Every now and then I have a conversation with someone who has seen a couple of my shows, but hasn’t read my books or writings, and believes I claim to do all sorts of things that I really don’t. As I had such a discussion last night, and as I’ve been talking about the importance of testing psychic claims that could be fraudulent, I thought I would clarify a few points regarding my own work for anyone in any doubt.
Firstly, regarding the ‘tricks’ as performed in the older shows:
1. I have never used stooges. People generally imagine I must do if they can find no other explanation. But I don’t: it would be artistically repugnant, totally unnecessary, impractical, and would spell career suicide.
2. My techniques are rooted in conjuring magic and hypnosis. All else is most likely misdirection and should be taken with a hefty pinch of salt.
3. I have never claimed to use NLP to achieve my ‘tricks’. On the contrary, I have written very critically about it in Tricks of the Mind. I reserve the same scepticism for subliminal messaging, as well as a lot of body-language reading and the like.
Now, I have largely moved on from performing those sorts of tricks. So, as regards the specials, such as The Experiments and others:
1. Again, the people used are never stooges or set up in any way. They generally apply through an open audition process, whereby we meet or interview them and look at various qualities they possess which would be useful (for example their jobs, beliefs, or how suggestible they are).
2. The contributors are always psychologically screened if they are going to go through a ‘tough’ experience. Without giving away what the show is, or giving them any clue that they will be used in it, we arrange for our preferred participants to have interviews with an independent psychologist who ensures that they will be ‘robust’ enough for the show. This is an important part of our duty of care, which we take very seriously throughout the entire process of making the programmes. And the ‘heroes’ of these specials always emerge exhilarated and delighted to have been part of it.
3. If I make a statement on these shows, it will be true. Nowadays, the Channel 4 lawyers check every word to make sure there is no misleading of the viewer: this is a huge issue in the TV industry at the moment. The joke in the office is that a magician can’t even say ‘this is a normal deck of cards’ on TV nowadays if it isn’t, and I don’t think that’s an exaggeration.
I know that fans will know all this already, but it’s always worth repeating. Have lovely days and enjoy tonight’s show if you’re watching.