For tonight’s show there was queue control by means of playing cards, not only apt, considering the speaker, but canny, for this was a full-house – once again there were more people wanting to get in than there were places available. Richard Wiseman is one of the busiest performers on the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, but he made time to speak at the Banshee. Of course he is more than a performer. He’s more than an illusionist. He’s a professor at Hereford University; an investigator into deception, luck, and the paranormal. And he started out as a magician.
After a few obligatory examples of prestidigitation – making the hanky disappear, a couple of card tricks and the French Coin Drop (with a brief how-to demonstration), came the pictures. These included the infamous Duck/Rabbit, followed by photos claiming to show things paranormal. To quote Wiseman: Paranormal is like magic – not true! But we can fool ourselves. Some of the photos took a bit of looking at to see what was really going on in them.
Wiseman showed clips from some bygone paranormal investigation television programmes – including some involving himself – and footage of Indian guru, Sai Baba, botching a ‘materialisation’ . Wiseman’s presentation was, as ever, lively and entertaining; the audience laughed loud and long. His serious message – humans can believe things that aren’t true. Those who understand the human mind can exploit it.