Derren Brown

I saw a show with this guy over the weekend, and the S/O and I had a hell of a time trying to figure him out. He’s an outspoken sceptic and whilst doing the same thing that popular psychics does, called them frauds, it was a refreshing show, simply because he didnt claim any “powers” but re-iterated that its tricks.

Derren Victor Brown (born 27 February 1971) is a British illusionist, mentalist, painter, writer, and sceptic. He is known for his appearances in television specials, stage productions, and British television series such as Trick of the Mind and Trick or Treat. Since the first broadcast of his show Derren Brown: Mind Control in 2000, Brown has become increasingly well known for his "mind-reading" act. He has authored books for magicians as well as the general public. His caricature artwork has received gallery exhibition and is available in a single volume documenting his portrait collection.[1]

Though his performances of mind-reading and other feats of mentalism may appear to be the result of psychic or paranormal practices, he claims no such abilities. Brown states at the beginning of his Trick of the Mind programmes that he achieves his results using a combination of “magic, suggestion, psychology, misdirection and showmanship”. Using his knowledge and skill, he appears to be able to predict and influence people’s thoughts with subtle suggestion, manipulate the decision making process and read the subtle physical and psychological signs or body language that indicate what a person is thinking.

Has anyone seen him live by any co-incidence?

I think he’s outhunked the tricksters and Marietta Theunissen’s of this world…

I would love to see him live - he is a genius. I’ve seen all his stuff; he is very, very good at what he does…

Yeah, I’m a big fan too (check the signature below) and I think that “Tricks of the Mind” is an excellent book as an introduction to scepticism for people who have enjoyed his shows (or those who enjoy magicians).

However, he isn’t immune to criticism. There are a number of valid criticisms sceptics have made about his “lies by omission” and misdirections (alternative explanations of the tricks). He has cultivated an image of having superior understanding of the human mind that allows him to “read” and “plant” thoughts in his subjects when in actual fact they are centuries-old mentalist tricks that could only very loosely be described as “reading and planting” thoughts.

Take for example his show “The Events: How to win the National Lottery”. Even though he promised (repeatedly) to show us how it was done, he failed to do so, instead providing some woo-like explanation that finding patterns in randomness can be achieved by group thinking (or “the wisdom of crowds”). His “guess the cow’s weight” example was hopelessly misapplied and an obvious intentional lie. Fortunately, Captain Disillusion disected the broadcast and clearly explains how it was really done ( Part 4 and Part 5 deal directly with the Derren Brown Lottery show ).

I am still a huge fan, I watch everything he makes, I follow his blog and I would love to see a live show. But there are times when criticism of his sceptical style is warranted.


Anybody watch Freek Robinson interviewing Marietta et al last night? Jisses, he was way too nice to her. Asks: “No wat sien jy vir SA in 2011?” She: “Niks, Ek wil nie he dat mense hulle energie kanaliseer in negatiewe dinge nie want dan gebuer die negatiewe dinge.” And also about world disasters: “Die aarde is 'n lewende entiteit, en reflekteer die mense se energie: as hulle dink aan aardbewings en vuurspuwende berge dan gebeur dit.” FFS! But of course she states that her visions are God-given and that she is merely the channel for these visions.

A supremely positive self-image with nary a moment’s doubt has our Marietta, n’est-ce pas? In another age, she could very easily have been High Priestess with Danie Krügel among her concubines…


Oh but she is the High Priestess: when asked about SA politics she replied: “Ek wil nie kommentaar lewer nie want jy weet Freek ek werk met baie belangrike mense in hoe poste”…so our country is run by superstitious people who consult the oracles…

Well, we’ve only really got her own word on that. But wait! She’d never, ever, ever stretch the truth a bit, would she now!? ::slight_smile:

Sadly, that’s all too true, even without Theunissen’s meddlesome bluster.


Yes I really found the shangoma and gay tarrot reader much more entertaining. Marietta should return to the other side and stay there.

Did however notice that she is shying away a lot from her old persona where she claimed the dead would speak to her. Now it apparently is only visions provided by the god force that show her stuff that she then interprets. Like I say, I would rather take my chances with the shangoma then :wink:

Isn’t Darren Brown the oke who left a wallet lying on the pavement in Piccadilly Circus all day and no one picked it up? How did he do that?

Real ugly wallet: day-glo orange with cerulean stripes, maybe?


Could be, but it was chock-full of portraits of the queen (granted, not a centrefold, but people seem to like having pics of her in their wallets). People just walked past it as though it wasn’t there, and I don’t know how he did it.

Could’ve just plopped it down in a place where there is some other, more immediate distraction around. Hot chick on a sign becomes visible at just that spot, etc…

Remember in magic a major element of the trick is distraction. You won’t see the slight if you’re being misdirected somewhere else…

Hmm, on a related note… I once saw a lengthy article about an experiment that involved one of the world’s greatest violin players. A man who’se playing could reportedly reduce macho men to tears…

They put him in Grand Central station (IIRC) with some exceptionally rare antique violin… and let him play there with a hat on the floor for tips. This was a guy that demanded HUGE appearance fees otherwise… He apparently played all morning while thousands of commuters streamed past, way too absorbed in their own hurried rush to notice something exceptional happening right next to them. ONE person stopped for a couple of minutes to listen, and put some cash in the hat. Others did give donations, but they just kinda flung spare change into the hat as they hurried past… The violinist was horrified. But the scientists took note…

Then in another data point unrelated to the story above… I saw a TED talk somewhere about a beggar who lay on the steps of some train station, literally starved and dehydrated, dying. He lay there for a long time while once again thousands of commuters streamed past… until one single commuter (the guy who was studying this stuff), stopped to see what was wrong with him. He says the moment he did that, everyone around him stopped too, and suddenly the entire area was abuzz with “Hey what’s wrong with this guy?! Get some water! Call an ambulance! I’ll buy him some food quickly!”… It’s not that people didn’t want to help this man. But nobody even noticed he was there.

Yeah his name is Joshua Bell.

There was a Boston Legal episode where a bergie threw a rock at Danny Crane for ignoring him. Alan Shaw admitted he hadn’t noticed him either until the rock was thrown. I remember thinking how true that was.

Oops. Denny Crane and Alan Shore.



Thanks for the info. I’ve only heard the names, never seen them written down.

I think you’re right. And there might be another contributing factor; consider what you’d be doing walking in one of the busiest pedestrian intersections in London. I don’t know about you but I’d be looking at pedestrians to avoid running into some random person walking in a direction I wasn’t expecting - not down at the ground. The circle he drew around the wallet seems to be for no other reason than to make the audience believe that the circle is significant.


They are just frikkin’ awesome! ;D