Roll Up for the Greatest Trick on Earth!

Into The Future
Creative Commons License photo credit: Outdated Productions

From Lee in the U.S.

Hi Rosemary – On 2 occasions my husband and I have gone to sessions with a blind billet reader – Is there a trick to what he is doing?  My husband insists there is and he has not told us anything of value other than to be able to repeat everything we have written down but he had some of the audience in tears from what he told them.

I must confess that I had to look up what ‘billet reading’ is. I don’t know if it is unique to North America or whether we use a different term in Australia, but I had never heard of it until now.

So, I hoped, guessed, figured (wrongly assumed ??) that I’m not the only one to be in the dark on billet reading. Hence this post.

Billet reading is an illusion and Lee’s husband is right. It is a sideshow trick performed as magic.

According to Wikipedia it works like this:

The effect is often worked as follows. Members of the audience write messages on small slips of paper, or billets. The messages can be questions for the deceased, or simply statements that the performer could not know. The billets are then put into individual sealed envelopes, which are collected and given to the performer. The performer then takes one envelope at a time and accurately describes the message inside. After announcing the contents of each envelope, the performer opens it, as if to confirm the reading.

The trick used in billet reading is the one-ahead method. It relies on the performer knowing what is inside one of the envelopes beforehand, and using that knowledge to stay one step ahead of the audience. The performer may do this by having a plant in the audience submit a pre-arranged message as one of the billets, or by secretly opening one envelope. When the performer pretends to read the contents of the first sealed envelope, they are actually reciting the plant’s message or the message from the secretly opened envelope. When opening the first envelope to “check” their answer, they actually read the first billet, which they then pretend to “read” inside the second envelope. This process is repeated down to the final envelope, which is either an empty decoy, or the plant’s envelope, or the secretly opened envelope. It is necessary, of course, that no one but the performer see the billets until the trick is completed and all the billets are out. If the secret-opening variant is used, the performer must use sleight of hand to conceal that the last envelope is already open, or to “extract” the last billet from an empty decoy envelope.

This trick, and exactly how it is carried out, can be seen in the movie A Month by the Lake. Here the performer has his plant write something about mountains. When he receives all the envelopes, he puts the plant’s envelope on the bottom of the stack. He then asks who wrote about mountains, and the plant responds. He opens the top envelope, and “confirms” his reading, but actually reads the next person’s card.

Over to You

According to Google, 260 people search the mind reading term billet reading each month, and this month I’m one of them. So, there is obviously a small demand to know more about this illusional trick.

Have you ever been fooled by a mentalist trick? I haven’t – well, not that I know of – but then again, maybe I just didn’t notice? What about you?

Leave your memories below.

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