I've seen about two dozen of his shows on satellite and I confess to being stumped on several occasions. On others, I'm somewhat amazed that he'd have the guts to do what he does as some of his stuff isn't faked but is rather simply a stunt ... like being wafted through the air suspended from a helicopter by four lines hooked to cables attached to pins stuck through the skin in his back. Or, a semi-magic trick like walking down the side of a building suspended by "unknown magical forces" aka. inviso-line Kevlar -250 lb test. Now, although being suspended by a line isn't "magic" it still takes a lot of balls to just hang in there and trust technology. I'd certainly take an immediate dump in my pants under those circumstances.
Some of the mind tricks are standard fare but impressive ... if ... you don't understand what's going on. Criss can do some reading of people's minds by studying their faces and body language (as when he located the car keys blindfolded and touching the dealer's forearm to detect signals unconsciously given off by him) but certainly not things that are really specific like names and dates. To accomplish this he does the standard parabolic sonar collector scam, i.e. his associates scan the crowds with a parabolic sound detector and write down info from people's conversations ... then he picks them out of the crowd of passersby and gives them the business of guessing their thoughts. Notice, he doesn't say think of anything at all ... he says "think about a place you were recently at" ... like that ... to narrow down the subject matter to what his associates have picked up by listening to random conversations.
There are other more sophisticated mind readings that seem to me to be a little chancy. As when he guesses Ice's selection of a CD ... and ... the track he mentally selected on that album. Making it easier, Ice didn't choose at random but rather chose one of his own albums. I don't think Criss Angel typically uses an accompliss as his "mark" so we can tentatively rule out simple deceit in most of his tricks.
So, there are tricks he does that I haven't figured out yet.
He does use the occasional bold-faced lie
In the disappearing elephant, a ring of perhaps thirty people holds hands surrounding a full grown elephant and a few of his guys pick up poles with sheets attached to them and run around the elephant so you can't see the animal. Then, they drop the poles with sheets attached and ... voila! ... the elephant is gone. The people surrounding the huge animal gasp in disbelief. Of course, this is a put up job. They simply cut the camera, walk the elephant out and then resume the film. When it's over those participants who are most "awed" and put on the best show are rewarded with and appearance on TV. Obviously, you can't disappear an elephant. You'd have to pick him up real fast and the ASPCA would be all over you ... or ... you could drop him through a cleverly concealed trap door on the floor (but this would be way off budget for A&E, i.e. they'd say, "We won't authorize a $250,000 twenty second trick. Are you crazy? Do something cheaper.". So, by the process of elimination we have "the simple lie" (after all, it's just TV). Oh, you might say, "Well, maybe the elephant is just an illusion" (but no science known to us can produce such a realistic full size illusion) ... or a computer graphic elephant put in after the fact (well maybe, but then, since you'd have to let the people in on the gag as before, why bother with expensive graphics?).
Lying to the people is part of the magician's act. But obvious lies like this should be avoided. A magician should use lies which set the stage for some genuine ability on the part of the magician ... like sawing himself in half. Obviously, Criss Angel can't come in half anymore than anyone else. Hence, he's lying when he says he's going to cut himself in half. But such a lie is in support of the illusion on which he's spent, clearly, a ton of work. So, we all know he didn't cut himself in half but the illusion is so good that we have to consider accepting the lie. In the illusion I'm referring to, he reveals himself to be an accomplished contortionist. How his lower half gets replaced by someone else has me still stumped. It's really a good illusion ... probably the very best cut-in-half illusion ever done.
He did a pull the woman apart in the park illusion which had great shock effect. If this was not an audience-is-in-on-it type trick, this is how it's done. Obviously, the top half woman is a genuine "freak" (I mean in the physical rather than mental sense) who has been born without a lower half (or possibly got that way via accident). This woman is place on top of a contortionist who's lower half is concealed under the wide and long dress. These two practice walking attached like a real unified being until they can pull it off without anyone noticing anything unusual. Then the trick is done and everybody screams and even the TV audience is hooked. It was great. We watched it over and over.
Mr. Angel and all those around him are extremely dedicated and will practice whatever they need to do until they get it right no matter the effort required. He must be able to inspire his associates and helpers to reach their greatest potential else many of the things shown would indeed be impossible. There's the real magic ... getting people to do what's considered impossible on the strength of one's example.
Disappearing motorcycle jump
Here you can see what I mean by dedication. He has experience with motorcycles but not jumping ... so he learns to do a hundred foot jump (with an expert as teacher ... he's not stupid and takes only calculated risks). Whatever it takes. What they don't show you is the many attempts at driving a motorcycle out in the desert where they can't be seen ... and being jerked off that motorcycle with the aforementioned super-strength Kevlar string at high velocity (jumping velocity). Then when the stunt is done, the explosion smokes the air and he's jerked off the cyble maybe 30 feet in the air. He falls down through the smoke onto a prepared landing area and the bike flies through and lands on top of the landing ramp. Obvious but ... damn ... that takes some guts.
Now, it gets a little dicey. He reappears in the crowd a few seconds later. It doesn't seem to take very long at all. And in some other stunts, I see he "reappears" in another place seemingly tooooo fast. So, I have a tentative theory that Criss Angel may be "twins". That would be a really good thing to have going for a magician. You could do illusions that no one else could do. I may be wrong on this but sometimes when he appears elsewhere, I assume, in the time he has to get there ... that he should be winded ... almost completely breathless ... but he's breathing quite normally. Hmmmmmmmm ...
A last trick
One thing a magician can do with TV is simple to "edit". Do a trick a hundred times and if it doesn't work 99 times ... so what? ... show the one that worked and ... the people see just that and figure he can do it every time.
This wasn't the case with predicting the outcome of a short 6 or 7 lap car race. His prediction is in a case suspended by a cable in full view of the audience of hundreds of people. After the race, the box is lowered and inside of that is a big clear plastic tube (about 18 inches long by 6 inches wide) and within the tube is a large paper (about 3 feet square) which he proceeds to unfold and on which is written the names of the winning cars.
Here is another magician's friend ... cutting edge technology. If something is new and not yet available to the general public, they are not familiar with it and you can use it to fool them. When Criss opens the box he reaches in and detaches the USB cable which is linked to the "paper" which is not paper at all but rather something that looks mostly like paper but is made of an electronic weave of whatever they are going to make newspapers out of ... in the future ... and experimental piece that he's borrowed from a friend or admirer who owns a high tech company working on this stuff.
When the race finishes, an associate writes in the winning cars by hand on a tablet computer and this appears on the "paper". Cool. This stuff exists but you can't buy it yet. And if he can just borrow it ... he stays on budget with A&E. Really kool.
Mr. Angel is a man of strong character
If he wasn't, his career would be quickly undone by fame, fortune and floozies. But he's still there ... fortyish but still boyish looking (I'm sure the girls paw him relentlessly) ... he has intense focus. He has two great assets ... he loves what he's doing and is surrounded by caring family and friends who help him to reach his potential. I don't hink you need anything more.
Yup, he's a freak.