Harry Lorayne, The Yoda of Memory Training

Harry Lorayne was referred to by Time Magazine as the ‘Yoda of Memory Training’. I certainly can not disagree with this. He is a man who was on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson 24 times, the Jack Parr Show and dominated the 20th century for memory experts.

His book ‘The Memory Book’ with Jerry Lucas is the best selling memory training book perhaps of all time. It is a New York Times best selling book.

It was an honor to interview Harry Lorayne and here is our interview:

He is without question the greatest memory expert of the 20th century. His memory demonstrations are legendary as are his books.

Harry Lorayne (born May 4 1926) is an American magician and a memory-training specialist and writer who was called “The Yoda of Memory Training” and “The World’s Foremost Memory-Training Specialist” by Time magazine. His card magic, especially his innovations in card sleights, is widely emulated by amateur and professional magicians.

In the above interview Harry tells many stories about his life and talks about his friendships and where memory training took him.

In the late 1980’s I saw him on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson memorizing the names of audience members. I was mesmerized!!! This demonstration changed my life. Little did I know not even a decade later I would be copying this demonstration and using it as the cornerstone of my memory training keynote and ultimately my career as a memory expert. Here is the show I saw that changed my life (the demonstration is about 5 minutes in)

In Harry Lorayne’s memory books he teaches the idea that whatever you want to remember you should imagine it as a silly picture because the mind remembers pictures than it does random words.

He also teaches a method of memory training that is known as the peg list. In this peg list method you imagine images for numbers and then whatever you want to remember you imagine it interacting with those images.

An Example of a Peg List taught by Harry Lorayne

0 = Zoo
1 = Tie
2 = Noah
3 = Ma
4 = Rye
5 = Law
6 = Shoe
7 = Cow
8 = Ivy
9 = Bee

Reasoning Behind Sounds for Numbers

Before you think that this list is weird or doesn’t make sense there is actually a method to the madness. Going back hundreds of years (at least 250 years) memory experts have been assigning 0-9 digits to letters and

0 being a circle is the suh sound (like in the word circle).

1 being one downstroke like a T is the letter T.

An N being two downstrokes is the number 2.

3 being 3 downstrokes like the letter M is the letter M.

4 ends in an R and so the number 4 is an R.

50 in Roman Numerals is an L so in this case 5 is an L.

The number 6 looks kinds like a back to front J.

7 looks like part of a K so 7 is the KUH sound.

A cursive ‘f’ has two loops, just like the number eight.

9 looks like a back to front P.

So these letters are assigned to the digits 0-9 and Harry made the above images out of the corresponding sounds. This memory training method is known as the peg method. An example would be you want to remember the 3 words: cat, water, car and so you would imagine a cat eating a tie (for 1), water on Noah’s Ark (for 2) and your ma (for 3) driving a car.

This is known as the peg method in memory training and is just one of the many memory techniques that Harry Lorayne teaches in his memory training books.

Harry Lorayne is also a world class magician and here is one of his magic tricks.

Harry’s first love was magic and later starting doing memory training as a magic trick! What separated Harry from other magicians and memory experts was not only his skillset but he is a natural born performer and entertainer. When I interviewed him he was very aware of this. You can seem him as an entertainer here