Ancient Astronauts

A religious artefact, or evidence we’ve had some advanced visitors?

I was just reading about this very intriguing theory. If you’ve seen Prometheus, the latest Indiana Jones one, or even Transformers you’ll already be familiar with the theory that thousands of years ago, human evolution had a helping hand from “visitors”.

Some people believe that amazing ancient constructions like the pyramids and stonehenge were constructed with extraterrestrial assistance, and that civilisations like the Mayans might have had some help with their maths and astronomy. In most religious texts, strange UFO-like beings with superior knowledge are always descending from the sky in balls of fire. But were they really based on aliens? It’s an exciting idea, isn’t it?! I’m going to check out ‘Chariots of the Gods’ by Erich von Daniken, meanwhile, have a look at the pictures below and judge for yourself. What do you think?  Continue reading


What are you most afraid of?

Ethan Hawke has some justifiable fears, in Sinister (2012)

I recently saw a brilliant film called Sinister as part of the Film4 Frightfest (check out the trailer) and it made me think about the stuff that sends shivers down the spine. Some fears are definitely more rational than others. Lots of people are scared of the dark which sort of makes sense from an evolutionary point of view when you think about it, and explains why most horror films are so gloomy.

But just look at all the other stuff people are scared of. Tetraphobics are afraid of the number 4, and Xanthophobics are terrified of the colour yellow! And if you suffer from Papaphobia you should probably steer clear of the Vatican.

Some experts think we enjoy horror films so much because they show us what we don’t need to fear. Watching a woman give birth to Satan definitely puts your own problems into perspective.

Speaking of fear, do you know about the Wilhelm scream? It’s one of the best sound effects ever, and has been used in so many classic films. I love this compilation video:


The Art of Influence

Don Draper: selling people things they didn’t know they wanted

A big part of magic is understanding how people think, so most magicians are really interested in psychology – and I’m no exception. People are always going to be unpredictable, that’s why they’re so interesting! But understanding why they do the things they do, and guiding their thoughts in certain directions – on or off stage – is sometimes just a case of knowing the techniques. And it can be especially useful if you have something major you’re trying to sell, like a house or a car.

Every hypnotist knows that in the battle of willpower versus imagination, imagination will always win. Have you noticed how estate agents always say things like “When you have friends round you could sit out on the patio here,” and “This could be your kid’s room”? It’s all about getting us to vividly picture ourselves in the house and is not too far from what a hypnotist does. Appeal to their imagination every time, and you can get people feeling positive about almost anything.

If you’re trying to sell something, it’s really important to tailor your pitch to the person you’re selling to. People like different things about cars, for example a gadget geek might be interested in the tech while someone else might prefer the speed or the finish. Listen to what they’re telling you, rather than making assumptions.

I’ve found that body language isn’t really a great guide to what people are thinking. In my experience, staying in the moment and being intuitive is much better than trying to analyse physical signals.

You can read more tips like these in this interview I did with WIRED magazine last year. The Wikipedia page on Persuasion has a lot of interesting stuff on it, too.