What would you respond? In the past I’ve received emails and phone calls to either ‘heal’ or ‘curse’ a particular person. This happened despite what I think is unmistakably clear messaging on my site that I’m a London magician offering magic entertainment and nothing more miraculous (or sinister) than that. How many calls would I get if I actually professed to hold secrets to the dark arts or was a miracle guru?
People have different comfort levels to not knowing the ‘secrets’ in play in a magic show. Everyone tends to fall in one of three categories as they respond to the ‘magic’ they just saw. In my London magician shows, there are three types of people I meet.
Here’s a little personality test. Which one are you?
1) “I have to know the secrets!”
Regardless of how beautiful or entertaining a magical feat can be, lurking behind the sets is always the basic question: how did the magician do that? For some people in the audience, it’s an especially dark cloud that won’t release its grip on them. If this is you, your rational mind can’t cope. You HAVE to know. You’re a puzzle solver, a scientist, a rational mind that won’t rest until at least a vaguely-plausible explanation is on the table. You run on evidence and doubt rather than what seems to be at first glance.
2) “I don’t know the secrets, but that’s awesome!”
These are the perfect audience members for those magicians who hope to create drama, illusion, fantasy, comedy or beauty with their magic. If you’re like this, you want to lose yourself in it all, forget you’re being ‘tricked’ and just have fun with that feeling of not knowing. One of my favourite magic historians wrote about this:
“Usually the deception in a magic show is a negative element,
the hole in the middle of the performance. The performance is a sort of
inadvertent dance around this hole, with the hope that
each spectator will be coaxed to slip through it.”
Most magicians focus on luring spectators through that hole because to make a show all about figuring out secrets to a puzzle that the magician already knows isn’t a very entertaining prospect!
3) “I have to believe!”
This is the man who wanted me to curse someone for him or the woman who once grabbed my arm and in all sincerity said ‘I saw the glow when you were reading my mind.’ If this is you, you don’t like asking questions, you may want to escape from some uncomfortable reality by holding onto illusions instead. I might be a London magician clearly peddling in entertainment but if this is you, you see something real instead.
The most fascinating secrets that magicians understand are how people are led to believe things that aren’t true. Which is probably why so many of them get hot under the collar when they see people touting myths as reality. Famous magicians who have taken to debunking fraudulent ideas include James Randi, Martin Gardner, Harry Houdini, and Penn & Teller who have all made it a personal mission to ‘get real’.
Magic as entertainment is a celebration of the thrill of a good mystery but in the wrong hands it can be twisted into deception of the foolish. In fact the first ever known book on magic grew out of the need to debunk and protect the poor souls who had been getting burned at the stake having been accused as witches or sorcerers. Reginald Scot published Discoverie of Witchcraft in 1584, fuelled by his skepticism that witchcraft was real. In the book he revealed secrets to what essentially were conjuring tricks; what the ‘witches’ had been doing to pave their way to a burning stake.
And history repeats. This time, not about a witch but about a miracle. Sanal Edamaruku is a modern-day Reginald Scot who fled from Mumbai to Helsinki in 2012 to escape a warrant for his arrest for having debunked on television what a Catholic church had touted as a miracle. Water dripping from the feet of a statue of Jesus had been publicised as a miracle and hopefuls flocked to capture the water professed to heal the sick. Sanal investigated and discovered a blocked drain had been the source of the water. The grounds for his arrest: a colonial era Section 259A of Indian penal code for “deliberately hurting religious feelings…” Sanal told me, “I became a resident of Finland to avoid the possibility of indefinite pre trial imprisonment and a possible murder attempt against me in jail.” Open church group discussions online plotted to have him killed. In his case, revealing the secret behind the illusion was clearly a touchy subject for those who ‘had to believe.’
So whether you want to know how the magic works or not, as a London magician I’m here to tickle that sense of mystery and the unknown, to tap into that sense of wonder. I won’t be revealing any secrets but then I think you knew that already. And by the way, if you email me for curses or miracles, special rates may apply.