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    Brain teaser

    "I love a skeptical audience,'' says Bob Lawson, who will perform feats of extra-sensory perception in his Mental Mystery Tour on Saturday.

    By EILEEN SCHULTE

    © St. Petersburg Times, published February 23, 2001


    Bob Lawson laid a white napkin on the patio table with the numbers one through nine written in black ink along the sides and in the center.

    He asked a reporter to pick a number, any number. Then he put his hand over his eyes and turned away.

    She touched a spot next to the number five.

    Lawson came back, nervously admitting he didn't know if he could do this today. It was still early, he said.

    He scanned the napkin with his hand.

    "You didn't touch a number," he said.

    The experiment was repeated. Lawson again left the table, and this time, he went into his house. The reporter touched the number five.

    Lawson came back to the table and passed his hand a few inches over the napkin.

    "Five," he said.

    Is he psychic? Well, not exactly. Lawson calls himself a mentalist, and is bringing his show, Bob Lawson's Mental Mystery Tour, to the Royalty Theater in Clearwater Saturday.

    "We use this as a testing ground for experiments with ESP," Lawson said.

    He reads minds, does thought transfer exercises and makes predictions.

    Unfortunately, he can't predict which lottery numbers will hit "or I wouldn't be here talking to you," he said, laughing.

    A month ago, when he was asked if he had any predictions for the Super Bowl, he said he predicted it would be on Channel 10 at 6 p.m.

    He admitted he couldn't visualize the score, but he said he had a strong feeling the New York Giants would win.

    Or was that a hope?

    Lawson and his road manager/publicist Mark Sutton make their summer home in the Thousand Islands area of New York. Their winter home is in Countryside.

    The Giants, of course, lost.

    While he says he can read minds, he cannot repeat what you are thinking. Instead, he says, he gets flashes, images in his mind, which are portions of thoughts coming from your mind.

    For example, the night before he was scheduled to meet with a reporter, he attempted to tune into her using his psyche. A word popped into his head and an image of something resting on her lap. He wrote the word down on a white card and stuffed it into an envelope.

    During the interview, he asked the reporter if she owned a pet.

    No, she said. Her cat, Frank, had died a few years ago of cancer.

    He handed her the envelope. On the card folded inside was written one word: "Frank."

    Lawson has no idea how he does it, but he thanks God for his gift. A trained stage actor who never quite made it to Broadway, he has performed his shows around the world.

    His talents, he said, do have practical benefits.

    "I can find the shortest line on a Friday night at the grocery store," he said, laughing. "And it's not always the one with the fewest people. On those lines it's always, okay, time to change the tape."

    He said he tries not to make claims of any special powers. He believes everybody has the power to do what he does.

    Apparently everybody but his older brother, David.

    When they were children, Lawson and David used to play a game called "I Can See It."

    "You're in a room and say, I can see something black," Lawson recalled. "It's your job to tell me what it was. I would get it in two or three guesses. He would take 10 or 15 guesses. Soon I was down to one or two guesses. It would really annoy him, so he wouldn't play anymore."

    But audiences love to play along.

    During his performances, he uses props like real money, play money and darts to demonstrate his extra sensory perception.

    Even blindfolded, he can sense if an item has been in his possession. It's a technique called psychometry.

    Sometimes, when he correctly recites phone numbers of complete strangers, he's been accused of planting confederates in the audience.

    But he swears he doesn't, and will give anyone who can prove it a $50,000 check toward their favorite charity.

    Ironically, Lawson loves an audience full of doubters.

    "My best audiences are older people," Lawson said. "They've been taken so many times, they're very skeptical. I love a skeptical audience."

    If you go

    Bob Lawson will perform feats of extra-sensory perception during his Mental Mystery Tour at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Saturday at the Royalty Theatre, 405 Cleveland St., Clearwater. Although this is an audience participation show, Lawson said no one is forced to participate. Tickets cost $12 and $10. The price includes a free handwriting analysis. For information, call (727) 441-8868.

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