8th Layer Insights 8.17.21
Ep 7 | 8.17.21

Going Mental: A Conversation with Banachek


Perry Carpenter: Hi. I'm Perry Carpenter. You're listening to "8th Layer Insights." If you're part of the cybersecurity community, you've probably been noticing this tension in our community about the word hacker. And that's because most people outside of cybersecurity and even a lot of people inside the cybersecurity community hear the word hacker in a context that automatically uses the word in a bad light. It associates the word hacker with criminal. And there's a lot of people in our community that don't like that association because in reality, a hacker is just someone who is curious, someone who approaches things and problems in an unorthodox way and comes up with creative or non-intuitive ways of doing things.

Perry Carpenter: So you can actually apply this hacker mindset to just about any discipline. And that's why outside of cybersecurity, at least, we see the term hack popping up everywhere, from life hacks to health hacks, car hacks and on and on and on. And in fact, anyone who has ever looked at a problem in a unique way and come up with a creative solution is a hacker. And in this sense of the word, there's a category of hackers that I've been fascinated with my entire life. I'm talking about people who can seem to bend reality to their will, people who can seem to pluck thoughts from the minds of spectators to see into the distant past or catch fleeting glimpses of futures yet to come. We could call these people reality hackers. 

Perry Carpenter: Over the millennia, some have called them sorcerers, alchemists, psychics or heretics. But I'm not talking about people who accomplish this through any kind of supernatural power. I'm talking about magicians, conjurors, charlatans and, yeah, even con men - people posing as those who could tap into the supernatural but who are in reality using parlor tricks. They look at the way the world works and the way that people think, and then they're able to use our own expectations, perceptions and logic against us, seemingly wielding supernatural powers and tapping into unseen forces. And that brings us to the topic of today's show. 

Perry Carpenter: In some ways you can think about this episode as an example of how two of our previous topics come together into the life and career of one person. Those two episodes would be Episode 4, Deceptionology 101, and Episode 6 on attacker mindsets. The person is a guy who goes by the name Banachek, and he's probably one of the most famous performers, consultants and professional skeptics that you've never heard of. 

Banachek: Hi. My name is Banachek. I'm a mentalist. I'm also a critical thinker and a skeptic from way back when. 

Perry Carpenter: That word skeptic or skepticism is really important for us to embrace as cybersecurity professionals because when it comes to things like social engineering or deception, one of the things that we want our people to do is to be very skeptical of anything that appears in their inbox or any phone call that they get. And that reminds me of a great quote from our guest George Finney in Episode 4 on deception. In that episode, George outlined nine cybersecurity habits that he wants everybody to take on board. One of those was skepticism. And it goes straight into vigilance. George says this. 

George Finney: If literacy is learning to read, skepticism is not believing everything you read. Again, I think that's a habit that you can cultivate, but you have to be able to tell the fake news from the real news, right? You have to have trusted sources. I'm part-Irish, so you have to be able to spot the blarney, if you will. And then going into vigilance, I think of vigilance as a directed skepticism. 

Perry Carpenter: Today we'll be hearing from Banachek, who is a professional skeptic, a performing mentalist and a sought-after consultant by magicians and mentalists around the world. He's worked with Penn and Teller, David Blaine, Criss Angel and is really responsible for the vast majority of magic and mentalism consulting that's been used in TV shows around the world. Let's dive in. 

Banachek: I picked up a book written by James "The Amazing" Randi, and that book said that the truth about Uri Geller was that Uri Geller was a magician and that he was a fake, that he was a fraud. And at that moment, actually, I had learned a valuable lesson. I learnt that just because people were in a position of authority over the other adults that I did know doesn't mean that they are experts in these things they know not about, right? But I had taken it for granted that Geller was real because they told me he was real. 

Banachek: From the book, I figured a way to bend a nail. I started putting my own methods together for bending forks, so much so that when I moved to Colorado, the kids in high school were stealing all the silverware to bring it to me to bend. They went to plastic silverware until I graduated. I figured a way to short the wires in the hallways so the school bell would go off early, and I would tell everybody the bell was going to go off early because I was going to use my psychic powers. I got in trouble for that as well. But I became very confident. 

Banachek: And I found one thing I had never found before. I found a home. I'd never really felt like I had a home before. And I wrote James "The Amazing" Randi. I wrote him a letter, and I said, if you ever need a kid to try to convince scientists this stuff is real only to come out and say that it was a hoax afterwards, I'd be happy to do so. I didn't expect to hear from him, but he wrote me a letter back. He said, if you're ever in the New Jersey area, come to visit. In 1979, Washington University was given a half-million ********* 


[** NEW STORY **] 

Banachek: ** million dollars to study psychic phenomena. 

Perry Carpenter: On today's show we'll hear how, as a teenager, Banachek fooled those university researchers into believing he had psychic powers. He and another high school student, named Mike Edwards, were able to do this not just for a day or for a week but for over three years. And they did it using basic sleight of hand, misdirection and exploiting the research team's own biases against them. They looked at every situation in an unconventional way to see how they could accomplish their goals. That and a few more stories coming up - stay with us. 

Perry Carpenter: Hi there. My name is Perry Carpenter. Join me for a deep dive into what cybersecurity professionals refer to as the eighth layer of security - humans. This podcast is a multidisciplinary exploration into the complexities of human nature and how those complexities impact everything from why we think the things that we think to why we do the things that we do and how we can all make better decisions every day. 

Perry Carpenter: Welcome to "8th Layer Insights." I'm your host Perry Carpenter. We'll be right back after this message. 

Perry Carpenter: Welcome back. Before we get into the interview with Banachek, let me set the stage for just a bit. I've loved the study of magic my entire life. And so today's show is a bit of an indulgence, I'll admit that. But I grew up watching James "the Amazing" Randi expose various forms of psychic fraud on shows like "Johnny Carson." And I remember hearing about what was known as Project Alpha. And that's the name given to the project that James Randi and Banachek and Michael Edwards embarked on to test these researchers' objectivity and research protocols at the University of Washington psychic phenomena study from 1979 to 1982. 

Perry Carpenter: And James Randi in many ways spent a good bit of his career carrying on the legacy of folks like Harry Houdini. Both had this passion for exposing the works of fake psychics and mediums who preyed on the ignorance and grief of their clients. And these people that would debunk fake psychics like Randi and Houdini before him, these people knew how easy it could be for a fake psychic to use basic tools within a parlor magician's arsenal to accomplish supposed supernatural feats. In fact, these charlatans had it much easier than magicians because of the context. 

Perry Carpenter: Think about it. When you tell somebody that you're about to do a card trick, that person, the spectator, immediately focuses on your hands. They're looking for the secret move. They're looking for the trick. They're looking to catch you out. 

Perry Carpenter: But if you make no such claim and you frame all of your actions and intentions in ambiguity where the spectator doesn't know what to expect or when to expect it, well, then they're totally taken off guard. They aren't expecting a trick. And so they don't look for one. 

Perry Carpenter: This interview is largely unedited, with us exploring several topics related to Project Alpha, Banachek's debunking efforts of notable frauds, his thoughts on things like psychology and framing and even his new show that recently opened in Vegas. I'll be sure to pop in here and there with a few interesting sidebar tidbits for you as well. So with that, I invite you to sit back and listen to my conversation with Banachek. 

Perry Carpenter: All right. Let me have you go ahead and introduce yourself. 

Banachek: Hi. My name is Banachek. I'm a mentalist. I've opened up a live show here in Las Vegas. I'm also a critical thinker and a skeptic from way back when. 

Perry Carpenter: Yeah. That's - actually, I want to dive into the way back when first and lead us up to the now, unless you feel like the frame fits better going now... 

Banachek: No. 

Perry Carpenter: ...And back. OK. 

Banachek: That's fine. 

Perry Carpenter: Yeah. So let me start with a general question. And then I want to go back to, like, Project Alpha and maybe before, if you want to go there. So in general, with all of your experience and everything that you see, how is our - how does the current frame of reality that everybody brings to the table with them affect the way that they bring in new information and interpret the world? 

Banachek: Yeah. You know, it's interesting. When you take a look back, the frame of our reality isn't much different than it used to be. We just got different ways of reframing it - right? - of looking at these things. You know, skepticism is out there. It used to be out there. You take a look at people's beliefs and the things that they believed in. Those have just moved into other sections, other ways of presenting things. 

Banachek: And we can talk a little bit about that even if we talk about mediumship. How has mediumship changed through the years? How has evangelism - where they actually appear to heal people - how has that changed? You know, con men - which is a lot of what I work with - well, not work with personally but exposing them - they just simply changed their methods. 

Banachek: And now we're in a whole different world. I was just talking to my manager earlier about - I remember when I went to school and I actually had to take an abacus, ** 


[** NEW STORY **] 

Banachek: *** believe it or not... 

Perry Carpenter: Oh, wow. 

Banachek: ...To school, and a protractor. And now we have computers that do everything. And there was a time when you were not allowed to have a calculator in school, but now they encourage you to have a calculator because it allows you to get to solutions quicker so that you can solve bigger problems faster. 

Perry Carpenter: Yeah, yeah. And would you say then that the context, the worldview that we bring with us, affects the way that we interpret things and the way that we might spin that back out? And what I'm getting at here is that I think we have people that live in different versions of reality based on the social media that they intake, based on the upbringing that they have, the region of the world that they live in, all that. I think you're uniquely positioned to kind of see how the worldview that somebody brings with them will affect the way that they interpret data. 

Banachek: Well, I think it's much easier now to find like-minded people. So even if you're like-wrong - and what I mean by that is let's say you have your facts wrong. Let's say you have an area that you believe in - used to be that your core people around you would kind of bring you back to reality. Now you can reach out, and you can find those other people. They're out there. So you don't take as much in on the opposite side anymore. You don't have to think about things from a different direction. You don't even have to debate things. All you do now is you find like-minded people, and you argue things. That's very different than a debate. I'm right, you're wrong has really almost become the mantra for so many people now. I don't have to listen to you. 

Perry Carpenter: Yeah. 

Banachek: I have my opinion, and my opinion is the only opinion that counts, and you should respect my opinion. And that's not the way the world really works, is it? 

Perry Carpenter: No, no, it's - but we found ways to bring our echo chambers with us or to self-select, to stay in those echo chambers. 

Banachek: Exactly. 

Perry Carpenter: So let's flashback to Project Alpha. I don't think - there's a good chunk of my listenership that when I say those two words, it means nothing to them. But I think that in the world that we live in right now, with a lot of the way that we see people interpret reality, that the lessons that you learned and that you taught people back then is probably more needed to be talked about than ever. And I know that some of that will ease into your new show as well. But can you give us a sketch through that? Tell the story of how that came about and what the output was. 

Banachek: Yeah. That really depends on how far back you want to go. Do you want to go back before Project Alpha and what led me to it, or do you want... 

Perry Carpenter: Yeah. 

Banachek: ...To talk about - specifically about Project Alpha itself? 

Perry Carpenter: However you want to tell the story, let's do that. 

Banachek: So if we go back to the early days - right? - I was abandoned in South Africa with two brothers, a year and 3 years old, pretty much raising them by myself. And I listened to other adults that I knew that were around me, and there was this superman that was coming to South Africa by the name of Uri Geller. Geller had convinced the world that he could actually bend metal objects with his mind. He said he had been validated by SRI, which wasn't exactly true. 

Perry Carpenter: SRI is an acronym for the Stanford Research Institute. This organization carried out research studies into various forms of parapsychology. They did these studies from 1972 all the way up to 1991. And this wasn't just some group of easily dismissed eccentrics. Some of SRI's parapsychological research was actually funded by NASA, the CIA and other government agencies. OK, let's get back to the interview. 

Banachek: He said he had been validated by SRI, which wasn't exactly true, but he was using that as sort of an endorsement that he had been examined there. And he was coming to South Africa on Springbok Radio, being broadcast out of Johannesburg and Cape Town. And he said that he was going to convince - not convince. He was going to teach people in their own homes how to bend metal objects with their mind. 

Banachek: Now, let's keep in mind - this is back in the '70s and '80s, and paranormal was all the rage back then. You had "In Search of..." TV show, the No. 1 TV show that was promoting the paranormal. You had the Soviet Union that was propping up their propaganda about their psychics, and so the U.S. government was getting involved because, hey, if they have psychics who can actually read - really read minds - if this is a real thing, we need to learn to do the same thing, hence the reason the U.S. government gave over $22 million per year for the Stargate Project, which is known by many, many different names. If you've seen the movie "Men Who Stare at Goats," that came out of there. "Remote Viewing" came out of there. 

Banachek: So - anyway, so there was Uri Geller. He was coming on the radio. And he was going to teach me how to actually bend metal with my mind. As a young kid, of course I want some superhuman power - right? - and especially in the situation I was living day to day, with no parents, no adults around, you know? So I went around the house, and I found myself a little pin that my mom had left behind in a sewing kit. And I picked it up, and when he said concentrate on it, I concentrated on that pin, so much so that I convinced myself that pin had bent - minutely, but I convinced myself that it had bent. 

Banachek: So let's move forward a few more years. I went to Australia to find my real dad. We moved to Colorado, and it was while I was in Colorado that I picked up a book written by James "The Amazing" Randi. And that book said that the truth about Uri Geller was that Uri Geller was a magician and that he was a fake, that he was a fraud. And from that book, I - at that moment, actually, when I read that book, I started to get a little bit angry because - at myself, not at anybody else but myself because I had learned a valuable lesson. I learned that just because people were in a position of authority, the other adults that I did know, doesn't mean that they are experts in these things they know nothing about, right? But I had taken it for granted that Geller was real because they told me he was real. 

Banachek: From the book, I figured a way to bend a nail. I started putting my own methods together for bending forks, so much so that when I moved to Colorado, the kids in high school were stealing all the silverware to bring it to me to bend. They went to plastic silverware till I graduated. I figured a way to short the wires in the hallways so the school bell would go off early, and I would tell everybody the bell was gonna go off early 'cause I was going to use my psychic powers. *** 


[** NEW STORY **] 

Banachek: I got in trouble for that as well. But I became very confident. And I found one thing I had never found before. I found a home. I had never really felt like I had a home before. But performing, whether it was on the cafeteria stage or in the cafeteria, or whether it was in the classroom - no matter where it may be, I felt more at home there. Because prior to this, I was a kid with a heavy coat on in the middle of summer, sitting in the back of the classroom, afraid that the teacher was - I was socially inept, afraid the teacher was going to call on me. 

Banachek: And I wrote this gentleman who had written that book, James "The Amazing" Randi. I wrote him a letter. And I said, if you ever need a kid to try to convince scientists that this stuff is real only to come out and say that it was a hoax afterwards, I'd be happy to do so. I didn't expect to hear from him. But he wrote me a letter back. He said, if you are ever in the New Jersey area, come to visit. 

Banachek: The opportunity came about. I took a Greyhound, ended up at his house, and the house was exactly what you expected it to be. It was a magician's home. The door - front door - opened from the wrong way. When you rang the doorbell, there was a big voice from the shadow. The old TV show back in the day - Walter Gibson had written a book called "The Shadow," and there was another TV show - it was a radio show. And it was like, the shadow knows, and you'd hear this big, looming voice. You'd walk in, there were macaws. There were doves. There was a clock that ran backwards. There was a bookcase that opened from, you know, secretly into another room. And it was just absolutely incredible. But he didn't ask to see a single trick, didn't ask to show me anything. 

Banachek: So when I left, I was very disappointed. But he was always thinking ahead. And the one thing he wanted was, he wanted - if I was going to go in and the opportunity arose, I was going to go in to the scientists, he wanted to be able to tell them afterwards, hey, I didn't teach this kid. Can you imagine, if I had taught him, what he could have gotten away with? Thinking back now, I realize had he have taught me, he would have taught me from magician's point of view. And so probably what I was doing would have looked more magical. But because he hadn't taught me, I was looking at it all from a psychic point of view. It had to look real. 

Banachek: Well, in 1979, Washington University was giving a half million dollars to study psychic phenomena. Now, up until this point, scientists had lamented for many, many years, there's no evidence of ESP because of lack of funding. It had been my contention all along, had nothing to do with funding. Had to do with their bias. They were going in believing in this stuff, therefore they were only documenting what they all ready believe. And also, they thought they were too smart to be fooled. Because they had Ph.D.s, they wouldn't be able to be fooled by somebody who didn't have a Ph.D. 

Banachek: So I went in for four years. There was another kid that I met as well who was already accepted there. His name was Michael Edwards, turned out to be a magician as well. He had also contacted The Amazing Randi. Randi was documenting everything. 

Banachek: And then in 1982, after 180 hours total - because we would go on weekends, holidays and things like that. After 180 hours total, we came out, and we explained that everything we had done was a hoax. Now, a lot of people will say, well, they never said that they actually believe. Yes, they did. There is video of them saying they believe. There's paperwork saying that they actually believed. And even afterwards, they would not answer the phone until we contacted them. And they were like, well, what about this? Well, what about this? They were just looking for that one thing that they could actually hold on to. 

Banachek: But that was Project Alpha. And it ended up being in every newspaper, every college textbook on psychology in the parapsychology section. And it really changed that whole map, that whole road, of parapsychology at the time. They became much more cautious, rather than just walking in with blinders. 

Perry Carpenter: So it can be really hard for us in the 2020s now to remember what it was like back in the early 1980s. But when James "The Amazing" Randi came out and actually revealed to the scientific community and to the press that all of this was a hoax, everybody was shocked. Let me play this clip. And I also need to digress here and mention that you'll hear two names. You'll hear James "The Amazing" Randi introducing these two kids. And Mike Edwards is a name you know, but up until now, we've been using the name Banachek. Banachek is the stage and the performing name of Steve Shaw. And Steve Shaw is the name that's mentioned in this clip. I think that gives you enough context. Listen for the shock and the gasps that ripple through this room of scientists and reporters. 


Unidentified Person: The two young gentlemen who took part in Project Alpha are here with us today. Gentlemen, would you stand up and take a bow? 


Unidentified Person: Steve Shaw and Michael Edwards. 


Unidentified Person: I'm going to ask these two gentlemen a very simple, direct question. Can you tell us, how do you do it? 

Michael Edwards: Well, to be quite honest, we cheat. 


Perry Carpenter: That sound of shock that rippled through the audience isn't just because the audience found out for the first time that all of these scientists had been being fooled for years. As part of that press conference, Steve Shaw - Banachek - and Michael Edwards actually stood in front of the audience and seemingly bent metal with their minds and performed various psychic stunts. Because this entire press conference had been setup to wow the audience with their psychic performance just as much as these researchers had been wowed. And so they had bought into the entire thing and believed the credibility of everything that had happened because of the research that was backing it. And then all of that came crashing down. 


Michael Edwards: Well, to be quite honest, we cheat. 


Perry Carpenter: OK. Let's go back to the interview. 

Perry Carpenter: Can you describe a couple of the experiments? 

Banachek: When we first went in to go to the labs, we didn't know what we were walking into. So we thought there might be one-way mirrors, ******** 


[** NEW STORY **] 

Banachek: **** hidden cameras. There might be cameras that are left on when they say they're off. So every bend we did in the early days in the laboratory setting was always on a micro. And sometimes, it would take hours before anything happened. It would just be millimeters. 

Perry Carpenter: Yeah. And if I remember right, Randi had actually tried to help the scientists out, which would have made your job way harder. 

Banachek: Randi had sent them 11 caveats at the very beginning. And he said - well, like, for instance, he said don't let more than one subject work at the same time. Mark everything on a micro and a macro level. Well, their idea of what - they didn't do it on a micro level. But the idea was that if a psychic or a magician was in the lab and they saw the macro, they wouldn't be looking for the micro marking, right? So if you switched it out, they - you know, they would be able to tell. 

Banachek: Their idea of marking everything on a macro level was to put string tags with numbers on them. So they had all this cutlery, and they would measure forks. And they had many different types of forks. So they would measure it, like, at the base, by the tine. And then they would measure it in the very center of the height of that, and they would mark down the millimeters that it was. So I would say, I think this one fork - this tag's getting in the way. Can I remove it? And they would say yes, and I would remove it, breaking one of Randi's rules. He said, don't let the people that you're studying run the experiments. 

Banachek: So I put it down. I'd concentrate. I put the fork down. After a little while, I pick up another fork. I take that tag off, put it down, concentrate. Nothing would happen. And then I would put the wrong tag on the wrong fork. Then I wait two or three hours later. And I was like, can you measure it? And they measured. And of course, now it's changed from what their documentation of this 20 or 25 forks, right? 

Banachek: You asked about other experiments. We - they took us into other areas. They wanted to find out if we had other abilities. And one of them was they would give us a - an envelope, and inside that envelope was a picture. And they would staple the top of it shut. And then they would sit me in a room all by myself, and they would show me 20 slides. And I'd come out of the room. And I'd say, I think it matches up with Slide 13. And of course, they would undo the staples, tear it open, look inside and it would match picture No. 13. Now I did this just enough that it was above average. Like, you know, so it was impressive but not so much it looked like a trick. Like, if I hit it every time, that would be a problem. 

Banachek: Now Mike Edwards - he wasn't as bold as I was. He was a law student whereas I was just a kid basically off the street working at the hospital. I had nothing to lose, so I would always take big chances. And I would get away with things all the time. And Mike would say to me - how did you do that? And I would tell him. So I told Mike exactly what I did. What I did was while I was sitting there alone, I took the staples, and I opened them up. And I put them on the arm of the chair. And I would look at the picture. Then I push those staples back through the same holes and close them shut. And then when I would come out, I would give them the picture. And they would open. It would match. 

Banachek: So Mike goes into the room, and he's taken the staples out. Now what I had forgot to tell Mike is that I was putting them in an ashtray on the arm of the chair. He was just putting them on the arm of the chair. And as he's doing this, he bumps the chair, and he loses some of the staples. So now he has an envelope that has two or three staples missing. But he thinks quickly. When he comes back into the room, he says I think it's number 14 or whatever number he said, miscalling it, of course, 'cause he doesn't want to bring heat on it. But he starts to tear the envelope halfway open. They go, no, no, no. You can't open it. That breaks protocol. So he hands it to them. They open it the rest the way. And they take it - take out the picture, and it didn't match. 

Banachek: And there were a lot of things that we did like that. They had a little fuse that they put into a fuse box. And the idea was that we were supposed to shorten the life of the fuse. It would run a current. And let's say every fuse blew approximately 19 or 20 seconds. We would concentrate and try to get it to blow in five or six. And I found out by holding the fuse box in a certain way, if I pressed down on the fuse surreptitiously without them looking, it appeared that the fuse had actually blown 'cause it went out. Now I would remove the fuse, and I would switch it for a burnt fuse and pass it over. 

Banachek: So I was always thinking ahead, always, you know, coming up with all these different methods that I could fool them with. And really, that came into my later life as well when I would - started working with other magicians in that I'm pretty much a troubleshooter. You give me an idea of something you want done, I can think 10, 15 different ways of actually doing it. 

Perry Carpenter: So for you, after Project Alpha, what was the biggest lesson learned that you took about human nature? 

Banachek: That's a tough one because I already knew why they were going in. I already knew that they were documenting their own beliefs because they were already convinced the stuff was real. So nothing changed in that way. What did change for me, personally, was this. I felt like when we were going in as a kid, I thought I was being the hero. I thought that we were the knights in shining armor coming in, and we're going to expose all this to the world. And I saw them as sort of the enemy at the time. But when I got to sit with the professors and the people that were testing us, I realized that they're people. They're real people. They're good people. They have good hearts. They were just way out of their league. 

Banachek: Now, is that a crime? Yes and no because you're taking money under false pretenses. But I don't think they felt they were taking money under false pretenses. It's not like the mediums that you... 

Perry Carpenter: Yeah. 

Banachek: ...See out there now. It's not like the fake psychics who know they're doing tricks, right? These guys actually were very excited and passionate about what they were trying to show the rest of the world. And they were really, really good people. And so, for me, it was extremely difficult because there came a point when I'm like, these are also my friends. But I'm lying to them. And at some point... 

Perry Carpenter: Oh, wow. 

Banachek: ...I know I'm going to have to hurt them. So that was extremely tough for me. It was extremely tough for Mike. There was - I think there came a point during Project Alpha where ***** 


[** NEW STORY **] 

Banachek: ******** Mike and I got really frightened. And there was a TV producer from BBC, Tony Edwards. And he came over to the United States at a convention during that time. And he said to Randi - he said, what would convince you that this was real? So Randi gave him the same 11 caveats that he had given the scientists. 

Banachek: Now, the scientists had shown them to me and Mike, and they just laughed about them. And you know, they said, we could never do this. You'd be so uncomfortable. But Tony followed every single protocol. And there was another kid by the name of Masawaki Kyoto (ph) from Japan who could twist forks - spoons. And nothing happened. Absolutely nothing happened all day. We couldn't get away with anything. But the moment the cameras went off, Masawaki twisted a spoon. And I knew what he was doing. He had a thing in his shoe. He'd put it under the table, and he'd use that for leverage and get the twist. But then he holds it up, concentrates on it when the camera's off and it starts twisting. And Tony Edwards had a complete mental breakdown. 

Perry Carpenter: (Laughter). 

Banachek: He started screaming, hollering about The Amazing Randi, how he shouldn't have listened to The Amazing Randi, how Randi was the devil, Randi was evil. And I don't - I'm just going to tell it like it is because this is what happened. He looked down at the front of his pants, and there was a big wet spot there, and he called it a demonic ejaculation. I had to spend the night - this is the point of the mental breakdown he had. I mean, it was complete. I had to spend the night in his assistant's room because she was scared to death because her boss kept calling her, screaming and yelling and hollering about The Amazing Randi. 

Perry Carpenter: Wow. 

Banachek: And it was at that moment that Mike and I said, OK. We can't do this anymore. We went to Randi, we said, we can't do this anymore, right? We were - and we were worried about the people that we really did care about as well. Are they going to react the same way? And Randi said, look. It's just going to be another month. The TV show comes out. We're going to expose it. Just hold on. So we did hold on. But it wasn't an easy time, and it wasn't an easy thing for Mike and I. 

Banachek: If I was to do it all over again, would I? Yes, because I think it was necessary. But I think I would be more careful about how close I got to the experiment as - you know, and how friendly we became. 

Perry Carpenter: Yeah. That makes a lot of sense. And I think that's super important that you mention that they're real people (laughter). And... 

Banachek: Yeah. 

Perry Carpenter: ...They had a psychological investment in that and an emotional investment. So that's really good. 

Banachek: Well, I'm also president of the James Randi Educational Foundation. 

Perry Carpenter: Yeah. 

Banachek: And for over 15 years, you know, we tested psychics for $1 million. All you had to do is demonstrate one piece of paranormal ability under proper scientific controls and you would get $1 million. And the odds usually - the stats were usually one in a million. There was a preliminary test, and there was the formal test. And when you put them together, it's one in a million. Now, of course, you can't have stats on metal-bending and dowsing - well, a little bit you can with dowsing. But we tested hundreds and hundreds of psychics, and not a single one passed that test. Not one person ever passed that test. There was a reason I was going in that direction. I don't remember what it was. It was something you had said. 

Perry Carpenter: Well, I mean - well, yeah. I mentioned real people, real emotions. I remember seeing the results of some of those. And the mediums that were testing really believed in themselves, a lot of them did. And were... 

Banachek: That's... 

Perry Carpenter: ...A little bit crushed when they left and couldn't do it. 

Banachek: Yeah. Exactly. That's my point. I would - whenever we would test, I would treat those people with respect because... 

Perry Carpenter: Respect. 

Banachek: ...Most of them were not trying to fool us. They were pretty much just self-deceived. But when I was in that moment, I would put myself in this weird kind of mental state of not believing and not disbelieving. Like, OK. I'm going to give you a fair chance. And this is your chance to prove yourself. We are going to use proper protocol. The protocol will stand for itself. So right now, I don't have to be skeptical within this moment. There is no reason for me to have to be skeptical. I can just let the protocol speak for itself. And I would always ask people to treat those people with respect - not laugh at them, not treat them in a bad way - because they deserved that respect. The very fact that they were willing to come in front of hundreds of skeptics and show their ability and try to demonstrate their ability - I felt like they deserved respect for that. Now, the people that are scumbags, like the mediums, that know exactly what they're doing - that's a whole different matter. 

Perry Carpenter: You mention mediums. This is the second time that you - or maybe a third time that you mentioned it now. Do you have any thoughts or comments that you want to give on - maybe you're walking down the street in the city that you're visiting and you see that little psychic shop. What types of people are running those shops? I'm sure there's at least two classes of people - some that are genuinely believing in themselves and their intuition, and then others that are just doing it for the money. But what are your thoughts on those kind of endeavors? 

Banachek: It's been my experience that the actual, setup psychic shops that are making enough money to keep that shop - they're scam artists. They know exactly what they're doing. Now, the people that do readings at parties, you know, or at the mall or something like that - a lot of those people - they truly believe in their ability. 

Banachek: There is this very strange thing that happens as well. And so I can't say that those people that are in those shops don't believe they have some sort of ability because my good friend, Ray Hyman, who you may know - Ray - he helped start CSICOP back in the day. But Ray used to give a lot of lectures about readings, tarot cards, and why they couldn't work. But he had never given a reading himself. He'd never really studied enough to do a reading. So he said, you know what? If I'm going to give lectures on this, one of the things that I need to do is I need to learn how to give readings. So he learned the system, whichever system he learned. And then he went out, and he started giving readings. And he started getting all this positive feedback - not the negative feedback because you never hear that. But he was getting all the positive feedback. ********** 


[** NEW STORY **] 

Banachek: *** And he started to doubt himself. He started to go, you know, maybe there's something here; maybe there's something I don't understand because it seems like I'm very, very accurate with these readings. And it wasn't till a friend said to him - said, Ray, you know, you're a critical thinker. Think about this critically. Why don't you take a reading that you give to somebody and give that to the next 20 people or so and see what happens? Now, Ray was in a dilemma because Ray is a very honest individual. He's like, yeah, but I'm supposed to give them a real reading. Now I'm giving people a fake reading, and I don't really want to do that. But for the name of science, I'll do it. So he went out, and he gave that same reading to other people afterwards, and he found out he was getting a bigger response in positivity from the other people afterwards that the reading was not meant for. 

Perry Carpenter: Wow. 

Banachek: So he started realizing exactly what was going on at that point. 

Perry Carpenter: Yeah. And just to connect the dots, what was happening with people as they were hearing that reading? What was going on in their minds? 

Banachek: Yeah. Well, pretty much the majority of things that you give in a reading off those type of readings, especially when you use a system, can pretty much apply to anybody. There's a great little experiment that a lot of professors and a lot of people do, and what they do is they tell their students, I'm going to go out and get you a... 

Perry Carpenter: Yeah. 

Banachek: ...Professional reading from a psychic, but I need your birthday to do so. So they get everybody's birthday, they go out, and they come back, and they say, we got your readings. Your name's on your envelopes. Take them. Have a seat. And when I tell you to, I want you to open your reading and go ahead and just, you know, read it in your head. They do. And then you ask - so how many of you say this is, like, you know, 50% accurate for you, at least? And almost all the hands go up. How many 75%? Maybe one or two of their hands go down. How many a hundred percent? You still have a lot of hands up. You say, all right. So all of those in the back, I want you to pass your readings forward, you know? In every row, pass your readings forward. And the front row, if you'll just take yours to the back and come back and have a seat, now read the new reading that's in front of you. And it turns out that everybody got the exact same reading because it's full of what we call Barnum statements or forward statements; it's full of all these single statements, and the statements pretty much apply to anybody. 

Perry Carpenter: Yeah. And in your mind, in your experience, when the professor asks for the birth date or the psychic asks for the memento that's going to put them in touch with the person, is that invoking some kind of ritual that gets an investment, a buy-in from the person that they're doing the reading for? 

Banachek: It absolutely does. It's exactly what I call in mentalism - 'cause I'm a mentalist, and I perform mentalism. It's that process. It's kind of like that - if I touch you - if I'm - have people onstage and I'm touching each person on the shoulder or I'm tapping him two, three times or I'm doing anything that just seems weird or strange, it's like, why is he doing that? That must be the process. That's what enables him to actually do that. It's the same thing that, when we used to watch "Monk" on TV, Monk would have that whole thing with his hands going around in the air, and, you go, that's his process, right? He wouldn't be doing that if something wasn't happening. And it's the same thing with a lot of psychics. We do these things that appear to be process, which makes it seem more real, more reality 'cause now they can see the process happening as opposed to you just sitting there revealing information to them. 

Perry Carpenter: I've heard that called a fauxcess before. I'm not sure if you may... 

Banachek: Yes, it is. Yup. 

Perry Carpenter: ...Have even come up with that term. 

Banachek: No, I did not. But that's a great word for it. 

Perry Carpenter: We'll be right back after the break. 

Perry Carpenter: Welcome back. So what happens to you when you're in a show, you make a disclaimer, and you say, I'm not doing this for real - I'm kind of bringing all my skills and senses together to perform something that looks like this. And then you still have people that come to you after the show, and they're like, but there's no way that you couldn't do it, you know? And they're fully bought in, and you can't convince them. 

Banachek: Yeah. 

Perry Carpenter: What do you do in that situation? 

Banachek: Well, first of all, I take it as a compliment because it means... 

Perry Carpenter: Yeah. 

Banachek: ...What I do looks real, and I'm doing a very good job with it. This show that I'm doing in Vegas has a lot of skepticism moments in it. I'm one of... 

Perry Carpenter: Awesome. 

Banachek: ...The first mentalists to really put out heavy, heavy disclaimers. And when I started putting out disclaimers, a lot of mentalists were getting upset. They say, you're ruining it for us. And I go, no, but I'm telling the truth, you know? I'm not lying to my audience. I tell them I use my five known senses to create the illusion of a sixth sense. I tell them that nobody can actually do this through just pure psychology. I tell them that what I'm doing is a form of magic. Penn and Teller do magic with coins and fish, you know, and balls. And Siegfried and Roy did tricks with lions and tigers. I do tricks with information. 

Banachek: My manager, Tyus, when he first, you know, heard of my approach of telling people that this was not real and then performing, went, well, how's that going to work? And then when he saw me, he realized it's even stronger because I can tell my audiences, this is not real, and still put them in that moment of believing this is real, which brings us back to your question, right? So I have disclaimers at the beginning. I have disclaimers in the middle. I have disclaimers at the end. But there is going to be a *** 


[** NEW STORY **] 

Banachek: **** large portion of people that are going to my show, and they're not going to believe, no matter what I say. They're going to be the skeptics. Doesn't matter how I present it. They are not going to believe. There's going to be another portion that's going to come that you were talking about, are going to believe no matter what I say. But there's a large portion in the middle who have never seen a mentalist before. And whatever I say is what they're going to walk away from. And those are the people that I feel a responsibility to. Those are the people that I really feel that I need to remind them, this is not real. Because if I don't, they're going to believe it's real. 

Banachek: Now, a lot of mentalists will say, yeah, but if you're doing a play, and you're not going to stop in the middle and go, wait, hold on, guys. I'm really not Macbeth. No. Because that's context, right? 

Perry Carpenter: Yeah. 

Banachek: The context is, you're going to see a play. But the context of coming to see a mentalist - what is a mentalist? We don't know. A mentalist is whatever that guy on stage tells you it is. If you see a neurosurgeon on stage and he's got diagrams of the human brain and he's talking about it on the same stage that a magician performed on, you quickly start to realize, this is a real scientist, neuroscientist. So I have to remind the people that this is not real. And I can give, in my performance, enough examples of where this is not real to where even the people that truly, truly believe will at least a walk away with a couple of critical thinking tools. 

Banachek: I can't tell people what to believe. It's not my job to tell people what to believe, right? You can believe whatever you want, so long as you're not hurting anybody else. But I can tell them, look. People are going to take advantage of your beliefs. So don't blindly believe in everything that seems to support your belief. Realize there are people that are going to use those tools to try to take advantage of you. And if I can get them to at least think that way, they're less likely to be taken in by the con artists. 

Perry Carpenter: Yeah. That's fantastic. So in just a second I want to take a deep dive on the show... 

Banachek: Sure. 

Perry Carpenter: ...Yeah, on your new show. But I do want to ask a couple quick questions. No. 1 is, when you think about what you do, what are the parallels between how you do this and the way that - I mean, I think there's a whole spectrum of things where these skills that you use apply. And it could go into things like fake psychics and con artists, but it also goes into even, you know, marketers, politicians and parents that are trying to influence their children. What are the universal things that you use that you see can apply across this larger spectrum? 

Banachek: There is a thing of putting yourself in a position of authority - right? - to where people listen to you. There's convincing people that you do have knowledge that you don't necessarily have. All these techniques that I use in my show can be applied for salespeople. Quite often, we see the techniques that we use apply for people that give talks for self-motivation. But then you see them using those techniques in not such a great way, right? It's always about that upsell. And as my manager, Tyus (ph), has said in the past - he says quite often, many of those people - they give you the good stuff upfront so that you'll keep buying from them. 

Perry Carpenter: Yeah. 

Banachek: And they don't get good stuff, but they keep hoping there's going to be another little gem in there that they can pull out at some point. So it's really hard for me to break down everything that I do to say exactly how it can be applied elsewhere other than knowing that the pure psychology - OK, I guess there are ways of doing some of the things. Let's say I have a few objects on stage that I want somebody to select, right? I know that if I stand closer to them, they're probably going to choose something more on the left-hand side. If I give them more space, they'll choose something more on the right-hand side. I know that if I lay out five objects, they're not going to choose the objects on the end. They're more likely not the object in the middle. More than likely, they're going to choose the second or the fourth object, right? So this is me being able to manipulate people into doing what I want them to do. 

Banachek: Now, it's not going to work every single time. So I have to have outs for those things. But those type of things can be applied in everyday life as well. 

Perry Carpenter: Yeah. No, I think that's fantastic. So you mentioned the principle of outs. I think you could even get into something like magician's choice there, where you're limiting the options and you're kind of creating a situation where somebody is picking the one that you want or feels like they're picking the one that you want. 

Banachek: Well, these tools are applied by salespeople. It's always, you never ask a yes or no question. You always ask an if or or question, right? You get people to visualize themself sitting in that beautiful car, right? Which one would you prefer? Would you prefer the red, or would you prefer the view? Oh, yeah, this would be great for when you go on country rides with the kids, or mom could actually take the kids to soccer. So they can actually start seeing themselves and... 

Perry Carpenter: Right. 

Banachek: ...Visualizing themselves in that car. And those techniques are used by salespeople the world over for different types of sales. 

Perry Carpenter: Yeah. And there's a technique - I'm not going to mention the name so that people don't Google it - but where you have a piece of information that somebody has already given you, and then you... 

Banachek: Yep. 

Perry Carpenter: ...Position yourself in a situation where you're then able to leverage that later on. Do you see that being used for good or for bad by these types of folks as well? 

Banachek: When you said that, I came up with three things that that could have actually applied in three different situations. 

Perry Carpenter: (Laughter). 

Banachek: And what I mean by three different completely methods - when you have a hot information about somebody, right? A couple of the trick methods I wouldn't want to expose because good mentalists use those techniques as well. 

Perry Carpenter: Yeah. 

Banachek: But quite often, you can rephrase that information that you have so that it sounds like something you could never have known. I'll give you one example on that. Let's say I have somebody's birthdate. For some reason, they never seem to line that up with their astrological sign. But their birthday will give me their astrological sign. So let's say ******* 


[** NEW STORY **] 

Banachek: *** I'm sitting here with you, but I have information about what month and what day in that month you're born - myself, for instance, November 30, I know you're a Sagittarius. I could just simply look at you and go, I believe that you're a Sagittarius - right? - by the way that you hold your hand up here... 

Perry Carpenter: Yeah. 

Banachek: ...Blah, blah, blah and this and this and this. 

Perry Carpenter: Yeah. 

Banachek: And they will never associate it with their birthday, which is something I could certainly have got offline. 

Perry Carpenter: Yeah. 

Banachek: People just don't. And there's bigger spectrums of those kind of things, but that's a very simple way of taking somebody - something, rephrasing it in a different way where people don't associate those things together for some very strange psychological reason. 

Perry Carpenter: Yeah. And then that can engender trust or confidence or... 

Banachek: Yes. 

Perry Carpenter: ...You know, help you get further down that. All right, so let's spend this last section talking about the show. You mentioned that you approach it from a skeptical point of view. You're encouraging that. I know that you and Penn and Teller get along as well. And they do the same thing in the way that they approach their shows to the point where even, like, when they're doing cups and bowls, they'll use transparent cups. 

Banachek: Sure. 

Perry Carpenter: Is there an analogist type of thing that you're doing in your show as well? 

Banachek: Well, I start out the show coming out really strong, talking about what's in that space between all of us. Is there something, you know, that connects us all? Is there something, whether it be psychic or psychological? And then I do a thing where I'm - appear to be reading people's body language to get playing cards. And then I pose the question, you know, did I really read their body language? Did they give off subtle cues? And maybe this is what psychics do, sometimes, subconsciously read subtle cues. 

Banachek: And now I go into the next thing. And I go, well, what was that? Well, if you ask parapsychologists, they would tell you it was called telepathy. And so I'm building it up for the - if there are believes in the audience, they're coming in, sort of, and listening to me. And they're going, yeah, it could be telepathy, could be this. But then I blow it out of the water and go, it's really not telepathy, you know? I do tricks with information, like I talked about earlier. 

Banachek: And there's a section of the show where I talk about the James Randi Educational Foundation and the Million Dollar Challenge. There's a piece of the show where we show a video that describes what happened with Project Alpha. There's also a part of the show where we show a video about Peter Popoff, the evangelist that I caught using an earpiece, and his wife was stealing information in real time in the audience from the people. 

Banachek: So I go into each one of these skeptical things, but then I perform the exact same thing not using those techniques. And the reason I'm really doing that is to show you, look; even though you know these methods that I'm teaching you, that I'm telling you that these other people are using, people can still get away with this. So, again, know that you can be fooled. But my job is to entertain you here this evening, not to convince you that this stuff is real. It's not real. 

Perry Carpenter: And that makes an interesting point, too, because sometimes, even knowing one method can effectively create misdirection for the method you're really going to use. So you're... 

Banachek: That is... 

Perry Carpenter: You're kind of... 

Banachek: Yup, yeah. 

Perry Carpenter: Yeah. 

Banachek: Those are called sucker gags. It's - and really is when you set somebody up, you're teaching them a method. There's a famous one with an egg that magicians do. And they make a scarf disappear, and then they produce an egg. And they're like, where did it go? Oh, it went inside of this egg. Look. You just need an egg and a hole in the egg. And you go through the whole thing. And then they do it again, and they say, but what happens if they catch the egg in your hand? And then you crack the egg open, and you open it up. So you really set them up there with that. 

Perry Carpenter: Yeah. 

Banachek: And I'm often asked by people, why don't you just teach parapsychologists the methods? The problem is I have, like, eight methods for bending keys. If I teach them two or three methods and then somebody comes along with a completely different method, they're going to go, well, I know the trick methods. This is definitely not a trick. This has to be real. Much better for them to say, I don't know; let me get an expert in the field to take a look at this. 

Banachek: When I used to perform at high schools, I would come out - I would come out really strong like I was a genuine psychic. And then I would ask the kids - I'd say, how many of you believe this is real? And almost all the hands would go up, but there'd be four or five hands that would - you know, wouldn't go up. And I'd ask, how many think that this isn't real? Those hands would go up. And I'd say, why don't you believe? And they say, well, my dad told me this stuff isn't real, or I read somewhere... 

Perry Carpenter: Yeah. 

Banachek: ...In a book that it's not real. And they would give all these reasons. And I would say, you know what? You're absolutely right. And they'd get a big smile on their face. I say, but for the wrong reasons. I said, all these other kids have just seen something that they cannot explain, something that appears to be real. So they're in that moment. But all of you would be much better saying, on both sides of the fence, is, I don't know. I don't have enough information. That is the smartest thing you can say. Instead of making fun of people in school that say I don't know, the smartest thing you can say is I don't know, but you know what? I'm going to research it. I'm going to ask. And I'm going to take a look, and I'm going to ask some experts and get the real answer for what this is. 

Perry Carpenter: And that comes back to that initial frame that you have because if you're always viewing the world through this single frame of your own understanding, then you're naturally excluding other possibilities, and those other possibilities may actually be the right one. 

Banachek: Yes. 

Perry Carpenter: It's like, you know, if you were to talk about one single method of obtaining secret information. You know... 

Banachek: Yup. 

Perry Carpenter: ...Some of that could be done real-time, some of that could be done way earlier or just a couple minutes earlier. But if you only talked about one of those and only exposed one of those, then people are going to be on the lookout for that, and you could sail past in the other method. 

Banachek: Absolutely. 

Perry Carpenter: And they would never even consider it. 

Banachek: Yeah. 

Perry Carpenter: It's a weird thing that the brain does. 

Banachek: Yeah, it is. You kind of get that tunnel vision with this of, this is what must be happening. And quite often, that's how you make mistakes and you find out that you're wrong the hard way. 

Perry Carpenter: Yeah. So then with the last couple minutes, I guess I'll flip it over to you. Is there anything that you wish that I'd asked or touched on that I didn't think of? 

Banachek: Not really. I mean, we could've talked about Peter Popoff a little bit. ***** 


[** NEW STORY **] 

Perry Carpenter: Yeah, sure. 

Banachek: Yeah. The - so back in the 1980s, the amazing Randi came to Houston, Texas, and this is after I had been doing Project Alpha with Randi. He said - do you want to come see this evangelist? I'm writing a bunch of stories on evangelists for this magazine. I said I'd love to come. 

Banachek: So I went with Randi. And this evangelist comes out onstage, and he says he's getting the word of God. And he'd start calling out people's names. Mrs. Johnson, you have a yellow T-shirt, and you're standing somewhere in the back over here. And he'd point to the right side of the auditorium. Sure enough, there was a Mrs. Johnson over there. He'd say, your doctor's name is James Abrahams. Is that right? Yes. And he says that you have cancer. Is that - and he would name the specific type of cancer. He would tell them their address. He would tell them all kinds of information and that he would heal them. And he started healing people of all kinds of afflictions. Even people that couldn't see were seeing again; people that couldn't walk would be able to walk again. And it was extremely emotional. 

Banachek: And like I said, there were thousands, probably about 10,000 people here at this revival in Houston, Texas. And there was a point where he wanted people to collect money. And he had, like, 15 big buckets. And so I managed to make it down there as a volunteer. And I got a bucket, and I walked around the room. And I probably had about $10,000 in this bucket. And then I had to go out and get sealed offerings. So who knows what was in there? - 'cause those are checks - put that down. And then we had to go get anything else anybody wanted to offer. So we got watches, jewelry, things like that. And I would bring that down. 

Banachek: And as I got down, I looked up, and I noticed he had no ear hole. There was a piece of plastic in his ear. So I went to Randi. I said, look, either this man of God can't heal himself, or he's using a hearing aid. And Randi said - really? And I had to convince Randi, took a little bit of convincing 'cause Randi thought that, somehow, they were getting the information but he was memorizing it by using mnemonics. I like - Randi, I use mnemonics. I use memory systems. And you either get a lot of information about a few things or a little information about a lot, but you don't get this much information about that many people. 

Banachek: And so right after that, the very next revival, which was in - I think it was Anaheim, Calif., Randi got a friend from MIT to come in with a scanner, and they scanned all the frequencies ahead of time, the known frequencies and then blocked them out. And then when Peter Popoff came out onstage, they scanned it again. And sure enough, there was a new frequency that popped up. And it appears that God broadcasts on - and I think it was 39.17 megahertz and sounds an awful lot like Peter Popoff's wife because what was happening - people were filling out prayer cards. And then they were getting switched out in the lobby, and Mrs. Popoff would go through them, pick out some good ones. And she was transmitting that information to Peter Popoff through an earpiece. 

Banachek: Another trick they used was the old Kathryn Kuhlman trick, like the wheelchair trick. And this is a great one. This is where people come to these things hours ahead of time to be healed. And all they do is they look for somebody who's using a cane that doesn't walk great but they can walk and say - you know what? We could put you in the wheelchair section. You'll be right up front. Who's going to say no to that? So they put them in the wheelchair. And as they're waiting, they're like, what's your name? Who's your doctor? Where you from? What's your ailment? And they put them up front. Now Peter Popoff can come out onstage and look at the person and say, we've never met before - because they haven't met before. God's given me information about you. He's telling me this. He's telling me that. And he says - and God's telling me that you can't walk. And that person thinks, well, I can walk but not properly. This is a man of God. That must be what he means. So he doesn't question him. 

Perry Carpenter: Yeah. 

Banachek: And all of a sudden, he's got the dopamine. He's got the adrenaline running through his body 'cause all the attention is on him. And Popoff would say, stand up. Stand up. The guy stands. And you've got your first miracle and that - 'cause as far as anybody else knows, this guy can't walk. He says, take a couple of steps. And the guy walks. You got your second miracle. Popoff takes the cane, breaks it, throws it up onstage. Nobody questions, why does a man who can't walk even have a cane? And these are nice expensive canes, too, keep in mind because if you're not walking properly, you buy a good cane. And then Popoff sits in the wheelchair, says go behind the wheelchair, push me. So the guy hobbles behind the wheelchair... 

Perry Carpenter: Wow. 

Banachek: ...Walking better than he did before 'cause of the adrenaline, starts pushing him. Now he's got a walker, right? So he's pushing him with the walker, basically. And then the piece de resistance, Popoff takes the chair, puts it back over on the side. And he says, look, that's your wheelchair, right? And the guy says yes, meaning, like, if you're at a theater and you get out of the chair and I say that's your chair, you're going to say yes. 

Perry Carpenter: Yeah. 

Banachek: Doesn't mean you're going to take it home, but it's dual reality. So basically, the guy goes, sits down. You've just seen this incredible miracle. So we got all this information. And there was horrific things that were being said by the wife. She's like, Peter, if you can hear me - 'cause if you can't, you know, we have a problem tonight. But there's a lady. She's got cancer in her boobs, you know? Make a shake those boobies as she runs up and down. And there were racist things that were being said. 

Perry Carpenter: Wow. 

Banachek: We took this stuff on "The Tonight Show With Johnny Carson." Now, Johnny always wanted to know what was going to happen ahead of time, but his staff said, Johnny, you don't want to know this time. And Johnny hated editing his show. He hated to edit his show. But this was one of the shows that had to be edited because Randi shows the video. And Johnny sits there, and he goes, oh, s***. And so they had to edit that out of the show because he was so shocked by it. 

Banachek: And it was a great, great piece. And it took about three years or so for Popoff to claim bankruptcy. At that time, he was making about $5 million a year, which doesn't sound a lot, but it was a lot back then. And now he's back on the air again. He's not using any of those tricks. It's just a simple thing of saying - and this is where people move into other directions that we started with. He says, somebody out there has cancer. Somebody out there has this. Somebody else has that. I'm going to heal you right now. And that's all he needs to do. He does send people healing water from various places around the world, from Chernobyl and Israel and places like that. So he is doing the mail-outs and that. But I hear he's making 50, $60 million a year right now. 

Perry Carpenter: Wow. 

Banachek: And we don't know for sure because he finally went to a nonprofit, so it's all tax-free. 

Perry Carpenter: Yeah. I mean, it's really interesting because you do see the same things in ***** 


[** NEW STORY **] 

Perry Carpenter: *** a good mentalism show. You see a Q&A act, which... 

Banachek: Yep. 

Perry Carpenter: ...Essentially that was, and you see the use of dual reality. But, yeah, you see one person experiencing one thing and confirming it and then another person kind of taking credit for that in a different way that the audience perceives completely differently. 

Banachek: Some mentalists and magicians have an issue with that, with dual reality. I don't because for me, both parties whenever I use dual reality are getting an effect. Sometimes the audience - the major part of the audience is getting a better effect than the one person on stage. But for me, that person on stage must always have a mystery, must always be amazed because I want the audience to see their amazement. 

Banachek: When people come to my show, for that particular evening, I will usually offer - you'll hear me in the show, and you'll hear me doing it here in Las Vegas. I offer, you know, $10,000. Sometimes I make it up to $100,000 - it that just depends - for anybody that can prove that I'm using social media to get information about people, that I'm using any hidden cameras, that I'm using any electronics for getting information, somebody's sending me information. It's just me and the audience that are working together in that particular moment. So I can't sell out those methods by offering a genuine cash prize to anybody that can prove I'm using those things... 

Perry Carpenter: Yeah. 

Banachek: ...'Cause I don't. 

Perry Carpenter: Yeah. Awesome. I think that's probably good. Any last thought or encouragement that you want to leave people with? 

Banachek: Yeah, I'm going to throw a little bit of a plug there if that's OK. 

Perry Carpenter: Absolutely. Yeah. 

Banachek: And I have my own podcast, "Banachek's Brain." And on there, we really go in depth. And I've interviewed Mike Edwards, the other kid that was with me for Project Alpha as well. But we have a lot of fun guests on it, like Bill Nye the Science Guy. And we cover a big spectrum, so there's nothing that's off limits. So it might not be something that little kids want to listen to, but if you're an adult, I think that you'll truly enjoy it. 

Banachek: And any social media - you can keep up with any events that I have coming up. I'm going to be doing a bunch of publicity stunts for the state show. We're planning on doing another blindfold drive at some point, and I might do some headline predictions where I predict the headlines and things that have happened in the news weeks in advance. So, yeah, if you just put up Banachek in Instagram or any - Facebook or any place like that, you will find me. And pretty much most of those things are going to be directed now towards that show and anything that's happening... 

Perry Carpenter: Great. 

Banachek: ...Along those lines rather than anything personal. 

Perry Carpenter: If somebody is interested in your body of work that's for magicians, is there a place that you'd like them to start? 

Banachek: You can always go to Banachek Products. There's nothing up there right now. It's been down for a little while, but that will be going back up. If a magician is trying to get into this type of thing, "Psychological Subtleties 1" is the thing to look for online. That will give you a good basis, a good start. It's an interesting thing because it's a great thing for people starting out to have. But at the same time, I've had many magicians and mentalists said, I read it the first time. I didn't quite get it until I started performing. But then I went back, and I made pages and pages of notes because it applies not just to mentalism but to magic and to the performing arts itself. 

Perry Carpenter: Awesome. Thanks so much. 

Perry Carpenter: Well, that brings us to the end of today's show. I'm sure you noticed quite a few parallels between the way that Banachek approaches the world and the way that hackers do, both in the positive and negative sense of the word. 

Perry Carpenter: There are a couple other things to mention. The first is empathy. If you remember, Banachek and Michael Edwards expressed that feeling of being a bit torn. They were tricking people that they grew to become friends with. And I think that's an important thing to remember about the Project Alpha story. These kids really liked and respected the people that they were tricking, but they believed that the lesson needed to be learned by the scientific community that they aren't immune to their own biases and process flaws. 

Perry Carpenter: I think there are some parallels here for cybersecurity professionals who do things like penetration testing, red teaming, simulated phishing campaigns and more. There are several important lessons to be learned through all those activities, but we can't lose sight of the fact that we're interacting with real people - yes, people with flaws but people with real lives and emotions. 

Perry Carpenter: And another big lesson here is that we need to be comfortable with saying the phrase, I don't know, or, I'm not sure. Being willing to say those words allows us to be open to researching multiple possibilities for how something works, why the way the world is the way that it is or how we should approach various issues. In the end, it's that ability to be open and yet skeptical and vigilant yet curious that helps us all to improve. 

Perry Carpenter: Thanks so much for listening, and thank you to my guest Banachek for joining me today. If you're interested in Banachek's show, it's on the Las Vegas Strip right now. He's also got tons of video and social promotion going on. So you can go to banachek.com or just Google his name. You'll see tons of interesting things from him. I've also loaded up the show notes with lots of references to everything that we touched on today, including a few books and videos that I think you'll find interesting. So be sure to check those out. 

Perry Carpenter: If you've been enjoying "8th Layer Insights," please go ahead and take just a couple seconds to head over to Apple Podcasts and leave a rating and review. You can also help by posting about the podcast on social media, recommending it within your network and maybe even finding one to recommend to a friend or family member who's not part of the cybersecurity community. And if you haven't yet, go ahead and subscribe or follow wherever you like to get your podcasts. If you want to connect with me, you can find me on LinkedIn or Twitter or Clubhouse. I'd be happy to connect. Well, until next time, thank you so much. I'm Perry Carpenter, signing off.