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Arts & Entertainment

Mentalist or Crook?

Penn & Teller

Lesson time 7:00 min

Mentalism is a genre of magic that exists across a spectrum of morality. Learn how Penn & Teller use mentalism to perform a “mind-reading” trick for entertainment purposes only.

Penn & Teller
Teach the Art of Magic
In their first-ever MasterClass, Teller breaks his silence as he and Penn teach their approach to creating moments of wonder and astonishment.
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- We're going to talk about a kind of magic that we hate. We do versions of it. We do it very carefully. It's a kind of magic that can be used immorally and is mostly used immorally. It's a way to get information. It's called mentalism. It's a way to get information that someone else is thinking. Now, one way to use this immorally is to claim to have ESP or psychic powers. That's immoral, because we have no evidence those exist, so it distorts reality for people. And that's very, very bad. But there's a worse way to use it, and that's it's used to exploit grief. Say that I've never met Teller, ever, but I've gone to him, because I'm full of grief. And he tells me he has to get in touch with my dead mother. Now, I know this is so distasteful, but people really do it. And he gives me a piece of paper with a circle on it and tells me there's no way he could possibly know me. He's never met me. He doesn't know me. But, maybe he can get in touch with my mother if I write down her name within this circle, the circle of love, the circle of life, any sort of jive you want to make up. He's got his back turned, and I write down my mom's name. Now, I'm going to say that my mom's name is Mary. It's not Mary, but I'm not going to exploit my dead mother, even for you. So, I write down Mary. Now, he hasn't seen that piece of paper. He has no idea. Then he tells me to fold it up like this. There's no way he could know what's on that piece of paper, and then I give it to him. Now, remember, in this situation, it's not just a stupid little magic trick. He has said he's going to figure out my dead mother's name. So, he takes this, and he rips it up. Now, watch. He knows where the circle is. He knows how it's folded, so all he's got to do is just hold back the center piece of information right there. That's where Mary's written. He holds that in his hand sneakily, and then puts this here, and proves to the world that he couldn't possibly ever get that information, because he's going to burn the pieces of paper. Now, this would be all done very, very solemn and very like a religious ritual, and all burning it, and the smoke going up to my dead mother, and all this jive. But, the fact of the matter is he's caught the name. He's got it in his hands. Then he turns his back, does whatever concentration he wants, and sees that the name of my mom is Mary. And then he uses that information to steal money from me, to destroy the memory of my mother, and to pretend to console me. Now, if you're going to do a trick like this, if you're going to do mentalism, be moral about it. And here's how you'd be moral. One-- you cannot tell people that there is ESP when we have no evidence for that so far. Two-- you can't exploit grief. And don't lie to yourself and say, well, I'm comforting them. I'm making them feel better. That is not-- that is not a way out. It's wrong. And, also, you can't use double speak. Now, this is what a lot of mentalists do. The...

Open your mind with magic

With more than 40 years performing together, Penn & Teller have sold out shows around the world, earned a star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame, and created the longest-running headline act in Las Vegas. Now the legendary magicians are taking you behind the curtain. Learn fundamental magic tricks and the psychological tools that create amazement, at home or on stage. Expand your perception of the possible.


Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars.

I am enthralled with learning and practicing. Thank you Penn and Teller

From the breakdown of some very simple tricks to the philosophy behind doing magic "honestly", this class is great for anyone from the beginner up

Very interesting teachers. Are passionate about their craft and explain clearly

I have learned to do many tricks and they are very fun to pull off on my family


Lucrecia Sarita R.

The challenge with believing in psychic ability. Proof of the individual psychic's skills predictions and interpretations. Since it's not an exact science and in order to understand how to utilize these inherent abilities, the psychic relies on their personal life experience, Psychic Historian: One of the challenges we face is for any one individual to take on the vocation of a psychic historian. A genuine psychic historian is one willing to devote themselves to the study of one psychic's life over the course of many years, perhaps decades, chronicling the events. Reply | Like | Report post | Delete | Less than a minute ago

James B.

A simple, but effective trick. Only thing I need to get better at is looking at the information on the torn center discreetly.

Brett G.

The ONLY decent trick from the entire $100 series. Unfortunately, I already knew how to perform this from FREE videos on YouTube.

A fellow student

Can’t play the lesson due to technical issues for more than a week, please fix

Brett G.

I cannot express how much respect I have for Penn and Teller after watching this video of theirs. They are spot on. I only wish they knew just how powerful the spiritual forces actually are that continue to lure poor folks to such so-called mediums, palm-readers and soothsayers. The only thing missing from Penn's heartfelt warning is what has been already known for centuries, in what is clearly a warning from Exodus 22:18 - "You will not suffer a witch to live". I know Penn will hate me for this, but why would God care enough to add this little warning into the 2nd book of of the Bible, unless He meant it as a warning? Like God, Penn cannot help but speak the Truth.

Alexander P.

It could be just simple mindreading trick =) Instead of mom name you can ask to write animal