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Ai Mann Exclusive
In 1920 and 1921, Al Baker released some ex-clusive secrets via manuscript. One of these manuscriptswas titled "Al Baker's Mental effects" and also calledAl Baker's Billet Reading Extraordinary.
Today these manuscripts exist only as collector'sitems, almost forgotten. Many of the Al Baker originalideas and effects have appeared in print many times andunfortunately some of these ideas have been misunderstoodby modern writers.
In the pages that follow, "Ai Baker's Mental Effects"is reprinted verbatim, with illustrations and commentsunder "Notes" by me.
Al Baker was known to most of us as a ventriloquist andCircus side show magician who was at his best when enter-taining children, yet that same lovable magician could awean audience with his presentation of Mental Magic. Towatch him perform the spirit handkerchief or his 'deck thatcuts itself:, was a treat never to be forgotten.
As you read the pages that follow, bear in mind thatthese are Al Baker's own words and that they were writtenin 1920, years before other writers came out with the sameideas.
Why was this manuscript almost forgotten? Probably be-cause it was written at the time when manuscripts for theMentalist were flooding the market. Those were the yearsof the Vaudeville Mindreader. 'Mindreading' secret manuscripswere everywhere selling for a high price. Some were writtenin pencil or pen while others were illegible carbon copies.Some were worthless while some good. A few were exceptio-nal. Al Baker's Manuscript was 'Extraordinary!' It wasfabulous!
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A number of slips of paper are passed out to thecompany with the request that each write thereon anyquestion they wish and sign their full name. They arerequested to fold them well, when they are gathered up in an en-velope. The performer selects one and holding it up to his foreheadimmediately divines the question and answers it. He opens it,reads it and then passes it out for examination. A second slipis answered in the same way and so on. At any time the perfor-mer may pass out a slip for examination.
It is the answering of the first question and passing it outfor examination that bewilders those who know the old method ofworking the effect.
A number of slips of paper about 1%:" X 6" are placed in alarge envelope (document size) (4" X 9%:", white). In the same en-velope is placed a sheet of double carbon paper with the sensativeside outward. This doubled sheet completely fills the envel0r.e.Thus it will be seen that if anyone uses the envelope for a 'pad"for writing, no matter which side is face up, a carbon impressionwill result on the opposite inside of the envelope.
Come forward with envelope and pass out slips. Before lastslip is given out, moisten the finger tip as if to help slide outthe paper, but in reality to SLIGHTLY moisten the flap. The lastslip is taken out and placed on top of envelope (incidentally)(sealing flap a trifle) and both envelope and paper are handed tospectator. Naturally he uses it for a pad.
Watch him/her very closely and just as he finishes, say, "Nowfold up your slip so that no one may see it." At the same time,casually take the envelope from him and unseal it. Address the au-dience as follows: "Now, if all have finished writing, fold yourslips in four, using a good crease so that they will not open. Iwill gather them up in this envelope." While you are sayingthis, casually open the envelope, glance inside and read the car-bon copy of the last question, while in the act of inserting thefingers (left hand) to hold it open.
Gather up the last party"s slip first and place it in the frontportion of envelope. Place all the rest on the other side of thecarbon paper. After returning to your place, bring forth any slipfrom the REAR portion. Hold it up to your forehead and after alittle deliberation, give an answer to the question whose carboncopy you have read. WHILE YOU ARE DOING THIS the left hand, withfingers still in the envelope, palms the one slip in the front por-tion and holds same at back of envelope with the thumb, fingers at
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AL BAKER'S BILLET READING EXTRAORDINARY cont.
front. THE RIGHT HAND WITH THE AID OF THE LEFT (which still holdsenvelope) opens out the billet to see if he is correct. He memori-zes the question and folds it up again. Then as an after thought,says to the audience, "Perhaps you would like to see it." Suitingthe action to the words, he takes envelope in right hand and takesthe billet with his left hand and passes it out for examination.
What he really does is to retain the billet behind the enve-lope with his right thumb and bring forward the other which he hasbeen holding with his left thumb, and whose answer and question hehAS REALLY GIVEN. The exchange is VERY EASY and absolutely indetec-tible. The envelope should be passed in a very casual manner.
A second billet is selected and the memorized question of thefirst billet selected is answered. The billet is opened as in thefirst case (but is not given out for examination)the question me-morized and given as the answer to the next billet held up. Thisis continued until all have been answered.
If desired, you may at any time, pass out the billet you havejust read by the same method of exchange. In this case it is neces-sary to have a jar or other object several inches in height, intowhich you place each billet after you have read (7) it. This givesyou the opportunity to apparently place the billet just read, intothe jar with the others that have been read. In reality you retainthe billet in your palm under cover of the jar. It is also necessa-ry to fold up the billets immediately after opening them to "seeif you are correct."
It should be understood that the slight sealing of the flap ofthe envelope before giving it to the last party is merely by way ofcaution so as to prevent a sudden opening of the envelope by thespectator. if desired, it may be omited.
I would be very glad to hear of the results you may have inpresenting this excellent effect as also of any possible improve-ments.
NOTE: Al Baker did receive many replies from the readers andmany improvements were proposed, yet careful study of the aboveroutine will convince the reader that the routine is perfect as itstands. Here follows an analysis: and some recommendations:
THE BILLETS: These are long strips of paper 1~" by 6". Thesewere the type of billets that were in vogue in 1920. They weremade famous by Bert Reese and also Charles Foster before him.
Originally these billets were simply torn off the top or
AL BAKER'S MANUSCRIPT
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bottom margins of a newspaper. This not only portrayed an impromptuaspect to a psychic test but also the paper did not make noise whensecretly opened.
Please note also that the "Umbrella Move" is not used or men-tioned by Al Baker in this manuscript. Primarilly Al Baker did notknow the Umbrella move at this time and secondarily, the Umbrellamove can not be used with a long strip of paper.
Dai Vernon infomed me that magician Arthur Findley learned theUmbrella Move from Bert Reese AND THEN gave it to Al Baker.
In his later writings Al Baker switched to using square billetsand adopted the Umbrella move.
As the reader can see in the above Al Baker routine, the Umbre-lla move is not necessary and the long strips of paper are exce-llent.
THE ENVELOPES: In order to accomodate the long strips of paperA LONG ENVELOPE must be used, so the business size white letter en-velope is employed. This will serve as an impression gimmick andalso as a writing pad. The natural thing to do when you offer any-one an envelope or a stack of envelopes to serveas a writing pad, is to give the envelopes to himor her address side up, this is the smooth seam-less side AND THE ENVELOPES SHOULD BE UPSIDE DOWN,with the flap on the lower edge as shown in Fig.i.
This maneuver will place the impression ofthe spectator's question on the bottom-insideof the back seamed panel of the envelope. Andwhen you open the envelope to replace the foldedbillets, the message will appear right side up to your line ofsight. (if the envelope is given to the spectator right side up,the message will end up partly on the inside of the flap which willbe hard to read and also may expose the secret.)
THE PALM: In the above instructions, Al Baker has the lastbillet placed in the front part of the envelope and later, thisbillet is palmed out and placed on the back of the envelope andheld there by the left thumb. In later writings, he modifiedthis by simply pretending to place the billet inside the envelopebut actually placing it on the outside. The following procee-dure is recommended: The last person to write a question (on theimpression envelope) should be one that is sitting on the front row!This question is collected last. After the person writes his ques-tion, the envelope is retrieved and he is instructed to fold hisquestion. In the mea time the operater goes into the audience to col-lect the other slips of paper and then comes to the first row andcollects that questions last. The slip is apparently placed insidethe envelope but in reality it is placed under the left thumb tip
AL BAKER'S MANUSCRIPT
AL BAKER'S BILLET READING EXTRAORDINARY