Q&A: The Amazing Kreskin
Did you predict that the world's premier mentalist would be performing in Connecticut soon? Well, you were right.
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How did you first learn about your mental abilities?
I got started on a rainy day in 3rd grade. We were playing a game of "Hot & Cold" with the teacher; she hid a beanbag in the room. I never got to play in class, but when I went home that day, I told my brother about it—I was 9 years old, he was 6. I remember we went to my grandparents' house and I told him to hide a penny in the house. When he called to tell me it was done, I remember I just went into the bedroom of their house, climbed up on an old maroon chair and found the penny behind the curtain rod. I never actually played the game with my brother. And my grandparents were Old World people from Sicily—I'm sure my grandmother must have thought I had the evil eye.
My teachers—especially Miss Galloway in the 4th grade—became very enamored of my abilities. We had Show & Tell on Fridays, and she had me practice with my classmates. I remember one Friday, I told everyone, "Think of any movie," and I pointed to Gloria Palmer, who was sitting in the back of the class next to Judy Dunn. And I named a movie, and it was exactly the one she was thinking of. By my teens, I was performing professionally at conferences and parties. What was very inspiring—and I didn't learn about it until after I finished college—was that Miss Galloway had quietly written personal letters to my junior high and high school teachers saying, "Even though I don't understand his gift, I feel that you must support him." How many teachers would do that?
How do you describe your abilities?
I call myself a "mentalist," which is a word I use because I don't want people to think I have supernatural powers. Dr. Margaret Mead was a tremendous supporter of mine. She used to bring 200 students to my performances, saying, "I've written about this ability in primitive tribes, but in modern culture it seems to be a largely dormant phenomenon." She felt that this was a gift, that I'm a highly sensitive person.
But I'm not a fortune teller, the people I'm performing in front of really have to concentrate. Otherwise, I can't do anything. I think what I do is a form of thought transference, an ability to almost sense how people feel when I'm around them. However, that doesn't mean that if I walk into a room I automatically know what everyone's thinking. First of all, I couldn't live that way; secondly, who'd want to live with me?
You've amazed a lot of people. What or whom do you find amazing?
I never guessed that my name would become such a part of our culture. It's really been extraordinary. My work has touched many areas of the culture—when terrorists have attacked, they've brought me on news shows to discuss that. I've spent my life tuning into the thoughts of people; it's not some magic act. I have a sense of what's on people's minds—it's part and parcel of what I do.
As for people, I'd say I find those who have been able to grapple with life and rise above the most negative circumstances amazing.