certain factors which frighten me a bit for reasons I can’t get into. I don’t know that I’m bold enough to employ it in my set, but if you are, you are getting about as close to real mind reading as you can get. Great thinking here.


Put a Pin in It - This is clever, clever thinking. It uses classic methods combined in a brilliant way. You get a wonderful first effect and then a killer unexpected climax reveal of the prediction. I love this routine for so many reasons. The presentation is so fun and inspired. There is a certain aspect of the presentation that I don’t think I’d necessarily run with, but luckily, you can customize it pretty easily. It is a great way to start your show because the beginning of the effect is a highly dramatic moment with a big build up which builds to a big comedic let down. It’s a perfect way to get people comfortable and relaxed and know everyone is there for a good time and not to take themselves too seriously. It is a method I’m familiar with, but the combination of methods and the presentation Drew created is beautiful, logical, meaningful, and playful. I will be using this and I’m HEAVILY debating using it as the opening to my show.


Obviously Influenced - This is a wonderful take on the two envelope test. One of the great things about this routine is that the spectator actually feels like the winner and will walk away quite pleased with their prize. This isn’t one of those, “Oh, you lost, sucker!” Type of bank night routines. It is beautifully simple. There’s very little in the way of method or process. It’s a great piece to showcase the performer’s personality, and it is a nice way to start a show. It sets a wonderful tone, and amazes the audience without smacking them in the face. I like it and I will use it.


Catch Me If You Can - This is pack small, play big at its finest. 5 envelopes and a paper ball is all that’s used. You get multiple climaxes out of the routine which feel more and more impossible. Again, classic methods blended together into one seamless routine which feels totally impossible. Practical, hard hitting mentalism at its finest. It can also be used successfully in mix and mingle environments.


Catch Me 2.0 - This is the same basic effect as the previous routine, however this version uses a different method which is streamlined a bit from the audiences perspective. I prefer the former, original version to this streamlined version; I happen to really enjoy the method used in the first routine, whereas the main method here is the method I believe most audience members would suspect when coming up with a method. I could be wrong about that though, especially if it’s done well. It is still a very practical and workable method. I just feel it’s a solution to a problem which doesn’t actually exist.


A Stranger’s Call - You’d be hard pressed to find a stronger closer than this. It builds amazingly well. It starts with a bit which has been happening throughout the show with audience members who have come on stage. It starts with a bit of a let down, goes on to an amazing success, climbs to an even more amazing succes, and then ends with an impossible, over the top, out of this world prediction which no one sees coming and will leave them scratching their heads. Drew follows this routine with an essay on the too perfect theory and, coincidentally, I think he put the essay in the perfect place. To me, this effect is on the verge of too perfect but Drew has tried to prevent that by adding in subtleties along the way to suggest to the audience, fully unconsciously, that it isn’t what it may seem to be. It’s a great routine. I don’t think I’ll be using it, at least not any time soon, but I can see why Drew has gotten so much mileage out of this routine, and I can also see why it would have to be the last trick in your show. It would be impossible to top.


What Are the Odds - Okay ladies and gentleman, this is the final effect in the book and it is a DOOZEY. In my opinion, this is the best effect in the book. It packs small and plays MASSIVE, and it is a simple method with an intriguing plot, a logical presentation, an impossible prediction, and then an out of this world, “no frickin’ way” prediction. In my opinion, this is a perfect routine in every way, shape, and form. It has everything I love in a closer, and it is virtually self-working. I cannot recommend it enough, in fact, the highest recommendation I could give is that I will be using this as my new closer to the show I’m working on. It’s THAT good.


I really feel we are within the Golden Age of Mentalism. We have some of the most innovative thinkers of all time within our midst, sharing their creativity with the world. Decades from now, people will look back on this time in awe of the greats who were all around at once. I truly believe Drew Backenstoss will be a name they bring up. He’s the “new kid on the block,” but from this material I can tell you he is neither new to creating or performing. He is only new to sharing. His name will become well known and his effects will be performed by pros all of the world. Clearly, I love this material. It is practical, hard-hitting mentalism which is easy to do and Drew’s presentations are some of the best full fledged presentations I’ve read. His scripting is superb. It is truly a treat that he is sharing with us so freely. I cannot recommend this enough. I’ve told Drew this, but the biggest issue I have with this release is that all of the material is so strong, I can’t decide which ones to put into my immediate show; I want them ALL to be part of the program.


Seriously, you will regret not picking this up. I am honored I was able to receive a sneak peek at the material, and I can safely say I will use a majority of the material within these pages at one time or another. This is one of those releases I’ll reference back to time and time again. (And indeed I still do refer back to it time and time again.)

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