All it took was a 45-minute phone conversation with “The Amazing Kreskin” to convince this writer that he is, indeed, amazing!
At the age of 84, the world-renowned mentalist, author and television personality is still going strong and making accurate predictions, performing astonishing feats of clairvoyance, and traveling to gigs around the globe approximately 351 days a year.
Skeptical? Go see Kreskin’s act at the Gordon Center for Performing Arts in Owings Mills on Sept. 21.
Born George Joseph Kresge in Montclair, N.J., to a Sicilian mother and Polish father – no, he’s not Jewish — Kreskin was inspired to become a mentalist after being introduced to a comic book character called Mandrake the Magician when he was 5. Four years later, Kreskin was reading minds.
“When I was in the third grade, my teacher, Miss Curtis, told the class it was raining and we weren’t going to go outside,” he recalled. “Instead, we played a game. Miss Curtis told [a student named] Jane Hamilton to go out in the hallway while one of our classmates hid a beanbag. When Jane came back, she had to look for the beanbag and the class would tell her if she was getting hot or cold. I was disappointed that I wasn’t chosen to go out in the hall.”
After school that day, Kreskin decided to try a similar experiment at his grandparents’ home. “I asked my brother Joe to hide a penny somewhere in the house,” he said. “I walked through my grandmother’s kitchen and upstairs into the bedroom, climbed up on a chair and found myself reaching behind a curtain rod where I found the penny.”
Kreskin said he did this without any hints from his brother. “This got around the family, and I started to do the experiment at parties,” said Kreskin, who was soon performing at fundraisers, churches and synagogues while in high school.
The penny trick may have been a precursor to Kreskin’s notorious “check trick,” a highlight of all of his live shows.
“Partway through the performance, I gather a committee from the audience and I hand over my check,” said Kreskin. “Two of the committee members escort me out of the building. While I’m out, my check will get hidden anywhere in the auditorium. Then, the committee brings me back. When I return, I come onstage and tell the committee not to talk to me — just to concentrate and think about where my check has been hidden.”
Using his mind-reading skills, Kreskin tries to locate the check. If he doesn’t find it, Kreskin forfeits his fee for the show.
He said he’s performed the check trick approximately 6,000 times and failed only 11 times.
“The most famous time I failed was in New Zealand,” he said. “After the show, some reporters said, ‘Kreskin, you must be upset, but can we interview you tomorrow?’ The next day, there were scores of reporters because I lost $51,000 in one night! The money was sent to a children’s hospital, and [a wing was] named after me.”
Then, there was the time at a Midwestern university when it just seemed like Kreskin had failed.
“There were a couple of thousand people there for family weekend,” he said. “I’m walking around the auditorium and finally stop in front of an elderly man. ‘Can you open your mouth?’ I ask him. So he opens his mouth, but I don’t see a check. I start walking again, and suddenly I turn and I’m facing the same person. ‘I’m sorry if I’m embarrassing you but would you open your mouth again?’ The man reached in his mouth, reached under his upper plate and gave me my check.”
At another performance, Kreskin asked an audience member, “Did you say to your wife earlier, ‘I wonder if Kreskin can tell me my Army number?’ The man slammed his fist down and said, ‘I sure did, while we were having dinner.’” Kreskin asked the man to concentrate on the number. After a brief pause, he said he recited the man’s dog tag identification number correctly.
It’s incredible feats such as these that led to Kreskin having his own TV show, “The Amazing World of Kreskin” from 1970 to 1975, and being a guest on “The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson” a whopping 88 times.
But Kreskin’s popularity didn’t end when the ‘70s did. He’s continued to be an influencer, in part, due to his predictions about sports and politics.
“I have predicted the outcomes of the last four elections,” said Kreskin, who also guessed that the Seattle Seahawks would win Super Bowl XLVIII. (He was off by one point in his prediction of the game’s outcome.)
Kreskin claims he has been called in to help with 87 criminal investigations. “Maybe I’ve been helpful in a third of them,” he said. “If I meet with witnesses, many are confused. I can bring out details they are unaware of when they are questioned by police.”
Kreskin’s mind-reading abilities may have even saved a life when he sensed that an audience member was suicidal about four years go.
“[After the show], we talked and I made her promise she would go and meet with a priest,” said Kreskin. “A couple of years later, I was doing a fundraiser in New Jersey, and at the end, a woman rushed forward and threw her arms around me. It was the same woman!”
Despite his predictive abilities, Kreskin insisted that he is not a fortuneteller or a psychic. Rather, he credited his ability to use empathy as “one of the greatest gifts and a secret to my success. It’s just feeling what others feel.”
For tickets to see The Amazing Kreskin, visit gordoncenter.com.