How to Memorize Anything: For Magicians

Max Davidson's Secret Methods

How to Memorize Anything: For Magicians

The words “memory demonstration” and “good entertainment” aren’t often in the same sentence. But for years, memory demonstrations have been a staple of magic and mentalism shows. Harry Lorayne could famously memorize the names of 200+ people. Derren Brown ended Infamous with a 10-minute memory extravaganza. Some magicians can even memorize a deck of cards on the spot. 

But unlike sleight of hand, memory is rarely viewed as something that can be practiced, refined, or even learned. While few people balk at learning a double lift, I worked in a magic shop for long enough to hear people say how they “could never” memorize a deck of cards. 

Perhaps, though, our views on memory are misguided and outdated. Maybe memory demonstrations, unlike traditional sleight of hand, allow magicians to connect more with their audiences. Below, we’ll explore how you can improve your memory, and how to make memory demonstrations entertaining. 

Can You Improve Your Memory? 

Yes you can, and it’s not that hard. In the same way that you can lift weights to get stronger, and make your hands bleed practicing a clip shift, you can practice techniques to make your memory better (no bleeding required). And you can do it right now. 

There are three fundamental ways to package information: Mnemonics, the Major System, and the Memory Palace. 

I’ll describe each below, and after you read this, you’ll have memorized the winner, loser, and score of Super Bowl 3. Good luck forgetting it.


Anything can be turned into a mnemonic, which simply means that you take information and turn it into a memorable image. The more gruesome, scandalous, and outrageous the image, the more likely you are to remember it. We don’t remember average images. But our brains are attracted to novelty. 

Let’s take Super Bowl 3. The New York Jets beat the Baltimore Colts 16-7. Pretty boring on the surface. How might you use mnemonics to memorize it.

Simply visualize an airplane (a jet), and instead of a jet stream, there’s a horse tail flapping in the wind. The tail, though, is really small and wispy, because instead of it belonging to a full-grown horse, it belongs to a colt. You can visualize the jet consuming the colt (hence the tail sticking out), which is how you remember that the Jets won. 

This post is for paying subscribers only

Already have an account? Sign in.