Contact Mind Reading (also known as Muscle Reading, Hellstromism, and Cumberlandism) is a method of reading a person's thoughts by receiving impulses transmitted through muscle movements. Performed well, it is the closest thing to genuine mind reading that can be reliably demonstrated.
The method was first developed in the late Victorian period where it was sometimes used by psychics and mediums. In the 20th Century it was used by mentalists such as The Amazing Kreskin in their mental magic acts.
The method is not difficult to learn, but does require some practice. You should try out the following experiments with several different people to learn some of the different sensations to feel out for. Also some people are much better transmitters than others and, from experience, you will learn how to judge whether or not a person will be a good subject.
Contact Mind Reading works because a person's intentions will, quite subconsciously, determine their physical movements. This ideomotor response is the same one that is responsible for the movements of the pendulum or divining rod in dowsing. By becoming aware of another person's ideomotor responses, it is possible to discover their thoughts and intentions.
The basic method used in these experiments is to detect the slight unconscious movements in a person's hand that will indicate their conscious intentions.
It is important that you hold the person's hand in the correct way. You should lightly take hold of the person's left wrist (from above) with your right hand, gently supporting their fingers and thumb with your left hand. In this way, you will be able to easily detect the subtle movements in the hand that will indicate their intentions. Some performers, however, prefer that the person takes hold of the mind reader's wrist.
Quite unknown to the participant, and undetectable by anyone else, the person will subtly "lead" you by moving their hand in a particular direction. You can detect this simply by paying attention to the slight hand movements which will be towards the intended direction. You will also notice a slight pull of resistance if you attempt to move in the wrong direction.
You will soon learn how to follow these movements. Generally, Contact Mind Reading involves nothing more than following the direction of least resistance in the person's hand movements. It is really as simple as that.
You will find it much more impressive (and actually easier to do) if you are blindfolded during the procedure. Also you should specifically tell the person NOT to lead you (they will not be able to stop their unconscious movements).
Experiment 1: Find the object
When this has been done, you should return and ask for a volunteer whose mind you will attempt to read. Make sure that the person you choose knows where the object is, and do NOT choose someone you suspect will try to make things difficult for you.
Stand in the middle of the space and (optionally) ask to be blindfolded. Then take hold of the person's wrist, as described above. Ask this person (and everyone else) to concentrate intently on the DIRECTION in which the object is hidden.
Now pay attention to, and follow, the movements of the person's hand. This will allow you to slowly walk the person towards the direction indicated. Make sure that you walk them, not vice versa. Every now and again, remind the person to concentrate intently on the direction of the object and NOT to lead you.
Whenever you feel a slight pull of resistance, you will know that you are moving in the wrong direction. When this happens, feel for a movement in another direction since this will indicate which way you should now move. By following these impulses and pulls, you will slowly be led close to the hidden object.
When you feel a clear resistance to any movement, you will know that you are quite close to the object. At this point, ask the person to concentrate as hard as they can on the object itself, and to repeat silently to themselves "go right", or "go left", or "go up", or "go down", whichever is appropriate.
In this way, by following the person's hand movments, you will be clearly guided to the object itself.
Demonstration of Contact Mind Reading by Jerome Finley
Experiment 2: Find the person
This is good with a large group of people. While you are out of the room, ask the group to choose one person to be "It". You then use the same procedure as Experiment 1 to discover the chosen person (make sure it is not the person who is leading you).
Experiment 3: Find the card
If you do not have any cards handy, you can do the same experiment with several coins of different denominations and/or other small objects.
- Generally it is best to choose someone who believes that the experiment will work.
- Don't try this when you have been drinking alcohol, and don't choose a person who has been drinking.
- If the person you are working with is not a good subject, choose someone else if you can.
- Make sure that your instructions are clear, and repeat them as often as necessary.
- If someone asks you how you are able to do this, do not be afraid to call it "Contact Mind Reading". However, do not call it "Muscle Reading".
Muscle Reading (Wikipedia)
Atkinson, W.W. (2007). Practical Mind Reading: A Course of Lessons on Thought Transference. Cosimo Classics.
Dexter, E. (1952). Entertaining with Contact Mind Reading. George Armstrong.
Fitzkee, D. (1945). Contact Mind Reading - Expanded. Magic Limited Lloyd E. Jones