Learn mind control for free.
February 22, 2009 9:57 AM   Subscribe

Learn mind control for free.

Meatbomb is going to learn to do the sort of psych-out / mind control that Derren Brown does. I will not pay any money for courses or books in pursuing this objective. I won't join any groups. I don't need any certification, you just need to give me the practical abilities.

Just as an example (but not limited to this): he does a trick with having a mark select a "yes or no" card, and similarly a "select the envelope that has the money" trick. It is clearly not sleight of hand, he is using suggestion and psych-out to win.

You need to show me how to be able to do this and similar.

So, you don't mind teaching me this, here and now, or pointing me to free resources that will provide me the training to learn, great, thanks.
posted by Meatbomb to Education (13 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Step 1: Get TV show intended to showcase your mind control abilities.
Step 2: Don't show the footage where you're wrong.
posted by Benjy at 10:16 AM on February 22, 2009 [18 favorites]

Ya I'm with Benjy.
posted by patnok at 10:47 AM on February 22, 2009

It is clearly not sleight of hand, he is using suggestion and psych-out to win.

Step 1: Realize that this is a wrong assumption.

Step 2: Study magic and mentalism books, especially Henry Hay's Amateur Magician's Handbook.

Step 3: Spend hours and hours alone, sacrificing your social life, to learn the sleights and accompanying psychology of magic and mentalism. Keep in mind that 90% of sleights and routines you learn will never be seen by anyone but yourself. They are for your own pleasure and sense of accomplishment, and training.

Step 4: After years of practice, put together a 10 minute act that you will offer for free, or for a meal, at birthday parties and banquets.

Step 5: Realize that no matter how perfect your routines are, and even if they fool people, no one is entertained by them. Spend years learning how to be an entertainer.

Step 6: After years of doing "off the shelf" routines for real people, you will develop a sense of your own style, and learn how to read an audience, and start to know a little about how the psychology of deception actually works. Then you can start developing your own effects, which will probably fail more than they work, until you work out all the kinks. When you finally perfect an original routine, you will find out that it's actually 100 years old and there was a way easier and better way to do it in the first place.

Concurrent with the above: Keep reading and practicing and studying. Re-read what you already read. Study it again. Practice more things that you will never show anyone, just to train your muscles.

After many years of this, you might find the payoff is just not worth it.
posted by Fuzzy Skinner at 10:50 AM on February 22, 2009 [26 favorites]

Man, that's a lot of stomping on your idea. I have a friend who taught himself a bunch of sleight of hand tricks over the course of maybe 2 years, and he still managed to have an active social life, job, etc. We still like him and since he only pulls these tricks out very rarely, they're still fun to watch. I haven't seen the show you're referring to, but what my friend did sounds similar. He got really good at appearing to shuffle and cut cards while still maintaining control of where certain cards were, and he became an expert at forcing cards (where you get someone to "pick a card, any card" but actually get them to pick the one you want). He once forced the same card on me 3 times in a row, when I KNEW he was trying to do it and was actively trying to counteract his efforts. It still blows my mind.

So obviously, I say go for it. Don't be the guy who can't interact in a social situation without pulling quarters from behind pretty girls' ears, but if you occasionally and nonchalantly pull out a really well-practiced trick, and then adamantly refuse to repeat it, people will be intrigued rather than annoyed.
posted by vytae at 11:04 AM on February 22, 2009 [1 favorite]

Derren Brown uses lots of conventional magic. It's just that his spiel involves invoking psychology instead of "real magic." Most of the time he's using old, standard mentalism tricks. If you want to learn mentalism, then you do more or less what Fuzzy Skinner said.
posted by abcde at 11:08 AM on February 22, 2009

Study Max Maven's Book of Fortunetelling which can be found rather cheaply in many places, or (for a few dollars more) Prism: The Color Series of Mentalis; Maven's famous for "assembly" tricks, which he even explains in the YouTube link I provided. In reality, the illusion of anticipating people's outcomes with elaborate tricks involving numerical grids, playing cards, and dice boils down to pattern recognition, in addition to what's known in ancient and faraway tongues as "Gur Zntvpvna'f Pubvpr", that certain...je ne sais quoi which stands as the hallmark of many enchanters.
posted by Smart Dalek at 11:38 AM on February 22, 2009 [1 favorite]

Man, that's a lot of stomping on your idea.

It's not stomping on the idea at all. (Aside from the fact the Darren Brown is NOT using "mind control.") I love magic and mentalism, and I want others to love it too. But you can't sell it short. Anyone undertaking it has to realize that it takes time and work and practice. And passion. Sure, you can have a social life, but like any skill, there are times you prefer to work on the skill rather than do anything else.

So go for it. Far from discouraging it, I encourage it. But I speak from experience. I've done magic since I was 9, and starting doing paid shows at 14, and continued to do so for many years.

Anyone can learn or buy a "self-working" trick and show it to their friends in a matter of minutes or days. But that doesn't make it interesting or entertaining beyond it being a puzzle. You can learn sleight of hand and fool your friends after a few weeks, months, or years. But that doesn't make you "good" in the same sense that Darren Brown is good. Which he is.

Darren Brown's skills come from years and years of practice and work and failure and success and learning, much how I described above. The fact that what he does is not supernatural in no way detracts from his talent and skill. In fact, it's a testament to his skill that people don't think what he does requires skill. The best way to be a mentalist is to appear to NOT be a "magician."

When I practiced in private with cards, I did double-fans, cascades, waterfalls, springing, back-palming, card-throwing, and all manner of fancy shuffles and flourishes. But when I performed, I made it look like I barely ever messed with cards at all. They just happened to be a convenient prop to show my "powers." If I followed up a mind-reading card trick with flourishes and fancy shuffles, that would break the illusion. Better to have people think I am clumsy, but can somehow read their minds or control their behavior.

But just as with any other discipline, there is no shortcut to gaining skills in magic.

Magic has been such a big part of my life, and has given me so much, that I would love for anyone to learn more about it. In fact, Meatbomb, or anyone else can send me their email address via MeMail and I will send you a PDF booklet that wrote and have made available to other magicians (with great, positive feedback) which addresses the issues I've mentioned here.
posted by Fuzzy Skinner at 12:03 PM on February 22, 2009 [15 favorites]

As far as getting people to pick a specific envelope or card from a collection, I learned it out of a magic-tricks book when I was a kid, like this:

Show your victim four cards - one ace, the other three not aces. Shuffle them so that only you can see which is which, then put the four cards, face down, in front of your victim in sort of a square pattern. Tell your victim you are going to control their choices so that they pick the one that's the ace.

Ask them to point to either the left or the right column of cards.

If they point to the left column of cards, and that column has the ace in it, leave that column and sweep the right-hand column away.

If they point to the right one instead, the column that doesn't have the ace in it, sweep those away.

Either way you have removed half the choices, and left the column you wanted them to pick, but your mark thinks they've made the choice.

Now ask them to point to one of the remaining two cards. If it's the ace, turn it over and congratulate them for following your telepathic directions so well.

If it's not the ace, sweep it away and ask them to turn over the remaining card. It's the ace. Congratulate them for following your telepathic directions so well.
posted by Miko at 4:38 PM on February 22, 2009 [2 favorites]

I was under the impression he uses NLP especially for the BMX trick and the blank paper as money trick.
posted by tinatiga at 5:14 PM on February 22, 2009

I was under the impression he uses NLP especially for the BMX trick and the blank paper as money trick.

It seems as though...

a) in BMX, he's pretending to rely on NLP, but is actually relying on an old-fashioned mentalist trick with the envelope and the note inside it;

b) in Blank Paper, yeah, he actually is relying on NLP.

Not that I or anyone would lie about this.
posted by darth_tedious at 5:42 PM on February 22, 2009

These aren't the droids you're looking for.

Read James Randi. Seriously. The guy has studied and debunked fellows like this by the dozen.
posted by dhartung at 12:09 AM on February 23, 2009

The guy has studied and debunked fellows like this by the dozen.
What's there to debunk? Derren Brown is an illusionist with a mentalism act. He's also a skeptic of those that do claim to have supernatural abilities.

He's written an instructional book on how he performs some of his tricks. You could torrent it if you don't wish to pay.
posted by JonB at 12:22 AM on February 23, 2009

Yeah, Brown is an ally of the skeptics' movement and Randi probably likes him--but would be happy to debunk his spiel.
posted by abcde at 10:08 PM on February 23, 2009

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