A Collection of Strange Beliefs, Amusing Deceptions, and Dangerous Delusions

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mentalist

"Brilliant scientists and interested laymen who cannot detect how a magician produces a dove from an empty silk handkerchief or conjures an orange under an inverted teacup are not likely to discover the subtle secrets of a mentalist without prolonged study." --Milbourne Christopher, ESP, Seers & Psychics

A mentalist is a performer who uses trickery and deception to create the illusion of having paranormal or supernatural powers.

Mentalists and psychics rely on their subjects' selective thinking. For example, James Randi tells the story of Peter Hurkos, who was astonishing people with his ability to recite intimate details about their homes and their lives. Two of the persons who had their minds read by Hurkos and who were amazed at his accuracy were invited by Randi to watch a tape of the mind readings. It was "discovered by actual count that this so-called psychic had, on the average, been correct in one out of fourteen of his statements.... Selective thinking had led them to dismiss all the apparent misses and the obviously wrong guesses and remember only the 'hits.' They were believers who needed this man to be the genuine article, and in spite of the results of this experiment they are still devoted fans of this charlatan" (Flim-Flam!, 7).

See also sealed envelope tricks.

further reading

books

Christopher,Milbourne. ESP, Seers & Psychics (Thomas Y. Crowell Co. 1970).

Jay, Ricky. Learned Pigs & Fireproof Women (Farrar Straus & Giroux 1998).

Randi, James. 1993. Conjuring. St. Martin's Press.

Randi, James. Flim-Flam! (Buffalo, New York: Prometheus Books,1982)

websites

Banachek

Marc Salem

A Mentalist Trick

news stories

Criss Angel's wrongheaded, explosive stunt ("'Criss will use his psychic powers to tread gingerly over not one or two levels of incendiary devices but seven levels of lethal, explosive mines.' Hey, if he really can detect IEDs with his psychic powers, he'd be more useful in combat zones." Not everybody knows that Angel has repeatedly denied he has psychic powers. Does this stunt represent a change in celebrity strategy?)

Last updated 05-Jun-2013

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