Cold Reading Resources
This essay presents a briefly annotated list of publications that pertain to the art, the science, the craft, and/or the business of cold reading. It is of necessity one person’s perspective, and consequently limited in scope. With a sprinkling of obvious exceptions (such as Corinda’s Thirteen Steps), it is constrained to publications that deal primarily with cold reading. There are, of course, many more general books on mentalism and allied arts that contain contributions to this area; I have made no attempt to include such references here.
Also excluded (for the most part) are countless books for the general public on the broad topic of fortunetelling, most of which focus on one or more specific divinatory “oracles” (palmistry, cards, numerology, astrology, runes, crystals, tea leaves, etc.). Many would argue — with some justification — that such books are, in several ways, more helpful than those that specifically target cold reading for the “magician” trade.
And there’s not much here on the classic Question and Answer (“Q&A”) act, a very effective demonstration long used by top-flight mentalists, whose efficacy is almost entirely dependent on the ability to give good cold readings. Most written works on this topic focus on the methodology of obtaining the questions in surreptitious fashion, though many classical performers scoffed at this practice, and simply read them openly!
Is it “cold reading” or “stock reading”? Such questions proffer a false dichotomy, as these terms refer to two quite different aspects of the reading process. A “cold reading” is simply a reading (“a personal interpretation or appraisal”) delivered cold (“without advance preparation”, using no previously-obtained information about the client). This contrasts with a “hot reading”, which exploits prior — often secretly obtained — information (there is also “warm reading”, which makes use of verbal feedback obtained from the client during the reading).
“Stock phrases” are pre-formulated statements of a general nature, designed to be applicable to broad classes of people; they are often — sometimes derogatorily — termed Barnum or Forer statements (see the Ray Hyman references for more on this). A reading that consists primarily of such statements is termed a “stock reading”. Although these can unquestionably be effective, they are rarely as compelling as a truly personalized (and well-delivered) reading. The latter is a much more interactive process, rooted deeply in careful observation of — and feedback (both overt and covert) from — the person being read. Skilled cold readers commonly make selective — even extensive — use of stock phrases, but not indiscriminately so: they choose carefully from an extensive repertoire, and tailor each comment to the specific client/situation. Thus does a stock phrase become an effective cold reading line.
From the moment that I first published this list, I have received enquiries about “how to become a cold reader”, so offer here a few opinions on the subject …
First, and most important, there is no book that will teach you how to become an accomplished cold reader. In fact, reading too many books on the subject (searching for some sort of “holy grail”?) can be tremendously counterproductive, as you have no personal context within which to appreciate (or even understand) much of the information being presented. Cold reading is a skill that comes from one source, and one source only: giving readings. Many of the world’s best cold readers have never studied a “cold reading” book in their lives (and may well be unaware that such things even exist). But if they are any good at all, they have given a lot of readings.
That’s not to say that books on the topic are unhelpful (were this the case, I would not have taken the trouble to compile this resource list). Quite the contrary, they offer information that can significantly elevate your game. But — unlike what many purveyors of products for magicians would like you to believe — they will not make you a good cold reader: that is something you must do on your own. And that is why it’s such an uncommon, valuable skill (one that can earn you a living in good times and bad: read Richard Webster’s delightful essay, Instant Cash: The Story of Bill, if you need convincing) … because most would-be readers just study (too many) books, and never quite manage to get up the courage to begin doing actual readings.
“You will learn more from [giving] ten readings
than from any book about readings.”
— John Wellington Wells
Cold reading can be viewed as — simultaneously — a science, an art, and a craft. For the science, there is no better book than Ian Rowland’s exhaustive The Full Facts Book of Cold Reading. For the art, turn to studies like Brad Henderson’s The Dance. For the craft, choose an oracle that appeals to you, and learn a traditional/proven set of rules for interpreting that oracle (Richard Webster’s Quick & Effective Cold Reading is a classic in this category).
But mostly, go out and do readings. Do them for free at first; let sitters know that you are just learning, and they will be forgiving. (It’s unnecessary at this stage to have completely mastered your chosen oracle; begin with the basics.) When you start getting requests for longer readings, you will know that you are becoming competent. From here, proceed as your interests direct you. Read further; now is when those books will become useful (and make much more sense than they could have at the beginning).
Appreciate that cold reading involves the crafting of stories. The oracle supplies the clues, but the reader must construct a compelling narrative: a good cold reader is a good storyteller. Some will certainly have a greater innate talent for all this than others, but anyone with a sincere interest in people, and a desire to help them (even if that help is simply a diverting entertainment), can become an effective reader.
[ Ian Rowland also proffers — in promotion of his (excellent) book —
his own take on this issue, one that is definitely worth reading. ]
A final note: in my experience, most magicians/mentalists are woefully uninformed about cold reading (although they are quick to proclaim otherwise, and post dubious suggestions to beginners), unable even to offer a credible definition of the term. Since the turn of the century, there has been a rather unfortunate blossoming of books — often absurdly high in price — by such folks, offering “improved” reading systems, usually with a focus on ease of learning, which entirely misses the point. If an oracular system is not robust, deep, and exhaustively tested, it will never suffice for anything more than superficial readings. There’s a reason why the popular systems — tarot, palmistry, numerology, I Ching, etc. — are the ones with centuries of evolution! As John Wells wisely observed, “Life is complex; the oracle must be also.” So, in this and all other areas, choose your information sources carefully, and wisely.
I welcome any suggestions that readers of this list may care to contribute.
Albright, Howard. Forbidden Wisdom. Colon, MI: Abbott’s Magic, 1948. Not so much a reference on cold reading (although the book does include a useful “Psychic System” for such purposes), but an excellent crash course on a variety of traditional oracles: palmistry, graphology, numerology, astrology, etc. It is a particularly good reference on several techniques for fortune-telling by playing cards.
Anderson, George B. It Must Be Mindreading. Chicago: Ireland Magic, 1949. Though primarily a mentalism text, there is a considerable amount of Q&A material here, with associated good ideas for the reader.
. Dynamite Mentalism. Chicago: Magic, Inc., 1979. A one-man question-answering act based entirely on cold reading (i.e., using no props, gimmicks, written questions, etc.). Successful acts have been performed based solely on this methodology.
Anonymous. Tradecraft. Chicago: Trickshop.com Inc., 2003. A basic introduction to cold reading, providing an overview of the major elements of the craft. Published in e-book format.
Arcane, Peter (aka Trevor McCombie). The Elucidator. Edinburgh: Arcane Magick, 2005. A collection of cold reading approaches that correspond to various commonly-drawn figures (such as might be seen when asking someone to “draw something”), these allow a performer to elucidate the possible meanings of such visual expressions.
Boarde, C.L. (aka Warren Schoonmaker). Mainly Mental, Volume I: Billet Reading. New York: privately published, 1947. Section three of this book (pp. 39–50), entitled “The Spiel”, deals with the answering of questions, and incorporates a considerable amount of useful cold reading advice.
Cain, Ron. The Secret to Reading Cards and Clients. Albuquerque: Flora & Co., 1991. A method for integrating aspects of astrology, palmistry, numerology, and colours in cold readings, including scripts and a complete sample reading, transcribed from an actual session.
Corinda, Tony. Thirteen Steps to Mentalism. New York: Tannen Magic, 1968. This seminal text of the mentalists’ art is often overlooked by cold readers, but its coverage of the topic — in Step Eleven: Question and Answer (Readings) — is as thorough and incisive as everything else in this masterwork. A must read.
Crouter, Fred L. Inner Secrets of Cold Reading Experts. 2000. Twenty-seven pages of cold reading ideas, including body type analysis, colour reference, and a system of combining an alphabetic key word with body type characterization reading.
de Courcy, Ken. The Systematic Seer: A Simplified System of Fortune Telling. Bideford, England: Supreme Magic, 1976. A four-page manuscript, offering the original concept of using the letters of a person’s name as keys to specific cold reading topics. This technique has subsequently been more fully explored by others, including Ron Martin, Mark Sherman, William Thomas, and Richard Webster.
. Simple Numerology. privately published, 19??. A four-page pamphlet on simplified numerology readings; comes with a small laminated card used to present the readings.
Dewey, Herb & Thomas K. Saville. Red Hot Cold Reading. Denver, CO: In Visible Print, 1984. The first volume in what is commonly considered a trilogy by the lengendary Herb Dewey (dubbed “King of the Cold Readers” by Bascom Jones), arguably the twentieth century’s most accomplished cold reader. This, the most structured of the three books, is an advanced course in cold reading. That said, these books are primarily interpretations by others of how Herb worked; his technique was much more intuitive than these writings imply. Recommended.
Dewey, Herb [uncredited] & Bascom Jones. King of the Cold Readers. Bakersfield, CA: Bascom Jones, 1989. Though he is not directly credited (at his request, for personal reasons explained in the third volume), this is actually the second volume of the Herb Dewey trilogy. Its eighteen chapters cover a diverse set of specific cold reading topics, with Herb’s take on each. Recommended.
Dewey, Herb. Psycho-Babble. Edited by Roy Miller. privately published, 1996. The final volume in the trilogy, this is a sort of “wrap-up” of various topics and ideas that did not find expression in the earlier books. Recommended.
. Mind-Blowing Psychic Readings. Edited by Marc Sky. Woodbridge, NY: Mindreaders, 1997. This book, which completes the Dewey œuvre, is a collection of scripted readings categorized by gender, age, & other particulars; it offers great examples of how to weave a narrative from tidbits of garnered information. As with all of Herb’s works, one needs to be careful of generalized observations that may have been true for his particular location and clients, but are not necessarily universal.
Dunford, Iain. aeiou. England: Iain Dunford, 2011. The system detailed in this booklet is (yet another) offshoot of Ken de Courcy’s Systematic Seer, this time with a focus on the vowels alone. What distinguishes it (and warrants inclusion here) is the attention to detail evidenced by Mr. Dunford, making his approach (oriented toward briefer, character-style readings) truly easy to learn, and very effective in its results. A beginning reader will find this a productive starting point, and there is much fodder for the experienced practitioner as well. Recommended.
. Thought Paths. England: Iain Dunford, 2011. What Iain’s aeiou booklet did for vowels, this one does for numerical digits (though it’s less a complete reading system than an innovative interpretive approach). If you want to do readings with a numerological component, and don’t want to learn a full-blown, complex system, this would be the place to begin.
DuQuette, Lon Milo. The Book of Ordinary Oracles. Boston: Weiser Books, 2005. A book for the general public on using common objects as oracles. There are some real treasures in this tiny book, and for those with an interest in geomancy, the idea on page 158 could well be a career changer (as it was for celebrated reader Bob Tripp).
Dyment, Doug. Zenermancy. San Francisco: www.deceptionary.com, 2011. A monograph on cold reading using Zener (“ESP”) card symbology, suitable for both beginning and advanced readers. Richard Webster called this “an essential work for anyone involved in giving readings”. The full text of this monograph is reproduced in Doug’s Calculated Thoughts book.
. Cold Front. San Francisco: www.deceptionary.com, 2004. A study tool, designed to help one learn Richard Webster’s palmistry method.
Earle, Lee. The Gentle Art of Cold Reading. Phoenix: Lee Earle, 2003. An audio CD revision and updating of the author’s earlier (1989) The Classic Reading, this stock reading is well constructed for a contemporary audience, and presented in Lee’s typical entertaining fashion.
Eyal, Tal & Nicholas Epley. How to Seem Telepathic: Enabling Mind
Reading by Matching Construal. Psychological Science 21(5) 700–705, 2010. An enlightening scholarly paper on psychological techniques for more accurately perceiving the thoughts of others.
Goldstine, Daniel et al. The Dance-Away Lover. New York: William Morrow, 1977. Not as well-known as Sheehy’s Passages, this book offers a simpler, more casual approach to the notion of population stereotypes, with a focus on roles in love, sex, and marriage.
Gresham, William Lindsay. Monster Midway. New York: Rinehart & Company, 1953. This book on the carnival trade (by the author of Nightmare Alley) includes a better explanation of cold reading than can be found in many books directed to magicians and mentalists. You’ll find it in chapter seven, “The Romany Trade”. Recommended.
Henderson, Brad. The Dance. Austin, TX: Henderson Productions, 2003. A modern classic, this slim, limited (1000 copies) edition, hardcover volume is arguably the best description of the art (as opposed to craft) of cold reading written to date. This book will make you a better reader. (A softcover reprint appeared in December 2007.) A must read.
Hester, Rose & Walt Hudson. Psychic Character Analysis: The Technique of Cold Reading Updated. Baltimore, MD: Magic Media Ltd., 1977. A slim, introductory book on cold reading, based on the use of a stock reading, augmented with observations on observation, body language, and presentation.
Hobrin (aka Brian Howard). Gem-Stone Reading for Profit. Auckland: Brookfield Press, 1988.
. Money-Making Cold Reading. Sheffield, England: Magick Enterprises, 1987.
. Tales from the Tarot. Sheffield, England: Magick Enterprises, 1990. Both a learning method and cold reading suggestions for Tarot, this book offers a memorable “story” for each of the Rider-Waite cards.
Howard, Pierce J. The Owner’s Manual for the Brain: Everyday Applications from Mind-Brain Research. 4th edition. Austin, TX: Bard Press, 2014. A veritable goldmine of information for the cold reader, based on serious research. The chapter on personality traits, which covers The Big Five Personality Model and its predecessors, is especially useful.
Hunter, Rudy T. 101 Cold Reading Lines You Can Use To Make Money Now! Delta, PA: Martini’s Magic Co., 1997. A succinct collection of cold reading “one-liners”, organized into ten basic categories.
. Mind & Money. Delta, PA: Martini’s Magic Co., 1996. Workbook for a one-day seminar/workshop for mentalists and private readers. The emphasis is primarily on business issues, but there is a basic introduction to cold reading methodology.
Hyman, Ray. Cold Reading: How to Convince Strangers That You Know All About Them. The Zetetic (now The Skeptical Inquirer) Vol. I, No. 2, 1977 pp. 18–37. One of the earliest and best known of Professor Hyman’s many writings on the techniques of cold reading. This is also reprinted in his later book, The Elusive Quarry: A Scientific Appraisal of Psychical Research (Buffalo, NY: Prometheus Books, 1989), along with two anthologies: Kendrick Frazier, ed. Paranormal Borderlands of Science (Buffalo, NY: Prometheus Books, 1981), pp. 79–96; and Karr, Barry et al, ed. The Outer Edge: Classic Investigations of the Paranormal (Amherst, NY: CSICOP, 1996). Though there are many brief on-line summaries of key points from this essay, the original paper is the one to study. A must read.
. How To Do Cold Readings. Oostende, Belgium: Syllabus for Workshop on Cold Reading, Annual Euroskeptics Conference, 1994. A forty-page distillation of Dr. Hyman’s more recent thinking on the topic, prepared for a skeptical audience. Believe what you choose about the opinions of skeptics, there is no denying Hyman’s expertise on the mechanical aspects of cold reading, and his literate writings invariably make for worthwhile reading. There is, additionally, an on-line recording of the 2012 incarnation of this material, delivered to an audience at James Randi’s The Amazing Meeting.
Jones, Bascom, editor. The Compleat Magick, Vols. I, II, III, & IV. Collector’s Workshop, 1986-88. If Corinda wrote the bible of mentalism, Bascom masterminded the new testament. Contemporary ideas, thinking, and presentations for every type of mystery entertainer, including the cold reader. Recommended.
Knepper, Kenton. Readings for the Magician. Phoenix: Wonder Wizards, 2002. This nineteen-page book exhibits strong philosophical ties to the author’s (with Rex Steven Sikes) Wonder Readings system; it could equally be considered a subset or supplemental piece. Like most of Kenton’s products, it is notably NLP-oriented. Mr. Knepper is something of a polarizing author: readers tend to be either wildly enthusiastic about, or highly skeptical of, his theories.
Knepper, Kenton & J. Tank. Completely Cold. Phoenix: Wonder Wizards, 1998. There have been mixed reviews of this slim monograph on an unconventional approach to cold reading, extolling the use of language structure to give the impression of psychic skills. It could certainly be useful to know if (as the title suggests) you have no information on which to base a traditional cold reading.
. SAR: Subconscious Analysis & Reprogramming. Phoenix: Wonder Wizards, 2001. An NLP-related therapeutic system, using a form of doodle analysis, and geared more to the practitioner who wishes to do counseling/therapy than the entertainer. Produced in CD-ROM format.
Knepper, Kenton & Rex Steven Sikes. Wonder Readings. 2002. This heavily NLP-based “packaged” reading system joins the philosophy of Mr. Knepper with that of Mr. Sikes.
Korem, Dan. Powers: Testing the Psychic & Supernatural. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1988. Korem, an investigative journalist and magician (who also believes in the supernatural), learned how to do effective cold readings, and reveals his methods in this book.
Kross, Ford. Out of the Deep Freeze. Kross, 1978. Another talented and skilled professional reader offers a variety of good suggestions and advice to the mystery entertainer. This set of notes is sometimes combined with the author’s later From the Back of the Deep Freeze.
. Kross on Cold Reading. Psychic Entertainers Association, 1981. This audio cassette tape, #4 in the PEA’s Restricted Tape Release series, incorporates an actual cold reading by Ford, along with his analysis of the techniques in play.
Larsen, William Jr. The Mental Mysteries and Other Writings of William W. Larsen, Sr. Los Angeles: The Genii Publishing Co., 1977. An excellent collection of stock readings, coupled with a creative variety of money-making ideas, all from an experienced practitioner.
Lees, David. The Leath Technique. Lees, 2001. Subtitled “An Invaluable Course for Private Readers”, this book offers a basic introduction to reading (with a focus on stock readings), and describes two techniques for ascertaining the principal area of interest: a (so-called) branching anagram method (an approach pioneered in Richard Mark’s 1992 Mindbending Meltdown, later anthologized in his 1998 Mind Warp book, and also explored in Richard Busch’s 1992 Instant Q & A), plus one using a set of seven Tarot cards.
Longman, Millard. Psychic Readings for Groups. Coral Springs, FL: Longman Publishing, 2000. This e-book focuses on the Q&A presentation, using a combination of colours, drawings, and numerology as the oracles.
Lyon, Sheila & Mark Sherman. The Book of Roving. Seattle: privately published, 2003. Group-oriented approaches to cold reading, particularly applicable to situations where one is expected to give readings to large audiences.
. Gypsies Go Roving: Walk-Around Palmistry and Fortune-Telling for Groups. Seattle: privately published, 2003. Additional thinking on the topic of reading for large groups of people, from two folks who have done lots of it.
. Stand-Up Divination: The Incredible Confessions of Diva & Professor Marconi. Seattle: privately published, 2008. The third in this loose “trilogy”, delivering hard-to-find advice on the specialized topic of group divination.
Magnuson, Walter G. “Del Ardo” & Anthony “Nelmar” Albino. The Twentieth Century Mindreading Act: The Modern Spiritualist Medium’s Act. Reprint, Jeff Busby Magic, 1988. Originally marketed to spiritualists in 1935 as The Nelmar System (and thus containing some dated material), this classic text still provides one of the best treatises on the principles and many aspects of cold reading. It is arguably the first ever published text on the subject, and even includes a precursor to de Courcy’s The Systematic Seer technique, which subsequently found fame in Webster’s Psychometry from A to Z.
Mann, Al. Al Mann on Mentalism. London: Martin Breese, 19??. A two-tape audio cassette package containing a discussion of reading methods. Though not a notable performer, Al was a great distiller of the works of others, and his contributions to mentalism are the stuff of legend.
. High Domain: A Method for the Private Reader. Freehold, NJ: Al Mann Exclusives, 1985. This extends the material in the audio cassette set above, including one of the only works on “tree reading” in print. This book is one of Al’s more consistently good publications, and several excellent cold reading ideas are to be found here.
Martin, Ron. The Tarot Reader’s Notebook. Albuquerque: Flora & Company, 1990. Subtitled “A detailed course in giving satisfying and profitable Tarot card readings”, and written by a master reader, this massive book is widely considered the best treatise on professional Tarot reading. And title aside, it’s a superb work on the many aspects of cold reading as well.
. Reading the Runes. Albuquerque: Flora & Company, 1992. Unlike his earlier book on the Tarot, this hefty book on the use of Runes was written for a lay audience. It is, however, distributed privately with a “Confidential Supplement” section that contains addition information for the mystery entertainer.
. The Palm Reader’s Notebook. Revised edition. Manassas, VA: privately published, 1997. On a par with The Tarot Reader’s Notebook, this wide-ranging book covers aura reading as well, and incorporates a description of Ron’s KEN system (also published separately).
. The KEN System. privately published, 1992. Similar in concept to Ken (hence the title!) de Courcy’s Systematic Seer, this is a system for giving individual readings that “you can remember, repeat, and refer to a year later!”.
Maven, Max. Max Maven’s Book of Fortunetelling. New York: Prentice Hall, 1992. Originally published in Japan (1989) by Tokyodo as MAKKUSU MAIJIN-NO SEKAI-NO URANAI in a somewhat different format. Although this resource list generally omits fortunetelling books intended for the general public, I have made an exception in this case, due to the author, a gifted contributor to the magical literature who validates his reputation in this excellent compendium of divinatory methodologies.
Moore, Julian. The James Bond Cold Reading. Portchester, UK: The Cold Reading Company, 2007. This e-book, which comes with a print-it-yourself set of 24 flashcards, proposes a narrative-based way to learn twelve classic cold reading statements. Although the book evolved from a set of stock reading lines, it encourages a departure from this literal approach, and offers a useful mnemonic tool that associates the concepts with the fictional James Bond character.
Nelson, Robert Alan. The Private Medium’s Secret Guide. Nelson Enterprises, 1942. Interesting comments on the private reader, along with various scams that have been perpetrated on the public.
. The Art of Cold Reading. revised edition. Nelson Enterprises, 1968. From its original publication in 1951, this has long been a staple of the cold reading library. Although many of Nelson’s observations and language are now dated, the work still offers more than historic value.
. Dante’s System of Life Span Reading. Nelson Enterprises, 1944. A stock cradle-to-grave reading, more useful to the historian than the contemporary reader.
. Psychological Reading. Nelson Enterprises, 1931. Nelson was not above appropriating the material of others: this book is an exact copy of “The Skeleton System”, from Magnuson’s 1926 booklet, Professional Paychic and Crystal Reading.
. Pages from a Medium’s Notebook. Calgary, Canada: Micky Hades Enterprises, 1971 (originally published 1939).
. A Sequel to the Art of Cold Reading. Calgary: Micky Hades Enterprises, 1971. A worthwhile sequel.
. Technique of the Private Reader. revised edition. Calgary: Micky Hades Enterprises, 1971 (originally published 1948).
Nielsen, Gene. The Gene Nielsen Tapes, Vol. I. Albuquerque: Flora & Company, 1988. This set of four audio cassette tapes covers a wide range of topics, from mentalism to conjuring, but the attentive listener will learn several useful ideas from this experienced reader.
. Cool Reading. Santa Barbara, CA: privately published, 1989. An “instant Q&A” methodology, with nothing written or collected, informed by a guy who’s been performing successful readings for a long time.
. Counseling Techniques for the Private Reader. Santa Barbara, CA: privately published, 2003. As the title suggests, this is oriented to the counseling/therapy side of reading. It is in essence a short course in Rogerian client-centered therapy, geared to the needs of the psychic reader.
Nielsen, Gene et al. Questions & Answers. Albuquerque: Flora & Company, 1988. This set of two audio cassette tapes covers Q&A, which of course is closely coupled to cold reading. On the second tape, Gene gives details on non-directive counseling techniques, a way to answer questions without actually answering them.
O’Connell, Bill. Cold Reading Flash Cards. St. Charles, IL: Hypnosis Secrets, 2003. A set of 56 single-sided cards (4.25 x 5.5"), eight of which contain a very simple introduction to cold reading. Each of the remaining 48 cards contains a single, (mostly) brief stock reading phrase; these can be memorized and then strung together as desired.
. Discover the Secrets of Cold Reading. St. Charles, IL: Hypnosis Secrets, 2004. A two-volume (each sold separately) audio CD course in cold reading, by a skilled hypnotist and NLP practitioner.
Riding, Joe. The Tarot Made Easy. privately published, 19??. A one-week course in the Tarot, the goal being to master the (somewhat unconventional) meanings of all seventy-eight cards in seven days.
. Advanced Cold Reading. privately published, 19??. An introduction to cold reading. Both this and the above were made available beginning in 2001 on CD-ROM, as parts of Joe’s more extensive “Psychic Course” (which additionally includes sections on numerology, hand analysis, and business matters).
Robertson, Blair. How To Give Fun And Amazing Psychic Readings Volume 1. Orleans, Canada: Blair Robertson Productions, 2004. A DVD release outlining the use of numerology to give short readings; Blair uses Richard Webster’s methodology. Included are recordings of public performances using this approach.
Roe, Chris A. Cold Reading Strategies. unpublished, University College Northampton (UK): Psychology Division. An excellent academic paper on cold reading in many forms, drawing upon material from wide-ranging sources. It incorporates a very helpful “process hierarchy” analysis, linking the several facets of what is commonly called “cold reading”. An early version of this paper was presented at the 1991 Parapsychological Association Convention.
Rowland, Ian. The Full Facts Book of Cold Reading. 7th edition. London: Ian Rowland Limited, 2019. This comprehensive, near-encyclopedic text is the most thorough exposition of the "science" of cold reading published to date. A must read.
Ruthchild, Myriam. Cashing in on the Psychic. Pomeroy, OH: Lee Jacobs Productions, 1978. This is book sixteen in the Lee Jacobs Productions “Publicity and Promotion” series, and Ruthchild’s first book on the psychic business. She discusses a wide variety of oracles and reading methods, in conjunction with the practical aspects of obtaining remuneration for same.
. Cyclescope Instruction Manual. Pomeroy, OH: Lee Jacobs Productions, 1979. A “tick sheet” reading method, with a numerological premise.
. Psychotechnics: Advanced Psychic Methods. Pomeroy, OH: Lee Jacobs Productions, 1981. A rarely sung classic: although written for a lay audience, there is excellent information here for those willing to read “between the lines”. Recommended.
. Psychotechnics Meditation Tape. Lee Jacobs Productions, 1981. Audio cassette companion piece to the Ruthchild Psychotechnics book.
Ruthchild, Myriam & Clettis Musson. Crystal Gazing: Then & Now. Pomeroy, OH: Lee Jacobs Productions, 1982. A wide-ranging exploration of the use of crystal balls, perhaps the finest discussion of this infrequently-used oracle, by two extremely skilled practitioners.
Saville, Thomas K. & Herb Dewey. The Tarot as a Counseling Tool. Denver: privately published, 1994. An excellent treatise on the use of cold reading in a counseling context, using Tarot as the oracle.
Sheehy, Gail. Passages. New York: E.P. Dutton, 2006. Although this is not specifically a book on cold reading per se, it is the classic text on population stereotypes, and its study will yield great benefits as a consequence of understanding the life story that is common to us all. Sheehy has subsequently written some more specialized books on this topic, including The Silent Passage, New Passages, and Understanding Men’s Passages. A must read (bearing in mind that it it is somewhat parochial in its details).
Stagnaro, Angelo. Something from Nothing. Lalling, Germany: Zauberhandlung Manipulix, 2004. This book proffers a curious admixture, consisting of a basic introduction to cold reading (viewed from the perspective that, to quote the author, "Most people are gullible.") plus a variety of mentalism effects that are not particularly related to same. Originally published in German.
Thomas, Alexander. Initiations: A Viewpoint on the Art of Cold Reading. Albuquerque: Flora & Co, 1989. Book and accompanying audio cassette tape of two actual readings, from a successful full-time professional cold reader.
Vanderbeck, Philemon, editor. The Collected OORT. Seattle: Philemon Vanderbeck, 2002. A collection of twenty essays on the subject of cold reading, by a variety of real-world practitioners, taken from the quarterly OORT: A Newsletter for the Professional Cold Reader.
. The Supplemental OORT. Renton, Washington: Philemon Vanderbeck, 2004. A further collection of nineteen essays from the quarterly OORT.
Webster, Richard. Quick & Effective Cold Reading. Auckland: Brookfield Press, 1985; revised edition 2008. Richard Webster, New Zealand’s master cold reader, has written a copious quantity of books for the cold reader, most of which are excellent, and all of which are worthwhile. This first one is a classic introduction to cold reading, using palmistry as the vehicle. Recommended.
. Commercial Cold Reading. London: Martin Breese International, 1986. Originally release on audio tape cassette, this was digitally remastered and rereleased on CD-ROM in 2000. A wonderful opportunity to hear the voice of a cold reading master, discussing his philosophies, techniques, and actual readings.
. Further Commercial Cold Reading. London: Martin Breese International, 2001. A follow-up to the original, this time only available in CD-ROM format. It includes material on how to integrate cold reading technique with other performance material, and offers a full routine employing a pack of playing cards as an oracle.
. Mastering Cold Reading. London: Martin Breese International, 2004. This third release in Richard’s CD-ROM series for Mr. Breese features more of the same authoritive material, including readings based on numerology and (star sign) astrology.
. Cold Reading for Profit. London: Martin Breese International, 2005. The fourth of Richard’s CD-ROM releases for Mr. Breese, this one brings a focus on the commercial aspects: how to make a good living anywhere in the world, using cold reading skills.
. How to Build Up a Psychic Practice with Full Length Cold Readings. Auckland: Brookfield Press, 1986. As the title suggests, this covers the topic of moving from brief readings to extended ones, an important skill for the full-time reader.
. Psychometry from A to Z. Auckland: Brookfield Press, 1987. Using psychometry as an oracle, this book offers a well constructed and much more extensive application of a fundamental principle (introduced in Ken de Courcy’s Systematic Seer) used by cold readers to introduce personalized — yet varied — elements into readings. Many readers have built successful practices based almost entirely on the information in this book. Recommended.
. Quick Readings with Numerology. Auckland: Brookfield Press, 1987. A system for giving short readings based on date of birth.
. Aura Reading for Fun & Profit. Auckland: Brookfield Press, 1988. Richard explores auras as an oracle, a nicely “portable” methodology that one can use anywhere.
. The Richard Webster Video: Techniques for Psychics. Albuquerque: Flora & Co., 1988. A video tape recording of Richard doing several types of readings; an excellent study tool.
. The Mail Order Psychic. Auckland: Brookfield Press, 1990. More on the business of cold reading than the art or craft, this typically thorough Webster book describes the setup and operation of a mail-order cold reading business.
. Divination Systems: How to Choose the Right Oracle for You. Auckland: Brookfield Press, 2012; revised edition 2017. A rich overview of the many oracular systems available to the cold reader, with a careful analysis of the benefits and disadvantages of each.
. Cold Reading for the Magician. Auckland: Brookfield Press, 1991.
As a small reward for those who have made it to the end of this lengthy list of cold reading resources, I offer my own simple mnemonic — “MR CHEAT” — for remembering the seven principal psychic reading topics. Of course, not all topics need be visited in a single reading (bearing in mind that the initial four are the most important).
Money (income, investments, possessions)
Relationships (love, sex, partnerships, family, responsibilities)
Career (changes, advancement, business, hobbies, other work)
Health (status, influences)
Education (learning opportunities)
Aspirations (ambitions, expectations, dreams)
Travel (journeys, revisiting past)
The above resource list is, by its nature, a work in progress. Clearly, it reflects only material of which I have useful knowledge; those wishing to have additional items included are welcome to send them to me for review (including sufficient postage if you would like them returned). Please direct suggestions, comments, corrections, or queries to Doug Dyment:
last revised: 2021-04-09