|John Randall Brown|
The technique in it's simplest form involves holding the wrist of a spectator and apparently having the vibrations of their thoughts pass from touch into your brain. (Magicians will understand what I'm saying). What I didn't know was this was once considered very close to the real thing in regards to reading someone's thoughts, because it used no props or gimmicks of any kind. On top of that, this technique could be used to reproduce many different types of effects in mentalism. And it turns out, this was the technique used by all three of the pioneers of Mind Reading mentioned above.
John Randall Brown's initial test with the technique was to have someone hide a pin, and then he
|Washington Irving Bishop|
All three of these early mentalists used the Pin Test. They were each tied to one another in some way and they all did the same basic act. What made them different was their individual personalities.
I did find researching this podcast to be more difficult than others due to the lack of information on mind readers. Granted, there may be some excellent books on the history of mind reading that I do not own, but I have a pretty extensive library so I don't know if I'm missing much.
They also are all connected to spiritualism. These three all presented Spiritualist exposures in their programs. But other performers who would become iconic in mentalism were more closely tied to spiritualism, like Anna Eva Fay and Samri Baldwin. It's as if the earliest mentalism had to deal with the spirits telling the secrets of members of the audience and then that changing to the mentalist telling the secrets of members of the audience, aka mind reading. In a similar way, escapology has it's origins in spiritualism as well. The Davenport Brothers being examples of very early escape artists, and other performers following suit.
Of the three early pioneers, Stuart Cumberland seems to be the most prolific having written a biography of his exploits. Washington Irving Bishop was likely the most famous and suffered the most tragic death. To find out more, please check out episode 15 of The Magic Detective Podcast.