Fight on Phenomenon!

Last week you may remember I watched phenomenon with eye out for Uri Geller's nonsense, and I was pleasantly surprised to find Criss Angel playing the skeptic pretty well.

Well this week's was awesome! Jim Callahan does a pretty cheesy psychic bit, with some really terrible acting, and it's so bad that Angel calls him out. Angel starts demanding he (or Geller) show real psychic ability and if he did he'd give him a million dollars. It ends up with them being physically separated - check it out!

Some spoilers below the fold.

The rest of the mentalism gags this week were more of the same. Instead of "find the loaded nail-gun" it was "find the knife in the tube", making things float - essentially modifications of the floating cigarette trick. One guy pulled a pretty cheesy stunt of supposedly stopping his heart.

This is a simple gag that anyone can do - all you have to do is hide a knot in your armpit or some other hard object. When you want to stop your pulse you compress the brachial artery using the knot by pressing your arm against your torso. Amuse your friends, scare your doctor etc., it's a blast.

Some of the early tricks were given away too but the absolute worst was Geller pulling his psychic shtick for what was clearly a simple mathematical trick. You were told to select a planet, then spell it's name moving around to other planets - yada yada - the point is that things were arranged in such a way that no matter where you started, you ended on the same planet. Second worst was definitely the cheesy seance that Angel attacks so ferociously, but Geller is such a hack, and just such a poor performer it was a close call. After all, why bother with psychic mumbo-jumbo when the trick is so obviously just a mathematical gag?

My favorite was Wayne Hoffman for sure, because he actually tattoos his trick to his arm, and then gets Miss America to draw it. He then explains the trick, which was pretty simple. He just made sure she saw the image he wanted to draw (he hid it in plain sight in her dressing room), and then suggested it to her using language tricks. It was pretty good, and if it shows up on youtube I'll put it up.

Anyway, more fun on Phenomenon, let's hope Angel ends the series by punching Geller in the face, he clearly wants to. The mere possibility of it now has me hooked on the show.

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I was laughing my head off when Criss Angel confronted Jim Callahan. Of course, I was also laughing my head off during Callahan's act, alebit for different reasons.

But do you think there might have been something more to Hoffman's trick? It seems awfully risky to think that he could get Miss America to draw a yin yang symbol just by placing a suggestive table in her dressing room and then using some linguistic clues in his introduction. This is live television, after all. If she had drawn something else was he just going to admit defeat? Or did he have some other ending he could have launched into?

Also, I know the knot under the armpit trick, but what about the EKG? It registered no heart activity. Was it just a gimmicked machine?

Over at the JREF forum, there's a long thread debating whether or not it was staged. Some of the commenters point out that Angel had said that if any of the performers claimed to only(?) be using paranormal woo, he was going to call them on it (emphasis added):

ANGEL [speaking on Larry King]: ... no one has the ability, that I'm aware of, to do anything supernatural, psychic, talk to the dead. And that was what I said I was going to do with "Phenomenon." If somebody goes on that show and claims to have supernatural psychic ability, I'm going to bust them live and on television. That's what Houdini did for more than half of his life, because those people prey on the vulnerable.

Supposedly, Callahan did claim that (on the show or his website or something), hence Angel's challenge:

The rest of the contestants are claiming to be magicians, "performers", and expert readers of body language. Jim Callahan was the first and so far only contestant to claim paranormal powers. That's why he was singled out by Criss.

There's also some speculation Randi advised Angel, who was obviously prepared.

I never caught Mindfreak as much as I would have liked to, but Angel is a hundred thousand times better a magician that both Callahan and Geller put together.

I think Angel could make a more than worthy successor to James Randi.

I may have to change my opinion of Chris Angel. I always considered him to just be a low rent David Blane.

I just happen to be in the market for a new favorite illusionist being as how my old favorite turned out to be some kind of freaky serial rapist.

Bravo Chris Angel. He not only got to take a jab at Jim Gallahan but Uri Geller as well. Would not surprise me if Randi was involved. I refuse to watch the show and mostly stay away from watching TV in general. I did see the scene on youtube though. They should have shown a fight it would have been more interesting. Who do you think would have won?

I think Guy, the guy that stopped his heart, did something with electricity to jam the EKG. When Raven touches his neck to feel his pulse she mentions that it feels like an electrical charge. And later, when the EKG started up again she jumped and ran, but I don't believe that it was because she was afraid. I believe she got shocked with a burst of electricity and startled because of that. Much of her surprise during the night seemed feigned (like with Jim), but it seemed real in that moment. Her bracelet even went flying.

He also had his arms resting on two podiums during the trick. Maybe they were connected to the EKG to manipulate it.

If you look closely Wayne's tattoo doesn't look real. It looks like grease paint and it's definitely smeared on the edges. I don't know how he got her to draw the yin yang, but I agree that it's awfully tricky to try to use suggestion on live TV like that.

As a performer, Callahan missed his chance. He had already "established" the premise that his channelling was physically demanding. He should have accepted Angel's challenge and then fainted in the attempt. You gotta stay in character.

As a performer, Callahan missed his chance. He had already "established" the premise that his channelling was physically demanding. He should have accepted Angel's challenge and then fainted in the attempt. You gotta stay in character.

Yeah, that's what I was thinking. Callahan is, hard as it is to believe, not even in the same league as Geller or Browne -- and that's really sad.

I also don't understand why he was so set on clobbering Criss Angel. Angel is buff and would flatten that loser.

ok, well im sure no one will agree with me, but just beacuse criss angel thinks no one can get intouch with the super natural, doesnt mean hes true. beacuse obviously, 99.9% of the time, there is a way to make the impossible possible. i dont care who what when are or how you say it. ithe impossible is possible if you push it out ur mind. and what i think callahan did. is actually summon a daemon into his body. as in Exsorsist or something. like to this. and in this case i dont like the idea of that happening. one bit, but im not a skeptic of anything. i dont beleave everyone can do everyone, but i beleave anyone person, could have something amazingly different then everyone else. beacuse like i said, the impossible can be proved by at least one person, possible. did i mention i dont like skepticism

Its really not *that* tricky. Wasn't that long ago on Mind Freak that they ran with the same thing, using the star from Shaun of the Dead as the "victim". At the end they showed how, it was a lot of clever fraudian type slips, i.e. replacing similar sounding words with ones that would trigger the correct response. The room itself was also staged, with lots of wheel like structures, structures that sort of looked a bit like bicycle frames, and even an old reel to reel tape recorder (of the sort with the huge reels on it), which was turning in the background. All if these clever little mental tricks took less than a minute to convince a guy that had always wanted to get a leather jacket that he **instead** wanted a BMX bike, which was *red* in color.

Something like the yin/yang trick might be slightly more risky, but not if the exposure time to the visual hints was longer and it *is* a much simpler trick than convincing someone to completely forget what they told you that had always wanted over the phone, and replace it with *certainty* that they wanted something entirely different in only a few minutes. That takes real skill. By comparison, this was a parlor trick.

Well, it seems at least one person thinks that Angel's tricks are real.

The irony: this person claims to have the biblical gift of "discernment"!

"When I have trouble in my spirit when watching this guy it's because the gift of discernment is running in overdrive!

Your remark reminds me of things my parents used to say when I was a child and frightened. They were not comforting in the slightest. "Oh there's nothing to fear but fear itself." "Oh that's just trick photography." "You are imagining things." "You're just letting your imagination run wild." "Demons aren't real." Those phrases belittle people.

I have recently considered posting about Criss Angel because I've seen the commercials for Phenomenon and my discernment kicks into overdrive. I agree with Angyl. There might be a way to explain his tricks and illusions, but how can it be proven that every trick Criss does is human illusion and trickery? He could use human illusion to win people over to the darker side of magic and sorcery?

I think that even though he might have some of his illusions based in this realm, I'm willing to bet that he has help from a more sinister realm. And I'm willing to bet that those in his inner circle have probably seen him do things that would curl our hair."