13 Steps to Mentalism – An Overview

If you want to perform “mentalism” you may have heard of a book called “13 Steps to Mentalism”, and for good reason. This book is considered a classic of mentalism – but does it deliver? Just what will you learn from this book?

Well to start, 13 Steps to Mentalism has been around since the 1960’s and was written by Tony Corinda. Originally it was published as 13 different booklets in London. Thankfully it has been published in a single book format containing all 13 steps. The fact that it has such staying power in a market flooded with books and dvds speaks of its quality right off the bat.

Each chapter or “step” in his book describes different techniques or methods that a mentalist can use to perform different acts of mental magic or mentalism. Below I will briefly give an overview of what each step teaches.

Step One – Swami Gimmick

I haven’t know a mentalist worth his salt that didn’t own and frequently use a swami gimmick. They are a ‘must have’ for any mentalist. It is one of the mentalist’s most powerful tools and nearly invisible to the spectator. This step goes over the various types of swami gimmicks available and when to use each one. Corinda describes how to best use these gimmicks while minimizing detection. At the end of this step, he goes into various mentalism effects possible with use of this gimmick.

Step Two – Pencil, Lip, Sound, Touch and Muscle Reading

By means of this step one can make predictions on the basis of gathering sense information from the spectator by means of touch, sound and sight. Pencil reading is watching how the pencil moves to determine what is written without actually seeing what the spectator has wrote. Sound reading works remarkably well with a spectator writing on a chalkboard or perhaps its more modern equivalent, the erasable slate and non-permanent marker. Lip reading is straightforward, but takes practices as does the art of muscle reading. Muscle reading, that is feeling the small changes in muscle tension in the spectator, can be a devastating and very accurate method of prediction if practiced. Sample effects of all these methods are given by Corinda in this step.

Step Three – Mnemonics and Mental Systems

Yes, by learning mnemonics (memory systems), you can perform amazing feats. Of course this will help if you want to perform some astounding magic using a deck that is memorized. Additionally, he teaches some amazing mathmatical feats.

Step Four – Predictions

Numerous techniques for predictions are described, including switches, forces and “stooges”.

Step Five – Blindfolds and X-Ray Eyes

Various types of blindfolds are discussed and how to obtain information while blindfolded. Numerous tricks are described, as well as driving as car blindfolded!

Step Six – Billets

Billets are small folds of paper with information written on them by the spectator. In this section Corinda discusses how to obtain that secret information without your spectators knowing! This step includes various effects that can be performed with billets.

Step Seven – Book Tests

If you’d like to perform mentalism with books, this step is worth its weight in gold! Describes ten different mentalism effects performed with books.

Step Eight – Two Person Telepathy

Two sections are devoted to telepathy, “Major Systems” and “Minor Systems”. Includes discussion on verbal techniques and electronic devices (obviously outdated as it is over fifty years old). Total of eight routines are described.

Step Nine – Mediumistic Stunts

This Step is probably going to be the one you skip over as it is very outdated. But it is still worth the read. Perhaps the most useful is his section on “spirit writing”. Includes other effects as well.

Step Ten – Card Tricks

This isn’t a complete treatise on card magic, but Corinda does list some mentalism effects that can be worked with cards.

Step Eleven – Question and Answer

Divided into two sections: Questions that are unknown and questions that are known. Discusses various techniques on how to obtain information to questions that are unknown. Great introduction to ‘cold reading’.

Step Twelve – Publicity Stunts

Want to ‘market’ yourself as a mentalist? Well, the price of the book is worth it for this step alone! If you want to increase your exposure and reputation as a mentalist, this is the chapter you’ll learn how to do so. With slight modifications this chapter is easily relevant today, although written in the 60’s.

Step Thirteen – Patter and Presentation

Even if you have all the techniques if a mentalist down and you fail in the area of ‘patter’ or presentation – no one will want to watch you perform. This step covers the building blocks of a good performance, appearance, misdirection and more. A very good chapter.

Conclusion: The short answer to ‘is this book worth it’ is a resounding ‘Yes!’ Even if you are not altogether interested in mentalism, this is still a good book for the magician’s library. If you are interested in performing mentalism, then the answer is altogether different – it is a must-have. You will be referencing this book for a long time to come.