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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

muscle reading The art, highly developed by the conjurors, by which an operator can perform apparent ESP demonstrations by “reading” the involuntary movements and reactions of a spectator. Commonly, the demonstration involves locating a hidden object or performing a simple task, the nature of which is unknown to the operator. The spectator, who must know the withheld information, is asked to concentrate on making the demonstration a success.
      In most cases, the operator is in contact with the spectator, either by grasping his wrist, holding a handkerchief also held by the spectator, or having the spectator hold him by the arm. This is known as “contact” muscle reading.
      “Noncontact” muscle reading is more difficult. It consists of having the spectator follow the performer about and reading his hesitation patterns. Much experience is required for either system, and the results are very startling. The art is often referred to as “Hellströmism,” after one Alex Hellström (1893-1933), who made it popular early in the twentieth century. Another prominent performer was the Hungarian Franz Polgar, and today Russia's Lev Schneider is the leading artist in the field.
      Yet another name for the art is “Cumberlandism,” after the English performer Stuart Cumberland.

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