Written By: Oliver Roberts Sunday Times – ‘How did he know I was thinking about sex?’

Written by on September 27, 2019

Mentalist Michael Abrahamson can read your thoughts, guess your personality through a deck of cards and influence the results of soccer matches. Just don’t call it magic, writes Oliver Roberts

MICHAEL Abrahamson knows a lot about you. Using a few cards pulled from a dark leather briefcase (combination lock, of course), he makes sweeping and entirely accurate statements about your state of mind, your perceptions of the world and your strongest character traits. You can’t believe it.

You only met him an hour ago and now he’s telling you things about yourself that you haven’t even told your lover or your mother. Abrahamson is doing all of this rather spontaneously at his dining room table and — to make things worse — he’s dressed in a yellow golf shirt and black sweatpants for which his legs appear to be slightly too long. You thought you were less transparent than that. But it’s not your fault. Your subconscious gave you away. To a trained mentalist like Abrahamson, you’re potentially as see-through as a wet T-shirt, your subliminal thoughts moving beneath like playful boobs. Don’t call mentalism magic. Mentalists d o n’t like it when you call it magic. Mentalism is a performing art that involves memory and mind power. Magicians — as their trade dictates — use clever sleight of hand. Mentalists claim that whatever they do is the real thing. So no top hats, handkerchiefs, rabbits or sawing girls in half.

“Mentalism’s not foolproof either,” says Abrahamson. “A magic show is foolproof, provided the props don’t break or mechanisms don’t fail. Mentalism involves a lot of psychology, subliminal suggestion and body language. There’s always a chance you’ll get it wrong.” Abrahamson is one of only three mentalists in SA. There are hundreds worldwide of course, but not thousands. He says it’s a “select and specialised” undertaking. “When I was six, a cousin of mine had a birthday party and there was a magician there ,” says Abrahamson. “Afterwards I thought ‘OK, this is what I want to do’. I went for lessons every Sunday for five years and, in the end, it bored me to death because I realised you end up doing the same show every single time — taking a green hankie and turning it into a blue one or whatever — what’s the point?” It was after seeing a mentalist perform in the late ’90s that Abrahamson, who by then was already teaching memory and study skills courses around the country, found what he was designed for. Mentalism is very old.

History is awash with references to oracles and shamans, and mentalists are a modern equivalent — psychic entertainers; card-utilising mediums. Their mental acuity and constant honing distinguish them from greasyhaired “hypnotists ” with thin goatees and fat women who operate from caravans and have a collection of dreamcatchers. Some mentalists, Uri Geller for instance, profess to having powers like telepathy and precognition. It’s an intriguing notion, that some cosmic influence is whispering clues about your subconscious. Abrahamson acknowledges that there is a paranormal aspect to some mentalism, but he doesn’t believe in it. “It’s all due to a very well-adapted mind. If your mind is strong enough, you can pretty much get it to do anything.

You can feed it with thoughts that you want, and I like to focus on that aspect. There might be some sort of psychic or paranormal ability, but everything that happens in my show can be legitimately e x p l a i n e d .” I ask, and Abrahamson tells me that, yes, he can bend spoons and move objects (slightly) using his mind. He can’t do it for me now though, on the spot, because it requires hours of preparation and a very long sleep afterwards. But what intrigues me is, how? What invisible force are you tapping into and how do you know y o u’ve found it? Whether he’s loath to give away his secrets, or simply because it’s hard to verbalise the weird workings of the mind, Abrahamson says he isn’t so sure himself. “It’s to do with honing and concentrating energy,” he says. The strain in his voice suggests he’s trying. “I don’t know the full rational explanation for it. It’s a skill you develop. I don’t think I’m necessarily psychic and would never claim to be. I’ve got very intuitive senses and my sixth sense is very enhanced because I’ve subconsciously trained it. I pick up things others wouldn’t pick up.” This mentalist’s definition of a sixth sense: heightened awareness. Abrahamson, in his yellow shirt, is sitting on a green leather couch. He tells me he’s a fan of English football club Norwich City.

He likes their colours — yellow and green. Mentalism, of course, has profound uses in sports psychology. “In 2011, I went to Norwich City’s ground to watch a game. I spoke with some of the players and the staff beforehand, told them what I do, gave them a little bit of inspiration. They won the match 6-0, their biggest win in 47 years. I don’t know if it was anything I said or if they played really bad opponents that day, but there might be something there.”

Until now, Abrahamson has mostly performed for corporates. This month, he begins his first theatre show, V i s a ge , with props and a director. He’s a little scared, of course, but he’s also excited about being at the rudder of an unpredictable extravaganza of the mind. It’s risky. He could pick anyone from their seat. He might pick someone who’s immune to his mental manipulation, someone who’s hiding something dark, someone who needs to be rescued from the dungeons of their unconsciousness. Or he might pick you.


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