Northern Echo editor Peter Barron explains how he was part of a mysterious experiment to promote the "Champions of Magic" coming to Darlington Civic Theatre

IT started with a sealed envelope sent to my office on March 13, a week before I was due to meet "master mind-reader" Alex McAleer. There was a strict instruction not to open it before the meeting.

The delivery was followed by Alex setting a series of questions and tasks on Twitter...

Day One: "Draw a simply picture and Tweet it." I drew a picture of Disney character, Goofy, and sent it out on social media.

Day Two: Choose a quote from a famous person. I tweeted a quote from Martin Luther King: "Life's most persistent and urgent question is, What are you doing for others?"

Day Three: Choose a favourite song. I went for Heroes by David Bowie which I'd heard on the radio that morning.

Day Four: Pick a colour, a shape and a city. My choices were yellow, circle and Venice.

Then came the meeting with Alex at Darlington Civic Theatre, an encounter which was filmed every step of the way by The Northern Echo's Chris Booth, and closely monitored by Julian Cound, from the theatre.

I handed the sealed envelope to Alex and he placed it on a table. He then took that day's edition of The Northern Echo and asked me to select a page at random. The page was then repetedly torn in half until there were 32 small pieces of paper.

"Give me a number between 1 and 32," said Alex. I chose seven and he duly counted out seven pieces of paper.

On the seventh piece was a headline – "Construction projects rise" – and I was asked to select one of the words. I chose "construction".

Still being filmed, Alex then open the sealed envelope and inside was another sealed envelope "in case I'd opened the first by mistake".

Inside that envelope was a piece of paper bearing the word "construction". Taped to the back of the second sealed envelope was a small red envelope with a letter inside for me.

This is what it said: "As I write this it is precisely 07.48am and exactly a week before we meet on Friday 20th March – the day you will read this letter.

"During the week before we meet I will tweet you 4 simple tasks. On Monday, at around 9am, I will ask you to draw a simple picture. Due to your work as a children's author, I'm hoping you will draw a recognisable cartoon character like Mickey Mouse.

"Tuesday 17th I will ask you to tweet a quote from a famous person. I believe you will choose something from the great mind of Martin Luther King.

"On Wednesday, I will ask you for a favourite song. I suspect you will choose a late seventies track by David Bowie which I hope you enjoyed and had the stereo turned up all the way to 11 as a bonus.

"Thursday, the day before we meet, I will simply request that you instinctively name a colour, shape and city. I predict these will be yellow, circle and either Rome or Venice."

As if all of that wasn't enough, he then asked me to use my phone to call up the lottery numbers from the previous Wednesday, March 18. They were 4, 7, 9, 17, 20 and 48. The bonus ball was 11. All of them featured in Alex's letter.

The only explanation can be that my sealed envelope was somehow swapped. But when?

And how did the word "Construction" appear inside it?

I left the theatre genuinely baffled and looking forward to seeing Alex and the other Champions of Magic on stage at the Civic Theatre on March 31. It should be a magical night out.