Phone Book Trick

Certainly, you can use the memory techniques from here to memorize the phone book, but why? How many times can you really show that?

This trick will imply that you’ve memorized the phone book.

Imagine this: You hand out 9 cards or slips of paper, each with a different digit from 1 to 9, and ask your spectator to mix them up. He is then to hand any 3 to one person, any of the remaining 3 to another person, and keep the remaining 3. With the help of the spectators, you generate a random equation, and ask the spectators to total it up. Once you’re given the total, you instantly recall a number in the local phone book ending with those digits!


First, the mathematical part:

If you’re using a deck of cards, just get out the Ace through 9 of any suit. Otherwise, use slips of paper with 1 through 9 written on them.

They are mixed up by the spectators, and split among 3 people as described above.

You ask the spectator farthest to your left to choose any of their three digits, and call it out. You write it down as the hundreds digit of a number. You ask the person in the middle for any one of their numbers, and you write that down as the tens digit. Finally, you ask the rightmost spectator for any one of their numbers, and write that down as the ones digit of the first number.

As the numbers are given to you, you take them back, so they can’t call the same number twice.

The above process is repeated twice more, to generate two more 3-digit numbers. These three 3-digit numbers are then added up.

Let’s say person A wound up with cards 3, 4 and 6, spectator B wound up with cards 1, 7 and 8, and spectator C wound up with 2, 5 and 9. They might create the equation this way:

675 (total=1,476)

Or, the equation might wind up being:

389 (total=1,476)

…or some other arrangement.

It seems like this process could generate an impossible large amount of numbers. Actually, with the numbers 1 through 9 used to create three 3-digit numbers like this, you can only arrive at 198 different totals.

The only possible totals you can generate are the multiples of 9, ranging from 774 to 2,556 (every 9 multiple inbetween is possible).

If you’re comfortable linking and memorizing numbers, you need to create a list of phone numbers in the local phone book that end in 0774, 0783, 0792, and so on, up to 2556.

Using a reverse phone lookup utility on the internet, combined with the zip code and prefixes for the area, you can actually generate a list of suitable numbers and their associated names with minimal hassle. Don’t forget to make sure that each name is actually printed in the current edition of the phone book you’ll be using!

Once you have the list, you need to make the links from the numbers to the names. 198 links can be a challenge, so don’t try this if you’re just starting out in memory.

Obviously, this feat works better for big shows in larger metropolitan areas for which you have time to prepare with the local phone book.

The funny thing is that, while you’re actually doing an impressively large memory feat, you get credit for doing a memory feat on a far larger scale!

No, you won’t use this feat all the time. However, used at the right time and right place, you’ll leave a lasting impression!

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