In what almost seems a lifetime ago - when you look at me you would agree - I was THAT guy that ended up in the middle of a busy Marrakech market after being hypnotised in a photo booth by Derren Brown.
I say a lifetime ago, as back then I had long hair and was clean shaven, and now I am short haired and bearded… but it is me.
It all started with a poster advertising the fact that Derren Brown wanted participants for a new series around my university campus. I had heard of him before and was intrigued… so went along. It was a mass participation event, to test people and to see how they reacted to things. I enjoyed seeing it, but didn’t think it was for me. Mainly because it didn’t really work for me.
Next thing I remember is that a few weeks later, I got a phone call from the team saying that Derren is followed by the newspapers lots and they needed to throw a few red herrings their way. So they asked me to help. Of course, I said yes… it seemed like a bit of fun.
I can go one of two ways here. I can tell you everything chronologically as it ACTUALLY happened, or I can tell you what I know and then fill in the gaps. Seen as you can probably watch this episode back on TV in the chronological order I may as well tell you how things happened for me.
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The instructions were simple. Go to Kew Gardens station, get passport photos and then get on the 06:20 (ish) train from Kew to Waterloo. Easy, right?!
So, I get to Kew Gardens (I’m feeling a bit sleepy, it is 05:45 in the morning), see a photo booth and proceed to get in. Next thing I remember is closing my eyes for an elongated blink - you know the kind, when you are tired - and when I opened my eyes again, something was different. It’s not quiet. It’s not dark. I’m still in the photo booth, but why is it bright and noisy? I pull back the curtain, and I am not in the same place I was a second ago, but my watch says it’s still nearly 6 o’clock.
I have NO IDEA what has happened, so press some buttons in the photo booth… nothing happens. I pluck up the courage and pull back the curtain again and head out. There was a man behind a counter and I ask him ‘where am I?’ He looks at me with the biggest blank expression I have ever seen. Why didn’t he understand me? I turn to see where I am. I am in a shop. I spot something I recognise, a postcard stand, and I walk over to it and pick up the first card. It says Jemaa El-Fnaa Market and I have no clue where that is. I look at the next one. ‘Marrakesh’, again not much of a clue, next one... ‘MOROCCO!!!’ I know where that is, but have no idea how I got there.
I venture out of the shop, still a bit blurry eyed and reach into my pockets. It is important to note that at this point I am wearing jeans, trainers, a shirt and waistcoat (I thought it was cool) and a suede leather biker jacket with a warm lining. It was 6am in Kew after all. Everyone else in this market place was in shorts and vests. I was the sore thumb. In the pocket of my jacket was a note, from Derren. I can’t remember exactly what was written, but he had told me that I was in fact hypnotised in Kew and transported to Marrakesh, after picking a trick card?! I don’t remember doing that. Included in the envelope was the name of the hotel I was staying at, details of my flight home, passport and a bit of money in case I needed something.
There I was, in the heat, with locals treating me like a tourist, putting monkeys on my shoulders, snakes around my neck and asking for money. I remember feeling ridiculously calm considering, but my main concern is getting back to ‘safety’, whatever that was, in the form of the hotel I was staying at.
I eat and drink and get to my room, and can’t sleep. It transpired that when I looked at my watch in the photo booth and it said 6 o’clock, what I didn’t realise (why would you) is that it was 6pm not 6am. I closed my eyes for 12 hours, no wonder I couldn’t sleep.
The next morning, I wander around the hotel and find a pool. With no change of clothes I roll my sleeves up and sit on a ‘deckchair’ of sorts. With a mobile phone but no charger, I couldn’t play on my phone. I didn’t have a pen or paper so I just sat there staring at this completely alien world.
Someone came to collect me after a while to take me to the airport - I had no option but to trust them. They spoke a language I understood and for the first time in now what felt like two days, I had a conversation (be it a small one) with someone.
I got to the airport and pulled out my envelope from Derren with my passport and ticket. I was asked if I had any luggage, and was stared at with a ‘WTF?’ kind of look when I said no. I didn’t even have a carry-on bag. I was still in the same underwear I wore the day before.
It was at this point that someone behind me knocked me. My patience was running low at this point, and I turned around sharply.
It was Derren Brown and his team.
The next two hours back to the UK were spent talking to him and his production team - who were filming me secretly and following my every move when I arrived in Marrakech - about music, art, Kafka (I was studying him at university at the time) and his shows.
I got home for my girlfriend (now wife) to open the door with wide eyes - it turned out that Derren had asked for her help to set me up, but how?
The gaps I mentioned at the start only got filled in when I watched the TV show myself. Airing on Friday 13th, the first episode of his show ‘Trick or Treat’, it transpired that my wife (the girlfriend) had given him the keys to our flat and told him where to find my passport.
While I thought I was the diversion, it turned out I was the show. They had been filming me for a few days noticing my habits and places I lived. He came into my room, woke me up slowly, and told me to pick a card. Now, I don’t remember this bit happening… but after watching the show it is clear that Derren offers me two cards, one says trick, the other, treat. Of course (unbeknown to me) I pick TRICK.
So, as I mosey in Kew, they are all waiting and filming as I sit in the photo booth.
The rest is all caught on camera, and I was asleep through all of it.
The few weeks between it being filmed and aired was an interesting one. I got a call from a friend telling me I was in the newspaper and had been photographed with me in a wheel chair, and in the market place with a monkey on my shoulder. I was also in Zoo magazine (the lads mag) with a small article. Once it had been aired, I did get spotted a few times and asked the same questions.
The most common questions I get asked are – ‘what did you think when you opened your eyes?’ And ‘WOW…is it real???’
Now, the first question, I can’t really answer, as all I remember is 1000 things going through my head and that I was scared.
The answer to the second question of ‘is it real?’ is yes, yes it was.
Derren hadn’t ‘hypnotised’ me into thinking I was a chicken or to think I was in a video game. He put me in a deep sleep, one that I didn’t wake up from until it was time for him to wake me up. On the journey home, I asked ‘why me?’ and he said that in the session at my uni he noticed when he was putting us ‘to sleep’, he noticed that I went into a deep sleep rather easily.
Would it work again? Maybe not. I’m not as naïve as I was in my early 20’s and probably wouldn’t let it happen again. As any hypnotist will say… for it to work, you must want it to happen.
Derren Brown is a fantastic entertainer and makes a great TV show and at the end of the day, that’s why we watch TV, to be entertained.
Life Less Ordinary is a weekly blog series from HuffPost UK that showcases weird and wonderful life experiences. If you’ve got something extraordinary to share please email firstname.lastname@example.org with LLO in the subject line. To read more from the series, visit our dedicated page.