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.
“A Night of Magic,” 8 p.m. Saturday featuring mentalist Banachek, $30.
Banachek swears he isn’t a psychic.
Yes, the mentalist and former consultant for the TV series “Criss Angel Mindfreak” can seemingly bend spoons with his thoughts.
Yes, Banachek (who took his stage name from that old George Peppard TV series) can guess your pet’s name or, ahem, that secret fetish you keep buried deep in your gray matter.
Yes, patrons who witness the entertainer’s performance this weekend at the Daytona Festival of Magic may come away believing Banachek possesses supernatural powers.
However, the English-born mentalist says, he’s merely using his five ordinary senses — the same ones you and I have — to create “the illusion of a sixth sense.”
But don’t feel bad if you’re fooled. Among stage magician and mentalist circles, Banachek is famous for his role in Project Alpha, a serious parapsychology research study conducted at Washington University in St. Louis from 1979 to ’81. Working in league with stage magician and skeptic James Randi, a teenaged Banachek (real name Steve Shaw) and another teen were determined by researchers to possess genuine psychic powers — that is, until Randi revealed the hoax.
Banachek, who has long made his home in America and now lives in Houston, talked about the difference between reading minds and reading thoughts during an interview before a Las Vegas show.
So, you’re not a psychic and you say that you don’t read minds but, rather, that you are a mentalist who reads thoughts. Please explain.
If a husband and wife are sitting on a park bench, a pretty woman jogs by. Man turns to look. Wife slaps the husband in the face. We know something about the dynamics of these two people. We have not read their minds — we have read their thoughts.
That is what I do — read thoughts not minds. If someone comes up to me after a show and punched me in the face, I would know what they thought about the show, same if they come up to me with a smile. That is nonverbal communication. It’s a form of thought-reading.
If someone says Dolly Parton, what two things come to mind? Right: singer-songwriter. Seriously though, the words influence the thoughts and that is part of what I use in my show, mixed with magic. But I use a lot of this sort of psychology to accomplish and enhance my mentalism trade.
You are known for telling your audiences you are not a psychic, yet you say some people still believe you have psychic powers. How do you explain that yearning to believe?
Ahhh, people always want to believe that there is more to life than just living and dying and we all want to feel special. If we had this type of abilities, then most people believe that we would be more than special. I particularly already think that humans are very special indeed. I do not need to take advantage of people’s belief systems to entertain.
It is why I am very open about the fact I use verbal and nonverbal communication, body language, lots of magic and perceptual manipulation in my show — all packaged neatly to create a show that looks like and feels like real mind reading.
The other thing is I am doing impossible things. People are born to see patterns. They yearn for information. These are survival instincts. As a result, most people will latch onto whatever makes the illogical seem logical and what puts the world in some sort of order for them.
So, as a result it is easy to convince someone you are psychic if they have no other explanation that makes the impossible possible in their world. The idea of it being “psychic” is an explanation in their mind, something most people need.
So, some people believe you have psychic powers. Is it more difficult to amaze other people these days? Have CGI effects in the movies, techno-computer feats and even David Copperfield’s mega illusions on television made it more difficult for stage performers to conjure a sense of wonder?
I don’t think it is harder to amaze an audience. Great magical and mental performers do it all the time. In fact one of the most common compliments I receive is “Wow, I saw it on TV and did not believe it. Now that I see you doing it, it really is different and amazing. You just changed the way I think about this stuff. I just thought it was all TV editing.”
As you can see, people are even more amazed when they see these things live. However, having said this, information is so much more available nowadays on the Internet, so if you are going to be a mystery entertainer, you better be good and you better be amazing. Or you just really need to be entertaining. A good comic has not been hurt by all the comedy on TV. A good magician should not be either.
Have you ever been tempted to pass yourself off as a psychic, and just run with it?
Only when I see the amount of money some of these fakes make, but I am quickly reminded I could not sleep at night if I took advantage of people like some of these scam artists do.
This is why James Randi put up his million-dollar prize for anyone with psychic abilities (offered to “anyone who can show, under proper observing conditions, evidence of any paranormal, supernatural or occult power or event,” according to the website randi.org).
I am the director of the One Million Dollar Paranormal Challenge. It also keeps me from such temptations as I am reminded every day what kind of horrible damage those type of scam artists do.
What routines will you be performing as part of your Daytona Festival of Magic show?
I probably will perform what I like to call the largest ESP experiment in the world, where the audience writes out thoughts, holds on to them and I try to guess their names, thoughts and even information they did not write down.
Usually I open with something quick like having the audience just think of playing cards in their mind, then without any real cards in existence I reveal three or four cards audience members are thinking of.
I like to close with something dramatic. Being the first mentalist in the world to perform a Russian roulette with knives, I may pull that one out on that night. I will make my final decision once I see the venue, the amount of people and realize what will work best in that environment.
Banachek boggles students @ St. Bonaventure
He doesn’t read minds. He manipulates them.
His name is Banachek, and he’s a self-professed mentalist.
His nearly two-hour-long show in the Regina A. Quick Center for the Arts began with a warm-up routine — a simple ‘pick-a-card’ trick. In the skeptical world in which we live, most people won’t believe something until they see it, but Banachek’s performance last Saturday left most students unable to believe their eyes.
Then he delivered a warning. Banachek told the audience sometimes his stunts might not work. He made it clear — he cannot read minds. No one can, but he can read other things that pertained to the choices people make, such as body language.
The show started off slow and worked toward flashy.
Banachek’s first card-reading trick was intriguing. The mentalist had four students choose the number, color and type of a card from an imaginary playing-card deck in their heads, and then he would guess their card choice. He guessed each student’s card perfectly, but what was really amazing was when he gave insight to how he did it.
According to Banachek, he used body language to assume the color, number and card type the students were thinking of. Before having the students choose their cards, he told them to imagine a clock behind the stage, and from this he was able to see what numbers the students had chosen in their head because they were subconsciously facing their head in the direction of that number on a clock.
Banachek manipulated the audience in ways that made it think it was making choices of free will, but it was actually far from it. In fact, Banachek had everyone in the audience choose two simple shapes in their heads, and he predicted he’d be able to guess what two shapes they had chosen.
It was seemingly a choice the student had freely made, but there were ways Banachek had subconsciously made almost 100 percent of the audience choose triangle and circle. His hand motions and inflections while giving commands made most of the audience choose circle and triangle without even uttering the names of the shapes aloud.
Of the numerous stunts Banachek pulled during his St. Bonaventure performance, the most amazing involved a voodoo needle.
Banachek had one student make a fist with her hand and hold it on stage while another student drew the most realistic picture of a hand that she could. Next, Banachek instructed the audience to imagine that the picture of the hand was the same hand of the student on stage with a closed fist. After imagining the closed fist and the picture of the hand were one, Banachek poked the picture with a needle.
According to Banachek, the needle possessed the ability of healing powers. This meant it punctured like a real needle, but once the needle was removed the bleeding of the wound would stop. After puncturing and removing the needle from the picture, he instructed the student holding her hand in a fist to slowly open her hand and show the audience. In the middle of her palm was a patch of blood from a puncture wound.
Banachek explained the ways in which he manipulated situations to come to a certain conclusion in his stunts to the audience, but there were some stunts that were simply unexplainable, and that was what made it an enjoyable — albeit mind-boggling — night in the Quick.
Mentalist Banachek surprises crowd at HUB
By Ryan Staudt
Collegian Staff Writer
The student stood on stage above the lounging mentalist-magician Banachek, holding a knife concealed within an envelope, just inches from the performer.
HUB-Robeson Center’s Heritage Hall was still, and any air that should have been moving throughout the room was being tightly held in the lungs of the large student audience inside the room watching Banachek’s performance.
As soon as Banachek gave the word, the student plunged the knife down into his stomach.
This performance marked the end of Banachek’s set, as he chose his self titled “Banachek’s Death Test” to be his final act of the show Friday.
“It was amazing. I thought he was going to die during the knife trick,” Herbert Rapley (junior-bioengineering) said.
Banachek, who was voted Best Campus Performer two years in a row, presented various tricks throughout the night — from correctly guessing three random objects taken from the crowd while blindfolded to seemingly reading the minds of students in the audience.
In fact, almost every feat performed by Banachek involved the audience’s participation.
Many students found themselves involved in different parts of the show throughout the evening.
The student involvement added some surprise elements to Banachek’s performance.
Ashley Calle was especially surprised about her involvement with the show.
“It was definitely mind blowing,” Calle (sophomore-interdisciplinary digital studio) said.
Calle said when she appeared to be bending spoons with her mind during her participation in the show, she felt as if she were “psychic.”
But Banachek said he is against performers who try to con audience members into believing in the paranormal.
Unlike many magicians and entertainers in his field, Banachek made a point in telling the crowd that there is nothing magicical or supernatural about what he performs.
“I take my five normal senses and I create the illusion of the sixth sense,” Banachek said.
He said he creates the illusion of a sixth sense by using different small cues throughout the performance.
He brought up some of the psychological verbal and nonverbal cues that he uses to influence people into making certain decisions, such as changing the volume of his voice to emphasize certain words and using various hand signals.
During part of his performance, while asking a student in the audience to pick a number between one and five, he flashed the number three on his fingers while gesturing, and said three louder when listing the student’s choices of numbers to choose from to try to get the student to pick the number three.
Sure enough, the student picked the number three.
“So many people go to the psychic explanation because they can’t explain [what they’re seeing on stage], but I like to assure people that it’s okay to not know,” Banachek said. “It’s just entertainment.”
Beyond Belief: Banachek on Nightline
For promo tape for this piece head to: http://abcnews.go.com/nightline/beyondbelief
Best known for his four-year stint writing magic for A&E’sMindfreak, Banachek, a world-renowned mentalist, arrived at the Student Activities Center auditorium to pull students out of the crowd and up on stage for his experiments.
Before the show began, few in the audience knew what a mentalist show entailed, but students offered up guesses on what skills a mentalist may hold.
“A mentalist is someone who has a very strong mind and uses it to read minds,” said Karen Celis, senior.
Banachek doesn’t claim to be a “mind reader,” but instead says he uses his skills in verbal and nonverbal communication as a “thought reader.”
“I give the illusion of a sixth sense,” Banachek said, “but it’s all based on reading people and guiding their thoughts.”
Dressed in all black, with a bright blue tie, a dark jacket, light brown hair speckled with highlights and a goatee, Banachek rushed the stage, microphone clipped to his chest. Only seconds after his introduction was completed, he dove into the act, calling people on stage and yelling instructions in his fast-paced European accent.
In the course of an hour, Banachek correctly guessed what cards audience members were thinking by analyzing their body language, anticipated what phone number someone would choose from a phone book and knew exactly what the crowd would choose in a collective round of “What Fictional Character Would You Assassinate,” a game akin to Mad Libs.
He also attempted more mind-bending tricks, hypnotizing two students and helping another bend forks with her mind.
In between acts, Banachek filled the time with cheeky comment and jokes, and used his talent to read the thoughts of audience members, finding everything from their pets’ names to instruments played and even secret fetishes.
The show ended with “The Banachek Death Test,” a game of knife roulette played with Banachek and five volunteers from the audience.
“Everyone must be very careful and listen to all the instructions,” Banachek warned, “because one mistake in this trick, and I’m dead.”
Five envelopes were sealed and folded, two containing real knives, and three with the blades retracted, making them unable to cause harm.
One by one, Banachek called the students over and asked them to stab the envelope into his chest. One by one, Banachek called the fake daggers correctly as nervous “ooohs” and “aaahs” echoed from the crowd. Banachek had beaten the roulette wheel once again, without surprise.
“It’s never failed,” Banachek said, crediting his talent for thought reading. “It’s all mind over matter.”