Derren Brown: TV Series

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Series Nine: Derren Brown Investigates broadcast on C4 from May 2010

Programme One The Man Who Contacts the Dead: Monday 10 May 2010 (C4) TVWatch on 4OD

  • DB visits Liverpool to meet Joe Power, a psychic medium who claims he can communicate with the dead and has made contact with John Lennon.
  • JP does a reading for a new client - Vanda - selected by DB's team from a list; she has not met JP before and JP's reading proves to be very accurate.
  • DB explains that JP also does aura readings, and JP reads the auras of some Hollyoaks actors including Chris Fountain and Anthony Quinlan: there is a fair spread of hits and misses in the readings. JP suggests DB should try a reading, and he gives Claire Cooper an accurate reading in her opinion. JP then challenges DB's comments as being too general and offers some specific details about the car that she drives. A little later in the programme, DB's driver comments that Claire Cooper drove past JP and parked next to him.
  • DB attends one of JP's shows and makes the observation that for an audience who have lost people the atmosphere is one of people wanting entertainment, not of sombre grieving. During the show JP gets many hits but it transpires in interviews after the show that many of the people have had readings from JP previously.
  • Professor Richard Wiseman is introduced as an expert on cold reading and five elements of cold reading and explained and exemplified:
    • make the connection: using a name to make a connection for the sitter
    • sitter does the work: where the sitter explains details of the medium's generalisations
    • Barnum statements: generalised and widely applicable comments
    • the 're-cap': medium repeats what the sitter has told them
    • the blame game: if there are few or no hits, the spirits or sitter is blamed
  • DB proposes an experiment in with JP will provide a reading for a sitter without being able to see them or speak to them. He refuses to accept the challenge claiming he needs to communicate with the sitter to be able to read for them.
  • JP does a reading for sitter who responded to an advert placed by DB. The sitter, Ros, is not a sceptic and wants to make a connection, but the reading is not very successful and JP blames it on DB having met Ros earlier in the day.
  • In a reflection on the investigation, DB muses that the comfort offered by the medium could be seen to be more important than the source of the information.
  • DB tells the audience that weeks later it transpired that Vanda's next door neighbour is JP's sister and that he has done readings for several people in her street; JP describes it as a 'coincidence'.

Programme Two The Men with X-Ray Eyes: Monday 17 May 2010 (C4)

  • DB travels to Holland with Judy Dunk, a British woman who has been blind since 1995 to explore the claims made by Vyacheslav Bronnikov, the founder of the Bronnikov method, that people can learn to see without using their eyes. Bronnikov believes that he can create a new super man and that everyone can benefit from this system; they believe they can teach the blind to see, even those without eyes.
  • Details of the different levels through which practitioners move are explained by proponents of the method, but they all seem vague and confusing. Fundamentally, Level 1 is about channelling energy through the body without light and it is this energy which will allow the blind to see; Level 2 uses the psychic energy to initiate a 'psycho bio computer' which creates a blank screen before the eyes' Level 3 allows the real world to be seen on the screen. There are a total of 18 levels, but only these three have been written so far.
  • Bronnikov's son, Vladimir, uses his insight to diagnose Judy's physical condition and details specific problems with her spine. A comparison of an x-ray of her spine shows no correlation with the description.
  • A boy with cerebral palsy is given a prognosis by Vladimir and is told he can cure himself if he uses his brain in the right way.
  • DB contacts a Ukranian university professor to get a scientific opinion of the Bronnikov method: he is given no positive information.
  • In interviews the language used by people who are repeating courses is similar to the language used by faith healers, and some feel they are getting personal benefits from the courses. Judy, however, sees the whole thing as a 'load of rubbish'.
  • In a final meeting between DB and Vyacheslav Bronnikov, DB asks him to tell him what is inside a sealed cardboard box using his vision; VB refuses to accept the challenge.

Programme Three The Ghosthunter: Monday 31 May 2010 (C4) TVWatch on 4OD

  • DB visits Philadelphia to meet Lou Gentile who describes himself as an exorcist and demonologist who has been helping the haunted and possessed of America for the past 20 years. He believes he has photographed ghosts and recorded messages from them and has evidence to support his claims.
  • LG shows DB a film of a person who is 'oppressed' by a spirit which means the spirit regularly enters and leaves their body; clips of the exorcisms are also shown.
  • DB joins LG in a house where its owner - Judy - is living with supernatural activity. LG uses electronic voice phenomena (EVP) as part of his investigations and the process whereby he records himself asking questions of the spirits and leaving pauses for them to answer is shown. When the recording is played, there are crackling static-like noises in the gaps and it is these which LG will analyse.
  • A minister - Father Joe - is introduced who regularly works with LG and believes in his abilities to hunt ghosts.
  • As a result of the analysis of the EVP recording, LG proceeds to an exorcism at Judy's house with Fr Joe's help; the exorcism includes prayers and supplications, the use of incense, the display of a relic (a piece of Jesus's cross) and finally marking the doorstep with three crosses and the date to mark the time at which the house started to welcome angels.
  • DB and LG visit a local graveyard at 2am to try to photograph human spirit activity but have no success; LG suggests is may be because it is too cold.
  • LG explains his passion for ghost hunting is a result of being tormented as a child and never having been taken seriously.
  • LG shows DB a collection of photographs which he believes are compelling physical evidence of ghosts' existence as he shows where he can see faces in the pictures. DB is sceptical and suggests he can see other things in the photographs, in the same way in which LG is hearing what he wants to hear in the EVP.
  • DB suggests that there is a middle area between scepticism and belief and it is a position in which people fool themselves so completely that they believe in their ideas; there is the implication that their intentions are therefore not malicious.
  • DB meets Professor Michael Sperling who is an expert on epilepsy and he shows a recording of a woman having a pseudo-seizure, or psychogenic seizure, which is a non-epileptic, stress-related fit. The footage is very similar to the clip of the person oppressed by a spirit.
  • DB and LG meet Roger Boyell, who acts as an expert witness in court cases analysing sound recordings: he claims the EVPs are merely static and electronic interference.
  • DB has a go at using EVP and asks the spirits to remain silent to prove their existence: when the recording is played back, there are the usual sounds of static.
  • DB links many of the interviewees' experiences to alien abduction experiences and mentions the recognised condition of sleep paralysis.
  • The programme concludes with the news that Lou Gentile died on 28 June, 2009 and that his family plan to preserve his archive for the future.

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