Forgot your password? Reset It

Magic Newsletter, February 11, 2024

Dear Friends in Magic,
I hope that your 2024 is off to a great start! In the spirit of letting old things go, I want to share…
There is a widespread idea—a verbal meme—that's commonly used to deflect non-magicians who ask about our secrets. It goes something like: “Oh, you don’t want to know; it would only disappoint you.”
The most elegant version of this idea has been offered by Jim Steinmeyer in Hiding the Elephant (16-17): “Magicians guard an empty safe. In fact, there are few secrets they possess that are beyond the capacity of a high-school science class, little technology more complicated than a rubber band, a square of mirrored glass, or a length of thread… .”
To be fair, Jim uses this set-up to emphasize the finesse, ingenuity, and theatrical skill of excellent magicians, and he's right to do so. The problem, however, is that the set-up is not really true. The “safe” is not empty. Just the opposite: it's overflowing with countless hidden layers and levels of natural, mathematical, and psychological phenomena that never fail to astonish.
Let me ask: on that day when the magic dealer vanished the red silk and shared the Thumb Tip… did you say, “Oh, that’s stupid”? Heck no: you couldn’t get your money out fast enough! That’s because the dealer had just thrown open a door to a whole new world about perceptual concealment. Boom!
Forget the “Twenty-One Card Trick”: when Max Maven blew your mind with a Gilbreath performance, were you bored? On the contrary: you were probably astonished by the depths and possibilities of secret mathematics.
When you discovered that a magnet could make something float… that one black surface would vanish against another… that a bill could be reversed by passing it through a small hole in its center… that Crossing the Gaze works every time… were you like, “junk… moving on”?
You get the point: magic is a thrilling doorway to the secret sciences behind the science we were taught in school. Perception, natural science, spatial relations, topology, psychology, mathematics, optical principles, attention, logical games: all of this is far weirder and wilder and more counter-intuitive than we had any idea. Getting to explore these endlessly surprising domains is one of the deep pleasures of magic. Why wouldn’t non-magicians want to get in on the fun?
So, count me OUT on the oft-repeated meme. To say our secrets are mundane or disappointing is simply false, and it devalues and diminishes everything we do. So much better for us to stress, without exposure, the amazing, often paradoxical complexities of “the many worlds” behind the world that make magical art possible. As I like to say, “Oh, there is always more going on than we think.” Which has all the virtue of being true.
More on our Secret Sciences next time.
Over the past two months, I have been immersed in two book projects—the first of which will be published later this year. I can’t say much about them yet, but the first release will be the all-new, outside-the-box offering from the irrepressible magic creator-historian, Judge Gary Brown—author of Wandcraft and The Magical Life of Al Flosso, among others.
I am also busy preparing for my appearance at Poe’s Magic Conference in Baltimore, March 15-17, 2024. I will be delivering a substantial Keynote Lecture (with plenty of tricks) and performing on one of the shows. I plan to be there all three days so I can see old friends and hang out with new ones… and perhaps you!
Are you hungry to have your head fed with new magic and mysteries in a friendly community of talented magicians? Is it time for an affordable outing to a storied and magicial city? If so, sign up now for Poe’s Magic Conference, March 15-17, 2024.
I hope to see you there!
Many of you know that I read… a lot. I read a lot of magic, of course, but at the end of a long day, I especially enjoy reading science fiction and mysteries.
Last year, I discovered a series titled, “American Mystery Classics.” Edited by leading expert Otto Penzler, it reissues new editions of first-rate, yet forgotten mystery novels from the genre's so-called “Golden Age” (from about 1930 to 1950). Novels by people like John Dickson Carr, Mary Roberts Rinehart, Cornel Woolrich, and Erle Stanley Gardner, among others.
A few weeks back, I was surveying the new releases for something tasty to read and came across a 1944 novel titled Rim of the Pit. Okay, not exactly a “sticky” title. And I’d never heard of the author, one Hake Talbot. But then I read that it's a “great cult classic” and generally considered one of the finest-ever locked room mysteries with a “puzzling plot and exceptional prose.”
Sold! So, I “bought now” and was soon in the wilderness of northern New England in the dead of winter, snowed in at a lodge with a curious, yet likable group of people. Before long, the first dead body appears, and we’re off! Along the way, we experience a highly detailed séance—with the resident skeptic-magician character being unable to deconstruct everything. A bit later, another protagonist uses a deck of cards to demonstrate that the best way to penetrate a magic trick is by “looking for what’s unnecessary in it.”
At that point, I started wondering, who the heck was “Hake Talbot.” One quick internet search later I found out: none other than… Henning Nelms.
Whoah! Who knew?! Not me. And how fascinating that our own Henning Nelms wrote classic books of lasting interest in two different fields. See?There is always more going on than we think!
I enthusiastically recommend Rim of the Pit. You will have a bloody good time at the hands of an expert literary magician!
Earlier I mentioned Gary Brown’s forthcoming book. In case you don’t know, we published his Wandcraft in 2021, and it received five-star reviews from GeniiThe Linking Ring, Vanish, Magicus, The Magic Portal, The Magic Rainbow, The Magician’s Forum, among many others.
In other words, Gary’s first book from Theory and Art of Magic Press was a smash hit with magicians everywhere. Especially those who had thought they were above a lowly wand (like me).
If you’ve read Wandcraft you know that Gary’s enthusiastic creativity is infectious, and his knowledge of magic impressive. If you don’t have a copy and want to get in on the fun, this month only you can get a copy from us for $24.00 (20% off the retail price). You can only get that discount by going here.
I also want to mention we are down to only about 50 copies of Eugene Burger: The Workshop Transcripts. My deep thanks go to everyone who has helped this philanthropic project be so successful. (All the profits from the book go to the Magic & Mystery School’s Scholarship Fund.)
If you are a fan of Eugene’s psychological card magic and don’t have this book, now is the time to get one HERE! Very soon, they will be gone-gone, and the prices on eBay will make you gulp.
Thanks for reading my newsletter and being part of my extended community. As always, I enjoy reading your reactions and reflections. And I look forward to being with you at the I.B.M. Convention, MAGIC Live, or perhaps next month at Poe’s Magic Conference!
Best Wishes,
Larry Hass
Real-World Magician
Dean of McBride’s Magic & Mystery School
Publisher, Theory and Art of Magic Press