Monday Madness: I’m a stalker!

The month of March began just like any other month. I submitted my latest progress report to my advisor, I flew back from Washington D.C., well, ok not every month starts with me flying back from Washington DC. Actually, this was the only month where this was true. Anyway, March began like any other month, but then something odd happened. Call it a feeling that something was not right about my website statistics. A post of mine, called Return of the Science Guy, written two years ago, suddenly had 100 hits and climbing. In terms of a whole month, that’s not too significant for your average recent post, but 100 hits already on the 4th of March, and an old post like that that never got too much attention? Had to be a referral. But from where?

At the same time, there was a similar rise in people linking over from one page, a forum called The Magic Cafe. It would seem that a magician took notice of my take-down of Mentalist Adrian Saint, a stage magician who claimed that he predicted the Super Bowl two years ago using statistics, when it was all just a trick stereo. Intrigued, I took a look at the forum page in question, titled, Why We Should Be Careful.

The forum topic was discussing whether or not they thought open magic forums were a good idea, given that people can look up how tricks are done. It started when one magician did a google search and my website popped up. They talked about code words to use to fool people who aren’t “in the know,” suggested that I’m a boring writer, or defended online magic forums. But then, someone named magicman02 swoops in to attack me personally. They claim they are a friend of Adrian Saint, and that they know something about me:

Hey guys, I know this performer who the article is about. He did a great job with the publicity of this event. This guy who wrote the article is an a**hole and stalked the poor guy. He told numerous times that he didn’t have any supernatural powers, but this guy keep stalking him over and over again. Some people are just a**holes

Hey readers, I know this commenter. The handle, magicman02, belongs to Amir Ghasri, Mentalist Adrian Saint himself. Oh no! He called me a stalker! It’s time for some Monday Madness.

MADNESS

The Jig is up. No more calling his publicly-listed phone numbers and breathing heavily. No more ‘hiring’ him for fake events in remote locations just to make him drive. No more spending my weekends driving down to Mission Viejo, CA, just to sleep in my truck outside his parents’ house. (I miss that the most since I moved to Wisconsin.) I long for the days when the soiled mens’ and womens’ undies I mailed him were a secret that I thought only I knew. I’ll never again be able to impersonate a young blond that looks like Meg Ryan on AOL Instant Messenger, nor send threatening cut-and-paste letters demanding human sacrifice. Ever again.

Wait, I never did anything like that. But I must have, mustn’t I? After all, a man with such an unimpeachable reputation as Adrian Saint called me a stalker, I must be a stalker, right?

Pure unalloyed Madness. Perfect for a Monday, so here we go!

Rewind about two years. Super Bowl XL is approaching, and Amir Ghasri visits The California Aggie newspaper, and asks them to cover his show. He wows them with a couple magic tricks, and gives them a locked, sealed box, with a “prediction” inside – a prediction about the outcome of the Super Bowl. After telling them that he knew it would be a high-scoring game, he bet The Aggie $1,000 that he guessed the correct score. This was all reported in the paper.

The next week, a day after the game, Amir Ghasri, whose stage name is Adrian Saint, did a magic show for some students, and a couple members of the Aggie were there to present the box they had been given to keep over the weekend. The box, when opened, had a cassette tape inside, this one in fact (minus the Post-It note):

It would be funny if he did predict this part.

The tape, when put into a stereo and a button pressed on the remote, proceeded to turn in the player and a completely accurate report of the Super Bowl came out, in Amir/Adrian’s voice. The audience clapped, the Aggie reported, Adrian Saint predicted the Super Bowl! How did he do it? What statistical methods did he employ, why was it a low-scoring game when he was quoted that it would be a high-scoring game? What the hell is a mentalist anyway?

The next couple weeks were rather interesting. I had a hunch that fakery was going on, and being a former columnist of The Aggie (of three years), my interest was piqued. Here was a guy who was claiming to use psychology and statistics to make predictions of future events, claiming no supernatural powers, and stating quite clearly that he was not a magician. So that’s when I proceeded to stalk investigate him.

The what – Mentalist, was easy enough to figure out. Mentalists are performers in the art of Stage Magic. But of course, little Sainty Claus swore up and down in the Aggie that he wasn’t a magician.

The how – was a little more difficult. It seemed plain to me that he performed a magic trick, so I called up the folks at The Aggie to ask them a few details about the event. They liked the idea that I was going to investigate the affair and write up an opinion piece about it, so they gave me all the info they got. They recalled a previous article about him, where he called himself a “Psychological Illusionist,” a couple years prior, so I got myself a copy. A few google searches and an email to Michael Shermer and I was on my way to figuring it out.

Clearly, right here you can see, that by looking up public records and interviewing people at a newspaper, I WAS STALKING HIM! AAAHHH! Hide your children and grab something sharp, I’m knocking on your front door already!

In a week and a half, I had the whole thing figured out. It wasn’t the interviews with fellow journalists, Michael Shermer’s “It’s a magic trick!” response, nor magic forums that clued me into what it was (The latter seemed to be what the magicians in the forum thought, above). Take a look at the first hit on this simple google search: Hank Lee’s Magic Factory: Impossible Cassette Prediction! It was a combination of Google, a good knack for the right keywords, and an Aggie photo of the tape player that sealed the deal. There were some intermediate steps, some logical conclusions and conjectures that helped, which I’ll expound upon later, but a little research over a few evenings and I had it pinned down.

Finding Adrian Saint’s posts in online magic forums was the icing on the cake, because he was talking about the very trick online, and in other places, talking about how great the Impossible Cassette Prediction is. He just thought that by changing the names of his online magic handles that he was being anonymous. Here’s a tip: Don’t sign a post with your name in it. And don’t brag about your trick as well! (Note, person discussed in last link is not me, I didn’t go to his Super Bowl related show)
Oh, here’s another tip, at the first mention of someone who called you on your bullshit, don’t call him a stalker. The irony is Maddening! The forum topic in which he called me a stalker was titled “Why we should be careful” and he was the same ol’ Amir Ghasri, online blowhard! Wait, you mean this guy has a history of not being careful online? Yeah, during the whole Super Bowl controversy in Davis, after my skeptical guest opinion was published, he made some sports predictions, which all turned out to be wrong. So when someone called him on this on the Davis Wiki, he logged on and left us this little gem:

”2006-03-20 02:10:23” [[nbsp]] “stupid fucker didn’t even get the lotto numbers correct” Don’t know who said this but this is funny. I am graduating in spring, so I can give a shit what people in Davis think of me. Stats Update since I predict the Super Bowl: written up in Aggie (i lost count) Sac Bee, Orange County Register, LA Times, Got offered a $50,000 job offer to work with the World Poker Tour (thanks to Sac Bee Article), got laid 5 times (yes you can get laid doing what I do if you know how to use it, and no the experimental class doesnt teach you how to get laid). Funny how people talk shit online, Hope everyone has a cool spring break, I be in Malibu with my twin and mentor entertaining Ray Romeno and Adam Sandler –AdrianSaint

Yes. Funny how people talk shit online. Thirteen minutes later, he deleted it, but it was too late – he already told the city of Davis how he felt about it. (What was he thinking for those 13 minutes??) Funny thing, he’s been back at least once to do a show for Student Housing – so I guess things haven’t been too lucrative in, was it Malibu? Or what about the $50,000 job you’re taking time off of to do a show for freshmen? I kid, I kid.

Actually, in one sense, I don’t kid. On his MySpace page, he states his income is $100,000-$150,000! I really need to get on that Student Housing gravy train!

There’s more. Strangely, information about this guy keeps coming my way. A friend of mine worked for the Cal Aggie Alumni Association, and happened to be the one to call him up. He was flabbergasted that she didn’t know about his Super Bowl trick, and when asked what his current occupation was, he said, sheepishly, someone who books DJs.

There’s nothing wrong with booking DJs, or doing shows for student housing, but when you think you’re so important that you’ve got to brag to the world about getting laid as if it was some sort of achievement that everyone should pat you on the back for, and make up fictitious job offers to make yourself sound important, that’s pretty low. Hey guess what, everyone, for a few months while I was unemployed in Davis, I was really an astronaut! Bye bye suckers, I’m going to leave this planet behind and never come back – I’m outta this world! This would immediately backfire the next time I walked in the Davis Food Co-op.

Okay, so Amir Ghasri/Adrian Saint went a little overboard two years ago. He must be totally chill now. Probably grew up, probably realized that you can’t rush to the top without building a solid fan base or coming up with an innovative new trick. He’s totally over it, in fact, magicman02, Amir in disguise, is ready to report that his friend, um, himself, went wrong and it totally over it now:

Yea he shouldn’t done the sports & lotto predictions he got a little cocky during this whole time. He regrets that, but the funny thing is that during that time, over 100 people bought lotto tickets hoping to win. haha!

You see? Adrian Saint says that he got too cocky. I knew his testis would finally descend.

What Mr. Saint did was no different then what other performers do when they do a “stunt” for a event. Many performers say they will pay the client a fee if their “stunt/prediction” isn’t right. He is a very good friend of mine and you never hear about him because he is out performing full time. The stunt went well for him. For about a month all everyone would talk about was how he did it and if he had “any powers” which he clearly denied.

He offered the $25,000 reward (which he could pay) because people kept coming to his show and saying his entire show was stooged and set up. Which it wasn’t, it was just that people had never seen a mentalism show and what he did people assume was set up because it was so amazing. He has learned from this lesson and has moved on, but the guy who stalked him and wrote this stupid article hasn’t.

Apparently they dipped too low and he started stepping on them an kickin’ them around. Hmm, I wonder, if you call it a “fee,” does it make it not a bet, or a gamble, in legal terms? Brilliant! I’m going straight to the horse races to put down a “deposit” on a “fee” that someone will pay me if my prediction is correct. I’ll lose my “deposit” if my prediction is incorrect. Makes me wonder why this semantics game hasn’t revitalized gambling! Oh wait, because a bet is a bet is a bet is illegal. Madness.

Did you notice, how he casually slipped in a reason why no one’s ever heard of him? Because he is out performing full time, of course! Gotta earn that $150,000/year paycheck. Man, that tax bracket must be tough to navigate! Yes, Adrian Saint can’t just pretend to be someone else to defend him and accuse someone else of being a stalker, he had to also beef himself up and say that he’s out performing full-time, as if the other magicians were thinking “Oh my, I’ve never heard of this kid. Probably a DJ by now.”

And he’s totally over it. He’s moved on. He’s working full time. You see, that’s why, when someone links to my site on March 3rd, 2008, Amir Ghasri is right there at 5 AM on March 4th, crying out “Wah! He’s a stalker and an a**hole!” Interestingly, a few days later the moderators bleeped out the rest of his swear words, yet, left in the stalking accusation.

How about it? Could I have stepped over the line, and harassed him by email over the last two years? Do you remember how I blogged about how he was a DJ the moment I found out? Oh wait, I didn’t. I had a good laugh with my friend about a year ago, and didn’t think much more about it. What about when I investigated him, invited him on my show, interviewed him, all that, did I go too far? Let me put it to you this way – he was sending me copies of his newspaper ads asking my advice on how to word things by AOL IM. Yes, the first thing you do when you suspect someone is a stalker is that you send them files that you’re going to put in the paper for review! Then you have a conversation with him about real mind-reading with computers and brain sensors, etc. Then, you let him take pictures of you at your last Davis show, and then you go on your stalker’s radio show.

Actually, I’m not sure where this argument is leading. If I really was a stalker he’d have to be really dense to do all this communication with me. Which is where the argument unravels, because he is really dense. And all that stuff about “I said I had no powers but he just kept stalking…” is just made-up Madness. Of course he didn’t have supernatural powers! But he was saying that he was making predictions using the Law of Averages (which is impossible) – that he was using statistics, not magic, to do all this. It was my intention to demonstrate that he was perpetuating a commonly-held misconception about statistics, which I could use as an opportunity to explain the real concepts to people. Whenever you go to Vegas and gamble, it’s working against you. Knowledge is power.

So what happened? In my interview with him, which I admit was wasted on asking him about his magical background, I showed him the pictures of the stereo, the “trick” stereo online, and him commenting in online forums about it. “Is that what you did?” After showing that the statistical statements he made were blitherin’ blatherskite, I revealed that I knew how he did it, to see how he would respond.

That’s called journalism, not stalking. After he left the studio, I didn’t contact him again, except once. The last email I sent to him was over a year ago, when I heard from someone that he would be in Davis, I sent him a note that I forgot to give him his jar of honey for being on my show (no response, duh). At no point in any of our communications has he ever told me not to contact him, and perhaps I’ve been too polite by never getting to a full expose’ of his trick. I still have the actual tape. I just haven’t been thinking about it. I started the expose’, but lost interest – it just didn’t seem worth it.

And here he demonstrates that yet again, he has the ethical composure of a spoiled child. No one believes I did it? I got laid I swear!… He figured out how I did it and embarrassed me on his show? Wah! He’s a stalker! Clearly, he’s saying this about me because he’s angry about how the interview went.

I almost feel sorry for him. In my research on his tricks, and the stuff I learned (but didn’t want to learn) about his personal character, I find it rather surprising that he thinks he’s in a position to declare some sort of innocent moral high ground. In short, to be called a stalker by Adrian Saint is a badge of honor.

This still leaves us with the question of why would he do this, two years later. Why bother making such a comment pseudo-anonymously on a magic discussion board, to express an opinion that could land himself in trouble? Did he not learn from his “I H8 DAVIS!”gaffe on the Davis Wiki, and wanted another go at ruining his chances to be successful in this field? After thinking about it, my guess is that he is indeed having a difficult time being successful as a magician, or mentalist. It’s a really hard field to be successful in. If he’s still trying hard at it, I can totally respect that – I am close to several people who are working very hard at making it in difficult fields. I imagine that after two years of hard work (and working as a DJ), perhaps with not much to show for it, it can get rather frustrating. I imagine as he looks back at the easy publicity he got two years ago, and where he screwed up, that my name comes up as one of many mistakes of his. Over it? I don’t think so.

But if you’re reading this, Amir, keep working at it. If you really really want to be a professional magician/mentalist, you can make it. But you’ve got to make some personal changes, man. Lengthen that temper. Never think you’re anonymous, or that the microphone is off. Rise above petty conflicts. Don’t tell people you use physchology and statistics when you clearly do not. Don’t say you’re not a magician when you are. If you’re a mind-reader, don’t keep forgetting the name of the person you’re talking to, particularly when they’ve written a newspaper opinion about you. Work on your handwriting. Make it about the mystery and the fun of magic tricks and not about the ego and trying to feel that you’re smarter than everyone else. And don’t, I mean don’t call a journalist who got you on tape, a stalker. That’s Madness, perfect for a Monday.

I think I’ve been a bit too nice. There were a few lessons I learned about skepticism, logic, and even creationism, as I addressed this guy’s claim to predictive fame, and how he diverged from what can be an honorable career as an entertainer. And since I haven’t finished my descriptions of this story, everyone’s missed out on those insights. So what do you think, shall I write about:

  • Where did Adrian Saint go right, and where did he go wrong?
  • In my investigations, where did I go right, and wrong?
  • Why can’t you use the Law of Averages to make predictions? Why should everyone know this?
  • What is common between magic tricks and creationist arguments? A new analogy that cuts through the toughest sophistry.
  • Did the Agnostic and Atheist Student Association at UCD, a local bastion of skepticism, see through it?
  • Does the tape reveal a signature that demonstrates it to be a trick, or is it merely consistent with being a trick?
  • Does skepticism require that we eliminate all illusions, do illusions have utility in a skeptical society?
  • Are skeptics just a**holes?

Okay, we know that skeptics aren’t assholes. But we can sure seem like them when we ask that factual claims be backed up with evidence.

So that’s Monday Madness for this week. The most inane, jaw-droppingly and neuron-pluckingly dumb things I come across on the internet, served raw, cooked, and a la mode for your inquisitive enjoyment. Enjoy your Monday, and stay tuned this week and next as I plow through the above topics, one by one. For a mind-reader and future-predictor, I bet Adrian Saint had no idea when he scrawled his name on a blank tape to be dubbed in his show, that it would be right here. So unpredictable!

It would be funny if he did predict this part.

Published by

Karl Haro von Mogel

Karl Haro von Mogel serves as BFI’s Director of Science and Media and as Co-Executive Editor of the Biofortified Blog. He has a PhD in Plant Breeding and Plant Genetics from UW-Madison with a minor in Life Sciences Communication. He is currently a Postdoctoral Scholar researching citrus genetics at UC Riverside.

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