Banachek, Psychic Surgery and Practice-Based Research

H and D Psychic Surgery Still Image 7 May 2016

One of the highlights of consulting for Houdini and Doyle: World of Wonders was working with Banachek and Rebecca Liddiard to engage in some Houdini-inspired debunking. Years ago, I wrote a review following the premier of Banachek’s one-man show The Alpha Project when it came to Toronto. Ever since, the work of Banachek, James Randi and others who have continued Houdini’s tradition of duplicating and discrediting fraudulent claims of supernatural powers has been a source of interest for me. I researched “The Alpha Project” hoax perpetrated by Banachek and Randi in depth while writing my dissertation. The “Psychic Surgery” episode we shot in March reveals another, rather bloody, fraud. To prepare, I studied what Randi and others have published on the subject. This provided some excellent explicit — or book-learned — knowledge on the subject. Actually being on set to collaborate on the filming of Banachek’s performance moved this study into the category of practice-based research. Preparing the items that make this demonstration of bare-handed surgery look so convincing, is a tactile and experiential thing. As with cooking, you have to have the right ingredients and know how to use them. When it comes to the performance of an illusion, learning from an expert how to prepare and handle what’s needed is precious tacit knowledge. What I learned onset isn’t in the books, but I had to read them to know that. I hope you enjoy the results. A large number of talented people worked on this.

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