James Hydrick Speaks — Part II
If you’re new to this, then head over to Part I. And for more on James Hydrick, and similarly fascinating tales, check out my book, Smoke & Mirrors and Steven Seagal.
Here’s the second, exclusive part of James Hydrick’s first public interview in over thirty years.
— There’s a story about you being extradited back to California, and freaking out the guards by violently rocking the prison van with your powers. What do you remember about this?
In the vehicle rocking incident, I was being extradited back to California in a van that was designed for 6-8 people. They had 23 of us crammed in the back, and having studied law, I knew it was illegal. It was also uncomfortable. I whispered to the others to start rocking the van by shifting their weight. I mean, they got that van going back and forth teetering on two wheels at a time down the highway. Meanwhile, I fooled with the officers’ minds. There were six escort officers: two in a lead car, two in our van, and two in a trail vehicle. The van rocked so violently the officers got scared and looked at me gesturing, holding my head, and making like I was causing the movement. It was an illusion. They turned white. They had to pull off the road in Ozark, Arkansas and stop the trip. The trick had been effective to fight their illegal transport. The officers were shaking with fear in Ozark and put me in three leg irons and two sets of handcuffs. I snapped the cuffs in front of their faces, turned my back, and used a little trick to open the leg irons. I turned around, and the sheriff said, ‘Hell, if we can’t cuff him, this jail can’t hold him. Send him over to Johnson County.’ They moved me to Johnson County where I met the great Sheriff Eddy King.
— Related to the previous question, did you enjoy that people still feared and were fooled by your ‘psychic abilities,’ even after your confession?
The intent of my illusions was to generate students for my brand of martial arts. My brand of martial arts was to ‘short cut’ the others, and to combine the best aspects of each discipline to develop the most effective fighting technique. By short cut, I mean to speed up the learning process. I was good at keeping what techniques worked, and discarding the ones that didn’t work. That’s the evolving martial art I taught, taking a bit from here and there, and from many masters and grandmasters.
I consolidated martial arts and illusion, like Chuck Norris in the movie ‘Octagon‘. I never enjoyed fooling people, because I wasn’t trying to fool them any more than a stage magician tries to fool his audience.
Danny Korem edited that show to promote himself, and that stalled my career for many years. I was a kid with a third grade education going into that event, and he was a slick shyster. It’s fair to say he extorted a confession out of me for an appearance fee that Korem never paid, although Randi gave it to him for me.
— I’m interested in the Oriental affectations, when you first appeared on That’s Incredible under the name Sum Chai, with the bowl cut and outfit. Was your thinking along the lines of Chung Ling Soo, the American magician who famously portrayed himself as Chinese to add credibility to his act?
I changed my name to Sum Chai because the Black Guerrilla Family (BGF) had a price on my head in and out of the LA County jail where I had decked their leader James ‘Doc’ Holiday in self-protection. The influence of the BGF gang was widespread across the nations, with hundreds of thousands of members. They were known for ‘an eye for an eye’ retaliation. So, after I was put in protective custody and eventually released from LA County jail, I used two aliases except with those very close to me; Sum Chai and Zane Leopard; in order to avoid being tracked by the BGF. It was a case of protecting my identity. The origin of Sum Chai was in the LA jail where a Thai inmate gave me the name, saying it was an early Thailand Shaman.
— After That’s Incredible turned you into a celebrity, were you always having to do the tricks for people who recognised you when you were out in public?
That’s Incredible put me in the public’s eye. There was a lot of media following and people sometimes recognized me wherever I went. I always gave them autographs and occasionally did a little street magic. But it would have been overwhelming to perform every time I was recognized aside from planned events. I had bodyguards at the time, who didn’t allow me to mingle much. There was still the threat of the Black Guerrilla Family and I had to be careful. The heat from the BGF went on for years, but I always gave autographs for years.
In the upcoming Part III, James Hydrick talks calls from Hollywood, and the various projects that almost came to pass, and Danny Korem’s portrayal of him as the next Charles Manson.