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James Randi Educational Foundation

An Encyclopedia of Claims, Frauds, and Hoaxes of the Occult and Supernatural

Introduction | "R" Reading | Curse of the Pharaoh | End-of-the-World Prophecies

Index | A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | Y | Z

one-ahead method In spiritualistic circles, a “sealed billet-reading” procedure is often used to convince the audience. One popular system for producing this effect is known as, “one-ahead.”
      A sitter is told, as he enters the room or church, to write out a question or phrase he wishes to be answered or interpreted, and is told to seal it in an envelope. Often he also writes his initials on the outside of that envelope. The medium accepts a basket full of these envelopes, takes one, and holds it to her head. She announces the contents and comments appropriately on the question or phrase. The medium then tears open the envelope to check how correct she was, then repeats the process with another sealed envelope.
      The trick lies in the fact that before accepting the basket of envelopes, the medium has secretly obtained one, opened it, and memorized the contents. It has then been destroyed. Upon picking up the first envelope, the medium misidentifies it as the one secretly peeked at. Opening the envelope as if to check, the medium is now aware of the actual contents of that envelope, and represents that data as belonging to the next one. She is always working “one-ahead.”
      This method is worked in every country, even to this day, and is very effective as a convincer.

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