I recently spent an evening at an event, which featured a well-known hypnotist. No, I was not among the chosen asked to ascend the stage and bark like a dog, or be covered by bugs, but it did bring me back to a trip I took to Saskatoon several years ago where, during a photo shoot, I met a man named Richard Guthrie. He billed himself as a mentalist, a term I had not encountered, especially since the television show of the same name had not yet been produced.
I saw him perform at an occasion and was intrigued by his mannerism, his technique and most of all, his believability. Now, please understand that I am extremely skeptical when it comes to things I do not understand or events that have no proof, but the entertainment value of the Mentalist, however, was second to none.
I watched him ask people to write down things on pieces of paper and later reveal what had been noted, and his ability to read minds was truly amazing. This was not in an auditorium, but in a small area of the lobby of the hotel I happen to be in. He was in fact, so entertainingly interesting that I stayed for a good half hour, if for no other reason than to figure out his method. Was he actually reading people's minds? I don't think so. Was he hypnotizing people into making fool of themselves? Again, my answer was no, as I do not believe anyone can be made to do something against their will, but was he entertaining? Absolutely!
I continued about my day’s business, and when I returned to my hotel I decided to hit the bar and relax a bit before dinner. I saw a couple of people that I knew, and joined them for some friendly conversation. A few minutes later, Richard, the mentalist, appeared in the bar, looking for someone, who had evidently not arrived. I chuckled, as I thought a person with his powers would certainly know the whereabouts of his guest.
I jumped out of my element and walked over to Richard, explaining that I had watched him earlier and asked if he wanted to join our little gathering for a drink. He accepted and sat down among our group of skeptics. He explained that his credibility was continually challenged, and our skepticism was nothing new. One of the guys in our group, Keith, a heavyset fellow from Toronto, simply told Richard that it was impossible to make people believe, or do anything to which they were opposed.
Richard took the time to explain that he was not into trickery. He said when he was quite young, he realized he had been blessed with a gift which allowed him to channel energy to people and objects, in a way that made them react differently. He continued to explain that as the years grew, he began to control and develop his gift. Through the help of many tutors, he had learned to hone his skill and become very tuned into his surroundings. In short, he had excelled the art of creating illusion based on information he gathered from his subjects, unbeknown to them.
That was the easy part to swallow, the hypnotism and energy channeling was not. Keith again challenged him and Richard began to talk differently, focusing his attention on Keith. I was amused when he told Keith that once a certain word was said, Keith would not be able to say the number three. The conversation continued and Keith was adamant that nothing had changed.
Richard threw out the predetermined word, but everything stayed as it was. That is, until Richard asked Keith to count to ten. Keith began. "One, two," a hesitation. "Four, five,” etc. the rest of us began to laugh, but Keith had a stunned look on his face. Richard told us to ask him something with the number three and I spoke, asking what tomorrow's date would be. Keith laughed and said, 'The fourth." It was actually the third. He looked at his calendar and said, "The second." We all laughed because no matter how hard Keith stared at the number three, he was unable to say the word.
Ok, so I have to admit I was impressed because I knew Keith was not a plant. Richard ordered a second beer and by now we were all fascinated by his talent, even if it was an illusion. He looked at me and asked me to hand him a spoon, which lay in front of me. He took it and began to rub his fingers over it.
I watched in awe as the spoon slowly began to bend. He handed me the spoon and told me to hold it by its end. I did so and he lightly continued to rub his finger over it. I watched in astonishment as the spoon bent into a 90 degree angle and, short of feeling very hot, it was as solid as it had been when it was straight. Yes I was quite impressed, and fully believed that Richard had certain talents.
I was still not convinced of the hypnotism and I told him so, but instead of answering me he, along with the other guys were laughing, as they stared at me... lying on the floor of the bar about two meters from my chair. What had happened? I certainly have no recollection, but I know I did not get there on my own. Not remembering is the key. Did I actually walk there and lay down, did some of the guys pick me up and put me there, or had Richard magically teleported me there? It didn’t matter, but what did was that it happened, totally without my involvement, or at least the memory of my involvement. I stood up, finished my drink and went to my room, stunned at what had taken place.
A few days after the local show in Port Perry someone told me all that had happened had been a hoax, and the people were actors. I admit I was skeptical, and part of me still wonders about that being the case, but all I have to do is think back to Saskatoon a few years ago, and I must admit, I’m a believer.