The Blank Book Test

There are more book tests in magic than magicians being prepared to buy. The amount of the various systems and editions is staggering. I had my fair share of them: M.O.A.B., Flashback, Codex-X, you name it.

All of them are good, but some depend on prepared books. I know quite a lot of book tests that can be done any time, anywhere, and with borrowed books. But I wanted a book test that was different concerning the effect it has on the audience. The following idea isn’t new, but I don’t care. It is a good idea that works well in front of an audience, and that is all that counts for me.

The key is the presentational theme. I talk about a “book that has not been written yet”. I use a similar presentation with my version of the Sven Pad, which I sell to the audience as “Hemingway’s Last Notebook”.

I once bought some lovely notebooks, which I intended to use as my regular master notebook, but they turned out to be too cumbersome for that purpose. Rather than sending them back, I kept them and thought of a book test using them. The books look interesting; they have blank pages with golden edges and look like a Bible. The paper is of a very good and heavy quality, so writing with a light pencil doesn’t create bleed-throughs, which is a necessity for this method.

The basic idea is to show the content of the book to the spectators by flipping through the pages. They can see that all pages are blank. While riffling through the pages, a spectator is asked to say stop, and the book is opened at that page. He is to think and remember one of the many imaginary words. Then you tell him his thought-of word!

I started to think about methods for a solution to this challenge. I found quite a few, and will publish them some time. But for now, here is some food for thought.

The most direct approach would be to construct a sort of Magic Colouring Book by shortening every second page, similar to a Svengali Deck. On the cut pages, write in big letters, and with a light pencil, some words — it is best to write them in capital letters so that the spectator has no difficulties in reading them. Better still write these words with a light greyish thick felt-tip marker (which doesn’t bleed through).

These words are your force words, and you need some system to fish for the one the spectator is thinking of. There are many systems out there to accomplish this. One of the easiest would be an branching anagram. In that case, you would ‘pick’ the letters from the spectator’s mind, and arrive at his chosen word. Atlas Brookings had a nice software called “Progressive Anagram Generator” and it is very helpful to construct a nice word list.

I never liked the anagram method too much in this context. The problem is: no matter how ingenious these anagrams are constructed, the method could be seen through. Revealing single letters is not such an impressive feat; it smacks of searching for letters in a crossword puzzle. The method works that way.

A more subtle way to fish for the information is to use words that describe objects or abstract concepts. There is a very natural division between something you can touch (a physical object), and something you cannot (non-physical things like emotions).

In my current word list, I use the words, which I derived from Heiko Schenkendorf’s book test, but any list is good as long as you can fish the words easily and in a convincing, direct manner.

The Presentation

Get a spectator to assist you on stage. Flip through the pages one way to show them blank, but don’t let the spectator see the book. Then have her call stop and open the book making sure only she sees the double page. Because of the Svengali principle, she will stop at a page where the written words are visible. Have her think of one of the numerous words on this page (dual reality). Go through the anagram sequence as usual, picking the letters from her mind, and divine the ‘thought-of’ word. Switch the book for an unprepared one and leave it on the stage floor for someone to pick it up to examine, should she so desire.