Is The TV Show The Mentalist Real?

Throughout The Mentalist’s astounding 7-season run from 2008 to 2015, and it’s subsequent syndication, many fans have often wondered if the main character Patrick Jane’s ability to solve crimes by “reading minds” could be done in real life.

While the answer is definitely “yes”, it’s also not as straightforward as you might think. Scroll down to learn more about the incredible art of mentalism and how it inspired this award-winning TV drama.

The cast of the CBS TV Show The Mentalist poses for a promotion photo led by Patrick Jane

What is The Mentalist?

The Mentalist is an emotionally gripping American TV series that follows the life of Patrick Jane (who is played by Australian actor Simon Baker), an independent consultant for the California Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in Sacramento, California.

Prior to joining the CBI, Jane enjoyed a lucrative career as a fake celebrity psychic like Tyler Henry, Sylvia Browne or Miss Cleo. He leveraged his highly-developed observational skills and influential power of suggestion to deceive people across California, from Los Angeles to Sacramento, into thinking he had genuine supernatural powers.

His life changed forever though when he exclaimed during a television appearance that he had helped police identify famed serial killer Red John. Angered by these false claims, Red John murdered Jane’s wife, Angela Ruskin Jane, and his daughter, Charlotte Anne Jane.

Devastated by the tragic loss of his wife and daughter, Jane abandoned his career as a con man and decided to put his talents to good use with the CBI’s “Serious Crimes Unit.” Led by former senior agent Teresa Lisbon (Robin Tunney), Jane spent more than 150 episodes working alongside CBI associates and good frends Wayne Rigsby (Owain Yeoman), Kimball Cho (Tim Chang) and Grace Van Pelt (Amanda Righetti) to solve various crimes before eventually shifting their focus to catching Red John in the later seasons.

Is the Mind Reading on The Mentalist Real?

While Simon Baker received a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actor for his portrayal of the fictional character Patrick Jane, you might be surprised to learn that there are actually many real life professional mentalists. And, despite Hollywood’s propensity to over-dramatize the magical arts (i.e. Now You See Me), The Mentalist is actually widely respected by many mentalists as a mostly accurate portrayal of mentalism.

A trained mentalist can perform nearly all of the mentalism tricks performed on the show from mind reading to divination and even some mind control. Yet, instead of using mysterious psychic powers, mentalists leverage special techniques based on highly-developed mental abilities and a deep understanding of human psychology.

So, long story short. While Patrick Jane is a fictional character, mentalists are definitely real.

The Mentalist cast poses in front of an antique car with Patrick Jane, who is played by Simon Baker, in front

Can Psychics Solve Crimes?

From The Mentalist to Psych, Lie to Me, and even the cult classic tv series Unsolved Mysteries, “psychic detectives” have been a popular character in countless movies and TV shows throughout history. The ability to use psychic skills to help the police solve crimes always makes for an interesting story.

However, what sets The Mentalist apart is the way that executive producer and creator Bruno Heller accurately depicted the key differences between a mentalist and psychic. Despite Patrick Jane often referring to himself as a “fake psychic”, his finely tuned hypnosis and cold reading skills, and incredible comprehension of the human psyche, prove that he is definitely a mentalist.

So, why does this matter?

Both mentalists and psychics use the same techniques to make their audiences believe they can read minds or predict the future. But, what sets them apart, is how they portray themselves.

Mentalists will often refer to themselves as psychic entertainers or performance artists that use their highly-trained mental capabilities to entertain audiences with a variety of mentalism tricks. On the other hand, a fake psychic or medium like John Edwards or Theresa Caputo will often deceive their audience by claiming to have authentic psychic abilities.

While some might argue that supernatural powers exist, at the end of the day, no person has been able to prove it under scientific conditions. In fact, some of the most famous mentalists in the world like James Randi and Derren Brown have committed a large part of their life to debunking fake psychics, mediums and spiritualists.

All that being said, while a psychic can’t solve crimes, a mentalist can absolutely use mentalism techniques to catch a criminal. In fact, legendary Las Vegas Mentalist Gary McCambridge learned how to read body language from his NYC Detective father. It’s believed that this may have even been what inspired CBS to create The Mentalist—although the character of Patrick Jane is most likely modeled after a combination of different mentalists.

How do Mentalists Solve Crimes?

One of the most common ways a mentalist can solve crimes is through a careful understanding of human psychology and a refined ability to read body language. In his fascinating book What Every Body Is Saying: An Ex-FBI Agent’s Guide to Speed-Reading People, former FBI Agent Joe Navarro actually talks about how his comprehensive understanding of nonverbal communication and his ability to quickly analyze body language, facial cues and other-micro expressions were some of his biggest assets in fighting crime.

Can I Learn How to Read Minds like The Mentalist?

Yes! Anyone can learn mentalism. To help you get started, we have some easy mentalism tricks that you can learn right now including a trick that was performed by Patrick Jane on The Mentalist. You can also check out our lists of the best books for beginner mentalists and the most popular mentalism tricks.

We even have some helpful free resources to get you started with learning magic tricks and card tricks as well!