Christmas Mentalism

Here’s a little mentalism trick that’s Christmas themed!

Effect: You show five pictures of Christmas things and someone thinks of one of them. You read their mind and tell them what they’re thinking of.

This is simply a progressive anagram. Using the chart below you say letters, one at a time, and if the letter is in what they are thinking of, you move down the list and if it isn’t you move to the right.

The nice think about this list is that you can only get one NO answer before you know the work they’re thinking of.

Personally if I was to do this, I would have an index of the different options, and have a physical prediction, or something like a modified Six Outs by Blake Vogt with only five outs.


Handcrafted, Gluten Free Progressive Anagrams

Yesterday we handmade a progressive anagram from five words. If you didn’t read yesterdays post, go and read it, or this won’t make a lot of sense. One thing I didn’t like was that the first YES or NO question have a 60% chance of getting “No” answer. Using the same method to make the progressive anagram, by eliminating the vowels first, but this time examining the vowels, we’ll get a better sequence.

here are the words:


I noticed that all of them have an E except for one word. If we eliminate the E first, we’ll get an 80% chance of a YES. If we get a NO, we immediately know the word. This is way better than yesterday’s layout. Here’s what today’s flowcart for the same words looks like:

E ————–> Touch
Beer, Agreement, Heat, Bowel

I’m going to eliminate another vowel, I’ll do A, as the only other vowel that’s used in the words is O, and that’s only in one word, which would give me a 75% chance of getting a NO answer. The A will give me a 50/50 chance.

progressive anagram

At this point we have two pairs of words, so we just need to find a letter that’s only in one word of each pair.

progressive anagram

While essentially the same as the progressive anagram from yesterday, this one is slightly better as the odds of getting a YES on the first letter are better and if you get a NO on the first letter you immediately know the word, which is a huge advantage. Also there’s only one word where you’ll would get two NO answers, where in yesterday’s flowchart there were two instances.

Now let’s compare this to the what a computer will come up with. I plugged the same words into a progressive anagram generator and here’s what is spit out:

progressive anagram

Essentially the computer came up with the same solution as I did today. the difference was we chose different letters for splitting the last two pairs, but that’s arbitrary. The nice thing about the computer is that it did it in one try, and in about 1 second. Knowing to do it yourself is a solid back up and you understand the process a bit more.

Handcrafted Progressive Anagrams…

With moving to virtual magic shows, I’ve been playing a lot with progressive anagrams. If you’re not sure what a progressive anagram is, the basic effect is someone is thinking of a word. You then ask if a several letters are in it and based on their “yes” or “no” answers you can determine the word. Essentially it is a flowchart that uses a process of elimination from a list of words. The flow chart and based on YES or NO answers to whether the word has a letter you will either move down the list or to the right. 

If you get a YES, you move down.
If you get a NO, you move to the right

That’s it.

Normally I use an online progressive anagram generator to create these flowcharts. For fun, I thought I’d try to figure out how to create them myself. Since I use them a lot, I’ve noticed a few things that are the basis of how I do mine. I’m going to hand make a progressive anagram.

The first thing we need is a list of words. I used an online random word generator and using 5 words. The words it gave me are:


I’m going to start by eliminating vowels, so I’ll start with the A.

Currently my flow chart looks like:

A -> Beer, Bowel, Touch
Agreement, Heat

Remember if they say YES you move down and if they say NO, you move to the right.

I’m not the biggest fan of having a 60% odds of getting a “no” answer on my first question. For the sake of simplicity to explain the easiest way I’ve found to do this, we’ll keep going with the A.

For the next question, if we will eliminate the E, so the flowchart will look like this:

progressive anagram, mentalism

Now we have two sections, each with two words we need to figure out. It’s a simple matter to figure out a letter that’s only in one of the Beer/Bowel pair or in the other set of two words. We’ll start with the Beer/Bowel. Let’s eliminate the O, and the flow chart will look like:

progressive anagram

Then we’ll find the letter that’s only in of the Agreement/Heat pair. That letter is H, so here’s the final Flowchart:

progressive anagram

And there you have it, we hand build a progressive anagram.

Impromptu Zoom Magic!

About a month ago I added a new trick to Zoom that’s been doing really well. It’s an interactive trick, where someone thinks of someone in the Zoom room and I tell them who they are thinking of. It’s a pretty good trick because it’s so customized and uses what’s happening now. It’s “propless mentalism” in a zoom room!

What I do is make a progressive anagram for the first names of the people in the Zoom room and have someone think of a person. I then go through the flow chart and tell them who they are thinking of! It can be instantly repeated, and if people join later, you can simply add their names. It’s great!

One of the advantages of doing it people’s first names in a zoom room is the person thinking of the name is looking right at the name. That makes if very difficult for them to misspell it!

Give it a try, you’ll like it!

Practicing Progressive Anagrams…

Awhile ago I wrote about using progressive anagrams for streaming shows. Here’s a test show I did with the routine that was written up in those posts:

I should have handled the envelope a lot less, I’m way too fidgety with it. That and scripting it out better would have tightened it up. One of the cool things about right now is that there are soo many of these live stream shows you can get on and work out the bugs to routines before you take them in front of a paying audience!

Progressive Anagram Routine…

Recently, I’ve been writing a bit about progressive anagrams and their use in virtual shows over the internet. I’ve come up with a bit of a routine, here’s what my idea looks like:

You put display a coin envelope in your left hand and hold your empty right hand palm up.

“Imagine I have some coins here…nothing crazy, just a penny, nickel, dime, quarter, half dollar and a silver dollar. I want you to look at the coins and since you can’t actually grab one through the screen, pretend to take one.”

You can now lower your right hand.

“Look at it, on the back you’ll notice I wrote the name of the coin on the back. If it’s a quarter, I wrote quarter. On the half dollar I wrote half dollar. Look at the word I wrote, visualize it in your head”

Now we’re going to get into the progressive anagram. How it works is: If you say a letter you move down to the next letter. If that say no, you move to the right. If you get all “yes” answers you end up on the fifty cent piece.

E – Half Dollar
I – A (No: Penny Yes: Quarter)
C – A (No: Dime Yes: Silver Dollar )
F- Nickel
Fifty Cent Piece

You’ll notice in the script I didn’t give fifty cent piece as an option, but I’m trying to foresee someone not listening to me. I have the list above written out where the camera can’t see it. You now know the word, in this example they are thinking of the nickel and they don’t know you know it. Direct attention to the envelope.

“I’ve got a coin in this envelope”

Rip the top off the envelope. Oh, I forgot to mention you have an index of coins in thumb tips out of the camera’s view. For the quarter or larger coins you have folding coins in the thumb tips so that they fit. Once you know the coin, you put on the correct thumb tip. As you rip the top off, you load the thumb tip inside.

“I’m guessing you’re thinking of the nickel!”

They confirm this and then you dump the nickel out of the thumb tip that’s inside the envelope onto your palm and display it. You can now steal the thumb tip as your rip up the envelope to show there are no other coins and then get rid of the thumb tip as you throw way the envelope pieces.

There you go, an easy routine using a progressive anagram and with slight adjustments you could do it in a show with a live audience.

Taking It Further…

In yesterday’s blog post about progressive anagrams, I mentioned a good way to use them for internet shows without any memory work. That doesn’t solve the problem of people not knowing how to spell words. The easy way is to use simple, common words, and not things like astrological signs like, “Sagittarius” which took me 4 tries to correctly spell it before I did a web search to figure it out just now.

The next problem and what I think is the biggest weakness is when you get the letters wrong. There are some instances where you will get no letters wrong, but you can’t count on that. There are also some where you’ll only get one wrong and immediately know the word, which is the problem. It feels like you are doing exactly what you are doing, figuring out the word by the letters.

To remove the idea that you’re just guess based on the letters, you need a prediction. Something physical to show that you knew it all along. This could be a written prediction, or whatever. A simple solution (depending on your words) would be a nail writer. Another easy way would be an index of the words, or multiple out set up.

What the prediction does is makes it harder to backtrack the method. If people talk after the show it ends up being, “If he was just guessing, then how did the prediction match what I was thinking of?” Taking it a step further makes it a more solid trick!

Progressive Anagrams…

Soon after I got seriously into magic I picked up a copy of the book Thabbatical by Phil Goldstein (Max Maven). It’s got several progressive anagram tricks in the book. If you don’t know what a progressive anagram is, it’s a way of figuring out a word that someone is thinking of by asking them if certain letters are in the word. Everytime you get a “NO”, you move to a new list. In a good list, by the time you get to the second “NO” you know the word.

The huge problem with using a progressive anagram is the person needs to be able to spell the word correctly in their head. Sure you can have them take the word off of a list, but I think that takes ways what makes this type of trick work, and that’s that you don’t need any props.

The other challenge is that you need to memorize a flow chart of letters and words. It’s not super hard, but it does take work and you need to keep in practice. However, right now with use all stuck at home and doing magic over the internet, you can easily do progressive anagrams without memorizing anything! The way to do it is to simply print it out and put it someone outside your camera’s field of view. No memory work, it’s plug and play!