Monday, January 28, 2013

Switchcraft by Elliott J. Bresler Review

There is no shortage of praise for or suggestions to buy Swithcraft. That plus all the extras put this on my radar a while ago but I lacked the surplus funds to get it. I finally got the push to go ahead and get it and I can't say I'm disappointed. 625 pages for $20 is hard to beat. I won't be reviewing all 625 pages as most of that is supplements and extras. This work is the result of one man's attempt at finding what he considers to be the best switch. Now I do consider the switch to be a necessary part of a mentalist's toolbox but I do not think I'd go so far as to say that all mentalism can be done with a switch. To me that would imply that the switch is superior to other moves. Sometimes you need a switch and sometimes you need a peek.

After a brief introduction most of the first 80 pages of Switchcraft are devoted to 13 switching methods. There are a lot of excellent pictures, enough that you could practically learn just from those alone. The basic switch is simple and strait forward and I would be surprised if you hadn't mastered it in 10 minutes of practice. There is a down side or two that I feel I should mention. First is that it requires two hands and the passing the billet back and forth twice which means you have to find motivations for all that. The second downside which is probably mostly personal preference can be remedied by the variation which the author calls "cumbersome" is that it requires my hands to be in what I feel are odd positions. To start the switch you have to bring the hand with the billet up into the empty hand, which means at some point the empty hand has to be above the one holding the billet. Playing around with it I just could not find a starting position where the empty hand was above the one with the billet that felt right and bringing the empty hand up and over feels off. These two complaints remain for most of the switches in the book. Are either of these two things really that big an issue, not really the first would be a problem if the book didn't have any effects in it and left motivating all to you, and the second is solved with a variation or being less picky than me. All that aside I have to say that these switches will get you out there doing mentalism faster than any other switch I have read and you can always practice the harder ones like Annemann's in secret until you're ready to switch your switches. I also would like to say that you should try them all out, because even if you don't like it on the page you might like it in the hands. Which happened to me with the second technique in the book.

So you've learned some switches now what, page 80 bears the title "Presentation options and sample routines". Here the author assures us again that with the switch we can create any mentalism effect imaginable shy of the spoon bend. But I still have not seen anything that makes me want to replace the peek I use with a switch. First he covers the switch as an out and even has an idea for an out for use with a truly unpredictable spectator. He also touches briefly on psych-forces and Dual Reality. Next up is switching as forces, which when you think about has some advantages of a change bag full of similar billets. The sample effect for this section is aimed at children, I can't say I've seen many children's mentalists. But if you like it I don't think it would be hard to ramp up to the appropriate levels for adults, plus no matter how much you say no someone always wants you to perform for kids. Then we come to actually reading billets which I thought was the mainstay of billet work. After a couple sample one-on-one routines (and a heads up where to find more) a separate section actually covers how to read the billets in secret. He limits himself to read methods that he himself has used successfully. With that bit of ground work covered we get a couple multiple billet multiple spectator type effects. I'm most of the way through at this point and going item by item would just be redundant. The book continues to page 125, which means the next 500 pages are free extra content.

I have to say that Elliott Bresler seems to go out of his way to give credit where credit is due and even where he came up with and idea himself he has a humble if you know a source for it or similar I'll credit it properly attitude. I know I complained earlier about wanting to get all the secrets I paid for and Bresler tries so hard to ensure that all the relevant info possible is included that he can get a bit repetitive. This is a work by a man who is enamored with the subject matter and it shows.

My final verdict is that Switchcraft is the best billet switching book for beginners out there but nothing in it is really intermediate or advanced. But it's probably needed, like the author says you don't see a lot of stuff concerning switches coming out.

I may review the supplements later, they build as they go, so I'm trying to avoid moving forward in them before I'm sure I've got a good understanding of what I've already covered.

Update: Just felt I should add that navigating the 625 pages of Switchcraft is very easy thanks to all the bookmarks.

If you found this review to helpful or you thought it sucked let me know in the comments section.


  1. Thank you so much for your excellent review, which highlighted both the good and the bad of the original Switchcraft manuscript.

    Looking back at the original document, I can definitely agree with a number of your fair criticisms. In fact, some of the 20 (so far) Switchcraft supplements attempt to address them, offering faster switches, peeks and even an instant-read center tear.

    I think you’ll enjoy them very much.

    Thanks again for taking the time to both read my e-book and write a detailed and constructive review.

    I really appreciate it.


  2. Thank you for your kind words about my less than kind words. I do worry that this and my review of the supplements (which I have mostly written just gotta give it a good polish) sound too harsh. For all my complaints which have more to do with my own tastes than anything else I am a big fan of the work and highly recommend it. As far as I'm concerned with the supplements added Switchcraft should replace practical mental magic as the standard recommendation for those interested in mentalism.