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Derren Brown: Disinformation?

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posted on Feb, 6 2005 @ 10:56 AM
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For those of you in the UK and have seen Derren Browns's recent deluge of programs on channel 4 in attempting to prove all psychic phenomena to be fake, such as "seance" what do you think of him?

At first I thought he was an honest skeptic who wants to expose the frauds of the psychic scene. However, from his recent shows, I am inclined to believe that he has an ulterior motive. He is either a real psychic himself and is cleverly hiding it behind "psychological experiments" or he is setting up fake experiments with actors or hypnotized paticipants.

In his recent "seance" where a group of college students were invited to do a "psychological experiment" in an old school were a group of students had earlier killed themselves due to a suicide pact. Some of the things that occurred, if we take the premise that the participants involved were not acting, cannot be explained as normal or psychological phenomena. For instance:

A spirit cabinet is introduced to the group. In the cabinet, there is a table with a bunch of papers and a tamberine. He invites a woman from the group who he then puts into trance to sit in the cabinet(there are no suggestions) and then draws the curtains around her. In a few seconds, we hear the tamberine fall. The curtains are redrawn and the girl is seen still in trance in the chair and the tamberine lying on the floor. She is awakened and then asked if she touched the tamberine; she replies no. She is then put into trance again and the curtains are closed. A few seconds later, the tamberine is hurled out of the cabinet at the group.

The curtains are again redrawn and the woman questioned. Again she responds she did not. Derren then proceeds to a set of screens and informs them that it was all caught on CCTV. When he ran the tape, much to the disbelief of the woman, she was caught dislodging and throwing the tamberine. She swore the group she had no recollection of doing that.

Derren explained this away as "unconscious action" I know for a fact that if I was in the cabinet I would not have thrown it, unconscious or not. So, either Derren hypnotized her earlier(of camera) or she was an actor.

Then, something much more extraordinary happened. He asked another participant, this time a guy, to come forward and try it, except this time, the guy was to remain conscious. The curtains were drawn, and seconds later, all the papers were thrown up out of the cabinet and the guy was screaming for his life. The curtains were drawn, and there the guy was, in an absolute state of hysteria. He said "He wanted to get out, that he felt something very wrong"

Later, another experiment was tried, the actual seance. One of the group members, a woman, was picked to go downstairs and pick a room in a corridor of 14(?) rooms and sit on her own in there in a dark room. Inside, there was a chair and a slate with a chalk.

Meanwhile, cards with pictures of each of the old students who commited suicide were laid out into the table. Half of them were black and white and half of them were colour. Then the group were asked to concentrate on a colour one that drew them in the most, and then move to the nearest black and white one from there, then to the nearest colour, then to the black and white, then to the nearest colour one diagonal and left from that. The viewers at home were instructed to do the same.

I instantly saw the trickery involved in that. As the cards were arranged in such a manner that most people would have ended up with the same card in the end. That card was Jane. However, no one revealed who they got till the end.

Although that was not extrordinary itself, what happened thereafter was. Derren said that one of the spirits was trying to contact them and would be present with them. One of the members was then put into trance and given a slate and chalk. Meanwhile, the student who was downstairs on her own in the room, was asked to write a name of a city down. The one in trance was told to write the city from where she thought the spirit was from, except to do let the pen to automatically write by itself. She scribbled down London in obscure, but decypherable lettters.

This was referenced with the girl downstairs. They both had written London. Derren told them it could be because London is the most popular city in UK. However, no one in the group bought that, nor did I. There are some 20 cities in UK, the chances of them both writing london would be less than 1%. If either of the girls wrote something else, the experiment would have been ruined. However, we should bear in mind, that this school/college was actually in London. So, perhaps the most logical answer was London.

Thereafter, the group tried to contact the spirit on a Ouiji board like set-up. Basically the letters of the alphabet on cards were arranged in a circle around an ordinary glass tumber at the centre. Each of the group members then put their finger on the glass and asked to think of the student they picked in the earlier card exercise. They were told there is only one spirit that could be present. They were also told the glass would automatically move to the letters and spell out the name of the spirit. Initially, the glass did not move. So Derren swapped around some of the group members. I noticed, that the the ones swapped around were the most strongest and biggest. So, perhaps it is to do with force mechanics(i.e. the strongest force counteracting the weaker forces to produce motion in direction of the strongest force)

The glass started to move slowly towards the letter J, it then started to pick up speed and spell the letters A, N and ended at the letter E at it's fastest speed(almost off the table) this was the card that was forced in the earlier exercise. This itself, although completely freaked our group members, was not extraordinary, as it turns out that 10 of the 12 had the same card 'JANE' and as were all expecting the letter 'J', it produced unconscious movement of the glass to the card 'J' and it picked up speed only because they were anticipating the subsequent letters and were convinced "it was working" hence the increase in speed.

After they had established it was Jane was contacting them. They opened up an enveolpe on Jane. There were was an envelope for each student. It mentioned what town she was from and what her class room number was. It said she was from London and her class room was 7. They then asked the girl downstairs through an intercom system to tell them the room number she was in; yes, she was in room 7!

There were 14 or so rooms down there. How did she manage to get into the same room that Jane was in. Now, again, either she is an actor or there were several envelopes, each putting Jane in a different room and Derren was informed about which room she chose by a crew member from an earpiece.

At this moment the entire group of students, who were initially skeptics, were all in a state of shock. What happened thereafter can only be explained as an actor. They sat around a table and formed a circle to contact the spirit of Jane. One of the group members, again a girl, was put into trance and was going to be the medium to channel the spirit of Jane. Moments later, everyone reported the presence of Jane and 'Jane' began speaking through the girl(this is called transmediumship) in a different voice and talked about herself and mentioned her cat "harry" After it was over, Derren said he had obtained a letter and video from the relatives of each student about the students and their life. Halfway down the letter it mentions her cat harry!

There is a lot of trickery and mind games involved in this entire experiment. So, perhaps the ending was trickery too. And the only trickery that could be involved here is that the the group member that was assigned to be a medium was an actor.

I don't think this can be explained without assuming that some of the group members were plants(actors) and the psychological experiment was a fake and therefore deliberate disinformation. As it cannot claim to prove that mediumship is "psychological" if there were actors involved. What do you think?

[edit on 6-2-2005 by Indigo_Child]




posted on Feb, 6 2005 @ 11:07 AM
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You make some good points there but I think the thing you have to keep in mind when you watch a programme on Derren Brown is that the way he works is to put an idea in your head.

You may have seen a programme showing a shopping mall all putting their hands up at the same time (it's available on the channel 4 website), and the way that he did this was to play a recording in the background for about half an hour and then gave them the subliminal message to raise their right arms.

A similar thing could have been done in the, for example, London part of the experiment you mentioned. All he would have to do is put the idea of London into their heads and that's what they would say.

I remember seeing a programme where he once said that the foundation of his "ability", if you will, is similar to the principle of telling someone not to think of a black cat. Because the words "think of a black cat" are in the sentence, they think of it.

I myself have often wondered if they use actors or not, but I believe he just uses this principle. What I find more scary is that he can go to a dog track and win money off a losing ticket, and convert a room full of atheists to christianity. Do we really want this guy walking around the planet
? I know I wouldn't want to be on his bad side lol.



posted on Feb, 6 2005 @ 11:24 AM
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Bear in mind, that when that program started, Darren Brown said that a group had been selected based on results of a suggestability test that a larger group had taken part in.

What he had clearly done, was pick the most suggestable, gullible students, and did his usual trickery to get the result he wanted.

If you watch his other shows, it is all about him making someone have a thought in their head that he has planted through subliminal suggestion.

EDIT: For crappy spelling

[edit on 6/2/05 by stumason]



posted on Feb, 6 2005 @ 11:35 AM
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I guess in a way that means he's half-faking it, because if he's using the most suggestable people, then he's getting around the problems he'd face with the average person.



posted on Feb, 6 2005 @ 12:13 PM
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Derren Brown is a magician. He specialises in an area of Magic called 'Mentalism'. I know this because i am involved in this myself. He's a great performer, but everything he does, just like David Blaine is tricks.
I quite agree however, that he has set out to debunk anything that differs from his scientific background. A recent programme of his "Messiah", set out to completely debunk anyone with a belief that differed from his.

He certainly isn't a psychic, and from what i know of him (and trust me i know a lot) - he wouldn't go near anyone like that with a barge pole.



posted on Feb, 6 2005 @ 01:25 PM
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Yes, I expected a "suggestability" or an "idiot test" some form of mind control and hypnotism. I even think that perhaps this test had questions like "think of a city" and the members who both mentioned London were selected to do the automatic writing exercise. Now, to guarantee they would both answer the same they were both put into circumstances that would shut down their logical mind.

However, the woman who threw the tamberine, must have either been an actor or hypnotized previously. I can't see how subliminal messaging would produce results like that. More so in the case of the conscious man, who was screaming when the papers were thrust out of the "spirit cabinet" again they are either actors or hypnotized.

The woman who was supposedly channeling the spirit, would again, have to be hypnotized off screen or be an actor.

Considering all of the trickery and mind control involved, I probably think some actors are actually involved. I think it's the easiest explanation for some of the behaviors. Therefore, this is not an actual proper psychological experiment. This is deliberately and cunningly designed propoganda; i.e disinformation. What it basically does is demystiy the extraordinary phenomena and renders it prosaic and mundane, by implating the suggestion in peoples mind that it is "trickery" and demonizing it by connotinig it as something sinister. In Derren's words "I think spiritualism is ugly"

Therefore when people do actually experience it in real-life situations, they will associate the subliminal suggestions "trickery" and "sinister" from his program. I think what Derren Brown is doing is as fradulent as the "fakes" he's trying to expose.

Why is that all the famous skeptics like Brown and Randi are also con masters?

[edit on 6-2-2005 by Indigo_Child]



posted on Feb, 6 2005 @ 01:29 PM
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Originally posted by Indigo_Child
Yes, I expected a "suggestability" or an "idiot test" some form of mind control and hypnotism. I even think that perhaps this test had questions like "think of a city" and the members who both mentioned London were selected to do the automatic writing exercise. Now, to gurantee they would both answer the same they were both put into circumstances that would shut down their logical mind.

However, the woman who threw the tamberine, must have either been an actor or hypnotized previously. I can't see how subliminal messaging would produce results like that. More so in the case of the conscious man, who was screaming when the papers were thrust out of the "spirit cabinet" again they are either actors or hypnotized.

The woman who was supposedly channeling the spirit. Would again, have to be hypnotized off screen or an actor.

Considering all of the trickery and mind control involved, I probably think some actors are actually involved. I think it's the easiest explanation for some of the behaviors. Therefore, this is not an actual proper psychological experiment. This is deliberatelly designed propoganda; i.e disinformation. What it basically does is demystiy the extraordinary phenomena and renders it prosaic and mundane, by implating the suggestion in peoples mind that it is "trickery" and connotes it as something sinister.

Therefore when people do actually experience it in real-life situations, they will associate the subliminal suggestions "trickery" and "sinister" from his program. I think what Derren Brown is doing is as fradulent as the "fakes" he trying to expose.


Your pretty much hitting the nail on the head there. However, he doesn't use actors, nor are any of his effects psychology related. He uses tricks as he is a magician. You can buy some of his old books (Pure effect, 1st edition) and a couple of vhs' released to the magic community to explain what he does. I don't want to get into the methods of what he does, but "suggestion" and hypnotism plays a small part in what he does, and dual reality (a mentalists term) is something he relies upon HEAVILY along with some clever tricks.

I don't like the way he debunks certain subjects in an oh so "fair and balanced" way.



posted on Feb, 6 2005 @ 01:44 PM
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Paranoia, in a mentalism book I once read, it did mention the use of actors. I personally would take Derren's claim of not using actors with a pinch of salt. I think he does use some actors. Personally hypnotising each of the partcipants sounds cumbersome. Further, he would have to implant several suggestions. If he goes to the extent of mind control and hypnotism off-screen, then it's difficult to trust his other claims too.

Do you the think the woman who "channeling" the spirit of Jane, was hypotized earlier? That is the only other explanation other than acting.

What do you think of Uri Geller by the way?

[edit on 6-2-2005 by Indigo_Child]



posted on Feb, 6 2005 @ 03:15 PM
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Yeah Derren Brown should stick to the tricks, that séance was a total fake, most of them were genuine students but that woman you mentioned and a couple others were actors (my bro works for objective productions who make their programs), and the other bits were all tricks, like that hunt for the killer or whatever with the cards, whatever one you picked you ended up with the same guy at the end. His messiah program was equally poor, the only debunking he did were to the psychics who 'speak to the dead', we all know its just a play on suggestability and being a very good reader of people. The other things he tried to debunk (im going on memory here), were just him playing on his ability to read and suggest people ideas. I do as aside, also think he does have some genuine abnormal ability to read people or thoughts or whatever and hes not willing to accept its anything but trained skill.



posted on Feb, 6 2005 @ 03:30 PM
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Originally posted by picard_is_actually_a_grey
Yeah Derren Brown should stick to the tricks, that séance was a total fake, most of them were genuine students but that woman you mentioned and a couple others were actors (my bro works for objective productions who make their programs), and the other bits were all tricks, like that hunt for the killer or whatever with the cards, whatever one you picked you ended up with the same guy at the end. His messiah program was equally poor, the only debunking he did were to the psychics who 'speak to the dead', we all know its just a play on suggestability and being a very good reader of people. The other things he tried to debunk (im going on memory here), were just him playing on his ability to read and suggest people ideas. I do as aside, also think he does have some genuine abnormal ability to read people or thoughts or whatever and hes not willing to accept its anything but trained skill.


I too work for a tv company, and closely within magic. He has NO genuine paranormal ability at all. If you have watched his other non specials that he does, and the messiah programme, they can be repeated. In fact there are methods out there that improve on what he has done. It's hard to argue this point without talking methodology here, so i won't. He is a very good magician,using his ability to fool for perhaps the wrong reasons (ie to debunk genuine psychics..)
Indigo, yes i do believe hypnotism was used in SOME of the effects. However, if you are really interested in methods, look up dual reality.. and the works of people like Max Maven, Andy Nyman, Luke Jermay, Banachek.. to name but a few.. they are all mentalists/magicians. Derren has taken something and given it the "psychological" spin, to make it believable.



posted on Feb, 9 2005 @ 03:10 AM
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Darren brown and other so called magicians are fake, but doesn't mean true psychic phenomena is fake. Anyone ever hear of james randi? He put up that 1 million, why? When you look it at a certain way, do you really think he'd give away 1 million dollars? That's still alot of money today, and that's would be a dent in his pocket, that's why no one comes forward. Because they see it this way. He tries to refute and debunk psychics, but he never tries to really understand.



posted on Feb, 9 2005 @ 03:33 AM
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Derren Brown is a illusionist and mentalist and his shows are certainly interesting. He is, however not the first. I remember Kreskin back in the 70's being able to make people believe that they were seeing UFO's in the sky and other such mental trickery.

Good shows nevertheless.



posted on Feb, 9 2005 @ 04:35 AM
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Originally posted by Pisky
Derren Brown is a illusionist and mentalist and his shows are certainly interesting. He is, however not the first. I remember Kreskin back in the 70's being able to make people believe that they were seeing UFO's in the sky and other such mental trickery.

Good shows nevertheless.


Yep absolutely. He is a top class mentalist, but there are others before him, and people not on TV that perform just as well. Derren's debunking of Psychics and anything that doesn't fit in with his athiest views is rather annoying though.



posted on Feb, 9 2005 @ 08:27 AM
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poeple will, most of the time buy into his belief system because thats the reason you go to his shows or any magic show for that matter, to be entertained. He takes his reality beyond common sense, after that people will say yes to anything, they will belive him because they think they can out-smart him, in the same way you dont say no to you grandma



posted on Feb, 9 2005 @ 08:56 AM
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www.channel4.com...
Derren Brown video clips



posted on Feb, 10 2005 @ 11:00 PM
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Originally posted by paranoia
Derren's debunking of Psychics and anything that doesn't fit in with his athiest views is rather annoying though.


I wouldn't call it debunking. All he has done is to demonstrate that the potential exists for fraud and trickery, even with seemingly impossible phenomena. That's a very useful thing to know, because it enables you to ask the right questions and make sure you're not being conned. As he points out in his Messiah show, people are asked to make important life decisions based on some of these things, so it's really worth taking a closer look.



posted on Feb, 15 2005 @ 02:36 PM
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what u've got to realise is that derren brown knows how to manipulate people's minds, and he knows how most people will think. he can put ideas in ur head and make u think certain things without u even realising.

to say the 'ONLY' way u can explain it is with an actor is rubbish. when peopel are in that sort of stressful situation it is easy to manipulate them and play off their fear and thus make them think or act differently or irrationally. derren brown is an expert at planting ideas in peoples subconcios therefore making them think/do certain things

what u dont see on these shows are all the times that it doesnt work on poeple, he will only ever use people who he thinks are easily influenced

i've been to see a live derren brown show where it consisted mainly of audience participation. a couple of my friends were chosen to go on stage and appeared to have 'phsychic' skills. these people were not actors becasue i know them, its just an exampl of how he can plant certain thoughts in your mind and u subconciously think of them.



posted on Feb, 15 2005 @ 02:40 PM
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the above was a response to the first post by the way.

and as for the ouiji board, the glass moves by the 'ideomotor' response of the brain, whereby you are actually subconciously pushing the glass without even realising it. nuts eh?!



posted on Feb, 16 2005 @ 09:31 AM
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he's a good pick-pocketer. he can steal a watch and tie whilst talking to you



posted on Apr, 26 2005 @ 10:45 PM
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I saw David Blaine tonite for the first time. I don't know about the "mentalism" aspect, however when he levitated he did not tell the people what he was getting ready to do. Saw him do a card trick where the card supposedly went thru and stuck to glass window. The woman's face at the table inside the restaurant was one of complete shock. Please explain.



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