By Dave Flaherty/Active Senior’s Digest
Having recently celebrated his 84th birthday, the world-renowned mentalist is showing no signs of slowing down.
A look at his recent schedule showed appearances in New York State, Florida and locally in Oshawa and Peterborough.
Kreskin estimates he’s flown approximately three-and-half million miles during his career, and there are some years where counting in-person, radio and television appearances, he’s worked almost every day of the year in some form.
The entertainer has taken his share of vacations, including camping in the Grand Canyon.
“I used to like winter camping. It’s very invigorating,” he comments. However, he points out it has been a full 14 years since his last vacation, but there isn’t a hint of disappointment in his voice.
“I love my work. It’s just a passion in my life, and really has been an adventure.”
So where did it all begin? Kreskin was born in Montclair, New Jersey on Jan. 12, 1935 to Polish and Italian parents.
Taking a moment to reflect on his heritage, Kreskin notes he is an “authority on Polish jokes.”
His home base remains in New Jersey, as he spoke to Active Senior’s Digest from his office in West Caldwell.
Commenting on the cold weather, he says “New Jersey has changed a lot. It is now considered the most congested state in the U.S.”
When asked how he became interested in taking on the mantle of a mentalist, Kreskin recalls an incident from his childhood. His teacher, Miss Curtis, sent one of his classmates out of the room while they hid a coin in one of the desks.
The classmate then walked around the room while the other children told her whether she was getting “warmer” or “colder.”
Eventually she found the coin, but Kreskin says he was a bit jealous.
“I was disappointed that I didn’t get to play,” he says.
The game stuck out in his mind later while he and his brother visited their grandparents.
He encouraged his sibling to hide a penny somewhere in their grandparents’ home.
“I found myself roaming through the kitchen into my uncle’s room,” Kreskin says.
Eventually he reached up behind a curtain rod and found the penny.
Curiously, Kreskin says his brother “never told me whether I was getting hot or cold.”
From there, his interest grew.
“I started doing experiments during family gatherings,” he says.
From there the story of his talents began to spread, and he would perform at homes of family friends, and by the time he was in his early teens he was doing two-hour shows.
“I was working very busily in my teens,” he said.
Another influence on him was a popular comic “Mandrake The Magician.”
The character of Mandrake is a magician who always works as a crime fighter.
Some historians have called him “comic’s first superhero.”
“It was a tremendously popular comic book,” Kreskin observes.
As a child he would act out as Mandrake, and “by the time I was nine years old I knew what I wanted to do.”
However, Kreskin argues Mandrake wasn’t in fact a magician, but instead used the powers of telepathy and hypnotism.
The creator of Mandrake, Lee Falk, would later state that Kreskin was the one person who came closest to his character in real life.
But because of his growing career as a mentalist, he was often absent.
“There were times I maybe only attended two to four classes in a semester. They overlooked it at the time,” he said.
During his time at Seton Hall, he worked along Dr. Harold Hanson, a clinical psychologist.
Hansen encouraged Kreskin to help with some patients in his spare time.
Kreskin estimates at one time he was seeing 30 patients a week despite having no degree in psychology.
When he asked Hansen what the American Psychology Association would say, the Scandinavian doctor said, “I would simply to tell them to go hell.”
But Kreskin says a career in psychology was never something he considered seriously and his sights were clearly set on his career in entertainment.
In 1970, his act was introduced to a larger audience when his television series, The Amazing World of Kreskin, debuted on CTV in Canada and syndication in the United States.
The show was produced at the CJOH-TV studios in Ottawa.
Kreskin said he had performed shows all over Canada, so his name was well known.
“So many people in the industry were talking about me,” he said. “Canada is like a second home to me.”
The show was an immediate success.
“The show, after the first two years, became the second highest rated program in Canada,” he said.
At one point, Kreskin was unsuccessful in one of his attempts on the show.
He recalls CTV officials asking him if he wanted to try the act over again, something he personally wasn’t in favour of.
The head of the network at the time stepped in and made an edict that Kreskin’s show be left alone.
“He said, ‘Let him do it, and leave it as is,’” Kreskin reflects. “He kept the integrity and honesty of the program. It was one of the most important decisions made in my career.”
He would later gain even greater prominence through numerous appearances on talk shows such as The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, Late Night with David Letterman and the Howard Stern Show.
While he has made numerous predictions such as the presidency of Barack Obama in 2008, Kreskin is quick to point out he identifies as a “mentalist,” not a psychic.
He operates on the basis of suggestion.
“I don’t look into the future or crystal balls,” he says. “My audience is my equipment.”
One of his more notable acts is the “cheque test.”
“It has been become legendary,” he says.
In the “cheque test,” Kreskin will hand his payment for the night to a member of the audience.
He then leaves the area while the cheque is hidden somewhere within the building.
“If I don’t find my fee, I forfeit it, and the show is for free.”
According to Kreskin, he has only failed 11 times to locate the cheque in his career.
“That’s not many times out of about 3,000 or 4,000 attempts,” he notes.
When he is unsuccessful, much of the gate is usually donated to charity.
One notable incident saw money donated to a children’s hospital, where a wing has been named after him.
There are currently plans in the works to document Kreskin’s 50 plus years in the business.
According to him, a script is in the works by Patrick Coppola.
“He just finished writing it. They interviewed me on and off for three months.”
This is not the first time his career has influenced a film, as the titular character in Tom Hank’s The Great Buck Howard is said to be inspired by Kreskin.
Almost always seen with his horn-rimmed glasses, the Amazing Kreskin is a name that is truly known worldwide.