Exclusive Interview with The Amazing Kreskin
by: Brent Raynes
The Amazing Kreskin, born back in 1935 as George Joseph Kresge in Montclair, New Jersey, is well-known as a mentalist and thought reader whose mind-boggling and thought-provoking public performances world-wide, with appearances on hundreds of TV shows with the likes of Johnny Carson, Jimmy Fallon, Larry King, David Letterman and Howard Stern, to name but a few, has made him a household name. He has authored 19 best-selling books on mind power and career, and he once had his own TV show called “The Amazing World of Kreskin.”
I had the distinct pleasure and honor of interviewing Kreskin for Alternate Perceptions nearly 16 years ago, a feature that appeared in the print version of this magazine’s Summer 1997 edition (issue 39). It was one of my most memorable interviews.
Kreskin has a website at: www.amazingkreskin.com
Brent Raynes: You read extensively. You have a home library of over 8,000 books. You read about four books a night, reading novels in about 20 minutes and technical books in about twice that time. You reportedly have one of the largest private collections of parapsychological literature, can reportedly locate hidden objects, pick up people’s thoughts, and even implant thoughts into people’s minds. Yet you don’t see yourself as a psychic, a medium, or a mind reader. You have said that although you can’t explain your ability you see it as something natural. So could you elaborate a little more on that?
Kreskin: Yes, I remember years ago – I knew Dr. Margaret Mead, the late anthropologist you know, and she often admonished me and said, “Kreskin, don’t call yourself a mentalist. Call yourself a sensitive.” And we used to joke about it although she was very knowledgeable in the area of parapsychology. She was one of the most remarkable women I ever met in my life and certainly had her own lifestyle long before women’s lib. I always think of her and the late Eleanor Roosevelt as the pioneers in women’s lib. But she, being knowledgeable in the field, I understood what she was talking about. In the last century and at the turn of the century in Europe, people who seem to have what is often today called psychic abilities or telepathic abilities were called sensitives. And it was a term that was most common in that period. Today it’s not thought of very much. But in a sense, I suppose it suggested that an individual has raised their natural abilities to a higher pitch where like a person who loses their eyesight they can hear extraordinarily well. And then there was a word, popular in the last century, called hyper-asthesia, and it meant the raising of the threshold of one’s natural abilities to perceive to an extraordinarily high level—again like an animal who can smell extraordinarily well beyond ours—hear better and so forth. So I think what she was suggesting was that the word sensitive was more appropriate. I don’t use the word psychic because I don’t want to imply that I have some special power or what have you. The term mind reader is more of a generalized term and if I could tell everybody what they were thinking all of the time I probably wouldn’t be allowed to speak to you. I’d be captured by the CIA. But I do call myself a thought reader in the sense that I can perceive individual thoughts if a person targets their mind to them, if they cooperate with me, if they concentrate in some way, then I can often perceive a series of numbers and image a date.
Just a few days ago, well last weekend in New York, I had two different appearances. One before a corporate group of 22 men and women who were heads of their corporations and the next day was a public show at a hotel. And I can remember the Friday night, I had gotten on very late—the program didn’t start until close to midnight—because this was a celebration honoring one particular business man and there was a lot of heavy drinking and they were really enjoying themselves and I remember the agent that booked me thinking, “Kreskin, are you going to be able to work with them?” Because people who have been drinking heavily don’t necessarily concentrate extraordinarily well. Well, by ten minutes into the program, my having them do exercises with me and having fun with picturing images and amusing scenarios, I suddenly turned to a gentleman in the audience and I pointed at him and I said, “Why are you thinking 64?” He almost fell out of his chair because it turns out that 64 had played a major role in his life. He was married in 1964, and there was a house that was the number 64, and on and on. But to do this I create in the people I work with a kind of harmony so that we’re almost tuned in to each other and thinking along similar lines. So in that respect I’m doing what I think everybody can do—everybody has the capacity to do this, except that anymore we are bogged down in modern society by noise. If we don’t have the television on then we have the radio on. It seems that people, in many respects, are afraid to be silent amongst others, and often if we don’t speak to the person we’re with we can hear more about them because we can pick it up in a non-verbal way.
Brent Raynes: Okay. That interesting. The roots of your ability go back to your childhood with the game of—that we all played in our childhood—of hot and cold.
Kreskin: When I was a kid—I remember it was in third grade—and it was raining outside and we couldn’t go out to play, and our teacher—I had never heard of this game—sent one person out of the classroom and the rest of the class would hide this bean bag. We hid it in different desks and what have you. Then one person would come in and walk around and the class would say, “You’re getting warm.” “You’re getting colder.” I was very disappointed that the teacher did not pick me to play the game, so when I went home my brother and I were staying that day at my grandmother’s house. My grandparents spoke Italian and didn’t speak much English. But my mother, I believe, was shopping. (She) had gone to Newark, New Jersey, that day. So we went over to grandma’s house to spend the rest of the day and I told my brother to hide a penny, somewhere upstairs in my grandmother’s house. And I remember walking into the kitchen, I didn’t talk to him, and I found my way gravitated into my uncle’s bedroom. He was at work. I climbed up on this reddish-brown chair and reached behind a curtain rod and there was the penny. It fascinated me, and as I did this a few more times with members of the family it kind of unnerved them. I think they wondered if I had the evil eye at one point. But it was the beginning, and ironically enough, as I started performing in my teens I began to have the people in the audience hide a dollar bill and then I would try and find the dollar bill. And then in my late teens and early twenties I got a brain storm and I decided to risk my reputation, and of course all over the world it has become my calling card. I turn my check over to the audience and I leave the building under guard. At Carnegie Hall a radio broadcaster escorted me out of the building. If I’m at a university the dean of the university will leave with me. If I’m at a public presentation often we will have the mayor of the city escort me and a committee from the audience of three or four or five people take my check and hide it anywhere within the auditorium. And the understanding is that if I do not find my check then I do not get paid. And there’s no conversation, there’s no one talking to me in any way. The subject must simply concentrate. I remember my greatest enemy, in tests of this type, is my reasoning. Because, of course, theoretically today some behaviorists, although I’m a little bit skeptical about it, say that the left part of our brain deals with reasoning and logic, and the right part deals with the intuitive, the creative, the inspirational side. In a sense, I have to keep my logical, reasoning side pushed away. Otherwise, my reasoning could interfere with what these people have concocted.
I remember once at a Bob Hope dinner in New York City, at the Waldorf, there were about 1,500 people. Hope always kids me. He says, “Yeah, I kept looking at the chandelier,” meaning he kept looking at the chandelier so that the audience wouldn’t think he was trying to help me or give me any clues, and I ended up walking through the dais where Hope was sitting and on the table was a large half carved turkey—I guess everybody was eating turkey that day—and I kept lifting the tray, and there was no check under it. And I kept lifting the tray and there was no check and I finally turned to the lady who was my mental guide and said, “Would you concentrate and think of what I’m supposed to do in order to find this check.” And again I’m thinking of the tray, but I started to get an image of taking my jacket off. So I took my tuxedo jacket off, rolled up my sleeves, and found myself, as I’ll remember for the rest of my life, shoving my hand into the stuffing of the turkey. They had cooked it in the stuffing of the turkey. And, of course, my reasoning kept denying my doing it.
It reminded me of the time at a University of Alabama. I walked through the gymnasium of about 3,000 students, and there was a man standing there in a business suit and I grabbed his arm and led him to the stage and I said the word “gun.” I thought, “Well that doesn’t make sense. Why would I say gun?” I finally opened his jacket and it turned out he was a plain clothes man and he was wearing a shoulder holster, and how vividly I remember, because I would never do this normally. I took the gun and turned the barrel of it towards my eyes. They had taken tweezers and stuffed the check down the barrel of the gun. So you can imagine that my reasoning cannot stand in the way of this, but this goes all the way back to my childhood.
By the way, I have failed. I failed nine times to find my check and I guess the most memorable was in New Zealand when I lost in a colosseum, $51,000, and forfeited the amount. It went to a crippled children’s hospital, and since then they have a plaque and a new wing that they’ve named after me and, of course, I jokingly mention I could have used the wing after that happened to me.
Brent Raynes: But you failed out of how many successes?
Kreskin: Out of a few thousand times. Maybe—who knows—five, six, seven, eight thousand times? Last year, I did 341 appearances around the world, so I’m traveling constantly.
I had dinner last Friday night, privately, with a gentleman who was attending my performance at this corporate affair. Robin Leach, the television personality, and every time Robin and I sit down and talk we reminisce about the day he came to my home here in New Jersey and then, when the camera crew was finished and everybody was wrapping up to leave, I said, “Robin, I’ve got an idea. You’re going to add one or two more segments to your program.” He said, “What do you mean?” I gave him this premise. He looked at me and said, “Do you really think you can do something like this?” I said, “I’d like to take a shot at it,” and he said to me, “All right, if it doesn’t work we won’t show it.” I said, “No, Robin. One of the secrets of my career and my success in television is that I’ve never done anything over. I’ve never changed anything. My God, if you change things and we edit them and we do them again this is like a magic act. Everything could be prearranged or what have you. If I fail show it on your show.” He said, “All right. You want it that way we’ll do it.” And the next day, I drove to New York City, to Central Park, to the Tavern On The Green, a very famous eatery there, and a television crew was there waiting for me and 22 New York police. Robin Leach was not there. I needed people who knew the City of New York, so one of the three women who was waiting for me was Cindy Adams who was a very famous television columnist who works on the New York Post, and they last saw Robin Leach in the morning, 7 or 8 o’clock, and it was now about 11:30, and the three ladies and I climbed into this limousine. The driver was the only person who I was to speak to and he did not know what was going on, and the whole premise was that I had to find Robin Leach, who was hiding somewhere in the entire city of New York. Well, I can tell you the police, when we were all finished, told me, “Kreskin, we were worthless to you and helpless because we didn’t know where he was hiding and therefore we couldn’t cordon off traffic. All we could do was follow you.” And that became a riot because I remember at one point telling the driver to turn right and here we were driving on a one way street, the wrong way. At any rate, the women sat in the front, facing me, about six feet away, with no conversation. We finally got out of the car and we walked into the building and I walked to the elevator and I stood there, with great frustration, practically slammed my fist into the wall and said, “That’s it. I give up.” And I left the elevator. In retrospect, as we reconstructed the sequence of events, they thought, “What the heck happened to him? He had gotten this far.” They suddenly saw me giving up, and I stood outside the building, and as I’m standing outside looking at the building I looked up and I thought, “Oh my God,” and I raced back in the building. It turns out I’m standing in an elevator—and I don’t recall if the elevator had five or six floors to it—but I couldn’t figure out which floor to pick. I got so upset. I got frustrated and left.
It turns out there was an additional floor to the building that was not accessible by the elevator and they were thinking of that floor, and of course you couldn’t get to it by that elevator, so it was like a no win situation. Well when I realized that there was an extra floor I walked back and I pressed the top floor of the elevator, which is the sixth floor. We got out and we walked along and it turned out that there was a staircase—you didn’t see, it was hidden off to the end of a hallway—and that took us to a floor that was not accessible from the ground floor, and when we got there it turned out it was a private gymnasium. It was in the morning and there wasn’t anybody in it, and I walked along and I came to this gigantic swimming pool—I guess it was an Olympic sized pool. I’m standing there and staring at the pool, wondering what in the world is going on, and they, the crew and everybody following me that was with the show, that was photographing this, couldn’t figure out why I was looking at this. There was nobody in the pool. Finally I turned and I saw at the end of this gigantic room a small door, and I said, “We’ve got to go through that door.” We walked through the door and here I walked into a bar. There was a waitress and a couple of bartenders. They were cleaning glasses, and I saw a man draped over the bar, kind of with his head on the table or the bar, and I thought, “Oh gosh, we’ve got someone here that’s drunk. I don’t want to get involved.” So I kept circling the bar and I finally stopped by this person, and I don’t know what possessed me but I touched him on the shoulder and I said, “I think the trail ends here.” He slowly sat up and he said, “Kreskin, I’m not drunk. I’m Robin Leach.”
It took me 42 minutes to find him in the entire city of New York. Well, when it was over with, Robin broke out some champagne and Cindy Adams started reconstructing the sequence of events and she said, “Robin, Kreskin was out there in the other room for about five minutes looking at the swimming pool.” He said, “You mean right out by where the pool is?” She said, “Yes. We don’t understand why.” He said, “I don’t understand why either.” It turned out that when the people radioed Robin Leach that they were ready for the search he thought it would be neat to find him in the pool, and he was swimming in that pool for almost half an hour, but he had gotten so water logged that he said, “I’ve got to end this,” and he got out, got dried, cleaned up and dressed up and then went into the bar. And here I had this image of him in the swimming pool.
Brent Raynes: Wow! That’s pretty amazing!
Kreskin: So that gives you an idea of the sequence of events. There’s an awful lot of visual imageries that come to me in these experiences, and I guess the most important thing is that I’m sorting mentally all of these images, and the other thing is that I’ve got to separate myself from the noises, the distractions, and the activities that could be going on around me. That could throw me off.
Brent Raynes: Do you think that what you do is similar to the remote viewers?
Kreskin: There is such a great interest today in what is called remote viewing. Interestingly enough, 50 to 90 years ago it was called traveling clairvoyance, and traveling clairvoyance has been reported in the last century by philosophers and writers as imaging and getting the feel that someone is in another part of a town, city, what have you. Describing events, fires, and what have you. Indeed Pierre Janet, in the middle of the last century, who was a very renowned experimental psychologist, was studying hypnotic techniques and believed that it was possible to influence subjects by long distance. And I think that all of that, from the remote hypnotic techniques that he was doing and the Russian research of the 1960s and ‘70s of attempting to control people who were in another building by what they called biological energy, to the 1980s and ‘90s this popular interest in remote viewing. I think all of this is a similar thing. I think you can kind of consider it almost a long distance telepathy. It’s a part of my life. But when I do things at a distance I usually need some kind of rapport with the subject, whether it’s I talked with them for a little bit, conversed with them, and of course preset my mind so that I’m concentrating.
I remember years ago, when Mike Douglas had his television series and I did 118 shows with Mike—and they tell me that that’s twice as many as anyone ever did—but anyway I remember one show that we had an agreement that Mike would call somebody in the United States while we were on the air, on television. Mike dialed the phone, on the air, and as soon as the person said “hello” everybody knew who it was. It turned out it was Carol Burnett. I said, “Carol, we’re going to try a thought reading experiment.” She was in Los Angeles and I was in Philadelphia. I said, “I want you to think of something. Think of anything.” I had a large chalk board and I was drawing and I wrote something down and I handed it to Mike Douglas, and I said, “Carol, what are you thinking of?” She said, “Kreskin, I’m not home. I’m in my agent’s office, and I’m looking outside the window, and I’m looking at trees.” Well, anybody who saw the show saw my face become rather grim, and I said, “Well I have failed,” and Carol Burnett, every time I bump into her, it could be at a broadcasters conference, she’ll corner me and remind me of this incident. So on the air I said, “My God, I just didn’t succeed. That’s not what I wrote down.” Mike looked at the slate and turned it around. What I had written, and Mike said it out loud, was “bronze statue.” And at that moment Carol Burnett screamed, as only she can scream, and Mike said, “What’s the matter?” She said, “Mike, like I said, I was looking at trees outside my agent’s office, but while I’ve been talking to you folks I’ve been holding a paper weight in my hands that was a bronze statue from his desk.” So the failure was a success.
Brent Raynes: Amazing again! Well, I’ve read that you do a two hour seminar on how people can expand their own mind powers, and these are people who are already grown up. You started back as a child. Do you think that made a difference?
Kreskin: You know I appreciate you mentioning it in that way because I often say to students and I do an awful lot—in my corporate appearances, night clubs, Vegas and Atlanta the past year and a half I’ve been in Spain, Italy, New Zealand, Australia, Japan, Norway, England, Wales, you name it—but I also, when touring the United States and doing programs for the universities, I often say to them that I became involved in the field that I embrace today when I was 9 or 10 years old. I wasn’t even in my teens, and I point out that thank God I wasn’t because nobody had a chance to teach me that these things couldn’t be done. And I think that that’s a lesson to be learned because if you think of even individuals who invented things or discovered things who made far greater contributions than I’ll ever make as scientists and inventors. They rode above the limitations that had been put on social structures or scientific possibilities, and made breakthroughs. I think that it would have been harder as I had gotten older because I would probably have read or met more and more people who would have said these things are impossible, or they’re only vaguely plausible, or maybe they rarely happen, or they’re so rare that there’s nobody that we know around who can do these things. And I often say to parents who come to talk to me after a program, or call me on radio talk shows, and they’ll say that their kid has an imaginary partner or seems to show some intuitive things—well I’m not a clinical psychologist—but I say that for God sakes unless the kid is harming themselves or doing something extraordinarily irrational don’t discourage them. First of all, single children have imaginary playmates. When I was a kid it was perhaps considered an abnormal thing. Today psychologists who are perhaps sobering up have decided that it is a perfectly normal outlet for a person to relate to others and for the use of their imagination. And I think that today we’re in a great danger because while we have the expansive, incredible potential of the computer we’re having something take place that I comment to reporters all over the United States. They say, “In the past decade what do you see that is different in society?” I say, “I’ll tell you what the most alarming thing is.” I mentioned this on New Years Eve on CNN, the television network that has me on every year on New Years Eve to discuss what I foresee for the coming year as a trend. I said that the alarming thing is that when I land in different cities in the United States and have driven to the hotel, or the theater, or the university where I’m appearing, I don’t see kids as much playing their own baseball game or someone playing hopscotch on the sidewalk. I said, “God forbid they’re sitting inside a room playing an Nintendo or playing a game on a screen.” People tell us that there is such a vast amount of information available through the computer and there is, and of course it’s changing the face of mankind. Which is wonderful. But damn it, to hell with it. Einstein pointed out that information is not as important as the imagination. You can always get information, but if you start stifling the imagination you stifle human potential, and that’s the great warning I have in the coming decades, and also that’s the lesson I can give about my work. I imagined—I imagined that I could do so many of the things that I do today. I used to sit with my teacher in sixth grade, Miss Galloway, and describe to her what I was going to do on the stage in years to come. And a teacher that I revered in 7th and 8th grade, a Miss Stafford, she used to sit with me sometimes for an hour and I said, “You know, someday Miss Stafford I’m going to have my fee, where I’m going to get paid hidden, and if I don’t find it then I’m not going to get paid.” And she would show such interest and enthusiasm, and, of course, what I believed in my imagination I was able to bring about, and I think that that’s one of the keys to the evolution of what I do.
Brent Raynes: Wow. Okay, and this being able to stretch yourself—you’ve used that expression—you’re an accomplished pianist and you often will kind of stretch your mind by playing the piano, or you’ll walk or jog.
Kreskin: We always used to revere the yogis and talk about them, and it seemed like a strange thing for a man to sit quietly for a long period of time, and now today look at how meditation, in all its forms, has found its way into Western civilization. Every human being has to learn to stop the world and get off.
I’ve flown well over two million miles and we laugh about it at the airlines because they say, “Kreskin, you can go on a vacation by plane for the next 60 days and never cost you anything.” Well off the record, or for the record, I don’t want to go on a plane for the next 60 days because I’m always on airplanes. For me, to go on a vacation to Las Vegas or to a resort is not a vacation because I work there. But I love to hike. I like to backpack. I camp in some remote areas of New Jersey. I’ve gone down the Grand Canyon on a mule, on the rapids. I’ve camped at Machu Picchu in Peru. I’ve hiked up the Grand Tetons. And I jog—I jog every night for about an hour because we all have to find our way of stopping the world and reflecting, and sometimes people go through a number of years of their life without walking away for just five or ten minutes in a day and thinking, “What’s going on around me? Did I listen to what took place? What patterns am I following? Am I making the same mistake twice, or am I saying too often, ‘God, I never have any luck. I’m not very lucky”? When the truth of the matter is people are not lucky. People who seem to be lucky are tuned in—almost like myself, like a telepathist—tuned in to opportunities around them, and they hear them and they see them and reach out and hold onto them when they take place. If we’re too busy and move too fast and are too distracted by noise and sound then we’re not going to sample those opportunities.
Brent Raynes: What Jung would have called synchronicities.
Kreskin: Yes, and I am fascinated and talk an awful lot about synchronicity, and I think that Carl Jung is one of the great minds, as Freud has gone more and more into the background, and as there are less and less Freudian analysts left in the United States because who has the money or the time to go through therapy three days a week for three to five years. So Freud’s great contribution was not in his theories. A lot of them have been debunked. It’s been his descriptions of clinical cases.
From my last two years in high school to the first six years at Seton Hall University, a clinical psychologist, Dr. Harold Hanson, who saw me perform, came to me and said, “I’m going to give you a room in my office.” I wasn’t even out of high school yet! He said, “You’ll work with 30 or so of my patients each week, and use your abilities as a support to my therapy.” It was almost like the days of apprenticeship when people, instead of going to a university, learned the way you should learn, by going through the experience. And I saw patients, the kinds of patients you only read about today because they weren’t written about in those days and there was an extraordinary—my God, I worked in a prison for three months, and I remember one day Dr. Hanson said, “How was so and so as a subject?” I said, “Well he was good. Better than last week. Why?” And Hanson said, “Ah well, I just wanted to see because he had slit the throat of his cellmate an hour before we came.” I said, “Harold, you had me working with this patient.” He said, “Well, if I had told you, you would have worried about it.” So anyway I have had such a reservoir of experiences through the years and in many respects I’ve been very, very blessed.
When I was four and a half years old, I had been marching in an Italian-American parade with my grandfather, and then I came home – and I went into the living room where there was a piano, an old upright that my aunt used to play, and everybody—I didn’t realize it then—the uncles, my grandmother and grandfather got kind of surprised because I sat at the piano and I started playing the march that was in the parade we were in. So I started playing the piano when I was 4 and a half years old and then I took lessons beginning at age 10 from a Mrs. Geib, and then I remember when I was in my mid-teens she said to me would I want to continue training to be a concert pianist. I said, “No Mrs. Geib. I know what I want to do as a mentalist and I don’t really want to take the time.” So it’s ironic, years later, Skitch Henderson, who was a director on the Steve Allen and the Johnny Carson Show in the early days, and is now a conductor at Carnegie Hall with the New York Pops, came to me and said, “I hear you play the piano.” I said, “Well I do, for ten minutes into my performances.” So he coaxed me and I appeared with the New York Pops orchestra and since then I have appeared in Canada with the London Philharmonic and so forth. And in my performances, people get fascinated because there’s an interlude where while I’m playing the piano I end up reading someone’s thoughts whose sitting at a table next to me, preoccupied with a deck of playing cards. I’m not even watching them. So I’ve used my ability to kind of stretch my talents in different directions.
Brent Raynes: Wow. And of course, as you know, some recent research has shown that people who are musically trained—I think especially in younger years and especially classical music—they’ve found a larger area in the left side of their brains called the planum temporale.
Kreskin: Yes. Dr. Schwarz, who you and I both know, and he’s been extraordinarily supportive of me over the years and followed my career and attended performances, and he often discusses things about that, and he points out that historically some of the musicians showed unique talents in other areas. Intuitive abilities and what have you. In fact, Mozart was a follower of Mesmer, who a few centuries ago was practicing what today is called mesmerism.
Brent Raynes: I did want to touch upon the fact that you began your career as both a hypnotist and a mentalist. You have an offer of $100,000 to anyone who can scientifically prove that hypnosis actually exists.
Kreskin: And I’m very adamant about it, and sometimes people get confused with me. They’ll say, “Well, if people aren’t in a hypnotic trance then what are they in?” And that’s where there’s a misunderstanding of what I’m saying because a rose by any other name is still a rose. So I’m not saying that if it’s not a hypnotic trance then it’s something else. My statement is that there is no hypnotic state at all. That really, as the electroencephalograph and other tests have shown that an individual who looks like they’re in a special state or trance really has all the physiological traits of a person totally wide awake. People have said that there are times when the brainwave patterns change. Well sure, if a person is sitting very relaxed there will be a slight change as does a person half dozing. But if you have this supposedly hypnotized person move around, walk around, they have all the behavior of a person wide awake. But do I say that a person is faking? That’s where I’m misunderstood. No, a person is not faking. What I am simply stating is that we have, as one of the qualities of human behavior, a quality of suggestibility. We are amenable to suggestion. We cannot have a thought in our mind without responding in some way. I’m not talking about gullibility or weak willedness. I’m talking about a gift of responding to ideas. An artistic person, a musically inclined person, and a creative person is often highly suggestible because they’re able to embrace and wrap themselves up in ideas. We watch a horror movie, but we forget that years ago they were called chillers—and this is nothing dramatic. Sure, you see a hypnotist on the stage tell a group of subjects they’re getting cold, and the subjects will often shiver. I’ve demonstrated this in performances with people without even looking like they’re in a trance. But you watch a horror movie, in a heated theater, and you get goosebumps because the ideas have such an impact on your thinking that it literally changes the surface of the skin. So I have insisted that there is nothing but pure suggestion.
I remember when I saw Psycho, which is a black and white movie, although it took me twice to realize that the horrible murder scenes were not in color. They were still in black and white. But Hitchcock knew that shading, darkness, and shadows were sometimes more frightening than color.
Some of the great speakers and orators in history were highly hypnotic in their techniques. Hitler was trained by a hypnotist. His name was Hannussen, and he was a performer in Berlin and as Hitler was rising to power he had him murdered in April of 1933.
On the good side, there was Bishop Paulton J.Sheen and before he died he wrote me a letter and said, “I know the public misunderstands you but I think I do use hypnotic techniques, but it’s a form of communication.”
Interestingly enough, I went on trial, over ten years ago, in New Jersey, because at that time I had been offering a sum of $50,000 to anyone who could prove a specific hypnotic trance, and significantly no medical hypnotist, no hypnotic researcher, none of the prominent experimentalists took me on, but a woman who claimed that she could prove hypnosis decided to take me to court, and this didn’t make sense. We said, “Well, we’ve got a group of scientists. We want you to show what you can do with hypnosis that cannot be done without it.” She demanded to go to court. Well, all I can tell you is that it was probably one of the most bizarre trials, and as the press reported, and of course they reported it in a very dramatic way, and here was a woman and a psychiatrist, her key witness in a court room purporting to prove hypnosis. Well, the bottom line is they lost the case and the judge turned to the woman and the attorney and said, “You have wasted the days of this trail. You’ve proven nothing.” And on and on he went. So she did not win the $50,000, but the only lesson that a rightfully jaded American public must realize is that although she did not win the money, for me to go through that case it cost me $110,000. In Europe and England, if you win a case the other side pays the expenses. In America today, as we become very disillusioned with what takes place in the court room, I have to say it is sometimes a no win situation.
So when I finished I turned to the press and said, “I am retracting my offer of $50,000. I am going to change it to $100,000. But there’s a slight condition. From now on, if anyone challenges me they must pay all expenses.” I have paid my dues. I think the reason that no one has challenged me is that in the 1960s an experimental psychologist Dr. T.X. Barber, did over 100 research projects for the U.S. Government, under their sponsorship, dealing with hypnosis, and came to the conclusion that hypnosis does not exist. There is no hypnotic trance at all. Two years ago, Dr. Robert Baker of the University of Kentucky, wrote a book, They Call It Hypnosis. He dedicated the book in part to me, has a whole chapter about me, and Dr. Baker, the psychologist, begins the book by saying hypnosis does not exist today, it never did and it never will.
But the real lesson is that we never seem to learn from history. In the last century, there was a famous pioneer in hypnosis by the name of Bernhein, a physician in France. Dr. Bernhein wrote and did a lot of therapeutic work in the area of hypnosis, and then, after the turn of the century, was at an international seminar in Europe and was booed by his followers, booed and booed, and the reason was that after a couple of decades of research in hypnosis he turned to his followers and said, “I have come to the conclusion that it does not even exist. There is no such thing. It is pure suggestion.”
So what I suppose I have done, in a more current period, is to re-discover something that has been known for years. We don’t realize the power of suggestion in our society. If we did when we’re with people who are vulnerable, upset, worried or confused, we would watch what we say and be careful, and certainly with youngsters, rather than plant negative ideas in their minds.
Brent Raynes: Well certainly there’s a lot of debate and controversy over memories that are relived under hypnosis, the child abuse cases, witchcraft, alien abductions, and a lot of this seems to draw upon what people are already familiar with in their culture, the belief systems, and this is essentially what I gather that you’re talking about here.
Kreskin: I really am. It worries me because I’ve seen people’s lives ruined. I’ve been involved in 84 crime investigations through the years. In one dramatic case, in Reno, Nevada, a horrendous murder of a teenager, and helping to find a description of the witness, and the precarious thing is that we have to be cautious. If anyone is going to quote me about anything that has a buzz word to it I have to state this and state it exactly the way I’d like it to be quoted. You cannot trust your memory. And if anyone misunderstands I’ll say it again. You cannot trust your memory. As we grow older our childhood memories alter because we look at things in a slightly different shade and this is the problem, and if anyone doubts how the memory is vulnerable then ask a policeman who has investigated a crime where there are five different witnesses. You get five different sincere, honest descriptions, but it’s the way we interpret things.
Usually what happens with people who have had tragic, early experiences is they don’t forget them. In fact, damn it, the hard thing is they can’t seem to forget them. You can talk to people who have gone through the horrors of the prisoner of war camps of the Second World War and those things haunt them every day of their lives. It’s very hard to forget a traumatic memory.
And unfortunately it creates suspicion toward legitimate areas. People will ask me about UFO sightings and so forth, and I find much credibility to many UFO sightings. Ever since the day that Arthur Godfrey, who was one of the heroes of my childhood and an avid pilot, flew two planes all of his life, and had a license to fly almost any aircraft in existence. Here was this great radio and TV personality, and he said, “Hell Kreskin, if there’s no UFO then I don’t know what that thing was that was tracking me for so long next to my plane.” He was a man who was extraordinarily observant, and I’ve spoken to many, many pilots, commercial pilots who can’t even talk about it publicly because they were fearful of losing their jobs.
I remember the day that Sammy Davis Jr. said to me, “Kreskin, you want to talk about sightings. I’m driving along a highway outside of LA and I see this thing in the sky and I got so frightened I jumped out and watched. I wondered if I’m hallucinating, and evidently I wasn’t because 200 other people were standing by the roadside watching this object move in the most erratic ways.”
So I certainly think that there is much to UFO sightings and so forth, but I also think that sometimes when hypnotism is used to collaborate it only contaminates. It does not collaborate.
I must tell you something that I’ve never mentioned publicly before, except when it happened, and Dr. Schwarz and I have often discussed this. We must in all fairness think about this when we’re investigating and talking about areas, whether it deals with the paranormal or the unknown or beyond our earth into the universe—areas that really challenge our thinking. I think we must realize that we look at things…through our own eyes, and sometimes this is used as a criticism of ufologists, ESP researchers, parapsychologists, and what have you. And I’m really kind of sick and tired of hearing this used as a criticism because they should put the shoe on the other foot and realize that it also can be a criticism of them.
Three or four years ago, I was guest at an international convention of a group of people who were supposedly all skeptics, and I had waited for this day for years, and they had me as a speaker, an authority on hypnosis. Whatever you call an authority. I don’t know if I’m an authority on anything, but anyway I ended my talk and I trapped them. These were my final remarks, and I deliberately set these remarks and they could not turn around and criticize me. I said, “Here you sit (we talked about hypnosis) but you people are skeptical of many, many things, and I guess that we can say that a person who passionately believes in all forms of paranormal phenomena probably cannot see unreal and fraudulent phenomena. They cannot see through it.” And I saw the audience nodding their heads up and down in agreement. I said, “But let’s think about it. A person who passionately disbelieves in any such phenomena will never be able to see the real when it happens.” Suddenly I saw their jaws drop because I trapped them. We can be critical in one way but we have to realize that many skeptics are frauds. They’re absolute frauds because they claim to be skeptical but actually they’ve got their minds so locked into denying something that, as one skeptic admitted to me, if they saw someone walking on water on the Atlantic Ocean they would look for wires in the ocean.
Brent Raynes: I remember reading something that John Keel had written years ago about how a lot of people confuse skepticism with objectivity.
Kreskin: Oh yes, objectivity and skepticism are totally different. Skepticism is as replete with emotionalism as blind belief. And, of course, the element of suggestibility is part of it, because if we have the capacity to experience an idea and we suggest it to ourselves we can lock our thinking in. So consequently my bottom line is that many, many people are authorities on their own point of view.