India is being taken by storm by some amazing demonstrations of young kids (mostly aged 7–13) being able to read and identify objects while blindfolded. How are they able to do these incredible feats?
A Magician’s Perspective on the Mid-Brain / Third-Eye Activation Scam
Circa 1848.Two sisters — Kate (12) and Margaret (15) Fox, convinced their elder sister Leah (38) that spirits were communicating with them by tapping the table, and soon took the world by storm. The Fox Sisters became the most famous mediums communicating with spirits via mysterious taps on tables and are largely credited to have kickstarted the spiritualist movement across the world.
Numerous investigations, including those by renowned scientists and thinkers of the time, expressed belief and showed potential in their communication with the spirit world. They also attracted a lot of other imitators, who began presenting similar “abilities” in other parts of the world.
It was only in late 1888 that Margaret (along with Kate) came clean and demonstrated to a 2,000-strong gathering — and thereby the world — that she could produce raps across the theatre by cracking her toe joints!
Most interesting among all that she said during this admission was a few words about what happened when they first began the hoax: “Mother listened to this for a time. She would not understand it and did not suspect us as being capable of a trick because we were so young.”
Circa 1917. Two young cousins, Elsie Wright (16) and Frances Griffiths (9) captured a couple of fairies in a photograph. In a matter of months, the girls had taken five photographs, each showing one of them in the company of tiny, magical fairies. Soon, the scientific world was divided in a debate to the authenticity of these amazing and magical visuals.
The creator of Sherlock Holmes, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle published some of these pictures in his spiritualist magazine and expressed his belief in their authenticity. The media sensation that this became, turned a lot of people across the continents into believers in the existence of fairies.
And so, it was only in 1980 that Elsie and Frances confessed that the Cottingley Fairies photographs were fake, and they had used cardboard cutouts copied from a children’s book.
Interesting again is this statement by Elsie, who claimed they were embarrassed to admit that it was all a hoax, saying “Two village kids and a brilliant man like Conan Doyle — well, we could only keep quiet”.
Circa 2015. India is being taken by storm by some amazing demonstrations of young kids (mostly aged 7–13) being able to read and identify objects while blindfolded. Give them coloured plastic balls and they can identify the colour by merely using their sense of touch or smell!
The parents of these children are predictably going gung-ho about these amazing sixth-sense abilities that the kids have been able to learn and demonstrate. They are leaving no stones unturned to get their kids lauded in the newspapers, featured on TV talent shows, and clamouring for a place in the record books like Limca and Guinness.
These kids have turned special after attending a two-day workshop to get their mid-brain activated. The power that has been unleashed in these kids is also referred as “the third eye”, and the children themselves as Genius or Alpha kids.
What is this all about? How are they able to do these incredible feats? As the earlier — more famous — examples show, we could either wait for some of these kids to tell us in 40–60 years from now, or analyse the claims and examine the demonstrations with applicable information already available with us.
A First Hand Experience
If you are still reading this, my third eye tells me that you don’t want to wait 40 years to find the answer. Good on you!
I have been a magician for the larger part of my life and have studied the topic ever since I learnt to read — and some even before. In the recent 20 years that I have performed magic professionally, I have studied everything from producing a coin, vanishing people, to reading minds. At the crux of it all, is a diligently practiced, meticulously planned, performance art.
At a recent corporate event, a senior manager of a major IT firm met me after the show to suggest his son apprentice under me, “as he has recently learnt to read through a blindfold”. Being a major fan of Magician P C Sorcar’s world-famous blindfold act, I immediately asked the gentleman if his son was learning to perform magic.
“No. This is real! He had his third eye activated and can now read even with a blindfold on,” came the reply from the proud dad. “I am a magician and like most others, can do various blindfold acts. Yet we magicians have our tricks and know various ways to see through the blindfold checked by spectators,” said I.
The man was unperturbed and adamant that his kid had developed the “seventh sense”! I then realised that he had spent upwards of ₹30,000/- for this workshop, and clearly that impressed his belief in this further (more on this soon).
Back in Bangalore, I googled the net, saw some videos, caught up with Dr Narendra Nayak, even met some of the parents, and realised there was a major scam in the offing. I then wrote a polite, but detailed email to the gentleman I had met, sharing with him my perspectives on how his dear son was able to do these amazing feats. I also gave him a couple of simple tips to check if the powers exhibited were indeed authentic. It is four weeks since, and I have not even received a reply from the otherwise enthusiastic father.
And that is understandable. No, really!
This is All Real. You Can Test Us!
Just a few days back, I was at my friend and famous hypnotist Pradeep Aggarwal’s seminar in Bangalore. There I met a charming lady whose 11-year old daughter was mid-brain active and could “sense” colours, objects, and read blindfolded. Having seen (studied?) some of Dr Narendra Nayak’s TV exposés, she approached me to help her understand more about these powers gained by her daughter.
Specifically, she asked me if I could help her with an “eye patch” as the kid had been able to see through everything and she now wanted to try with the patch — and with that stake claim to Dr Nayak’s ₹5,00,000 reward for a genuine miracle. “This is all real. I have tested her with various methods. Even put dough on her eyes. I want you to test her,” she said.
I tried my best to dissuade the lady from putting her daughter to the test, warning that it could break her confidence and be immensely pressurising. The lady again was adamant that she wanted to put the abilities to test and genuinely understand how it worked and to what extent.
Seeing that the young girl was sitting in a group of four practicing her skills, I asked Pradeep to give her skills a try. I was aware that Pradeep had dabbled in magic years back and thus was one of those “in the know”. Pradeep came back after a few minutes looking rather impressed: “She told me the colour of the ball I was holding to her forehead! I had even covered her eyes with my other hand (over the blindfold)!”
Wow! This was amazing! I am always eager to see real powers being demonstrated. After all, we could do with more magic in this world.
So I accompanied the excited Pradeep back to this sweet little girl. She told me that she just needed to touch the object to her forehead and she could sense the colour. To demonstrate, she diligently wore her blindfold and asked me to hand her one of the many coloured balls that lay on the table. I did as instructed. She touched it to her forehead and divined the colour correctly! Amazing.
I then picked three of those coloured balls, repositioned myself behind her, and bringing it from over her head, placed one of the balls to her forehead — exactly where she had placed it a moment back. She went blank and in the voice of the sweet 11-year-old that she was, said, “I can’t sense that. I… I’ve not been trained to do it like that”.
Of course, I had intentionally avoided the ball coming anywhere near or under the bridge of the nose. After all, seeing through (down) the natural gap between the blindfold and the bridge of the nose, is the oldest trick in the book — one we have all performed as kids playing blindfold games. Whether we had to catch somebody playing tag or pin a tail on a donkey, our head would slowly tilt back and we would gather a quick look-see through the nose.
Encouraging the girl, I asked what was it that she needed to do to divine the colour of the ball. The sweet kid told me she needed to smell the plastic ball. Wow! The ability to identify the identity and colour of an object through smell — or read — would be such a useful skill to those visually impaired. Imagine, the blind being able to read through their nose! So I obliged.
I handed the coloured plastic ball to the girl, but only after placing two fingers on blindfold: each finger gently, but specifically placed in the general area where her eyes were under the blindfold. After all, we did not want to encourage the girl to cheat, did we?
Sadly, it turned out that my placing the finger — and thereby forcing her eyes to remain shut preventing a “peek” — interfered with her acute sense of smell. And thus, she could not “sense” the colour of the ball. Disappointed, I left the girl in peace — after admonishing the couple of adult helpers who were with her, for teaching an innocent kid as her to cheat.
A few moments later, the charming mother re-joined the group, learnt of the episode, and invited me to join them again for the demonstration. “She was really nervous as I was not with her,” she pleaded. I tried my best to dissuade her, but she was insistent. Soon after, I learnt she had invested ₹8,00,000 to pick a franchisee of this amazing training that enables children to read through blindfolds. Clearly, money influences belief like nothing else.
It was when the mother took me back to the kid and requested her — no, pestered her repeatedly, to demonstrate her powers to me, that the kid began to sob. Among her sobs, she also claimed she was tired, later asked for a glass of water, and did everything she could to avoid having to perform for me again; this only speaks wonders of the kind of “training” the children have been given in the workshop to deal with “difficult” situations.
Sadly, the girl seemed to lose all her abilities of sight, smell, touch, at any moment that I was nearby. The loving mother tried all kinds of cajoling to get her to wear the blindfold and smell the colour. With me watching intently, and the mother herself placing a finger on the blindfold, the poor girl only repeated, “haage agalla amma” (It is not working, mom).
Among the same group was another girl about the same age, who had initially claimed that she could also do all these demonstrations. Inexplicably though, that girl had frozen like a deer hiding from a predator, soon as I had politely suggested to them how they may be peeking through the blindfold and not really feeling, smelling, or sensing it! She did not come out of her trance during this entire interaction.
Coincidentally, among the couple of keen bystanders was a medical doctor who (I later realised) had recently spent ₹80,000 to send two of his kids to a similar training in Cochin, but who was open-minded enough to realise that he had been scammed. Most importantly, he also realised he had to take expert guidance to help his kids deal with whatever brainwashing they have gone in the training.
The charming lady though decided that there was nothing wrong with the girl or the claims — it was all my pressurising and attitude that prevented the girl from displaying her gift. Pity! I really hoped she would realise the abilities stopped soon as she removed any gap between the blindfold and nose. Perhaps it was the lakhs of rupees she says she spent for this that takes away her ability to see what is very evident to everybody else?
Perhaps offering a crash course in blindfold magic may indeed be a prudent business decision, what? Only ₹25,000. Any takers?
Working Towards an Explanation
It is my sincere belief that sound knowledge and expertise in magic is necessary to examine most claims of the paranormal. Utilising scientific and academic knowledge can only take you to a certain point; expertise in deception takes it to a different paradigm, as it helps weed out the use of trickery.
So if you are a concerned parent, friend, or an interested party wishing to learn more about the workings behind the mid-brain activated demonstrations, you need to understand the following basic but important points.
There are different tools and tricks being put to use by the claimants, the primary one being what is known in the magic trade as the “Blindfold Peek”. This was first written about in 1740 by Gilles-Edme Guyot in his French classic NOUVELLES RECREATIONS, but magicians have been using this and other techniques for centuries. The Blindfold Act took centerstage in 1816 when British psychic Margaret M’Avoy ostensibly used her fingertips to see colours and words, and in 1880 it became a magician’s favourite publicity stunt with Washington Irving Bishop’s blindfold drive with his horse drawn carriage.
In addition to the blindfold peek, the mid-brain activation mafia is constantly upgrading their repertoire, especially for their public sales demonstrations. It is clear from the various videos and reports floating around that they are not averse to using commercial effects that otherwise belong to professional magicians. This makes it extremely difficult for non-magicians to catch them out, as some of the methods can indeed be well-planned and hidden.
If you know of a child who has gone through this training, they have most probably been brainwashed or scared into maintaining secrecy. At best, they may have been told that this is a magic trick that they need to keep secret; at worst, they may been threatened with dire consequences and coerced into collusion.
Remember this: Be kind and gentle with the kids. The moment you expose their coerced lie, they will most probably break down. Be calm and seek professional advice, ideally from a child psychologist. Direct all your well-deserved anger at the guys that scammed you and coerced the innocent child to cheat. Go after them in every way you can, especially via the legal means. Consumer courts and child rights are some of the avenues you can pursue.
It might help to tell the children that you know they have been taught to do a very nice and amazing magic trick, that if they are interested you can help them learn more magic tricks. You can possibly get them a magic book or kit and encourage them to open up about the training they went through. Better still, If you know a magician, seek his help to win the confidence of the child and learn what they have been coerced with.
Running a Preliminary Home Test
Here are a few simple and quick ways in which you can test the claimed abilities of the child in a friendly and harmless way:
- When checking the abilities of the child, keep the objects out of their view — either concealed in a bag or behind their back, and bring each object to their attention AVOIDING the area under the nose.
- If the child claims they are able to sense the object by touch or by sound, ensure that all the actions are done above the nose. You can even hold objects to the ear or the head. If this was real, it should still work.
- If the child holds a book at chest level to read it while blindfolded, physically move the book up and hold it at the eye level. This prevents a peek, but if the abilities were indeed real the child should be able to read anyway.
- If the child claims that he or she needs to smell the object to “sense” it, gently but firmly place two fingers over the blindfold: on or directly under the eye area. This would force the eyes to remain shut and prevent any peek from under the blindfold.
- Check the objects being used for perfume, markings, or patterns. Where possible, use your own objects and not the objects provided by the trainers. Those may not be easy to discern without an expert.
The above only serves as a limited list, as the methods being used can indeed be rather large and it is difficult to create an exhaustive list. Yet, this should help you understand the issue and help you free the child from the trap of cheating people.
If the child can still demonstrate the said abilities, despite the checks you have learnt to put here, reach out to me. I’d love to meet somebody with real powers!
Not about Qualifications. All about Expertise.
In a recent seminar that I participated with Dr Nayak, a gentleman walked up to address the gathering. He had recently put two of his children through the third-eye activation programme, and wanted to share his experience.
“I am a science graduate, an engineer, and work with BHEL. I am here to share my thoughts on this programme being real and how it benefits the kids,” he said. He wanted to show some diagrams and articles on his phone to the panelists, to prove to them the efficacy of the mid-brain activation programme. That the panelists included two senior doctors from NIMHANS (who had just blown large holes into the outlandish theory) did not dissuade him.
We all want the best for our kids and when a programme like this comes along propagating to provide a special edge to our kids over the others, we jump at it. Earlier in this article, I mentioned how a doctor himself had taken bait and sent his two kids to the mid-brain programme. Education and academic qualifications have nothing to do with this. Deception can only be identified and caught by those who are experts at it: magicians.
This was proved best when a young Steve Shaw (now best known as Banachek) went about pulling wool over the scientists eyes as part of Project Alpha. Being examined for psychic powers in the early 1980s, the young Banachek used magic tricks to prove to the scientists at Washington University just that — that he had genuine powers!
Martin Gardner, James Randi, and numerous others have exposed the so-called psychics’ use of blindfold reading techniques over the years. In fact, Gardner’s article ‘DOP: a peek down the nose’, laments that the general ignorance of blindfold deception methods has encouraged scientists to conduct needless investigations into persons who claim to possess eyeless vision.
Despite all that happened above with the 11-year-old girl, her mother later put the blindfold on a young bystander in an attempt to prove the genuineness of the same. The young boy, who till then had stood keenly watching and hearing all that transpired, went on to correctly identify the colour of a couple of balls handed to him!
“I tried to see from near the nose as you were saying, but that was very difficult. But I’d seen that two of the blue balls were smaller and the orange one was larger and had a scratch on it. So I could find it correctly by touching it,” he proudly confided in me later. I was proud of this young magician in the making!
Magicians have for centuries blindfolded themselves and gone about doing everything that the regular people do and more — be it reading books, divining playing cards, driving vehicles, identifying objects, shooting and throwing at targets, et al. — all for entertainment. And that is indeed the only place blindfolds belong: on a magic stage. Not around the heads of scared kids who have been coerced to lie and cheat everybody, including their family and friends in the name of mid-brain activation.
PS: The author humbly submits that this article was typed while fully blindfolded.
Note: First published in Dr Narendra Nayak’s 2015 educational booklet on the Mid-Brain Activation scam.
Published on June 1, 2015 at Medium.com/@nakulshenoy