Interview with Templar
Templar, New Zealand's answer to Patrick Jane.
Templar, New Zealand's very own mentalist has walked
blind-folded through a minefield, risked his life by choosing a
'breakaway hangman's noose' from four real ones and dedicated his
life to studying the mind. With the launch of the second
series of The Mentalist, we were lucky enough to catch up with the
man himself and find out what goes on for a real life
tvnz.co.nz: How did you get into studying the mind, parapsychology, extra sensory perception, telepathy and mind reading?
Templar: As a young child I was interested in magic and I performed my first show at school when I was 9 years. I started performing professionally when I was about 14 in a magic act where I ate fire, lay on a bed of nails and walked on broken glass. This led me into the magic of the mind and I got to know of a person called Al Koran from England who was active in the 50's and 60's who wrote a book called 'How to bring out the magic in your mind'. He was a mentalist and I think he was on the BBC somewhere in the 50's and 60's so that inspired me to go into that side of it.
tvnz.co.nz: How do all of the subjects (mind, parapsychology, extra sensory perception, telepathy and mind reading) differ and which ones do you pull upon or not in your shows?
Templar: Basically, I've studied all of them because you need to study them all to be a mentalist. I also studied extra sensory perception in order to understand the whole field. Psychology and parapsychology (the study of clairvoyant and ESP) are involved too.
tvnz.co.nz: How would you define a Mentalist?
Templar: A mentalist is someone who performs unusual feats of the mind. They can also be referred to as a psychic entertainer. But if you talk to most mentalists, they don't claim to be psychic. There are very few modern mentalists performing today that would claim to be psychic.
tvnz.co.nz: Do you claim to be psychic?
Templar: No I don't. There is an American mentalist by the name of Ned Rutledge and he said that we're basically using 5 senses to create the illusion of a sixth. That would be a good way of describing it.
Probably the most famous mentalist who kind of claimed to be a psychic and it turned out really in some ways to be his undoing, was Uri Geller.
tvnz.co.nz: What do you make of Uri Geller?
Templar: It's very interesting. He's now made a come back and there were some shows last year where Uri Geller produced and hosted the show to discover the next world famous mentalist. Most of the people performing on the show were actually entertainers.
tvnz.co.nz: Is there a movement in New Zealand equivalent to The Magic Circle in the UK?
Templar: Yes there is, I think there is a New Zealand Magician society and at least 2 or 3 groups that run quite regularly. Up until how, mentalists didn't really necessarily associate with magicians either so the art of mentalism has been quite a closed shop for a long time. But obviously it's a lot more open now with the internet and of course the presence of Derren Brown in the UK who has caused tremendous activity on the internet encouraging people to try and figure out how he does it.
tvnz.co.nz: How long did it take you to study?
Templar: I've studied it all for forty years. After about twelve years study I did my first public show. You're doing an hour to 2 hour show creating the illusion of reading peoples minds, it's nerve wracking sometimes.
tvnz.co.nz: Have you ever surprised yourself?
Templar: I have occasionally yes. It's not using a trick as such, it's using psychology but you give a person some information and the way they react you wonder sometimes where they information came from. Yeah, there are coincidences and occasions where you think 'Wow how did that happen?'
tvnz.co.nz: Which one illusion amazes people the most, the one that consistently wows the crowd every time?
Templar: I think that the most important thing to the public is what would be known in the past as 'a question and answer act'. This is where you read the minds of the people in the audience, giving personal details, you might name their auntie etc. Because it's a very personal experience, it's the probably the most amazing for people. I close my show with this.
The interesting thing about mentalism and mind reading opposed to a magic act in a mentalism act, is that most people are participating from the audience because they're having their minds read or questions answered. It's pretty exciting if someone tumbles on something that's directly from the stage.
And the second more interesting thing to people, and it's probably the most purest form of mentalism, is where you find a hidden object. I take a lady or gentleman's ring or watch and it's hidden somewhere in the auditorium or the building and find it without any pre-knowledge of where it's been put.
tvnz.co.nz: Obviously you can't divulge too much, but where do you start with that?
Templar: Kreskin (a Canadian mentalist) is famous at doing this. He would put his pay cheque in an envelope and hide it in the auditorium. Some people do it with no contact, Kreskin's form of contact was just a handkerchief between him and the person holding it and he generally found the cheque.
This form of Mentalist is very impressive because you can do it in a dining room, a house or a twenty storey building and there's nothing set up beforehand. It does depend on the people that you get from the audience however as it's a bit like hypnotism but it's very pure. There's nothing fake about it.
tvnz.co.nz: Can you teach others about illusions?
Templar: You can... but it also takes a particular type of personality to be a mentalist. There are some guys that are quite laid back but you need a lot of nervous energy! You probably couldn't teach the concept of finding an object to everyone. Some people can do it, some people can't.
tvnz.co.nz: Who is your hero?
Templar: That's a good question. When I made the transmission from magic into Mentalism it was probably given my age, Al Koran and a British Mentalist called Morris Fogel. It was because I read Koran's book and to me the book didn't actually teach me how to do it, it was more of a book about self-help psychology to bring out the magic in the mind, the magic of life.
But in that book there were quotes in every chapter and one referred to a feat that Al Koran had accomplished. He went on the Ed Sullivan show in the USA and he stood there with no props, nothing and just completely fooled Ed Sullivan and the whole audience. It was amazing.
My two heroes are probably Al Koran because he seems so natural and organic and Morris Fogel who did more spectacular stuff. He once had 5 nooses, 4 of them had a snap fastener and 1 was real and he asked the audience to pick one and he put it round his neck and jumped using his psychic ability. I did that in 1976 on stage in Christchurch and I am very pleased to say it worked!
Mentalism actually goes back about 500 years. There's a book called Scott's Discovery of Witchcraft that dates back to 1584 that refers to a 2 person mentalism act.
Whilst New Zealand has produced some well known magicians, the closest we have would be The Piddingtons who came from Australia. They did a 2 person mind reading act I think just before the war in about 1949 where they went on the BBC radio in London and with 20 million viewers, she (Lesley) was locked in the Tower of London and transmitted a thought.
It's interesting to see how there's a big resurgence in people interested in the art of mentalism. It seems to have come full circle and is very popular which is great to see.
tvnz.co.nz: What sort of feedback do you get from people when you tell them what you do for a living?
Templar: I would tell people what I do if I was doing a show. I don't tell them that in my private life as it frightens people. However, they shouldn't be frightened because the term supernatural is a term that's misunderstood and it's really an entertainment art form where we create the illusion of reading minds which is pretty exciting for people when it happens to them.
tvnz.co.nz: Why did you choose the name Templar?
Templar: I decided to have a stage name about twelve or thirteen years now and was interested in The Templar Knights before it became popular with movies, so that's why I chose Templar.
tvnz.co.nz: If you could do one trick that would dazzle a crowd, what would that be? Or maybe you've already done it?!
Templar: Well I did try and do it when I was much younger. I was being interviewed by a journalist in Christchurch when he wrote down an address somewhere in the city. I went in a car with his wife who was just resting her hand on my wrist and I attempted to find that address with nothing pre-arranged. I got to about half a kilometre away but we ran out of time. I was also blindfolded as well so there is no way I knew where I was going. At one stage I felt as if we were crossing over water and we were so I got that right too.
To do that, it uses psychology and getting signals from people so it's pretty raw like Kreskin for example finding his hidden cheque, he's doing it for real.
tvnz.co.nz: Do we give away too much?
Templar: People shouldn't be scared of mentalists. I don't believe anybody can read your mind like an open book.
tvnz.co.nz: After you've been doing a show do you have to give your mind a rest?
Templar: Absolutely, especially if you're trying to find an object in the room because you put yourself in a fairly nervous state. So after that, it's quite stressful and you feel quite drained after it.
For more information visit Templar's website: http://www.templarmindreader.com