A couple weeks ago, The Duke had the distinct pleasure of meeting Derren Brown after the psychological illusionist’s utterly stunning show at The Waterfront Hall in Belfast. I don’t recall much of what he said, although there is a nice picture to prove that the event took place, and that it wasn’t just some suggestion put into my skull via his onstage bantering. I do, however, recall that he was incredibly charming.
Really, man, there ain’t a nicer motherfucker in the world of magic is what I’m guessing.
Anyway, on Monday night Channel Four in the UK broadcast the latest of Derren’s ratings-hogging feats of wonderment, in the form of the hour-long special, Derren Brown – Séance.
Unlike the antics of, say, David Blaine, Derren’s stunts actually have a point to them most of the time, and a nigh-on astronomical level of entertainment value.
I mean really, what would you rather watch? A fella playing Russian Roulette or a bloke sitting in a box for three months. I mean, seriously David Blaine.
That Russian Roulette carry-on actually did as much to sully Derren’s reputation in some quarters as it did to enhance it. Turns out he wasn’t using live rounds, don’t you know.
These folks obviously miss the fact that a blank fired against one’s temple would undoubtedly kill any motherfucker, even if said motherfucker is fit to convince a bloke that he’s invisible, or make a medical student stick a needle through his skin.
He couldn’t feel a damn thing, man. What the hell?
Anyway, the séance malarkey was finally approved by Offcom, the TV Watchdog types, and on night of the show, The Duchess and I, I being The Duke, sat down with the required accessories and prepared ourselves for a touch of the old televisual spookery.
The show was something of a history-books-contender anyroad, even if it had been a load of old toss. This is the first time, y’see, that a séance has been televised in the UK.
Even though you American folks are able to devote an evening to trying to conjure Princess Diana or whoever via the ouiji board and so on, us folks seem to be more cautious when it comes to invoking the spirits of our ancestors.
Anyway, man, if I was gonna yack to a dead royal I’d talk to Henry VIII. I mean have you saw that guy? He must’ve weighed 30 stone, and yet he had eight wives, no less, before he popped his overweight clogs.
What gives, man? How can a guy that overweight and with such awful facial hair be so blasé when it comes to the females that he can just go around chopping their heads off when he feels like it? I’d want some answers to those historicalised questions, is what I’m getting at.
But Derren Brown had no intentions of contacting anybody, even if they were unfathomably fortunate with regards the females. Right from the start, his purpose was clear. He was going to illustrate how spiritualism is, in fact, a crock of the proverbial.
By proverbial I of course mean horseshit, bullshit etc.
Some folks missed this, though, and set about getting all Angry From Manchester with regards the voicing of their opinions. Various Christian groups were yacking about how dangerous this was and so forth, and how, I dunno, Beelzebub or somesuch would come leaping out of the telly, limbs akimbo, horny-headed evil pouring through the airwaves.
No such incident took place, incidentally.
Whilst those religious-types were busying themselves with worrying about the Satan and the evil and various other otherworldly perils, anyone with half a brain was watching this fucking unbelievably amazing bout of brain-trickery.
By way of debunking the whole ghosts-are-among-us-and-can-be-contacted-via-these-here-board’s malarkey, Derren brought 12 students to a suitably gothic location. He then told them about another group of 12 folks what killed themselves in this very building, a few years ago, by way of drinking bleach on account of some motherfucker told them to.
This story was a load of toss, by the way. The miracle is how, knowing full well that it was indeed very effective but nonetheless fraudulent piffle, The Duke still shat himself on several occasions.
Again, we’re talking metaphor here. I didn’t really shit myself.
First off, Derren invited one of the group to sit in a “Spirit Box”, being a seat and a table surrounded with a curtain. He did the whole hypnotism thing what made his name, simply suggesting that the chosen lass might be feeling a little tired. Sure enough she nods off.
The curtains are pulled.
Now, a tambourine has hitherto been placed on the table next to the chair. We are told how, in Victorian times, spirits would make themselves known at these kinds of shindigs by ringing a bell. Or maybe a tambourine. We can but speculate.
Anyway, the curtain is pulled. Tambourine slaps to the floor.
We pull back the curtains to see that the girl is still sitting there, still with her head down, still with hands on her lap, still asleep.
Derren puts the instrument with the bell-things back on the table, and pulls the curtain again. Next thing anyone knows, the tambourine is thrown over the top of the Spirit-Box, into the rest of the group. Cue much yacking about “Argh!” and “Oh dear God” and “Where the fuck did that tambourine come from?”
The girl is awakened, and Derren asks her if she flung that motherfucking tambourine over the curtains just now. She says about how she never touched it, man, don’t pin your brutality on me, motherfucker.
There has been, however, a tiny CCTV camera pointing into the enclosed area all this time. The tape is played back. Sure enough, there’s our volunteer. The curtains are pulled, she lifts the tambourine and throws it to blazes over the beam.
To say she is somewhat shocked would, I think, be journalistically ethical. She was shocked as a motherfucker is what.
Derren explains how this kind of stuff used to happen all the time, and that the mediums weren’t necessarily being frauds, they just honestly weren’t aware of what they were doing. That girl just now, she didn’t want to fling a tambourine into the group. She could’ve split someone, is probably what she’s thinking. But she did. Why? Because Derren Brown is a fucking genius, is why.
It’s all in the suggestion, in gentle persuasion, and a bit of the old hypnotism and what-not.
It’s not like when David Blaine throws a playing card through the window of a taxi and then yacks about how it’s all “mystical” and he’s The Shamen.
I mean I saw the video for Ebenezer Goode at least a dozen times, and I ain’t seen that motherfucker in there even once.
Derren, by way of convenient contrast, is constantly telling you “this is a trick”, which makes it all the more baffling. How the hell is he getting folks to do these things? How is he getting them to pick certain words, or focus on certain things, just by twiddling his hands about and phrasing certain words certain ways?
After this Spirit Box malarkey, we, the humble viewers, were invited to participate. Photos of the twelve folks what drank the bleach are shown to us, and we’re asked to focus on a particular one.
Those folks in the group did this too.
Then, keeping the individual in mind, a bit of the old spirit-writing is brought into the equation. We’re asked to grab a notebook and a pen, and just write, without worrying about what our hands might be doing, to see if we can “get” the name of the city were the dead person once lived.
The folks in the telly, they write London, except some of them have it looking more like LOKNGON or LKJGDON or whatever.
Turns out the person they were focusing on, she lived in… Manchester.
No, I’m just messing is all. She was from London.
And then the séance.
I’m not gonna yack any more about what went on, since some folks might have it taped or whatever, or maybe wanna download it off one of those satanic P2P devices or somesuch. Suffice to say it was utterly astounding.
All the way through we were being told, this is just such-and-such, or so-and-so, there are no spirits; I’m just playing with their brains, is all.
And still you find yourself scared as all hell.
Like when Ghostwatch was aired a decade ago, and went on to achieve the honour of being named One Of The Scariest Motherfucking Films What You Ever Did See by The Duke. You knew that Sarah Greene wasn’t really being chased about by Pipes or by weird disembodied cats, but it still freaked you asunder.
I feel it is now possible, and, indeed, mandatory, to announce that Derren Brown is the best magician currently on telly, as far as The Duke is concerned, and a nicer fella you couldn’t hope to meet. He doesn’t patronise, he doesn’t act like he’s some mystical denizen of the spirit realm placed among us that he might guess what card we were thinking of, or stand in a block of ice for a couple days.
He tells us he’s simply fidgeting in our skull-gunk. And even though we know this, and try to catch him out and say “Ha! I saw what you did just there! I ain’t never paying you money for this obviously losing ticket”, he still wins most every time. He still walks away with that handful of cash, man.
It’s as big a mystery as how Henry VIII got so damn lucky so often.
Thanks Derren Brown. The Duke salutes you.
By the way, folks, as part of The Duke’s Service To Humanity, I have put up a selection of tracks by the million-selling singer-songwriter Eric Noble on my site. One of these is entitled Ode To Derren. Click Here For To Download The Ode To Derren Brown MP3!
The Duke resides at Mondo Irlando