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  • Writer's pictureMadison Hagler

The Definitive Mental Mysteries of Hector Chadwick

The Magic Review blog is back!

Starting off this new season of the blog is a new book hot off the presses from Vanishing Inc: The Definitive Mental Mysteries of Hector Chadwick.

This book is an underground legend. It was a self produced book in 2007 which was printed in very limited runs and always sold out quickly. I have never seen a single copy come up for resale over the years. It seems every performer who was lucky enough to get their hands on a copy has hoarded it, cherished it, and continually been inspired by it. It has always had an elusive feel to it.

Why would I review such an elusive book? Well good news, Vanishing Inc is making it available to the performing public for the first time. VI has teamed up with “Hector” to rewrite this classic and difficult to find book in mentalism. From what I understand, the contents are the same as the original book, plus some content from “Miscellanea” which is a set of lecture notes Hector produced in 2016, and a couple of new additions as well. All of the content has been rewritten for clarity and noted improvements that have come along have been added.

The book opens with a foreword by Derren Brown cleverly titled, “Four Words.” In this foreword, Derren expresses his admiration for Hector with wit and charm.

Hola, Pepe! - This is Hector’s new introduction to the book. The author is very raw as he describes the tiring processes which any Creative experiences where they think they’ve created something great, but the more they learn and grow as artists, the less great they feel their work is. Hector feels that way about the original book, and this book contains many of his amendments and updates.

Keys - A psychometry routine with four sets of keys–three of which are returned to their owners, the fourth of which is described in detail, despite remaining hidden from view.

This is a great piece for parlor or stage which utilizes a simple, but clever method to achieve spectacular results. The staging and presentation is wonderful and you can see Hector’s attention to details in the thought he has put into each step of the process. This routine creates a lot of interaction with your audience, and leaves plenty of room for improvisations and readings. While it’s simple to do technically, it will take practice to perform the readings confidently.

Commit Yourself - A very brief essay on how to justify having a spectator write down a piece of information on a billet.

An Astrological Aside - The nonchalant revelation of a participant’s star sign.

This is a full dive into how to use the Dunninger ploy effectively. Hector’s solution fixes a lot of the problems that many people experience when they use this now common tool. Once again, Hector has thought through (or experienced) the various problems and has worked out solutions for them to help negate those concerns before they ever happen. I’m convinced this is the best format for using this principle.

The Paper Plane Chair Game - The prophecy of which chair a randomly selected participant will sit in.

This is a minimalist’s take on the chair test. It is a simple prediction of which chair a spectator will sit in out of a choice of four. The way Hector frames this prediction turns it into an open prediction which would create a different texture to the reveal. This type of thinking is so necessary for those producing full length shows. So often the reveal in mentalism always feels exactly the same. With this, the revelation occurs via the participant rather than the performer. This small change completely changes the way the routine feels for the audience. The routine itself is quick, but it is layered with multiple methods to ensure no audience member would ever be able to backtrack it. It is bulletproof.

Playing Cards in Mentalism - A very VERY brief essay (I’m talking one sentence) on how to justify using playing cards in mentalism.

Reds & Blacks - The color divination of an endless stream of cards from a spectator-shuffled deck.

This routine is absolutely phenomenal. The way Hector gets into the routine allows you to perform this totally impromptu with any deck of cards. Truly, the feat seems utterly impossible. This is one of those routines that you could imagine fooling a room of magicians on a late night around a table at a magic convention. There are many elements working together which stack layers of deception making this an absolute killer of a routine. There is wonderful justification for all actions, and the method is so amazing, you’ll have just as much fun practicing it as you will performing it. This wins the WTP Award*

A Card Behind - A spectator divines the identity of a playing card.

This is a way for you to practice psychological card forces without any worry of failure. It’s nothing extraordinarily new, but it has a nice build, and many built-in convincers which keep the routine logical from beginning to end. Hector covers every possible scenario meaning you will never have to worry about thinking on your feet mid performance.

Whoops You Got It Wrong - This essay addresses one of the biggest flaws in one ahead methods and provides some solutions to this problem. Hidden within this essay is a wonderful way to use one ahead very deceptively.

Offer No Spoilers - This essay focuses on performer’s habits of spoiling the surprise ending by forecasting what the ending is before the routine has even begun. This essay provides interesting food for thought.

Shriek - This is a prediction.

That description sounds a bit vague, but this is precisely how Hector has worded it. At its core, this is a prediction of a selected card. However, the presentation builds the choice of one card into a huge performance piece with cards flying all through the air, choices being made throughout, and mind-rattling statistics on shuffling. These statistics on the randomness of a shuffle are some of the best I’ve read, and they really blow you mind when you contemplate them. The trick itself is practically self working, but the impact you would get out of it would be vastly larger than the effort required. This reminds me a lot of the work Ben Earle is doing now. It’s marvelous.

Audience Two - This is a thought provoking essay on what it takes to really fool your audience; specifically, what it takes to fool them beyond just their instantaneous experience, and into their deeply resonant experience.

One Hundred Pages - A participant takes a book to the other side of the room, opens it, and thinks of a word on the page. The performer divines it.

This is Hector’s take on a book test which is designed to get more fooling the more the audience thinks about it (in light of the previous essay.) This version changes the feel and timing of the peek. This subtle change produces a drastic difference in how the effect is perceived. The book is opened far away from the performer (heck, even a different room if you want) and yet the performer knows the selected word. It’s subtle in its difference, but I guarantee the impact on the audience will be vast.

A Bottled Labeled ‘Clarity’ - This is a brief introduction to equivoque. The next two routines will utilize this as a method.

Equivoque À Duex - An impromptu prediction of two people’s decisions regarding a group of disparate objects.

This is a lovely combination of equivoque and the Free Will principle, and with these two things combined, the routine has a very clear structure which feels unlike any equivoque that the average layman would be familiar with. Hector is very detailed in his explanation including every possible outcome and path to take so that you will know for certain how the routine plays out regardless of the choices. The best equivoque routine I’ve ever read (one which I have performed numerous times) is Andy’s from the Jerx, but this is definitively the second best equivoque routine I’ve read. For those with a limited idea of equivoque, you will quickly have your eyes opened to how powerful of a tool it can actually be.

Mars & Murrie - The prediction of an uneaten M&M.

Another equivoque routine this time utilizing M&Ms. There is a definite clarity that eating the equivoqued items provides. I don’t think this routine brings as much to the table as the previous one, and it’s certainly less theatrically appealing, but it works as a quick moment with your mates.

An Equivocal Miscellany - An Assortment of Further Thoughts & Techniques on Equivoque.

This essay provides a plethora of thoughts pertaining to equivoque. It details pitfalls to avoid, general concepts to mask the equivoque, and some specific examples of ploys to strengthen the equivoque.

Achoo - An essay on avoiding knee-jerk scripting and instead opting to put more thought behind all of the spoken words.

The Windsor Magnet - A robust and sturdy man is drained of his strength and finds himself unable to lift the arm of another, despite having done so only moments before.

Here Hector turns a neat party trick and physiological quirk into a full performance piece. The routine has a nice structure of a pseudo hypnosis demonstration, but fortunately for you, the routine is entirely self-working.

Another Man’s Ghost - An essay on the nature of disclaimers.

Tossed Out Q&A - The reading of minds.

This is the description of this routine as given in the book. In essence, the audience writes down thoughts on an index card. These are collected by an audience and bound by a rubber band. The stack is tossed to three individuals who each think of a thought within the stack. The performer cleanly reads their minds, and then proceeds to reveal detailed thoughts from various other members of the audience. This routine is a cross between the tossed out deck and a Q&A. It has some really lovely convincers throughout which makes everything feel clean from beginning to end. There is some small prop building which must be done, but it is very simple to make, so no concerns there. I really enjoy the structure of this routine, and I think it would be very fooling for anyone to watch. This wins the second WTP Award*

In Search of Pepe - An epilogue from Hector looking back at the evolution of this book over the course of twelve years.

Acknowledgements - Thanking those who made it happen.

It is easy to see why this book has been held in such high esteem for as long as it has. There isn’t a single bad thought in the book, and all of the routines are real world workers that show precisely how deceptive layering of methods can become. If you have any interest at all in performing mentalism casually or in a stage/platform setting, the lessons you will learn from this book will help elevate your current material to new heights, and who knows, you may find a new routine or two to add along the way.

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