No, I'm not THAT David Meade says mentalist
David Meade is known as a mind reader, illusionist or mentalist but one thing the Co Down father of two certainly didn't see coming was the hostility directed at him after he absolutely didn't predict the end of the world, he tells Joanne Sweeney
THERE'S no-one who likes a good laugh better than 'mind reader' David Meade – even more so when it's against himself.
But the entertainer, who stuns audiences with his powers of deduction and his amazing stunts, wasn’t laughing after what seemed to be a harmless case of mistaken identity, and a clear case of fake news, began to go horribly wrong.
The 34-year-old believes he has come out on the other side after being confused with an American 'Christian numerologist', also, intriguingly, called David Meade, who predicted the end of the world by December last year.
What started out as a few tweets from people believing David to be the American snowballed out of control when a leading news site used his photograph to accompany a report on the other man's outlandish claims.
"The social media post that proved to be the real watershed was when TheBlaze cable news anchor Glenn Beck linked the story directly to me, to my site, my social media channels and that’s when the floodgates really opened," he recalls.
"It became very difficult...very scary...very quickly. I was getting these messages from all over the world from people who were only one plane ticket away from standing in front of me. I was really afraid of someone throwing acid on me or one of my staff or my family.
"We were bombarded with phone calls, emails, and threatening messages on social media. One guy said in a tweet from his work account that he would slit my throat. Can you imagine what his boss or family would make of that?"
While he and his Belfast solicitor, media law expert Paul Tweed, worked last autumn to get the most prominent of news websites to take down the false reports, David still has an upfront disclaimer on his website and pinned to his social media channels saying that he is not that David Meade and never was.
Like many people caught up in a media maelstrom, he was initially very relaxed about being mistaken for the apocalyptic naysayer.
"I started off thinking it was absolutely hilarious but I was very naïve about it," he admits. "I thought it was an absolute load of nonsense, that no-one would take it seriously. I thought it was just some crackpot who had the same name as me. I even thought for a while of branding this current tour around as the End of the World tour as David Meade knows it."
Inevitably, the media interest and the online mockery of him gathered pace the closer it got to December and the date when the world should have ended.
David, who lives in the Banbridge area with his wife Elaine and children Tilly (7) and George (4), has not received an apology or retraction from any website that linked his identity to that of the American David Meade.
"It made me appreciate that for many people out there, the internet is their absolute reality, that because these words appeared online under a masthead it gave it absolute weight and credibility," he says.
"I suppose I have a giant web print because of the tours and the TV programmes and along with the use of the words mentalist or mindreader, I probably did sound like the sort of wally who would have predicted this."
However, fake news sticks on the digital highways.
Now spending about 80 per cent of his time working in the US and throughout Europe as a highly sought-after corporate keynote speaker and motivator, only last week David was giving a talk in a Swiss ski resort to senior executives from an American petrochemical company. One told him he enjoyed his talk, having been apprehensive beforehand after reading what he'd said about the end of the world.
"I’m certain that I’m going to answering questions about this for the next five years," the northerner says with a degree of exasperation.
He's doing so well with work in the US that he would happily move to the East Coast if it wasn't for the care and support he and Elaine receives from family for their son, who was born with an undiagnosed medical disorder which has left him unable to talk or walk.
"George is the happiest of children and is just so great. Like many mums and dads, I’m walking around with this guilt all the time I'm away from him,” says David.
“But we have to provide for him. We have to provide for the fact that he will need 24 hour care for – I don’t even know what his life expectancy is – is it 10 years or is it 40 years? We have to presume he will get to my size, so I work really hard to make sure that we can put the things in place that we need to help take the pressure off Elaine.”
David is in the middle of yet another tour of the north with his new show Wizard of Odds, which he describes as an evening of craic and mind wizardry.
In the first half of the show, he tries to find out things from audience members, such as what their nickname was at school. Caution is thrown to the wind in the second half when audience members put their own questions to him to answer.
"I have genuinely no idea what way it will go every night," laughs David. "I had a man recently who is there with his partner and wants to know if I can tell him the name of his last girlfriend – with his woman sitting right beside him? What are you thinking, you idiot?"
"Up until this point, I haven't got a single thing wrong yet and that’s part of the fun."
David is the first to admit that he's no magician or illusionist – he's university-educated marketing whizz who knows the science behind why we make the decisions we do and how to read all the unconscious information we are giving out all the time in body language or reaction.
"I'm completely blindfolded, with coins duct-taped across my eyes so people know that I’m not reading their body language, which I’m doing most of the time in the first half.
"So if I have to guess a name. I ask the audience member to quickly say the letters of the alphabet and I'm trying to listen to the letters and working out what I think makes up a name and make a best guess by how they say them."
Touring at home means that he can be at home most weekends for a few precious months a year.
"It keeps me on my toes as it has to be brand spanking new material every year. The Northern Ireland audience is the funniest, warmest most brilliant audience in the world but they are really honest when something doesn’t work."
:: For details of David Meade's ongoing Wizard of Odds tour, visit davidmeade.co.uk