The Unknown Edible

This is an example of the prediction of an “unknown personal” in mentalism.

I met my friend Alissa at a cafe last week. I was already seated when she arrived. She dropped her coat off at the table on her way to get her drink. I asked her to bring me one of the loyalty-stamp cards from near the register after she got her coffee.

She came back and gave me the card. I told her I had something I wanted to try. I asked her to open her mouth and I peeked inside a little. Then I took her chin in my hand, asked her to make her jaw loose, and I raised it up and down a little. “Hmm…,” I said.

I wrote something on the back of the loyalty card and folded it up and set it on the table.

“Okay, I have a question for you. If you could safely eat some item in the world that isn’t edible, what would you eat?”

“Huh?” she said.

“Like, for example, I think I’d like to eat a thick yoga mat. Not the whole thing. But I just feel like that’s a texture I would enjoy a few bites of.”

“Hmmm. A paperback book,” she said.

“Ha, exactly,” I said. “And why?”

“I like books,” she said. “I think it would taste good to take a bite and have the individual pages fall apart in your mouth. It would be like baklava.”

“I don’t know about that,” I said. “But I did get the sense you’d be a book eater.”

I slide the card over to her and tell her to unfold it. She does and on the inside it says, “I think you’d eat a book.”

The method here is any sort of prediction system you have at your disposal. I use some personalizations on some classic techniques that will be described more in the 2019 book for subscribers. You could use certain apps as well.

The method isn’t the important thing. I just wanted to present this as an example of an “unknown personal” in action.

There’s nothing particularly interesting about the structure here. It’s a fairly straightforward prediction. But I’ve found that to be the power of the unknown personal: it tends to get a better response out of traditional predictions without the need to restructure the effect. Predicting something about someone that they didn’t even know about themselves is, I think, generally stronger than predicting a “random” word, or something about them you could have found out in some other way.

Even if the prediction itself is no stronger, what you’re predicting makes for a more interesting couple of minutes.

And logistically a question like this can give you more time do what needs to be done to achieve the effect. Sometimes you need to stall a little bit before revealing your prediction which can be awkward when you’re asking someone to explain “Why did you name 63?” after you’ve asked them for a random two-digit number. But with a question like this, it only makes to pause and discuss their answer for a moment.

I’m always keeping my ears open for potentially interesting questions that require someone to ask themselves something they’ve never asked themselves before. If you (or some kind of oracle, or a deck of mysterious letter cards, or a weird guy you met on the bus who won’t stop texting you) can somehow predict that information, it makes for a strong and memorable moment of strangeness. And you don’t have the issue of there being any other way you could have uncovered the information, or them saying something like, “Oh, does everyone say they’d like to eat a lacrosse ball?”