A Load of Bright
An atheist's views on religion and the supernatural

A Tribute to Derren Brown


In my article The Importance of being satirical I talked about the effectiveness of entertainment in communicating important principles and ideas. I can think of no-one better to personify this idea than psychological illusionist and mentalist, Derren Brown. I expect the vast majority of my UK readers will be familiar with Brown and his work, and I expect that the majority of my American readers will not. I hope this article will address that anomaly at least a little.

Brown possesses a collection of qualities that are rare to find together in one person. He is a very gifted and skilled magician, as well as a seasoned stage hypnotist in his time, the fusion of which has lead to his unique brand of performance. He has a very charming, extrovert personality and is renowned for his quick wit and repartee. He is also a superb intellect, widely read and deeply knowledgeable on the history of his profession, and of religion and the paranormal industries. As a former devout Christian turned atheist, he does not misrepresent the beliefs and delusions he now opposes, but faces them head on, as he once knew them. And then, in his spare time, he is a brilliant caricaturist.

Brown was born in 1971 in Croyden (London), England. He went to university in Bristol to study Law and German, and it was there that he went to see a hypnosis show at his students union that changed his life. It was his first step towards his new career, as well as his eventual deconversion. He worked tirelessly to master hypnosis and began to do small performances and shows for his fellow students. An interest in magic followed and again he slaved relentlessly to master the art. After graduating he remained in Bristol and performed in restaurants and bars, before Channel 4 approached him in 1999 about the Mind Control program which was to make him famous.

Mind Control was an instant hit, captivating audiences across the country. Viewers and reviews alike were amazed by his abilities, particularly his illusions of mind reading. One of the most famous press captions was “the closest our galaxy can boast to a Jedi Master” (Colin Kennedy, Empire Magazine). Subsequent seasons followed, with growing success, and the 5th season of Brown’s work is about to air in the UK next month.

The fascinating thing about Brown’s work, is that he is happy to admit that it is all achieved through natural means, misdirection and suggestion. He freely confesses that he has absolutely no supernatural abilities at all, or as he prefers to say “I’m dishonest, but I’m honest about my dishonesty”. Despite this, amazingly, some people still claim that he has genuinely psychic abilities.

The tradition of magicians debunking charlatans goes back almost as far as the paranormal phenomena to which the latter claims. Most famously, Harry Houdini spent the last years of his life exposing fraudulent spiritualists, which in turn inspired James Randi to work as he has to promote scepticism and criticise the paranormal claimants. Brown is not out of his depth in their company. He has made a number of special documentaries to encourage people to think critically about extraordinary claims. In Séance, he used a group of impressionable students to show how the phenomena associated with Victorian spiritualism (Ouija boards, automatic writing etc) can be made to seem very real. The spontaneity of this tour de force was chilling, and the surprise ending to the exercise both moving and powerful. In Messiah, he went undercover in America, pretending to hold claims to various supernatural abilities and then presenting them to the people behind the industries, to see if they would endorse him as the real thing. He posed as a psychic and an alien abductee, among others, and was readily believed. He proudly claimed at the beginning that if anyone actually asked him if he was a fraud, he would immediately own up. He was never put in a position to keep his promise.

His work poses a major blow to the claims of psychics and mediums. He freely admits that he achieves his results through natural means, that if he were put in controlled test conditions, he would fail, his effects work because he manipulates the conditions and environment. With this in mind, having seen that Brown can cheat so successfully, why should we believe that any psychic or medium is genuine without them proving it in controlled test conditions? The principle of Occam’s razor leaves the likes of Sylvia Browne and Colin Fry without a leg to stand on. As James Randi famously said of Uri Geller, “if he’s bending spoons with his mind, he’s doing it the hard way”.

As well as his television work, Brown still thrives on a live audience, and has completed two sell out tours of his live show Something Wicked This Way Comes. I had the privilege of seeing it in Southport last year, and I can honestly say it was one of the most enjoyable and enthralling live events I have ever been to. His new UK tour with an all new show begins next month, and I recommend anyone who is able to get to any of the dates to buy tickets (but get in the queue behind me!).

Earlier in his career, Brown wrote two books for magicians, Pure Effect and Absolute Magic, which he did not release publicly. I have read them both through curiosity and they are excellent, but really are aimed at a very specific audience. Last year, he released his first book to the general public, Tricks of the Mind. It is very difficult to categorise it under a particular genre, so varied is its content. It is partly autobiographical, but also contains many of Brown’s views and analysis of magic, religion, the paranormal and alternative medicine industries. To add to this, he teaches some of his techniques on basic magic, hypnosis and memory aids. It is wonderfully, refreshingly well written, and immensely entertaining, with many hilarious anecdotes and one liners. Interwoven though, are many profound and serious arguments and moments of introspection. In performance, Brown presents an endearing, feigned arrogance which often incorporates self deprecation, but in many points in his narrative, he speaks with touching honesty that I think he conceals on screen or stage, as it would be out of context with his work. Again, my highest recommendations apply.

Some people say that Brown was destined for fame and fortune. I don’t believe in destiny, I simply think he was too good not to be discovered. Had he not been, it would have been a silent travesty, forever unknown to all but those who knew him. But don’t take my word for it! Please find out for yourself. Please follow these links and enjoy the work of one of the greatest characters, and talented performers of our generation.

Derren Brown’s Official Website

Derren Brown on Channel 4

Buy Tricks of the Mind from Amazon

You can search for clips on Youtube, there are plenty, but this is a particularly good one (a bit of trivia: It is set in Epping Forest in Essex near where I grew up – my mother used to take my brother and me on walks there when we were children).

List of tour dates

23 Responses to “A Tribute to Derren Brown”

  1. Derren Brown is great. I’ve only seen his “Mind Control” series, but I like his attitude. Didn’t know he was an atheist, though.

  2. He is also a remorseless rapist and a totally sick piece of shit who I suspect would score very highly on the psychopathy scale.

    To quote you and Brown: He freely confesses that he has absolutely no supernatural abilities at all, or as he prefers to say “I’m dishonest, but I’m honest about my dishonesty”.

    Yes in other words I am not telepathic or anything but I am lying to you and telling you so but you believe me anyway!!

  3. It’s part of his performance. People know that magicians don’t really have supernatural abilities, yet they still pay to see them perform. That hardly qualifies as “a remorseless rapist and a totally sick piece of shit”. Hopefully that comment was sarcastic.

  4. Pam,

    I came very, very close to not approving this comment. Please keep anything you have to say rational and constructive, and refrain from abuse and profanities, or else future comments will be deleted. However, I’m curious, at this point, as to what other commentors will have to say in response to your allegations.

    Rapist? I’ve just done a google search and I can’t find anything. Would you be so kind as to tell us what you’re referring to?

    Could you aslo illustrate examples of psychopathy?

    What Brown means about his dishonesty, is that his magic needs to deceive in order to create the effect. In other words, because he’s not really psychic, he can only make it seem like he is by pretending, which is acheived through trickery.

  5. I am absolutely fascinated, the episode with your man thinking he was a puppet was absolutely freaky, but so cool. I want to learn more, read minds. Yeah baby… You can “trick or treat” me anyday🙂

  6. Oooooooooo… tricky or a sarcastic rapist I think he’s achieved what most of us only dream of accomplishing. Keep us entertained🙂

  7. I was a researcher at Bristol University. He came to my flat in 1994. He hypnotized and raped me but I was left with no conscious memory. I went through years of suffering from nightmares about being trapped in the dark with rapists who I could not see and not being able to scream. I was increasingly anxious and went from writing 4 papers in one year to someone who was very depressed and published nothing. I sank immediately into depression and had no idea why. In Jan. 2003 the memory finally surfaced and the result was a nervous breakdown. I have been trying to get an apology from him since 2004. Apparently I am not the only person he has done this to!

    He nods, yes, yes, as he agrees that the psychological basis of his act means that he gets a lot of weird fan mail. Everything, he says, from five-page e-mails from a girl called Jesus Christ who claims he raped her in Adelaide in 2000, to another woman who put cards through every letterbox on his street claiming that he had uninvited sex with her, as well.

    “I get a fair few of those,”

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/core/Content/displayPrintable.jhtml?xml=/arts/2005/02/28/btderr28.xml&site=6&page=0

    “my share of rape accusations from people I have never met”.

    http://www.derrenbrowninfo.co.uk/magic_cafe_interview.php

    Bollocks!

    Never lets on he has a researcher at Bristol accusing him does he!

    Thats your first evidence of psychopathy.

    I would imagine that you will find plenty of evidence for psychopathy in someone who is cruel enough to want to make someone else witness there won death, let alone do it!

    Zombie game
    Skewering Robie Williams
    Dummy
    Putting someone through a week of anxiety thinking they can’t play the piano but have to perform
    Dumping someone in a foreign country
    Making people sign a contract the have not read
    Kidnapping in a taxi
    Humiliating people
    Sending someone mad
    Making someone rob a security van
    The willingness or desire to control someone else

    Frankly I sincerely hope he burns in hell.

    A real nice guy ah, every girls dream! That was the only sarcastic statement I have made on your site! Just to clarify!

  8. Pam,

    What the hell are you blabbering on about? You wan’t to be carefull saying things like that. You know one idiot actualy believes your story and directed me to here thinking I’d believe it too! IF he’d have raped you, you’d have remembered hours after, not 9 YEARS!!!!!! It sounds more to me like a false made up memory in a sick mind.

    IF, in your head you believe this story. I truly feel sorry for you. You should get some help.

    IF, your making this whole thing up for attention (which is what I suspect) then I truly feel sorry for you. You should get some help.

    I’m a big derren fan, and I’m sure I’d have heard something about it had there been any truth what so ever in these allegations!

    If you can’t manage to get yourself some help, get yourself a life. Instead of going around Derren’s fan sites looking for someone even more screwed up than you! Seriously!!!!!!!!

  9. One more thing Pam, you put those links up as if they are 100% proof that Derren’s a rapist! LMAO

    After I finished reading it all (a whole hour later), all that was there is what you had already quoted, the same thing on both links. That he gets some wierd mail from some sickos like you. Are you the “woman called Jesus Christ” girl he’s on about? LOL

    P.S. Pam,

    A woman get’s raped by someone famous, Does that Woman…

    A. Never want to see or hear of him again?
    B. Trawl through all his fan sites and read any article possible on the guy???????????????????????????

    Any rational person would probably pick A.
    I know a couple of sick, sad fu****s that might pick B!!!!!!!!!!!

  10. P.P.S.

    Zombie game
    Skewering Robie Williams
    Dummy
    Putting someone through a week of anxiety thinking they can’t play the piano but have to perform
    Dumping someone in a foreign country
    Making people sign a contract the have not read
    Kidnapping in a taxi
    Humiliating people
    Sending someone mad
    Making someone rob a security van
    The willingness or desire to control someone else

    All these effects are World class, it’s why we love him!!!!!!!

    Pam, I bet you’re ‘PsychopathDerren’ the user on youtube that goes on all his vids and slags him off. How many people have you directed to here to see your comment? How many other sites have you copied and pasted that pathetic attempt at an allegation?

  11. Pam really aint got a clue has she..she should just go back to her sad little life!

  12. BLOG AUTHOR’S NOTICE:

    These comments regarding Pam’s allegations (which I do not in any way endorse) are not relevant to the original article, which was to celebrate Derren Brown’s work.

    I’m leaving in tact what has already been said, but, in accordance with my comment policy, I’ve decided not to allow any further comments on this post, unless they specifically relate to the article.

  13. Liverbirdy8,

    1. You have been given a lecturer at Bristol University as a character reference via email. (The same character reference that was given to the owner of this site). You are both free to take up that reference at any time! He is well aware of what I have been through. You were also both given my email address at Bristol university.

    2. Bristol CID took me seriously!

    3. Derren can apparently make anyone forget anything. I would know!!!

    4. You are no expert, and I can assure you as can my reference that this nightmare did not eat it’s way out of me for years! Although the effects were apparent in my work from 1994 onwards!

    5. He is admitting he gets a number of allegations, I am just saying I am one of them. Derren Brown ruined my life!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    6. First that woman has a nervous breakdown, as would you if you were raped in your own home. Then she gets suicidally depressed.
    Then she gets very angry. Then she finds out she is not the only one he has done this to and gets even more angry. The she set about letting the bastard know by yes writing to him but on CID advice. It’s called restorative justice! Then she finds people like you to set straight about it. I would know allot more about how “she” would react as that she is me!!! Ever been raped? No. Don’t bother to answer that because I can tell you have not!!!

    7. This has so far cost me £150,000 in lost earnings- bloody expensive attention seeking behavior. There are plenty of costless ways to get attention.

    8. Why don’t I go to the press? Because the only thing that can curb his behaviour is how much he has to loose. But he knows I can anytime.

    As for these effects being great, well if you think they are that great I suggest you apply to be on his show. It’s the Hare psychopathy scale short version. Do you like Derren Brown Trick or Treat? If the answer is yes consider yourself a psychopath!

    Pam

    Toby, if you don’t allow me to defend myself here you are going to do me more damage. You may not like it but he did this to me and just try and image how much worse you will make it for me if you do not allow this response.

  14. Please cut my note to you at the bottom

    Pam

  15. My posts have been in response to the original article, you are saying lots of lovely things about a remorseless rapist. I am just showing you the other side of the man you don’t see.

  16. @ Pam

    1. You have been given a lecturer at Bristol University as a character reference via email. (The same character reference that was given to the owner of this site). You are both free to take up that reference at any time! He is well aware of what I have been through. You were also both given my email address at Bristol university.

    For the last time, a character reference does not prove that you are telling the truth.

    2. Bristol CID took me seriously!

    Of course they did. They have to take any rape allegation seriously.

    3. Derren can apparently make anyone forget anything. I would know!!!

    Your lack of rationality defies belief. How would you, being one person, know that he can make anyone forget anything?! Research has shown time and time again that this is not the case, hypnosis doesn’t work like that.

    4. You are no expert, and I can assure you as can my reference that this nightmare did not eat it’s way out of me for years! Although the effects were apparent in my work from 1994 onwards!

    Experience doesn’t make you an expert.

    5. He is admitting he gets a number of allegations, I am just saying I am one of them. Derren Brown ruined my life!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Then take it back! Or start a new one.

    6. First that woman has a nervous breakdown, as would you if you were raped in your own home. Then she gets suicidally depressed.

    Lots of people are raped, in their own homes, but don’t have nervous breakdowns.

    Then she gets very angry. Then she finds out she is not the only one he has done this to and gets even more angry. The she set about letting the bastard know by yes writing to him but on CID advice. It’s called restorative justice! Then she finds people like you to set straight about it. I would know allot more about how “she” would react as that she is me!!! Ever been raped? No. Don’t bother to answer that because I can tell you have not!!!

    Why didn’t the CID just tell you to press charges? How can you just tell that someone you’ve been emailing has never been raped? Why do you constantly present yourself as an authority while reject every other source offered to you?

    7. This has so far cost me £150,000 in lost earnings- bloody expensive attention seeking behavior. There are plenty of costless ways to get attention.

    How is doing this helping you?

    8. Why don’t I go to the press? Because the only thing that can curb his behaviour is how much he has to loose. But he knows I can anytime.

    So, he utterly ruined your life, cost you £150,000 and you don’t want to make him lose everything?

    As for these effects being great, well if you think they are that great I suggest you apply to be on his show. It’s the Hare psychopathy scale short version. Do you like Derren Brown Trick or Treat? If the answer is yes consider yourself a psychopath!

    Well, then by your reasoning (and I use that term generously), there are a hell of a lot of psychopaths around.

    Toby, if you don’t allow me to defend myself here you are going to do me more damage. You may not like it but he did this to me and just try and image how much worse you will make it for me if you do not allow this response.

    Pam, I do not appreciate emotional blackmail, which is exactly what this is. Just so you know, your threat is not the reason I allowed this. I allowed it so that I could make this public response to it. I let you have your say and make a very serious allegation against someone on my site, without any credible evidence. I think other readers had a right to make their feelings known. I run this site, not you. I’ll decide what comments are shown, what I say, what is cut out and what is left in, not you. If you insist on making these allegations on the internet and provoking people into debating with you, you will inevitably hear things you don’t like. Don’t try to hold me to ransom. Don’t apply for special treatment. If I let you have your say about Derren Brown, then others can have their say about you. What you said about DB is a lot more serious and damaging.

    The reason that I have stopped emailing you, is that you won’t hear reason. Rationality is lost on you. If your life has been ruined, how exactly are these internet debates helping you? What do you see them achieving? If you believe what you say, then you’ve been through a lot and I feel sorry for you, but there comes a time when you just have to stand up and make things better for yourself. I don’t see how this is helping you.

    Please cut my note to you at the bottom

    No, I wanted other readers to see that. And your request to have it removed.

    My posts have been in response to the original article, you are saying lots of lovely things about a remorseless rapist. I am just showing you the other side of the man you don’t see.

    Well, thank you, now you’ve done that.

    Pam, please don’t email me again or comment on this post again. I mean this sincerely, stop doing this, it can’t be helping you. Get a hobby, move on, look for closure. Rather than wallowing in self pity and telling us how your life has been ruined and accepting it, be defiant and make your life good again. You alone have the power to do that. If it’s too much, get help!

    To everyone:

    That is the end of this discussion! We’d all (including Pam) like to have the last say, but we’re not getting anywhere, we’re just going round in circles. So I’m ending it, here and now.

  17. How can you learn tricks like the ones Derren Brown does? I’ve searched all over, I see sites like the ones http://www.magictricks.co.uk but everything seems very expensive for just one trick. Then I see sites like http://www.mindreadingexposed.com but it just sounds a bit unbelievable.

    Any suggestions?

  18. Mike

    If you like Derrens early stuff (card tricks), check out Devils picturebook. There’s three volumes and it’s available to download on many sites! It’s worth a look.

    Many of the tricks are quite advanced but there’s a good handfull of them that anyone could try. All tricks are explained step by step.

  19. In response to some comments made on here… I believe Derren Brown has recently come out as being gay.

  20. I enjoyed the article. Thank you. Now if I could just get back the time I spent reading all the garbage that followed…

  21. @ Blake

    Believe me: I would love nothing more than to give you that time back. Please accept my apologies.🙂

  22. https://www.blogger.com/comment.g?blogID=8335855622184266586&postID=1495198836876692967&page=1

    Just wanted to leave this link here, in case someone visits the site and reads Pam’s comments, and for SOME REASON whatsoever even believes them. I’m doing my best I can to prevent people believing in her cr*p she keeps on spreading across the internet, and I think the conversations at Scrummy Mama’s blog has good points & proofs of all this being a huge lie or a fantasy created by a sick mind.

    Thank you, and I’m really sorry you (the blog owner) had to get in the middle of this🙂

  23. Hi there,

    OMG!!!!! phew!!! reading all this crap made me so dizzy!!!!
    Anyways…..just wanted to say that I’m a big fan of Derren and his work. What more??? the wallpaper on my mobile phone is his picture. Just wanted to share a funny thought with his fans. Dont mean to be offensive in anyway. Me and my housemate were talking about him about 2 days ago and I said ‘Charlene…….I would so do Derren anytime’
    Charlene then said……’You got to wonder if he’ll have double orgasms cos he can feel your emotions and he can read your mind’
    I was like…..’Hmmmm….yes, all i can do is wonder…and I’ll never know now will I?’

    How’s that for a random conversation???????!!!!


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