Mentalism and Magic





Mentalism and Magic

About Mentalism and Mental Magic


Mentalism is a form of entertainment in which the performer simulates supernatural mental abilities.


These supposed 'psychic' abilities include:

  • Extrasensory Perception (ESP) such as telepathy, clairvoyance, remote viewing and precognition.
  • Spirit communication and channelling.
  • Divination and psychic readings (e.g., using tarot, runes, crystal ball).
  • Mental influence on material objects or physical processes (psychokinesis or PK), such as object movements, levitation, metal bending, seed germination, stopping the heartbeat, and anomalous photographic effects.

Mentalism has its origins in the 19th century movement known as Spiritualism (or Spiritism). In the early 20th century, stage magicians began to introduce simulations of spiritualist phenomena into their acts and this led to a burgeoning of popular interest in such 'psychic entertainments'.


At the same time, others seized the opportunity to promote themselves as genuine 'psychics', often using exactly the same methods to achieve their effects as those employed by magicians.


Today, there are four main types of 'psychic' exponent:

  • 'Psychics' who claim to have genuine powers. Some may be honestly convinced of their own abilities.
  • 'Mentalists' who demonstrate supposed psychic phenomena, or enhanced mental capabilities such as lightning calculations or extraordinary feats of memory. Mentalists do not generally claim supernatural powers, and may remain deliberately ambiguous or evasive about the source of their abilities. Mentalists also usually prefer NOT to mix demonstrations of 'psychic' phenomena with traditional magical effects such as card tricks.
  • 'Mental Magicians' who are relatively open about using psychological or magical techniques to produce apparently 'psychic' effects. Unlike mentalists, mental magicians will sometimes incorporate non-psychic themed magic into their performances.
  • 'Magicians' who mainly perform standard magical effects, but who may also include occasional demonstrations of mental magic.

The following list includes many of the most influential mentalists and mental magicians from the late 19th century to the present day. This list is inevitably selective and does not include those who claim to be genuine psychics.


Our sister site, Psychic Science has a list of Famous Psychics.




Famous Mentalists and Mental Magicians


Alexander (1880-1954)

Alexander (Claude Alexander Conlin) was an American stage magician and mentalist who specialised in psychic readings, often using a crystal ball. As well as writing texts for magicians, he was also the author of books and pamphlets on spiritual topics.

Annemann, Theodore (1907 - 1942)

Theodore Annemann was an American professional magician, mentalist and magical inventor. Publisher of magical magazine The Jinx and author of several manuscripts on magic and mentalism. Most famous for the classic book Practical Mental Magic. Annemann committed suicide prior to his first scheduled indoor performance of the bullet catch trick on January 12 1942.

Banachek (1960 - )

Banachek (Steven Shaw) is an American mentalist and magical author, inventor and consultant. In the 1980s he famously fooled University researchers into believing that he had genuine psychic powers.

Benjamin, Arthur T. (1961 - )

Arthur Benjamin is a professor of mathematics and expert on mental maths and mathemagic.

Berglas, David (1926 - )

David Berglas is psychological magician and mentalist. Well-known from several TV shows and performances, he is a past President of The Magic Circle.

Blaine, David (1973 - )

David Blaine is an American street magician and illusionist, most famous for his high publicised feats of physical and mental endurance.

Brown, Derren (1971 - )

Derren Brown is a British professional mentalist, illusionist, paranormal sceptic, and painter. Famous from several TV series and stage shows.

Canasta, Chan (1920 - 1999)

Chan Canasta (Chananel Mifelew) was an influential Polish performer of mental magic and memory feats, achieving fame from a series of TV shows and appearances in the 1950s and 1960s. Canasta presented his mental magic as "experiments" and was not afraid to make the occasional error, believing that this increased audience interest and acceptance of the genuineness of his magic.

Cassidy, Bob (1949 - 2017)

Bob Cassidy was an American mentalist and author of books on mentalism.

Corinda, Tony (c. 1931 - 2010)

Tony Corinda was a British magic dealer and author of the classic text Thirteen Steps to Mentalism.

Davenport, Ira (1839 - 1911) & William (1841 - 1877)

The Davenport Brothers were American magicians who performed spiritualist illusions, including the Spirit Cabinet, claiming their performance was genuinely paranormal.

Dunninger, Joseph (1892 - 1975)

Joseph Dunninger was a celebrated American mentalist, magical author and pioneer of radio and TV magic.

Gardner, Martin (1914 - 2010)

Martin Gardner was an American writer on recreational mathematics and magic (especially mathematical magic). He was also a prominent paranormal sceptic.

Geller, Uri (1946 - )

Uri Geller is a controversial Israeli performer of mentalist effects which he claims demonstrate his genuine paranormal abilities. Sceptics believe that Geller uses magicians' techniques to achieve his results.

Hellstrom, Axel (1893 - 1933)

Axel Hellstrom was a German mentalist, most famous for developing the art of muscle reading (contact mind reading) often now known as "Hellstromism".

Jolley, Graham P. (1945 - )

Graham P. Jolley is a British magician and mentalist, known for his comedy approach.

Koran, Al (1914 - 1972)

Al Koran (Edward Doe) was a British mentalist, magical author and inventor.

Kreskin, The Amazing (1935 - )

Kreskin (George Joseph Kresge) is an American mentalist, famous for his TV series and appearances since the 1970s, often featuring predictions

Lorayne, Harry (1926 - )

Harry Lorayne is an American magician, mnemonist and author, famous as an expert in memory training.

Maven, Max (1950 - )

Max Maven (Phil. Goldstein) is an American magician, mentalist, magical author and magical consultant.

McCambridge, Gerry (1962 - )

Gerry McCambridge is an American stage mentalist and long-running Las Vegas performer.

Osterlind, Richard (1948 - )

Richard Osterlind is an American mentalist and magical consultant, well known among mind magicians for his instructional videos.

Paul, Marc (1968 - )

Marc Paul is a British mentalist and magician who is known from his cable TV series "Mind Games" and other TV appearances, as well as theatre performances. He specialises in corporate and other events.

Penn and Teller

Penn Jillette (b. 1955) and Teller (b. 1948) are American illusionists who combine comedy with a sceptical presentation of odd-ball magic and mentalism. They achieved fame from a series of highly-praised shows and tours, as well as many TV shows and guest appearances.

Piddington, Sydney (1918 - 1991) and Lesley (1924 - 2016)

Sydney and Lesley Piddington (The Piddingtons) were an Australian husband and wife team who specialised in a two-person telepathy stage act. They became famous through a series of radio broadcasts in the 1940s.

Randi, James (1928 - )

James Randi (Randall James Hamilton Zwinge) is a Canadian-American stage magician, mentalist and renowned sceptic. As a magician he performed as "The Amazing Randi". In his later career he has focussed on the sceptical investigation of alleged paranormal phenomena and abilities. The James Randi Educational Foundation, which he founded in 1996, offers a prize of one million dollars to anyone who can satisfactorily demonstrate a paranormal ability under scientific scrutiny.

Suchard, Lior (1981 - )

Lior Suchard is an Israeli supernatural entertainer and mentalist.

Waters, Thomas Alan (1938 - 1998)

T.A. Waters was an American magician and mentalist famous as the author of the monumental classic of mentalism, Mind, Myth & Magick (1993).

Willard, Frances (1940 - )

Frances Willard is an American magician and mentalist. She is famous for the Spirit Cabinet act which she performed with her husband Glenn Falkenstein.

Zancig, Julius (1857 - 1929) and Agnes (c.1855 - 1916)

Julius and Agnes Zancig were a Danish husband and wife mentalist team, who originated and specialised in a two-person telepathy stage act.

Zenon, Paul (1964 - )

Paul Zenon is a British magician, mentalist and comedian who specialises in stunts, swindles, and street and bar magic. He is well known from a series of TV specials.




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