By JESSICA A. BOTELHO
The Amazing Kreskin has flown more than 3 million miles during the six decades of his mind reading career and on Jan. 14, he is looking forward to visiting the Zeiterion Performing Arts Center in New Bedford. He said he is excited because New England hypnotizes him, as the area gives him time to reflect on life, walk the side streets to explore and relax.
Of course, it might have something to do with the fact that he’s from Montclair, New Jersey.
“When you go to New England, you begin to get a feel of what America is really like,” said Kreskin, whose birth name is George Joseph Kresge, Jr. “It’s one of my favorite parts of the United States because it reminds you of what we’re losing in other parts of our country, where things are so busy and people are not paying attention to what’s going on. It’s a different state of mind and there’s something about it that’s very precious.”
Last year, Kreskin made 237 appearances around the world. If he didn’t travel so much he said he would most likely own six dogs, a llama, a pig and more cats. The mentalist, who described himself as an avid camper and lover of the outdoors, already has four felines.
But that doesn’t mean he regrets the journey he’s been on.
“My life has truly been adventurous,” Kreskin said.
Through the years, he has astonished audiences across the globe not only with his mind reading techniques, but also with his keen skills at predicting the future. He predicted the U.S. Presidential Election of 2008 and logged the results with a written statement made 11 months earlier. Democrat Barrack Obama was victorious.
Also, he predicted the Super Bowl winner as the New York Giants three days before the game on FOX Business News. Prophecies such as this earned him the nickname, “The Nostradamus of the Twentieth Century.”
Keeping up with his forecasts, he’s predicted the winner of next year’s presidential election, as well. On his latest appearance on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, he wrote his prediction on a piece of paper, sealed it in an envelope and put it in a safe at NBC Studios in New York.
“I’m the only one that knows the combination,” Kreskin said. “A second copy was sent to Robin Leach, a third is with a broadcaster in New Jersey and a fourth is hanging over the bar at Patsy’s [Italian Restaurant in Manhattan]. The packages will be opened a few days after the election.”
To further prove his talent, he requests that his check for performing be hidden somewhere within the venue he’s appearing, which he will do at The Z on Jan. 14. If he fails to find it, he forfeits the fee. After more than 65 years, he’s failed nine times.
“I lost $51,000 one evening in New Zealand,” he said. “It’s been a dramatic challenge.”
He said he’s found his payment in some “wild” places. At a show at the University of Villanova in Pennsylvania with an audience of 8,000 parents and students, he approached a gentleman and asked him to open his mouth.
“It was really an embarrassing thing to do,” Kreskin said. “I started to walk away but then I turned back to him and said, ‘Could you show me the roof of your mouth?’ and he reached into his mouth, took out his upper plates and handed me my check.”
Not only does Kreskin use his gift to entertain, he also uses it to solve crimes, as he is a training consultant to law enforcement and security personnel. He has worked on 84 cases and said he was successful in nearly a third of them.
A few years ago, in a city just outside of Chicago, Illinois, a college man had gone missing. The police gave up on the case but Kreskin held a performance and asked witnesses to come. One man in the audience vividly remembered an important scene from the night the man disappeared.
“I used a technique to tap into his subconscious and the man’s body was found in his car at the bottom of a lake,” he said.
In another case, a woman was walking away from her college in Reno, Nevada to go to her car and was kidnapped and murdered. Kreskin said there were no clues, however, his involvement in solving the crime was announced in newspapers and three men came forward who said they were in the area that day. Kreskin was able to interview two of the three separately for an hour and a half.
“They remember stopping at a red light and seeing students exiting the school heading to their cars,” he said. “All I had was a photo of the victim.”
The image of a man slowly came to the minds of the witnesses, said Kreskin, and a police sketch artist reconstructed a composite picture of the assailant as they described him. The final draft of the drawing was published in a newspaper and two months later a man was apprehended in Los Angeles.
“He was already a suspect in two other murders,” Kreskin said. “I was in Reno at a theater about to go into my dressing room and a man approached me. He said, ‘I want to thank you.’ It was the father of the murdered girl.”
But Kreskin said he doesn’t take up cases often. It’s too much of an emotional experience.
“I couldn’t do it all the time because it’s heart wrenching,” he said.
While he isn’t interested in pursuing a career in law enforcement, he said he’d probably be performing his act on the street had he not made it as a mentalist. But he also said his loved ones would say differently.
“If you spoke to friends of mine 20 or 30 years ago I’d be teaching if I were not performing,” he said. “I’d be a very understanding and sympathetic teacher but I’d also be a tough marker.”
Yet, Kreskin has been a successful mind reader and had a television series, wrote at least 16 books, a board game made in honor of him, as well as his own theme song arranged by the renowned Skitch Henderson at Carnegie Hall. He’s also appeared on several talk and variety shows. Movies, including Dinner For Schmucks, which starred Steve Carell and Paul Rudd, and The Great Buck Howard, which Tom Hanks produced and co-starred with John Malkovich in 2009, have been made documenting his life.
“Who would have thought a couple years ago Tom Hanks would do a movie based on yours truly?” Kreskin said.
But Kreskin is humble and credits his fans with his success. He acknowledges that he needs an audience to put on a performance.
“They are an intricate part of it and, without them, I don’t have a show because I’m reading their thoughts,” he said. “There are no footlights between myself and my audience because they are not coming to hear a concert or watch a play. They are coming to be part of the program.”
Kreskin began performing professionally about a decade after he discovered his talent while playing, “hot and cold,” as a child. To play, children hide an object and one has to search for it. As one is on the hunt for the object, the others say “hot” if he is near it and “cold” otherwise.
At the age of nine, his brother hid a coin in the upstairs of the home they shared with their parents, grandparents and uncle. Kreskin walked through the kitchen, into their uncle’s bedroom, climbed on a chair, reached behind a curtain rod and found the coin without a word from his brother.
“I realized I forgot to tell my brother to talk to me,” he said. “There was no conversation so I’m sure my grandparents from Sicily thought I had the evil eye or something.”
Whether is he playing a game with family or performing for a sold out crowd, Kreskin said his programs have a message.
“We can do so much in life without a lot of equipment if we only set our minds to it,” he said.