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Theatrical poster for a mind-reading performance, 1900
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 telepathy, clairvoyance, divination, precognition, psychokinesis, mediumship, mind control, memory feats and rapid mathematics. Hypnosis may also be used as a stage tool. Mentalists are sometimes referred to as psychic entertainers.
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. However, the history of mentalism goes back even further. Accounts of seers and oracles can be found in works by the ancient Greeks 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 utilise similar principles, sleights and skills as stage magic.
Styles of presentation can vary greatly. A few performers, in the mold of Uri Geller, or James Van Praagh, claim to actually possess supernatural powers such as telepathy, clairvoyance, precognition, or telekinesis.
Many contemporary performers, including Richard Osterlind, Banachek, and Derren Brown, attribute their results to mundane 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.
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, and The Amazing Kreskin.
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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:
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 performed in the quarterfinals recently and was passed through over clogging group "All That!". He was eliminated in the semifinals.
- The Mentalist: an American crime procedural television series which debuted in 2008 on CBS. The main character, Patrick Jane, once achieved some notoriety as a psychic medium using paranormal abilities that he now admits he feigned. However, he abandoned his pretense out of remorse when his attention-seeking behavior attracted a serial killer who murdered his wife and daughter. Due to this he now works as an independent consultant for the California Bureau of Investigation (CBI) based in Sacramento, California. He has a remarkable track record for solving serious crimes by using his amazing skills of observation and his frequent use of his abilities as a mentalist.
- Psych: an American criminal comedy-drama television series which debuted in 2006 on the USA Network. The main character, Shawn Spencer, works as a consultant to the Santa Barbara Police Department (SBPD) as a "psychic detective" along with his partner Gus and the occasional help of his father. Though he purports to be a "psychic," in truth it is his exceptional observational skills and near photographic memory that allows him to portray himself as such.
- Deception with Keith Barry: Discovery Channel.
- Trick of the Mind: a British TV show starring Derren Brown.
- ^ Randi, James (1995). "An Encyclopedia of Claims, Frauds, and Hoaxes of the Occult and Supernatural". St. Martin's Press. http://www.randi.org/encyclopedia/mentalist.html. 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" (in English). Scotland on Sunday: pp. 5.