The Amazing Kreskin
A person who can make predictions with a fair number of these forecasts eventually coming true always stirs up wonder and amazement. The Amazing Kreskin is just that sort of person, and in this week’s History of Magic, he takes center stage.
Named George Joseph Kresge at birth, Kreskin was born of Italian and Polish parentage on January 12, 1935 in Montclair, New Jersey. He was to become and still remains a remarkable performer as a hypnotist / mentalist specialising in “thought reading.” Kreskin has been at the forefront of psychological mentalism and hypnosis shows for over four decades now, and he continues to amaze and bewilder his audiences with his supposed powers which he assures is not brought about by paranormal or clairvoyant means. He distinctly dislikes being called a ‘psychic.’
His interest in magic stems from being an ardent comic reader of Lee Falk’s famous Mandrake the Magician comics, which featured a crime-fighting stage magician. He dabbled in magic at a very early age and around age eleven, he was hypnotising people and was credited as the youngest hypnotist in America. He presents himself as a true entertainer and he is still a highly successful performer with all the attributes of a real showman. He gives the appearance of being a very intelligent performer with a deep understanding of parapsychology and the paranormal and more importantly, the power of suggestibility. However, he has been known to be rude and abrasive with some audiences.
After many years as a successful mentalist on the American and Canadian College audience circuit, he has had numerous guest appearances on major TV shows like those of David Letterman, Jay Leno, Mike Douglas, Jimmy Fallon, Johnny Carson, and Larry King Live. Kreskin is still sought after for his unique performances and lectures.
From 1970 to 1975, Kreskin’s television series, The Amazing World of Kreskin, was broadcasted throughout Canada and the United States and was highly successful. Throughout his career, he has made many long-term predictions on such subjects as horse race placings and American presidential election results. He also predicted the winner of the Super Bowl series by forecasting three days before the event that the Baltimore Ravens would win with a score of 34 points.
He legally changed his name to ‘The Amazing Kreskin’ and uses the same techniques that other mentalists use—suggestion, misdirection, sleight of hand, reading body language, and listening to the way a person speaks. He is a real master of influencing people through suggestion.
In 1997, he appeared in Trump Plaza New York on the hottest day of summer and caused the crowd to shake and shiver with cold and run for blankets, proving that “the mind can beat the heat.” He also presented a Halloween séance in 1997 with his host Howard Stern who stated, “That was the most amazing thing I ever saw.” Kreskin has performed for royalty and presidential families and has had over 500 television appearances.
In 2002, Kreskin made a prediction that a UFO sighting would occur over Las Vegas on June 6 at 9:45 PM. Hundreds of people assembled and many camped out to witness this event. He even put up a $50,000 bond that would go to a selected charity if it didn’t happen. No such sighting occurred. He made light of the offer stating that the sighting was a total fabrication showing how susceptible people were to suggestion. Kreskin stated that he was concerned that a terrorist having the skill of a mentalist could probably influence people the same way, which might lead to tragedy. When asked specifically about the $50,000 donation, he stated that the forecast sighting was merely an experiment, but there was indeed a sort of single sighting of glowing red lights purportedly seen in the sky around midnight, long after news photographers and cameras had left the scene. Kreskin argued that because of this lone sighting, his prediction was validated, but many were of the opinion that the stunt was merely for publicity. However, his appearances on talk shows fell off markedly after this episode. Not all his predictions come to fruition but when he gets a hit, he gets the acclaim.
Kreskin performs on stage and auditoriums with practically no stage props or paraphernalia, unlike most mentalists. However, he does sometimes begin with a few sleight-of-hand tricks and the Linking Finger Rings as a prelude to his ESP. Then he will sit in a chair facing the audience with just a pad and pen jotting down notes as he feels thoughts coming to him. He will call out a person’s initials and once verified, he will state their full name and a few details about them. He would relate numbers that people were merely thinking of and the names of other family members or the name of a pet. It looks as though he is picking up ‘thought waves’ from different audience members and it is very effective. Joseph Dunniger did something similar and it has been suggested that Kreskin may have in fact obtained Dunniger’s method and adapted it to his performance style.
One of the Amazing Kreskin’s routines stems from a childhood game called “Hot & Cold” where children hide an object and a player endeavours to find it by asking if they are hot or cold while searching for it. Kreskin developed a particular skill for this as a child. Now as a professional performer, he has his cheque for a show hidden by an audience member pre-show. If he fails to find the cheque, he forfeits the money. He is nearly always successful in this. He states, “I am 90% successful—10% of the time.” He also believes that Adolf Hitler used hypnotic techniques in his speeches with torchlights and the sombre beating of a drum and that he was able to plant persuasive suggestions to the multitudes.
As well as being an accomplished mentalist/thought reader, Kreskin is also an excellent concert pianist. He has given recitals and performed as a soloist pianist with two major orchestras. He is a rather talented comedian as well and some of his shows include many witty one-liners like “I have nothing against the politicians in Washington but I just wish they had been on the Titanic.”
Kreskin has written nearly 200 books, many of which suggest that the reader could learn the secrets of what he does. I have two of his publications that are far removed from exposing his methodology and they have not helped me to develop my extra sensory perception. However his latest book for 2016, entitled In Real Time, has just been published and it may perhaps reveal just a little more about this amazing performer. There is no doubt that his show still has strong appeal, made evident by the fact that he averages around 200 shows a year.
The Amazing Kreskin can be very persuasive when questioned about his supposed powers of perception and ability to read minds, and the way he does this is very reminiscent of a clever showman—which he indeed is. People are drawn into his ‘pseudo speak’ very easily because the attraction of ‘not knowing’ will always have that sort of appeal to lay people.
ESP still has its adherents who will always believe in the paranormal and Kreskin keeps that belief going. There can be no doubt that his shows after all these years can still draw big audiences and they like what they get. Although he is a skilled performer, he is rather reticent about mixing freely with other magicians or fellow mentalists. At this stage, it remains to be seen what type of legacy he will leave in the history of magic, but he must be acknowledged as a fine performer who leaves his audiences in awe, wonder, and amazement.
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