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Created by Derren Brown, Andy Nyman
Directed by Ben Caron
Presented by Derren Brown
Country of origin UK
No. of episodes 1
Executive producer(s) Derren Brown, Andrew O'Connor, Anthony Owen
Producer(s) Debbie Young
Editor(s) Alex Pickering
Cinematography Chris Yacoubian
Running time 60mins
Original channel Channel 4
Original airing 7 January 2005

Messiah was a Derren Brown special shown on Channel 4 on 7 January 2005 at 21:00. Brown traveled to the United States to try to convince five leading figures that he had powers in their particular field of expertise: Christian evangelism, alien abduction, psychic powers, New Age theories and contacting the dead.

Using a false name each time, he succeeded in convincing four of the five "experts" that he had powers, and they openly endorsed him as a true practitioner. The fifth expert, the Christian evangelist Curt Nordheilm, whilst impressed by Brown's performance, asked to meet him again before giving an endorsement. The concept of the show was to highlight the power of suggestion with regard to beliefs and people's abilities, and failure to question them. Brown made it quite clear with each experiment that if any of the subjects accused him of trickery he would immediately come clean about the whole thing, a rule similar to one of the self-imposed rules of the perpetrators of the Project Alpha hoax. His conclusion was that people tend to hear only things that support their own ideas and ignore contradictory evidence; this is known in psychology as confirmation bias.


Psychic Powers

Derren Brown asked a leading figure at a psychic training school to go into another room and draw a number of simple pictures on any topic she wished. After each picture had been completed, Brown would have his prediction of what the picture was of written down by the other members of the training school in the room with him. He was mostly correct, the one slight error being a cross instead of a Star of David (though he did state it was some kind of religious imagery - maybe a cross?). On one occasion when Brown was telling the participant to draw the next picture, he instructed the lady to "let some ideas sail into your mind" and not to go "overboard on detail". She drew a boat on water.

UFO Abductee

Derren Brown contacted a leading proponent of UFO abductions, claiming, under his pseudonym, to have been abducted. He further claimed that, since his abduction, he was able to sense a person's medical history and current medical state by touch alone. He invited the lady, and her husband, to decide between them which one he should 'read'. Turning his back and closing his eyes, he waited while one of them made physical contact with him. At this point he stated that the person touching him had or was having trouble sleeping, and had some problem with their heart or throat. Turning around, he further informed the lady that she had had something serious with her throat but that it had been 'decades' ago. He asked if he was close, to which she replied he was exactly correct. She further characterised his reading as 100% accurate, apparently forgetting the allusion to heart problems. She very sincerely endorsed him to camera, and invited him to speak at a meeting of her group. He declined the invitation.

New-Age Theories

Derren Brown instructed a leading new-age theorist to sleep with a machine attached to her pillow for five days. She was told that this machine used crystal technology to record her dreams. In fact it was simply a box with a switch which turned a LED on and off. Brown recalled the dreams correctly, including the fact that some were in black-and-white instead of colour. (Twelve percent of people dream only in black and white[1]). The participant was so impressed that she invited Brown to appear on her radio show the next day, which he declined.


Brown performed seemingly 'instant conversions' on a group consisting of members of the public, almost all of whom were atheists. After the first 'instant conversion' many of the group reportedly chose to leave, concerned by what they had just witnessed. Brown then attempted to 'convert' another individual and then the remainder of the group at once. After this, most participants were questioned and declared a belief in, or openness to the idea of, God, or in "something". At the end of the segment, a notice on screen announced that the participants had all been "de-converted" before they left. Brown did not gain an endorsement from the Christian pastor overseeing the session, Brown saying "to his credit, he wanted to meet again before he'd offer a full, public endorsement". This portion of the show was the only one of the five from which Brown did not receive a public endorsement from the host.

Contacting the Dead

Brown claims to believe that all successful mediums use a technique called cold reading. To illustrate this he arranged a clairvoyant demonstration with "fairly sceptical New Yorkers". During the séance Brown convinced three women into believing that he was in contact with deceased loved ones and during the performance many tears were shed. Afterwards it was explained to the participants that it was a trick, and those appearing agreed to broadcasting the event.


  1. ^ Michael Schredl, Petra Ciric, Simon Götz, Lutz Wittmann (November 2004). "Typical Dreams: Stability and Gender Differences". The Journal of Psychology 138 (6): 485.  

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