Mentalism is a performing art in which its practitioners, known as mentalists, appear to demonstrate highly developed mental or intuitive abilities. Performances may appear to include hypnosis, telepathy, clairvoyance, divination, precognition, psychokinesis, mediumship, mind control, memory feats and rapid mathematics. Mentalists are sometimes categorised as psychic entertainers, although that category also contains non-mentalist performers such as psychic readers and bizarrists.
Much of what the modern mentalist performs in his or her act can be traced back directly to tests of supernatural power that were carried out by mediums, spiritualists and psychics in the 19th Century.[attribution needed] However, the history of mentalism goes back even further. Accounts of seers and oracles can be found in works by the ancient Greeks[attribution needed] and in the Old Testament of the Bible. Among magicians, the mentalism performance generally cited as one of the earliest on record was by diplomat and pioneering sleight-of-hand magician Girolamo Scotto in 1572. The performance of mentalism may utilize these principles along with sleights, fients, misdirection and other skills of street or stage magic.
Some contemporary performers, including Banachek and Derren Brown, attribute their results to natural skills, such as the ability to read body language or to manipulate the subject subliminally through psychological suggestion.
Mentalist or magician
Mentalists generally do not mix "standard" magic tricks with their mental feats. Doing so associates mentalism too closely with the theatrical trickery employed by stage magicians. Many mentalists claim not to be magicians at all, arguing that it is a different art form altogether. The argument is that Mentalism invokes belief and when presented properly, is offered as being "real" be it a claim of Psychic ability or proof that supports other claims such as a Photographic Memory, being a Human Calculator, the Power of Suggestion, NLP, etc.
Magicians ask the audience to suspend their belief and allow their imagination to play with the various tricks they present; they admit that they are tricksters and entertainers and the audience understands that the lady really isn't sawn in half nor can the performer actually fly or make exceptionally large objects vanish into thin air. . . it's all Illusion. There is however a "cross over" between these two worlds known as "Mental Magic". Effects that have the feel of something psychic yet incorporate a series of physical devices that lend to the public a plausible explanation tied to trickery.
Many magicians, however, mix mentally themed performance with magic illusions. For example, a mind-reading stunt might also involve the magical transposition of two different objects. Such hybrid feats of magic are often called mental magic by performers. Magicians who routinely mix magic with mental magic include David Copperfield, David Blaine, The Amazing Kreskin and Dynamo (Steven Frayne).
Mentalism techniques have, on occasion, been allegedly used outside the entertainment industry to influence the actions of prominent people for personal and/or political gain. Famous examples of accused practitioners include:
- Erik Jan Hanussen, alleged to have influenced Adolf Hitler
- Grigori Rasputin, alleged to have influenced Tsarina Alexandra
- Wolf Messing, alleged to have influenced Joseph Stalin
- Count Alessandro di Cagliostro, accused of influencing members of the French aristocracy in the Affair of the Diamond Necklace
"The Amazing Kreskin" has audience members hide his cheques before the show; if Kreskin cannot find the cheque at the end of his performance, he does not get paid.
Mentalism in television
- America's Got Talent: Eric Dittelman, a mind reader, performed on Season 7 of the NBC talent competition America's Got Talent. He made it to the semifinals, and was the first mentalist to be featured on the show.
- Romania's Got Talent: Cristian Gog, a mentalist, won the big prize.
- The Mentalist: an American crime procedural television series in which the main character, Patrick Jane, worked as an independent consultant for the California Bureau of Investigation and later the Federal Bureau of Investigation, solving serious crimes by using his skills of observation and his frequent use of his abilities as a former professional mentalist.
- Psych: an American criminal comedy-drama television series in which the main character, Shawn Spencer, works as a consultant to the Santa Barbara Police Department as a "psychic detective." Though he purports to be a psychic, the truth is that his exceptional observational skills, amazing vision, and near-photographic memory allow him to portray himself as such.
- Tricks of the Mind: a British TV show starring Derren Brown.
- Pasąmonės Kontrolė: Kobra TV Channel by Nicholas Kin.
- Now You See Me: Merritt McKinney, played by Woody Harrelson, performs as a mentalist.
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- Randi, James (1995). "An Encyclopedia of Claims, Frauds, and Hoaxes of the Occult and Supernatural". St. Martin's Press. Retrieved 2008-03-28.
- Gordon, Mel: "Hanussen: Hitler's Jewish Clairvoyant". Feral House, 2001
- George King, The Last Empress: The Life and Times of Alexandra Feodorovna, Tsarina of Russia. Replica Books, 2001. ISBN 978-0-7351-0104-3
- Hamilton-Parker, Craig (December 1, 1996). "Medium with a message". Scotland on Sunday. p. 5.
- Media related to Mentalists at Wikimedia Commons
- Mentalist in An Encyclopedia of Claims, Frauds, and Hoaxes of the Occult and Supernatural
- PSYCRETS British Society of Mystery Entertainers
- MINDvention is an annual convention of mentalists.
- Tabula Mentis A twice yearly event sponsored by PSYCRETS