Posts Tagged ‘magic’

“In 1340 the black death arrived on the shores of Italy and quickly spread across Europe.  By the time the plague was done a third of the world population was dead. when somebody would show symptoms of having the dreaded disease they were ushered into a room in the house and locked in, nobody ever left those rooms alive. It is believed that the souls in those rooms attached their spirits to the keys that locked them in.  A great many of these keys still exist, obviously this is one”

At least that is what I told the ladies in the antique store as the skeleton key I was buying rolled over in the open palm of my outstretched hand.

haunted key photo (003)

My wife and I were wandering through an antique mall just before it was closing.  In the back of the store I found a bunch of skeleton keys less than five dollars each.  One of my favorite effects from my magic days is a little something called the, Haunted Key.  A skeleton key is laid across my palm and all on its own it slowly turns as if it is in a lock.  It is an incredibly haunting effect that always gets a great response. The effect does not work with any skeleton key so once you know the secret you just have to keep trying them until you find one that does.  I always buy the keys when I find them because I am always losing them.

When we walked up to the cash there was one other customer in the shop.  I handed the cashier my prize. My wife pipes up,  “Aren’t you going to show them why you are buying that key?”  The cashier fell right in and said, “Yes, why are you buying this key?”

“Because it is haunted” I said offhandedly. Both the cashier and the other woman froze.  “I’ll show you” I took the key laid it on my palm and we all watched as the key ever so slowly turned in my hand.  After the very loud momentarily silence that followed the cashier asked, “Do all keys do that?”

“No, only the haunted ones”

“I want to test my keys at home, can you show me how you held it?”

I repeated the effect and again both watched intently.  “Are you serious? Is it really haunted?”

I didn’t even get a chance to reply as the other customer did that for me.  She said, “I think he is very serious” at which point I couldn’t help myself.  I had to bring home the effect and opened my mouth,

“In 1340 the black death landed on the shores….”

Both women bought the story hook line and sinker.   On the drive home I said to my wife, “I probably should have told them I am a magician and it was a trick”

“No” my wife instantly responded, “It is not your job, they can believe what they wish” and we laughed all the way home.

In 1974 my father opened up Perfect Magic.  42 years later that shop still exits both brick and mortar and on the web with my parents at the helm.  Why not pay them a visit at PerfectMagic.com and if you want the Haunted Key which they still carry, tell them Brian sent you.

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Philipsburg, including Philipsburg North, South and a little place called Chester Hill boasts a combined population of 4,800 people. If we don’t want to make the run into State College for groceries our only practical option is Philipsburg. This was one of those Sundays, we even splurged and went to McDonalds for breakfast.

We ordered our scrumptious meal, my wife grabbed the drinks and found a seat while I waited for the rest of the food. It was a busy morning at McDonalds, the pimply kid asking if we want fries with that seemed overwhelmed and who could blame him? There had to be at least four other people in line. I got the food and headed over to the table my wife had found. There was a gentleman seated at the table next to us that I had never met before but I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that he was a magician. No he wasn’t holding a bunny or wearing a top hat. He wasn’t practicing a magic trick. To the untrained eye there were absolutely no outward signs that he was a magician. I just knew. Four thousand eight hundred people, the odds of one being a magician are little to none. Is there nowhere I can hide? My wife, of course, unknowing his magic habit had already struck up a conversation with him. My wife talks to all the strays.

As I took my seat my wife says, “Brian look at the cool case he has for his ipad, isn’t that neat?” To which I add, “Not only that, he is a magician!” The look he gave me was nothing short of comical, for a moment I thought he was going to choke on his meal.

In about two minutes the conversation turned to a magic pissing match. He started telling me about all the magicians he knows. About all the tricks he does and how he made improvements. These types of conversations never fail to amuse me. And I usually don’t engage. I nod, I smile, add a few words here and there. Why must it always be a competition? When plumbers meet do they compare tools? Brag about how fast they can remove a valve?

But I’m not writing to tell you about Philipsburg or magic pissing contests. No I’m here to tell you what happened when the Military showed up.

There we sat eating our McBreakfast happily discussing the merits of magnets vs invisible thread in the world of magic when all of the sudden from behind the counter we hear the staff yelling at each other, “We got a bus! We got a bus! Start prepping the food. Do we have enough hashbrowns!” I looked up and sure enough across the way a bus had pulled up the door opened and out stepped a soldier complete with clipboard and camo-fatigues followed by a whole lot of other people who looked exactly like him, and yes, they were heading our way. The shouts from behind the counter still ring in my ears, “Oh My God they are military, do we give them anything free? Do we have enough food?”

The restaurant quickly filled up I could no longer see the counter all I could see was a wall of men and all I could think about was that the camo-gear was a huge fail as I could see them all quite clearly. I heard one soldier at the end of line line quietly say, ‘guys, hold up a minute’ and with that they all took a step back in order to let two old ladies dressed in their Sunday finest to move to the front of the line. And that is what I’m writing about. Good manners, common decency and class.

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Not a post so to speak, Just Sequoia and I having a little fun.

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I’m not much of a practical joker. Truth is I really don’t like them at all but every now and again when the mood is just right I just can’t seem to help myself as is evident in a previous blog about a co-worker and a fish.

The local magic shop, when there was one, was located directly behind the bank where I used to work. Can you believe it? I’ve spent most of my life in the magic business. I left the West Coast, changed countries and in the process stepped out of the world of magic, (for the most part) and I end up working directly across the street from a magic shop. Talk about fate.

Beside the magic shop was a little boutique that sold handmade soap. The soap boutique had an automatic soap bubble maker/blower mounted on the wall between the two stores. On nice days the bubbles would blow onto the sidewalk.

I was sitting in the banks lunchroom, the large windows faced the magic shop. John, the owner of the magic shop was sitting on the stoop directly outside his door. I was eating my lunch watching the world, watching John, watching the old lady slowly meandering down the street, watching the pretty bubbles. Suddenly the old lady stops and turns toward John and starts pointing at him. I couldn’t hear anything and the windows didn’t open. One thing was clear the Lady was not happy. John kept pointing at the bubble maker and the soap boutique. I watched in fascination, clearly the lady was upset and yelling. A few people crossed the street to keep out of the situation. John kept shrugging and pointing at the store next to his, but the old woman was having none of John’s explanations. The only thing that made sense to me was that a bubble landed on the old woman and she thought it was John’s bubble maker and was telling him what she thought. After about five minutes or so the lady stormed off leaving John standing in front of his store scratching his head.

I finished my lunch and went back to work. But I could not shake the scene from my head. While serving a customer a plan began to form. I didn’t think it would work but I had to try. I spent the next few hours cementing the plan in my head. Finally my afternoon break came and I bolted for the lunch room and grabbed the phone and called the magic shop. I did not disguise my voice, either it would work or it wouldn’t.

The phone rings

John: “Hello, Abracadabra Magic”

Me: “Hello, may I please speak to the owner?”

John: “I am the owner, how may I help you?”

Me: “Mr. Oglivy?” (not John’s real last name)

John: “Yes?”

“My name is Officer Dale from the State College borough police, we have received a complaint about the bubble machine you have outside your store.”

“Officer you want the store next to mine, I tried to explain to the lady who yelled at me for 10 minutes that it is not my machine. It belongs to the people who own the store next to mine.”

“Mr. Oglivy I did go ahead and check the regulations about any such devices. I found that they have to be at least 15 feet back from the sidewalk or a permit is required. I checked the maps and on your street there is simply not enough clearance from the front of the building to the sidewalk to operate such a machine without a proper permit.”

John sounding frustrated: “Officer, as I explained to the lady, it is not my bubble…”

“You do have a permit to operate that bubble machine, don’t you Mr. Oglivy?”

“Officer I already expl…”

“Mr. Oglivy does your landlord know about the bubble…”

“Officer I…”

Me starting to sound agitated: “Mr. Oglivy please do not interrupt me again. I am going to come down with a city inspector to inspect the bubble machine and take some measurements and check your permits.”

“Officer, I tried explaining to the lady, and I’m trying to tell you, it is not my bubble machine it belongs to the store next door, clearly there has been a mistake.”

“Mr. Oglivy let me explain it this way. You are the owner of Abracadabra Magic and a complaint has been made against you and I have to follow up on this complaint. I explained the city ordinance and I will be out there later today to complete my report. If you don’t meet the requirements to operate such a device you will be given a citation at which point you can explain it all to a judge.”

“Officer, the bubble machine is not…Brian is that you?”


“You son of a bitch, are you at the bank?”

“Yup, saw the whole thing but could not hear a word”

“Bastard you really had me going. That lady was so mad and I tried to explain to her that it wasn’t mine but she just kept on yelling.”

Me laughing: “So I really had you going?”

“She was so mad, her calling the police wouldn’t surprise me, and you had all the details so yes you bastard you had me going the whole time.”

It is odd that the only two practical jokes I remember being involved in happened while I was at the bank. I guess that place just brought out the worst in me.

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Sometimes it just takes a little magic.

The bank I worked at had something called a call night.  These happened twice every quarter.   What is a call night?  Glad you asked.  Employee’s who are customer facing were required to profile customers.  We would look into an account and see if a customer had a lot of money sitting in a checking account that they are not using.  Or they may be paying on a loan with too high an interest rate. We would call these people and see if we could get them into the bank to talk with an advisor.  Despite the scary word ‘profiling’ this is an excellent program and greatly helps customers.  Most people don’t realize how many products banks offer. Believe it or not, to stay in business banks need you to succeed.  One would think convincing people to talk to an advisor to further their own needs would be easy. But it is not.   Peoples fear and distrust makes making these calls very daunting.

My first week at the bank there was a call night from which I was excused seeing as I had not been there long enough to profile anyone, nor did I have a clue as to what I was talking about.  Being the trooper that I am I opted to stay and join the fun.  The manager handed me a list of papers and told me to call everyone on the list.

I looked at the first name on the list checked their account and they had something like 25 grand sitting in a no interest checking account.  I looked at the history and they had that much sitting there for at least a year.  Clearly, at the very least this could go into an interest bearing savings account.  The call went something like this.

Me:  “Hi my name is Brian and I’m calling from your bank.  I’ve noticed you have a lot of money sitting in a checking account.  Did you know we can put you in another type of account and you could be making money on that money?

Them:  “Not interested”

Me—Stunned silence.

Me: “Really? Do you have that money earmarked for something, perhaps a home, or a car or sending a child to school? If you are we have many products designed just for those types of purposes that will be much more beneficial than a checking account.”

Them:  “No thanks,” CLICK!

Me:  Looking stupidly at my phone. 

At this point one of the other Tellers noticed me looking stupid and quietly told me that she just calls home and speaks to her answering machine.  That way it looks like she is making calls.  While I understood the concept, I thought that was a bigger waste.  With great trepidation I looked at the second person on my list.  His name was Bob (not really, but we will call him Bob) the first thing I noticed was that Bob had multiple accounts all with stupidly high balances.

 Me:  “Hi Mr. Bob, My name is Brian and I’m calling from your bank, I’d like to talk about all that money you have just sitting there doing nothing, in fact I’d like to transfer it into my account.  Okay I didn’t say that, what I really said was something to the effect of you really need to come in and talk to one of our people about making this money work for you.

Bob: “I don’t like big banks, they are very impersonal and you never know who you are talking too”

Me: “Well I can help you with that, I’m Brian I am calling from your branch in State College and I can be your banker”

Bob: “Well that is nice of you but I remember when it was a small town bank and I knew everyone who worked there, now I don’t know anybody and I’m not happy about it.”

Me: “I understand, progress isn’t always what it is cracked up to be, but I can help you out with your current accounts”

Bob: “Does Pat still work there?”

Me: “Pat?  Yes, she is my branch manager.”

Bob: “I remember her when she was a Teller and I’d show her magic tricks.  I’d show all the girls magic tricks and they always greeted me with smiles and were happy to see me, now there is no personal service.”

At this point I just leaned back in my chair, smiled inwardly and took a breath.  Here I was a week in the bank, my first call night I knew nothing about banking but I booked my first call night appointment.  I had a secret.  Bob was a magician, not only that, he was older which meant he was an old school magician, which meant he would have my back.

Me: “Really you are a magician?”

Bob: “Oh yes, I am a member of the magic circle in England, I’m a member of the International Brotherhood of Magicians, (IBM) and the Society of American Magicians, (SAM).  I’m not much of a performer on any formal level but I do show the occasional trick, and they used to love them at the bank.”

Me: “I was the regional Vice President of the SAM in Vancouver Canada”

Bob:  Silence

Bob: “Really?”

Me: “Yes really, my father opened a magic shop in Montreal in 1974 which is still going strong.  I just moved here from Vancouver where I operated the Vancouver branch for the last 10 years.”

Bob and I talked magic for about 15 minutes and then he said:

Bob:  “So if I make an appointment, what do you get out of it?”

Me:  “Not much except the fact that this is my first week at the job and I’ll have made my first appointment during a call night.”

Bob: “And what exactly is expected of me?”

Me:  “You just have to listen, you don’t have to commit to anything or do anything.  Just listen to your options and you never know something might just be right for you.”

Bob:  “Okay, for a fellow magician, okay, set up a date.”

After pinning down a time with Bob I went to my manager and told her that I made an appointment for her for the following day with Bob.  Pat looked at me with huge eyes and told me they have been trying to get Bob into the bank for years and he has always turned us down flat.  She asked me what I said that got him to agree.  I told her I just have a magical way about me.

Out of six tellers, three desk people the manager and two investment people making supposedly 10 calls apiece I was the only one to book an appointment that day. 

Sometimes all it takes is a little magic.

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Okay I admit it. Now that I found out how to post video’s on Youtube I’m constantly thinking of ways to use this tool in my posts. There is one video we took awhile back that I’m searching for, but in the meantime my camera person, (my wife) is learning to use the camera and I am learning how to add titles and credits to the video.  I know for a 12 year old this is probably standard stuff.  But for folks like me, well lets just say it is darn close to rocket science.

Anywhow, here is our latest attempt.  Hope you enjoy the world famous 3 card trick.

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For the second time in the history of this blog I have a guest poster.  My friend Penney from Vancouver read my handcuff blog and offered this handcuff story that involves her husband Tony.  The following is actually a response to my handcuff story.  Thanks Penney.

Way back, before 9/11 when air travelers were all considered fairly harmless and Tony’s entire magic collection could fit into a standard briefcase. We were flying to AB, and because he didn’t trust the airline with his precious collection he planned to bring the briefcase as a carry-on. Gotta really hand it to the security lady. She never cracked a smile (though her eyes were laughing hysterically) as she had asked this strange long-haired dude (Tony) to open the case. So he does, explaining to her how the case was filled with odd stuff because he was a magician, and really, she couldn’t possibly understand the workings of what he had in that case of mystery. And when she went straight for the corner of the case and pulled out his handcuffs, he didn’t miss a beat. He said, “That is for my escapism act.” They made him give it to the steward, who I think gave it to the pilot.

For some strange reason, none of the three steward(ess) on that flight could make it through the safety procedures, because they were all doubled over laughing by the time they boarded the plane.

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Hello, my name is Brian and I’m addicted to Pawn Stars.

So the other day they had an episode where some guy was trying to pawn some antique and very rare handcuffs.  The episode got me thinking about my own handcuff incident in the magic shop.  My mother posted once such incident here.  Mine was slightly different.

One fine day I was sitting behind the counter in the magic shop all alone when some guy I’ve never met walks into the store.

“Howdy, May I help you?”

“No thanks, I’m just looking.”

“Just looking?  I don’t think so, you walked up all those stairs and just looking?  For walking up those stairs you get a reward.  I’m going to show you a card trick just for coming into the shop.”

“Okay” says the stranger, and I showed him something called ‘Mental Photo’

After he told me how wonderful and talented I am he points to the handcuffs in the display cabinet.  “Those real police issue?” he asks.

“Those are real  double lock handcuffs, and at one point they were police issue, but the police now use Smith and Wesson handcuffs.

“So, those are real?  You can’t escape from them?”

“Well that is two very different questions,  yes they are real double lock handcuffs.  They are not gimmicked in any way.  They do however come with instruction on how to escape from them, but it is probably not what you think.”

“Can you escape from them?”

“On a good day, yes I can.”

“Can you show me?”

“No, we do not give away secrets,  you can buy them and read the instructions and learn to do it on your own. “

“Oh I am not asking for the secret I’m asking for a demonstration.  Can you put them on and escape?’

“Uhm no, sorry I’m not comfortable with that.”

“Why, I’m not going to buy something unless I know it works.”

“Well I understand that, and I would be happy to show you the handcuffs themselves that they are real, and they come with instructions that just about guarantees they work. But am I going to handcuff myself with real double lock handcuffs? No.”

“Why not?”

“No offence but I have no idea who you are and I really think I am going to have a hard time explaining to the police, the insurance company, my family and friends that I was robbed because I voluntarily handcuffed myself  because a ‘customer’ asked me too.”

In the end I figured he really was interested in the escapes because he did buy something called a shackle escape because I was able to demonstrate that one without the fear of actually being locked in.

The video that follows is me performing Mental Photo.  First time recording myself, well my wife recorded me doing a magic trick.  We shot it in one take with no editing at all, so beware it is raw footage. Oh that scratching noise you hear in the background?  Thats a cat using the litter box. 

I should add, if you are interested in learning this effect it is available at www.perfectmagic.com.  Tell them you saw it here first and you will still get charged full price.

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In the early days, those that came before the magic store my father was in the fruits and vegetable business.  It was an import export business he inherited from his father.

We had an attached garage.  I was in the basement (where eventually the magic shop would go) and I heard the garage door go up.  Just as I got to the end of the short hallway my father came through the door with a husky puppy in his arms.  I believe my father got Misty from a farmer with whom he did business.

I am probably not the one to tell this story, I was very young at the time and I don’t remember everything as clearly as others might.  But alas it has been hinted, more than once, that I should write about Misty, so here we are.

1971:  for those of you taking your socks off trying to do the math, I was six.

Misty was a typical looking black and white husky.  She had one blue eye and one brown.  Like most huskies, Misty was trouble.   My folks started off trying to paper train her.  They covered the entire basement floor in newspaper and put the puppy in the basement.   Misty found a spot where the corners of the newspaper overlapped, she spread them apart and pooped directly on the floor.  That alone should be a lesson to anyone thinking about getting a husky, they are really smart and will try anything to undermine what you want them to do. 

My mother tells the story of the time Misty was getting a treat and as my mother tried to take the treat back Misty growled and bared her puppy teeth.  While cute at the time my mother realized that in a year or so that may not be so cute.  I don’t know how my mother corrected the behavior, but she (Misty, not my mother) never growled at me.

Every day I would walk Misty while waiting for the carpool to take me to school.  By walk I mean I would stand outside on the lawn with the dog and when the car came my mother would take the leash.  For those of you who are un-aware huskies are really strong dogs and it just so happens they really like to pull.  One day the car arrived to take me to school and Misty simply jumped into the car dragging me along chaos insued.  One adult in the driver’s seat a few kids in the back and a rambunctious husky puppy jumping all over everything.  The next day it was decided that it would be best not to have the dog out when the carpool arrived.  That  decision was in vain as the next day the car never arrived.   For years after I thought Misty was a magic dog, no Misty, no carpool.  If only it were that simple!

Back in the early 70’s we used to get snow!  And I mean snow.  That year it was so deep we had trouble opening the door, we had to shove Misty out of a second story window so she could go out for her walk.

We also rented a county house.  Misty used to help us dig our snow forts.  And I have a very vague memory of Misty pulling us around on a sled. 

Years later, in elementary school a teacher asked us to write about our earliest memory.  I remember lots of stuff, I just am horrible with dates and when it comes to my early memories I never know what happened exactly when.  But I remember writing that my earliest memory was when my father brought Misty home.  Even then I knew that was not my earliest memory but it is one of my favorites.   The same teacher asked us to write about our favorite memory.  I wrote the exact same thing.   My favorite memory is when my father brought Misty home.  That same teacher asked us to write about our saddest memory.  I wrote, “my saddest day was when Misty left our home”

It turns out my eldest sister was allergic to fur and feathers.  The allergy was so severe the only option was to give Misty up.  My father says he put two advertisements in the paper one for the dog one for my sister, the dog got the first response.  We are reasonably sure he was joking about the advertisements. Reasonably!

One thing was certain.  Everyone loved Misty.  The kids on the block, even the other dogs on the block, Princess, a samoyed that lived down the street was one of her best dog friends.  I’m pretty sure the girl down the block who used to babysit only did so because of Misty.

When Misty finally found a new home I used to have horrible dreams, in this particular recurring dream Misty was simply hiding somewhere, playing a game.  I’d wake up in the middle of the night and look under my bed I’d sneak out of my room and it was only when I got to the living room did the reality of it sink back in.  Misty was no longer there.   In another dream my friend down the block had found her and was holding her for me.  Boy was I disappointed when I woke up.  Later that day my friend was outside on our walkway, (we all used to gather there and play CHAMP, a game with a ball).  I couldn’t get past my dream even though I knew it was a dream.  He must have thought I was nuts when I asked him if he had Misty.  But I had to ask. 

My mother took it the hardest.  My mother was the one who looked after Misty the most.  You can barely mention Misty’s name without my bringing my mother close to tears.  Lucky for us Sequoia doesn’t resemble Misty and doesn’t bring out that reaction. 

Maya, Sequoia’s only dog friend is a black and white husky.  Not too long ago my folks were in town and we had a few friends over including Maya and her family.  Sure enough there was a tear or two shed when Maya walked up onto the lawn.

Years later, whenever the conversation of pets surfaced my mother would say no, because she is the one that ends up looking after them not us.  So no, we could not have pets.  Years later we learned the truth.  My mother would not let us look after Misty, she knew we had to give her up and she didn’t want us to get any more attached then we already were.  My mother was trying to spare us what she eventually had to endure, because that is what mothers do.

When my wife and I first decided to keep Sequoia I knew I had to call home and tell my folks.

Me; “Hello mom, we rescued a husky and decided to keep her”

Long pause

Mom: “They die you know”

As I watch Sequoia getting older, and I see her slowing down, I hear those words, I hear them every time I see Sequoia struggling to leap into the car, or ever so slowly get down from the couch, yes there are times we have to give them up, yes they get older, yes they die, and no, it is not fair!

Brian and Misty, 1971



Brother, Father, Misty, Me,


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