Derren Brown's simulated mediumship

Hey guys. First post here in a while, I had an old account some years ago and lost it, under Antiquitus. Wasn't super active, but lurked a lot.

I wondered if anyone had any theories regarding Derren Brown's simulated conversations with the dead in his mentalist act. I've seen this shown around a bit as a demonstration of how easy faking mediumistic abilities can be.

I'll admit I was a little psyched out and maybe disheartened slightly seeing how he managed to fake very specific facts about his audience. However, I guess it should also be noted that most mediums don't have the level of resources he has to pull off these elaborate stunts. Also, I saw it noted in the comments of another forum, someone who had been to his show talked about a process where at the start, they were all asked to write details about themselves and a deceased loved one on a piece of paper, most put in one bucket, some in another, which they think then was taken away and the most interesting one memorized.

From Vivalabear:
"Ok, I can spill the beans on the deceased relatives as I was up on stage for one of these with Derren.

We all at the beginning of the interval had to write the name of a loved one who had died, their relation to us and some random facts about the person. We folded the bit of paper up and wrote our name on the outside. An assistant came roud with two buckets to collect our papers.

He held one bucket out 95% of the time but he held the other bucket out for a few random people.

As he walked towards the bowl he put one bucket inside the other, tipped papers into the glass bowl and walked off stage........with one bucket with some papers in still.

There was then a 30 min break where I reckon Derren memorised stuff. I do think he has a very impressive memory.

When derren came out he never actually pulled any papers out the bowl, he just looked inside the bowl as if he was looking at the names on the outside of the papers. But I reckon the people who's names he said, their papers weren't in that bowl.

The first thing with the girl on the balcony and the dog name. Two weeks before the show I got one of those "research calls". I never get them as I'm on TPS. I declined to continue the call. I've read a theory that this is Derren's researchers calling. They ask you loads of stuff inc pet names. They would have got your name and number from the venue. They pick people at the front of the balcony/dress circle as they're easy to pick out. I had a front row seat in the circle. So he knows that there is a woman, in an age bracket sat in a certain area of the audience. So when she's still standing after he's done the "I need a woman, with a pet, early 20s, etc.....he knows the one still standing in that area has a dog called X."

Although I can't find it right now, I saw a comment on a news article where an audience member described the same thing. So, generally, an ordinary psychic wouldn't have access to those resources.

Does anyone else have any theories? And, as a secondary question, brought to my mind by this, how can one prevent against hot reading when seeing a psychic? Give a false name and pay in cash?

Does anyone here have any anecdotal evidence of their own experiences with a medium where hot reading can be totally excluded?


Heard of him, never got in to this stuff. I'm sure people on here will have some more resources on him
And, as a secondary question, brought to my mind by this, how can one prevent against hot reading when seeing a psychic? Give a false name and pay in cash?

Does anyone here have any anecdotal evidence of their own experiences with a medium where hot reading can be totally excluded?
I created a Mod+ thread in Extended Consciousness & Spirituality for my reply:

Communicating with deceased loved ones, parents, children, brothers, sisters, etc, can be a highly personal and emotional experience particularly for those who are still grieving. While some people might not mind discussing their experiences, they might not want to do it in a skeptical debating forum.
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Does anyone else have any theories? And, as a secondary question, brought to my mind by this, how can one prevent against hot reading when seeing a psychic? Give a false name and pay in cash?
Listen to Alex's podcast with Julie Beischel!

If you mean at a personal level, I recollect that some people here have asked a psychic for a reading, and explained that they want to be confident that the reading is genuine, so they give away minimum information - at least until after the sitting.

Thanks guys, Jim I think I did check out your site before a few years ago, very interesting stuff.

And I have heard the podcast with Julie before, it's encouraging, I should look for her book. I notice in her papers she doesn't talk much about what's said, which is a bit disappointing, but at least she's being professional.

That last video was interesting, the bit about guessing the woman's dream about the elevator was weird. I don't know how he did it unless there were similar conditions in play where everyone is supposed to write things down about a loved one.
I've read a couple of his books. He's an entertaining guy.

His latest book looks good. Advice on how to live stoically... and be happy. It strikes me that it might appeal to both "skeptics" and "proponents" alike. Top review on amazon:

5.0 out of 5 starsDerren Brown's newest book may well change your life for the better.
ByRichard J. Estepon December 26, 2016
Format: Hardcover|Verified Purchase
American readers can be forgiven for never having heard of Derren Brown at all. To most Brits, he’s best known as a master illusionist, one whose shows continue to delight and confound (apart from the rare few who persist in the belief that he employs stooges, a fact that he steadfastly denies). I heartily enjoyed Derren’s earlier book, Tricks of the Mind, but Confessions of a Conjuror left me a little cold.

All of which brings us to this: Happy. Not to mince words, I believe that Derren’s latest book will be truly life-changing for the right type of reader. It is that rarest of books: one that I felt had been written for me personally. There’s very little about magic or illusion in here. This is essentially a 400+ page discourse on the ancient Greek philosophy of Stoicism, and how one might usefully and practically apply it to their own life in order to help bring about that most elusive of goals: Happiness.

Stoicism wasn’t anything new to me. I had fallen in love with the Mediatations of Marcus Aurelius when I was a teenager, and it’s still a book that I pull regularly from the shelf to this day. Derren Brown’s success is in taking the teachings of Marcus Aurelius, Seneca, and the other Stoics, and making them both accessible and understandable to a 21st century audience. His method for doing this (the “trick,” if you will) entails the reader coming to understand that his or her entire life is a story; a narrative; one that we tell ourselves about ourselves, and one which ultimately shapes our self-perceptions and worldview.

Many of the principles which can be found at the core of the Stoic philosophy are utterly simple; the devil lies in the execution. Brown explains in great detail how supposedly negative events themselves rarely hurt us; it is usually our beliefs, feelings, or judgments concerning those events which do.

Much space is devoted to the fact that material goods, money, and other ephemeral pleasures rarely serve to bring true lasting happiness. Brown talks about the reasons why this is, citing a great deal of scientific research in addition to quoting other learned authors on the subject of happiness. He also discusses helpful, practical ways in which we can deal with anger, hurt, aggression, addiction, and the ever-present fear of death (the book ends on a tour de force note, with a section on how we can die well).

The book can also be seen as an assault on the multi-billion dollar industry of self-help and positive thinking. Derren reserves much of his ire for fads such as The Secret, and details extensively how “the power of positive thinking” can actually be harmful to us. Take the example of the U.S. airman captured by enemy forces during the Vietnam War. It is both saddening and enlightening to hear that many of those men who did not survive their brutal captivity were optimists by nature, and insisted on thinking positively: “We’ll be out by Christmas…OK, we’ll be out by the 4th of July…OK, we’ll be out by Thanksgiving…” When holiday after holiday rolled around and they found themselves to be still incarcerated, many of these POWs began to literally curl up and die…whereas the officer who fell back upon the principals of Seneca and the Stoics made it through eight years of hell, ultimately surviving to regain his freedom.

I am going to make a concerted attempt to incorporate some of these concepts into my own way of thinking and living, and I heartily commend Derren’s book to everybody. Everybody. We can all learn something from this well thought-out piece of philosophical writing, and I would go so far as to say that it is currently my favorite book of 2016.

Pick up a copy and read it carefully. I doubt that you’ll be disappointed.