Easy Magic Trick: The Mental Prediction

A kid performs a magic trick with a wand

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This is an old classic that is based on a quirk in mathematics. It's an easy magic trick that has something of a mentalism effect.

In a prediction effect, you appear to predict the future. In magic or mentalism, the prediction is typically a parameter––word, number, event, or the result of a random compilation––that spectators have come together to form. Sometimes, the prediction is something that only a spectator might know.

In this routine, which is a mathematical-based prediction, a series of seemingly random mathematical processes are applied to a freely named number, and the magician proves to have known in advance the final result.

How to Perform the Magic Number Prediction Trick

Write "Elephants in Denmark" on a piece of paper. Fold this up and keep it with you. Next, read the following to your spectator or audience, giving them time to make the necessary calculations:

  1. Pick a number between two and nine. It can be two or it can be nine, or any number in between.
  2. Take the number that you've chosen and multiply it by nine.
  3. This should give you a two-digit number. Take the two digits of the number and add them together. For example, if your number is 16, take the one and six and add them to make seven.
  4. Take the resulting number and subtract five from it.
  5. Take that number and correspond it to a letter in the alphabet. A=1, B=2, C=3, etc.
  6. Take your letter, and think of a country that begins with that letter. For example, "B" might make you think of Brazil, "D" could be Denmark or "F" could be France.
  7. Take the second letter in the name of that country and think of an animal. For example, "P" may make you think of a penguin and "Z" may make you think of zebra.
  8. Do you now have a country and animal?
  9. Hold that thought in your mind while I concentrate. (Pause here for a moment, make it look like you're thinking).
  10. Say, "I didn't know that there were elephants in Denmark."
  11. Bring out your folded prediction and show that you were right. 

For fun, you can carry pictures that suggest elephants in Denmark. This way, instead of simply writing down "elephants in Denmark," you can show a picture that will create a stronger impact. 

You can also perform this as a mind-reading stunt. At the end of the instructions, you ask the spectator to think about the final image and then you tell him. 

How It Works

The sequence presented in this trick is seemingly random and combines elements of math, the alphabet, and freely named elements suggested by the results of prior steps. When you study the steps, you'll find that the mathematical procedure will always result in the same number, four. This is because any single-digit number multiplied by nine will result in a special two-digit number.

Add the individual digits of these two-digit numbers together and you'll always get nine. And, of course, when you subtract five from nine, you'll arrive at four.

Try to think of a country that starts with the letter D and most will probably come up with Denmark. There's a slight chance that a spectator may come up with the Dominican Republic or Djibouti, but this is unlikely. That said, should the wrong country be named, the jig is up. As a last resort and saving grace, you can state that you knew that the letter would be D. 

Ask anyone to name an animal that starts with the letter E and an elephant is sure to be the first that comes to mind. Since this is so obvious, some may try to think of something more obscure such an eel, but should this happen, at least you can show that you were able to predict Denmark and that the second letter was E.