Guest Lecture by Chris Walden/Saul Ravencraft
Reported by Kent Cummins
Of course there were 13 people at the October meeting of SAM Assembly 206!
Members and guests were treated to a trip down the rabbit hole with Chris Walden and his alter ego, Saul Ravencraft, in a fascinating two-hour session on the subject of “Paranormal Entertainment.”
Chris began by introducing us to Saul Ravencraft, who spoke about some of the attractions at Austin’s Museum of the Weird…including the true story of Emily, who haunted the museum until Saul held a séance…well, if you don’t know the story, you need to visit the museum!
Saul then treated us to three of his signature routines which were both mystifying and entertaining. Chris later said that Saul had done these routines more than a thousand times, and it showed.
First was “The Box,” in which an audience member makes a connection by selecting a card with an artifact to see if it matches the artifact in the box. After much byplay, the connection was made by Paprika. Saul then did a quick palm reading of everyone in the room, explaining the differences between those who were Earth, Wind, Fire, and Water. (I am apparently Fire.)
But the highlight of the performance was definitely “Mystery Trip,” an impossible revelation of a place that Jason was only thinking of. The results went beyond those that could have been achieved simply be a magician’s trick. (Ask anyone who was there about “Prague!“)
Saul took his bow, and then Chris Walden took over with the caveat: “I am not going to try to convince you of anything. Everything I tell you will be through my own unique lens, based on my experiences.” Chris then shared some of those experiences.
“What in the world does it mean to be entertained?” Chris asked the audience, resulting in a long list of activities that might qualify as entertainment for someone. Chris then explained his concept of “Paranormal Entertainment,” which he said must be experiential to be effective. He used his experience in both the realms of traditional magic and paranormal entertainment to contrast the styles and results of each.
Chris explained that he felt that often the results were bigger than just a trick, the effect itself, or a story.
Chris then broke down Saul’s performance, bit by bit, explaining not just how each bit was done, but why it was done the way it was. “The Box” turned out to be inspired by Ed Solomon, based on a trick by Aldo Colombini! The Palm Reading was just that: classic palm reading (no tricks). And the Mystery Trip…well, you had to be there.
Finally, Chris shared his thoughts and experiences in “doing it for real,” admitting that his search as a skeptic had led him to some truly unusual places.
Everyone who attended also got an extensive bibliography of relevant publications.