Review: Mental Block by Dan Harlan

Review: Mental Block by Dan Harlan

A classic piece of magic updated by a phenomenal magician/ magic creator and the dream team behind Penguin Magic, you may just find yourself adding this well-loved audience pleaser to your next performance repertoire. Read on to find out more about P3’s Mental Block by Dan Harlan.

Dan the Man shows us that A is for Awesome and Amazing and Astonishing!


Dan Harlan is arguably one of the most creative magicians on the planet. When he sets his mind to a time-tested effect, the result is nothing short of jaw-dropping. Forget everything you know about the color vision box because you are about to experience a revolution in remote viewing. Now in a handsome wooden finish, the Color Vision Box becomes one of the most beautiful props in your collection. This is Mental Block by Dan Harlan.

Here’s what happens: The magician introduces a small wooden box and block to the audience. Both objects are completely examinable. The magician has the audience place the block inside the box while remembering which color is face-up in the box. The magician is instantly able to tell exactly which color is face up. As a kicker, the block completely vanishes. In an encore, the magician is able to divine the identity of any object the audience chooses to place in the box. It’s an astonishing multiphase effect.

The Color Vision Box has earned a spot in nearly every magic kit because it’s easy to do and baffling for laypeople. Dan Harlan’s routine, based around the senses, not only brings an engaging presentation to the effect but also a gorgeous prop that you are going to want to perform with over and over again. The kickers that Dan has added ramp this effect up to be a true closer. The vanish of the block stuns audiences. Being able to use the box to identify other objects makes this a true worker. Plus you’ll learn some amazing techniques that make Mental Block a real fooler. The block has been designed specifically by Dan Harlan to give you number, color, letter, shape, and object revelations. The box and the block are a beautiful wood finish that makes it both a fascinating prop to perform with, as well as the perfect display piece. This is a modern classic that was born to perform. This is Mental Block by Dan Harlan.


Dan Harlan and Penguin Magic’s Mental Block is not made of plastic. Despite haters saying it wooden work, I think they totally nailed it 😉

Let’s talk USP (unique selling points)

All right, I’ll stop with the puns and stick to my day job. Mental Block by Dan Harlan is produced by P3 aka Penguin Magic, so as always, you know you’ll be receiving a quality product where much effort and thought has gone into it. Top marks again to the folks at P3 for their usual high production quality standards; from the sleek packaging with a secure magnetic flap to the very lovely props rested snugly within.

As you can see from my picture above (Sharpie included to show relation for size) everything is crafted from wood, with the dice specially designed by Dan himself. The cube measures 3cm on all sides, a perfect size to fit in the hands of not just the performer but also the spectator(s) involved in this fun and interactive magic routine. So no worries there if your spectator is a petite girl with small hands. Even a child can cup the cube in their hands and everyone watching will think it’s fair!

Mental Block is made of far better stuff than the el-cheapo plastic dice version I owned when I first got into magic back in the late 1900s. Yes, I’m an old millennial who used to buy magic from actual mail catalogues 😉 The weight of this wooden cube is perfect and the bright paint against its smooth wooden grain is done very well so should stay on for a very long time. Having said that, while this gimmick is designed to look like a toy, one shouldn’t treat it as so. The Mental Block cube is solid but the box and lid may not fare too well if you drop them too often.

Everything pops into a pocket easily, making space management a breeze. This is especially helpful if you’re working a restaurant gig and doing table hopping. Kids and families will love this. It plays to all ages too, as you’ll see from Dan’s real life performance with a group who seem genuinely impressed and in no way appear to be buddies with the creator or paid actors with OTT squeals and reactions.

On that note, Dan does a terrific job in the online instructions that follow his IRL performances. The tutorial is filmed in studio and to the point. I think I’m with the majority who prefer short and sweet versus someone who rambles and goes off tangent. Dan’s wealth of experience and knowledge shows here. You’ll also appreciate his quiet confidence and expert audience management skills. I love seeing real pros handle difficult spectators and Dan’s a veteran at that.

Price wise, I think the RRP is very fair, considering everything you get— custom made wooden props that have been specially designed, as well as, Dan’s very professional online tutorial which breaks down all the very clever layers of magic down to sizeable chunks for easy learning. If you’re new to magic, I’d recommend you to get this. If you’re a worker, you’ll also want this entertaining bit of kit. While it isn’t the newest/ sexiest/ techie magic invention in the history of modern magic that promises to make you look like the coolest kid on campus, when performed well Mental Block will convince your audience that you have ALL SIX SENSES fully developed and they will never forget your face.

Everything can be fully inspected with nothing to hide or add, which adds to the intrigue as you’re performing with the simplest of props. The only criticism I can think of is that in poor lighting, folks with bad eyesight may have difficulty with pastel colours like the orange side which has C for Cat. So I’ve circumvented this by simply outlining the letter with a regular 2B pencil with wonky lines like how an age appropriate child might on their own toys. If you want, you may even deliberately “relic” the cube further like how some of us do with electric guitars… scratch up the sides or drag the cube against tarmac, maybe even use a few swipes of shoe polish on the box and lid. It’s yours so feel free to go wild with ideas that fit your presentation and performance character 😉


You’re not just getting well made (and innocent looking) props when you purchase Mental Block. Dan Harlan’s multiple phases are extremely well thought of and this entertaining storytelling routine works well on people on all ages. Don’t be surprised if your adoring audience actually believe you’re the real deal after your mind-reading gig. Highly recommended for any performer looking for a fun and interactive mental magic routine with multiple layers that will astonish and amaze.

Mental Block by Dan Harland is available from Penguin Magic.

Picture of ning
Ning Cai is a Singapore Literature Prize nominated author, who was also long listed for the Epigram Books Fiction Prize in 2016. A bestselling writer, she is also recognised for her illusionist/ escapologist stage character Magic Babe Ning, and recognised by Channel News Asia as South East Asia's first professional female magician.

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