Memory Systems

The system I’ll share with you here was developed by Harry Lorayne, the world’s most famous memory expert. Harry first introduced it in his best selling book, How To Develop A Super Power Memory (1957). The system makes use of a simple phonetic alphabet, and making pictures in your mind, as well as a substitute word system. Sound complicated? Trust me it is not. It is mere child’s play once you get the hang of it.

First of all, there’s the phonetic alphabet. This system was developed to make numbers a tangible thing, a way to represent numbers in your mind easily. Without this phonetic alphabet it would be very difficult to conceptualize numbers. The gist of it is this- each number, 0-9, is assigned a specific consonant sound. The sound corresponding to each number is the important thing. Here is the breakdown of the sounds for each number:

0 = S, Z

1 = T, D

2 = N

3= M

4= R

5= L

6= J, CH, SH


8= F, V

9 = P, B

Vowels are not counted (silent) in this system, as are the letters w, h, and y. Remembering that it is the SOUNDS that are important here, we can now create words in our mind to represent any number. Words, of course, ARE tangible and can be easily pictured. So, using the example above, suppose we had a player whose uniform number is 22. Using the system above, what word could you construct that fits that number? Since 2 is the N sound, and you need two N sounds, I use the word NUN for my picture. A nun is easily visualized (I actually have an aunt who is a nun, even better)! How about the number 7? Using the system above, the word COW would work for that number, because we need the “hard c, g, or k” sound and nothing else. As a final example, for the number 14 you need the (T,D) sound and the (R) sound. I use the word TIRE to represent the number 14. You could also use the word DOOR. This is known as the PEG system of memory, and the words you develop are called PEG WORDS. I have two separate lists of peg words from 1-100.

So, now you have the phonetic alphabet mastered, which takes care of the numbers. Now you need the names. First, you have first names. Ideally, when learning a name, I look at the first name and try to visualize someone who I know already has that name. For example, suppose I look at a player on a roster and I notice his first name is “John.” I picture my father, who is also named John. For players named ” Dave” or “Chris” I think of uncles I have who share that name, etc. It is always easier to form pictures based on information you know. If there is a name that doesn’t immediately remind you of someone you know, you can use the SUBSTITUTE WORD system of memory, in which you visualize a picture in your mind to remind you of the name. For example, I recently saw a player with the first name of GUNNERWOLFE. I don’t know any one from my experience with that name- so I visualized a picture of a GUNSLINGING WOLF to remind me of that name.

The same principle applies to last names. Some last names immediately bring to mind a visual picture. Names like Baker, Carpenter, Banks, Woods, Bonds, Taylor, Fields, for example. Those are easy. They immediately bring a picture to mind. Then there are the names that don’t bring an image to mind immediately. Names like Lebster, Pierson, Sawchuk, Drobot, Kesselring, Poisson, Vitolins, Uens, Newhook, Jarman, and Turnbull. Those names don’t immediately bring up an image. Using the substitute word system of memory, you can form a mental picture to bring the name to mind. For example, using the names above:

– The name LEBSTER reminds me of a LOBSTER

– Pierson – I visualize someone reaching up and PIERCING the SUN.

– Sawchuk- I visualize a woodchuck SAWING something with a gigantic SAW.

– Drobot reminds me of a ROBOT

– Kesselring- I picture a CASTLE with a huge RING around it.

– Poisson- Reminds me of POISON

– Vitolins immediately makes me think of VITAMINS

– Uens brings to mind the UN (United Nations) 

– Newhook- I picture a brand NEW gigantic FISHING HOOK

– Jarman- I picture a JAR completely enclosing a MAN.

– Turnbull- I TURN around and am confronted face to face with an angry BULL 

Get the idea? The idea is to make your mental pictures as crazy and illogical as you can. The crazier the better. Those are the pictures we remembr the best. Pictures with action in them.


OK so how do we put this all together? So for each name on a roster, we have a uniform number, a first name and a last name. There are three bits of information we need to link together. Let’s go through the names above and use the system to memorize them. Keep in mind it will take me a lot longer to write this than it will for you to learn and use the system. These are actual players from 2020-21 Hockey East men’s Hockey rosters.

UMASS # 13 Reed Lebster. To remember this player, I’ll start by using the peg word that represents the number 13 (see phonetic alphabet discussion above)- I use the word TOMB to represent that number. His first name is Reed- which makes me think of Robert REED from the 60’s sitcom the Brady Bunch, and Lebster, which reminds me of the word LOBSTER. All I do now is form a picture and link them together- I’ll picture Robert Reed destroying a lobster with a hockey stick, and then placing it in a tomb. The picture takes a fraction of a second to create.

UNH # 11 Jackson Pierson. My peg word for # 11 is DAD. I picture my own father. Jackson makes me think of either Michael Jackson, or the Jackson 5, etc. So, I’ll just picture my DAD setting up a huge gigantic ladder for Michael Jackson, so he can go on with PIERCING the SUN. 

UMASS LOWELL # 25 Nolan Sawchuk. My peg word for # 25 is NAIL. Nolan makes me think of the great baseball pitcher, Nolan Ryan. So linking it together, I picture Nolan Ryan NAILING a WOODCHUCK to the wall. The woodchuck escapes and in revenge, SAWS Nolan into several pieces.

MAINE # 17 A.J. Drobot. My peg word for # 17 is DOG. The name A.J. brings to mind a race car driver, A.J. Foyt. How do I link this together? I picture A.J. racing around the track with his dog in the front seat and they come to a screeching halt in the middle of the track to pick up a stray ROBOT.

NORTHEASTERN # 23 Mike Kesselring. My peg word for # 23 is NAME. I have a cousin named Mike, so I just visualize him riding up to a gigantic castle with a ring around it, and he proceeds to call it all kinds of names.

PROVIDENCE # 12 Nick Poisson. My peg word for # 12 is TIN, as in tin foil. The name NICK always reminds me of Santa Claus. So my association would go like this- Santa Claus wraps himself up in tin foil to go down the chimney on Christmas Eve and leaves rat poison under the tree.

VERMONT # 26 Ray Vitolins. My peg word for # 26 is NOTCH. I think of Ray Charles when I hear the name Ray. So I’d think of Ray Charles getting set to take his daily vitamin, but he can’t eat them straight out of the bottle, so he has to carve a big huge NOTCH in them to ingest them.

MERRIMACK # 7 Zach Uens. My peg word for # 7 is COW. Starting with the name Zach, I think of the country singer Zac Brown. The last name UENS reminds me of the UN (United Nations). So, I’ll just picture Zach Brown and his band playing a concert at the UN, and his band is made up of thousands of cows!

BOSTON COLLEGE # 18 Alex Newhook. My peg word for # 18 is DIVE. Alex makes me think of the retired baseball player, Alex Rodriguez (A-Rod). So to complete the picture, I’ll just see Alex DIVING into a pool with no water, but instead of making a splash he lands on several brand NEW HOOKS in the pool. (That would hurt) !

BOSTON UNIVERSITY # 5 Thomas Jarman. My peg word for # 5 is LAW (as in a policeman). So for this one, I’ll picture Thomas Jefferson trying to extricate a MAN from a huge JAR on the side of the road. A police officer (the LAW) comes by to assist.

CONNECTICUT # 8 Carter Turnbull. My peg word for # 8 is IVY. Ivy always makes me think of the outfield fence at Wrigley Field in Chicago, which are covered in ivy. Carter immediately makes me think of former US President Jimmy Carter. So let’s put this picture together- President Jimmy Carter is trying to escape from the ivy covered walls of Wrigley Field, as he untangles himself, he TURNS around and as soon as he does, he is confronted by an angry BULL.

Again, the more crazy and illogical your pictures are, the more they will work. Get substitution, exaggeration and movement into your pictures. And most of all have FUN with the systems! They make the process quick, fun, and easy!