“No idea how deep the rabbit hole would go…”; Mysteriouser and Mysteriouser by Raj Madhok
by Wouldn't you like to know?
Before we get into the review, just a quick (Serious) note from the editor:
I’ll be working through a HUGE backlog of reviews of books, booklets and periodicals in the coming months. A lot of promised reviews for a lot of amazing people who I’ve enjoyed the company of along the way.
That being said, a huge apology to Raj for this being oh-so-damn delayed;
I owe you dinner and a beer or two next time our paths cross. I promise we’ll take some better photos next time too.
And now, a little bit about the mythical man that is Raj.
My first exposure to Raj’s more recent work (and how devilishly good he is) was after a good (French) friend of mine and Raj met at FFFF a few years ago, where Raj proceeded to fool the absolute shit out of him and I was waking up to a bullshit amount of messages on my phone at 4am, regaling me with tales of what the fuck just happened. Raj’s name had always popped up here and there in credits and discussions, an effect in the occasional magic magazines here and there and couple of lecture notes, but overall, he has remained relatively underground. The man definitely is playing it close to the chest and keeping a lot of his secrets under close guard.
Until the day he decided to spill the beans, we’ll be looking at Raj’s Mysteriouser and Mysteriouser, a small 54 page booklet collecting nine pieces of mentalism/mind-fuckery from his expansive repertoire (which he STILL hasn’t published much of.. HINT HINT RAJ!!!).
I initially was writing this review leading up to my flight to Las Vegas for Magic Live 2017, where I got the chance to meet Raj and witness a few of these effects first hand. After that meeting and a few messages back and forth with Raj, I completely scrapped the first draft; it was shit and didn’t do justice to how it felt to both experience the effects first hand as a spectator, as well as understanding the methods better from the man himself.
Before we get into it, full disclosure, I am not and never have been much of a fan of most mentalism or mental magic. The bulk of “mentalism” in print is so far up its own ass or completely contrived and just god awful to see people try pass off as entertaining that I would rather suck a microwaved fart out of my own ass.
Take note here.
I’m not saying mentalism sucks; there’s just more bad shit out there which muddies the waters of what good mentalism is capable of doing in the minds of our spectators when put together and performed properly. You have been warned.
That Sinking Feeling AKA N’Synch 3.0
Sight unseen of the performer, a spectator brings up the clock app on their phone and is asked to think of the month that corresponds to their birth month, birth date and add the numbers together. The performer can then reveal both dates.
I’m not really going too deep into describing this effect, because a lot of the “good shit” is mostly in how the performance is handled, as with most mentalism. The method itself is just gorgeous since you’re so far ahead from the start and is a significant improvement on the original method Raj had published in issue 11 of Bill Goodwin’s Penumbra magazine. I will say that if you’re going to learn this, learn the presentation in the Penumbra write up overlaid with the newer method, as the write up doesn’t contain the same level of detail for patter/presentation by comparison (if you’re a lazy prick who wants everything written for you).
Best of Friends
A deceptive as fuck method of revealing a thought of card, value, name or anything really from a small packet. This item is based off a David Britland effect published in Genii, but shifts slightly in how the handling is managed to create a much stronger disconnect of method to outcome.
I can’t say much more without giving it up, but this is extremely direct and like Raj points out, has a huge range of flexibility for the medium (Playing cards, business cards, ESP cards etc.), the context (in person or over the phone) but also the amount of different variables you can throw into it and still have a guaranteed outcome with little to no extra effort. Good shit.
Four everyday items (A watch, a coin, a pen and a set of nail clippers) are removed from the performer’s pocket and laid on the table. A spectator rolls some imaginary dice to come to a thought of number to mentally choose one of the four items. The performer reveals that the mental selection they ended on was staring them in the face the whole time; the game was rigged from the start.
This style of effect reminded me of Jimmy Finger’s “Free Will of Order”, although they’re completely unrelated method-wise. What really struck me with this effect was that Raj has taken the proverbial high road and made the effect into something you can have in your phone and perform at any time. Again, I don’t really like much mentalism, but this is the kind I can get behind.
A prediction is written down, the performer offers to alter the spectator’s reality a little. Using nothing but the spectator’s own forearm, the spectator closes their eyes and is asked to say stop when the performer touches their elbow. Not only is the performer nowhere near the spectator’s elbow, but the prediction matches the spot where the performer stopped.
Raj did this for me at Magic Live 2017 and it is just eerie how you can take a relatively simple thing and blow some fucking minds with it. I’m not saying anything else, except that this is fucking great. Do it.
Invisible Book Test
Imagine a book test without an expensive-as-fuck book. Raj has made a simple, yet extremely effective approach that achieves the outward appearance of a book test you can work from your pocket.
A spectator is taken through some guided imagery, picturing a book, a page number and a word in their heads. The performer has three predictions written down, held in the palm of the spectator. Each prediction matches the book’s description, the page number and the word just mentally selected by the spectator.
While the method reads fairly simplistic, it shows how solid the framework that Raj has set up is. You’re using some fairly fundamental magic/mentalism principles perfectly blended with some other subtleties to create a moment that feels like a book test, but you can just do it on the fly. Personally, I’d be using a slight variation on the presentation and handling, but what you’re getting is a fucking solid piece of magic.
Shifty One Faces North
One of Raj’s handlings for Open Prediction/Stewart James’ 51 Faces North plot. This was previously published as “Reading the Future” in Raj’s Buried In Print LIVE (2004) notes and Steve Beam’s Semi-Automatic Card Tricks, Vol. 5 as a follow up effect to his “Open Perception” routine. A spectator is asked to deal through the deck and deal a random card face down. The dealt face down card matches the performer’s open/closed prediction.
Without spoiling the method, it is hilariously simple but does require a bit of pre-show work to make it happen. Not my favourite piece from the notes, but still a good example of how this can fit into a much bigger set/routine with the right approach.
Spread the Mystery
From a spectator shuffled deck, the spectator whittles the deck down to a small packet, where the performer is able to perfectly divine their thought of card. This can even be done over the phone.
I fucking love this. It’s such a simple, yet effective piece of magic. I perform this for laymen and magicians and it just fries the fuck out of them every time. I’m not even going to say anything more except go learn this and just ruin people with it. You’ll thank me later. 10/10, would marry Raj because of this effect.
Chairway to Heaven
A chair test based on a card trick. Yeah. Score one for the card trick boys, you fuckers! Raj’s take on expanding a Nick Trost principle used in a card trick to the stock standard mentalist chair test/prediction, but then just keeps on going.
This feels like the chair test version of Paul Harris’ “Overkill”, where you just keep on smashing it into the spectator that you KNEW ALL ALONG HAHAHAHHAHAHAHAH.
For the most part, chair tests that I’ve read fall into two categories; extremely good or extremely bad, most of which fall into the latter. Whenever I’ve come across different ideas on the chair test premise, it feels like I’m forced to jerk off using steel wool; it’s doable, but I’m not going to feel great about doing it. Raj’s method falls into the extremely good category as far as I’m concerned
A spectator has a choice of 6 chairs lined up on the stage. Some envelopes are mixed and one is placed on each of the chairs, making mention that one of the 6 envelopes has a special message just for her. The spectator finally chooses a chair and sits in it, holding onto the envelope.
The other 5 envelopes are shown to have a yellow sticker on the back, while the envelope she holds has a pink sticker. Inside is the message “Sit here… in chair 3!”. But she’s not sitting in the third chair. However, labelled on the back of each chair is a giant number, the spectator’s selected chair having a giant “3” on it. Fin.
The routine is set up in such a way that the above will always happen. As with most mentalism, there’s generally an element of certain choices having extra revelations built in, but I think Raj has realised that the audience will be too far gone at this point and it’s just adding insult to injury. As someone who’s not a huge mentalism enthusiast, I can appreciate the fuck out of this. Good shit
Melts in Your Mind
Raj’s brilliant M&M mind reading routine. I originally came across this routine as a reference to Hector Chadwick’s “Sweeties” from his Mental Mysteries of Hector Chadwick (2008) which I thorougly enjoyed. Raj’s original handling was published in 1997 in Lee Earle’s Szygy magazine, republished here for your pleasure. Also, if you love this kind of effect, check out Tyler Wilson’s Gummy bear handling from his gargantuan, partial nudity filled Penguin Live lecture.
Six imaginary M&M’s are laid out in a row in front of the spectators and the performer writes down a prediction and places it aside. The spectator narrows down to a colour and if it’s a peanut or regular M&M, which perfectly matches the performer’s prediction.
Hector and Tyler’s routines both use the actual candy as props, which allows the routine’s progression to speak for itself visually, while Raj’s routine using imaginary props does involve more careful patter and presentation to ensure the spectator and audience are following along, since the progression and denouement is all in their heads. it makes for an interesting approach and exercise in audience control and presentation.
So, is it worth getting?
You better fuckin’ believe it, boy! (or girl!)
Raj’s work is solid. After devouring this over and over and having Raj blow my mind with some of these pieces verbatim from the booklet, almost every effect became a new go-to piece of magic for me to fuck with people (except the Chair thing, because I’m not fucking carrying 6 chairs around with me). This isn’t bullshit mentalist pipedreams and contrived, ambiguous bullshit that most people try to pass off as ‘mentalism’. Raj is one of the “big boys” in the world of mental magic, and the strength of the stuff he’s sharing here shows exactly why. I’m making one of those chef-kissing-hand gestures as I write this sentence. That’s how great it is.
The booklet is current available as a hardcopy for $20 or a PDF for $15 from Vanishing Inc. Go buy it now, you fuckers!