Jim Karol Interview


Karina Krul, Student Life Editor

Jim Karol, a primarily self-taught cog-mentalist, has appeared on the Tonight Show, the Ellen Show, the Today Show, Howard Stern, and the famous movie Jackass Number Two. This past Friday night he appeared in Bucknall Theater at the University of New Haven.

He has been performing shows at the University for over twenty years and loves working with and performing for college students, explaining that they are the perfect age for his mental abilities. He started his career with a college audience and explained that he will always perform at universities around the country. He’s also performed regularly at West Point University and Seton Hall University.

Originally from Allentown, Penn., he struggled through high school with bullies, but eventually earned his diploma. He recalled one situation during his senior year, which he was bullied in an eleventh grade class by one student and even a teacher. He went on to become a steelworker, where he explained that he was just bullied by 40-year-old men rather than high school kids.

“One day I couldn’t take it anymore, and I just changed. I became the psychic madman,” said Karol.

His career as a cog-mentalist began when he took over his wife’s position as an Avon representative, going door to door and using magic tricks to sell products, which he learned through hanging around a local magic shop. He quickly became the bestselling representative, and began doing presentations to thousands of women, using magic to retain the group’s attention. It was that moment which set him on the path from a steelworker to becoming a magician, then a mentalist, and finally a cog-mentalist.

His mentalist and cog-mentalist abilities are largely self-taught, and he now works alongside researches and scientists around the world to further his brain capacity as the only cog-mentalist currently in the world. Karol described the primary difference between mentalists and cog-mentalists to be that as a cog-mentalist he studies the brain to understand his abilities in order to further them.

He has memorized over one-thousand digits of pi, thousands of zip-codes and every date back to 1 A.D., all of which he exhibits in his performances. In a study, his brain age was found to be that of a 39-year old-man and his brain mass is four times as thick as normal.

His performances keep an attentive audience though suspense and extravagant feats in his heavy audience involvement shows. He works magic tricks in before taking the audience further by reading audience’s minds, calling the cards they are thinking of, and even manipulating the whole room’s phones to show specific movies. As a finale he sticks his hand in a bear trap, demonstrating that with enough focus the human mind can prevent pain and injury.

“I encouraged them to be the volunteers. If I get a skeptic on stage and turn that skeptic around it reflects on the whole audience,” said Karol when asked how he handles those who may not believe in his abilities.

Karol has worked with members of the United States military to develop their deception recognition skills and to help those with PTSD and traumatic brain injuries to improve their ability to heal their fractured mental states.

He began as an entertainer, but when he performed for one wounded soldier in a hospital, catching his attention when no one else was able, he realized he could use his abilities to help wounded minds. He places a strong influence on emotional intelligence, the art of reading people, and memory capacity.  

“Up until then I was just an entertainer, but then I got it,” said Karol. “I began teaching them emotional intelligence and I’ve been with these guys ever since.”

His journey with the military has taken him all over the world to over thirty-two countries, from Italy to Afghanistan to Germany, and even a planned trip to Poland for a holiday tour.

He’s also spoken at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and worked alongside neurologists around the world studying the brain. He is currently involved in a MIT study in which he is attempting to learn Mandarin in six months to eventually give a presentation in the language in China.

He teaches his abilities to everyone from little kids to the military to currently working neurologists, but not all methods are the same. The language he uses and the lessons he instills changes based on his specific audience and recently he has constructed a course-type program entitled “Jim Karol’s Master Memory Course,” in conjunction with psychiatrist Dr. Daniel Amen.

“I adapt to the surroundings, I have about four or five different methods,” said Karol.

Karol seeks to use his abilities to not only entertain, but to better the brain power and cognitive and mental abilities of those around the world.

You can follow him on Twitter at @JimKarol.