Haim Goldenberg, a “real-life mentalist” and the star of the critically acclaimed television series GoldMind, can (seemingly) bend spoons, read your mind and drive blindfolded through Toronto traffic.
But he’ll be the first to shoot down theories that he possesses supernatural powers and argue that there is no such thing as a psychic.
He said his live shows always begin with a question for the audience: “Who believes in mind-reading…” and as people begin to raise their hands, he adds, “and all this kind of bullshit?”
Thirty-six-year-old Goldenberg, who moved from Israel to Toronto in 2004, said he explains to his audience that it’s not real.
“I don’t have secrets in my show,” he said, adding that he’s opposed to those who “take advantage of people,” by charging them to heal them, predict their future or relay messages from dead loved ones.
“This is terrible in my opinion. Maybe I’m wrong.”
So Goldenberg has chosen to use his talents for good rather than evil.
With a successful, Gemini-nominated reality show under his belt, as well as consistent corporate gigs and live shows, he said he’s happy to entertain and inspire his audiences, not swindle them.
He’s also got a lecture in the works on the subject of achieving skills and goals through the power of believing.
If anything, Goldenberg’s dismissal of supernatural psychic abilities makes his talent that much more mysterious and impressive.
If he wasn’t born with some kind of otherworldly gift, how has he succeeded in tapping into a part of the brain that eludes the rest of us?
Within minutes of speaking with Goldenberg, it was easy to see why his show, GoldMind, and his live shows have been lucrative.
He possesses the charm, mystique and talent required by a performer, without the old-school, magic-show smoke, mirrors and over-the-top hand gestures.
Despite the success of the first season of GoldMind, which debuted on TVtropolis in 2009, it has yet to be picked up for a second season.
“We’re working on the second season. We don’t know if it’s going to be with TVtropolis because we’re trying to sell it in the U.S. now, so it’s a very long process,” Goldenberg explained.
For those wanting to catch clips of the first season, search YouTube or his Facebook page.
His enthusiasm for mentalism was inspired by famed Israeli mentalist Uri Geller when Goldenberg was just six years old.
When he first saw a television performance by Geller, bending spoons, “for me, he was like a superhero.”
After the show, Goldenberg grabbed a spoon from his kitchen, and tried to emulate his new-found hero.
He did this every day for two years.
One morning, Goldenberg woke up and opened the drawer where he kept his spoons. With his eyes closed, he grabbed a spoon and focused his energy on bending it.
“After five seconds, I felt something strange, but I didn’t want to open my eyes. Suddenly, I saw that the spoon was bent. I was amazed,” he recalled.
“The real story is that one day, my mother took all the spoons in the kitchen and bent them because she was tired of seeing me try everyday.”
But she only told him three years ago, years after he began performing the feat in front of countless audiences.
“I explain almost everything I do with my show, but [spoon bending] is the only thing I don’t explain.”
Geller used to proclaim that his abilities were the result of supernatural powers. Goldenberg insists that anyone with unwavering persistence and some talent can train themselves to do the things he does.
“And even though I have these abilities, I’m not above anybody. Some mentalists or magicians think that because they can ‘read your mind,’ they are better than you.”
He said one of the skills he acquired is learning to read people’s body language, but he’s not talking about the way a shy person might sit with their arms crossed over their chest.
“Body language is something that you need to feel. It’s more like intuition. If you want to get better at reading people’s body language, you have to practise again and again and again.”
To demonstrate, Goldenberg handed me a six-sided die and asked me to choose a number. He said that based on the numbers I chose, he’d be able to predict future decisions.
I chose four. He asked me to either stick with four or chose a different number.
I flipped the die over and saw number 1.
“Now what you did was very simple,” Goldenberg said.
“You were holding the die like this, you turned it over and chose number 1. I can see the way you are thinking.”
He asked me to choose again. I stuck with number 1. Next, I chose five.
Goldenberg explained that based on the information I gave him, based on the way I chose the numbers, my body language, the pattern, he would be able to predict the next two numbers I would choose.
I chose another number and covered it with my hand.
“I know that you are very spontaneous in that what you see is what you take,” Goldenberg said. “But this time, you were different. You chose probably number 3.
He was right. He asked me to do it again.
“This time, you were thinking about what to do and you tried to confuse me. You went to number 1 again.”
He was right.
“It’s about choices. It’s your choice, but I needed to learn the pattern of the way you are thinking. It’s not that I read your mind, but based on [the previous numbers] and based on other things, I knew the others.”
On the other hand, he said he also relies on an indescribable feeling.
It’s like trying to explain the feeling of moving your hand from the left to the right, he said.
“My brain tells my hand to move, but I don’t know what I feel. It’s natural.”
It may feel natural to Goldenberg, but being on the receiving end of one of his demonstrations feels anything but.
After our interview, he asked me to doodle something on a piece of paper, fold it up and put it in my pocket without showing him.
He told me that I might see that same image somewhere at some point later in the day.
I wasn’t too impressed, because I often doodle that same image – a flower – on my notepad, so I was certain that I would see it later.
But I wasn’t prepared for an e-mail from Goldenberg a couple hours after our meeting.
Attached to the email was a photo of the exterior of the Starbucks coffee shop where we meet for our interview.
On the bottom right corner of the image, Photoshopped onto an electrical box, was a hand-drawn flower eerily similar to one I had drawn on the piece of paper that was still folded up in my pocket.
Between his show, his live performances and his new lecture, Goldenberg said his ultimate goal is simple: to help people believe in the power of believing.
“I cannot help you, I cannot heal you, but I can convince you that you can help yourself. I really believe that people can do miracles for themselves.”
Check him out at www.reallifementalist.com.