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The Llewellyn Encyclopedia

Subject: Entertainment

Black Art

A term used by sleight-of-hand performers to describe the phenomenon that something in black tends to disappear when placed against a black background and physical dimensionality tends to flatten out. For example, a conjuror can make himself seem to disappear by jumping behind a black panel in front of a black background, the action covered by a flash of light or smoke. This is now enhanced through the use of ultraviolet or black lights. Although rarely used as a full act, it is a popular technique in Prague. Fradulent mediums often used this technique to make things appear or disappear in dimly-lit séance rooms.


In the practices of fake psychics, mediums, or mentalists, a confederate is a person who helps the fake without others knowing. Usually this takes one of three forms.

  1. The confederate secretly collects information on the people attending a demonstration and provides the worker with that information before or even during the show.
  2. The confederate secretly signals information during the show. For example, if the worker is seeking a hidden object, the confederate may subtly signal the object's location.
  3. The confederate agrees with statements of the worker, making it look as if the worker is being incredibly successful.


The exact definition of this term is “to make something appear as if by magic.” Some practitioners of natural magick refer to their practices as conjuring. Today, the term is mostly used to mean using tricks to imitate real magic. It was popularized in England where, in order to make sure performers would not be mistaken for real magicians during a time when the practice of real magic was against the law, many entertaining performers referred to themselves as jugglers or conjurors. Today it is common to use “magic” to indicate performers and “magick” to indicate the creation of willed changes through uncommon methods.


Named after Stuart Cumberland (born Charles Garner, 1857–1922) who astounded European audiences with the appearance of true mind reading abilities. He appears to have used Contact Mind Reading.

A joke religion founded in the late 1950s by Greg Hill (as Malaclypse the Younger) and popularized with the publication of his book (written with Kerry Thornley as Omar Khayyam Ravenhurst) with a book they published in 1965 called Principia Discordia. It is based around the Greek Goddess Eris or Discordia and emphasizes chaos in a sense that has been compared to the movies of the Marx Brothers. For example, all Discordians are considered Popes and schism and disagreement are encouraged.


In Eastern religions, the experience of being free from the ignorance that causes suffering. Also, being released from the cycle of death and reincarnation. From the Tantric perspective, enlightenment is a process rather than a state. 

Forced Choice

In entertainment, a “free choice” given to a person by a magician where the result, no matter what is chosen, has been predetermined.

Forced Choice

In sales, a choice given to a consumer that results in exactly what the seller wants. For example, when asked “Cash or charge?” the choice either way is that you will buy.

Forced Choice

A type of ESP test wherein a subject guesses from a predetermined list of targets.


A device, concealed on the body or in some other object, used by entertainment magicians to produce a desired effect. Gimmicks are also used by some fraudulent psychics, mediums, etc.


See Contact Mind Reading.

Hot Reading

A fraudulent psychic reading using information that was previously obtained through the use of gimmicks, research, or an assistant. The opposite of a cold reading.

A poem or song.

Magician's Choice

See Forced Choice.

Mass Hypnosis
The hypnotizing of a group of people. Frequently used at public shows of hypnosis for entertainment value. Sometimes used as a metaphor to explain the seemingly bizarre behavior of groups, mobs, etc.

Method Acting

A style of acting inspired by the Russian teacher Constantin Stanislavsky. It was adapted and popularized in the United States by Lee Strasberg. Method actors rely on their own emotions and memories when creating characters. Sense memory is one of the basic method acting exercises.


Techniques used by magicians and mentalists, as well as fraudulent mediums and fake psychics, etc., to turn an observer's attention away from a consciously designed deception.


A person who uses techniques such as mnemonics to perform astounding feats of memory.

Muscle Reading

See Contact Mind Reading.

Music and New Age
A popular style of music designed to promote serenity, peace, and spiritual healing. Most frequently it is instrumental and relatively minimalist, slow as opposed to upbeat (often having no repetitive rhythm), and featuring very “light” melodies, often improvised. It may include sounds from the natural world such as running water, birds, etc.

One-Ahead Principle

A technique used in mentalism and by fraudulent mediums and psychics. You previously know some information and reveal it as you get information for the next answer. Thus, the performer or fraud is always one ahead.


In conjuring, mentalism, fraudulent mediumship, etc., having an acceptable reason or solution to an apparent failure. For example, if the mentalist says, “You had a relative, a woman whose name starts with the letter L or J,” and you reply,

“I had an uncle named Joe,” the mentalist might say,

“But he had longish hair and some feminine features.” This is all guesswork, but if the mentalist “hits” using an out like this, the mentalist will say it was a correct guess. Note that “longish” and “feminine features” are undefined and could be anything, leading to agreement on your part.

Slate Writing

A slate was a small chalk board, often about the size of a sheet of writing paper, that was used by children in school during Victorian times. During seances, spirits would supposedly write messages on one or more slates via paranormal means.  Although quite outdated, they are still sometimes used by fake mediums and mentalists.

Stage Hypnosis
The use of hypnosis (or an imitation of hypnosis) for the purpose of entertainment. Although there are some similarities with the professional use of hypnosis to help people make changes in their lives, the differences far outweigh the similarities and have given many people a completely false impression as to the nature of hypnosis and hypnotherapy. As a result, hypnotherapists need to spend time with clients explaining the myths that surround hypnosis as a result of such shows.

Stage Hypnotism
An entertainment where a hypnotist uses several people from an audience. After they are hypnotized, they perform in numerous skits for the entertainment of the audience. “Stage Hypnotism” is a term used to differentiate the entertainment from hypnotherapy,which is the practice of hypnosis to help people change behavior or unwanted thought patterns.


Among entertainment magicians, fake psychics, and fraudulent mediums, a stooge is a person who gives assistance in furthering the performer's goals without the audience being aware of the relationship between the stooge and the magician, fake, or fraud.

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