Harry Lorayne is one of the great memory men of the twentieth century - a fine performer, actor and lecturer. Hundreds of companies, including the likes of IBM, US Steel and General Electric, have hired him to conduct seminars on mind power and memory training. And he has appeared on just about every American TV show, including Johnny Carson's The Tonight Show, Good Morning America, and The Today Show.
Lorayne grew up in the depression years of the late 1920s and 1930s, in New York's Lower East Side. After dropping out of high school because his family had no money, he held a number of errand and clerking jobs, all of them low paid. In World War Two, he ended up working in the Army accounting office because of his aptitude for figures. There he met and married his present wife and decided to go into showbusiness at the end of the war.
Ever since the age of eight, he had been fascinated by magic. (He has written fifteen books for other magicians and is a highly respected teacher.) He began to play small nightclubs in New York, where his exceptional skills began to be noticed. Once or twice, he introduced simple memory feats, which seemed to go down well, even better than the magic. He decided to read every book he could find on memory. After months of being holed up in the public library, he emerged with the beginnings of his own system.
'Out of knowledge, trial and error - especially error at first - I began to work on a memory system of my own. I used it myself, at first. It worked. Those memory demonstrations went into my act. I found that they were the highlights. I began to decrease the magic until finally I was doing all memory and no magic.'
Still in his twenties, he found himself on network television. America, it seems, couldn't get enough of him, and he went on to have a phenomenal career. His books are widely read in Britain, but Lorayne as a performer is not so well known; some people might remember his appearance on Michael Parkinson's TV chat show in the 1970s.
The walls of his office today are covered with letters from people all around the world who have benefitted from his approach to memory. One is from the Academy Award winning actress Anne Bancroft, who uses his techniques for learning scripts, another is from a prisoner of war.
'We relied on your memory systems for sanity. We applied them and learned literally thousands of foreign words, poems, speeches, mathematics, electronics, classical music, philosophy, the list is endless. Just wanted to tell you how much your systems meant to all of us in captivity.'
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