Derren Brown

Derren Brown
Derren Victor Brown
Born Derren Victor Brown
27 February 1971 (1971-02-27) (age 40)
Purley, London, England,
United Kingdom
Nationality British
Occupation Psychological illusionist, mentalist, artist, painter, writer, sceptic, television presenter
Years active 1992-present

Derren Victor Brown (born 27 February 1971)[citation needed] is a British illusionist, mentalist, painter, writer and sceptic. He is known for his appearances in television specials, stage productions and British television series such as Trick of the Mind and Trick or Treat. Since the first broadcast of his show Derren Brown: Mind Control in 2000, Brown has become increasingly well known for his "mind-reading" act. He has written books for magicians as well as the general public. His caricature artwork has received gallery exhibition and is available in a single volume documenting his portrait collection.[1]

Though his performances of mind-reading and other feats of mentalism may appear to be the result of psychic or paranormal practices, he claims no such abilities and frequently denounces those who do. Brown states at the beginning of his Trick of the Mind programmes that he achieves his results using a combination of "magic, suggestion, psychology, misdirection and showmanship". Using his knowledge and skill, he appears to be able to predict and influence people's thoughts with subtle suggestion, manipulate the decision-making process and read the subtle physical and psychological signs or body language that indicate what a person is thinking.


Early life

Brown was born to Bob and Chris Brown[2] in Purley, South London, England. He has a brother, who is nine years his junior.[2] Brown was educated at Whitgift School (where his father coached swimming),[3] and studied Law and German[4] at the University of Bristol.[5] While there, he attended a hypnosis show by Martin S Taylor, which inspired him to turn to illusion and hypnosis as a career.[6] Whilst an undergraduate, he started working as a conjuror, performing the traditional skills of close-up magic in bars and restaurants. In 1992, he started performing stage hypnosis shows at the University of Bristol under the stage name Darren V. Brown.[7]

Television series

Mind Control (2000–2003)

Brown began his television work with three sixty-minute specials produced over two years. In 1999 he was asked by Channel 4 to put a mind-reading programme together. The six part series Mind Control incorporated new footage with the best of his hour long shows. Selected highlights from the first series were later made available on DVD as Derren Brown — Inside Your Mind.

Andy Nyman was originally intended to front the programme but he wanted to concentrate on acting so Brown was recommended to the producers by comedian and close-up magician Jerry Sadowitz.[8]

Trick of the Mind (2004–2006)

Trick of the Mind was the title for Brown's next series, which ran for three consecutive series. Unlike Mind Control it is all completely new material. The second series started on E4 on 11 April 2005 and was repeated on Channel 4. The third series started on 26 March 2006. Trick of the Mind series 1 and 2 are also available to buy on DVD.

Waking Dead

In an episode first broadcast on Friday 6 May Brown claimed to have created a video game called "Waking Dead" which "is able to put roughly 1/3 of the people who play it into a catatonic trance". The video game is then placed in a pub. Brown then "kidnaps" the catatonic "victim" and places him in a real-life recreation of the video game, having him fire an air gun at actors pretending to be zombies and outfitted with explosive squibs.[9]

The episode raised considerable controversy. Mick Grierson, credited in the episode as "Zombie Game Designer", put up a website linking to various articles about the episode.[10]

Trick or Treat (2007–2008)

Trick or Treat started on Channel 4 in 2007. The focus of the show is on one volunteer who receives either a good experience or a bad experience. The experience the volunteers receive is decided by which card they choose. If they choose the card that says 'Trick' they receive a bad experience, and if they choose the card that says 'Treat' they receive a good experience. In the first series of Trick or Treat, the volunteer had no choice over the matter as the cards were ambigrams; however, in the second series, they were replaced by two more clearly defined cards that were no longer ambigrams.

Episodes of Trick or Treat are not preceded by Brown's usual claim that no actors or stooges were used in the filming of the shows. Indeed, some participants (such as the ambulance crew in the last episode) are declared to be actors.

The second series of Trick or Treat began on 2 May 2008. The third episode showed a slight change from the previous format, as actor David Tennant became the first celebrity to be used for the show. The two had met at a party where Tennant expressed interest in Brown's work. While writing the second season Brown "thought it would be fun if one of the participants was well known".[11]

The final episode of the second series featured all of the volunteers from the series that had previously received a trick or treat. This episode highlighted belief in superstition and the degree to which it can be applied.

Mind Control with Derren Brown (2007)

On 26 July 2007, the US based SCI FI Channel began showing six one-hour episodes of a series titled Mind Control with Derren Brown. Andrew O'Connor and Anthony Owen were executive producers, and the show was produced by Simon Mills who had produced the two previous series of Trick Or Treat as well as The Heist and The System for Objective Productions. Journalists in New York at the press announcement were shown preview clips of Brown "manipulating human behaviour" and given the promise of more surprises to come. Sci Fi's press release described the show as an "original US produced version". The show was a mix of new segments filmed in the US and older clips shown in earlier UK TV shows. The first showing release schedule was:

  • Episode 1: "Shopping Mall Carpark" 26 July
  • Episode 2: "Lying Car Salesman" 2 August
  • Episode 3: "Exotic Dancers" 8 August
  • Episode 4: "Receptive Children" 15 August (with Simon Pegg as a guest star)
  • Episode 5: "Assault Course" 22 August
  • Episode 6: "Disappearing Sun" 29 August

Derren Brown: The Events (2009)

Filmed for Channel 4 in front of a live studio audience, this new series, (the first episode of which aired on 11 September 2009 at 21:00[12]) was made up of four one-hour specials, during which Brown attempted what he described as "some of the most incredible feats to date". The show consisted of a mixture of pre-recorded location pieces connected by theatre-based segments, with each of the four one-hour programmes building up to a major stunt performance. The first teasers broadcast were shown backwards. When played forwards, Brown explained that in his new series he would be revealing the "inner workings" of his tricks and "showing you how to get away with it". Stunts included a live TV broadcast in which he suggested that he had successfully predicted the winning National Lottery, and incapacitating viewers, making them feel that they were stuck to their sofa, using a subliminal video. He has also projected an image into viewers' minds and had them draw it on paper. His final event was an attempt to predict the outcome of a roulette wheel, staking £5,000 of a chosen viewer's money on the outcome. The ball landed in the pocket numbered 30 just next to Brown's choice of 8.

Derren Brown Investigates (2010)

Derren Brown Investigates began a run of three programs on Channel 4 on 10 May 2010. During the first program, Brown met with British psychic medium Joe Power.[13] A second program concerns a Ukrainian system of human development that claims to teach people to see without the use of their eyes, and in a third he met a ghosthunter from the US. With these people he discussed their claims to have evidence of the paranormal.

# Title[14] Original airdate
1 "The Man Who Contacts the Dead" 10 May 2010 (2010-05-10)
2 "The Man with X-Ray Eyes" 17 May 2010 (2010-05-17)
3 "The Ghosthunter" 31 May 2010 (2010-05-31)

Derren Brown: The Experiments (2011)

Derren Brown: The Experiments was announced on 4 October 2011 on his official blog. Described by Brown as a series of "ambitious sociological experiment, in which the unwitting subject is a single person, a crowd, or even an entire town". Brown mentions that 'Three of [the episodes] are relatively dark, looking into the darker side of human behaviour, and one of them is rather positive and jolly' on his blog.

The first episode, entitled "The Assassin", aired on 21 October at 9pm and consists of Brown successfully hypnotising an unwitting member of the public to 'assassinate' a celebrity revealed to be Stephen Fry. This technique was used as a comparison to conspiracy theories regarding the assassination of Robert Kennedy by Sirhan Sirhan, who claims to have no memory of the event.

In the second episode, aired on October 28 at 9pm and called "Remote Control", Brown hosted a game show, asking a masked audience to vote for the escalating outcome of the fate of one contestant in an attempt to demonstrate the effect of deindividuation. The theory is that taking away individuality from someone turns them from themselves to just part of a crowd, and makes them act in a way that would sometimes go against their morals.

In the third episode, "The Guilt Trip" aired on November 5, Brown attempted to find out if he could convince someone through association to admit to a crime they didn't commit. He worked through tricking a participant into distrusting their own memory and having excessive feelings of guilt, to the extent where he confessed to the murder of an actor whom he had interacted with and was later told had been murdered.

In the fourth episode, "The Secret of Luck" which aired on November 11, Brown spreads a rumour of a lucky dog statue throughout an entire town and documents the consequences.

The trailer for "The Experiments" was released on 11 October 2011.

Television specials

Derren Brown Plays Russian Roulette Live (2003)

On 5 October 2003, Brown performed Russian roulette, live on Channel 4. The stunt was performed at an undisclosed location, supposedly in Jersey, due to laws in mainland Britain restricting the firing of live rounds to qualified armourers. The majority of the episode focused upon the nomination of the final volunteer, James, who was chosen from 12,000 who applied for the task, and whittled down to five by the day of the stunt. As a prize, James was chosen to be the only person in the room when Brown performed the stunt. James was required to load a single shot into a revolver with six numbered chambers. The bullet was located in chamber number 1, which Brown fired at a sand bag hanging on the wall.

The programme was initially condemned by senior British police officers, apparently fearful of copycat acts. In addition Jersey police stated that "There was no live ammunition involved and at no time was anyone at risk" and "There is absolutely no way that the States of Jersey police would allow anybody to put themselves at risk and shoot themselves dead."[15] When asked about the possible use of blanks in the act Brown responded, "But the frustrating and kind of ironic part of it was that even if it had been a blank that wouldn’t have made it any less dangerous. You shoot a blank next to your head and it will still kill you.”[16]

Brown himself defended the programme, saying, "It probably sounds odd. But as a magic-related performer, to have that even being asked: Was it real? Was it not real? That lifts it to a level that I'm very comfortable with. What's left is the fact that it was a terrific piece of television."[17]

Derren Brown: Séance (2004)

Brown's next project, Derren Brown: Séance, aired on Channel 4 on 31 May 2004. In Séance, he brought students from Roehampton University together for a live séance. He held the event at Elton Hall in east London, claiming the location had a history of paranormal activity after 12 people killed themselves in a suicide pact in 1974. Brown then proceeded to demonstrate the methods used by spiritualists.

The show attempted to involve the television audience with interactive activities, the first being to identify one of the members of the suicide pact by looking at photographs. The 12 pictures were shown on screen in a set pattern, with half of them in colour and half black and white. The viewer was instructed to choose one of the colour images that they "feel a connection with". Brown then directed the viewers in a movement pattern between the photographs (for example, move left or right to one of the adjacent black and white photographs). The positioning and movement instructions were carefully planned to ensure that no matter which photograph was initially chosen the viewer would finish on the picture of "Jane". Ten of the students also chose Jane. During the following Ouija board scene, the "spirit" guided the students to spell the name Jane.

Two of the students, along with the television viewers, were asked to write the name of a city. Both students chose London.

The final scene, the séance itself, saw the group "contact" Jane. One of the students spoke as if she were Jane, giving details of her life. A letter and short film confirmed the accuracy of the details.

Brown went on to explain some of the manipulations he had used, including the photograph positioning/instructions and the use of the ideomotor effect during the Ouija board scene. The suicide pact had not taken place and "Jane" was introduced to the students at the end of the show. In his book, Tricks of the Mind, Brown reveals that, contrary to claims when the show was aired, Séance did not go out live. He said it was necessary to make people believe that it did at the time.[18]

Channel 4 received 700 complaints, most before the episode was aired. Viewers who felt "something unusual" were invited to call a telephone number, and callers were told that the show was carefully planned, and that no paranormal activities were taking place. Brown also warned viewers about the impending Ouija board scene, advising those who objected for "religious reasons or otherwise" to stop watching the show.[18]

Derren Brown: Messiah (2005)

Shown on 7 January 2005, Brown travelled to the United States to try to convince five leading figures that he had powers in their particular field of expertise: Christian evangelism, alien abduction, psychic powers, New Age theories and contacting the dead.

Using a false name each time, he succeeded in convincing all of the "experts" that he had powers, and four openly endorsed him as a true practitioner. The fifth expert, the Christian evangelist Curt Nordhielm, whilst impressed by Brown's performance, asked to meet him again before giving an endorsement. The concept of the show was to highlight the power of suggestion with regard to beliefs and people's abilities, and failure to question them. Brown made it quite clear with each experiment that if any of the subjects accused him of trickery he would immediately come clean about the whole thing, a rule similar to one of the self-imposed rules of the perpetrators of the Project Alpha hoax. His conclusion was that people tend to hear only things that support their own ideas and ignore contradictory evidence; this is known in psychology as confirmation bias. During the section concerned with religious belief, he 'converted' people to Christian belief with a touch. Afterwards, he 'deprogrammed' them of any such belief.

Derren Brown: The Gathering (2005)

The Gathering was a specially recorded as-live show at a secret location (hidden from the audience) with an invited audience of students from Roehampton University, celebrities, psychologists, psychics, taxi drivers and magicians. It was filmed on 18 May 2005 and broadcast on 29 May. As part of the show Brown recalled streets, page numbers and grid references from the Greater London A-Z map. Pseudo-psychic "mind reading" and "remote viewing" activities were also recreated.

During the show, Brown hypnotised the audience as a group and convinced them that for approximately half an hour after leaving the room they would have no memory of the events. Furthermore, the word "forget" was intermittently flashed very briefly on the backdrop throughout the performance. A variety of audience members were interviewed afterward; some of them couldn't recollect anything (but were nevertheless very impressed); brief clips of these interviews were shown. One of the most memorable stunts was getting a London taxi driver to choose a street in London and then choose and mentally drive a random route. This was achieved by drawing a line on a map of London made of stuck together A-Z pages. An envelope, which had been visible on-stage throughout the entire show, was then opened. This contained a card listing the page number and coordinate of the destination, an acetate with the route marked on it and a receipt for £8 (the estimated cost of the journey by the driver). He started at Buckingham Palace and ended up at Shepherd's Bush Green, the street where the secret performance took place.

Derren Brown: The Heist (2006)

The Heist was shown on 4 January 2006 at 21:00, on Channel 4. In the show, Brown used his skills on selected participants who answered an advertisement. Under the guise of a "motivational seminar" (where they would allegedly learn Brown's skills) Brown recruited a number of participants, eventually manipulating a number of them into robbing a security van in broad daylight. "The Heist" has been described by Brown as one of the stunts of which he is most proud.[19]

The robbery involved holding up a security van and guard (played by an actor) using a realistic-looking toy pistol that Brown had given the subjects earlier, and stealing a case filled with real money. Four people were selected to carry out the robbery from an initial field of thirteen, with three of them actually carrying out the "robbery". The idea was that, after the conditioning they received, they would voluntarily rob the van of their own accord. There was no mention of the "crime" to the participants, and they were not (directly) instructed to do it. The "robbery" was carried out as a result of the conditioning they received and was their own choice, not because of instructions from any third party, including Brown.

Brown associated colour, music and phrases to build the participants into a highly motivated state, converging all of those psychological empowerment tools into a single set-up. The seminar subliminally anchored freedom, childhood, opportunity and romance into various criminal acts. After having previously been convinced to steal sweets from a shop based in Codicote High Street in Hertfordshire, they experienced the euphoria that could be gained from criminal acts.

This programme also included a re-enactment of the Milgram experiment — originally carried out by Yale University psychologist Stanley Milgram in the 1960s — with the aim of selecting four of the most obedient of the group. Sixty-five percent of the subjects in this experiment were willing to administer what they believed to be lethal electric shocks to another person on the instruction of an authority figure (unbeknownst to the subjects, no electric shocks were actually administered). These were roughly the same results Milgram himself had observed.

Derren Brown: The System (2008)

The System, a Channel 4 special in which Brown shared his "100 percent guaranteed" method for winning on the horses, was first shown on 1 February 2008.[20]

The show was based around the idea that a system could be developed to "guarantee a winner" of horse races. Cameras followed a member of the public, Khadisha, as Brown anonymously sent her correct predictions of five races in a row, before encouraging her to place as much money as she could on the sixth race.

To demonstrate the system to the viewer, Brown tossed a coin showing ten heads in a row to prove it was not impossible, just highly improbable.

After Brown had placed a bet of £4,000 of Khadisha's money on a horse in the final race, he explained that "The System" did not really exist. He had started by contacting 7,776 people and split them into six groups, giving each group a different horse. As each race had taken place 56 of the people had lost and were dropped from the system. Brown had a different person backing each horse in each race, and one individual, Khadisha, won five times in a row. This was similar to the coin flipping earlier: rather than having a predictive technique, Brown had tossed a coin repeatedly until ten heads had come up in a row, taking over nine hours to produce the required film. Brown expressed the opinion that the principle behind "The System" (essentially confirmation bias or survivorship bias) is what is behind belief in spiritualism or homeopathic and alternative medicine.

After the selected horse in the final race lost, and Khadisha was convinced that she had lost all her borrowed money, Brown told Khadisha to look again at the betting slip in her hand. The ticket showed the winning horse's name, meaning Khadisha kept her stake and received winnings of £13,000. Brown claimed that he had decided to bet on a different horse when he got to the booth.[21]

At the end of the show, a title card explained that "at each stage of the process, participants who did not make it to the next round were offered a complete refund of any bets they had placed."[22]

Derren Brown: Hero at 30,000 Feet (2010)

On 8 September 2010, Brown presented a new special on Channel 4 entitled "Derren Brown: Hero at 30,000 Feet".[23] The programme consisted of Brown taking a man called Matt Galley, a normal person stuck in a rut in his life, and throughout the programme coaches him to take control of life and achieve his aspirations. The programme was divided into chapters to introduce different stages in the transformation, many of which were undertaken without the subject knowing of Brown's involvement (via cooperation with Galley's parents and girlfriend to set up cameras in his house). At one stage Brown visits Galley in the middle of the night, but leaves him believing it was a dream.

During the program Galley is put through a series of challenges, including being the victim of an armed robbery, touching a live crocodile, illicitly entering a policeman's home, lying on a train track in a straitjacket strapped to the line whilst a train approached him (the first challenge when he knew he was awake and that Brown was involved in this). The show culminated in Galley travelling on a plane where the pilot had supposedly been incapacitated.

Galley, who had not been on a plane in 10 years and had a fear of flying, joined a flight travelling from Leeds to Jersey (where he has been told that a fake game-show presented by Brown was to be filmed). The plane flight crew, stewards and stewardesses were real, but the rest of the passengers were actors. During the flight the cabin crew announced that the captain had been taken ill and asked for a volunteer to land the plane. At the last minute Galley volunteered, whilst walking up to the front of the plane he was placed into a trance by Brown. After landing Galley was placed into a cockpit flight simulator and woken up. He was talked through how to land the plane by a person claiming to be ground control. Galley completed the challenge successfully and then emerged from the simulator, to meet Brown and all the actors involved in the programme plus his family and friends.

Brown responded to skepticism about the show on his blog, noting many aspects of the show's production that were edited from the televised version simply due to time constraints. He also confirms Donnie Darko, Fight Club, The Game and Watchmen as influences for the show. He went on to say, "this has been my favourite show to work on – most ambitious, most involved, most demanding and by far the most joyful. I consider it my fondest and best...."[24]

Derren Brown: Miracles for Sale (2011)

Derren Brown: Miracles for Sale is a feature length program about the controversial practice of faith healing. In the show Brown attempted to turn a member of the British public into a "faith healer" and to convincingly give a faith healing show to church goers in Texas.[25] The show premièred 25 April 2011 on Channel 4.

Other television appearances

An interview with Brown[26] was featured in Richard Dawkins' two-part documentary series The Enemies of Reason. Brown explained various psychological techniques used by alleged psychics and spiritual mediums to manipulate their audiences. The most notable is cold reading, a technique about which Brown talked extensively in his book Tricks of the Mind. Some video footage was also used from Brown's TV special Messiah.

As part of Channel 4's 3D season, Brown presented Derren Brown's 3D Magic Spectacular.[27][28] The show was not a new special from Brown, rather he was the presenter for a number of other magicians and clips that were shown. However, he did include one clip in which he found an object that had been hidden in the streets of Venice by a volunteer.

In January 2011, to celebrate 10 years since the his first television appearance, Channel 4 held a special Derren Brown Night. Along with re-showing The Heist (which won a recent poll of favourite specials) and one of his Enigma Live shows the channel screened a special documentary; Derren Brown: Behind The Mischief, a personal and candid film about Brown. The documentary included the story of how he met his co-writer (who featured in Seance), his mother's feelings about his involvement in Russian Roulette, and an emotional visit back to his old school, university and the Bristol bars where he first began his close-up magic. Celebrities contributors included Matt Lucas, Jo Whiley, Stephen Merchant and Simon Pegg.

Stage shows

Derren Brown Live (2003–2004)

Brown's first live stage show was Derren Brown Live, which he performed in the UK in 2003. The tour was then extended into 2004.

Something Wicked This Way Comes (2005–2006)

Brown's second live stage show, Something Wicked This Way Comes, toured around the UK following its success in the West End. The tour began in March 2005 at the Cambridge Theatre and finished in May at the Hammersmith Apollo. The run was then once more extended into the following year, being performed and filmed for a final time at the Old Vic Theatre in mid-June 2006.

A 90-minute edit of this show was broadcast on 29 December 2006 and 10 June 2007, on Channel 4, on 10 May 2008 and 17 Jan 2009 on E4 and once more on 17 June 2008 on Channel 4; a longer, unedited version was released on DVD in May 2008. The show won the Laurence Olivier Award for Best Entertainment Show 2006. The show was co-written and directed by his long time collaborator Andy Nyman. The title is a direct quote from William Shakespeare's Macbeth; Act 4, scene 1, line 45.

Mind Reader – An Evening of Wonders (2007–2008)

Brown's third live stage show toured the United Kingdom in 2007 and 2008. "Derren Brown, Mind Reader — An Evening of Wonders", began 29 April 2007 in Blackpool, and ended 17 June in Bristol.

The show toured again from February until April 2008 throughout the UK, and concluded with a West End run at the Garrick Theatre during May and early June. The West End run was a strictly limited season of 32 performances only. A performance from the last week of the tour at the Garrick Theatre was filmed for Channel 4 and aired on 13 January 2009.

Derren Brown – Enigma (2009–2010)

Enigma is the name of Brown's 2009/10 stage tour, directed by Andy Nyman. It began in Chatham on Friday 17 April 2009, visiting various UK towns before ending in London with a month at the Adelphi Theatre starting Monday 15 June 2009. The show includes Brown attempting to put the entire audience into a trance (he makes it clear this is not hypnotism and will not affect everyone). At the end of the show Brown requests that audience members, particularly reviewers and the press, do not reveal the show's secrets and surprises to others to avoid spoiling the fun. The show toured the UK again during the first half of 2010. Enigma was nominated for an Olivier award on the 8th of February 2010, Brown's second nomination for an Olivier following his 2006 show Something Wicked This Way Comes.[29] It was announced on Brown's blog that Enigma will be released on DVD as part of a box set containing three of his live shows Something Wicked This Way Comes, An Evening of Wonders and Enigma ready for a January 2011 release. Enigma was shown on Channel 4 on 6 January 2011 before the release of the box set.[30] It also aired on both 7 and 8 January 2011, the latter forming a part of 'Derren Brown Night'.


Advertisement for Svengali, Shaftesbury Theatre, London

Derren Brown's 5th tour, entitled Svengali, opened on 9 March 2011 in Brighton and is planned to run until at least June 2012.[31] It is Brown's first show that is not written in collaboration with Andy Nyman.


Brown has written four books on magic: Absolute Magic, Pure Effect, Tricks of the Mind, and Confessions of a Conjuror. The first two books he penned are intended solely for practitioners of magic and mentalism, whilst his books Tricks of the Mind and Confessions of a Conjuror are aimed at the general public.

Absolute Magic, subtitled A Model for Powerful Close-Up Performance, is not so much about magical methodology as about how magicians can make their performances magical; it is written in a variety of styles: sometimes humorous, sometimes serious. He warns against an act that conveys the feeling of "Here are some tricks I've bought" and urges magicians to make their performances experiential and memorable by involving the audience. In some respects a lot of what he says is evocative of the content of Darwin Ortiz's Strong Magic but his book expresses it in the context of his experiences, performance style and theories of how performance should be. (Out of print)

Pure Effect is a more traditional book of trickery and technique and offers an insight into some of the methods that Brown employs, and offers a starting point for development for the reader's own use. (Out of print)

Tricks of the Mind is Brown's first book intended for the general public. It is a wide-ranging book in which Brown reveals some of the techniques he uses in his performances, delves into the structure and psychology of magic and discusses hypnosis. He also applies his insight to the paranormal industry, looking at the structure of beliefs and how psychology can explain why people become 'true believers'. He also offers autobiographical stories about his own experiences as a former Christian, and discusses his scepticism about religion, allegedly 'psychic' mediums and sundry other belief systems.

Confessions of a Conjuror was published by Channel 4 Books in October 2010. (ISBN 978-1-905-02657-9)

Other productions and publications

Brown has recorded some audio extracts from Tricks of the Mind. In them he expounds on the three subjects essential to his performance—Magic, Memory, and Hypnosis. The extracts last around 40 minutes each, disclosing tips and techniques Brown uses in his acts (as well as day-to-day) and narrating the highlights of his book.

The Devil's Picturebook is a near 3 hour home-made video. The first half explains in detail some classic card routines from his earlier career as a conjurer, all of which rely on sleight of hand, misdirection and audience management. The second looks at psychological card routines and shows a distinct move towards mentalism, for which he is now known. It is an instructional video for aspiring magicians and not an entertainment piece. For this reason, it was available only to practitioners through a password-protected "magicians only" area of his website. The clue to the password tells you that the word itself begins with T and is a type of palming trick.[32]

International Magic Presents: The Derren Brown Lecture is an 80-minute lecture DVD of close-up mentalism and subsequent discussion of various aspects of Brown's performance. Again, this product is not intended for general consumption but is directed at magicians and mentalists only.

In 2007, Brown performed in the short film Medium Rare.[33]

In 2008, Brown made a guest acting appearance in BBC Four's Crooked House as Sir Roger Widdowson.[34]

In 2008, Brown provided caricatures for "The QI "F" annual".

In 2009, a book, Portraits, was released containing a selection of Brown's paintings and bizarre caricatures of celebrities.

In 2010, Brown appeared in a special Comedy Gala for Channel four and Great Ormond Street Hospital. He appeared with Kevin Bishop, who played his jealous annoying twin 'Darren'.

DVD releases

Title Release Date Information
Derren Brown: Inside Your Mind 6 October 2003 (re-released 16 April 2007) Footage and some unused footage from Brown's Mind Control series.
Trick of the Mind: Series 1 25 April 2005 The first series of the Channel 4 show Trick of the Mind.
Trick of the Mind: Series 2 27 March 2006 The second series of the Channel 4 show Trick of the Mind
Something Wicked This Way Comes 5 May 2008 A DVD release of the stage show with the same name, including segments not shown on Channel 4.
Derren Brown: The Specials 3 November 2008 A collection of four of Derren Brown's one-off television specials: The Heist, The System, Séance, and Russian Roulette.
Derren Brown: An Evening Of Wonders 18 May 2009 A DVD release of the stage show with the same name.
Derren Brown: Enigma 17 January 2011 A DVD release of the stage show with the same name.
Derren Brown: Live Collection 17 January 2011 A collection of three of Derren Brown's stage shows: Something Wicked This Way Comes, An Evening Of Wonders, and Enigma.


In a Daily Telegraph article published in 2003 Simon Singh criticised Brown's early TV appearances, arguing that he presented standard magic and mentalism effects—such as the classic Ten Card Poker Deal trick—as genuine psychological manipulation.[35] On Brown's television and live shows he often appears to show the audience how a particular effect was created—claiming to use techniques such as subliminal suggestion, hypnosis, and body language reading. Singh's suggestion is that these explanations are dishonest. Furthermore, Singh took exception to the programme's website being categorised under Channel 4's "Science" section. The mini-site was moved to Entertainment for later series. In his book Tricks of the Mind, Brown writes,

I am often dishonest in my techniques, but always honest about my dishonesty. As I say in each show, 'I mix magic, suggestion, psychology, misdirection and showmanship'. I happily admit cheating, as it's all part of the game. I hope some of the fun for the viewer comes from not knowing what's real and what isn't. I am an entertainer first and foremost, and I am careful not to cross any moral line that would take me into manipulating people's real-life decisions or belief systems.

Brown claims to never use actors or "stooges" in his work without informing the viewers. In Tricks of the Mind, Brown writes that to use such a ploy is "artistically repugnant and simply unnecessary"; furthermore, he "would not want any participant to watch the TV show when it airs and see a different or radically re-edited version of what he understood to have happened".[18]


Brown claims to use a variety of methods to achieve his illusions including traditional magic/conjuring techniques, memory techniques, hypnosis, body language reading, cognitive psychology, cold reading and psychological, subliminal (specifically the use of PWA – "perception without awareness") and ideomotor suggestion.

Psychological illusions

In an interview published in New Scientist, Brown says that he first developed many of his "psychological illusion" skills through his training in hypnotherapy before he was involved in learning close-up magic. When asked how he was able to produce various psychological illusions such as apparent mind-reading, lie detection and hypnotic induction, Brown claimed to be able to read on subtle cues such as a micro-muscle movements that indicate to him if someone is lying or holding something back. He also states that his participants are carefully selected based on their suggestibility and responsiveness which is common in stage hypnosis. He believes that the presence of a television camera also increases responsiveness.[36]

Neuro-linguistic programming

Several authors have claimed that Brown uses neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) in his act which "consists of a range of magical 'tricks', misdirection and, most intriguing, setting up audiences to provide the response that he wishes them to provide by using subtle subliminal cues in his conversation with them."[37] In response to the accusation that he unfairly claims to be using NLP whenever he performs, Brown writes "The truth is I have never mentioned it outside of my book". Brown does have an off-stage curiosity about the system, and discusses it in the larger context of hypnotism and suggestion.[18][38] In his book "Tricks of the Mind" he mentions that he attended an NLP course with Richard Bandler, co-creator of NLP and mentor of Paul McKenna, but suggests that the rigid systems of body language interpretation employed by NLP are not as reliable as its practitioners imply. He also mentions the NLP concept of eye accessing cues as a technique of "limited use" in his book "Pure Effect".[39] The language patterns which he uses to suggest behaviours are very similar in style to those used by Richard Bandler and by the hypnotist from whom Bandler learned his skill, Milton H. Erickson. Brown also mentions in his book 'Tricks of the Mind' that NLP students were given a certificate after a four-day course, certifying them to practice NLP as a therapist. A year after Brown attended the class, he received a number of letters saying that he would receive another certificate, not for passing a test (as he discontinued practising NLP following the course), but for keeping in touch. After ignoring their request, he later received the new certificate for NLP in his mailbox, unsolicited.[40]

Personal life

Brown was an evangelical Christian in his teens, but became an atheist in his twenties. This is discussed by Brown in the Messiah special, and in his book Tricks of the Mind.[18] In an interview with Professor Richard Dawkins, Brown explained he sought to strengthen his belief and provide answers to common criticisms of religion by reading the Bible and other Christian religious texts, but upon doing so found none of the answers he sought and came to the conclusion that his belief (in Christianity) had no basis.[41]

Big Issue website described Brown as being "playfully mendacious".[42] Although it has been said that Brown is banned from every casino in Britain,[43] other sources report that casinos welcome the publicity from his visits.[42]

In an interview with the Independent in 2007 Brown stated that he is gay.[44]

In an interview with the Radio Times in 2011 Brown talked more about his sexuality, stating that he is blissfully happy in a relationship. He said, "I spent a lot of time thinking about me and working on what I wanted to be before I came into a relationship. In some ways, it’s bad because you come into relationship quite late without a lot of experience and you have a lot to learn. But that can also be exciting. Certainly, it’s lovely to have somebody love you and it’s lovely to love someone else." [45]

Since 2004 Brown has been the patron of the registered charity the Parrot Zoo Trust at Friskney in eastern Lincolnshire near Boston, England.[46]


  1. ^ "Art by Derren Brown". Retrieved 2010-06-10. 
  2. ^ a b Derren Brown: Behind the Mischief, Channel 4]]
  3. ^ David Jenkins (2009-06-09). "Derren Brown interview". London: Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 2009-09-04. 
  4. ^ "Derren Brown Interviews". Loaded Magazine. Retrieved 2009-09-04. 
  5. ^ "Bristol Uni Alumni". 2007-01-05. Retrieved 2008-03-11 
  6. ^ Fleckney, Paul (18 February 2008). "Be careful what you think — it's Derren Brown". Your Local Guardian. Retrieved 2008-03-11. [dead link]
  7. ^ "Derren Brown". Retrieved 2008-09-09. 
  8. ^ Rayner, Jay (4 November 2005). "I know what you're thinking". The Guardian (London). 
  9. ^ Flett, Kathryn (8 May 2005). "Be afraid". The Guardian (London). 
  10. ^ Noise Machine » Derren Brown stunt has kicked up a right stink
  11. ^ It's Sure To Be A Treat. Daily Record. 2008-04-26. Retrieved 2008-11-25 [dead link]
  12. ^ "The Events « Derren Brown Blog". 2009-08-12. Retrieved 2009-09-02. 
  13. ^ Wormwood Scrubs and Derren Brown Investigates, Sam Wollaston, The Guardian, 11 May 2010
  14. ^ "Derren Brown Investigates – Episode Guide". Channel 4 website. Retrieved 22 May 2010. 
  15. ^ Jersey – Have your say – Derren Brown – Russian Roulette Stunt. BBC (2003-10-08). Retrieved on 2011-02-16.
  16. ^ Interviews. Derren Brown Info. Retrieved on 2011-02-16.
  17. ^ "Magician defends gun stunt fake". 8 October 2003. Retrieved 2006-12-03. 
  18. ^ a b c d e Brown, Derren (2006). Tricks of the Mind. London: Channel 4. ISBN 9781905026265 
  19. ^ "Derren Brown Interview". 2009-09-10. Retrieved 2010-03-01. 
  20. ^ Pettie, Andrew (26 January 2008). "Derron Brown: The System". The Telegraph (London). Retrieved 2008-03-12 
  21. ^ Channel 4. "Derren Brown: The System". Retrieved 2010-09-08. 
  22. ^ Channel 4. "Derren Brown: The System". Retrieved 2011-07-14. 
  23. ^ "Derren Brown Live −08/09/10 – Exclusive Trailer". YouTube. Retrieved 3 September 2010. 
  24. ^ "Hero – Answers to a Few Questions". Derren Brown. Retrieved 11 September 2010. 
  25. ^ "Derren Brown: Miracles for sale - C4, 9pm". 25 April 2011. Retrieved 30 September 2011. 
  26. ^ "Derren Brown Interview — Richard Dawkins". Retrieved 2009-07-03. 
  27. ^ "Channel 4 plans 3D shows, The Queen, Derren Brown – ''''". 2009-08-24. Retrieved 2010-03-01. 
  28. ^ "The Events – ''''". 2009-10-02. Retrieved 2010-03-01. 
  29. ^ "ENIGMA nominated for second Olivier! « Derren Brown Blog". 2010-02-08. Retrieved 2010-03-01. 
  30. ^ "Derren Brown: The Specials – Derren Brown: Enigma – Channel 4". Retrieved 2011-01-01. 
  31. ^ Svengali « Derren Brown
  32. ^ "The Devil's Picturebook". Derren Brown. Retrieved 9 January 2011. 
  33. ^ "Medium Rare the Short Film". Retrieved 2008-03-12 
  34. ^ Interview with Mark Gatiss about Crooked House. BBC. Retrieved 2008-12-20 
  35. ^ Singh, Simon (10 June 2003). "I'll bet £1,000 that Derren can't read my mind". The Daily Telegraph (London). Retrieved 2008-03-12 
  36. ^ Clare Wilson. "The great pretender." New Scientist. London: 30 Jul-5 Aug 2005. Vol. 187, Iss. 2510; p. 36, 2 pages
  37. ^ John Ozimek. Journal of Database Marketing & Customer Strategy Management. London: Apr 2007. Vol. 14, Iss. 3; p. 161, 3 pages
  38. ^ "Does NLP work? Is it the basis of Derren Brown's "mind control" act?". The Straight Dope. 20 November 2007. Retrieved 2008-03-12 
  39. ^ Brown, Derren (2000). Pure Effect. p. 108 
  40. ^ Derren Brown, Tricks of the Mind, Transworld Publishers, 2006, ISBN 9781905026388 Specifically Part Four: Hypnosis and Suggestibility, Section Neuro Linguistic Programming, Sub section, The eyes have it (some of the time)
  41. ^ 'The Enemies of Reason', Channel 4
  42. ^ a b The Big Issue in Scotland – Features – Derren Brown
  43. ^ Wells, Dominic (26 January 2008). "The Derren Brown factor". The Times (London). Retrieved 1 May 2010. 
  44. ^ Pryor, Fiona (24 June 2008). "Inside the mind of Derren Brown". BBC News. 
  45. ^ . 
  46. ^ In 2004 Derren Brown became the proud patron (or has he likes to be known, The Patron Saint) of the registered charity

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