The Superhero Factor

What is the Meaning of the Superpower Myth?

It’s a very persistent myth—this idea that somehow humans can develop super-powers. It seems to be part of the mass subconscious, and various versions of the concept pop up repeatedly in science fiction comic books, television programs, and movies. One has to be careful to differentiate this concept of the super-human, or more familiarly, the “superman” from the man-machine version, more commonly known as a cyborg, which myth has an equal resiliency, especially lately (i.e., Iron Man). Typically, when such a mythology refuses to go away, it would seem to suggest that subconsciously we are capable of much more than we have been told. Certainly there is an innate intuitive conviction among large segments of the population that such super powers may really be possible—that it is a truth that simply hasn’t yet been validated scientifically, yet. It might even be characterized as a yearning—an inexpressible and pow­erful desire for humanity to be more than it is today, allied with the belief that it can be accomplished. A corollary of this is the suspicion that somehow we have been held back from this evolutionary next step by conspiratorial forces that seek to keep us under strict control—the idea that if we knew our real potential, “they” would no longer be able to remain in power.

Super Magic

This phenomenon may explain why stage magicians are able to generate so much public excitement. Those who view their amazing feats start to think, in their innermost thoughts, that perhaps the illusions are real because they want to believe that humans can develop such powers. For most of the modern era, audiences applauded such tricks in admiration of the magician’s abilities, but always went away certain that it was skill and not real magic. Lately, however, they are not so sure. With the advent of David Copperfield in the 1980s, and more recently David Blaine (who, on the Oprah Winfrey show, recently set the world record for holding his breath—17 minutes and 4 seconds), professional magic took on an entirely different complexion, and a new age of super magic began in which many ob­servers became convinced that there were paranormal abilities involved. Copperfield has performed many astounding feats including going through the Great Wall of China, making the Statue of Liberty apparently disappear (mass hyp­nosis?) and levitating over the Grand Canyon, all live before huge television audiences. The Great Wall illusion was particularly impressive because he did get to the other side of the Wall in minutes.

The latest superstar “illusionist” in the tradition of Copperfield to emerge onto the public stage is Criss Angel. An­gel began his career performing in an off-Broadway show called “Criss Angel Mindfreak” in 1998 at the age of 21. It ran for 600 performances. He then moved up to television with a new expanded version of the show, keeping the same name, on the cable A&E Network, premiering in July, 2005. Angel’s stunts on “Mindfreak” are beyond sensa­tional.

Like Copperfield, he apparently has the ability to levitate, but has taken this phenomenon to “new heights.” In a scene videotaped from all angles, in broad daylight, while his fans shout and scream from below, Angel effortlessly floats from rooftop to rooftop standing with arms extended, covering a distance of about 200 feet. And then, in what may be the greatest feat ever accomplished by an illusionist, Angel, invoking Jesus and giving guttural shouts, floats high up into the air from the pinnacle of the Luxor Hotel Pyramid in Las Vegas at night, and hangs in mid air for about 10 minutes waving his arms, while floodlights from the hotel apex illuminate the scene, a helicopter hovers nearby, and hundreds of astonished, gaping spectators watch from the street and other hotels. But, in what many be­lieve to be his supreme achievement, perhaps because it emulates a miracle performed by Jesus, Angel walks across a swimming pool in Las Vegas, while swimmers surround him and watch him closely, and a woman swims beneath his feet as he walks. Taking each step carefully, Angel kicks off his shoes in mid-pool and the camera shows them floating to the bottom as he continues his walk to the other side barefooted. Angel is so casual about setting up his feats with random watchers and by-passers, that it becomes impossible to believe that they may be confederates, and he appar­ently uses no props. On an open stretch of road in Pahrump, Nevada, Angel came speeding down the strip in his black Lamborghini towards the crowd. As he passed the spectators, his assistants sprayed CO2 at the car, and it simply van­ished into thin air. In a department store, he selected an 8-year-old girl at random, and obtained permission from her mother to work with her. He dressed her up as a 20 year old, and then as they stood on a table facing each other, she actually turned into a 20 year old. She ran off screaming to her mother. The biblical prophecy of “signs and won­ders” in the “last days” come to mind, along with the warning about “false prophets.”

Both Copperfield and Angel deny that they have super-normal capabilities. And yet, Angel has demonstrated what seem to be yogic powers in walking on knives, remaining submerged for long periods of time, and allowing a steam­roller to crush him on a bed of broken glass. It would not be much of a stretch to believe that he has actually also learned to levitate, as the yogis do. At least one super-magician claims that his stunts are based on paranormal tal­ents. Legendary performer Uri Geller says that his ability to bend spoons and keys, and to stop and start clocks and watches with his mind, are demonstrations of psychokinetic powers. And he claims that he uses actual telepathy in his mentalism act. Angel, who also includes mentalism in his performances, vehemently repudiates any hint of paranormal capability, and alleges that he has become hyper-skilled at knowing what’s in someone’s mind by recognizing minute changes in voice inflections. But, there may be a very practical and commercial reason for such repudiation. By keeping everything on an “illusion” basis, he doesn’t have to defend or explain anything he does, as Uri Geller is forced to do.

Genetic Power

Now, in this age of the Internet, when a piece of information, no matter how strange, can become “viral” within hours and spread all over the world, it is increasingly difficult to keep a lid on secret programs, and stories about cov­ert CIA and military efforts to develop “super-soldiers” are beginning to emerge like leaks sprung from a dam. The most astounding gee-whiz story in this genre is the saga of Andy Pero.

According to the Internet fable, he was born Michael Andrew Pero III on November 25, 1969 at the Fallon Naval Air Station in Fallon, Nevada, the son of a Lieutenant Commander in the Navy. He has fragmented memories of his youth but he recalls being “watched over” by two military men, one army and one air force, who monitored his physi­cal condition and educational progress from the age of 5. The family moved to northern New Jersey, and at the age of 11, his mother enrolled him in a Silva Mind Control course. He excelled in all the mental exercises and could even bend spoons with his mind. He remembers that one of the military men approached him one day in the playground and said to him, “You know you’re going to work for me someday.” He became an outstanding athlete in grade school, playing baseball, basketball and soccer. He used the Silva method to visualize all his athletic feats in advance. At the age of 14 in the eighth grade, he set the school high jump record, and tied the records for the 60-, 100- and 200-yard dash, and could bench press 305 pounds. He played freshman high school football and was one of the best high school running backs in the country, and also threw the shot-put and the discus. Using the Silva technique, he could literally “pump up” his muscles mentally until his coaches thought he was using steroids. And always the two military men he called Mr. Green and Mr. Blue, watched him from the sidelines. He frequently caught sight of them in the stands at his major athletic events.

Despite an offer from Penn State for a full room and board scholarship, and his strong desire to go there, his fa­ther, an Annapolis graduate, insisted that he attend the University of Rochester, threatening never to speak to him again if he refused. He complied, and it was there that his super-soldier training commenced in earnest. Under hyp­notic control he reported to “Room 101,” a small lab room, every day, where he was shocked and beaten and mentally programmed to obey orders given by “Dr. Green.” Thanks to his Silva training, Pero was able to retain one part of his mind as a refuge, a safe place to which he could retreat and avoid the conditioning. In this place his critical faculties remained intact, and his innate impression of “Dr. Green” and his cohorts was that they were Nazis. The shocks and torture were part of trauma-based conditioning designed to insure unquestioned obedience when activated by a code word. He was told never to think, but just “to do.” But Pero resisted the robotic transformation by retreating to his inner sanctum whenever he needed to.

Super Soldiers

Under hypnotic suggestion, Pero was able to push the boundaries of physical achievement way beyond anything believed possible, as his controllers sought to find the limits. Pero says, “The focus of the initial research, I believe, was to try and unlock the secrets of the mind. How to make the perfect soldier, to make a ‘super human killing ma­chine.’ They were finding out how, when under hypnosis, the mind can overcome the physical limitations of the hu­man body…How can the mind allow the body to do things which would normally be physically impossible?” Since Pero was already a super-athlete, perhaps by their genetic design before he was born, they had the perfect raw materi­al to work with. He did push-ups for about an hour, and he was able to squat with 675 pounds for as many repetitions as they asked for. He says, “Under hypnosis, they told me I could do it! And I truly believed them!!!” They tried to bury the old “Andy” and to create an entirely new person. Pero says, “They wanted ‘Andy’ to be totally gone, but I re­member they could NEVER destroy or break him. I think that is why I still remember all of these events.”

His trainers were especially interested in “the jump.” They told him that when he jumped he would be like a cat, and would always land on his feet and always be okay no matter how high he jumped. They told him “When you land, your legs become steel springs and will absorb all impact… There is no pain, and you have no fear!” They started him off on ladders, and soon he was jumping off buildings. Then he graduated to cliffs and bridges. Eventually they had him jump off a huge microwave tower, which he did easily with only a slight ankle twinge, believing it to be a six-foot ladder! And finally, they pushed him out of a sky-diving plane without a parachute! When he hit the ground, he land­ed on his feet and bounced about 50 feet into the air. They thought he was dying because he laid on the ground un­conscious for hours. Eventually, he got up and walked away!

Ultimately, as the story goes, they did turn Pero into a “super human killing machine.” Even though he suspected what they were preparing him for, he couldn’t help but brag, “I could hit ANY target still or moving, at ANY range, with ANY of the guns in the exact center every time.” He also became very proficient in hand-to-hand killing tech­niques. He found that he could actually throw a man across a room with his mind, so he claimed. When the time came to send Andy on his assassination assignments he resisted at first, intrinsically opposed to killing anybody. But they convinced him that his targets were evil, and so he complied. They would fly him out to his jobs in an F-16, and then back to the Rochester Airport. He remembers completing 10 missions, but when they added 15 more, he resisted. Then they tried to kill him, but just like Dr. Frankenstein, they found that they had succeeded all too well in creating a monster. He estimates that he killed 15 of his “handlers” while trying to escape at various times. Andy Pero survived and eventually found a psychologist who helped him become de-programmed, which allowed him to tell his story as memories came flooding back. Anyway, that is what he says.

If true, the Andy Pero story opens up new vistas regarding the potential power of both the human mind and the human body. Pero says that they were trying to find out whether the mind, under hypnosis, can “overcome the physi­cal limitations of the human body.” But really, he himself doesn’t know the extent of those limitations. It seems clear, if his story is actually true, that he has demonstrated the awesome power of the mind. But was he able to actually change the atoms and molecules of his muscles?

It seems likely that the human body has a tremendous built-in reserve power that can be called upon in emergen­cies, as in the case where a panicky father is able to lift an automobile to save his child. The fact is that we do not know who we really are. We have no idea of our true power. We get glimmers of insight from observing works of gen­ius and watching strong men pull locomotives, and we marvel at David Copperfield and Criss Angel. Is it true, that so­cial forces prevent us from realizing our true capabilities? Or is that just another excuse for failure from the victim society. It’s an issue worthy of a presidential debate.

Now if the candidates only had the necessary powers…

BY LEN KASTEN

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