For the past six decades, world-renowned mentalist The Amazing Kreskin has been an icon of pop culture, whose fame was spread through his recurrent TV appearances with Johnny Carson, Regis Philbin, David Letterman, and most recently Jimmy Fallon, Neil Cavuto, and Howard Stern. Kreskin also had his own television series for five and a half seasons in the 1970s (The Amazing World of Kreskin), a motion picture inspired by his work (The Great Buck Howard of 2009, produced by Tom Hanks and starring John Malkovich), his own board game (Kreskin’s ESP, created by Milton Bradley in 1967), and twenty published books to his credit (the latest, In Real Time, released in 2016, contains his predictions for the next several hundred years).
Now 84, Kreskin continues to wow audiences with his live shows, making more than 300 appearances annually around the world. And he is so determined to attest to the legitimacy of his powers of discernment that he offers a $1,000,000 to anyone who can prove that he employs secret assistants or hidden electronic devices in his astonishing feats of mind-reading and prognostication.
About to begin his Fall 2019 tour this month with dates in New York City and Owings Mills, Maryland, Kreskin took the time on this Friday the 13th, before the night of a full moon, to answer some rapid-fire questions about his unique talents and his reactions to having the skills of extra-sensory perception. Throughout our conversation, Kreskin’s sharp wit and sincere wisdom were a true delight.
- Does anything surprise you?
Kreskin: I thought that very few things would, now that I’m going on 85, but, yes, I am surprised by the behavior of politicians today. I have nothing against politicians, I just wish that more of them were on the Titanic!
- What comes to you first – the question or the answer?
It’s two-fold. I get the questions and the answers simultaneously – often resulting in slight confusion!
- Which came first – the chicken or the egg?
You know, every time I think about that I go into the refrigerator and break a soft-boiled egg; I’m so frustrated, because I don’t know.
- What do you rely on most: extra-sensory perception, intuition, observation, or deduction?
That’s a neat question. One of the huge things I rely on is intuition, because I believe that empathy is the most priceless gift we have, but we’re losing it in our culture today.
- Does it help for you to touch the forehead of your subject, or is it solely a touch of dramatic flair?
It’s a non-dramatic touch. Inwardly I feel that I can do it without any contact, and I’m very sincere about that. There’s never any space or wall between the audience and me, the audience is my equipment and there’s no break between us, whether or not I touch them.
- What’s the best reaction you’ve ever gotten from an audience?
I would say there were multiple great reactions, but one of the most unforgettable was when it was freezing out and I put people in a trance so they couldn’t move. 100,000 people called to make sure they were ok! They were; they came out of it, I didn’t leave them frozen.
- What’s the best thing about being Amazing?
The excitement and enthusiasm I feel with people is amazing, and my handshake is legendary. Tom Hanks told me, when they were filming The Great Buck Howard, that John Malkovich studied my mannerisms and shook hands with everyone on the set for days. I have a very hearty handshake, to the point where you need to see a chiropractor if I shake your hand!
- Is there anything about your powers that you find disturbing?
I think of them not as powers, but as abilities, and yes, I’m sometimes unsettled by them. A few years ago I sensed an audience member was planning to commit suicide. I didn’t make it public to the rest of the audience, but I had her come back stage and we had a priest there to talk to her. A couple of years later, a woman came up to me at another show and asked if I remembered her; she was the one. It was very good to see that she was still alive.
- What did you foresee in the past that made you laugh when it came true?
I don’t know a lot about sports, but years ago I was on the air with a sportscaster, and I said that the Yankees would win the World Series (which was about a half a year away) in the seventh game. When they did, all the sportswriters who saw my prediction said they wouldn’t bet on a game without talking to me first!
- Is there any one prediction you made that you wish hadn’t been accurate?
I don’t like to talk about my political leanings, but it was during the last election. I saw who was going to win, and what upset me was that my prediction was totally contrary to the almost universal inaccuracy of the polls. My great concern is that, as I warn young people, we must not accept polls as the true thinking of individuals because they really don’t reflect their thoughts.
- At what age did you first realize you had special mentalist powers?
I was nine years old, playing a game in third grade. My teacher taught us a game of hot and cold. I didn’t get to play, but when my brother and I were walking home I said I wanted to play it with him at my grandmother’s house. Without any communication, I climbed up on a chair, reached behind a curtain rod, and found a hidden penny. I still continue that tradition in all my shows. My check is hidden and I have to find it or I forfeit my fee. I only failed eleven times out of about 5,000 shows – but I lost a lot of money on those nights!
- Is there any super power that you would like to have?
I’m not a healer, but I’ve caused people to respond inexplicably on two occasions, and I would like to have that ability to heal people. I’ve had two different people on stage who were paralyzed, but when I gave them a hypnotic suggestion, they both were able to wave their arms, which they couldn’t do before. I was very happy that somehow I was able to tap into that.
- What has been the most memorable moment or appearance of your TV career?
It’s one that’s not well known. It was in the 1960s, when I was on Steve Allen’s late-night show, before Johnny Carson took over on The Tonight Show. In those days the TV lights were blinding, and as I walked out on stage, I couldn’t see because of all of the bright lights shining in my eyes, so I tripped over the dais and fell flat on my face. Johnny saw it, and he created his character Carnac the Magnificent based on me!
- Do you have any predictions yet for the 2020 presidential election?
I won’t until a few weeks before, I really don’t, but I can hint that my great concern is something that I predicted years ago – the ramifications and ethical problems that result if we start to experience boredom. Study history! Look at ancient Rome! People got bored, so entertainment became increasingly violent, with gladiators fighting to the death and people being fed to the lions. Heaven forbid that we allow boredom to cripple our social interactions; we need to get out there and work for what we have and want.
- What are you most looking forward to on your upcoming Fall 2019 tour?
Something more than just the tour is the completion of a full-length motion picture on my life. I’m so excited! And you can quote me on this [joking]: I’m keeping certain things out of the biography so I don’t go to prison!
Thanks, Kreskin, for an amazing 15 minutes! I’ve watched you since childhood and never could have predicted then that an interview with you would be in my future!