As a cultural anthropologist, magician, world traveler, TV host, singer, narrator and former professor, Paul Draper is well-acquainted with all sorts of personalities, myriad academic fields and countless cultures.
And for the things he has yet to experience, the Salt Lake native soaks up facts and figures from the books that fill the 16 cases of his home library from top to bottom — because it is continual learning that helps Draper with the occupation he loves most — mind reading.
After teaching anthropology at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas and performing magic shows at the Venetian Hotel and Casino in his time off, Draper has created of his own breed of "magic show" called "Mysteries of the Mind Starring Paul Draper," which isn't really a magic show at all, Draper said.
"Kids would be bored in this show," he said. "There will not be rabbits or dunce hats. This is magic of the mind."
Draper insists that his skills are not paranormal, yet adds that "the paranormal is nothing more than the 'normal' we have yet to understand."
He said his job as a mind reader, or mentalist, as some call it, is a skill that can be learned by anyone who puts in the effort.
To illustrate this concept, Draper even goes so far as to teach the audience a few of the tricks of his trade.
The key to reading minds, he explains, is twofold: Get to know yourself and your habits, and then be observant of other people and cultures.
Bringing his anthropological studies of Native American Ghost Dancers, South American cannibals and spiritualists into the theory, he teaches how he is able to know anything from a person's occupation to their favorite fairy tale.
"It's like Sherlock Holmes — there are lots of observations," Draper said. "For instance, I can always pick out at least one engineer in the crowd. They see the world differently, in a very predictable way. They have a similar look in their eyes."
Studying human patterns and world truths, Draper said that once we recognize who we are and why we feel a certain way, we can see who others are and why they do certain things.
"We all suffer equally," he said. "All people are scared, feel alone, desire love. We all want to be understood. When we recognize this, we are reading the minds of everyone else."
Still, there are certain characteristics that make every individual tick, he said.
"Every person is a genius at something, be it the piano, mathematics, mechanics or cross stitching," Draper said. "If we can find what they are a genius at, we can connect to them in a very deep and powerful way."
Draper connects to his audiences by treating them like longtime friends, emphasizing his desire for the audience to succeed in whatever they are doing, thereby helping him succeed.
"When we create a situation where the way we achieve what we want is by helping others achieve what they want, it suddenly feels like we are reading minds," he said.
Never revealing whether he believes in the mystical definition of mind reading that many hold, Draper said that if people believe there are mind readers out there, he is doing whatever they are doing.
Perhaps his feel-good style of entertainment is not a traditional magic show, but it is certainly magical, he said.
The show kicks off with Gene Wilder's song "Pure Imagination" from the 1970s movie "Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory," setting the tone for the evening with lyrics like, "Come with me / And you'll be / In a world of / Pure imagination."
The "trumpet call and clarion blast of the show," the song explains that the world is greater than we expect, and there is more that we don't understand, Draper said.
Wilder's song continues, "What we'll see / Will defy / Explanation."
As does his mentalist show, despite the fact that he lets the audience in on some of his tricks.
"I don't explain everything," Draper said. "Like any great showman, my job is to make people want more."
He does so by giving his audience a taste of an enchantment, helping adults see the world the way they might have when they were young.
"Right now the goal for me is to communicate with as many people as possible and bring some wonder into their life," he said. "Magic is so wonderful because, after seeing something magical, we open up our eyes and start to see things new."
"Mysteries of the Mind Starring Paul Draper" will be performed Oct. 14-16, 8 p.m. at the Marriott Center for Dance in the Hayes-Christensen Theatre at University of Utah, 330 S. 1500 East.
Admission is $23.50. For tickets and more information, visit www.kingtix.com
IF YOU GO …
What: "Mysteries of the Mind Starring Paul Draper"
Where: Marriott Center for Dance, University of Utah
When: Oct. 14-16, 8 p.m.
How much: $23.50
e-mail: [email protected]