When I was at Rutgers, one of the deans heard about my skills and invited me into his office,” says mentalist Ted Saint James. “His secretary was running off copies on a Xerox machine. The professor wanted to see if I could stop the machine, which was set for three copies. I concentrated and after three copies, it kept shooting out copies, even after they turned it off and pulled the plug, It kept copying until it ran out of paper. Sometimes I freak myself out.”
Saint James, a Plainsboro resident, appears in “An Evening of Mindreading and Psychic Entertainment,” an interactive evening on Friday, June 4, at Grover’s Mill Coffee House. This is his first general public appearance in 10 years; most of his appearances are for Fortune 500 companies and corporate events.
Joe DeLong, the manager of the music department at Barnes & Noble, MarketFair, opens the show with comedy focusing on growing up and relationships. His R-rated humor has taken him to clubs throughout New Jersey and New York.
Raised in Howell, Saint James is the oldest of five brothers and one sister. “Gifts we received as kids may have led us to our adult lives,” says Saint James. “My brother who received a doctor’s kit became a chiropractor, my brother who received handcuffs became a state trooper, and I received a My Favorite Martian kit.”
He took a psychology course in high school and the rest is history. He became fascinated with the subject and his teacher encouraged him. “The mind, memory, and psychology always interested me. I always enjoyed mind games in magazines and the Amazing Kreskin in the late ’70s, as well as Israeli mentalist Uri Gellar, who used to bend spoons just using his mind,” he says. “I wanted to know what the mind was capable of.”
While working at Great Adventure one summer during high school someone asked him if he thought he could stop the Ferris wheel with his mind. “I got permission from the park, and a number of reporters came out. The first time nothing happened.” But then somebody contacted the TV show “That’s Incredible.” Representatives from the show came out to watch his second try and it worked. “The Ferris wheel slowed down and stopped. The mechanics in the park confirmed it was set on ‘go.’” Saint James then appeared on “Kids Are People Too.”
He began to study on his own and is self-taught in many areas of psychology including intuition and nonverbal communication.
Is his skill an innate talent or a learned ability? “I think it’s something that everyone has innately. I prefer to call it intuition combined with other psychological skills. Knowing how the mind works, you can kind of manipulate the process.”
Saint James attended Rutgers for two years as a psychology major but once he started geting gigs in Atlantic City he transferred to Stockton College and earned a bachelor’s in literature and education in 1984.
He taught high school English in Freehold for eight years and did shows on the side for colleges and corporate events. He eventually left teaching for a full-time career in psychic entertainment.
Prior to each show audience members are asked to fill out index cards with their name and one fact about themselves that they want Saint James to try to guess. He might ask kids to write down a secret wish, like do they want to play shortstop for the Yankees. For adults, he might ask themto write down a fantasy.
“It’s a lot of fun, and there’s built in comedy,” says Saint James. “It’s a combo of mind reading and comedy. We collect the cards and then I’m blindfolded on stage, with two silver dollars over my eyes, surgical tape and then a blindfold, which eliminates all light for me and gets me in a mood to focus.
“I grab a fistful of cards from the bowl, and I try to sense what’s on the cards. I crumple the cards, trying to get impressions. I might call out, ‘Do the initials R.A. mean anything to anyone?’ If someone says yes, I might say, ‘Is your first name Renee?’ Now I say, ‘Renee concentrate on your last name’ or ‘Think of the state you live in. I’m getting Pennsylvania.’”
Saint James says he is right on his first guess 95 percent of the time. “One of the things I do that is super dramatic is I encourage someone to focus on their cell phone number. After the blindfolding I invite that person onstage. I have them take out their cell. I walk to the back of room and ask for someone else’s cell phone. I tell the person onstage, ‘You’re going to concentrate on your cell phone number.’ I will whisper what I get to the person back here. After I get all the numbers I tell them to hit send. You can hear a pin drop. They hit send and the phone goes off onstage.”
He has made numerous radio and television appearances, and often consults for television shows. For NBC’s “The Mentalist” (this was prior to the current CBS drama with the same title) he had the mentalist stand back to back with actress Brittany Snow, each holding a copy of a current script Snow was working on. Both paged through their script and then Snow was instructed to stop and tear out a page and the mentalist followed suit. Then he told her to tear that page in half, then half again, and so on, with the host doing the same, still back to back with Snow. Finally, says Saint James, “He tells Brittany to drop her finger on a word on one of those pieces of torn script. Then he does the same. They each picked the exact same page and the exact same word.”
So, is it magic? “We prefer to call it manipulating a person’s thought process,” says Saint James. “There are subtle ways of influencing people to choose what you want them to choose.”
“I thoroughly enjoy what I do. There’s nothing I enjoy more than seeing people’s reactions. I am a psychic entertainer. When I do a corporate event, most of these hardnosed guys will say, ‘A psychic entertainer? What is this?’ What makes my night is when they come up after the show and say, ‘I don’t know if I completely believe what you did but I had fun’.”
Saint James moved to Plainsboro 15 years ago. He considers it to be the perfect location for him to work in New York, Philadelphia, and Washington, DC.
“I can read people’s thoughts using telepathy, non-verbal communication, and body language,” says Saint James. “This is one of those things that people will talk about for weeks.”
— Lynn Miller
An Evening of Mindreading and Psychic Entertaining, Grover’s Mill Coffee House, 335 Princeton-Hightstown Road, West Windsor. Friday, June 4, 8 p.m. Free. 609-716-8771. www.groversmillcoffee.com.