November 13, 2009
Banachek is an American mentalist and skeptic. He has written numerous books and invented various magic and mentalism effects, and is often sought out by top entertainers such as David Blaine, Lance Burton, James Randi and Criss Angel. He has been the recipient of a number of awards and recognitions, including the Dave Lederman Memorial Award (Awarded for Creativity in Mentalism) and the Dunninger Memorial Award (Awarded for Distinguished Professionalism in the Performance of Mentalism), both awarded by the Psychic Entertainers Association, as well as the College Campus Novelty Act of the Year, and the Entertainer of the Year on two occasions, all awarded by the Association for the Promotion of Campus Activities. He is renowned for fooling scientists at Washington University into believing that his supposed psychic abilities were genuine during the Project Alpha hoax in the early 1980s. In 2009, he conducted a preliminary test of psychic claimant Connie Sonne’s dowsing ability for the James Randi Educational Foundation’s Million Dollar Challenge that was witnessed by hundreds in person at The Amazing Meeting 7 in Las Vegas, NV.
In this conversation with D.J. Grothe, Banachek recounts his origins as a mentalist in South Africa, including how James Randi’s books influenced the development of his worldview. He talks about his involvement helping develop Penn and Teller’s bullet catch, the current finale to their Las Vegas show. He describes his role in Project Alpha, and explores to what extent he thinks the researchers involved were aware of his and his colleague’s deceptions. He details the role that magicians and mentalists may play in informing the public about psychic and other paranormal claims, and describes the virtues of being an open-minded skeptic as opposed to a “debunker.” He talks about his role n the James Randi Educational Foundation’s Million Dollar Challenge, and recounts his preliminary testing of Connie Sonne’s dowsing ability in front of a live audience at The Amazing Meeting 7, in Las Vegas in 2009.
To listen click Here
Banachek will be touring in Spain this fall. September through October.
Sept: 13, Lisboa 14, Badajoz 15, SEI Madrid 16, La Varita, Madrid 17, As de Magia, Madrid 18, CIMAPS, Madrid 19, Jerez de la Frontera 22, CIVAC, Valencia 23, Espai Secca, (parlor/close up show), Barcelona 23, AMIC, Lecture right after the show, Barcelona 24, Mags Magic, Barcelona 25, SEI, Barcelona 26, House of Illusions, Salou afternoon 26, Reus, night 27, Pamplona 28, Santander 29, Oviedo 30, Bilbao
OCT 1, Valladolid 2, Zaragoza 3, Teatro Encantado, Madrid (close-up show) 4, Cordoba 5, Semicirculo Elche 6, La Varita, Valencia 7, Gandia 8, Almussafes 9, Mallorca
Some changes may follow.
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Criss hosts the world greatest magic!ans and performs 45 minutes of his most spectacular mind blowing illusions from Believe! Also, don’t miss the world premiere some of his newest illusions exclusively at MAGICjam. Witness what has been hailed as ‘The Magic Event Of A Lifetime!’ (The Huffington Post) from the #1 magician in the world.
Coming off intensive shoulder surgery in January, Angel will invite the World’s Greatest Magic!ans and specialty acts to be a part of his newest production, MAGICjam, a compilation magic variety production that will take place during his rehabilitation period. MAGICjam, created and hosted by Angel, will present an anthology of the greatest acts and will spotlight select cast members from Angel’s current hit SPIKE TV show, also titled “Criss Angel BeLIEve,” including female magician Krystyn Lambert, comedian-illusionist Nathan Burton and Banachek, the world’s premier mentalist. The lineup will also include grand master manipulators Jason Byrne and Tony Clark, the hilarious Russ Merlin, and the world’s best close-up artist Armando Vera. Angel will play host to his friends in addition to closing the show with some of his revolutionary illusions. Guests’ minds will be blown as they witness the impossible in the most exciting variety showcase, featuring the best-of-the-best for this once-in-a-lifetime limited engagement. Criss Angel MAGICjam will perform in the CRISS ANGEL Believe theater at Luxor Las Vegas throughout the months of February and March 2014; CRISS ANGEL Believe will return to the Luxor in April 2014.
Buy Tickets: Click Here
Banachek featured on the Joe Rogan show I was featured on can be seen by clicking on: Joe Rogan questions everything
or if you want to watch the entire episode watch below, Banachek enters at 23.24 in
Show is edited to only show Banachek’s participation
Banachek appeared on THIS IS MAGIC on MBC in South Korea Dec 2012. Despite telling people at home Banachek IS NOT PSYCHIC people at home were told that their silverware would bend as well. Turns out they did.
click here to see pictures of some of the results.
There is also a video teaser (sorry about the advert that comes on first but that’s the price of admission) for the show at:
and one at: http://bit.ly/10Df1tA
Published online at : http://bit.ly/LbLDDB
Banachek’s The Alpha Project and the One-Person Theater Show
By Joe Culpepper |
July 4, 2012 Reviewed in this essay: Banachek’s The Alpha Project, The Fleck Dance Theatre, Luminato Festival, 8-10 June 2012
Do certain individuals have the ability to see the future, to read the thoughts of others, or to communicate with the spirit world? Whatever your answers to these questions might be, in his show The Alpha Project an extraordinary performer named Banachek invites spectators into a universe where such superhuman feats are possible. At least, this is true for the first half of his one-man performance, which recently finished its world premiere.
The initial fifty minutes of Banachek’s show are filled with demonstrations of his uncanny psychic powers. Impossible displays of thought transmission, telepathy, second sight, spirit channeling, and even spirit possession are not only performed live, but are also experienced by a wide selection of audience members who are asked to participate onstage. Banachek does not hesitate to directly involve the most critical skeptics in the room and his effects leave them baffled. One of the highlights for me on opening night was the response of another reporter. When Banachek, whose eyes had been duct-taped shut and covered with a steel mask, divined the personal item that this journalist held concealed between his hands (a silver ring), an expression of profound, even disturbed, bewilderment settled into his face.
Fortunately for him, and for any audience members disconcerted by hints that supernatural powers might be real, Banachek begins the second half of his show with a twist never made explicit in The Alpha Project’s programme – he announces that everything he is doing is an illusion. We learn that the title of his show references “Project Alpha” an elaborate hoax undertaken in 1979 in which an eighteen-year-old Banachek and his collaborators duped scientists at Washington University into verifying their psychic abilities. From this point forward, his effects illustrate how the scientists were fooled, how he turns unusual cultural rituals like past life regressions into magic routines, and how many of his stunts (like being buried alive) are expressions of the human desire to cheat death by superhuman means.
This last half of The Alpha Project is at once the most fascinating part of the performance and the part that left me wanting a more brutally honest piece of magic theatre. I say this, because I passionately love and respect the art of magic. I truly believe that a full-length evening show by a magician of Banachek’s caliber has the potential to deliver the kind of raw emotional power and epiphany-evoking human drama that other pieces of theatre do. So I was excited to hear him share some of the intimate details of his life, such as having to take care of himself from the age of nine onward, as meaningful segues between his effects. These kinds of personal revelations are the risks that magicians rarely take, though such disclosures are the essence of the one-person theatre narratives whose most poignant lines and scenes are forever emblazoned in my memory (from Spalding Grey’s Swimming to Cambodia and Lorenzo Pisoni’s Humor Abuse for example). And though I sense that Banachek’s life story contains this kind of emotional power and notice moments in the second half of The Alpha Project where he gestures towards a more profound memoir, the opening night’s performance consistently rushed past these gritty details to get to the next mystifying effect on the set list.
Some of my colleagues may chastise this review, complaining either that it holds magic to an impossibly high dramatic standard or that it asks magic to be a kind of theatre that it simply is not. But I hold fast. Every year for the past three years, Magicana and Luminato have brought world-class magicians to Toronto where their shows compete for public attention and critical acclaim with some of the most daring and prestigious theater being performed anywhere (e.g. Robert Wilson’s Einstein on the Beach and Robert Lepage’s Spades in 2012). The festival and the city are a fine venue for the premiere of a theatrical magic performance that will someday go on to win a Governor General’s, a Drama Desk, or a Tony award. Magic is waiting for the completely fearless one-person show that will take it there. For now, Banachek’s The Alpha Project is a masterful step in the right direction.
Joe Culpepper / www.joeculpepper.com / is an academic scholar, a magic historian, and a performer.
TARA WALTON/TORONTO STAR
The surprise retirement of I’ll Have Another was there. The out-of-the-blue bid for the 2024 Olympics was there. The story on gang violence? There. He even had the feature article on Australian Aboriginals.
In a feat of unbelievable (no, really) news forecasting, U.K. mentalist Banachek seems to have accurately predicted the front page of Saturday’s Star 10 days in advance.
The professional magician, who’s worked as a consultant for Penn & Teller, David Blaine and Criss Angel, says he scribbled a mock-up of the June 9 front page on May 30.
On June 1, at a public event held at Kiehl’s — a makeup store and, perhaps fittingly, Banachek’s partner-in-illusion — the prediction was folded, taped, and put in numerous envelopes. Customer Diedra Wandel even sealed and signed every envelope that day, eventually placing the package in a glass box in the store’s window, where it supposedly sat untouched for more than a week.
Wandel was on hand again Saturday when the predictions were unveiled in-store to a small crowd of surprisingly unskeptical viewers, exclaiming “wow” and “Oh, my Lord” when Banachek read out his headlines while a volunteer held up a copy of the Star.
“I’m confused,” said Wandel, who had reopened the package, checking to see that her original signatures were still on the envelopes and that another package had not been put in its place. “I just don’t get it.”
Kiehl’s employee Sabrina Pallotta “couldn’t believe it,” swearing that the box in the store window hadn’t been tampered with.
Give or take phrasing and a few words, Banachek guessed mostly right on the headlines. While the Star had “They don’t tell white people how to spend their money,” Banachek had “White people are not told how to spend their money.” His version of the Star’s main news story, “A gang at war with itself,” was written as “Internal Gang Wars (shootings create more killings).”
Curiously, he was also spot-on with the placement of every story on the page, even going so far as to draw the reins on I’ll Have Another’s head, prominent in the Star’s cover photo.
“I’ll Have Another — I wasn’t sure what that exactly was,” Banachek said. “But I got a picture of a horse, and then I realized what it was a few weeks ago, because this one came to me before that.”
Like any trickster, Banachek doesn’t dare break the magician’s code. “If I tell you too much, then you’ll be able to do it,” he said.
But he has performed the trick before, getting “pretty accurate” results, and will reveal — get ready — that he looks at the news and thinks about where things could go.
“Sometimes you can be a little more accurate than normal, which I was today.”
Alison Uncles, associate editor, weekends and features, said normally the Saturday Star front is planned out during the week (always with the possibility that news will break). But there were a few factors — the gang investigation, and the sudden retirement of I’ll Have Another — that meant the page was assembled later than usual.
“For him to have forecasted not only that the horse would announce its retirement, but also that it would be main art is almost inconceivable to me,” she said.
She adds, “I want to believe this is true; I think it would be so freakishly amazing.”
Banachek’s description of his brand of magic may be the best explanation of how he pulled it off.
“I create effects that look like they could be real.”
Banachek, whose real name is Steve Shaw, is in town for the world premiere of his show, The Alpha Project, which is part of Luminato. It showcases his mentalist skills, including psychokinesis, telepathy, precognition, clairvoyance, hypnotism and séances.
Luminato 2012: Have Your Mind Blown by Banachek’s The Alpha Project
If you’re hoping to be driven crazy with curiosity this weekend, this British mentalist has got the show for you.
For someone who makes his living performing feats of mentalism (telepathy, psychokinesis, hypnotism, seances, and dermaoptics, a.k.a. “the magic of sensing without sight”), British-born performer Banachek’s entire backstory is pretty unique. And given that the audience at last night’s opening night show was not short on skeptics—a handful of whom we spoke to during intermission, or casually eavesdropped on, and a number of whom were volunteers on the stage itself—it is the highest praise to say the entire audience left looking absolutely baffled, but also delighted.
The thing is (spoiler alert) Banachek makes no bones about the fact that though he’s been practicing this art for most of his life, none of it is real. If his story itself is to be believed, when he was a teenager the entertainer spent four years being studied by scientists at Washington University. Throughout this ongoing study, which was funded by a half-million-dollar grant, Banachek managed to convince the men he had genuine psychic abilities. “But everything we had done was a trick. We had fooled the scientists,” he explains during his show.
This knowledge didn’t hinder our enjoyment of the performance; not in the least. In the first half of the show, Banachek invites two volunteers onto the stage; each of them is asked to look at the back cover of a paperback book held up by Banachek, and to choose a random word from that book. And lo and behold, he is able to guess first the individual letters, then the entire words they were thinking of (“China” and “colour,” in case you’re comparing notes from a subsequent performance).
Now, a skeptic would assume that perhaps these volunteers were fakes, planted in the audience before the show. But one of Banachek’s assets is that throughout the two-hour performance, he gives a high number of audience members the chance to see him perform up close—and as luck would have it, one of those volunteers was us. After we approached the stage and dutifully tugged at and knocked on the metal blindfold he prepared to put on—over the layers of duct tape also covering his eyes—we entered the audience to select three objects at random from complete strangers. And then, with us holding each object over his head, he guessed exactly what each one was with alarming specificity (for example, not only that we were holding plastic sunglasses, but blue and yellow plastic sunglasses). Considering that we were standing close enough to check his ears for tiny microphones, this was impressive trickery indeed.
You can strain your neck and edge as far off your seat as you want, but there’s no question that Banachek is a master of his craft—there’s a reason he counts Penn & Teller, David Blaine, and Criss Angel among the acts he’s consulted for. Even after he tells you it’s not real, every trick is followed by a single question, rippling through the crowd: “How did he do that?” It may not be magic, but that’s okay—it’s still mystery, suspense, and high entertainment.