Classic ‘Card Stick’

Video below! But read this first!

A lot of people email me to ask about the ‘Card Stick’ video on the home page of this website. Apparently, you want to know what I am saying and how it is done!

So I thought I would put a little snippet up, showing me doing this at the last (and final) ‘HWT Live’ training (for details of the workshop that is replacing it, CLICK HERE).

I also thought that maybe people would like a breakdown, so I have included below the video the original write up I did for Anthony Jacquin’s  Proper Mental 3 (the ‘magicians only’ supplement to his best selling book Reality is Plastic) early in 2009.

While this write up pre-dates the full Hypnosis Without Trance methodology as it now is, it really marks the beginnings of the developing that methodology into something teachable. I have different ways of thinking about things now, which increase success rates and eliminate failure, but this is still a useful breakdown of what is happening.

Please note that I no longer issue the initial challenge as it is written up here. While this works fine, the way that you see me doing it on the video is an evolution and works better.

It is also worth baring in mind that this was written for performing magicians, so if some of the references go past you, it probably just means that you are not a magician (at least, not that kind of magician).

I hope that you enjoy it! AND PLEASE LEAVE COMMENTS!


Proper Mental 3 write up (with magicians secrets removed)

This little bit of ‘hypno-business’ is something that I have been doing for a long time now, and is in fact the first thing I ever did to elicit a genuine hypnotic phenomenon. I still love it and do it a lot, and have developed it into a bit of a utility tool.

The idea is simple – you take a business card or playing card and have it so the subject cannot drop it! This ALWAYS elicits a response of astonishment and/or total fascination from the subject and serves as a massive convincer and great ‘wedge’ into full-on hypnosis.

First things first: the original idea for this came from a recording called Hypnotic Techniques by David Calof (Calof is an interesting hypnotist and worth checking out). Having performed it so many times, I have evolved it into something that I can get to work 99% of the time. So here’s how it goes:

The Set Up

I want to have a sense that the person is going to be responsive (I personally don’t like the term ‘suggestible’) before I start the piece. For me, I will either have been watching their response to my mentalism and looking for signs of absorption, or I will uses magnetic fingers and magnetic palms as a warm-up. Sometimes I go straight in with this if I feel the person is the right type.

Going into the piece proper, I arrange the so as their feet are together, they are standing up straight and breathing clearly. Then I bring their arm (usually the right, but there is no reason for this) out in directly in front of them with the elbow straight and the wrist bent down pretty much as far as it will go (please don’t force this).

In setting them up, I do a lot of the moving and positioning myself, supported by appropriate instructions – all the time monitoring keenness and compliance. It is very easy in this phase to judge whether they want it or not (this is the key to making this work at 99%).

I then place the business/playing card between their thumb and index finger (the wrist is still bent down and the other fingers are curled in) and elevate the hand so as they have to look up slightly at the card.

Once set up, tell the subject: “and just pick a point on that card that you can focus on absolutely and completely”. Or you can draw an X on the back of the card with a Sharpie. And ask them to focus on the centre of the X. Or you can use the + card from an ESP deck (my current preference).

This is the set up complete!

My reckoning here is that if they are truly focusing in these three channels, their ‘critical faculty’ is well off-line. So this is my aim for this section – get them simultaneously focusing on these three things. If you like, you can think of this bit as a ‘trance induction’.

For those who are fans of ‘indirect’ suggestion, think about ”I am going to drop this” – it presupposes that you are holding the card and really doesn’t make any sense if you are not. The idea is that this ‘linguistic logic’ keeps the person holding the card in order to keep reality constant. Feel free to ponder that idea or disregard it – I think it is pretty powerful and uses conditioned logic and expectation to your advantage.

The other thing with this is that it misleads about what is coming, therefor negates the subjects ability to apply their critical faculty ahead of time. And the sudden change in anticipated that comes with the main suggestion (following) direction creates a ‘pattern interrupt’.

Now for the main suggestion that triggers the phenomena:

“and as you continue to repeat those words and hear those words, just try and drop the card and notice with amusement that you can’t… as you continue to repeat those words…that’s right…try to drop it and continue to feel your hand sticking and locking and becoming more stuck and locked in this moment.”

This is a simple challenge, but I want to make sure they continue to do things my way (don’t want them taking control at this critical juncture). This is why I place so much emphasis on them continuing with the “I am going to drop this’ loop. I sandwich the challenge between two instructions to continue with the auditory loop.

I am highlighting this because doing this has increased my success rate with this by about 40% when doing it all from cold. Another element to this suggestion is ‘notice with amusement that you can’t’. I think this works to create an extra layer of processing and something else to draw the mind. This increases the moment of indecision and overload and compounds the suggestion. It also suggests enjoyment of the experience, which is all for the good.

After this ‘sandwiched suggestion’ I continue with further suggestions toward the hand sticking and locking.

I think there may be a couple of other factors at play that make this work:

Firstly, a lot of subjects believe on some level (it has been reported to me) that you are setting them up to involuntarily drop the card, so when you suggest the opposite it derails their thinking and throws them into a moment of confusion (and therefore openness to suggestion).

Secondly, as soon as they experience a hesitation in dropping the card they start to autosuggest (inside their own minds) that they are unable to drop it. Suggestions that come from within are, I believe, the most powerful.

The Suggestion Phase

So the subject is standing up straight with their arm out straight, wrist bent and holding a playing/business card. They are staring at a point on the card ‘absolutely and completely’. If all is as it should be you have both compliance and anticipation at this point. Now I’ll give you the ‘script’.

“That’s right, and as you continue to focus on that point just notice your breathing…and continue to focus…and breath…and feel your finger and thumb gripping the card (make sure you get this bit) as you repeat – inside your mind only – the words ‘I am going to drop this, over and over looping round’… ‘‘I am going to drop this, I am going to drop this over and over as you continue to focus…and as you continue to repeat those words, just try and drop the card and notice with amusement that you can’t… as you continue to repeat those words…that’s right…trying to drop the card as your hand sticks and locks tighter and tighter – locking and becoming more stuck in this moment.”

From this point you escalate the challenge as much as you need to, wish to or feel is appropriate.

What is Happening

The above script is an example of the type of wording and the concepts I use. The idea is not to stick to the script, but simply to understand what you are doing and what you want to achieve. Don’t rush this bit, just focus on making it all happen. Here’s my thinking on what’s going on:

First of all, put yourself in the set up position and hold a card. With your arm straight out (elbow locked) and your wrist bent, a lot of tension is created in the arm, wrist and hand. This tension is strongly felt and will later create a kinaesthetic base for feelings of lockedness and stiffness. I also think that it is physiologically slightly harder to open your fingers in this position (not massively but slightly – enough to use). Also elevating above eye level adds something here (beyond just eye fatigue).

Try doing this and taking a moment to convince yourself that your fingers are stuck and that you cannot drop the card. This will give you some great insight into how to make this work with others.

Now after the physical set up, we encourage multiple points of fixation, and for those with an NLP bent you will notice that we have visual, kinaesthetic and auditory:

  • Visual – focusing on a point on the card.
  • Kinaesthetic – focusing on the breathing and especially the finger and thumb gripping the card (see script).
  • Auditory (internal) – focusing on the phrase “I am going to drop this”

Where Next

You can use this as a piece in and of itself, bringing it to a close with

“you are unable to drop the card until now (touch the back of the hand)…your muscles release and you can move your hand completely”.

However, once you have the stick nice and good you may as well ride it for all that it is worth. One option is to expand it straight into a full arm-lock, which follows quite naturally. I also like to utilize the arm catalepsy to position the arm in various poses and stick it there. Then take the card and stick the hand to the head. Another option is to position the hand for a ‘hand-to-face’ induction.

I like this because it is a great way to give out my business card, and with a playing card/ESP card it is a natural segway from card magic/mentalism into pure hypnotic fun!

About The Author

James Tripp

Hypnotist and Transformative Facilitator. Creator of Hypnosis Without Trance.


  • bob burns

    December 14, 2010

    Hi James,
    Long story short, I do love it. And yes the 3 point fixation of visual, kinaesthetic and auditory along with the initial light instruction of: stand like this, place your hand here, only to be held in abeyance until they’re asked to TRY to drop the card carries a kind of aesthetic quality I feel.
    However, YES, it can happen that they might involuntarily drop the card as they think it. But this in my experience, is viewed by the subject and onlookers as a minor miracle and is there to be USED. I think we’re back in the ‘there is no failure’ mold here. It might not be the result I wanted but no other person in the planet knows that.
    And even if it happens NOT on the first subject but on the third or fourth (so the audience assume it should stick like the others), with a timely swish of the hand I believe it may be suggested that I wanted that to happen. But I do realise that we’re now heavenly into performance skills. LOL.
    Anyway, all the best and have a sticky Xmas.

  • bob burns

    December 14, 2010

    sorry my last post had my email misprinted. this is the correct one.

  • Jeanne

    December 14, 2010

    Thank you. I’m looking forward to trying this.

  • gary plumridge

    December 15, 2010

    Hi James
    Cracking stuff, i use this all the time and when i mix say abit of magic/mind reading just before then into the stick my results with impromptu hypno have gone through the roof.
    Using this type of approach i have gained more confidence and i am a far more relaxed hypnotist then in the past 20 years
    keep up the good work
    gary plumridge

    • James Tripp

      January 8, 2011

      Thanks Gary – good to hear that it is working for you!


  • Steven

    December 29, 2010

    Hi James:

    Thanks for the great information on this site.

    Is there any reason for having subjects stand when doing the card stick/arm stiff induction? Would it work just as well if they were seated?


  • Harun

    July 31, 2011

    Please help me,I can’t experiment it on myself,no matter,how long I keep,when I release the card it drops.

  • Your method of explaining all in this article is genuinely pleasant, all be capable of
    easily understand it, Thanks a lot.

  • Christopher Moss

    December 10, 2013

    Hi James,

    I don’t if your still giving the “hypnosis without trance” out but I really appreciate if you shoot me a copy. I’ve been really interested with learning hypnosis and I just found and subscribed to your youtube channel. Its very informative and I would love to see what this teach me.

    • admin

      December 11, 2013

      If you are referring to Hypnosis Beyond the Trance Myth, you get a copy when you sign up for the mailing list.



  • Ben

    April 19, 2014

    Hi James,

    Great technique and very generous of you to share this info in such detail.

    I’ve been trying this out recently and getting great results but have found that with some people their fingers stick to the card when their fingers open at the end. This undermines the effect somewhat, even if the rest of it worked perfectly.

    Have you experienced this? What did/would you do? Do I just attract disproportionately high share of sweaty-fingered friends?



    • James Tripp

      April 22, 2014

      I have experienced it, but never as undermining the effect. Indeed, on one occasion the suggestion didn’t take, but the volunteer was amazed at the sticking! She then markedly improved as a subject.

      If you do find it a problem, try different objects (coin, pen etc.)



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