The Derren Brown Blackpool video is one of the most amazing clips I’ve ever seen in my life.
It involves Derren convincing a stranger to hand over their watch, phone and keys in under 30 seconds just by asking them to.
This is the clip that first got me interested in hypnosis and I still find it incredible to watch all these years later. Watch the clip and then I’ll explain some of how he did it.
How did he do it?
I want to explain this because many people think it involves magic, demonic powers or other such nonsense.
It’s nothing more than science and understanding the way the mind works.
Do not try this yourself. It may be an excellent example of these techniques but it is not something I’d ever recommend doing.
It isn’t as easy as just knowing what to do anyway, just following these steps won’t work. It takes lots and lots of practice!
How he did it
Several techniques are in use here. Let me explain each one and how they all work together to produce the end result.
Mirroring is when you copy someone’s posture, movements and habits so it’s like they’re looking at themselves in a mirror.
Right from the start of the clip, you can see Derren mirroring the man he’s talking to.
If you closely watch couples walking together or eating in restaurants then not only is there a chance of you being arrested but you’ll notice how they copy each other’s movements closely.
They often pick up their glasses at the same time and move at the same time. They aren’t aware of this consciously, it’s their subconscious mind that is making this happen.
Now here’s the interesting thing about mirroring: once you have got into the same rhythm as your partner you can control their movements without them even knowing! This is known as leading.
You can do this yourself with a friend. Don’t tell them what you’re doing but copy the way they’re sitting, move your arms when they do and copy every little thing they do.
Don’t make it too obvious otherwise they catch on and it won’t work. If you make it too subtle then it also won’t work. It takes a lot of practice to get it right and it works better on some people than others.
Notice how Derren is standing just like the man is. He points in the same way at the same time and he looks like the mirror image of the man. When the camera pans down a little you can see his arm is even hanging loose like the man’s arm is.
Notice Derren’s quick look at the man at 13 seconds in. He’s seeing how well this is working and if he can start to lead the man.
It’s down there
Soon after the mirroring, Derren states “It is down there” and the man agrees by saying “Yeah”.
I’m not exactly sure whether this is a reference to the subconscious mind or if it somehow deepens the mans “state” of following Derren. It might be nothing but I’m sure there is a meaning to it.
The far more important thing to spot here is what happens when Derren steps back – the man steps forward towards him.
This is a vital sign that the man is now following Derren’s lead. He is now “primed” as we call it and ready to start work.
You’re happy to give that to me
Immediately after the man has stepped forward Derren asks “You don’t mind me asking, do you? You’re happy to give that to me?”
The man says yes but look at what his mind has just agreed to. The second sentence Derren said was actually a hidden suggestion.
“You’re happy to give that to me“
In his mind, he is now happy to give things to Derren.
When Derren extends his hand, as if to shake hands, he instead holds the man’s wrist.
This is a way of confusing the mind because the action is unexpected. A command given to someone immediately after this confusion state starts will be accepted by the subconscious mind.
The water bottle
Derren asks “Can you just grab that for a second?” and hands the man a bottle. This is going to be important later on so remember it.
He follows up straight after with requests for the man to hand over his possessions.
Notice how the man seems to be in some sort of “trance” when he does this. That’s due to his mind being confused by the sequence of events above.
Derren has bypassed the critical faculty which you can read more about on my page on how hypnosis works.
The man is now open to suggestions but only for a short time. Notice how Derren keeps looking around ready to exit if needed!
He hurries the man along because this state of confusion doesn’t last long.
Once his work is done, Derren shakes the man’s hand and says “You’re fine”.
This reassures the man that it’s fine, nothing is wrong. It adds a bit of time needed for him to run before the man’s critical faculty goes back on duty and realises something is wrong!
Back to the bottle
That’s how it’s done and in real-life scams, the person would have already passed the watch on to someone else who then passes it on to someone else.
By the time the poor man realises and approaches the original person he spoke to it’s too late. The original person will act innocent and allow any searches because they no longer have the possessions.
What about that water bottle though?
That’s what we call an anchor.
An anchor in hypnosis saves the state that the person is in at that time. It’s like putting a bookmark in a book so you can find that page quickly later on.
The bottle acts as a bookmark. This is why even after the man approaches Derren and asks for his things back, Derren passes him the bottle and is handed his possessions for the second time!
Holding the bottle takes the man back to the state he was in when he handed over his possessions.
Things to consider
As I said before, do not try this for yourself.
It doesn’t work on everyone as another clip in this show demonstrated. Derren approached an elderly lady at a bus stop and had to run after she rumbled him!
The point of this page is to show how powerful the mind and language is. This power can be used for good or bad.
Remember the anchor in the clip? In hypnotherapy, we use anchors to help clients reach a state of hypnosis more quickly to save them time and money on future sessions.
I prefer to use it to make positive changes in peoples lives and would never do anything such as you see in this clip.