Mess With Their Head

This is your make-up post for the one that didn't publish last Monday.

Here is a little gift for you. What follows is an Imp, a Hook, and it ties into yesterday's post on enhancing the Spectator as Magician Plot. 

It's a phrenology chart from the 1800s. 


Phrenology is a pseudo-science about the shape of the head or some junk, I don't really know what it is. But I do know there are about 50,000 different tricks you can get into if you leave this chart out, half-folded on your coffee-table or something like that. 

You see, I've modified this chart by adding "Retentiveness" (i.e. memory) long and short term; "Intuitiveness" (general, imagery, numbers and letters); and "Sympathy." These are all things that might realistically be listed on this chart, but they're also subjects you can use (along with a number of the others that were already listed there) to get into many effects, particularly in the "Spectator As" genre. Most any routine where the spectator achieves some magic/mentalism effect could be seen as a result of memory, intuition, or sympathy.

So, someone finds you studying this chart, or finds it on an end-table in your house. "What's this?" they ask.

"Oh, it's an old phrenology chart. It's some horse-shit 'science' from the 1800s. I'm kind of interested in it because [here you put in whatever backstory you have for your performances: your mentor suggested you read up on it, another magician you hang out with showed you something interesting in regards to it, you read something about in your uncle's notebook, you saw a video on it that was being passed around in a private facebook group, or whatever.) There's actually a kernel of truth to it. There are different areas of the cranium that you can stimulate in a way that will enhance or hinder certain mental states temporarily. It's kind of interesting but not anything you can really build a whole branch of medicine on like they tried to a couple hundred years ago. The technique is kind of hit and miss, and you build up a tolerance to it very quickly, so when it does work it works briefly and then you have to wait a few months for that area to reset to its natural state. Actually... can I try something with you?"

What am I doing here? Well, I'm just making up shit about something that's already bogus in the first place. But I'm also establishing a fairly perfect Imp for a Spectator as Mind Reader effect. Yesterday I wrote:

"For the spectator to feel like maybe they've done something they've never done before, they need to be subjected to a new, or at least uncommon, experience or sensation."

In this case, the "uncommon sensation" is going to be you "stimulating" a certain area of their scalp. Don't just do it for a few seconds. Give it at least half a minute. I like to tell them it takes about two minutes. This is the buy-in concept in action. Use your fingers and varying degrees of pressure, or maybe use q-tips like this is a clinical procedure. 

Now you'll shift into an effect based on whatever area of their scalp you were supposedly stimulating: a demonstration of their enhanced memory, a manifestation of their increased intuition, or something that relies on an upgraded sympathetic response. 

Not only does this particular Imp establish why they can suddenly perform these feats, you also make it clear why they won't be able to in the future. (You've told them from the start the effects are temporary, hit and miss, and that the body almost immediately builds up a tolerance to it, so it's something that can only be done occasionally. (Of course, six months later you can have a different effect chambered to go through this process with them again.))

Be sure and check out some of the other areas listed in the chart (some you'll have to look-up the definition to know what they mean) they are bound to give you ideas for other types of presentations. I've been using this chart for a little over a year and have a bunch of different effects that utilize many different classifications listed in the chart. I have a trick that might be in the next book where I do something and the spectator is like, "So what?" Then I stimulate the "wonder" part of her cranium and do the same thing again and she's blown away. More details on that to come.

You can almost certainly shoehorn any trick into at least one of these designations. If not, come up with your own categorization for it and then be like, "See this section 19a where it says 'not determined'? Well, a few decades after this chart was made they found out that section controls _________." And just put in whatever you want.

Here is the chart in pdf form for you to download and print. (If you feel the need to re-do the chart to add something else to it, I would encourage you not to clean it up. I purposely made the chart with all the weird hyphenation and letter-spacing of the original. You don't want something that looks slick and new because there are no slick and new phrenology charts.)