The Center Tear is a classic utility device in mentalism. Learning it is simple, and once you have learnt it you’ll have an impromptu method to gain a spectators thoughts, needing nothing more to hand than a pen and paper!
Some people think that the center tear (and billet work in general) is somewhat antiquated and old fashioned, but I can assure you that with the right handling, you can create extremely powerful mind reading effects. Mentalism godfather Tony Corinda says of the center tear in his iconic book, 13 Steps to Mentalism:
“The center tear is perhaps my most celebrated method of all those used in the art of mentalism.”
So, lets get on with learning how to do a center tear. Though first, a quick word of warning. There are literally dozens of methods and presentations based on the center tear. I use the one that makes most sense to me – it’s loosely based on one used by Corinda.
How to do a center tear
You will need:
- One small piece of paper (around 4×4 inches) – not see through or too thick.
- One pencil (or pen)
- One spectator with a mind worth reading (rare)
- One ashtray (not essential)
1. Take the square of paper and explain you want them to write the name of someone close to them, that you do not know.
2. Draw a line just below the center middle of the paper, just so they know where to write. Do this casually and as you explain step 1.
3. As they write, look away. Explain that when they are done, you want them to fold the paper in half, and then half again.
4. When they are done, turn back, and take the folded paper (or ‘billet’) from them, asking if they are happy that you can’t see through it.
5. You will notice by feeling the edges, some are open with loose pieces of paper, and some are folded. If you folded correctly, there should be a folded area on the top edge, and the right edge, depending on how you are looking and holding the slip of paper. Holding the paper in the correct fashion, tear the paper in half, so you have two strips. the strip on the right has the center with the spectators writing on it. With the folded part of that piece up, tear it in half, in the opposite direction you did for the other one (width-wise). You now have two smaller pieces of paper. Take the one on the left, and under the cover of your fingers, slip it into finger palm. You now have the center.
6. Place the pieces into the ashtray, and go to your pocket to produce a lighter or box of matches. As you do this, deposit the center into your lap.
7. Instruct the spectator to burn the pieces. Explain that you’ll turn away as they do this, to ensure you don’t peek what they have written.
8. While you are turned away, subtley unfold and read the name from the center you have stolen.
9. Use whatever method you wish to reveal the thought of name.
10. Go to the shop and buy some smelling salts to revive your spectator.
Final note: If you aren’t outside with an ashtray handy, you can just discard the pieces somewhere. You ought to be able to peek the name with a simple glance down to your lap.
That’s it! You now know how to do a center tear! Get out there and try it!