When I think of Spiritualism a picture of people sitting around a table in a dimly lit room, eyes closed, a candle burning, and some sort of mystic psychic person summoning up the dead comes to mind. Sometimes a Ouija board is involved. There are many books, of course, on the subject and over the years lots of controversy. Many people believed in it, some of them highly intelligent, and some still do.
Somehow this phenomenon is intertwined sometimes with Mentalism and of course Mentalism is a part of magic. The difference is, to me anyway, when someone calls themselves a Spiritualist or a psychic, they expect others to take them seriously, as someone who can actually read your mind, or speak to the dead. Of course we can all speak to the dead, the trick is to get them to speak back. The psychic claims to be able to do this.
The Magician on the other hand, even if he claims to be a real magician, by his very title of magician, tells you he is going to fool you, perhaps very successfully, but somehow, mostly unbeknownst how to his audience, he succeeds. Sometimes when I demo a trick to someone new in magic, and their mouth drops open in disbelief, they state almost defiantly, “I know there’s a trick to it.” and I say, “Of course there is.” And some will even ask, “How did you do that?” and I say, “The answer to that is what you pay for when you buy the trick, so you can do it too.”
Once a rabbi phoned me as he wanted a magician for a Purim party, but he said the magician must not be Jewish. I asked why not. He said Jews do not have special powers, only G_d has special power. So I asked him to tell me about Moses, when he turned the rods into snakes, etc. So he thought about it and said, “Okay, they can be Jewish, but they must not say they have special power. They have to tell everyone they are just doing tricks.” I said, most people understand that. But he wanted it made clear that they were only illusions.
In all fairness to the rabbi, there are magicians and mentalists who pretend to have special powers. We know, as we have seen them on television, and heard them claim to have special powers, and then use items we have sold them. The problem is that some people believe them. There’s that fuzzy line.
Actually the inspiration for this post was a new effect we just received. Most magicians and especially mentalists know about Spirit Slates, whereby the performer displays two large (approximately 8.5- by 11.5-inch) slates, blank on both sides. The slates are placed together with a piece of chalk in between and when they’re later shown, a written message appears!
Now there is a new kid on the block! “Tiny Spirit Slates” by Quique Marduk. Perfect for restaurant Magicians who don’t want to carry big stuff around.
While on the subject, of Spiritualism and Mentalism, we have a Ghost Alarm Clock which would add a dramatic ring to your show, a little pricey but effective. if you are interested in finding out about spiritualism and props, books and DVDs on the subject click here.