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Derren Brown – Mind Reader: The Evening of Wonders

Derren Brown programme coverHalfway through the second act, Derren Brown called out my name and told me the first song I ever played on a guitar. It was quite the thing.

Derren Brown is a ‘psychological illusionist’ memorably described by Charlie Brooker as ‘clearly the greatest dinner party guest in history’. His TV shows regularly feature a mixture of street magic/psychology and elaborate, often controversial, events. He’s certainly the most interesting TV magician of recent years, and last night I saw him at the Birmingham Hippodrome.

Like his TV shows, the act was described as a mixture of ‘magic, suggestion, psychology, misdirection and showmanship’1, and lived up to the billing. We were told that during the show a gorilla would come onto the stage, steal a banana from a stand at the front, and most of us wouldn’t notice. So it proved. We saw an audience member forget information given to her moments before, a floating table drag four volunteers around the stage, six rapid-fire games of 20 questions in which he never asked more than 4, and a series of baffling three-digit-number predictions. Somebody’s phone rang and he said “don’t answer, it’s really bad news”.

Derren Brown is unquestionably on the side of Good. He says up front “I do not have psychic powers, and I may well trick you”, then proceeds to do so. People who claim to have psychic powers and use the same tricks to make money are unquestionably Evil2, the opposite are great entertainment. Some have questioned whether he goes too far: there’s plenty of genuine psychology, but also a fair amount of magical trickery wrapped up in the same patter. I was lucky enough to get an insight into this. At the end of the first act we were told to watch out for ushers with 150 cards. Recipients were asked to write a question for Derren on the card, seal it inside the supplied black envelope and note their initials and row on the front. They were then to check the envelope was truly opaque before walking onto the stage and placing it into a glass bowl, which remained in full view of the audience throughout the interval.

Obviously, I wanted to do this. So I did. I moved fairly quickly and was able to grab a card before they ran out. The card asked for my name, birthday and a question for Derren. He’d said it could be literally anything, so I wrote “How did the bee ‘waggle dance’ evolve?”. The back of the card then asked for a private piece of information to further test his abilities, so I filled this in too then quickly headed to the stage, dropped my envelope into the bowl and made it back to my seat just before the lights dimmed.

After a couple of tricks he explained the procedure. By looking at the handwriting on the front of the envelope he hoped to ascertain the personality type of its owner. We were to stand up, and he’d then read our body language and try to figure out what we’d written. And then proceeded to do so. He picked out apparently random cards, sometimes using them, sometimes discarding them, and called out the initials so the owner stood. He told people the pets they had, the password for their computer, their occupation and what they’d been doing that day. About half-way through he took off his microphone earpiece, in case anybody thought he was being fed answers, and wrapped bandages around his head to completely blind himself. And then continued with the act. The following exchange (transcribed as accurately as I can remember) happened shortly after:

DB: [picks up a card] A guitar! Andy..Andrew…does that match anybody?
Me: [standing up and receiving the microphone from a scurrying usher] Yes, that’s me.
DB: A Taurean, right?
Me: Yes. [gasps from audience] DB: This is something musical, something to do with the guitar. I’m getting…It’s the first song you played on the guitar, am I right?
Me: Yes.
DB: Ok. About fifteen years old, right?
Me: No.
DB: It is older?
Me: Oh, me or the song?
DB: Never mind, one question at a time. Sing the song over in your head. Over and over. Try to project it to me.
Me: [actually doing so]. Ok.
DB: I’m getting something about…pain, is that close?
Me: Yes, very.
DB: And lots of pain. I can’t quite figure it out. There are many people in pain? Something like that?
Me: That’s very close.
DB: I can’t get the title I’m afraid, what is it?
Me: Everybody Hurts. [audience go into shock]

I was very, very impressed. The rest of the show was most entertaining, but I couldn’t quite get over him managing to detect that kind of information from what must have purely been the tone of my voice – it’s astonishing that people can give away that much information!

Later, I changed my mind. There’s no doubt that the guy has an uncanny ability to read people, and I was prepared to accept that handwriting could give away very obvious facts like gender, leaving him to discern the rest from body language, but blinded he couldn’t possibly have known my guitar fact and name. So it must have been trickery, rather than psychology. I’m confident I’ve worked out how it was done, starting from the age-old magical principle that there is no limit to the trouble a magician will go to. I’m not going to go into it here – I see no reason to, and am still bound by the old magician’s code anyway – but the clues are there if you want the intellectual exercise.

It is momentarily crushing to realise you’ve been fooled. I bought into the psychological aspect, and when I realised this was a falsehood I felt tricked. But not for long. Once you figure out the secret you can see the myriad of ways he worked to throw people off the scent, and it was remarkably well done. The subtlety and panache of just that one trick was stunning, and his performance impeccable: I believed every second of him not being able to figure out the song title. There was plenty in the show that was clearly trickery, but I have no idea as to the mechanics. Other effects gave every impression of being purely psychological. I had the advantage of extra knowledge in the routine I was involved with, and if each of the others was as carefully constructed, which they must have been, it was a hell of a creation. My admiration far outweighs the initial resentment.

Derren Brown’s obfuscation of psychology and trickery is edgier than most magicians’, but I don’t have a problem with it. You don’t have to be a great logician to realise it’s impossible to get a psychological reading of somebody’s handwriting if you’re blindfolded, and throughout the show he was at pains to say he doesn’t believe in psychic ability and is highly skeptical with regard to the paranormal. I can’t think of any statements that were outright lies and not magician’s misdirection. There’s plenty in psychology that is astonishing – much of it is well highlighted in his more spectacular TV work – and anything that draws attention to it is fine with me.

A good magic show is a wonderful thing, and there aren’t many classier than this. Highly recommended.

  1. the programme is also “100% natural: we have used organic paper and done away with nasty chemicals or artificial inks.” Gotta love those natural inks. []
  2. it’s likely that some believe they have some genuine ability, but that’s not an excuse []


  1. JOhn W

    The guy is very entertaining, BUT he cannot make complete strangers fall asleep against their will, thats impossible.
    Stooges, extensive pre selection and priming of the victims, careful video editing (you dont see the ones that dont work) all at play there I suspect. Hes just an entertainer, anyone who thinks he has any more ‘psychological’ powers than me or thee is sadly mistaken.

  2. Hi Lippy

    Be assured and it is a known fact that Derren, never uses stooges. This has been known for years. You are right he is an entertainer but an entertainer with a difference. Autosuggestion can make people fall asleep by interrupting their original thought processes. I would explain this further too you and yes I have read the Eriksson work and know for a fact that it can be done. Unfortunately I have read
    Bandler & Grinder’s version of his work (both books) and they are written academically to say the least.

    Having said that and remember, if you research Milton Eriksson as I have, many people became frightened to shake his hand such was his
    ability to put them into an instant “Handshake Induction Trance”, that is a well known and well documented scientific fact.

    A lot of Derrens skills are based on the same principles. For example, the action of greeting someone with a handshake is a routine
    which has developed cognitively for hundreds if not thousands of years.

    So if I go to greet you with an extended forearm, your brain thinks “Ah time to run the greetings program”, if I then suddenly and without
    warning drop and tie my shoelaces without any explanation and your forearm is still outstretched, you are momentarily “confused”, this is because you are still thinking “consciously” about “The greetings program in your head”

    I have therefore interrupted that thought process by my “unusual” reaction. In other words I did not do what your brain was expecting me to do.

    A good hypnotist can exploit this fractional moment in time when you are “confused” by my actions in order to deepen the trance.
    Trust me this is exactly how it works, although I would not necessarily call it psychology.

    I prefer the term “cognitive interruption”. Derren also uses a lot of “anchoring” and NLP in his work. At the end of the day he is just a brilliant entertainer who uses these principles, which other magicians or illusionists do not.

    With Derren you have to realise that his theatre work is very different from his television work.

    I suggest you read the books “Patterns of The Hypnotic Techniques” Vol I & II – They are on Amazon, heavy going but if you make to the end you will have learned a lot


  3. Hi all,

    It’s a great blog this one; I’ve been dipping in over the past year. I had the pleasure of meeting Derren when he filmed one of his early Mind Control shows at the Oxford Union. He worked the crowd all night before filming the main sequence (effect: the lad is made to name Derren’s drawing – it was I tractor, I recall). I was lucky enough to be involved in the mental card-forcing routine (effect: Derren names the card you are thinking of, or even produces the card from his pocket, the card having been there before he even asked you to picture it). I was filmed as he performed this with me (successfully) and I signed the necessary release forms. Unfortunately, the footage was not used. This was probably for two reasons: it was visible that I’d been quaffing the free champagne all evening, and a rather attractive girl was ultimately featured instead.

    It was clear to me that Derren and his production team film numerous takes of the same sequence/effect with differnt individuals, and will only use the best version. This is not surprising. However, what as impressive was Derren’s strike rate of success; he rarely came up short all evening and most people who wanted to be involved were treated to one impressive trick or other. Derren’s adaptability to take advantage of any situation and his knack for deploying impromptu effects was most apparent. Clearly he had finely honed his skills during his days as a close-up (principally card) conjurer, working the tables at restaurants and parties. In particular, I remember him removing the watch from one girl, pocketing it, removing the tie from her boyfriend and presenting the bemused pair with their possessions. His misdirection skills were awesome.

    Finally, even now it is years later, small snippets filter through time and I realise the importance or practical upshot of what, at the time, seemed mundane or throw-away. For example, when I was chatting to Derren off-camera, he asked my name. “Jeff’s are normally very easy to read,” he said in passing, “nice to meet you, thanks for coming”. But of course, none of it wasn’t in passing. If I’d been on-the-ball, I expect I would have heard the same phrase repeated all evening to different guests. It was clearly calculated to make me compliant and responsive, to open up, and to slot into a willing mindset where I tactictly want the effect to work. By making his subjects relaxed, comfortable and engaged with the performance ab initio, Derren achieves 99% of the work in the first few seconds. It’s these little things that make Derren a master of his art. As ever, the Devil is in the detail. That’s why it’s been a pleasure to read all your thoughts on this blog.

    Keep up the good work all. Here’s to devouring and disecting the next show…

  4. …Also, I might add, as the 500th post comes and goes, thanks very much indeed to Andrew, whose blog has turned into a forum for fanatics. Good on you!

  5. Jeff (503)

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  6. I have enjoyed reading this whole blog. I wanted to ask Andrew a question from his initial comments. I don’t think this has been answered so far – forgive me if I’m wrong.

    Andrew was talking about Derren guessing the first song he played on guitar. Afterwards he said “I’m confident I’ve worked out how it was done, starting from the age-old magical principle that there is no limit to the trouble a magician will go to.”

    This implies that the method used was more complex than simply memorising what had been written on a card and put in an envelope.

    Andrew – can you confirm whether or not you wrote this information on your card.

    If you didn’t then could you say how you think Derren got this information.


  7. John W – the telephone thing – I think Derren enjoys to misdirect about the Ericksonian style pattern interrupt, giving them a bunch of confusion and then a firm command to ‘sleep’ or whatever, but as LippytheLion says I think its more likely a product of priming highly suggestibles. In fact it really is the most obvious solution – a highly suggestible is programmed to respond to a cue, the post hypnotic command is given over a telephone, the person responds. In fact I think that a lot of his hypnotic routines (e.g. the guy who believes the sun disappears, even the girl who mixes up colours) rely on hypnotic priming. I do agree that Ericksons methods are intriguingly powerful (and also that Bandlers spin is utterly dull and adademic, and pointless if you have Ericksons original work to study from instead) and Derren even uses them on occasion (e.g. the handshake for the voodoo/forest routine, the ghost train routine). But I don’t think it explains the phone thing.

    On the subject of stooges – I want to believe this, but Derren and Objective Productions do lie through their teeth most of the time, so why should we trust this also? There was a guy on the internet (I think he has a youtube video also) who claimed to be an actor who was paid to travel to London to film the ‘staring competition’. Hes the one with the bald head. His youtube vid (try ‘derren staring’ and you should find it) is nuts to say the least, but he does look like the guy. Perhaps he just wants attention, but then why would he go through all that effort? Another person I suspect of being an actor is the girl who stops dead in the street, when the woman in the window clenches her fist. I just can’t figure this out, and her reaction just seems wrong. I don’t know why, just ‘wrong’ in a Malcom-Gladwells-Blink kinda unconscious way.

    Jeff Ling – a really nice account you gave, and a great summation of Derren. Thanks.

    And thanks to Andrew also for a blog that has stormed past 500 posts! It really is a great corner-of-the-net for Derren discussion.

  8. WillBox (507)

    I found this rather interesting link, which is not about Derren at all but outlines some of his techniques in greater detail. Like I say this article has nothing to to with Derren himself and I just found it whils fishing.


    It makes some interesting reading and might answer a few questions, by the way I am not saying production companies do not tell fibs but where did you hear that “Objective Talent Management Ltd” lie through their teeth, is this comment referenced anywhere or is it just an opinion.

    john W.

  9. Josh Ernst is the funniest person ever! And has a childs mind too! ‘Turn into the man in the gorilla suit’ Haha, how stupid are you? And ‘Thats why he collapsed because he needed water’ Haha, Watch it again, he does that to show how performers of that act used to end their trick. And for thinking he thinks he’s really a physic? You are absolutely mental and have missed the point completely.

  10. John W #508 thanks for link. Anchoring/self-suggestion etc is interesting and can be applied to all sorts. The guy who runs that forum is a decent bloke.

    When I mentioned Objective Productions (not Objective Talent Management) in my previous post, all I meant was that if Derren can lie to the audience (which he frequently does), then it doesn’t logically follow that we should trust the programme when it says “no stooges are used in this show”. I’m not saying that stooges are used, just that its certainly possible. I know Andy Nyman is a big fan of Fargo, which falsely called described itself as “based on a true story”, so I honestly wouldn’t trust anything, even if its in the title cards! That lot seem to love deception (possibly even more than entertainment…)

  11. John W #508 thanks for link. Anchoring/self-suggestion etc is interesting and can be applied to all sorts. The guy who runs that forum is a decent bloke.

    When I mentioned Objective Productions (not Objective Talent Management) in my previous post, all I meant was that if Derren can lie to the audience (which he frequently does), then it doesn’t logically follow that we should trust the programme when it says “no stooges are used in this show”. I’m not saying that stooges are used, just that its certainly possible. I know Andy Nyman is a big fan of Fargo, which falsely called described itself as “based on a true story”, so I honestly wouldn’t trust anything, even if its in the title cards! That lot seem to love deception (possibly even more than entertainment…)

  12. It’s took me a while to reach the end of this blog, and what a great read it has been!

    My favourite Derren Brown effects are the ‘Yes/No Game’ with Stephen Merchant (1) and ‘The Money Game’ (2) with the 3 female psychology students.

    (1) http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=m5jlLQSEkGU – What are people’s thoughts on this, is it pure forcing or are they gimmicked cards? I think forcing would only work on the most suggestable of individuals and gimmicked cards are more likely. Derren does show the cards very closely to Stephen surely he would see any flaps or slides if that was the mechanism used?

    (2) http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=GPBYjPQQ6Uw – I think this trick is similar to the first in the whole ‘choice’ theme. I do beleive you can strongly influence the first two guesses for £5 and £10 in the way he demonstrated but I’m not sure how reliable any following forces could be – can it be the envolopes are also gimmicked so they can be shown to be empty or show money at Derren’s choosing?

    Would be great to hear peoples thoughts on these, I’m looking forward to contributing to other peoples ideas too!

  13. Great blog! It’s really interesting to speculate on how Derren achieves his effects. In my mind it doesn’t diminish from the entertainment at all – it just allows you to appreciate it on another level.

    Are there similar blogs for his other live shows? I’ve just finished watching The Gathering and I’m completely stumped by two tricks, although the other ones seem to be pulled off by sleight of hand or being fed information from offstage ala Evening of Wonders.

    The first trick is he gets a man and a woman chosen at random from the audience. He puts them both in some sort of hypnotic state and gets the man to concentrate on two numbers chosen from a phone number of his own choice. I think he also writes these two numbers on a small slip of paper (not a clipboard as seen in Evening of Wonders). The woman is handed a whiteboard and a marker and told to count backwards aloud from 500, while simultaneously writing whatever comes into her head on the whiteboard. After a while Derren tells her to stop and shows the audience the whiteboard. Although the numbers are a bit scribbly, you can easily read a 4 and either a 5 or an 8. He asks the man to tell the audience the two numbers he was thinking of and he says 4 and 5. I’m stumped. Anyone got any ideas?

    The second trick is the finale. He gets a cabbie onstage and takes him to a large wallchart made out of pages from the London A-Z stuck together to form a large map. Again he puts the cabbie into some sort of suggestable state and gets him to imagine driving a route in his cab. The start and end points of this trip (says Derren) are completely up to him. After imagining the trip he describes it to Derren who draws it on the large map. Derren asks how much he would charge a customer for that route and he says 8 pounds. Derren then hands the cabbie an envelope, inside which is a card with 2E82 written on it (the grid reference of the destination chosen by the cabbie), a transparency with a route drawn on it which matches perfectly when superimposed on the large map, and a cab receipt for 8 pounds. Derren then pulls the large map off the wall revealing the words “Shepherd’s Bush Green” in large letters, which is the destination chosen by the cabbie. To top it off, all the members of the audience where driven to the theatre in buses with blacked out windows so they didn’t know the location of the theatre, and when they leave they find out they’re in Shepherd’s Bush Green.

    I can’t see how either of these tricks could be achieved using standard magic techniques, but at the same time it’s difficult to imagine how Derren could reliably get these tricks to work using just psychology. Help!!!

  14. I think you will find that according to companies House Objective Productions and Objective Talent Management are the same thing or to put it another way Objective Productions is the trading name of t’other one. I did get a photo of Derren and it is marked all over the envelope too.

    What is quite interesting is that Andy Nyman, the co-writer and co-director of the show has his own website and yes he can be contacted albei it via a hotmail address. I have just seen a contribution from him tonight 19/1/09, talking about kids television. he has a pretty nice site, which can be found at http://www.andynyman.com perhaps he might answer one or two questions.

    I would not expect a straight answer though, he is one of the few people in the world to be accredited with MIMC with Gold Star (Member of the Inner Magic Circle). This is the highest degree within the Magic Circle.

    I have just watched the show again and I cannot see the waist attachment for the floating / levitating table at all. I know its done in the dark and I know its a trick, but I cannot see anything attached to Derren’s person at all, not even a device which as mentioned earlier is supposed to look like one of those “invisible dog leads” – For a start he is standing too far away, unless something runs down his sleeve
    and attaches to the table, but then he is only holding it by the silk hankerchief.

    Magnets – well they would have to be several thousand if not hundred thousand Gauss and possibly made of Neodynium to do that and awfully expensive, although you can buy small N-magnets which are bloody strong.

    I suppose he could have one mounted in his shoes, out of view and an opposing one buried in the legs of the table out of view, they would still have to be very strong though.

  15. John W, why would the device need to go round his waist? My guess is that it simply goes around the tip of his right index finger (or between his fingers as he grips the cloth). The two clues I have that support this are a) the table is incredibly light (reported by others) b) I have read in the ‘blurb’ for the table that you have to practice a while to develop strong fingers/forearms. On the subject of Nymans blog, coincedentally last night I saw the Charlie Brooker Screen Wipe show, it happenend to be about childrens shows in the eighties (and was great!) and I noticed Andy Nyman was in the credits.

    Hank – in The Gathering, my guess for the automatic writing thing – somehow, Derren ascertains the two numbers written on the paper (cameras? Gimmicks? Forced?) When the girl is writing, she has her eyes closed, so the pen actually be writing nothing at all, she only thinks it is (this is function for her being ‘in a trance’). When Derren gets the whiteboard back, he has a chance to write something on it in a very crude way (maybe a swami gimmick, fixed to a fingertip). Of course, the cruder the better, because then it looks even more like the girl wrote it in her ‘trance’.

    I haven’t seen Gathering for a while, but I remember wondering if ‘dual reality’ was going on. At one point, Derren shows the cabbie a card for some reason whilst saying “how would you get to THAT special place”. The audience think its a special place the cabbie has thought of, the cabbie interprets the special place as being the one Derren has written and showed him. You know what, I also remember a stage pyro accidentally going off about here, and as with Derren nothing is accidental, I think the pyro is timed to go off whilst Derren is saying ‘Shepherds Bush’ to the cabbie. If you think about it, there was no real need to use cabbies for this routine, unless Derren had to count on them being able to find their way to a specific place in their heads.

    • I was re-watching the Gathering the other day, and although not that noticeable, with repeated viewing it looks like Derren quite blatantly points at both locations – the second time it’s with misdirection (the bang). The acetate, to me, looked like it had just a fairly straight line drawn on it, that was somewhat shorter than the full journey. The cabbie, wanting to give a good impression for his profession, naturally took quite a straight route. The acetate can then be rotated (or even flipped back to front) to get the best match with the actual route. That he says it matches is a bit of blagging on his part and he moves swiftly on to avoid arguments (not that anyone would be motivated to ruin the show or embarrass him anyway – he’s far too charming!). That’s my theory anyway, I’m no Derren!

  16. Hi Willbox (514)

    Someone mentioned earlier that they could see a glimpse of something attached to Derren’s waist which was apparently a device to allow him to levitate the table. Admitedly I did not see anything and I was looking quite closely, frame by frame.

    I suppose the table used might look heavier that it actually is. There are some really good model builders out there who can do things with
    balsa wood that look like the real deal but are as light as a feather. He did say that it was “a replica that he had had made……..”

    Just postulating, and rumenating on this enigma, it [the table] would have to be pretty light, it if were somehow “attached”
    to Derren’s fingers, with some sort of “invisible”, flexible device, otherwise it would hurt like hell if all the strain were taken on the fingertips
    surely ?

    Also has anyone tried Googling “Albert Macey” the fake medium that Derren refers too, once again no information can be found on this character. Also the law has only just been changed regarding “mediumship”, last year I think. They now come under the trading standards and have to state that it is for entertainment only. The original law had not been changed since the fifties.

    So i would question whether there was an “Albert Macey” at all or whether he was imprisoned for fake mediumship.
    Derren does tell a good story, which on the face might be true. If you try to research any of it though, nothing is found at all.
    This probably comes from watching how lecturers make people listen to them at university.

    He did this with the “Prestoni” character too, when he was walking on glass. He mentioned that Prestoni’s two surviving daughters had taught him how to do the trick. his of course is rubbish, Prestoni was a fictional television from “The Dick Van Dyke Show” in 1972 now Dr Mark Sloane in “Diagnosis Murder” and the Chimney Sweep with the dodgy cockney accent from “Mary Poppins”

    Still it is all very clever and when he is spinning this yarn, if you happen to be at the show, look at the rest of the audience and see how attentively they listen, asif they are believeing every word of it

    Derren you are the master of trickery and tomfoolery – brilliant showman though

  17. I am very confident that the Losander table is light as a feather, made of balsa wood, and its design/construction/secrecy is why it commands a £500 fee.

    Yes, Derren loves his stories, and storytelling of course is also a pure Erickonsonian way of creating mental sets and expectancies. I remember ‘Seance’ had a fair few as well, like the sisters who held seances in Kenilworth. At least at the end he admitted it was all guff when the girl got out of the van.

  18. Willbox (516)

    I am starting to agree with you although I did know it was called a “Losander table”, I have decided I want one, just to scare the crap out of the neighbours, so they will all move out due to the “spiritual activity” in this old converted house I live in. Then I can buy up the empty apartments.

    £500 a small investment I think !

    Cunning eh !

  19. Losander has also created a “Haunted Box”


    There is also a Losander on EBay for £650.00

    I want one I want one !!!

  20. Willbox (516)

    Obviously the secret of the Losander Table / Box lies in the handkerchief that is placed over the top at the beginning of the illusion.
    My guess is that the hankerchief contains two rods concealed by the creases in the handkerchief. and these are used to make
    the table fly.

    Now where do I get some quick cash ?


  21. Actually if I were performing the Losander table trick, I would do it like this.

    1: Pretend to be trying to put the table in the back of the car

    2: Pretend to struggle with the table because it won’t stay put.
    and keeps floating up out of the way

    3: Ask a passer-by for some assistance to help get the table in the car
    When they too realize that the table keeps floating out of the
    way, watch their bemused look.

    4: Take a bow (or get arrested)

    What fun John – lol

  22. A few years ago the masked magician was doing a show that had a floating table.
    That particular trick was done by two rods that came down from his sleeves.
    That way when his hands were facing face down on the table the rods were connected underneath and hidden by his wrists.

    All the volunteers and audience could see was the masked magician just touching the table with his fingertips.
    The table itself was very light and the effect was very impressive.

  23. @504 Jeff Ling – you’re welcome – I’m glad it’s so popular!

    @506 nickm – I did write the song on the back of the card, yes.

  24. Willbox – the pyro in the gathering goes off when Derren says ‘Destination X’. I agree I dont think its an accident.

  25. Honest John (522)

    I have watched the masked magician, who was eventually revealed. He also got some of the explanations wrong. Watch the trick he did with the childrens “Magic Colouring Book”. The explanation given by the narrator does not follow the sequence of events, play it frame by frame and see if you can see how it’s done. Was this deliberate ? I don’t know. The clip is on YouTube though


    Watch it very very very carefully !!! – I think you will see what I mean

    John W.

  26. jhmagic1 – I just watched the cabbie bit again. He says “I want you to imagine that they’ve asked to go to a destination, we’re going to call this destination X, so they’re going to go to destination X BANG!” The bang is right on the X. Derren pretends its an accident, yet he doesn’t flinch AT ALL! If I was on stage under that pressure and something like a gunshot went off behind me, I would lose the plot. Derren just says “don’t be distracted…” After the cabbie has drawn the route, Derren says “Thats fair, yes? You could have started anywhere, could have gone anywhere…” (what he doesn’t say, is “you could have ended up anywhere”. Which leads me to think that somehow, he has conveyed to the cabbie that destination X is Shepherds Bush. Most likely spoken during the pyro). When the guy reveals ’82, 2E’ on his card (the page and grid ref), the audience claps, and the guy is probably thinking its because he was able to ‘find his way’, not that Derren guessed where he would end up (this is classical dual reality). When Derren asks the cabbie to take the page/ref card out, Derren practically snatches the folder back off him, then goes to the board to write the ref down. Somehow, he is able to insert the transparency and cab receipt back into it, during this time, which would have been written by a stage hand seconds earlier. It could be as simple as a swap, but obviously the cameras are elsewhere at the time, e.g. whilst the guy is showing his card to the camera.

  27. Re. the comments relating to the Losander table used most recently by Derren, if you look on some of the online magician’s forums, you will find it being quite widely discussed (in their own context – not Derren’s use of it).

    There is frequent reference to effective manipulation of the table requiring development of strength in the fingers, which leads me also to suspect that the table is indeed controlled via rods or stiff fibres within the table cloth. If you look at the footage, this does appear to be the case as Derren handles it.

    Online you will also find footage of the table being demonstrated by the manufacturer – Dirk Losander. It’s very impressive if you like that sort of thing. I will post links if necessary.

    Good blog and very informative/revealing. I have plenty of views on the show as a whole – but will have to come back later to voice those.

  28. John W

    re your earlier comments (502)

    I can appreciate what you are saying but there are a lot of people who are deeply sceptical about suggestion and hypnotism.

    Stage hypnosis for entertainment I believe is a ‘contract to roleplay’ between the hypnotist and the willing victim, where they agree (perhaps subconsciously) to do what they are told. The ones that wont are weeded out first. I think what Derren does is ‘street hypnotism’ which requires the participants to be willing victims and primed beforehand for example in the telephone booth/sleep routine. The weeding is done beforhand as it would be on the stage.

    I think Derren would be in a lab somewhere now being examined by top US military/espionage scientists if he could get complete strangers to fall asleep at will :-)

    I know he always denies using stooges but he admits that he ‘cheats’ at a lot of his stuff so where does he draw the line?

    Also my first pitiful stab at guessing a trick, the ‘button counting’ one from ‘Something wicked’ – the quickest/easiest method of counting buttons would be by weight (as the banks do when you go to pay in bags of copper) so I’m guessing a fairly accurate digital balance hidden in the table where the tray is put down and the result relayed by an assistant to Derren by his thigh-mounted clicker thing?

  29. Re: Post 512 – Has no-one got any ideas on this then?!

  30. Morgan

    Good post.

    Like much of the stuff Derren does on his TV shows, these seem to be very clever and difficut to explain. As a complete layman, I can only assume it’s all sleight of hand or trick cards – I suspect the former more than the latter. The cameras never once give you an unbroken view of an entire sequence. In many ways it strikes me as being just the same as those street con artists with the pea beneath the shells. I have actually lost money to those guys. They switch the pea constantly; I just don’t know exactly how.

    I was actually very disappointed with Derren’s live show when i watched it on C4 the other night. I have seen most of his stuff and have always considered him to be really something special, but this was a huge let down, I thought.

    It was almost exclusively cheap magic which any conjurer can do if they invest in some expensive kit. The ‘psychological’ elements were so obviously rigged it was almost embarrassing to watch them. On his TV shows, almost everything is truly astonishing and appears to defy easy explanation. This latest live show was, in my humble opinion, just the opposite. I was very disappointed.

    Unfortunately this led me to wonder about the veracity of a lot of the stuff he does on TV, given the obvious extent to which things can be rigged, as opposed to in his live show.

    One of the most impressive things, for me, that he has previously done, is pay for all manner of stuff in New York City using nothing but blank paper. I just re-watched the clip, and it’s clear that you never actually see him pay with the paper. The only time you actually see him hand a blank sheet to someone is when he does it to a street hot dog vendor and it is rejected immediately. Obviously in all the other cases Derren is paying with genuine bank notes – we have simply been conditioned to believe that he is only using paper. In this case it is clear that the only ones being conned are the viewers.

    I’m afraid I’m losing a little faith, and I no longer know just how far he and his team is prepared to go simply in order to create an illusion on TV. What I do now know, however, is that very little of it can actually be replicated in a live environment, leading me to suspect that much of the TV stuff is actually rigged, manipulated and set up to a far greater degree than we would actually like to believe.

    Any other thoughts?

  31. Re: Post 50 Nickynackynoo

    I was at the live show most recently televised; this was a LIVE environment, and if you were there in the audience the effect especially of The Oracle was truly astounding!!!! I think that it’s easy to say knowing how it’s done that its obviously rigged, but sat there in the audience with no prior knowledge it was breathtaking. Thats what led me on a quest which found this messageboard to find explanations for what seemed so impossible!!

    I think that in the regular TV series there is a lot more editing, particularly for the hypnosis as has been mentioned above, and who knows what other tricks they use to make the audience believe. If you bear in mind that Derren freely admits that he has no special powers, then at the end of the day it’s all trickery one way or another, be it suggestion, diversion, slight of hand or others. But live on stage he really can cut it! Maybe you just had to be there!

  32. Just thought you may like to see this…. looks like this is the technique Derren used in the stage routine when he caused his heart to stop beating then walked across the glass….


  33. The trick where Derren stops his heart has been revealed by the masked magician.
    He has half a tennis ball under his armpit which he squeezes together by by bringing his arm close to his body.
    When someone feels his pulse at his wrist it slows down then is seen to have stopped.
    An impressive trick with a simple explanation.

  34. Having been lucky enough to have seen all of Derren’s live shows.
    I have to admit that the man is amazing.
    Though I think it would help you understand how the tricks were done if you saw him do the same show twice.

  35. NickyNackyNoo – its great to hear a laymans opinion. I completly agree with what you said about live shows compared to the T.V series. Especially with the Trick or Treat shows. Theres definatly more to these T.V shows than we are seeing. Derren has also admitted to spending alot of time with the participents in the Trick or Treat shows, and we are only seeing 22mins in each show. If we saw the whole process ( which is probably a few days ) we may have more of a chance to see how he makes someone kill a cat.

  36. Willbox, I think you’re onto something with the automatic writing in The Gathering. I think the whiteboard pen is probably dry (Derren says when he hands it to the volunteer “watch out for the nib there” to make you think he’s worried she’ll draw on herself, and this helps sell the pen as real), but there’s no time for Derren to do the writing himself. Interestingly before he shows the audience he turns the board upside down for several seconds. It looks like he’s trying to make sense of what she’s written but I think that inverting the board somehow makes visible the writing that has been prepared earlier offstage, after the first volunteer has written his numbers down. Either that or the whiteboard is wirelessly controlled from offstage during the automatic writing.

    Just watched the cabbie bit again too, and right when the explosion goes off it cuts to a wide shot and it looks as if Derren might be pointing directly to Shepherd’s Bush on the map. If the soundies cut his mic at this point he could say “Shepherd’s Bush is destination X” to the cabbie and no one else would overhear him, especially in their distracted state. That ensures that the grid reference for destination X is correct, then as you say Derren can switch envelopes (he twice writes something on the whiteboard next to the map and would be able to grab another envelope if handed to him from behind the whiteboard) to produce the correct route and cab receipt.

    Nice one!

  37. NickyNackyNoo #530 – I agree with you actually. As I have started to become a little wiser to it all, it suddenly feels deflated and silly. Sure, the presentation is awesome, the TV shows are well produced, the misdirection is a thing-to-behold lalala, but it all just feels totally pointless when you know its all nonsense. I still maintain that the original psychology/suggestion work (the subway amnesia, the girls reactions to watching spoons bend through suggestion, the girls fright in the woods, the other woman with the voodoo doll in the woods) was really interesting, and so are some of the specials such as Heist and Messiah. This is mostly because he used his skills to make a commentary on other areas such as belief systems. But floating tables, gimmick clipboards, dodgy calculators etc is all just a little bit ‘whats the point?’ for me.

    I also have issues with the extent of some of the misdirection. Many, many people cite the advertising (animal heaven?) routine as ‘proof that subliminal persuasion works’, also the usual suspects style ending to Something Wicked This Way Comes tour. Which is ridiculous. There seem to be a few contradictions going on: in some of his work he blasts the fluffier side of psychology, then in others, pretends that’s the skill he is using. Also, he blasts belief systems generally, but then is actively creating false belief systems using very persuasive false implications. He encourages you to question things, yet his hardcore fans still go mental if you expose a ‘trick’. I dunno. Its all very confusing.

  38. The comments on the table, and the comments people still make about feeling let down, or cheated, or even about deception or lying still miss a point.

    You see, the show we watched helped make the table effect so impressive. Several posts have said they want to buy one, but buying an illusion, or knowing how it is done is just part of the deal…. actually quite a small part. The show remains incredibly entertaining, and that is where much of the work comes. Go to any magic club, watch any amateur uncle, talk to any magic anorak (who doesnt actually perform) and you will see what I mean. It is easy to talk about Derren buying some expensive kit – but without the performance, the stories, the uncertainty about whether he is using mind control, the humour and so on its just something that is a puzzle to be worked out.

    Of course he paid for the things in New York with money, he probably handed winning tickets to the dog track people, but they were still entertaining tricks.

    The New York clip was preceded with DB telling us that he would use his lack of fame in the US to get things he wanted. We know who DB is so we feel slightly superior at that moment- part of us wants to believe he really did that. Part of the pleasure was watching a UK based entertainer be better at something than Americans who dont know who he is … we want to believe he can do this, so we tend to find ridiculous justifications for how he did it. That was the trick, not whether he used stooges, mind control, paid with real money or whatever. It was fascinating and entertaining and funny to see him pay for things with paper.

    The dog track was preceded with him telling us he used to do this a lot, but cant anymore. We didnt question that we just excitedly bought it and then watched. Having accepted that we accepted the rest of it.

    Its only now we start to break down the actual method involved that we realise that some of his statements arent totally true … but thats ok … those statements are part of the method.

    Far from feeling deceived, you should recognise DB has done what he said he would – he promised to float a table, pay with paper or cash losing tickets, and that is exactly what he showed us – its up to him how he achieves those effects

  39. Willbox

    Interesting blog expanding on what you are saying about Derren- http://botherer.cream.org/?p=186 (Derren fans look away now, its v.negative)

    Still I would pay to go and see him, just to try and guess how he does stuff :-)

  40. Hi

    Great Blog

    RE The falling down when answering a public phonebox that is ringing.

    Could it just be someone on the end of the phonne who says……”We are filming a tv show and if you pretend to fall asleep/collapse now we will pay you £500.00 ?”

    Obviously most people will just hang up and walk away (these are the ones they don’t show on the tv) – but you can bet at least 1 person out of 20 will pretend to collapse.

    Just a thought………..

    Dave, Sunny Oldham UK.

  41. Hi Lippy (539)

    He is a bit negative isn’t he and a trifle unfair to Derren. Of course it is taken for granted that when making a telly programme things are not always going to work out as planned. Things have to be filmed twice or more. I think this was covered earlier.

    Just reading from the article the writer seems a little upset. Perhaps his tricks don’t work as well as Derrens. Ibet even Derren gets it wrong sometimes. In fact I know he does, for example when was guessing how much money some of dear had in their purse at a market.
    We are possibly rarely likely to see the bits that went wrong, although they would make a good “Outtake Show”

    Of course Derren tells porkies or is a little bit economical with the truth, that though is true of all magicians otherwise there would be no magic at all for anyone to enjoy. I think this writer [botherblog] doesnot quite understand what magic is.

    He also refers to the video game which put some guy into a catatonic trance, which is possible, epieptics do it all the time. I know this because I suffered from the age of 5 to 22 myself [petit-mal & grand mal seizures] i’m now 42 and have not had a problem since.

    I would also add that the chap that wrote thesoftware for the zombie game also has a blog / website here somewhere but I cannot for the life of it remember what it is called. I have seen and readf it though. He is a software development engineer and although he does not give away any secrets it is blindingly obvious and I am a programmer too, that this guy knows exactly what he is talking about.

    Derren started as a hypnotist, he should mention this at the start of his progammes.

  42. A chappie called Mick Grierson programmed the “Waking Dead” Zombie game for Derren
    here is his homepage / blogboard, with some interesting comments


  43. John W, I know its an easy argument (i.e. “magic is all deception, so whats the problem?”) but it IS a little bit more complicated than that. I agree that the article writer was a little negatively biased, for whatever reason. But he is right in saying that a contract is formed with magic – the boundaries are implied. Derren is different from usual magicians in that the misdirection, i.e. psychology, is plausible. So its not the same as Copperfield flying around in a glass box. It IS the same as Copperfield flying around in a glass box, after talking about NASA having developed a special anti-gravity chamber that is on special loan. To which people would say “did you know that NASA have developed lalala” etc and then a few months later realise he was just making it up. And then say “that Copperfield is full of sh*t”. Then someone else would say “ah yes, but aren’t all magicians?”

    Anyway maybe we should be fair and stick to the exposure theme of this blog, I fear it will be tedious for others to talk about the variables of magic, showmanship, lying etc…

  44. Terry Kenneally – “Far from feeling deceived, you should recognise DB has done what he said he would – he promised to float a table, pay with paper or cash losing tickets, and that is exactly what he showed us – its up to him how he achieves those effects.”

    Sorry, Terry, but I have to take issue with you here – especially in respect of the last two points.

    We all know that Derren isn’t really floating a table, and don’t expect him to, however, he does claim to be paying with paper, and he does claim to be cashing in losing tickets – giving the impression that he is doing so through use of personal manipulation techniques involving psychology, hypnotism, embedded commands, NLP – whatever.

    When all that happens is that he goes into a shop, pays for stuff with normal bank notes – only we don’t see it because it’s not on camera – he has just added a subsequent voiceover to claim that he in fact paid with paper, then that is a shameless sham and a blatant con.

    That is not, by any stretch of the imagination, what I would call ‘doing what he said he would’.

    It’s one of the lamest things I have ever seen.

  45. All Magicians decieve their audience. They do not really levetate tables, they do not really cut a woman in half, they do not really produce a rabit from thin air…. they only make you think thats what you saw happen by using misdirection to divert from the real technique, be it phychologicial misdirection or otherwise.

    In the stunts such as the betting shop or the money in New York, the audience are not the betting shop assitant, or the shop salesman, the audience are you and me. So really whatever techniques he uses to convince you and me the audience that we think we saw what he wanted us to see are fair game. It may just be simple slight of hand and a switch to the winning ticket and real money at the end out of our sight… but as long as WE the audience think that we saw him get money from a losing ticket, or buy something with blank paper, then he has achieved his goal!!!

    Those who want to believe that he is really using his ‘powers of pursuasion’ to make impossible things happen are forgetting that he freely admits that he has no special powers at all!!

  46. Tim said:

    “So really whatever techniques he uses to convince you and me the audience that we think we saw what he wanted us to see are fair game.”

    This is of course true, but then opens up the shameful world of using camera tricks – cutting away, swapping stuff over, then cutting back etc. That’s not magic, it’s just cheap trickery. It ends up creating an effect through camera manipulation rather than performer skill.

    God I hope that’s not the case with DB

  47. Keith,

    To be honest I dont think that any self respecting magician would use camera/editing tricks like that; Derren has been honing his techniques in front of live audiences for years so shouldn’t need to resort to that kind of thing; and I’m sure he wouldn’t want to. If he ever did and was caught out, his reputation and career would be ruined. But he doesn’t need to, what with so much experience at sleight of hand, along with all the other counjouring techniques, combined with distraction, and any psychology he choses to throw into the mix. As his audience he uses all of these techniques to make us think something has happened that has not. Ok maybe he uses more of the counjouring and less of the psychology than he would like us to know; but the end result is the same – one baffled confused and impressed audience. Adding the psycological aspect into the routine brings a certain ‘wonderment’ and also stops people from trying to work out how its actually done! It’s very very clever!

  48. Just thought i’d add my thoughts on the idea of camera tricks and dual reality specifically regarding the paying with paper (http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=eb0lxWbzyUM) and the dog track winnings

    If you watch the link i supplied you can clearly see that the paper is indeed blank … on the side we see. We also then see the person turn it (to orientate it correct side up?) which suggests that it could say something along the lines of you’re on TV smile and play along, or they simply could be travellers checks (hence the other video “oh, i thought you excepted those here”!) Though i should say that it is entirely possible that he does use some basic NLP skills, as when i first saw this, i tried it at my local off licence and got away with it. So perhaps we shouldn’t be sceptical of everything he does.

    And regarding the dog track, i have watched the video over and over again, and have been unable to see any sign of a switch with the interviewed woman. A solution to this could be dual reality mixed with either simple NLP (i.e. pattern interupt), plant (hope not, but is a possibility) or tampered machine.

    In my humble views from what i can see, derren does use different techniques to achieve his results, and part of his appeal is the charm of misdirection as deep down i believe we do love the wonder of being fooled, and who can produce a more clever deceivence than derren brown?

  49. Hi Tim (547)

    I agree with you actually, I don’t think Derren uses camera trickery. It would totally discredit his career if he did so. In the same way that
    Derek Acorah’s career was ruined on “Most Haunted” when he was proven to be a liar by Dr Kieran O’Keefe. Where is Acorah now ?

    Well he is not nearly as popular as he was, especially after Yvette Fielding accidently let the cat out of the bag, when she forgot that a
    studio mic was still live ands said that his “demonic possessions” were fake. The clip is on YouTube and is very funny, if you want to go
    looking for it.

    Back to the point though, the same thing could apply to Derren, since he is an entertainer who happens to be in the public eye. He
    certainly has skills and yes there is deception involved and he has always said that he has no special powers at all. I have heard him
    say this at the live shows I have been at. He almost makes a point of saying it.

    What Derren is doing is educating the rest of us against fake mediumship by proving that all of the effects that mediums do are
    totally explainable.

    Only today I was watching James Van de Pragh telling a little kiddie about his daddy who had “passed over”, James started talking about
    a red stripy tie that the childs father had owned. The child and the mother filled in the rest, giving the medium all the information he
    needed tio repeat it back to them – cold reading at its worst.

    I think I would be right in saying that Derren abhors this sort of thing and is one of the reasons he does his shows in the way he does.
    Derren seems to be the sort of chap who genuinely does not like to see vulnerable people being conned – good on him for that.

    He does similar things in an entertaining and magical sort of way. He is well worth every single little penny and offers very good value
    for money but he is best appreciated live.

    his co-writer Andy Nyman has been given the highest magical award, would he or Derren really stoop to somethign as cheap as a camera
    trick. I would not have thought so personally.

    He just burgles your brain and leaves you befuddled. I would not mind taking part in a close-up trick with him though. I would know its
    a trick all along but when you are standing there and see him do it live its a bit different to when it is on the telly.

    I reckon its time Derren did another BIG stunt you nkow like Russian Roulette or Heist, but it is known that he plans these about 12 months
    in advance. I think it is rumoured something might be happening in September, but it is only a rumour. whatever it might be is bound to be
    good though.

  50. Regarding John W (549), there are indeed tales of derren doing some filming for a special – the story, as it goes, says that he is near finishing, but it is all very hush hush. The show, i believe, is called “Schrödinger’s Cat” – perhaps toying with the idea of temptation (like in trick or treat), something closer to its origins (two entities in one), or maybe even a clue for magicians (dual reality?). Whatever it is, i’m sure it’ll be up to his regular standard of INCREDIBLE technique, planning and scripting like many of his other specials.

    And to those who say an effect achieved by different means still has the same effect, i say this – derren has progressed through different stages of technique and performance. Though he does try his hardest to remain consistant in the overall theme. And for that we can be excused for thinking that it is wrong to dress up a simple magician’s trick as one of his own special pieces. In a lecture, that some may have seen, he explains how magicians are often all about the outcome and the means are all just a part of the process, but he says that magic should be all about the wonderment of the set-up, the means and the effect, just as much as any other part of it.

    The old phrase “a magician guards an empty safe” suggests that magicians rarely reveal tricks as it makes the trick seem less impressive, but derren used to leave the safe open and still amaze us. I simple hope that he returns to this style of performing as it is what made me adore his work, otherwise he may fall to close to the likes of blaine.

  51. Hi Jonathan (550)

    Ooohhh that should be interesting I have just Googled the original theoretical experiment and came up with the following:

    Here’s Schrödinger’s (theoretical) experiment: We place a living cat into a steel chamber, along with a device containing a vial
    of hydrocyanic acid. There is, in the chamber, a very small amount of a radioactive substance. If even a single atom of the substance
    decays during the test period, a relay mechanism will trip a hammer, which will, in turn, break the vial and kill the cat.

    The observer cannot know whether or not an atom of the substance has decayed, and consequently, cannot know whether the vial
    has been broken, the hydrocyanic acid released, and the cat killed.

    Since we cannot know, the cat is both dead and alive according to quantum law, in a superposition of states.
    It is only when we break open the box and learn the condition of the cat that the superposition is lost, and the cat becomes
    one or the other (dead or alive).

    This situation is sometimes called quantum indeterminacy or the observer’s paradox : the observation or measurement itself
    affects an outcome, so that the outcome as such does not exist unless the measurement is made. (That is, there is no single
    outcome unless it is observed.)

    This would be very in Derren’s hands. I do look forward to this then, if the the rumour mill is correct. I also wonder if he reads this blog,
    purely out of curiosity of course. If he does I bet he is dead chuffed at the response to his work !

    there seems to be a lot of cats mentioned in Derrens work, which is odd because he does not like them. He prefers parrots !
    although I think it is mentioned somewhere that Figaro [his parrot] is at a sanctuary ooopt north somewhere !

  52. JOhn W – (549)

    OK – I hope DB doesnt use stooges, and think he probably doesnt – but he might!

    I am certain he uses conventional magic trickery – fine!

    I am certain also that he wont use and doesnt use camera tricks, but who knows … one day, the perfect illusion made still better…. more likely though is this. And again I return to the “cheating” theme.

    See, ANYTHING on television can be said to include misdirection for the sole reason that the audience can only see what the director and performer choose to let us see. Many people want DB to perform “clean, true, psychological routines” only. But this is genuinely not possible, even if it is the stated aim of the performer. Let me give you an example

    The Paying with Paper routine. Let us assume that this was done PURELY with psychlogical direction, implanting and micro signal reading.

    Ok so the film shows three people accepting payment, and one rejecting it.

    But what if twenty approaches were made, and ONLY three accepted, and the other seventeen ranged from nearly accepting, down to out right rejection, like the hot dog guy.

    Now the fact is that no trickery has been shown, but we assume far greater success because that is all we were shown. This wasnt a camera trick, but it was possibly a trick with a camera – it would not have been possible live. It doesnt take away from the amazing fact of paying with paper, but it isnt QUITE as amazingly sucessful as we first thought.

    Further, you will remember the diamond guy who later comes out of the shop scratching his head looking up and down the street. There is no guarantee this was anythign to do with DB. See, again assuming DB DID pay with paper, the guy takes it and is happy. Then, with the camera still filming him he does nothing. For an hour or two. At that point a police come comes screaming round the block and he naturally steps out of the shop, looks up and down, then returns. Without the sound, but replaced with the musiv this would look very like he just worked out what had happened – again, was this misdirection, does this detract from the “pure” effect that some of you are so desperate to see?

  53. terry – come on, please. Wake up!

    I, too, used to marvel at the stuff Derren does – or at least appears to do. I was utterly fascinated and impressed beyond imagination that he could do stuff like pay for 4,500 dollar rings in NYC with blank paper. All by use of some sort of mystical hypnosis/embedded commands, combined with personal manipulation and distraction techniques.

    But he isn’t doing this at all. Just watch again. All you see is someone carrying out a normal transaction and babbling away about nothing all the way through it. He is paying with real cash, just like the rest of us. You see him hand over bits of paper at the end, but these have nothing to do with the sale itself – just a complete red herring. No normal transactions are carried out in this way. What is more, the footage has quite clearly been cut and edited, so you do not actually see the whole sequence of what is a perectly perfunctory purchase.

    Nobody on this planet (or probably any other), can walk into a store and pay for goods with blank paper. Nobody. Think about it. Nobody. Never.

    If that guy had really just been ripped off to the tune of four and a half grand, do you honestly think he would just casually stroll out of the shop and look down the street as calmly as he does.

    Derren might as well film himself outside a Ferrari showroom, tell you he was going to persuade someone to give him a new car for nothing, be filmed through the window in conversation with a salesman, then a few minutes later driving out in a red Ferrari, claiming that he had just persuaded the salesman to hand over the keys by use of his special techniques. It’s complete bollocks – but you believe him because you have believed all the other ‘incredible stuff’ he can do by use of his ‘special techniques’.

    Wise up to it, please.

    Real magic and true illusion requires skill and preparation and close attention to detail – and that is what is so impresive about it.

    It is not impressive to claim that you are going to walk into a shop, buy something with
    blank paper, do nothing of the sort, then walk back out claiming that is precisely what you have just done.

    I used to like Derren a lot, but now I am convinced that in most cases there are no new lows to which he is prepared to stoop in order to con his audience that he is actually doing something special and which only he can do. He doesn’t, because he can’t. Not in this case, anyway.

    There is a lot of stuff which I still don’t understand at all, and I have no idea how he actually achieves the effects he does. But what I do now know is that the chances are, they are all likely to be similar set ups. And that is desperately disappointing.

    By the way – in the show the subject of this blog – his 20 questions ‘mind-reading’ thing is very easily explained.

    The table where the audience members write down their objects is at the back, next to the curtain. Someone is watching as they write – either through the curtain, or more probably via an overhead camera set up beforehand.

    That person then writes the objects down an a numbered list, then slips the sheet onto the table through the curtain for Derren to pick up when he returns later to collect his sticky numbers for their chests. The numbers are not actually required at all, but this gives him an excuse to go back for the list, plus time to read its contents as he messes about sticking the numbers on the subjects. The numbers are also of a similar size to the list, and have backing sheets which he tears off. All this gives him good reason to be handling lots of pieces of white paper at the same time, giving him the time to read and memorise the list while not being obvious as he is also constantly holding up similar sheets of paper at eye level as he either sticks them onto chests or hands them to contestants.

    Watch carefully and he is very clearly studying that piece of paper from the instant he collects it from the table, to finishing sticking on those numbers to his subjects.

    It is well executed, but it is very simple and crude in actual fact.

  54. Re: 553 NickyNackyNoo
    “It is well executed, but it is very simple and crude in actual fact.”

    Just because the working of a trick is simple or crude, doesnt mean its not a good trick. Unfortunately, if you know *anything* about magic/counjouring/illusion etc, you will know that the workings of almost every trick is simple, and generally downright disappointing when you know how its done. Thats because there is NO SUCH THING AS MAGIC OR SPECIAL POWERS! Therefore the only possible answer to how something works is simple mundane crude, and if you believe in real magic, cheating! But its not how its done, its the effect the audience see’s thats important. David Copperfield flew, walked through the great wall of china, made the statue of liberty disappear…. but did he actually do any of these things? NO of course not! Is the way he did them simple and crude, yes. But it’s all in presentation and effect!!! If the audience believes what they have seen actually happened, then the method is pretty irellevant. Its a shame that you can’t enjoy the performance of Derren even though you know its all tricks and not real; as many posts have said earlier, you do actually gain even more appreciation for the performance when you know how its done, and you can see how masterfully Derren delivers it!

  55. Re 553 and 554

    I KNOW!!!!! read my post properly – and read my earlier ones – I was suggesting that EVEN THOUGH HE DOES VERY SIMPLE TECHNIQUES (IN SOME CASES) HE STILL ACHIEVED THE OVERALL AIM – THAT IS TO ENTERTAIN US!

    When I mentioned the paying with paper I said SUPPOSE he REALLY did do this with psychological suggestion – I dont believe he does for a moment _ I went on to say EVEN if he did then misdirection / “camera tricks” are still employed, since the show is edited.

    I went on to suggest that your use of language like “con” is therefore misleading, since any entertainer is going to use other means to achieve the effects they seek.

    For example –

    Elton John doesnt really have that much hair.
    Take That dont play that many instruments
    American Wrestling is somewhat choreographed
    IN the days of Wham!, lots of young girls fancied George Michael.
    “24” isnt really filmed in twenty four hours.

    and so on. I know how DB does (or at least could have done) most of his effects. Most of the methods are very simple. But thats fine – you havent been fooled, only entertained.

    He set himself up as an entertainer. You were entertained. Now you know how he did the things he did to entertain you you are upset. That is ridiculous.

  56. This is going to be my last word on this subject, as it looks as though the whole thing might just deteriorate into a slanging match, and nobody wants that – least of all me.

    I will repeat that I was a massive Derren fan. I used to preach about him all the time to those who were unfamiliar with his work. I really believed him to be something special. Not special as in having unprecedented mystic powers, but special in as much as that he was so good at what he did, that his skills and talents were way beyond his contemporaries. A little like Diego Maradona as a footballer, maybe.

    Now you quote the example (among others) of Take That not being able to play any instruments.

    The very blatant difference here is that Take That have never claimed to be able to play any instruments. They don’t even pretend to do so. They just sing – and they are very good at what they do. You can’t ‘cheat’ when you sing live in front of 100,000 people.

    I would not compare Derren’s paying with paper stunt with Take That’s singing. I would actually liken it more to Milli Vanilli and the scandal which ensued when it was revealed that those boys weren’t even singing at all. They were miming. Someone else was singing their songs.

    Derren claims to be using his techniques/magic or whatever, to actually pay for items with paper.

    In fact I believe he is doing nothing of the sort. He is just paying with bank notes and then claiming that he persuaded those people to accept pieces of blank paper. We don’t actually see what he does, so we just have to take his word for it.

    If it’s true, then it makes him look like an utter genius and brilliant beyond comprehension. Which is probably why he’s where he is today.

    But if it isn’t true, then that, to my mind, is the illusionist’s equivalent of having someone else sing your songs for you and then claiming that it was actually you.

    As a big former fan of the man, I saw Derren’s latest live show, was disappointed, and that sought me to seek out this blog.

    The truth is that I do feel badly let down and it’s hard to come to terms with. I thought Derren was better than that.

    I can barely believe I’m now actually saying these things, and anyway, I think I have said enough – and so I’ll finish right there.

  57. NickyNackyNoo, for whatever its worth, I agree with your points.

    I also agree that the blog was better suited to just providing information and ideas about the tricks and gradually coming to a consensus on the methodology, that WAS fun. But I’ve discovered that having discussions like these online are totally futile. Mostly because people don’t seem to pay attention properly, they only read what they want to read and start forming opinions before they’ve even finished the sentence, and “a person convinced against his will is of the same opinion still”. I think perceptions of the subtleties and philosophies of performance, ethics etc are massively influenced by whether the person “thinks Derren is well cool” and still buys into the “Jedi” image, or not. E.g. try having this discussion on a fanboard and you’ll probably be whipped and banned before you even mention the words “paper money”.

  58. Hi NickyNackyNoo (556)

    It is true you do not actually see him pay with paper but then if I were a shop keeper and and a slightly balding ginger macician walked into my premises complete with a fim crew and sound crew, I would to be honest think that it was a little odd and would start to wonder about my own sanity.

    If and I mean IF you look at how else the trick could have been done from a television production point of view, it is very difficult technically to come up with an alternative way of performing this trick, other than say placing hidden cameras in the store, which the shop keeper would have to have some knowledge of as the store would have to be rigged in advance and therefore prior arrangements would ahve to be made, permissions sought etc.

    We are led to believe that Derren paid for an expensive ring etc etc by using dollar shaped pieces of plain paper and that is the way it was filmed due to the difficulties mentioned above.

    Bear in mind though that Derren was taught hypnosis by Paul McKenna, who gave up television to become a proper licenced hypntherapist based in London.

    If you look at Paul McKenna’s previous television work, I would say that if this is for real then a powerful distraction technique must have been used.

    If you notice even at the live shows, when Derren talks to someone he looks at them straight in the eye and builds rapport with that person very very quickly, by engaging them.

    In hypnosis terms this means that they are giving him their 100% attention and anything going on in the background is less noticable. You will also notice that as Derren is “counting” the blank pieces of paper he is not looking atwhat he is doing but is still looking at the person he is talking too.

    Yes it could be fake, but knowing a fair bit about Derren I would say it’s 70/30 against and the only reason that is 30% against is due to the way it was filmed. Perhaps he should do the trick again with hidden cameras then we would know for sure.

  59. Well – I’m not sure why it should be a slanging match? I am far more civilised than that, and I am sure you are too.

    Whilst there is some merit in talking method only, I guess my suggestion was and still is that performance is a massive part of method.

    Again, taking the earlier example I gave, I “read micro signals” to tell my friend the digits on his £5. And I did it even easier and with less technique than DB. BUT my friend was amazed and entertained because of the story I gave him … that all of us take in information subconciously, so that as he was tood at the bar, and took back the £5 in change even though he didnt know he had he read and learnt the digits on his note. The alcohol he had drunk helped him into a relaxed, almost trance state and my job was then simply to read those inevitable signals.

    Had I just told him it would have been a puzzle to solve – as it was it became a performance.

    I am certain that we can disagree yet still explore an idea?

    For example you are right about my Take That example, and your mention of Milli Vanilli suggests my example may not have been a good parallel – a band is supposed to sing and perform but INTEGRAL to a magician is the need to decieve.

    Maybe the uniqueness of his presentation (there is little similar) is what upsets you now you are closer to the truth?

    By the way – how DID i read the digits (the explanation above is not true!)


  60. John W – Paul McKenna didn’t teach hypnosis to Derren Brown. Sure, Derren went to the odd NLPish seminar and I even have footage of a young Derren in the audience on one of my youtube vids, but saying that McKenna taught him is a little too strong. Learning hypnosis is not very difficult if you have an ounce of intelligence and read the right books. McKenna became a household name because of his TV work, and has simply sold his brand name ever since, but he’s not all that, and never contributes anything new. And there is no such thing as a licensed hypnotherapist!

  61. I agree with Nicky. I think some of the defenses here are a bit disengenuous. Would these people think it would be fine for a magician to say “I’m going to pull a rabbit from this hat”, and then use trick photography to make it look like he’d done it? I’d say no. Would you accept all the same defences for such an act as offered here for Derren? eg ‘He’s a magician, he’s SUPPOSED to deceive you!’. Like that link said, there’s a contract between the magician and the viewer that he’s going to deceive you within certain parameters.

    Sawing a women in half using a split screen (ie, special effects in post-production)? Most of us would say that was cheating, and we wouldn’t accept as a defence someone saying “Ha, you’re stupid if you think he’s REALLY going to saw her in half!’.

  62. I agree that camera tricks are not fair game…. but I dont think that anyone is saying they are!? We all agree that would be cheating and that Derren wouldnt do that. However selective editing and only showing the sucecsses is a slightly different thing… in fact Derren made an entire show out of this called The System set at a horse race. The whole basis of that show was that what initially seemed so impressive was only impressive as they only showed you part of what had happened that day. The same with the tossing the coins and getting so many heads in a row…. the only way he achieved that was by filming hours and hours of unsecessful attempts. That surely has to be Derrens way of saying ‘dont belive everything you see.’ Its not camera tricks, but it is a trick that relies upon the use of a camera and editing.

  63. Thank you Tim – that is absolutely the point I was making.

  64. “We all agree that would be cheating and that Derren wouldnt do that.”

    Then it’s disengenuous to say ‘He’s a magician, he’s supposed to fool you’ as if ANYTHING goes and it doesn’t matter what methods he uses. If you agree that some methods are ‘no go’ and cheating, then all we’re doing is arguing over what such methods would be. The ‘He’s a magician, he’s supposed to fool you’ posts are utterly unhelpful and completely miss the point.

  65. Hi Tim (562)

    I agree if we saw all the bits and pieces that Derren performed that went wrong or did not work, then it would be a bit of a disappointment wouldn’t it ? Of course “television land” is only going to show the good bits or the bits where the desired results are achieved.

    Hi Will (560)

    Actually there is such a thing as a licenced hypnotherapist, what this means in practice is that you have reached the required standard as laid down by the GCH (General Council of Hypnotherapists) I know this as I was going to enrol on the course that they run in coventry last year, which is run over 5 days

  66. Terry, did you pay for something at the bar with a fiver whose serial number you’d memorised, then notice that your friend was the next person to receive a fiver in change from the same till? If so, I like…

  67. Re. John W. (558) –

    John, I realise that you are struggling desperately to defend Derren’s honour here, but do you not find it a little surprising that although Derren’s crew quite successfully managed to film his entire transaction with the hot dog vendor in full detail, they were absolutely unable to do the same in the other cases. A camera can be concealed inside a shop, just as easily as it can be next to a fast food stall. Ever seen ‘The Real Hustle’?

    I’m sure it’s probably just coincidence that the only transaction which was shown in full, uninterrupted detail was the only one that actually failed when Derren produced his piece of paper. You saw the vendor’s reaction. Now that’s just what you would expect.

    For anyone who still actually believes that Derren might actually have managed to pull off this stunt for real, let me put this to you.

    Is it not a fact that when Derren has genuinely baffled someone with his ‘magic’, he likes nothing better than to do a post-stunt interview and get an on camera reaction from the subject, who is at an utter loss to explain how something just happened. Then, at least, unless they are stooges, we are convinced ourselves that he has just pulled off something pretty darned impressive and convincing.

    So, knowing full well that Derren is not going to effectively steal a £4,500 ring from an NYC jeweller, we would all, of course, expect him to return to the shop and explain what he has just done, apologise, and return the ring.

    What better TV than to see a hardened New York shop owner look inside his till, pull out a stack of blank paper, and then try to explain why he just handed over a valuable piece of jewellery in exchange for them.

    But do we see this?

    No. The subject isn’t even mentioned.

    And why not?

    Because it never happened. That’s why.

    I can almost guarantee you that if you went back to the jeweller’s store and asked him if one day within the last couple of years, a guy came in, paid for a ring with paper, then returned later to give him his ring back and explained it was for a TV programme, that guy would not have the faintest clue what you were talking about.

    Just like he wouldn’t have a clue what you were talking about if you asked him whether one day he cashed up at closing time, only to find he was £4,500 out when he tried to balance up, but curiously found a pile of blank paper in his cash register which he couldn’t explain.

    I’m getting tired of trying to point out the obvious to everyone here, so I think I’m going to give up again.

    By the way, WillBox – you seem to be genuinely knowledgeable on all this stuff (a lot more than I am), and it’s nice to see someone like yourself taking an objective and reasoned view on these things.

  68. I have been watching the last episode of his trick or treat series, featuring the trick involving a superstitious girl, a dart, and some card… if you know the one i mean then good, if not then check it out on 4od.

    Anyway, those of you that say he’d never use a camera trick, watch this, because this is actually nothing more than a lookalike and some good editing.

  69. John W #565, GCH is no more an authority or regulatory body as General Hypnotherapy Register, National Council of Hypnotherapy or any of the other ‘bodies’ that exist (which are plentiful as every tom dick and hypno-harry seems to start one up). There is no state regulation on hypnotherapy (as yet). The term license implies some kind of regulation or authority, so its wrong to use it. Its like saying “if you train to the standards of the Willbox Association of Nut Kracking, then you can call yourself a licensed Nut Kracker”.

  70. Just before I discovered this forum last week, I was reading a similar forum on the Channel 4 website, re the recent transmission of An Evening of Wonders. Went I tried to finish my reading a day or two later, there’s no trace of any forum relating to Derren. Maybe the comments were giving too much away so they deleted the forum.

    I am a Derren fan, and had already come to most of the conclusions about the methods in that show that people have posted here, but they have not diminished my enthusiasm. I’m now going to explore the interesting links suggested above.

  71. No one’s talking about The Evening of Wonders for the last 20 posts. But the biggest joke of that show hasn’t even been recognized by anyone.

    Derren gives a blatantly obvious demonstration on how the Oracle act works right before he does it! Before he tells the person on the phone all the details about themselves he says »and this is just from listening to your voice on the phone and I swear to god and on the lifes of my children that I haven’t been given any clues by [name of the person on stage]« when of course the person on stage had told him all of it. It’s exactly what he then does in the Oracle act with the whole audience.
    And no one got that? So funny …

  72. Replying to 571:

    Derren doesn’t believe in God and doesn’t have any children, so I see your point :-)

  73. Guys,

    I find this forum fascinating and despite the dawning realization Derren can’t actually do some of the things he claims to do I’m still happy to be entertained by his trickery.

    My question though, is to anyone who has an inside view on how some of this stuff works.

    My fascination with Derren was born out of an experience I had whilst on holiday.
    A waiter in a bar came to our table and performed some tricks.
    Some were good, others not so, but the finale was awesome.

    He had (what I believe) was a normal deck of cards.
    He turned his back on me and fixed the cards – he made no illusion about this.
    When he turned back to face me he told me to hold my hand out – I did, he put the deck of cards in my hand.
    He said “There are 52 cards in the deck, 51 are face down, 1 is face up. Concentrate blah blah blah blah and tell me what card it is.”
    I chose a card – which I said out loud.
    Then, without him touching the deck I turned the deck over a fanned the cards out on the table.
    I could clearly see there were 51 cards there that looked random enough to make me think it was a normal deck.
    The only card that was now face down was the card I’d said.

    In terms of entertainment, this trick makes me smile everytime I think of it.
    Maybe I’m stupid, but the effect was awesome.

    Does anyone have any suggestions on how this was done?
    Has anyone else seen a similar trick?

    Thanks (and sorry for going off-topic).


  74. Hi curious C

    I think the trick you’re talking about is called the fastest card trick in the world – pretty sure it’s by Jay Sankey?

    Anyway, I came across it by accident and have used it on friends and family – I can also rig the cards in front of them :)

    When you learn the secret, you’ll be disappointed – maybe best to remember the wonder?

  75. Hi again – just re read your description of the trick. It probably isn’t the one I first thought. If it’s exactly as you say, I reckon it’s a psychological force. If you picked the card from the pack in some way, then it could be any number of techniques. Have a look at Paul Fox’s miracle gimmick – may be something similar?

  76. This is aimed at all the people that know that derren isn’t using as much body reading/psychology as he claims –

    Has anyone else ever wondered how derren gets the infomation on the person he is performing to, im not talking body language here, im talking ‘pre – show work’.

    For example when he is in the market in the mind control special ( the one where he is pushing the guy around the market ) he is telling the guy about his wedding. Stuff that he couldnt know without finding it out before hand. ( there are other examples of this kind of stuff in his T.V work)

    So, isnt the real trick or psychology – stopping the person from saying “oh, he asked me about my wedding, ( or whatever ) before hand”.

    The same applies for him knowing peoples passwords, he has to find this out before he starts the trick, the rest is just presentation.

  77. Firstly – Great Blog, confirmed a lot of what I thought, and interesting news regarding the prediction loading table.

    Secondly – Curious C, the reversed prediction trick is performed using a ‘Brainwave Deck’ available from all good suppliers – but as a previous poster said, it might be best to keep the magic if it made that big an impact on you :)

  78. oggy87 – curiousc says that the magician never touched the deck, so it cant have been the brainwave.

  79. CuriousC, remember what Derren says in his book “Tricks of the Mind”? It s not how the trick is done, it s how the spectator remembers how it was done or at least how he re-tells it?? If this is the case, I d go with the Brainwave or Invisible? Brilliant discussion here. Well done to all.

  80. So the new show has started. My tickets aren’t until July but I’d still be interested in hearing people’s reports who have seen the show??

  81. 580 – Tigger

    Worth every single penny Tigger, go and enjoy the show
    Derren is fanstatic live, a true professional

  82. Wow…just got in from the new Enigma show in Nottingham and it was fantastic!!!

    I thoroughly enjoyed reading all of the above after watching the Evening of Wonders on C4 at Christmas. I t took about 2 days but I was hooked by all the brilliant contributions and insight. I booked the tickets for the new show and have been counting down the days.

    I wont spoil it by giving away any of the new show but what a showman!! I am thoroughly puzzled by the majority of the tricks/deceptions/wonders are done, especially the stuff from the second half but I would love to hear anybody elses thoughts on the show. Anybody who contributed above been yet??

    You wont be disappointed.

  83. Hi! Just testing if this page encodes ok from MS Word before posting review – ’ “” …

  84. I’ve been to Chatham! This post is quite long and is rather for those who have already seen the new show – it was great! The trix are new, the ways behind them are quite like they were last time.
    I was pleased to hear that the last tour’s intro music was replaced with something a lot more listenable. Looking at the instructions on the screen I of course immediately thought of the Oracle Act, so seeing that the paper slips were blank and that nothing else than the three favourite things was asked to be put on them, I was astounded that he would find out who wrote what! Unfortunately that wasn’t what happened but the lady in the front row, though Derren offered her the whole basket (why hamper??), picked his choice – a slip with McFly on.
    Derren: say five words totally unrelated to what is on the paper.
    Lady: cat, dog…
    Derren: now these five words will not only tell about what is written on the paper, even if you try not to, but also about your attitude towards sex and a number of other things. Next word?
    Lady (going red as a beetroot): ummm…
    :-D did he say that on other shows?
    Then he said it’s got to be a music band with a name of an animal in it and he found out McFly. If the couple of slips he picks himself aren’t also planted, he’s flippin’ good at improvising. One of them had “chocolate and my two dogs” as three favourite things. At the loudest approval from the audience he remarks: well that’s got to be a big meal unless they are small dogs…
    He comes up with some really interesting explanations when guessing the childhood memory: “it’s easy to swing you back and forth, that means insecurity, and your hands at sides indicate a confined space – you got stuck in an elevator!”
    He asks left-handed people not to take part in this one, so when just after she wrote down the memory he asked her if she was left or right-handed, I was quite annoyed: did it not matter, so I excluded myself unnecessarily?
    Then just as I was typing this, it clicked: if you write with your left hand, you immediately cover what you’re writing, and if the paper is small enough, as it was in this trick, the writing is still covered when you get to the end of the line. Right hand is no problem – she couldn’t have used her left hand to cover what she wrote because she had to hold the paper in it. I’m prolly just making this up or remember wrong, but Derren asking what handed she was after he clearly asked for a right-handed person made it look he wanted to give a hint that the right handedness only mattered to the point until the memory got on the paper!
    Derren if you happen to be reading this, make sure you skip the next paragraph.
    So I suggest all the right-handed who want to take part in this trick to put the childhood memory together in advance, and learn to write it from right to left, so when you write with right hand, you’ll cover the writing the same way as if you wrote with your left and do that on stage. After all, it’s your business how you write as long as it’s with right hand as asked and he’s not supposed to need to see the paper anyway, is he? :)
    I thought Nina Kulagina was as real as the Great Prestoni but to my surprise I could find her biography and even similar footages – she died in her sixties in 1990. Then Derren goes on saying how he visited her in her eighties to learn from her and he asks a person to get onstage and wrap a card up in tin foil while he looks away, then as he guesses the card right, says:
    “…tin foil is reflective. As you moved the card over it, I had a glimpse just enough to see the colour and the value.”
    More convincing explanations welcomed :)
    When he asks for the watch with numbers on, he is offered one with no numbers at all so now he’s coming towards me! On the way someone tries to give him another watch, again with no numbers, so he ends up with mine – perfect, he says, and gives it to the audience member on stage. I’ve never seen my watch that big, shown up close on the big screen! Let me know how he did here because he consistently kept getting it well wrong, one out of three at best!
    Just as I was typing this I realised that the person with the deceased grandparent needed to be from upstairs to give Derren more time. After he told the story about his granddad and before the spectator got on stage, he picked up a piece of tin foil from the floor right next to the curtain, took it to the other side of the stage and put it behind the flip chart which was right next to the other curtain (well it wasn’t exactly a flip chart this time because it didn’t flip, but I don’t know its name), so that his hand disappeared there for a moment. Then he put his hand behind the box for a couple of seconds, to the side facing away from the audience.
    The wool with the little red box in it is just small enough to put your hand around it.
    Or perhaps it’s just me blowing things up, but if he did indeed want to tidy up the stage (why, btw?), it would have been a lot quicker to simply kick the tin foil further behind that curtain – let me know if he did it other times or it was just a one-off! I was thinking about the table as well – the one on which the box with the paper scroll of the previous tour was put – but as far as I can remember this table was already on stage when she said the name, please confirm or correct.
    When he says he would induce somnambulism after the interval and those who really don’t want to be in it can stay outside for that part, I was astonished to see that there were some who did that! Poor people! It’s not a trance induction but a test to pick out the most cooperative. I think saying “you’ll feel like standing up and don’t fight it because it’ll be stressful” was clever but when he said “it’s not like hypnosis, when someone talks you into it” I just hoped there were no hypnotists in the room.
    So, after he talked us into it, there were 4-5 people standing – I expected a lot more. I only didn’t stand up myself because I was in the front row, so I wanted to use the chance and take a good look from there (could’ve been even better if the flippin’ stage lights weren’t right in front of me, blocking view to the bottom third between the stage floor and the ceiling, including the spirit cabinet. Apologies to people behind me whose nerves I must have got on keep standing halfway up – one would think you can’t get better than row A!).
    When he was explaining that there was no tension in the subjects’ bodies so they couldn’t grip and they did indeed drop the drumstick, then they could hold it when he said he activated their hands, I tried not to think that it could have done more with them following instructions so as not to be sent off stage than with somnambulism, but we all know here what happens when we try not to think of a black cat :-)
    When on the picture I saw one of the backs of the chairs under the neck I got a bit worried but they did the safer version on the stage, with the back of the chair at the shoulder. The other difference was that on the picture the hands were at front while on the stage at the sides – allegedly the further back the hands are the more the back arches so the easier it is to stay stiff.
    The vinegar one looked cool! I think it was coke but I have no idea how it got into the glass! If there was a switch I missed it and if there was something about the bottle or the glass, I would assume the person asked to check them out would have noticed handling it!
    At the automatic writing I suspect the carbon envelope mentioned in post 408 – he was gripping on it with his right hand while the amount of money was announced.
    When he threw frisbees for two men to check the spirit cabinet out, one frisbee landed in the aisle and for a moment no one picked it up because there were all women sitting around it. Then a chap coming from somewhere around the back leapt on it with an amazing move, with such a speed that he slid half a metre on his belly with his hand on the frisbee – it still cracked me up the next day I thought of it!
    When Derren told the spec in the cabinet that there’s “no need” to touch the ball instead of “don’t touch it”, I was wondering if she had another one on her to put it in the glass (especially that sponge balls are very good at disappearing and appearing out of nowhere), so when afterwards she is asked if she moved the ball on the table, she can safely answer no – let me know if I remember wrong!
    What he did shortly after will stay in my mind as his most memorable trick, the one that caught my breath and made my heart skip a beat though it wasn’t even a trick as such: when instead of drawing the curtain, he moved it all from one side to the other to catch the medium out if she tried something. My jaw hit the floor. HECK YOU’VE GOT TO BE CAREFUL WITH THIS GUY – was all I could think of for the next minute.
    If the last trick was that complicated to get everyone concentrate hard enough not to notice how and when the box with the second set of pictures got in, well done – by the time I found out what to look for, it was too late! The other thing that caught my eye was the girl picking a picture – it looked more like Derren choosing and her approving it!
    The finale was amazing! I still liked the previous tour more, though – it had somewhat better put together stunts with no tricks repeated and not that much about death.
    After the show I could again see how good his manners are with the people waiting outside (short of Garricks last year). After about half an hour waiting I was shivering and the bloody migraine I was fighting with all week kicked in again but I knew it wasn’t in vain because there was neither Coop nor a note on the door to tell us he wouldn’t come out.
    But when he did, sadly the atmosphere was very different from when I first met him in Southampton two years ago, where he didn’t seem to mind the time going while he was chatting with us (and when we shook hands he pulled me in and kissed me on the cheek!:))). This time the guy who was with him kept rushing everyone to the point I started to feel bad for being there, then he had a mourn at me not to stop him for a photo when he saw me turning my camera on, for which I responded in kind that I never meant to. When Derren finally came out and said “thank you for the watch” it took me a moment to remember what he was talking about – besides feeling unwell and being distracted by that annoying chap (I only hope I didn’t appear depressed), it took me totally unexpected that he recognized me! The autograph I walked away with made all the waiting worth!
    “To Rita – thank you for the watch! Lots of love, Derren”

  85. Wow Rita, fantastic research, thanks for your dedication.
    He’s not in Newcastle until June, so not sure whether to read your post or wait till afters! I may have to go twice, with a study session in between!!

  86. went to see derren last night in blackpool,the guy is just fantastic!!he did the same gags at the start,chocolate,two dogs and the mcfly answer.think this was some kind of ice breaker to the start of the show as he did something similar last year.
    i also noticed him picking up the foil and going over to the flip board,i thought he hovered around a bit more than neccessary,then go behind the box,was the backstage staff somehow printing out the grandads name on the coin thing while he was making his way down?Rita,did he ask them to spell the grandads name?
    apart from that one i have no idea how he did any of the other things!he did the guess the watch,dice,and card wrapped in foil and got the exact time,10.40 i think,the dice was number 4 but cant remember exactly what the card was,this really intrigued me as the people on stage didn’t even know what time,number,card they had wrapped up!
    how he got that guy to lie on those two chairs(neck or shoulders,cant quite remember)resting on the back of a chair,and his feet on the other chair,he was literally like a board how they manouvered him around the stage,is it physically possible to balance like that???
    he also did the childhood memory but i didnt notice him even looking at the girl while she wrote out her memory?
    great blog hope to read more from others who are going to see the show soon.

  87. Also saw the show in blackpool last night. The man is a master of his art!

    Saw the show last year and have been a fan of this blog ever since but have refrained from reading any details about this years show, that is until today. I love the drive home from the show which is full of conversation about HOW?!!

    Rita your blog is fantastic, and has confirmed a couple of my own oppinions. One of the tricks you’ve helped me confirmed was the vinegar. He made the audience checker shake a few drops into her hand and when she tasted it, it really was vinegar, yet he removes the lid to pour into the glass which leads me to believe that the shaker part of the bottle was actually sealed with just a capful of vinegar, yet the contents of the bottle were a sweet substitute.

    I seem to remember a magician, but cant remember who, also demonstrated the same psychic cabinet trick. Does anyone else know of this trick?

    Hope to be reading lots more blogs and oppinions once the tour gets really under way. XX

  88. I haven’t read your reviews of Enigma yet as I want to preserve my initial ‘wow’ factor before deciphering it!
    I am going to see the show in Plymouth in a couple of weeks. If anyone who’s seen the show wants me to look out for any particular details etc, let me know. I’ll try and remember as much as possible (and be highly observant from the second row!)

  89. I’ve just skimmed through these comments with great interest – I think it’s fairly clear by now that ‘misdirection’ is a very large part of his act, and that a lot of his stage tricks involve techniques that are completely detached from what he claims they are, but this is all part of the mystery and the entertainment. The man is still brilliant.

    Like Paul two years ago (post 29), I was chosen for the £10 note trick, and I came to the same conclusion as Paul. The number under the ‘I’ (which, incidentally, is a large capital I with horizontal lines at the top and bottom, in contrast to the ‘I’ in ‘WILL’ and ‘THIS’, as in ‘I WILL MAKE HIM SAY THIS NUMBER’, which are just vertical lines) is indeed different to the number at the edge of the note.

    When I worked this out I wasn’t disappointed – if anything, I was all the more impressed because I had noticed the £10 note as soon as I came on stage, because I was worried he was going to subtly offer it to me as a bribe! At no point did I see that £10 note move and it was THAT note which he gave me – and he didn’t touch the note after he first gave it to me.

    Obviously it WAS switched through sleight of hand, and in fact I can’t really remember if it was folded up or not at first, whereas when he gave it to me it certainly was folded up into a small square. The fact that he clearly did switch it but I failed to notice is thoroughly impressive and doesn’t disappoint me in the slightest.

  90. Thank y’all :) evette, shame the chocolate & two dogs wasn’t spontaneous, I hoped it was!
    Looks like we’ve got him here with the tin foil-picking! And he did ask for the spelling.
    The chair was neck on the picture to make people remember as if it was the same on the stage and so to think it even more spectacular but on the stage it was shoulder.
    For the childhood memory it doesn’t need to be him to look at it directly.
    Sarah that’s brilliant with the vinegar! I never knew their caps were like that. If the shaker part of the bottle was sealed with something transparent from underneath, the seal can not be seen or touched from the top.
    Will, you’ve got a good place! Details to look for? Well I don’t want to distract you from enjoying the show but I’m wondering how the McFly paper slip gets picked by the front row audience member!


    (Derren asked us not to tell people who hadn’t seen the show about the finale, hence the spoiler alert)
    I saw the Oxford show last night (13th May) and thought it was brilliant. Less “dramatic” than previous shows but his wit and humour really come through and shows a different side to Derren.

    So, to the Grand Finale. Did anybody notice that he said to the 7 people in the line up: “Number 7, if you look behind you by the box are 2 envelopes one yellow and one red”. Did anybody note when this happened because to me it seemed quite late in this part of the act (in previous shows he has had envelopes on display in front of the audience right at the front). Here is how I think he did it:

    1. He chooses 7 people, gives them numbers and get them to mix up randomly.

    2. The audience then vote to get rid of one person (number 6 last night) and he stands at the side.

    3. We are left with 6 people who then randomise and choose letters A to F.

    4. Nothing up to this point matters – it is all random

    5. Then we have the final sequence eg A:2 B:4 C:1 D: 7 E: 5 F:3 (6 standing at the side)

    6. At that point somebody back stage takes the 42 cards they have that link the numbers and pictures (so they have Egg with #1, Egg with #2, Egg with #3, Egg with #4, Egg with #5, Egg with #26, Egg with #7, Needle with #1…etc) and they just choose the 7 that spells ENIGMA. So, they take the number of the guy standing in position A (eg number 2) and pick card that has number 2 and the Egg on. This guarantees that the first guy in position will have an Egg giving the “E” for ENIGMA. They then pick the other 6 letters to spell out the rest of the word, and they give the guy standing at the side the Confetti.

    7. The stagehand simply slide puts the 6 cards in the yellow envelope and confetti card in red audience choice envelope and slides it under the curtains so it is by the box at the back by number 7 ready for him to pick up.

    8. Note that at the time this happens, we are watching the left side of the stage with the girl who picks another card, so we don’t notice any movement in the curtain behind number 7.

    9. The rest is the reveal where the letters of course spell out ENGIMA, they match the A-F positions and, although lovely to see Derren’s mum and McFly, they add nothing as the order is already confirmed. Derren did say “n case you think we had 5040 different versions of the song for every possible combination (7x6x5x4x3x2=5040) and I believe Derren that they only had one version because the sequence had to be Egg, Needle, Ice, Goose, Moose, Apple Juice to spell ENIGMA.
    The one bit I am not sure about is the girl on the left who picked one of the cards from another envelope and a number and got the guy with the number (2) and the picture (Ice). Maybe Derren implanted the number 2 by asking her “TWO pick somebody that she thought wouldn’t be TOO easy to guess” etc. Any ideas on this last bit?
    Anyway – spectacular and great showmanship. After Evening of Wonders I was thinking for months about some of the illusions which is really great value for money if you think about it – entertaining you long after the show is over…

    one more time – “Goose and Moose and Apple Juice, oh yeah!”



  92. I’m by no means in the Derren Brown is a Jedi camp, and one of the things I enjoy most about his work is the way he makes quite clear that he is going to trick his subjects with various methods including “misdirection and showmanship”, and then goes ahead and does so in a manner which leaves them believing that something supernatural has actually happened.
    However, I think some of the comments on this board are possibly a little too quick to dismiss the “suggestion and psychology” aspects of his method as total red herrings.
    I’m thinking here particularly of the dismissals of the “paying with blank paper” stunt.
    I have come across a number of cases of people who have had distinctly strange and unsettling experiences where they have been approached by strangers in the street asking for directions/offering to sell something etc, and “come to” halfway down the street with no memory of what happened in between, and often worse off. One of these cases involves someone I know very well, and whose account I trust absolutely. Obviously for anyone reading this it will be pure anecdote from a stranger, so I see little point in recounting the incident.
    However, please take a look at this, as it’s in the same area and from what is generally regarded as a reliable and objective source. I recognise it’s definitive proof of precisely nothing, but should at least be food for thought:

  93. 592 – Hi Matthew

    Yes I have seen this BBC clip many many times, although I would not necessarily say that the BBC are “reliable and objective”, since the clip is very short and you cannot actually see very much at all. Remember Derren, Jedi Master or otherwise points out in his book that only a certain percentage of the population are suggestible and therefore hypnotisable. The skill is in spotting such a person. For example I would not consider myself a hypnotist at all but I have helped someone overcome their fear of spiders very recently and the “treatment” is still working for her and yes I did use suggestion and yes the girl concerned is of a suggestible nature. what you NEVER see in “TV hypnosis shows”, for want of a better word is the preparation which the “iilsionist / hypnotist”, put the subject through. A much better objective source and more accurate piece would be when Paul McKenna, a reknowned expert the world over and now professional hypntherapist was invited on to BBC’s Top Gear.
    He made Richard Hammond “forget” how to drive, which can be useful if you happen to be a motoring journalist, here is the clip – Enjoy !

    Try and get hold of the entire show it might be on iPlayer if they have not junked it yet

  94. 592 – Hi Matthew

    What you have to remember is that all hypnosis is based largely on NLP and “rewiring the brain”, to think differently about a particular stimulus or suggestion. In the case I used with the girl and her fear of spiders, I simply got her to relate her fear “The Startle Response”, when she first saw a spider to her favourite colour “Pink”, now she thinks whenever she sees a spider it is just well…..Pink and since she is not frighened of the colour pink, she is not frightened of spiders anymore either. It took me about half an hour and now she is always telling me that she is no longer frightened so whatever suggestion I gave her obviously worked…………………for her, If you ever manage to do a very over-priced NLP course you will learn how to implant suggestions effectively in order to get the best out of people.

  95. Some people are more suggestible than others in different contexts, but everyone is suggestible to an extent and everyone is hypnotisable. The concept of hypnosis shouldn’t be reduced to the idea of formal inductions, but a process of subconscious influence, which everyone is vulnerable to. Stage hypnosis shows necessarily utilise the more suggestible people in the audience for the sake of time and robustness of effect, but there are many other contexts for hypnosis outside of this.

    With regards to the paying with paper, I am 99.9% certain that it is just a trick of dual reality, what we think is happening and what the people recieving the paper think is happening are two different things. Having said that, I am fully aware as Matthew points out that ‘street hypnosis’ is a reality and have read many in depth accounts of people being fleeced by it. This is more related to Derrens routine in Blackpool where he asked directions and swapped his water bottle for people’s wallets etc, rather than the blank paper routine though.

  96. John W I just read your last comment after posting my last, I’m gonna have to jump in and correct you on “all hypnosis is based largely on NLP” – I think you’ll find its the other way round!

    And rather than a horribly over-priced course full of overly-enthusiastic wannabe Jedi numpties and stale pink wafer biscuits, I’d recommend instead reading any books by Milton Erickson, Ericksons work after all is where Bandler got most of his ideas from to develop NLP in the first place. Hypnotic Realities is a good start.

  97. 596 – Hi Willbox

    I have indeed read both of Milton Erickson’s main works “Patterns of the Hypnotic Techniques of Milton H. Erickson volumes I and II from cover to cover and i am extremely very very very with his work, even though Bandler and Grinder make the books far more academic than they ought to be. Not the best interpretation I have read of his work and Volume II is far more difficult to follow than Volume I. Volume II deals with Kinasthetics and tries unsuccessfully in my opinion to apply science to them. Volume I is better in that actual case notes are published but alas nothing about “Handshake inductions”. I think Bandler and Grinder do publish seperate works on this subject though and they happen to “own” many of the NLP courses run in the U.K, or have financial connections to them. Very interesting books though.

    When Erickson was practicing it was actually illegal to practice hypnosis in America on you “patients”, Erickson single-handedly changed this asspect of U.S law – cheekily yes but he changed it nevertheless. There is a story that he happened to find himself on the same flight as twio top ranking U.S medical officials, who were initially “opposed” to the use of hypnosis in medicine, during the course of the flight Erickson “suggested” covertly or otherwise that it might not be such a bad idea, given that he was up before the American Board of Medicine, hence the reason for his travel. Needless to say by the time the plane landed the two top ranking officials were supporting Erickson more than opposing him – so Erickson obviously did or said something(s) or suggestion during the flight. Needless to say the rest is history and we have Erickson to thank for hypnosis being practiced as a part of medicine today both in the U.S and the U.K

  98. 597 – Hi John
    I hadn’t heard that Erickon anecdote but it certainly sounds like his style. I’m unsure of the exact medical history of hypnosis but I know that the post-war era was a big catalyst, hypotherapy boomed in hospitals (e.g. John Watkins excellent book of case-studies, “Hypnotherapy of War Neuroses”). Anyhow, Patterns I and II aren’t really Erickson books, they’re horribly turgid academic waffley books about his work by Bandler and Grinder as you mention. Its infinitely more interesting and inspirational to read Erickson and Rossi’s original books, e.g. Hypnotic Realities, Experiencing Hypnosis and An Exploratory Casebook. Reading transcripts firsthand, with Ericksons thoughts and notes, allows for a much deeper level of learning than going through Bandlers dull step-by-step guide of bullet points etc. I also have a number of his case studies on video and I learned far more from them than any training course (with the exception of Gil Boyne, who’s final training ever is in London in a week).

  99. 598 – Hi Willbox

    I would love to find a copy of the original Erickson as you say. I think you are right that Messrs. Bandler & Grinder are a bit waffley, but then most academics are in my experience. They tend to tell you too much of the wrong stuff, before you actually get to the interesting bits. My sister is exactly the same andshe has an M.A. I wish I could hypnotyise her into having some common sense, which is something else that they kick out of you whilst at many universities. LOL *S*

    I will tyry and find the books you mention, I am sure Amazon must have a copy floating around and it would be interesting to read what the man himself wrote rather than a 2nd hand version.


  100. 598 – Hi Willbox

    Yay !! – I found one of the books you mentioned on Amazon “Hypnotic Realities”. I bought a used version for £9.00 in hardback as new ones are around £40-70 but I am looking forward to some bedtime hypnotic reading.

    Thanks John

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