Wednesday, 31 May 2006

Something I can't find on the Internet, but should be there somewhere

by Ted Hoffman

Recently I've been watching a TV series by the magician Derren Brown on Channel 4. I'm sure most British readers will be familiar with him, he's really top draw, amongst the best I've seen. A typical trick would be to take a group of people to the cinema where a short film made by Brown with some aledged subliminal messages in is played before a Movie. Afterwards they are interviewed and nobody is able to recall anything at all about the Movie.

A few years previously I remember being similarly impressed with the 'street magic' of a young David Blaine. Back then, curious to know how his tricks were done I spent some time Googling for the secrets, and came up with pretty much everything I wanted. Some would claim it ruins the fun of magic to find out how it is done, but not for me. I find it satisfying to be at a complete loss as to how an effect was achieved, and to then discover it was something simple but brilliantly clever, or sometimes just a cheat (as in the case of Mr Blaine's famous levitation trick).

So a few weeks back I attempted to find out how Derren Brown had achieved his effects. Whilst not as high profile as David Blaine, he is nevertheless very well known, particularly in the UK, and there was no shortage of sites discussing him and his work; but I came up blank.

Part of the problem is that Derren Brown uses some deliberate misdirection as to how his tricks are done, often claiming to reveal the secret, but actually only muddying the water (typically he will claim some fantastic use of NLP).

Magicians' websites/forums tend to have some kind of entrance test, before you can join up; typically a question requiring some very in depth knowledge of performing magic, to keep away the likes of me who just want to spoil the effect, and who can blame them. Though some persistent Googling eventually got me into at least one of these, but to no avail.

After a couple of hours searching, I got the odd answer to some of his more minor effects, lots of people suggesting to read his book, and plenty repeating Brown's own highly improbable explanations.

Which all in all I found quite surprising. Many (thousands probably) people like me will have been trying to find out the answers, and surely one of the (hundreds probably) practitioners of Mentalism will have let something slip (if they indeed know), but nothing. It is very difficult nowadays to keep a secret like that, and I for one find it annoying to not know.