Review: The How To Read Minds Kit by Peter Turner & Ellusionist

As with so much of dEllusionist marketing, what they claimed this kit to be was quite over the top and designed to court controversy. It’s a shame really, as it’s not actually that bad, and with a little work could be really good. But instead of working on its weak parts and making a better product, they just heavily implied owning this kit would get nerdy teenage boys laid. Yes, that really is the level of classy they decided to go with.

One of my biggest problems with this kit is who presents it. Peter Turner is a very knowledgeable and creative mentalist. If you want to have a chat about magic/mentalism over a beer, you’ll be hard-pressed to find somebody better than Pete, and for brainstorming ideas he is fantastic. However, he is not well suited to teaching total beginners (the target audience of this kit) the basics. Instead of well thought out and carefully planned lessons, Pete prefers to just wing it and go off on tangents whenever they cross his mind, and Pete being Pete, this happens quite a lot.

I’m not saying a total beginner will not learn anything, they will, and so would many more experienced mentalists too if they watched. The problem is how the information is presented. He also sends very mixed messages, he frequently jumps between saying it’s not important to learn the correct names for things (and surprisingly he actually misnames some things himself) and stressing how important it is to know what everything is and its correct name. The one thing he doesn’t say, Which I personally think is VERY Important is that we should never use these names in performance in front of specs.

So, what’s in the kit:

Billets – Pretty standard billets, not much I can say about them really.

Marked Deck – The deck included is a Cohort Deck which is a reader, some of the markings can be confused with others, but with a little practice you’ll soon get the hang of them.

Switch Pad – Quite nice, made of leather rather than the plastic which I was expecting. There are better options on the market if it’s an area of mentalism you want to get into, but as part of a kit, it’s fine. I’ve seen a few people suggest it would be better used as a crib than a switching device, but I disagree, there are plenty of better ways to hide a crib than awkwardly constructing a routine around this device. But if you think it would work for you, there is nothing stopping you.

Envelopes – Reasonably standard gimmicked envelopes. There are loads of specialised envelopes on the market designed for various secret uses, but these are fine to get you going. I see they are selling refills of these, but they are so easy to make yourself I don’t know why they bothered.

Bank Card – This could have been the standout item of the set, but sadly it just doesn’t hold up. The 37 force is nicely hidden and works well, and there is a very clever binary system (and crib) in play too. But the fact there is no name on it marks it as a fake right away, and the 1089 force is hideously out of place. Who carries a credit card that’s 31 years out of date? And when you consider who the target audience of the how to read minds kit is, very few people using it would have even been born by then, let alone old enough to get a credit card at the time. Having said that, the sidetracks Pete wanders off on while teaching this is some of the most useful stuff in the whole kit, so even though the card itself is next to useless, Pete talking about it isn’t.

The Secret Writer – It’s a Boon type write, which personally I don’t like. I think a better option would have been to include a few different types and let the person buying the kit decide which is best for them. OK, this would push the manufacturing price up a little, but only a very little, and as they could sell refills (these things are far too easy to lose) they’d soon be back in profit. It’s also interesting to note that Pete claims these devices are ‘long forgotten’ I’d say there are far more mentalists using these every day than there are using say a switch wallet.

Peek Wallet – Pretty standard Himber Peek, again made of leather rather than plastic so points for that. But it is a one-trick pony. There are lots of wallets on the market that do the same thing but will also allow for other things to happen too.

ESP Cards – Absolutely terrible, they are so bad they seem to come from cheap Christmas crackers rather than from a magic kit that costs three figures to buy. Pete tries to pass off the inferior quality as deliberate, claiming they are Hofzinser cards (even though that’s not what Hofzinser cards are) and on top of that the marking system used is very easy to spot too. My personal favourite Zener cards are Beyond ESP, I’ve also heard excellent things about Naked ESP by Michael Murray, but to be honest, literally anything would be better than these.

Book Test – OK, not great, not terrible. It’s very obviously gimmicked, but as long as you control that you should be fine. I think they would have been better teaching Hoy than supplying a book, as that can be done totally impromptu with any book, but if they did that it would be one less thing to include in the bundle.

Spoon – Yes, seriously, they also include a single spoon. Just the one, why anybody at ‘E’ thought this was a good idea is beyond me. Either include ten or twenty, or none. Even two would give the budding mentalist a chance to practice at home first before going out to blow people away with a single bloody spoon.

UV Kit – Total filler. This adds nothing at all to the kit apart from a couple of very cheesy reveals. You can pick these up on eBay for next to nothing, why not include a Svengali pad instead, somebody new to mentalism would find that infinitely more useful than a toy like this.

Pete also mentions a few times that buyers of this kit should leave items in bars and restaurants to make your mentalism seem more organic. Although this can be used to great effect, I can’t help but think in this case it’s more a ploy to sell refills. Another thing I found amusing was Brad (the most unnatural man in the world) giving advice about being natural.

To sum up, there are some major problems with this kit (ignoring the PUA overtones of the advertising, but PUA aimed at lonely teenagers rather than lonely adults). It’s aimed squarely at young inexperienced magicians wanting to get into mentalism, but mentalism is really hard for younger people to pull off well, and to do good mentalism you need to be a confident performer, so it’s far from an ideal match. There is also the “it’s all on video so you don’t need to read books like the ‘old guys’ keep telling you”, but mentalism by its very nature is a highly cerebral thing, and a love of books lends itself very well to people who pursue the art.

With a total running time of just shy of eight and a half hours of videos, you do get a lot of tuition and that’s really what it comes down to with this kit. Pete himself says you aren’t expected to do everything, so there will be seldom or totally unused gimmicks left in the box. And if you aren’t a total beginner, you are likely to already have better versions of some of the items included anyway, so the value of the props are very limited. It’s a shame they don’t sell the component parts separately.

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