Al Koran, the famous Mentalist

Al Koran was a British 'Mentalist' from the middle of the twentieth century. Born in 1914, he toured England with a peculiar sort of act which went very much out of favour for a while, though the likes of Derren Brown have revived it recently.

Mentalists were stage magicians, I suppose. Unlike, say, Nevil Maskelyne, the famous 'secret service magician' from world war two, mentalists were not interested in creating illusions for the sake of it. They tended to be more interested in mathematical games and logic puzzles. That said, Maskelyne did create the penny lock for public toilets, which I suppose is an achievement of almost Roman utility and longevity.

With the admissions tests for law and medicine coming round again (I have delivered quite a few seminars and lectures on critical thinking and forms of logical reasoning in the past few years to declare my interest) I thought that it might be fun this Friday night to link to Al's most famous mathematical sleight-of hand, a coin-guessing game that once fooled Albert Einstein called 'Old Wine'. Trying to understand the solution to these sorts of tricks and puzzles is a very good way of training the mind to think laterally.

Mentalists were very rational people, typically. In recent years, some attempts have been made to revive their esprit de corps, as it were, including this link which I found to a group in the South of England. They share a certain rational suspicion of anything that cannot be rationally explained with skeptics of the sort that make London life interesting. For instance, the Skeptics society meets in the Penderel Oak just across from Gray's Inn some Tuesdays and is well worth a visit.

Mentalists ultimately had a sense of what was really precious in life. I promise you, reader, that I'm on the tea tonight (having just watched the beautiful Scots Gaelic film Seachd) but here is a lovely, sentimental link to Al Koran on the centrality of love.

Here is a truly silly video of an Old Al Koran key trick in a Maltese tongue...