Wish List

This is just a little moment of weirdness to get into a five item equivoque. 

Effect: You get in touch with your friend and tell her there's an experiment or psychological test you'd like to try when you get to her place. "It uses five specific items that you may not have on hand, but if you do I want to give it a shot." 

When you get to her place you pull out your phone and say, "Okay, here are the items we need... a banana, a screwdriver, a napkin holder, a quarter, a dog biscuit... and... uh, that's it. Do you have those by any chance?" 

You stop and notice those are the exact items on the table. You take a screenshot of the instructions on your phone and text them to your spectator. 

Through a process of elimination, one item is selected. When your spectator reads the instructions you sent she sees that the very item selected was the one that was predicted in the instructions (the instructions which mention the five random items that just so happened to be on the table).


1. Turn the volume down on your phone.

2. Plug in some earbuds. You may say, "But I don't usually have headphones in my phone." That's understandable, but the nature of this effect is that it's only used when you first get to a new location. So it makes sense that you might have been listening to something on your way over to the place. Alternatively you can cut the plug off the end of a pair of headphones and stick it into the headphone jack. But you'll have to hide that it's there. The reason we need to have something in the headphone jack is that otherwise there will be a noise when you start and stop the dictation feature on your phone. This sound is there even when your volume is all the way off. The only way to mask it is to have it go into your headphones.

3.. Open The Jerx app.

4. Swipe with two fingers to the right which takes you to the main menu.

5. Select Wish List. That will take you to a fake notes app.

6. Say to your friend, "Okay, here's what I need. I need..." Press the dictation microphone.

7. Start listing off items nearby. The items will be separated by having an "A" or an "An" before each item. So you say, "I need [press microphone button] an apple, a pair of scissors, a magazine, a jar of spaghetti sauce, a bottle cap. [click done at the bottom of the screen] And a... no that's it. Just those five items." Why that false extra item at the end? Two reasons. One, it's natural to end a list with "and a" but in this case you need to just precede each item with A or An not "And a." So it justifies you not saying "and" before the last one because you thought there was still one more to go. (Why would you think there's one more when you're reading off a list? The justification in my mind is that I've absentmindedly ignored the list and I'm naming the items from the instructions themselves. But it doesn't matter. They don't know what you're looking at, and by the time they see it, the natural "And a..." moment is forgotten.) Secondly, I say the "and a" at the same time I hit the Done button for the dictation. This covers any possible beep that might still be audible from my headphones in a quiet room. After you hit done on the dictation, hit done in the upper right-hand corner, that will format your list.

You want to list 5 items. If you list more or less you'll just get the items formatted into a list. If you do exactly 5 you'll get a list followed by instructions that incorporate the 5 items you named.

This effect is as good or bad as Apple's speech recognition (which is decent) and your mushmouth (which is a mess) allows it to be. 

Some voice recognition tips:

  • Speak slowly. It may feel unnatural, but it makes perfect sense when you're listing off items you think someone is going to need to collect that you don't rattle them off super quick.
  • Speak clearly. Enunciate. Duh. 
  • For my voice, and it may differ from voice to voice, I get better results when I do a long A sound for the letter A, instead of an Uh sound. You'll hear it in the video below.
  • You'll have to think a little on your feet. You can begin anything at all with "A" or "An" but you may have to change how you originally intend to phrase it. You can't say, for example, "A glasses" or "An glasses," but you can say "A pair of glasses."

As I list off the items, I hold the phone in my right hand and count the items off in my left, raising one finger at a time. I just feel it suggests you're counting off items that are already there, not inputing items into the phone.

Don't list 5 super-obscure, detailed objects. I like to say four of the items as plainly as possible and then give a little detail to one of them. So I wouldn't say:

A yellow pocket knife
A July 2008 issue of Maxim
A black sharpie marker
A 1978 quarter
A pack of Dentyne Ice

I'd just say:

A pocket knife
A men's magazine
A marker
A quarter
A pack of gum

If the voice recognition screws you, which it will, especially if you're not accustomed to speaking into it, don't worry. Just put your phone in your pocket and say, "I was just goofing around and naming stuff off your table. It can be any items you have laying around. It doesn't need to be anything specific." No harm, no foul. Then go into a normal equivoque routine with a handwritten prediction. Or any type of routine you can do with a bunch of borrowed items.

8. After the list is made, let the spectator point out that those are the items that are right there in front of you. Don't act like it's that crazy. I let them persuade me how odd or amazing it is. Casually show them your phone and let them see the list and the beginning of the instructions. But don't dwell on it. Usher them along to the effect. 

9. Text them a screenshot of the instructions, but tell them not to open it yet.

10. Do a standard equivoque routine with five items until you're down to one. It will be the item that the instructions suggest is chosen 90-98% of the time when offered in this array of items. They can check the instructions you sent to them. "Huh, I guess it does work," you say. Or feel free to be more excited if you're the type of performer who would make a big deal about a 1 in 5 choice based on "psychology."

11. They will read over the instructions and it will hit them again how odd it was that they had those exact 5 items out and ready. The more they look, the stranger it will seem. The fact that they did end up choosing the item the instructions said they would suggests maybe there is something to this list and maybe it was just an odd coincidence they were all sitting out. 

12. Ponder to yourself what exactly the climax of this trick is.