'Student of the Mind' to Read Clevelanders' Thoughts

BY: ARLENE FINE, Staff Reporter

Published: Friday, September 1, 2006 12:19 AM EDT





"I have an ability to read body language; virtually every thought has some physical manifestation.”

- Marc Salem


Dapper mentalist Marc Salem has been in my thoughts a lot lately.



"Write down an odd number between ten and 100,” Salem said in a recent phone interview from New York City. I gingerly wrote down 37.

"Is the number 37?” he asked.

Oh. My. Gosh. 

Amazed by his accuracy, I tried to keep my thoughts on the straight and narrow during the rest of the phone call.

Salem's ability to dazzle audiences with his uncanny ability to predict the workings of the human mind brings him to Cleveland for a performance, "Mind Games,” on Tuesday, Sept. 12, at Landerhaven. He's here on behalf of Chabad's Friendship Circle.

The Ohio-born Salem, 53, is the middle son of the late Philadelphia Rabbi Moshe Botwinick, who once was the chaplain at the Mansfield Reformatory.

"My father had a great sensitivity to non-verbal communication and the ability to intuit what was on people's minds,” he explains. "His great empathy for others was his downfall; he internalized others' anguish. He died at 41, leaving three sons.”

That's why the University of Pennsylvania and New York University graduate, who holds advanced degrees in psychology, did not go into counseling. "I didn't want other people's problems to give me great pain,” says Salem. "I've focused my skills differently.”

Salem discovered his special talent for discerning people's thoughts when he was five years old. "My mother packed a roomful of boxes for an upcoming move,” he says. "She had inadvertently packed away her favorite red hat and needed to retrieve it.”

He walked into the room and immediately zeroed in on the box containing the hat. "I sensed from her body language as I passed that box that her hat was there,” he says. "She subconsciously knew where the hat was, and that subtle shift in her body, her non-verbal cues, pointed me in the right direction.”

Salem spent his youth honing his skills. As an adult, he worked at The Children's Television Workshop (producers of "Sesame Street”) as director of research. He helped determine what types of messages children effectively process. "Based on children's subtle reactions, I could tell if it was better to teach a lesson through a song, a poem, a cartoon, or a piece of live-action footage,” he explains. He also taught college courses in non-verbal communication, group dynamics, and organizational psychology.

As a recognized authority on non-verbal communication, Salem has assisted in hundreds of legal cases. He worked on the O.J. Simpson trial and was called to consult on the JonBenet Ramsey case.

Almost ten years ago, Salem took his "Mind Games” show on the road. Here he combines his telepathic talent with his love of theater and his desire to educate. He has been featured on "The O'Reilly Factor,” "Montel,” "Maury” and CNN. He is also a regular guest on "Court TV” and was recently profiled on "60 Minutes” by Mike Wallace.

Salem bristles at being called a psychic, a mystic or a magician. "I'm a mentalist,” he says. "I'm a student of the mind.” During his act he may perform such feats as reading the serial numbers on dollar bills, starting and stopping a pulse at will, identifying objects while blindfolded, and telling audience members where they have gone on vacation.

"I have a hypersensitivity to people's thoughts,” says the New York resident. "I also have an ability to read body language; virtually every thought has some physical manifestation. With a limited amount of knowledge, I make connections that are very often correct.”

The universality of the human condition makes "Mind Games” work from Singapore to Sydney. "All people have the same human affect - they smile when they are happy, cry when they are sad, and grimace when they are in pain,” explains the thought-reader. "I pick up on the these signals wherever I perform.”

His wife Tova Botwinick is a successful Judaic jewelry designer, whom he married, he says, because, "she is the most honest woman I have ever met.” The couple have three children and four grandchildren.

A close friend of Chabad, who enjoys raising money for tsedakah, Salem says, "No one should attend my show and hope for a spiritual illumination or enlightenment. I'm an entertainer, pure and simple.”

The Friendship Circle will host Marc Salem on Tues., Sept. 12, at 6:30 p.m. at Landerhaven. The Friendship Circle extends a helping hand to families who have children with special needs and involves them in social and Judaic experiences. The event will honor teen volunteers who befriended children with special needs. Tickets: 216-381-1770, ext. 105, or [email protected].