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He knows what you're thinking

A former Army psychologist makes his living by reading minds

A former Army psychologist makes his living by reading minds

June 23, 2002|by RICHARD BELISLE

waynesboro@herald-mail.com

Robert Priest said he's never been struck by lightning, he's not telepathic and he's not the son of a Gypsy.

Yet Priest can read minds. He's been doing it for a living since 1991. He says he's a performer. His show is called "Theater of the Mind," and he says its entertainment.

"Everything I do starts with the power of the mind," he said. "I show what can be done in an entertaining way. I call what I do mind scripting.

"Through my words, actions and thoughts, I'm able to place a thought in another person's mind that then becomes information back to me."

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What Priest does seems a bit more serious than mere entertainment. He breezed through an exercise using a cynical reporter and photographer as subjects by identifying immediately a series of numbers they were thinking about.

In a promotional video of one of his shows, he not only worked out a telephone number a woman had in her mind, he also told her it was her mother's phone number and told her her mother's name.

"It can be learned, said the 55-year-old retired Army lieutenant colonel and father of two grown children.

Priest and his wife, Diana, live in Waynesboro.

"I have no gift," Priest said. "It's not ESP (extrasensory perception). This is very normal. I just use the normal senses. Any 12-year-old can do this."

His modesty belies a bachelors degree in psychology, a masters in human relations and 22 years as an Army psychological officer.

One of his jobs in the Army was to write the kind of demoralizing propaganda leaflets that are dropped on enemy soldiers to get them to surrender.

"I created influence messages," he said.

Priest's degrees and his Army experiences led to his career as a professional mind reader.

He was stationed at Fort Ritchie and started practicing his skills in the post's speakers' bureau.

"I worked up my act there," he said.

He was influenced early in life by The Amazing Kreskin, a mind reader who had his own television show in the 1960s, and Dunninger, who worked first on radio and later on television in the early years.

"They were my first exposure," he said.

Priest does 30 to 35 shows a year around the country.

He'd rather work before large audiences than at small, intimate gatherings.

"A house party with 14 people is challenging, but it works much better in a room with 800 people. I like to work a big room blindfolded," he said.

Corporations and associations hire him to perform at their meetings, training seminars, banquets and other major events, he said.

"I'm something to break the pace after a hard three days of meetings or training sessions," he said.

He said he scans a crowd looking for people who he thinks may have susceptible minds.

"I look for a type, see who's open, having fun. I look at their body posture."

Priest said the people he chooses as subjects are treated like guests.

"What I do is interactive. It's a pleasurable experience for them. No one is ever embarrassed except maybe me sometimes if I can't get it," he said.

He said his success rate at reading minds is 85 percent to 87 percent.

About percent of his business comes through agents, the rest through his home phone and a Web site, he said.

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