'Brain hacker' to perform NZ shows
Keith Barry is a brain hacker. It's the term people have coined especially for him and it sounds dangerous.
He doesn't read minds and he doesn't believe in psychics, but what he does believe is human observation, deduction, neuro-linguistics, probing, hypnosis and magic can make people think he is hacking into their brains. And on Wednesday, he tried it on me.
"Really, there are no tricks to what I do - there used to be, years ago I started as a magician, and I do still use some magic techniques - but I'm reading you, your eye movements, everything about you to find out what you are thinking at any moment in time."
The Irishman started as a child, wandering around the playground trying to guess what people were thinking, before moving onto bigger and more sophisticated routines.
"You start with simple shapes, numbers and colours and you would fail 50 per cent of the time, then you would get better and better and better through practice.
"What I do is a learnt skill, but I've done it through 20 years of practise, 10, 20 hours a day sometimes. It does take that kind of effort."
By the age of 20, Barry was studying psychology and hypnosis and went on to win almost every magic award going. But it was the head that had his heart.
"I'm fascinated by the human brain, especially the subconscious mind.
"Once you understand the subconscious and how it functions and how it works, then you can start to manipulate it and hack into it."
He's studied and created his own sleeper agent to prove the US government ran the secret assassin programme, and he's used his skills on some of the world's most famous faces, like Ellen De Generes, Elijah Wood and Rachel Hunter.
But this week it was my turn.
When you are told someone is going to try to hack your brain, there are two obvious reactions - staunch denial, "no one could ever really do that to me, my mind is a fortress" kind of stuff; or absolute, complete and utter fear.
Guess which one I was?
My problem was research. Normally, walking into an interview unprepared is a crime, so knowing who and what you are talking about is crucial. But I wish I hadn't tried to be organised for Barry.
Being prepared meant watching video clips of him driving blindfolded around cliff-edged roads and almost stabbing supermodels through the hand with giant spikes. It's fair to say I was packing it by the time we met.
What actually happened was much less life-endangering, but still creepy. I won't explain it - watch the video though, it's gold - but what I can describe, is the truly bizarre feeling of someone know exactly what you are thinking, just by the blink of an eye or the twitch of a finger.
With me, Barry was all about the eye contact, and it felt a little bit like he was actually trying to look into my brain.
I still don't know how he did it, and I don't think I want to, to be honest. In fact his parting words to me were along the lines of "don't think about it, you'll explode if you do".
And with two live shows heading to New Zealand for the first time in August, where Barry will be "planting thoughts into people's minds, extracting thoughts from their minds and influencing their thoughts", there's every chance a whole bunch of us can be well and truly hacked.
AUGUST 8: Bruce Mason Centre, Takapuna
AUGUST 13: Opera House, Wellington
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