Colin Cloud, a trained forensic scientist, has devoted his life to observation.
Colin Cloud, a trained forensic scientist, has often been described as “a real-life Sherlock Holmes.” A native of Scotland, Cloud is traveling with the Illusionists, a national tour featuring eight magicians with different talents. Billed as “the deductionist,” Cloud emulates his childhood literary hero — and perhaps surpasses him. Using observation and deduction, Cloud can tell nearly anything about you.
In advance of The Illusionists: Live from Broadway, Nov. 22-27 at the Overture Center for the Arts, Isthmus played detective, attempting to learn Cloud’s secrets.
What is your favorite Sherlock Holmes story?
Easily “A Study in Scarlet.” It paved the way for the future of crime writing.
Holmes claimed that he could “identify 140 cigarette and cigar brands by their ash alone.” Can you?
It can vary from the sound one’s change makes in their pocket to allow me to calculate how much they have on them, to the hairs one’s pet might leave on their clothing. To list everything I’m noticing and deducing would take at least 20 years, as that’s how long I’ve now been at it and in adding to my bank of knowledge on a daily basis.
You can even identify PIN codes by examining oils left on phone keypads.
Modern mobile phone screens hold an exact track of where your fingers have been and what you’ve been pressing. So make sure to wipe them down. Of course, when the participant is willing, I do have other means of accessing their thoughts.
Can anyone develop this talent?
Probably. What I do isn’t a psychic gift. But knowing what I’m doing and being able to do it are two very different things. You’d need to spend the time learning, memorizing and observing the same things as me.
Is your talent useful socially? Romantically?
The single most important thing is connection with people, the ability to build rapport with people, understand them and listen to them. Really listen to them. Well beyond the mere words they’re speaking, you’ll find that you’ll have a much better understanding of the person sitting in front of you...and behind you, when you get your skills up to par with mine.
Do you find that you’re always “on”? Does your ability ever interfere with, for example, relaxation? Watching TV or a movie?
I’m constantly training my mind and body. If I’m not in the gym working out, I’m paying attention to people and life, always looking for new inspiration. Of course, everyday life is the perfect source of new and wonderful creative ideas. The real key is to learn to turn it off. I don’t like people feeling uneasy — well, too uneasy — around me.
Have you ever worked with law enforcement or as a detective?
Yes. But unfortunately I’m not at liberty to comment on my involvement with them.
Sherlock’s brother Mycroft had even greater reasoning ability. Where do you fall on the Sherlock-Mycroft scale?
Going up against two fictional characters is tough. Needless to say, neither of them had to use their skills in the real world, so I feel I’m at an advantage. It would make for one very interesting poker game.
You have a Watson?
I’ve just placed an ad on Craigslist.