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Secret Revelations

Mindfreak by Criss Angel
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The hottest magician in years takes us behind–the–scenes of his hit A&E show and offers secret tips to 25 illusions you won't see anywhere else.

Criss Angel is poised to take the magic world by storm. He had his first 1–hour special on ABC in '01, headlined Madison Square Garden's annual Halloween special a year later to an audience of 60,000, performed in front of 75,000 people in Times Square, had two subsequent 1–hour specials on the Sci–Fi channel, he's received countless magician awards, and he currently has a groundbreaking show on A&E called CRISS ANGEL MINDFREAK, the first weekly magic show in over 40 years, that consistently wins its timeslot. MINDFREAK – the book – will be an extention of the show, which uses a specific topic each week – like 'Buried Alive', 'Bullet Catch', 'Building Walk', or 'Levitation' – to delve into the history of each subject, and see if Criss can't break new ground by doing something no one has done before. We are also going to try and include secrets in the book – clues to be dissected by readers – that relate back to magic he will perform on the show, where the book will be heavily promoted.

HarperCollins; October 2009
304 pages; ISBN 9780061982439
Read online, or download in secure EPUB
Title: Mindfreak
Author: Criss Angel

Chapter One

Behind Closed Doors

The first time performing the body suspension in the Superman position in Times Square. I was hanging for almost six hours.

Eleanor Roosevelt once said, "You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along. ' . . . You must do the thing you think you cannot do." I have mentally overcome situations most of you would be terrified to ever attempt: heights, fire, needles, spiders, snakes, angry monkeys, being shot, being hit by a car, going blind—you name it, I have been in a situation where I have had to mentally overcome my inherent fears to do my job. Everybody always asks me, "How do you do it?"

I'm fearless. I always try to focus on the worst thing that could happen—and for me the answer is always the same.


I accept death. So what do I fear if I don't fear death?


My problem-solving skills allow me to create and demonstrate my art at a higher caliber and separate myself from being average, dull, mundane, and boring. It has always been my mantra that every one of my demonstrations must be able to be done live. I am a street performer as much as I am a stage performer. Yes, I have a television show, but every trick, every MINDFREAK you see, I can do live. Television is a wonderful way to deliver my art, but for all of the conspiracy theorists out there, it allows room for doubt. The strangest thing about my television show is that the things people think are real are not and the things people believe are fake are totally authentic. That makes for some very challenging and thought-provoking television and entertainment.

The body suspension episode is probably one of the shows people speculate on the most. Was it real? Was I wearing some type of prosthetic like a skin suit? Whenever I come up with an idea for a demonstration, I aim for something I know will have a dramatic impact and will be perceived as engaging. I want to get people excited by what they see—to make them think, squirm, and get nervous, but I always want them to stay connected to what I'm doing. The details of a demonstration are always secondary. The more emotional, mental, and physical a demonstration is for me to endure, the bigger the impact for you, the audience. As an artist, that's the perfect equation for the biggest bang—the greatest impression.

The first time I thought about attempting a body suspension was after watching a documentary on rites-of-passage ceremonies from other cultures. I was completely intrigued by what these people put their bodies through. One of the experts on the show was a body-piercing professional from Texas named Allen Faulkner, who is legendary in the world of piercing and suspension techniques. He hosts the equivalent of "suspension raves" for people who are interested in trying body suspension. Hundreds of people show up to a remote warehouse location, and, under his strict supervision and expertise, they attempt to become human mobiles. After watching the documentary, I immediately researched Allen on the Internet and came across his website. If I was going to do this, I needed to find someone who was an authority on this technique; Allen was the perfect guy for the job. I explained my concept to him, and he told me he'd be interested in helping me out.

I went to Texas to meet Allen and experienced a body suspension for the first time. I brought a camera crew with me to record every moment. Although I was training to do this demonstration several months later in Times Square for a television special, I wanted to practice and go through a suspension once so I'd know what to expect.

The night before my first "practice" suspension, Allen warned me not to drink any alcohol—he reminded me that alcohol thins out your blood and that can cause excessive bleeding. I was really concerned about what I should eat, too. He suggested something hardy but not greasy. I opted for some grilled chicken. My crew and I went to a TGI Friday's, where I sat, feeling a little anxious about the unexpected nature of doing a body suspension.

What would it feel like?

What was going to happen?

What would the pain of the giant fishhooks going into my skin feel like?

Up to this point, I had had minimal experiences with piercing (just my ears). Let me go on record and say that a pierced ear is not even in the same galaxy as a body piercing, especially eight 8 gauge salmon fishhooks that were about to be embedded into my skin. Six were going to be inserted into my back, and two into my calves. I would not take painkillers or any other sedative. I had to feel the pain. It was part of the experience. I've never formally trained for pain management, but I have a good understanding of how to conquer it. I just analyze the pain, feel it in the moment, and then mentally become numb to it.

I got to the warehouse and began to wonder what I'd gotten myself into. I was told to lie facedown on a gurney that had been carefully sterilized. Allen and the rest of the pierce team placed surgical masks over their faces, looking very much like doctors about to perform a major surgical procedure, except they were slightly more tattooed and pierced than any doctor I had ever met. They marked the points of insertion on my back and legs with a blue Sharpie pen. They cleansed my skin, put a sanitizing gel on each spot, and began.

"Are you ready, Criss?"

"I think so."

"Breathe. It's very important to breathe."

I was familiar with various breathing techniques from other demonstrations and experiences, so I knew focusing on my breathing would be very helpful in diverting my attention from the intense pain. I had to redirect my attention to something that was pleasurable.

My brother Costa and my production designer, John Farrell, were with me. I was grateful for their presence, especially in this moment. I know it's hard for my family to witness most of the strains I put on my body. Today would be no exception...

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