I was really disappointed in Criss Angel and in the stunt he pulled on the live “Mindfreak” show last week. (I only just watched my DVR of the show – it was live for me.) Of course, we know that Angel pulls camera tricks, and that all his “live” acts are not actually totally live and unedited. Well, it seems obvious to me, anyway. But he went up a lot in my estimation last year when he called out pretend psychic Jim Callahan on live TV. Anyone who shows up one of these frauds on live TV must be OK, you would think. But what to make of someone who doesn’t show much integrity himself?
SPOILERS FOLLOW. If you haven’t seen the show and don’t want the ending spoiled, don’t read any further.
OK, this is what happened. The setup is that Criss is handcuffed to the balcony of a building that is going to be demolished exactly four minutes after Criss starts his escape. He has to escape from the handcuffs, open several locked doors, and get to the waiting helicopter on the roof before the building explodes. What we are shown via the fixed cameras left in the building, is that Criss is still in the building, unable to open the last door, and fails to reach the roof in time and the building explodes with him in it. A few minutes later, Criss is shown, covered in dust, emerging from the rubble, as though he had been in the building and survived the demolition. Obviously, this was faked.
What we actually saw, and what was obviously planned, is footage of Criss taken earlier running up the stairs, trying to open the locks etc. In reality Criss had actually escaped via a hidden ground floor door or window to a nearby safe retreat. After the explosion, and just before the dust settled, he scuttled over to where the building had been, and emerged, feigning shock, injury, etc. Totally lame.
How do we know this was faked? Well, because obviously he wasn’t in the building when it went up, because no one would have walked away from that. Occam’s Razor – the most parsimonious explanation is that he faked the film. But there is more. Reporters at the Fox 13 local TV station think they saw Criss running back just after the blast:
In the seconds after the blast, when dust was still filling the air, someone dressed in a dark shirt and ballcap -- like Criss' -- appeared to run out of a neighboring building and hide among the debris in front of the now-demolished hotel. Watching the A&E footage closely, his ballcap is visible amidst the debris several seconds before he 'miraculously' appears in that same location.
There were other tell tales. For example, all the cameras inside the building went to the one same snowy image at the same time just before the explosion. But several cameras don’t all go to the one image for any reason I can think of, unless it was pre-edited. Also, there are inconsistencies in the film sequences – some shots show him with handcuffs hanging from his pocket, others do not – that suggest some of the film was shot earlier.
See the video below for an explanation from the TV crew.
Now OK, I know Criss does illusions. He makes you think you see something that didn’t actually happen. That's his job. And I get he sometimes pushes the camera tricks a little more than is strictly kosher. But this was billed as a dangerous stunt – so dangerous he promised his dear old Mum he would never do anything so dangerous ever again. Aah. In reality there was little danger. Oh sure, for most people it would have been extremely dangerous. But Criss is an escape artist who gets paid millions for this stuff. For him, this was nothing. Certainly nothing like he was claiming. After he had removed the handcuffs, there was nothing stopping him from escaping. (The window he kicked in when he “couldn’t” open the door, was obviously a trick window. Windows on balconies in Florida don't just break when kicked.) Pretty lame considering it was claimed before this trick that with this stunt, Angel might exceed even what Houdini had achieved. Hardly. In reality it was a nothing but a damp squib, a lame and disappointing end to the series. And sadly, I think with this faked trick pretending to be something else, he has lost all credibility in calling out any more Jim Callahans.