With this tutorial, you'll learn how to perform a really easy, but very fooling, mind-reading trick. With a fun Christmas theme, this holiday season is a perfect time to give it a try.
The performer is seated at a table with a group of spectators seated around him. On the table, in front of the performer is a small brown envelope.
Pointing to the envelope, the magician says that there is an amazing Christmas story right there, and he proceeds to take out a small packet of cards from the envelope.
As he's removing the cards, he begins telling the story of how Christmas was almost ruined just a few years ago when someone ate all of Santa's cookies. Nobody knew what had happened, but there was a list of suspects that an investigative team -- made up of Mrs. Claus, Cindy Lou Who, and the rest of Whoville -- put together.
They suspected that the cookie bandit was one of six possible characters, each that had a chance at nabbing the sweets.
The first name that came up on most lists was the Grinch. Though, some people thought it couldn't have been him. It could have been Scrooge, or maybe he's just not into cookies. Marv, from Home Alone, is known for taking things this time of the year... but cookies? Would anyone suspect one of Santa's elves? They do work pretty hard and need a snack every now and then. Ah, but we can't forget Rudolph. Perhaps we've caught him red-nosed? And finally, it's the big man himself, Santa. Did he simply have too much eggnog before hopping on his sleigh that he didn't remember eating the cookies?
For each character named, the magician shows a card that has a picture drawn on it. There are 6 cards in all.
"Now, you're the lead investigator." the magician says to one of the spectators. "You're going to be able to figure out who it was, so we'll start with you narrowing it down."
The magician then tells the spectator that they should say "odd" or "even" and whichever they pick, one of those characters stole the cookies and the others didn't. The spectator, err... investigator, says "even" and the magician then spreads the cards and begins counting, 1 (Santa), 2 (Rudolph), 3 (Elf), 4 (Marv), 5 (Scrooge), 6 (Grinch) and removes the odd cards as they did not steal the cookies.
"We have three remaining suspects now. Please, tell us which one of these did not steal the cookies?" the magician asks the spectator.
The spectator says "I don't think Marv stole the cookies." And so, Marv is removed.
"Two remaining suspects, the Grinch and Rudolph." the Magician says. "Which of these characters stole the cookies?"
The spectator says with a laugh, "it was Rudolph!"
Smiling, the magician says, "remember when I started and said that there was an amazing story right here," pointing to the envelope that's still on the table. He opens the envelope and shows that there is one card inside. Pulling it out and turning it over shows writing on the face: "IT WAS RUDOLPH"
I learned this trick from Spidey's YouTube channel, @SpideyHypnosis. The version outlined here is the same as his, the only difference is the card designs and story that's being told. A big "thank you" goes out to Spidey for allowing me to print this!
After reading the performance instructions below, be sure to check out Spidey's video to see his live performance and other hands-on tips!
Materials & Preparation
For this routine, you'll need a few things:
- Blank Cards
- Alternative: Buy them in bulk!
- Card Envelopes
- Colored Sharpie Markers
- Tip: I recommend using permanent markers for this. I tried using regular Crayola markers and they smear during the performance.
What was great for me when I learned this trick was that I had recently ordered blank cards and card envelopes for a separate routine I was working on. I've used both items in several effects since then too, so they're quite versatile. Highly recommended, even if you're not going to perform this specific routine!
You will need to draw the characters for your story on the cards. I came up with common characters that most folks should know: Grinch, Scrooge, Marv, Elf, Rudolph, and Santa. You can use these, or anything else really. Here's what mine look like:
This routine uses multiple outs. This puts you ahead of the audience and gives them greater freedom in their choices, but you'll have to do a little prep work ahead of time:
- On the back of the Marv card, using a red Sharpie, write the word "GUILTY"
- On a blank card, write the phrase "IT WAS RUDOLPH". This card will stay in the envelope throughout the performance.
- On the front of the envelope near the center-bottom, with a regular pen (or pencil) write "IT WAS THE GRINCH"
The stack of 6-character cards should be in the following order from top-to-bottom, faces up: Grinch, Scrooge, Marv, Elf, Rudolph, Santa
With the envelope face-down on the table, place the "IT WAS RUDOLPH" reveal card face-down inside the envelope.
Finally, wrap the 6-character cards with a rubber band and place them in the envelope. The rubber band will help removing the 6 cards and secretly keeping the extra reveal card behind.
The envelope should stay face-down for the entire performance.
There are two tricks involved in this routine. One is a subtle, spectator's-free-choice magician's choice. The other is multiple outs. Let's see how these two work together to create such a fooling routine!
After saying "there's an amazing story here" while pointing to the envelope, open it towards yourself and pull out the 6-character cards. The envelope should remain face-down throughout, careful not to flash the writing on the front of it or the card inside. Nobody knows what you're doing or what's going to happen so they won't be looking for anything - just keep it casual and let the story flow smoothly and all eyes will be on the cards you pulled out.
Take the rubber band off the card packet and, during the patter described above, thumb the cards one-by-one into the other hand, reversing their order.
Now, the spectator's first choice: odd or even. This is a version of magician's choice, but it feels extremely fair because you tell the spectator they get to choose any 3 cards -- odd or even -- and those are the ones we keep. Normally, with magician's choice, you would just say "pick odd or even" and after they choose you (the magician) decide whether to keep or remove. Not very fair. This version though, we keep exactly what the spectator says... kind of.
So how does it work? In Spidey's handling, he says "I'm going to spread the cards from my left to my right and we're going to keep what you want." And then, he has the spectator say odd or even. Up until now, the cards are not spread, they are held in a pile in his left hand. After hearing "odd" or "even", the trick comes into play.
If the spectator says "even", that means we will keep cards in positions 2, 4, and 6. If we perform a natural spread between our hands, from left to right, we would naturally push the top card (Santa) over first, followed by Rudolph, etc. Counting from right to left, the order is: Santa (1), Rudolph (2), Elf (3), Marv (4), Scrooge (5), Grinch (6). Removing the odd cards leaves us with our 3 force cards!
If the spectator says "odd", that means we will keep cards in positions 1, 3, and 5. If you bring your right hand under the packet and begin spreading from the bottom first, the bottom card (Grinch) will come first, followed by Scrooge, etc. Counting from right to left, the order is: Grinch (1), Scrooge (2), Marv (3), Elf (4), Rudolph (5), Santa (6). Removing the even cards leaves us with our 3 force cards!
At this point, the trick is pretty much done. The three force cards: Rudolph, Marv, and Grinch, are the only remaining cards and the rest is presentation. So, let's see how this plays out.
The next step is having the spectator select any one card that is not the cookie thief. It doesn't matter which one they pick, you'll remove it. I do like to add an extra bit of drama here and reply in a surprised tone "You really don't think X did it??" (X being the name of the character they selected).
This leaves us with two final cards, and we ask the spectator to name which of the two committed the crime. Here's how any of the three selections will play:
- Rudolph: If the spectator chooses Rudolph as the thief, place all the other cards, face-up, in a pile to the side. Slide the envelope back to the center in front of you and recall that you said at the beginning that there was something amazing there. Then, pull out the "IT WAS RUDOLPH" reveal card!
Be careful not to flash the writing on the front of the envelope in the performance. And all the character cards should remain face-up. I recommend, when piling them all back up, that the Marv card remains in the middle so it's reveal doesn't flash either.
- Marv: If the spectator chooses Marv as the thief, I like to slide the Marv card to be right in front of me and pick up all the other cards, face-up. I then say: "Throughout this investigation, we've seen a number of suspects. You have cleared Santa of all charges." and then flip the Santa card face-down on the table, showing a clean white back. "The elf didn't do it, neither did Scrooge." Also flipping both face-down onto the table. "Rudolph wasn't the thief, and the Grinch has changed his ways." Flipping each, in turn, face-down. "However, Marv can't quite seem to shake his thieving ways." and flip his card over to reveal "GUILTY" written on the back.
When putting the cards away, be careful not to flash the extra card in the envelope or the writing on the front of the envelope.
- Grinch: If the spectator chooses Grinch as the thief, I pile all the cards face-up and slide them into the envelope, leaving the Grinch on the table. Then I say, "Unfortunately, this story is in fact the sequel to The Grinch Who Stole Christmas," and I turn the envelope over to reveal the "IT WAS THE GRINCH" writing. The vibe I try to give off is that of reading the end of a story and closing the back cover.
When putting the cards in the envelope, be careful not to flash the extra card in the envelope.
I really like this trick because it's simple, engaging, and fooling. It doesn't take long to perform, it's good with both adults and children, and it adds extra color to a performance set that otherwise only features regular playing cards.
What's also great about it is that it can be adapted for just about any situation that has at least 6 character choices. Spidey's version was Halloween themed about a paranormal mystery. I used his same character designs and changed the story to kids' candy being stolen and each character was a kid in a costume. Then, as you've seen in this tutorial, I adapted it further to fit the Christmas season! Both have received great reactions =]
Spidey mentioned in a comment thread about questions he's received regarding not "going referencing back to the envelope" in the case that the "GUILTY" card (Marv) is selected. In the beginning of the performance, we point to the envelope and say "there is an amazing Christmas story here" -- in the other 2 outs, we go back to the envelope. One is to pull another card out, the other is to show the face of the envelope. If Marv's selected, we don't. And that's perfectly ok! We don't start off by saying "the secret is in the envelope" or "the envelope has the ending." We simply said that there's a story here and we pulled out a packet of cards. If we can bring it back to the envelope at the end -- based on the spectator's selection -- awesome! If not, it's still a great trick and the audience won't even think back to the envelope because we never told them that it held any secrets, just a story ... and we just told them the story!