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$1000 Secret Seance, The Review

Official Review

August 12th, 2005 10:11pm
Reviewed by David Parr
The staggering amount of contradiction, ethical evasiveness and bad advice in this 40-page, saddle-stapled booklet makes my head spin. The material is so muddled and distasteful and loaded with errors of spelling and punctuation, I don’t even know where to begin reviewing it. I suppose I can start by addressing the hype on the outside of the booklet. Consider the statement printed on the front cover: “Earn $1,000 performing séance theater in any house, at any time. GUARANTEED.” The casual reader might take this to indicate a formal guarantee, as in The author guarantees to refund the cover price of this booklet if it fails to produce the promised financial results. But no such guarantee is offered.

Speaking of the price, it’s on the back cover: “Originally sold for $350, now Secret Séance is only $40.” Yes, this material was initially offered at $8.75 per page. Some time later it was offered at $6.25 per page. At the current price of one dollar per page, it’s only slightly more than the cost of a coherently written, professionally edited and typeset hardcover book. Further examination of the back cover reveals an array of questionable statements:

“All acts are instantly set-up and taken down.” This doesn’t include time spent cleaning up after the grand finale, during which the performer is instructed to push a wine glass off of the table so that it crashes to the floor.

“New billet reading methods.” If using a change bag or performing a simple one-handed switch can be called new.

“Nothing ‘corny,’ the REAL stuff!” See the author’s advice on choosing a name for one’s “Native American spirit guide” (p. 11): “Pick a noun that sounds outdoors, such as Pine, Feather, or River. Pick an adjective such as Tall, Red, or Dark. Make a list of several nouns and adjectives. Mix and match them.” This is followed by the parenthetic statement, “These names are not meant to be disrespectful to real Native American names, but are the ‘corny’ names used throughout mediumistic history.”

“Each séance is fully scripted so you know exactly what to do and say. Every move and gesture is written out.” A few examples of the full script: “Just call out a [tarot] card’s name once in a while and a mumble lot [sic] of Ah Hahs and Um Hums, and then give your interpretations.” (p. 27) “When the glass moves, look at the glass, then look at the sitter. Act shocked at something the glass indicated. Ham it up, and then become calm.” (p. 27) “The rest is acting and cold reading. But that may be over simplifying things a bit.” (p. 33)

“The Hilford Office Test, a wonderful way to read a person’s thoughts, is included free!” The Office Test is a method for glimpsing information written on a business card during a brief demonstration séance. It’s crucial to the routine, and it’s the only method explained. Therefore, it is not bonus material offered out of generosity. It is necessary content for which the purchaser has paid $40.

“Bonus slate moves.” These slate moves turn out to be a standard false count performed with business cards. Because these moves comprise the only method provided for a spirit writing routine, they are not bonus material.

“Everything you need to make up to $100,000 a year, and keep your day job!” This is among the oldest rube-catchers known to history, currently popular among spammers selling Get Rich While Working From Home programs. Promise money. Lots of it. The more zeros, the more effectively the critical faculties are short-circuited.

And all of the above is barely a hint of the dizzying collection of doubletalk and dubious ethics contained within the booklet. The $1000 Secret Séance purports to teach the reader a “total marketing system” -- a scheme for selling séances to laypersons, with each séance acting as a set-up for the next moneymaking opportunity. It breaks down like this:

“The Pocket Séance” is a brief, seemingly impromptu close-up demonstration performed in a casual setting. It is meant to establish the performer’s abilities and to sell people on the idea of hosting a séance party for several guests at $50 per seat.

“The Grand Séance” is a table séance for a group of seven or eight people, to be hosted in someone’s home. The séance offers a chance to make additional cash by selling small items to guests (e.g., occult books, tarot cards, pendulums) and to ask if anyone is interested in setting up a private, one-on-one séance for $100 per hour.

“The Personal Séance” is a private, one-on-one session that takes place in the performer’s home or office. The session lasts one hour and provides an opportunity to sell the person on setting up additional private sessions and hosting a séance party.

The author repeatedly asserts that this system is not a scam, the performer is not a charlatan, and that it’s all intended to be light theatrical entertainment:

“This is just theater.” (p. 3)
“Make no mistake, this is theater.” (p.7)
“We are not spook crooks! We’re legitimate entertainers.” (p. 12)
“You should try to leave the sitters with the awareness that everything that they have witnessed is only theater.” (p. 12)

But nowhere -- nowhere -- in any of these pitches for séance work, or in the “scripts” themselves, is there any indication that it’s theatrical entertainment. Quite the contrary. The performance doesn’t take place in a theatrical context. It is never described as a show or a reenactment. The words theater and theatrical and entertainment are studiously avoided. The words actor and magic and magician are also conspicuously absent. In fact, the author suggests that users of this system should have the professional title “Séance Medium” printed on their business cards!

There are many more examples of what may be termed inconsistencies in this material. In a preliminary section titled “Morals, Ethics and Good Judgment” (in which, paradoxically, the subjects of morals, ethics and good judgment are never broached), the author states: “We don’t want to start talking with the sitter’s dear departed, but it is a strong selling point.” Okay, which is it? Is he recommending that we avoid communing with departed loved ones, or is he saying that we’ll get more work if we do?

“There is nothing too heavy here,” declares the author in the Introduction. “You won’t be dealing with grieving widows, just people who want a fun time.” Nevertheless, in the spirit writing effect that forms the basis of the Pocket Séance, the performer asks the participant to “print the name of someone you would like to contact on the other side. Someone whose memory brings you happiness.” You can probably guess where this is going, despite the author’s repeated denials: “Ask the young lady for the name of the person she had in mind. She says her grandfather, George Walker. You allow someone to unclip the two business cards and there is a message written on one of them. It starts with the young lady’s name, Gloria. It reads: Gloria, I have something important to tell you. G.W. The message is signed with the initials of the dead man!” And here’s the unsavory icing on the cake: “There is a call for action, too. The message states that G.W. had an important message for Gloria. Now, you sell the Grand Séance so that you can try to contact grandpa. While you’re at it, you might as well contact a few other spirits too. Why not make it into a party? Let’s see -- Friday night’s open. Say, at Nine o’clock? You just sold a séance!” It’s all in good fun, right?

No, it isn’t. It’s appalling. And the Personal Séance is the most appalling of them all. Here’s a situation in which someone is coming into the performer’s home or office (or hotel room, according to the author), expecting to receive a message from a dead loved one and willing to pay $100 for it. There is no mistaking this for legitimate entertainment. In the words of the author, “This is a personal reading, not a theatrical production.” The sitter is asked to write down a question for the spirits, or a description of a problem in her life, or “the name of a lost lover.” What follows is a simple billet reading embedded in an extended cold reading. After the “spirit guide” reveals something about the written information, the séance is finished and the mark is hustled toward the door. (The money was of course collected before the séance even began.) The important message from grandpa? The sitter does not receive it. Here’s why: “It is suggested that she return for another séance.” This is just one step away from offering to remove the curse from a bundle of money.

The booklet concludes with the admission that using this system could put the “séance medium” in legal hot water, especially in the state of Oklahoma (where apparently they have regulations against light theatrical entertainment). “I am not a lawyer,” adds the author, “so I cannot advise you as to how to keep it all legal.” And there’s room on the last page for one final disclaimer: “I’ve tried to stress that it is the intention of this book to teach theater and not a scam.” Get the sense that someone is protesting too much?

By now it should be clear that I find this material to be skeevy and deplorable from start to finish. But let’s look beyond this little booklet and consider the larger issue. How long will we magicians allow ourselves to be treated as suckers and rubes? Ill-considered, poorly produced, outrageously priced material will continue to flood the magic market as long as we keep buying it.
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Product info for $1000 Secret Seance, The

Author: Docc Hilford
Average Rating:  (1)
Retail Price: $39.95
Buy Now
Manufacturer's Description:

Magicians have always loved performing seance theater. But how to make it practical and profitable has been a question unresolved ” UNTIL NOW!

By creating a system of three different seances, Docc has a practical system for selling and performing many types of seance theater.

The Pocket Seance can be performed close-up and surrounded. A spirit message appears addressed to someone you've never met and signed by a spirit known only to the addressee! It amazes potential buyers and sells the other seances.

The Personal Seance reveals personal information about a sitter and commands high fees. Docc's method rivals the great mediums of the past.

The Grand Seance is designed for several sitters at once. Their fortunes are told, birthdates revealed, personality traits given all through your spirit guide. Who makes his presence known in a finale that will have the sitters gasping for breath!

This is the system that has made professional magicians $1,000 a session. It was originally released with all the simple props for $350. Now you can have this secret information for a fraction of the cost.

Each seance is fully scripted so you know exactly what to do and say.


  • Complete darkness is NEVER required.
  • All acts are instantly set-up and taken down.
  • Everything travels in a briefcase.
  • You can perform them anywhere.
  • All three seances are really a SYSTEM for making big fees.
  • The system sells the shows. - No assistants needed
  • Nothing "corny", the REAL stuff!
  • Bonus slate moves.
  • New billet reading methods.
  • The Hilford Office Test,

A wonderful way to read a person's thoughts, is also included FREE!

Fully scripted ” every move and gesture is written out.

Everything you need to make up to $ 100,000 a year, and keep your day job!

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