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Mad Queen
05-29-2009, 11:23 PM
Does anyone know of stories where characters pretend they can do magic or think they can even though they can't?

mscelina
05-29-2009, 11:27 PM
Mr. Filch in the Harry Potter stories. He's a squib, but dos his best to mask that fact.

Parametric
05-29-2009, 11:29 PM
The TV show The Mentalist is about a fake psychic who actually just uses observational skills, I think. Never seen it.

Mad Queen
05-30-2009, 01:55 AM
Thanks, Celina and Parametric! To clarify my request, I'm searching for novels, films or shows that are not fantasy. All the "magic" in the book has to be a hoax or a coincidence.

Sage
05-30-2009, 01:59 AM
The TV show The Mentalist is about a fake psychic who actually just uses observational skills, I think. Never seen it.
Really? Isn't that the plot of Psych, a tv show on USA?

Manix
05-30-2009, 02:00 AM
I don't know if this is what you're looking for or not, but Chris Angel is a modern day magician who does stunts that look like the real deal. Very realistic, but totally bogus. He walks on water, flies through the air, gets steamrollered, walks through solid walls. Etc. Google him.

Sage
05-30-2009, 02:01 AM
MQ, are you looking for published novels specifically?

Parametric
05-30-2009, 02:07 AM
Psych, wikipedia: "The show stars James Roday as Shawn Spencer, a young crime consultant for the Santa Barbara Police Department (SBPD) whose "heightened observational skills"[1] and impressive detective instincts allow him to convince people that he is psychic."

The Mentalist, wikipedia: "He has a remarkable track record for solving serious crimes by using his amazing skills of observation (reminiscent of Sherlock Holmes). He also makes frequent use of his mentalist abilities and his semi-celebrity past as a psychic medium using paranormal abilities he now admits he feigned."

I hope the creators of Psych sued. :tongue

Mad Queen
05-30-2009, 02:14 AM
MQ, are you looking for published novels specifically?
It doesn't have to be a published novel. It can be a short story, a comic book, a film or a TV show as well. Fiction, not non-fiction. Anything with fake witches, wizards, psychics or prophets. But thanks a lot to everyone who posted a suggestion here.

Sage
05-30-2009, 02:32 AM
How about fake vampires?

Mad Queen
05-30-2009, 02:37 AM
How about fake vampires?
I hadn't thought about fake vampires. Let me see... I think they are good too.

Sage
05-30-2009, 02:55 AM
I passed on the request to another author :)

donut
05-30-2009, 03:11 AM
Sage passed this request on to me... I wrote a novel about high school kids who very much want to be vampires, but are not. And they spend some time enacting magic rituals and such to bring about their desire, but of course, nothing works. And sometimes they suspect supernatural things are going on, but they all have perfectly rational explanations.

Mine's unpublished, of course. But you might be interested in some of the real books my rejecting editors compared mine to... THICKER THAN WATER and SWEETBLOOD. Maybe check those out?

Mad Queen
05-30-2009, 04:25 AM
Thanks, Sage and donut. I hope you can find a publisher for your story.

I've looked into Thicker Than Water and Sweetblood. It's not really what I'm looking for. The fake vampires/wizards/psychics I need must have established themselves as the real thing. Bonus points if even they believe they are the real thing. The best matches so far have been The Mentalist and Psych.

Smiling Ted
05-30-2009, 05:16 AM
Mr. Garrity and the Graves, an episode of The Twilight Zone.

Mad Queen
05-30-2009, 05:33 AM
Mr. Garrity and the Graves, an episode of The Twilight Zone.
Interesting premise, thanks!

Libbie
05-30-2009, 06:33 AM
The TV show The Mentalist is about a fake psychic who actually just uses observational skills, I think. Never seen it.

In other words, he does exactly what all "real" psychics do, whether they are conscious of it or not.

The Mentalist is a good place to start if you want to know how people fool others into believing they are doing miraculous things. The show's advisor is Steven Shaw, aka Banachek, who as a teen-ager under the direction of James Randi, one of the greatest living minds in magic, pulled off an incredible, long-lasting mentalism hoax that pointed out the flawed "science" being used to "test" people with paranormal abilities in the 1960s. The "test" was known as Project Alpha. It's an amazing story that will surely give you some great ideas. Today Banachek is a magic consultant so you'll find his influence all over the place on TV shows and other productions that deal with mentalism and illusions.

Find out more about Project Alpha and Steven Shaw here (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Project_Alpha).

Another great place to look to find out how people who are faking miracles think and act is James Randi's web site, http://randi.org.

If you end up with specific questions on how specific tricks are done (even mentalism tricks, not just sleight of hand), head over to http://www.themagicwoods.co.uk with your questions. It's a great forum full of professional magicians with varying specialties. They're very friendly over there; they will definitely help you out!

Illusion and magic, including mentalism, are a bit of a hobby for me. Studying them, that is; not performing them anymore (although I did have my high school convinced that I was psychic. I pulled off quite a few lunch-room scams back in the day.) If you have very specific questions, I may be able to point you in the right direction for further research or answer some of your questions. I am a good cold reader and when I'm feeling evil I can give an extremely convincing impression of having spooky mental powers. It's quite easy, actually.

Let me know if I can help in any way. :)

Libbie
05-30-2009, 06:34 AM
I don't know if this is what you're looking for or not, but Chris Angel is a modern day magician who does stunts that look like the real deal. Very realistic, but totally bogus. He walks on water, flies through the air, gets steamrollered, walks through solid walls. Etc. Google him.

Meh. They look like that on TV with editing, but his stage show and close-up are abysmally fake-looking.

Okay, I'll stop magic-nerding all over the place now.

Mad Queen
05-30-2009, 07:03 AM
Thanks a lot, Libbie. Your post was very helpful and I've already bookmarked the sites you suggested. I've been interested in cold reading since I saw a documentary about it on Discovery Channel 9 years ago. ;) Do you have any insights on why some people seem to genuinely believe they are psychics?

Prawn
05-30-2009, 03:35 PM
The Illusionist with Edward Norton
The Prestige with Christian Bale and Hugh Ackman

Libbie
05-31-2009, 04:33 AM
Thanks a lot, Libbie. Your post was very helpful and I've already bookmarked the sites you suggested. I've been interested in cold reading since I saw a documentary about it on Discovery Channel 9 years ago. ;) Do you have any insights on why some people seem to genuinely believe they are psychics?

My feeling is that the people who actually DO really believe they are psychics (note: I think most people who profess paranormal abilities are consciously faking it) are not skeptical by nature and are very impressed by coincidence. These are people who do not require strong evidence, or sometimes any evidence at all, to believe a claim. They are, in a word, credulous. Naive would be a less harsh way of putting it.

Just as people who believe that psychics are real will remember and inflate "hits" and forget or ignore "misses," a person who genuinely believes he or she has psychic powers really wants this to be true--either wants to be "special" in some way, or wants the phenomenon of psychic power to be a fact in this world. They want it so badly that they simply shut off their brain when it comes to recognizing "misses."

We all have intuition; we all have made guesses and had them turn out to be right. Sometimes we've had a weird feeling of mysticism before we guessed. This is a common experience. More times than we were right, though, we were wrong. A person who really believes he or she is a psychic just isn't recognizing those many times when he or she is wrong.

And it can't be stressed enough here that I believe the huge majority of people who claim to be psychic know they are not. Cold reading is extraordinarily easy; so easy that I believe it's entirely possible to do it subconsciously, but it's a real cinch to do consciously. And doing it consciously allows you to refine your technique. If you're ever in Vegas, go see the Penn & Teller show. There is an amazing bit where Penn cold-reads several audience members in rapid succession, and the readings themselves are insanely fast. Lightning quick. I've seen the show enough to be positive that these are not plants in the audience, and the books used during the trick are just ordinary joke books, too. It's one of the most incredible feats of cold-reading you'll ever see, and it really drives home that "psychic powers" are just tricks that anybody can learn to do really, really well with sufficient practice.

Cold reading is even easy to do on the internet. I used to hang out on Yahoo Answers a lot and answer questions in the Religion & Spirituality section. At least once a day somebody would ask for a "psychic" to make "predictions" for them. They were sincere. I'd answer their question with a cold-reading and they would always express amazement that I had such awesome "powers" that worked even over the internet. Then I'd break it to them that it's just a really easy trick, I have no powers, and neither do any other psychics, so stop giving them money.

Ruv Draba
05-31-2009, 04:42 AM
In 1973 Bill Bixby (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bill_Bixby)starred as the hero of the TV series The Magician (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0069606/http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0069606/) -- imagine David Copperfield PI. (DVD series available here (http://www.tvparty.com/remagician.html) and elsewhere -- there are some sample scenes in the link).

Mad Queen
05-31-2009, 07:52 AM
Thanks a lot, Libbie and Ruv.

Libbie, that's what I think too. I have some friends who claim they have psychic powers and I don't think they're lying to me (they're not making any money from their alleged powers). I've already tried to explain several times that it doesn't matter how many times they were right -- it's much more important to study the cases where they turned out to be wrong. And when I tell them no claims of psychic powers have been able to withstand scientific scrutiny, they let me know they couldn't care less about it. They probably think scientific criteria are impossible to satisfy or something.

HelloKiddo
05-31-2009, 09:06 AM
I know you didn't ask me but I find this conversation interesting, so--jumping in.

Schizophrenics often think they have special powers. That might seem like overkill for your purposes, but in the early stages schizophrenics can still seem normal-ish (I think).

I had another thought--narcissists. They have a need to feel special and often delude themselves into thinking they are particularly gifted or talented. It would be believable to me that a narcissist who happened to make a few lucky guesses or had an unusually shrewd insight and was labeled a psychic might enjoy the attention and power they got from the label. They'd convince themselves they really had the gift. Narcissists are notorious for believing their own lies. They'll convince themselves of anything that inflates their ego.

Mad Queen
05-31-2009, 09:23 AM
Yes, that's useful information for me. It has already been copied to a research file. Thanks a lot!

Ruv Draba
05-31-2009, 09:27 AM
They probably think scientific criteria are impossible to satisfy or something.You asked for fictional examples, but there are numerous non-fictional examples of magical belief persisting despite outright money-where-your-mouth-is scientific challenge. A good jumping-off point is the James Randi Educational Foundation (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Randi_Educational_Foundation), founded by famous stage magician and skeptic James Randi (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Randi), who over the last 40 years has offered money (http://www.randi.org/site/index.php/1m-challenge.html)(ranging from $100 to $1,000,000) to anyone who can demonstrate magical or psychic phenomena under laboratory conditions.

The money has never been won.

For a more extensive list of unwon prize-offerings (dating back to Scientific American's 1922 tests), please see here (http://www.skepdic.com/randi.html).

Mad Queen
05-31-2009, 10:31 AM
Yeah, I had read about Randi. His spoon-bending trick is amazing. :)

Libbie
06-01-2009, 08:21 AM
Randi is going to retire the Million-Dollar Challenge soon--next year, I think. Not sure why exactly, but it might have to do with his handing the reins over (gradually) to Phil Plait. Phil will do an awesome job leading the JREF, but I wonder why he's not going to continue with the Challenge. A lot of skeptics who are active in the community would be willing to help with testing. I know Brian Dunning of the (very awesome) Skeptoid podcast is sad to see it go.

So am I! But at least it will be retiring from decades of offering without ever having been won.

ChristineR
06-02-2009, 04:50 AM
Randi sort of shut down the challenge a while ago because no real frauds have applied for it in many years, and now all he gets are delusional people who are usually too confused to even coherently make a claim about what they supposedly can do. The largest exception is dowsers, who often at least can make a coherent claim, but never bother to set up their own tests and see that they can't actually dowse for anything if they don't know where the test objects are.

Prawn
06-02-2009, 05:52 AM
The coolest thing about Randi is that he doesn't even design the tests he gives to psychics. He lets them design them, and then they are surprised when they can't do what they themselves claim on a test which they themselves design.
P

Libbie
06-02-2009, 05:59 AM
I love that jolly old elf. Randi is the greatest.