This is a complete review and episode guide of The Supernaturalist with Dan White, first aired on the Discovery Channel on June 29, 2011. The premise of the program is that Magician Dan White travels off of the beaten path to Discover if there is real magic in the world. Does he discover real magic? Does the program deliver on its promise of a fantastic quest into the unknown?
“The role of the magician is to remind us that magic is everywhere…” – Dan White
The show starts with Dan White, the host and adventuring magician, describing a supposed magical monk in Nepal, who he will attempt to find. He commences with a card trick in Nepal, a classic card transposition in a man’s hand. This trick helped put David Blaine on the map, and it’s still as potent on TV as it was a decade ago. After the brief segment, Dan White begins to tell the story of the magical monk; how he discovered his powers early on as a child while playing with pebbles, making those pebbles move without touching them.
Next, Dan says that he learns magic by watching other magicians in his travels. He approaches a snake charmer in Katmandu to find out if the snake is magically possessed to dance to the music played by the charmer. The street performer admits that it is not real magic, but does reiterate the existence of the magical monk in the mountains.
We then meet a street magician who does a trick where he pierces his tongue with a giant spike, only to have it be unscathed moments later. Dan then enters the realm of the fire walker: a group of devoutly spiritual men that walk and jump on hot coal. Another trick it seems, but the men claim that a “guru in the mountains” has taught them. Unfortunately they won’t divulge where he is or how to reach him.
Dan takes advantage of the moment, showing a trick to the gathered audience. He has a young boy hold a light bulb in his hands, when it suddenly lights up in the boys hands. Dan White never touches the bulb during the illumination.
Moving on from the Capital to an ancient city, Dan reveals that the monk has a dark side, indicating that for that reason people may be hesitant to reveal any information about him. A card trick on a bus, where a local selects and signs a card. It is returned and shuffled into the deck. Dan throws the cards at the bus window, and it is on the outside. One rub of the window and it vanishes entirely. The people on the bus love the trick, but when asked about the monk get very quiet and refuse to discuss him.
Dan White arrives in Bhaktapur, considered the spiritual heart of Nepal. There must be a lead in the town; it is home to many wandering holy men called Sadhu who should have more information on the holy man.
With a crowd gathered around him on the street, Dan borrows a stack of Rupee bills and changes them to hundred dollar bills. The much more valuable bills are given back to their owners. Dan then does a trick to one of the holy men, where he has the man select a card and return it to the center of the pack. He places the card on the ground before them, and without touching the deck, makes the cards slide forward and cut on their own to the location of the selection.
After that, a quick bit on the street, where he bites into an apple, gives it a rub and it restores back untouched and unbitten. After that, Dan draws a hole on his palm, burns a match over it and magically breathes smoke out of his mouth. The audience begins to give him information, claiming the monk can levitate and that a local monk called Hizbaba would have more information.
But finding the shaman Hizbaba is a challenge in itself. While walking down the street, a young boy offers to show Dan a magic trick, having a card selected, returned and found. Dan White then takes the boys cards, has a card selected, returned and placed on the ground. Similar to the clip before, he makes the deck cut itself to the selection.
Suddenly a boy grabs our adventurer and says that someone wants to see him. Is it Hizbaba? Indeed the town elder wants to speak to the foreigner. Hizbaba has taken a liking to Dan White, but warns that it is a bad idea to see the monk. He recounts how a foreigner once came to see the monk, bribed many people to find him and then simply vanished.
Dan White is unscathed and shows Hizbaba a trick. He takes a painting made by the holy man and changes it. The moon, painted on by the monk, shifts from full moon to crescent with the simple wave of White’s hand. Will this miraculous display be enough to convince the monk to give more information? Yes, amazingly Hizbaba agrees to take him to the mountain temple where the monk resides.
They fly to a small undisclosed mountain town, then hike for two days to reach the vicinity of the holy man’s abode. In the town, they meet some sherpa’s, friends of Hizbaba. More levitation stories about the monk, and more warnings follow.
Suddenly, the next morning, the Shaman refuses to take Dan any further, claiming a bad vision has told him not to
move on. Dan and his crew are abandoned, continuing on the same trail alone, only knowing to look for an orange temple. Ten hours later, they find a curious structure similar to the one described.
Dan knocks on the door. No answer. He lets himself in. Inside of the temple, there are hundreds of lit candles in a large room. Suddenly he is surprised by a monk. The monk seems like a friendly man but says that he is unwilling to share his meditative powers. Dan needs to impress the monk enough to get him to share his secrets. He has the monk look up at the full moon and makes it disappear completely.
The monk is amazed and says he will try something special. He steps back, sits down and begins to meditate and chant. Suddenly he begins to float, hovering least a foot off of the ground. Slowly up, then down. It’s almost shocking to see the levitation.
The quest is at its end. Dan White does have a degree a skepticism, saying that the monk did need the crew to step back, but makes a point of the fact that magic is more than just a question of miracle versus deceit. It is the art of creating an impossibility; that real magic involves making an audience believe that the world is much deeper than we often perceive it to be, methods and secrets aside.
This is probably the best TV magic show since David Blaine’s second special, Magic Man. Obviously there is a question about how much of the show’s material was staged and how much of the story was pre-determined, but regardless it makes for good viewing. It makes you suspend your disbelief and want to live in this magical world. Unlike any magic show on TV to date, this program is much more than just a performer showing his tricks. The Supernaturalist is magic with a plot, which is both refreshing an exciting.
It also immerses the viewer into a culture very different from our Western society. Dan White is a humble performer and his humility shows throughout the program. It is amazing to see a magician get a prime time special and sacrifice self-gratification for the telling of a sound story and the introduction of a beautiful culture. This review will end with a feeling of great hope; the hope that Discovery will be airing more episodes of The Supernaturalist in the near future.
What did you think of the show? Comment below!