The Amazing Kreskin knows what you’re thinking: ‘No, he doesn’t’

You had to feel for the Amazing Kreskin during his appearance at the Edmonton Folk Music Festival this summer. Here’s this 76-year-old self-described “mentalist” doing his same old schtick – dealing with scraps of paper (including his paycheque) and torn-up playing cards on a windy day with poor sound and poor sightlines on an outdoor stage with half his audience getting gradual wedgies as they slowly slid down from their perches on the steep hill above.

But Kreskin still found his paycheque.

Along with the time-honoured “hiding my cheque” bit, he also prompted an acceptable number of oohs and ahs and a lot of “how the heck did he do that?” from his other various feats of mentalisity. He was back Thursday to amaze his fans a second time at much less windy venue of the Arden Theatre in St. Albert. In a recent interview, The Amazing Kreskin asked as many questions as he answered. It’s one the tricks of the trade of the mentalist. Down the line from New Jersey, he starts with “What’s the temperature up there?” – but we’re not going to fall for that.

Q: Why don’t you guess?

A: Below minus 1?

Q: Close. (Actually almost bang on, assuming he was talking in Fahrenheit; but then he could’ve checked the Weather Channel … let’s move on.) What’s your prediction about global warming?

A: Well, it has been a warm winter. Honestly, I think the weathermen are much better predictors of weather than I am. I’ve been sitting here all morning with the sports people asking me about the Jets in the NFL because they’ve been replete with scandals, and now you come out of nowhere asking me about global warming.

Q: Do you get sick of people asking you to predict things?

A: No, of course not! Last year, between Christmas and New Year’s I did 38 TV and radio interviews regarding my predictions. I spend many months preparing my thoughts for the coming year and this year I have some significant predictions to make.

Q: Like what?

A: You couldn’t even buy it from me! Just kidding. But wait until after Christmas. Of course last year was my major comment was about the future of the War on Terror, but I’m not a fortune teller. One was silly: I made a profound prediction about Paris Hilton, that she wouldn’t be winning an Academy Award for the next 72 years.

Q: If you’re not a fortune teller, why does everybody ask you to predict the future?

A: I was on CNN on Jan 1, 2001 and I don’t know why the hell I said this, but I said in September of this year there’s a good chance of a disaster here in New York involving two airlines that will change the history of the world. And of course the day after 9-11 my life changed. I was questioned by the CIA and the FBI: What made me say this? I said, I don’t know, I worked in Saudi Arabia in five different years … And that’s why so many people have asked me my predictions.

Q: You never claim magical powers or supernatural abilities, do you?

A: Not at all. A lot of it is intuitive.

Q: Are you familiar with Isaac Asimov’s Foundation series? The premise is that a scientist has mathematically analyzed events of the past to accurately predict the future. Is this sort of what you do, perhaps even unconsciously?

A: History is very important. In part of the program I start to reflect upon all of the tragedy and dilemmas we have. I think there’s a serious tragedy our kids are going to suffer and I blame our school system and our attitudes: We’ve lost our sense of history. It’s been said that if you don’t study history, you repeat it again – and boy are we destined to relive history.

Q: What was your prediction about the War on Terror?

A: I predicted it would last longer than any human being alive today – but the longest wars in history have always been religious wars. So we have put a burden on young people by not preparing them to understand the sense of history … you’ve heard that the Sirhan Sirhan case is being reopened? The reason the press has come to me is obvious: The defence is that he was hypnotized before he aimed the gun and hallucinated that he was aiming at a target in a sporting arena.

Q: Like in the Manchurian Candidate.

A: Yes, every reporter says that. There’s a professor at Harvard who went to see Sirhan Sirhan. He’s been in a prison for a while. Wouldn’t you say he’s had a few decades to think? So this professor is an expert on mind control and hypnotism and he hypnotized Sirhan Sirhan for 60 hours over three days, and finally broke through to a repressed memory: He didn’t kill Robert Kennedy. He was programmed to miss and others pulled the trigger. And this is a major breakthrough. What I said was very simple: I would like to see no more money wasted on this assassin. Leave him in prison.

Q: So you’re debunking the theory?

A: Yes, I am. He was never hypnotized. If I’m wrong, by the way, I will pay $100,000.

Q: Your price went up. Usually you say you’ll pay $50,000 if you’re wrong about something.

A: I am absolutely certain about this. I was sued by a hypnotist in 1980s because I claimed nobody had ever been put into a hypnotic trance. It’s entirely suggestion. They’re not faking, but they are responding to suggestion consciously and are well aware of what they’re doing. I won the case. But in the U.S. there is no justice in the courtroom. In England, if you win, the other side pays your expenses. So she lost the case, and I still had to pay $112,000.

Q: Isn’t arguing against hypnotism like arguing against the existence of God?

A: It’s not like that all. I’m talking about this very scientifically. You can’t do anything in a so-called trance than you can’t do outside the trance. A person cannot be programmed to act in an anti-social manner, and the hypnotists cannot prove the existence of a trance … you know, I could talk for hours about this, but I have another interview.

Q: Sorry we kept you.

A: Between Christmas and New Year’s I will have some dramatic predictions. If I’m in prison, you come and interview me, OK?