September Meeting and Tips on performing from Bev

Ring Report Ring #170 “The Bev Bergeron Ring” SAM Assembly #99

September 2018  Meeting

President Mike Matson was away. Vice President Craig  Fennessy conducted the meeting. We welcomed guests Nathaniel Stevens and Jim Henson, of Little Rock and new member Paul Hallas.  Ravelli gave us a description of his new magic shop at the Auburndale Mall where he also performs on weekends.

Bev Bergeron’s teach-in was tips on performing from one of the pamphlets he has written. One great tip was to always hold up cards when performing for an audience because they are not visible on a flat table.   We continue to raise “Go-Fund-me” money for the medical care of our member Sebastian Midtvaage who is suffering from rare Pineoblastoma brain cancer.

Dan Stapleton showed a few Gerald Heaney posters and catalogs and told about  visiting the Heaney home in the early 1970s in rural Wisconsin. Dan grew up in Milwaukee. Heaney was a magician and owned a mail order magic business and is known for buying part of the Thurston show and storing it in his barn. Dan hopes to tell the complete story in a planned Magic History Conference here in Orlando.

Dan Stapleton then emceed our meeting show. William Zaballero have a spectator three opportunities to pick a card and they mysteriously ended with a winning Black Jack hand. Dave Freeman  did Bewildered in Tarot where a freely selected card matches a prediction. Michael Flannigan had a “pick-a-card” effect made intriguing by his addition of flip charts showing the mathematical odds of him being about to predict the selected cards. Paul Hallas did a card effect where he was able to feel the selected cards.

Dennis Phillips wrapped up the show with two prop effects created by Ian Adair, the British magic legend who worked with Edwin Hopper and Supreme magic. Adair is still inventing. Dennis showed the Twin Doves in Balloon and vanished the dove using Dove-van. Both effects were made by Abbotts Magic in the 1960s  with permission from Supreme.

Dennis Phillips





Dennis Deliberations … Ring # 170

“The Bev Bergeron Ring”

October 2018

“You can take the whole seat…but you’re only going to need the edge!”

                   -quote from an old Ghost Show ticket-











Houdini’s Grave in Machpelah Cemetery

8230 Cypress HIlls Street

Ridgewood, Queens County, New York, 11385 USA


It is the final resting place of magician Harry Houdini, his brother Theodore Hardeen, his mother, father, grandfather, four other brothers, and a sister.

I am going to engage into some historical  and medical speculation. This is the month that Houdini died on October 31,  1926. The most common explanation of the cause of his death was from peritonitis, a massive infection in his gut area from a ruptured appendix , which was said to be caused by a punch to his stomach by a college student challenging Houdini who had  offered to be punched in the gut  to prove his muscular ability. My belief is that there could have been other contributing and pre-existing health factors.  This is only my theory but supporting facts seem in place.  Houdini was already in declining health and only age 52. Most biographers talk about him suffering from chronic fatigue, he had a broken ankle and an overall physical decline over the last half decade of his life. My assertion is that high exposure to x-rays  starting a decade before and the resulting pathological effects may have led to his declining health and premature death.

Houdini bought his brother, Radiologist Dr. Leopold Weiss ,one of the newly-invented x-ray machines, and he x-rayed Houdini dozens, if not hundreds of times.  Houdini was intrigued by x-rays and how they could “see through” solid objects. Apparently Houdini had a small pistol round embedded in his hand from being shot earlier in his life and an x-ray showed the bullet.  Recently the x-ray film was offered for sale as a collectable.

Speculation, among some old magicians,  was that Houdini’s massive exposure to radiation led to Houdini becoming sterile.


According to Jay Marshall, Bessie Houdini (his wife)  told Anne Gwynne (Jack’s wife)  that Houdini and Leo played with the x-ray machine until they both unknowingly sterilized themselves. However, it may have also been that Bess had fertility issues herself. Bess and Harry had been married for 10 childless years by the time Harry started experimenting with Leopold’s X-ray machine. Biographer, Kenneth Silverman revealed evidence of an extramarital affair Houdini had with Charmian London (widow of author, Jack London).  Sterility is not the same thing as impotence, so two factors could be at work here. Possibly Bess was not fertile and Harry was sterile.


Recall that not a lot was known about the dangers of ionizing radiation back then and the machines spewed out many times over the necessary needed x-rays to get an acceptable radiographic image on primitive thick emulsion film.  Unaware of the dangers, in the 1930s, the Mayo Clinic experimentally used X-ray radiation to treat asthma.  I recall X-Ray machines ( Fluoroscopes) were used in shoe stores, X-raying my feet and many other  kid’s feet for shoe fittings until they were banned in 1953!  X-Rays were used to treat acne. The double-helix structure of DNA was not discovered until the early 1950s  and that provided the mechanism for understanding cell destruction and radiation illnesses. Ionizing radiation has a very short electromagnetic wavelength and a lot of energy (Planck’s Constant) so it can figuratively punch holes in your DNA and nucleic acid cell structures (RNA)  since DNA is the pattern used for cell reproduction, and RNA for biochemical synthesis, massive errors of the code patterns ( cancer) can result.  High doses can act like burns and immediately destroy tissue.

Acute myelogenous leukemia (AML), chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML), and acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) can be caused by past radiation exposure.  Myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS), a bone marrow cancer that can turn into acute leukemia, has also been linked to past radiation exposure. Part of the reason is that white blood cells are some of the fastest reproducing cells and shortest lasting cells in your body. You need a constant supply.

My hunch is that Houdini had a weakened immune system from radiation induced leukemia which contributed to his susceptibility to infection

Harry with brother Leopold


Houdini’s brother, Dr. Leopold Weiss, became a successful New York radiologist. For a time he even ran his practice out of Houdini’s home in Harlem. Around 1916, Houdini and Leopold had a falling out when Leo married Sadie, the divorced wife of another Weiss brother, Nathan. Houdini turned against Leo, banishing him from the family cemetery plot and even cutting his head out of family portraits. The brothers never reconciled.  In 1962, Leopold, elderly and blind, killed himself by leaping off the roof of his apartment.



Shim Lin won America’s Got Talent! The second magic act to win the series.

It just goes to show the immense power of the BEST magic to blow away just about every other branch of the performing arts: singing, instrumental music, acrobatics, stand-up comedy, dance groups, animal acts, stunning ‘black art’ theatre with state-of-the-art electronic effects, and more. Shin Lim left ALL of these top-caliber acts in the dust, and solely with his riveting sleight of hand card magic!

Even the curmudgeonly Simon Cowell, who at one point expressed his utter disdain for “card tricks”, completely reversed his stance after watching Shin Lim, saying, “Anyone who tries to tell you they don’t believe in magic — HELLO!!

As well, it should be noted that it’s one thing for a magician to compete among his peers at an international magic convention and WIN (as Shin did: I.B.M., FISM, etc.); that in itself is a fantastic accomplishment, there’s no taking away from it. But when the PUBLIC votes for some of the greatest (non-magic) variety talents in the world and ends up giving their highest accolades to a MAGICIAN — well, that has to have virtually every other magic fanatic in the world ‘bursting their buttons’ with pride.

And we in the magic community are all immensely proud of Shin Lim.

Shin Lim could be the biggest name in magic since David Blaine

His accomplishments include fooling Penn and Teller . . . twice.

Toward the end of magician Shin Lim’s “Dream Act” routine, his hands slowly rise to his head, palms up. Just as the accompanying dramatic orchestral music swells, he opens his mouth, expelling a cloud of smoke and revealing a folded playing card that had been inexplicably moving between both of his hands and his vest pocket.

Lim’s precise movements, his intensity, the crescendos of the music. It is cinematic.

The question is: In today’s world of entertainment, how far will a deck of cards and smoke machine take you?

Most of you know that personally, card magic , and his style , is not at the top of my list of “likes”, but I give credit where credit is due. A full discussion of this and the grief other magicians have given me can be found in an e-mail exchange at the bottom of this Deliberation.


Some months ago I did this effect , in a disguised format, at a meeting. It is a fooler. Print it out and carry it around.

  1. Print out the Magic Math cards page and cut out each of the cards individually.
  2. Place all 6 cards face-up in a pile and put the “Pick a Number Between 1 and 30” card on top.  The order of the other 5 number cards does not matter.
  3. Show your student the “Pick a Number Between 1 and 30” card and ask him/her to pick a number between 1 and 30.  Be sure that the student does not tell you what it is.
  4. Show the student the first number card in the pile and ask, “Is your number on this card?”  Be sure that the student looks carefully before responding.
  • If the student says “yes,” make a mental note of the number in the top left hand corner of that card (it’s either 1, 2, 4, 8, or 16).
  • If the student says “no,” just continue.
  1. Show the student the next number card in the pile and do the same as you did before.
  2. Repeat until you have asked the student for all 5 number cards.
  3. You should have kept a mental note of the top left hand corner numbers for all of the cards to which the student responded “yes.”  Add those numbers together.
  • TIP: Keep a running total in your head as you move through the cards instead of waiting until the end to add them.  It’s much easier to remember a running total than to remember a bunch of different numbers.
  1. The sum that you just calculated is the student’s secret number!  Now’s the fun part – blow the student away by sharing what his/her secret number is!

How cool and simple is that trick?  You can repeat it .

Bonus!  Here is an even more complex Magic Square, if you enjoy doing this effect.















This bit of advice on distinguishing your magic and personality from one of the real theatrical artists in magic from John Tudor. Read the whole blog entry here:

John Tudor


“Have our magicians had any training or direction in the art of magic? Have they stage presence, or can they act? No, they have not. They just got hold of a bunch of tricks, and walked out on the stage. Magic, which is one of the arts, and one of the best entertainments for the great intelligent public, has suffered terribly. In fact, it has been murdered.”

Guy Jarrett wrote those words…..

“A theater manager once told me, “We (theaters and performing arts centers) are all doing these mind-reading and card trick shows, on projection screens. We do good business with these too, but they all seem the same.” The magicians seemed interchangeable to her, and she wondered whether they would grow an audience. My opinion may seem obvious, but I truly believe it. The better trained you are (aside from with the use of media) the less interchangeable you will always be (even projected on a big screen). I think the stage presence/acting aspect becomes even more crucial in a TV or media heavy production, than in a “normal” magic show.

The buyer also asked me why there weren’t more artistic magic shows, like the artistic puppet and juggling shows she’d presented. I told her about Jeff McBride & the Mystery School scholars, and the one-man fringe festival shows, like Ricky Jay’s. She said, “I would love to offer a magic show that’s different, something more robust.”

Robust, she said. Robust… I confess I’ve spent a lot of time pondering what she meant by that choice of words! Perhaps it is different for everyone, I don’t know. I am sure, however, that you, the reader, would prefer to seem “robust” than to seem “interchangeable,” wouldn’t you? Then don’t just watch YouTube, or Fool Us. Think hard about Guy Jarrett’s words. Get some training, some direction, work on your stage presence, take an acting class…or a Master Class. You’ll find yourself much happier, to be a champion, rather than a murderer of the art.”

I was happy to meet John at Magic Palooza 2016 and have been impressed by his work and writing.


How many male magicians feel this way?  Honesty is the best way, as well as having more than the talent self-claimed. The working class is not starved for entertainment as it was in the days of P.T. Barnum. Every magician needs to be unique. That part you can control.



The whims of culture and what is a fad is something that you can not control.


Here is an e-mail exchange with a Canadian Magician who took exception to me saying that I appreciated and applaud Shin Lim but what he does in not of great interest to me and I would not go out of my way to see him perform.

I said…. (My Assertions and Response is in the bold type. His are in the smaller type)

I respect and applaud his magic. I am happy for him and his fans and magicians everywhere who do this type of stuff.

It’s just “stuff”, is it? And because it “isn’t your thing”, meaning since you don’t (or can’t) do it yourself, or, to be fair, just don’t care to, then  that lessens your appreciation of it?

Not at all!  I can appreciate  that liver smothered with onions is enjoyed by some people.  I just don’t care for it.  How am I supposed to feel guilty and self-loathing because I don’t care for it?

What I can artistically do has nothing to do with my likes and dislikes! I cannot sing like Andrea Bocelli but I went to see him and I follow his art. I have my likes and dislikes in magic. To each his own.

“To each his own” is a rather dismissive phrase.

Not at all… I am giving you and other magicians the freedom for their likes and dislikes and opinions.  Why can’t you do that for me? I do not care about artsy close up close up stuff. It adds too many complexities for an analytical mind like me. i.e. smoke in a card trick?   It is like taking a perfectly great sophisticated song such as “Misty” (Errol Gardner) and doing a Jazz version that add so much complexity that the melody and mood get lost in the chaos. It seems that in Post Post-Modern art forms, all sequence and logic goes out the window and it is chaos punctuated by snap shots of seeming discontinuity ( that is the psychological “magic” moment).  Modern magic was more like Bauhaus architecture ( “Form follows function”) and Scandinavian design.  I prefer that.

I get lost in what is happening in most Post-Post Modern art expressions. David Blaine and Criss Angel both went too far into grunge. The performer was not  separated in look or power from the audience. To me, the psychological effect is like a shark feeding frenzy . Out of the chaos arise the Darwinistic victor or the luckiest survivor.  Sure, certain patterns of the “natural” can appear to be “supernatural” but , to me, the thrill of the “supernatural” is that it remains in its domain and interjects onto our natural and does not merely rise from the “natural”.

I have to confess that as interesting as Siegfried and Roy’s Mirage show was, the net effect that that the stage action and pace was so chaotic that the thrill of the magic was lost.  Too many “miracles” reduce the effects to mundane, sort of like Superman showing off his powers.

It suggests to me that you didn’t see the many incredible performances Shin Lim did to “claw” his way to the top.  With most of my lifetime involved in magic, I confess I saw him do things that totally defied all belief. Studying him in slow motion repeatedly still left me baffled.

I can appreciate all the obvious work that he did.  I don’t care if he “clawed” his way. Lots of people claw their way and never get anywhere. But, as you know, I have no respect in the Calvinist work ethic which is some sort of self-justification for why a person is rich. But like my professional magician friend, Jeff Eaton, once said, “The magician has failed if, when he finishes, and you ask, ‘So what?”.  Often in close-up, I ask, “So what”.

The reason *I* loved it had nothing whatever to do with the type of magic I actually do. Like you, I don’t do his kind of magic, and so in that sense it was “not my thing” either. But my admiration for his skills, his pacing, his showmanship (it’s not for nothing he took first place in close-up at FISM and the I.B.M.) and the fact that he stunned me and everyone else with conjuring feats that seemed utterly impossible, is why I couldn’t be like you: confessing, as you did, that if it is not something YOU can find a venue or make money with, then you don’t give care.

Professional show business is a business. Making money is the only way to stay in it,as a business, otherwise it is a hobby.

In the final analysis, if you are not hungry, thirsty ,insecure, sexually in need or poor or have some internal drive to get rich, why should you care about any magic other than as a hobby? Maybe some small amount of curiosity may compel you. But “magic” is a shallow way to explore mystery, because you know it is illusion. It is only a mystery as to how they did it.

If you want real mystery the pick something that is not knowingly fake but mysterious , like   

Someone could interpret that as a kind  of jealousy. Or a man who is a magician himself, but in his twilight years has become somewhat bitter over his lost opportunities. But I’m no psychologist.

I am not bitter over my experiences.  I am disappointed that the Modern paradigm ( Weltanschauung) has evaporated into social chaos and the common elements of Mass Cultural Entertainment has degenerated into tribalism. Professional Sports may be the last vestige of Mass Entertainment. Probably David Copperfield was the last of the broad spectrum mass culture magicians. Interesting to note that his broad appeal declined in the 1990s just as the Internet was talking over. That era also spelled the doom of “The Big Three” TV Networks which had a sufficient share of audience to create an awareness of a singular personality. This goes for all of show business including radio broadcasting.

 David and Dania, Matt Franco, the two previous AGT winners, have respectively faded into  “ A half-time basketball court show” and “The Las Vegas backroom” Purgatory  where they have been consigned for magic eternity. Neither arrived in the age of  Mass Culture which is how Copperfield made his billion dollars of net worth.  

A man who truly loves the art of deception loves it all, unconditionally. With the only criterion being DOES IT SATISFY THE PARAMETERS THAT ELEVATES TO AN ART? Not listed in any order of importance, the best of the genre should — entertain … fool the audience … and be emotionally gratifying. A kind of visual beauty is also important, as are secondary considerations such as: a challenge to the intellect … a lesson in the psychology of deception … and the uplifting experience of seeing the laws of Nature seemingly violated.

I don’t see any reason to “talk him down” at all.  UNLESS! – he failed utterly to satisfy all or any of the criteria I listed above. In my mind, he did not. His material is on a par with the classical dove magic of Channing Pollock and Lance Burton. And many others I could name.

I did not talk him down,  all I told you was that his magic style was “not my thing” and I was privately honest with you ( as I would be with all magicians) and you act like I do not appreciate all the credits he should get and deserves! He is golden ,in my view, when I talk to the general public.

One reason he is so good, is that he put an incredible amount of work into his magic. When he was mastering classical piano, he was required to practice 15 and more hours per day, until he was smitten with carpal tunnel syndrome in both wrists. That kind on near-maniacal dedication was then turned over to his second passion, card magic, as he was forced to give up piano and concentrate on only one thing.

Hard Work never equals success or wealth… Pre-1865 Slaves and low-wage factory workers in 1910 prove that!  “Success” depends on some linkage to society and in showbusiness, Mass Culture Media is the link- how much ever of it still exists.  AGT is the best example but still, the format is not as constructive to individual stardom as having your own TV prime time network special.  “Fool Us” and “Masters of Illusion” are another, but the lesser cable channel location makes them less effective.  Of course, You Tube, is the eternal domain of all magic gods and wanna-be gods and their detractors. You Tube is “Magic Hell” and like Dante’s Satan boasted, “I would rather rule in Hell than be subservient in Heaven”, You Tube continues to attract reprobates.  

The reason there are so many lousy magicians in this crazy world, is that there are so few willing to put in that kind dedication.

But I have known personally many great magicians who died unknown. They were totally dedicated, creative and awe inspiring and, when performing, hailed by audiences. But they got nowhere and died unknown and forgotten. I have a “clock act” that was passed on to me by Vince Carmen and he got it from an unknown magician ( who I saw once when he was elderly). For its day (the 40s-50s) is was the most diabolical of methods and effects. I would say that Karl Germain was another and he would have been lost to time, if it was not for Stuart Cramer’s documentation.  Another is Ho Yam ( William Mayoh b.1886) who also was a photographer and luckily self-published his creations which found their way into Lou Tannen’s collection. All of these people are unknown outside of magic.

Like music, there are some remarkable outstanding talents and many low talents.  Talent does not equal fame.

I remember years ago, someone saying that at any typical magic get-together, there can be illusionist after illusionist [yawn…] but the moment a brilliant sleight of hand artist comes onto the stage, his manipulations cause the magicians to sit bolt-upright and take keen notice. Because they all know the kind work it requires to pull off successfully. But I digress…

Yes…and that is probably why the Juggler is usually the one who brings down the house at a magic convention! Ever notice that?







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August 2018 Meeting- Tips on selling your Magic Collection

Ring Report Ring #170 “The Bev Bergeron Ring” SAM Assembly #99

August 2018  Meeting

President Mike Matson called the meeting to order. We had 4 guests Mike Flannigan, Haran Izary, Clark Orr and Ann Osterhout. We shared a wrap up report on the major magic conventions this summer. Bev Bergeron’s monthly teach each feature two gags. One was a tiny hand in a person’s fist with the premise that the magician is holding a miniature child. The other was a gag with flash paper as a technique to get a free drink. President Matlock did another talk on “Theory and Thaumaturgy”. This time it was on expectations and he used Professor’s Nightmare as an example.

Phil Schwartz, our resident magic historian presented Magic History Moment #95 on “Nuts and Berries — How to Sell Your Magic Collection”.  He first explained what psychological motivations causes a person to collect. He quoted psychologist, Carl Jung, who said we all have an ancient archetype left over from our early ancestors to collect nuts and berries. He rejected Sigmund Freud’s view who linked collecting to the development of bowel control. Phil them gave some guidelines to an orderly distribution of your collection. He said to be respectful of magic history, give some away, donate some and sell some.  He said that to sell your collection you will need an inventory, photos and descriptions and then meet others collectors, learn the market, develop a selling network and avail yourself to cheap marketing such as a web page.  Phil then gave examples on how he had disposed on much of his valuable collection. He owned 800 Thayer pieces and 25 Thayer notebooks filled with ephemera. He wrote the classic text, “The Ultimate Thayer” and has a website, Phil’s Magic Market. He also started a Thayer Magic website. His tips included gathering email address making lists and actively marketing his collection. He advised that someday everyone’s collection would change hands.


Our monthly show began with Dr. Ken Schreibman presenting a clever Poker test. Five jokers changed to a royal flush and the backs changed colors. Greg Solomon showed his latest edition to his medicine show, an Egyptian decorated Drawer Box. Brian Sullivan had a spectator shuffle a deck and place cards around the inside of a book. One of the cards was selected and it matched a prediction that was in an envelope from the beginning. Tom Parkin did a test of memory, a card selected match one that had been turned over before. James Bailey had a “Dirty Thought Detector” and a Rupert’s Pearl exploded as the test. Michael Flannigan had a deck with famous names and was able to predict that the Houdini card would be reversed. Dan Stapleton did his original card effect “Deck Tracy” where two detective cards capture the chosen card between them and then other evidence, like pairs of other detective cards showed up in sleeves and odd places.

Dennis Phillips closed the show with a Sawing in Half Illusion using a stock and Jig Saw. In addition to the classic jokes and sight gags, he added some additional excitement proving the saw was actually going through the assistant’s body.





Dennis Deliberations … Ring # 170

“The Bev Bergeron Ring”

September 2018

Children of yesterday, heirs of tomorrow,
What are you weaving? labor and sorrow?
Look to your loom again, faster and faster
Fly the great shuttles prepared by the Master…

-Mary Artemisia Lathbury- known as the poet laureate of Chautauqua-

Mathematically, all timeline processes can be computed using “time” as the domain ( the “x” axis on a Cartesian coordinate system).  Time can be a vital part of much of Calculus. When you start talking about going backwards time travel, laws of causality are violated. For example, you cannot hop in a time machine and travel back in time and kill your grandfather when he was a baby. At least not in this universe. Time and Space are linked and we should think of them as inseparable. You can read Hermann Minkowski and Albert Einstein for the details.  The problem of changing the past has plagued philosophers and theologians for at least a thousand years.

So can we change the past? St. Thomas Aquinas said “No” and even explained that the question is meaningless and invalid. If we could change the past, then there would be contradictory multiple states of “being”.  Example: I could say that I shaved this morning and I could say that I did not shave this morning by changing the past. Aquinas said that contradictory states of “being” ( in this case the historical “cause and effect” record) cancel each other into nothingness and since “nothing” implies non-existence then the question is meaningless heresy.  It is like asking what is on the 90th floor of your house?  You can ask the question but it is meaningless. Aquinas, who wrote” Summa Theologica”,  (as a Roman Catholic Church theologian in the 1300s) went on to say that his Catholic Church believed that God was omnipresent and to say, “there can be nothing” would assert that there was a place where God could not be. To his theology, that would be heresy and deny the omnipresence of God.

Today, the concept of “nothingness” is increasingly scientifically and theologically falling out of favor. We have math that shows the interconnectedness of time-space as a single concept. That interconnectedness is what we call “the velocity of light” but that limit has everything to do with the interconnection of the universe and “speed” is a simplistic part of it.  In string theory when perfect symmetry of waves can occur, the condition is very unstable like an upside pyramid standing in its inverted tip. “Nothingness” is a special class of “existence”. The popular idea of nothingness as “void and inert”  is clearly wrong. The scientific evidence we have seems to be telling us that what we think of as a void is indeed a bubbling cauldron of random energy fluctuations at max-Entropy. You can research, “The Dirac Sea”.  As far as physics is concerned nothing is something!

The question needs to become how did these random energy fluctuations expand and cooled to allow for the entropy-driven Universe that we observe? The answer seems to be that the Universe we observe is one of the degrees of freedom implicit in a timeless random probability field. Indeed nothingness is also a pure symmetric existence, that is if we think of Nothingness as a Perfect  Symmetry,  devoid of particulars and relationships, which exists as islands within the max-Entropy random field.

But,  I keep trying to change the past, rebuilding long gone magic tricks and trying to change the present “now” to connect with a past that never existed.

Here is an example:







This is my  re-imaged classic Egyptian Water Box, in a full Pharaoh costume with a backdrop. My water box has masking on the sides of the flaps so it could be done without angle problems.

My goal was the recapture the magic style of the past with its grand stage props and fantasy stories. It is from the past that I want to change.

I always wanted to make the Grant/Menge Water Box to be as impressive as the Nelson Hanne illustration and catalog description that I first saw in the 1950s.

As a kid back then, I realized the weakness of the trick having bad angle problems, plus the spray-paint  stencil paint job was cheap looking. It was not something that you would ever perform.

So I went to work, building a prop and a stage set that was as glorious as I thought it should be! Notice the side-masking that allows the effect to be almost done without any angle issues.

The patter is about The Nile River, the life giving river of Egypt, the gift of their gods to them.  Every year in the spring it would flood bringing life-giving nutrients and water to the desert land.

In the early 1900s the British built a dam that we now call the low Aswan Dam, but was small and enlarged several times but still limited in function. But it was enough to mostly disrupt the yearly cycle and anger the Egyptian  gods who allowed Howard Carter, the British archeologist, to discover King Tut’s tomb in 1922. The reason was that  inside was the small box containing the sacred Blue Scarab first used by Jannes and Jambres, the ancient High Egyptian Priests,  to tell the Pharaoh when the Nile flood would crest. The gods thought the British would understand that the Nile needed to flow freely. But the British and Europeans dismissed it all away as ancient nonsense. Egypt continued into financial and cultural decline.  In the 1950s, Cold War rivalry led the Soviets to construct the High Aswan Dam which totally blocked the Nile, flooded many sacred sites  and disastrously reshaped the down-river ecology and culture and led to more Egyptian social calamity.

Using translations from The Rosetta Stone, I reenacted the ancient yearly ritual with the symbolic snake coming from the box first ( unties by a reel) and the blue scarab talisman is produced from the box. Clear water is poured into the box and poured out ,but the second time it  turns blue ( I used two glasses and food coloring).

All this was done to Egyptian folk music playing under my live narration.


Not much to add here. It is amazing to me that Penn Gillette can make overt political, religious and philosophical statements and never face a backlash.

This just goes to show that show business has become intertwined with politics, religion and economic philosophy and the divisions and fractures in American life are regretful.

Looking at America is like looking in a cracked mirror.


I always thought that Stu MacDonald was one of those midwestern journeymen magician who always did a superior job with standard stuff. He always put his own twist in his presentations and patter.

Here is the way I remember Stu and Lori from the early 70s










I saw him at Abbotts with wife Lori doing a stage act in 1969 at Abbotts.  Fred Becker says they are still married but I never see her anymore. I somehow got the idea that Stu’s day job is producing training videos and their production for Whirlpool in Southwest Michigan.

Unlike lots of older magicians who keep doing the same stuff, Stu matured real well and has continued to sharpen his skills and create.












He did put on weight and lost his hair but he dresses appropriately and has morphed into a great novelty “sketch act” which took him to FISM for some recognition.  He is approaching an “old age legend” status and will probably be a Convention Headliner until the retires.

Here is the one trick that most magicians hate… Linking Rings.  I don’t think it is because of exposure but because they do not want to put the effort into it. The basic method is logically obvious to anyone with an IQ over 70 but with proper methodology, you can convince an audience that it can’t possibly be a split in the ring.

Take a look…

In two cases I confess that I simple did not see “the move”. I am sure that I do not know all the Linking Ring moves but I would swear that he uses a ring with a magnet in it… (1:14 from the end) and in another he must have one ring smaller than the other or bend in the split ( :46 from the end)  He may be using a Porper Ring for one move and a slightly larger ring for another.

You can see how deceptive good handling can be.

His FISM Act



Is there some magic applications? $30…!  That is very cheap. Stuff like this is almost $1,000 on Magic sites.

Hint: Mount a camera and do the color pen trick or any other mental effect where you need hidden information. For example: The Color Pen and Drawing trick.  By hiding your cell phone receiving screen  in a drawing pad, and having a hidden capturing camera , you can visually see which pen the spectator choses rather than feeling the buzzer.


Make sure you get a supply of magic postage stamps, available at your local post office. The stamps were released at Magic Live in Las Vegas and I think David Copperfield was there to introduce them.













I heard a lot of mixed reviews about this year’s Magic Live and people disappointed with some of the acts. It was said there were to many filler acts, like the guy with the Zebra costume. Attendance was said to be low and if the Asians had not been there, it would have been a decline.

The Orlando National SAM Convention seemed to have low attendance and again, the acts were said to not be not spectacular for most people. Many jugglers on the final night’s playbill.

The IBM was in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Abbott’s continues on and I still am not sure who owns the company. It was supposed to have been sold. My prediction is that FAB magic in town may just merge operations with Abbotts if Greg Bordner does not have hard feelings about it.


I am sorry to say that I believe American magic is declining and the Asians and Europeans and the rest of the world is picking up the slack.  FISM comes to Canada.



Most of you know that I have a journalism background.

There was a time when America was not dominated by just a few big corporations. Business was  mostly local. Each town has a local newspaper, radio station, theater and several ,local magicians, musicians and entertainers.

Back then the local newspaper had an important role in the community, and they welcomed local content and comments.  Some people called The Orlando Sentinel, “The Orlando Slant-inel”. I think that was unfair and was because some people were unhappy with the Sentinel editorials. Their basic news content was balanced then.

They were owned by the Tribune Newspaper out of Chicago. The broadcast part was profitable but the print division declined as the Internet and Broadcasting took over.  The popping of the financial debt bubble and The Great Recession of 2008 led to the bankruptcy of Tribune Media, which was the largest bankruptcy in the history of the American media industry.

I suspect the heavy dept load of the Sam Zell acquisition was a factor. Buying on heavy debt was typical them. It was also a factor in the failure of iHeart Radio and Cumulus Radio. Debt is a killer.  Today, most newspapers are just a shell of what they once were.

Recently Sinclair Broadcasting, the largest owner of local TV stations in the country, tried to buy the Tribune Broadcast Properties, but Sinclair bungled the deal and the FCC nixed it ( by what seemed to be Sinclair trying to maintain a monopoly in many markets by using shell companies they still controlled in the merger).

This certificate , from the Sentinel, was given to me at a 1989 invitation dinner, by the Sentinel staff (At the old downtown Orlando Radisson) for being one of their “Star” Letter writers. There were about one hundred people there.

When the time came, to get the award , at the end of the dinner,  syndicated columnist Charlie Reece stood up from the banquet table , at the front, and had me come forward. He read one of my letters that was published.

In it I said : “Charlie Reece said, in his recent column, that he had no respect for people who made their  living by pontificating and running their mouth. He said that  he only respected people who made a living by making physical things and doing physical labor.  In as much as Charley Reece makes his living solely by pontification and running his mouth and makes nothing physical and does no physical labor, I totally agree with him!”   The audience howled with laughter and Charlie handed me the framed certificate, and laughed and shook my hand and said, “Believe me, I had to put a lot of work and sweat into doing this!”

I wish that we could also “Make American Newspapers Great Again”.


It is a different world today… Copperfield was getting away with some of this in another generation. Times have changed…

Understand your audience and be respectful of them. You will find that in no situation do you have to do humor with innuendo, cruelty and crude aggression.

I am really saddened when a magician feels compelled to use these lines. It gives us all a bad name.



On a sad note: Jim Sommers, the well know illusion builder in Chicago has died. Sommers performed school shows across the U.S. in early 1970’s. He pulled a trailer (to sleep in) and had a full sized car packed with props.













He got involved in a fire-storm of criticism for building a Robert Harbin Zig Zag, long before the Harbin book gave buyers permission to duplicate it. It effectively destroyed his reputation in mainstream magic.

Jim continued to build fine magic but became ignored , as a performer,  by the magic fraternity.













I understand that there are two sides to the story of the Zig Zag and may appear in print someday. I think that the late 60s was a different era in magic in terms of general ethics. Today, you can make a fast buck if you copy anything.

Only the most deep pocketed stars have the legal dollar to fight piracy.

If you read Jim’s book about building your own illusions, you will appreciate his clever ideas and uncomplicated ways of creating great props.


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July 2018 Ring Meeting: Frakson-Egyptian Water Box and more

Ring Report Ring #170 “The Bev Bergeron Ring” SAM Assembly #99

July 2018  Meeting

President Mike Matson brought the July meeting to order.  We had 29 in the seats and three guests, Dr. Ken Schreibman, Jim Duel and Bill Jensen.

Bev Bergeron’s “Teach-in” was on his home-made sight gag, the tape measure watch. He showed how to make it and gave us some great lines, “It’s a foot and a half after 3 o-clock”.

President Matson did  another of his “Theory and Thaumaturgy lectures on rethinking the Hot Rod force. He explained some verbal lines to eliminate the weaknesses of the technique. He also applied the principle to forcing envelopes.


Phil Schwartz, resident magic historian explained  that the day of the meeting, July 18th, was Floyd Thayer’s 144th birthday and showed his book, The Ultimate Thayer. He then presented Magic History Moment # 94 on Jose Frakson, The Man of 100 Cigarettes. Frakson was born Jose Jimenez Savilla in Madrid in 1891. He achieved worldwide success on vaudeville and night club stages. Frakson is best known for his cigarette act.  Phil mentioned that Bev Bergeron, our club’s namesake, is also known for his own cigarette act.  Frakson gained fame from the 1920s to 1950s. Frakson made a fortune only to have it all taken away in the 1936 Spanish Civil War. He fled to Paris, bought a new tuxedo and began his career anew. He became a naturalized citizen US citizen and eventually moved back to Madrid where he died in 1981.

Dany Sanz opened up the monthly show buy cutting to high cards and finding all aces. James Bailey transformed a sponge cube to a ball and back again. Dan Stapleton had spectators write then names on billets and one was selected an burned and re rubbed the ashes on his arm to reveal the name.  Noah had a card selected and revealed it on his iPhone.

Dennis Phillips presented a re-imaged classic Egyptian Water Box, in a full Pharaoh costume with a backdrop. The water box had masking on the sides of the flaps so it could be done without angle problems. Ravelli was the final act with music and a delightful routine of multiplying balls, a giant 3 card monte, genie tube, napkin tear and dove pan finale.

















Dennis Deliberations … Ring # 170

“The Bev Bergeron Ring”

August 2018 Ring Meeting

A secretary overhears an exasperated math professor of Topology swearing under his breath at the Xerox machine in the Math Office. “What’s wrong, professor?” she asks.

“It’s this frigging copier! I set it for ‘single-sided’ and it’s coming out as a Mobius Strip!”

The Invisible Gorilla :

We think we experience and understand the world as it is, but our thoughts are beset by everyday illusions. Researchers asked participants to watch a brief video of six people passing basketballs to each other. Three of the people are wearing white shirts, and three are wearing black shirts. The white shirted people pass one ball among themselves; the black shirted people do the same. Viewers were asked to count the number of passes the people in white shirts made to each other. In the middle of the video, a person in a gorilla suit walks slowly into the middle of the frame, faces the camera and beats his chest before walking off.

Almost half the viewers did not see the gorilla because they were focused on counting the number of passes made by the people in white shirts. He’s shown the video to his classes, and they miss the gorilla by a similar percentage. By focusing on the white shirts, their brains filter out the black shirts — and the gorilla along with them.


We assume that when a magician shows you his empty hand , there is nothing in the curl of his fingers (The Ramsey Subtilty). Illusionist Harry Blackstone Sr. and Jr. did a stage trick where duck disappeared from a small house. Actually, they were put in the little house in a small box with wheels and a rope that went off stage. At just the right time, a clown on the other side of the stage would trip and spill a tray ,with props, making noise, and while all eyes were diverted, the little box with the ducks was pulled off stage in full sight! We believe that we can multi-task but the human mind mist always struggle to focus on the total view of reality.

Slydini was as master at diversion by psychologically obscuring one action with another as well as controlling your suspicion and expectations. Just at their peak, he would pause with a comic action or relaxation and you would take a breath and let your psychological guard down and he would do the secret action needed to fool you.

The principle of self-illusion extends in every part of our lives. When I was in pilot training, we learning to not be distracted from maintaining level wings, altitude and airspeed. Tragic examples of not doing this fill aircraft accident history books.  Steven Colbert’s two brothers and father died on an airliner, in 1974, with distracted pilots landing at Charlotte. That crash led to the “clean cockpit rule” which demands no non-essential talking, leading to distraction,   below 10,000 feet AGL.  I was a newscaster for WBT radio in Charlotte and covered the story. The crash was less than a mile from my house and both my wife and I heard it  early that morning. Again cockpit distraction happened a few years ago

Deliberate illusion is also used outside the magic field. Many do not know that the late Norman “Stormin’’Norman” Schwarzkopf, the hero of the first Gulf War, was an avid amateur magician. He was friends with Al Cohen, longtime owner of a D.C. magic shop. Warfare has always used “illusion”. Schwarzkopf stage a diversionary raid to convince Saddam Hussein that we would do an amphibious assault in Kuwait. Hussein moved many troops there to prepare and instead Schwarzkopf streamed unopposed, far inland, across the Saudi-Iraqi border. General Colon Powell’s comment to the press was a quote from Carl von Clausewitz’s classic mid-1800s military text (“Vom Krieg” –“On War”)  “Beware of the vividness of transient events”. Powell applied this to the distraction Saddam tried by launching scuds on Israel and as a put down to Iraqi Forces as being so easily distracted and warning that we would not be misled.

We write traffic laws and build criminal cases on the assumption that people will notice when something unusual happens right in front of them. We’re sure we know reality, falsely believing that vivid perception and memories are seared into our mind with perfect fidelity. And as a society, we spend billions on devices to train our brains because we’re continually tempted by the lure of quick fixes and effortless self-improvement.

Deception includes words. Alfred Korzybski ( ) developed linguistic theories in psychology, that led to Neurolinguistic Programming and modern language theories.

You can see this in Mentalist Banachek’s PK Touches and  fellow mentalist, Kenton Knepper’s “Wonder Words”. The audience is verbally manipulated to believe something is happening at a specific time and the witness to the action naturally misinterprets the phrasing of the question.

Much of today’s politics, business, religion, academia and even scientific interpretation of phenomena, is infused with verbal manipulation of perception, presuppositions  and self-deception.  Even in medicine, which should be evidence-based, we see the Placebo effect. Why? Possibly because people want myth and fantasy?

The cynic in me says, it is for money, power and wishful thinking.  P.T. Barnum’s show business techniques: exaggerated and distorted claims, self-serving assertions and deception are well known, even though the phrase “There’s a sucker born every minute” did not originate from him.



I was at the SAM Convention here in Orlando and was very happy to have Eddy and Sandra Wade come down from Charlotte to attend the meeting and visit with me. Eddy is an old friend who, as a small boy,  watched my Children’s TV show on WBTV in the early 1970s. He grew up and went to work for the late Phil Morris (Morris Costumes) before going out on his own performing and running a very successful party entertainment business. In 2014  he bought the magic company, “ Magic Methods”, from his childhood mentor, Jerry Mentzer and continues to run it. He has a huge collection magic titles with some of the finest classic magic. Please check his web site.


I enjoyed attending the SAM National Convention here in Orlando. To me the best part was seeing old friends and renewing acquaintances. I got to chat again with cruise ship magician Fred and Bobbie Becker, Joe Eddy Fairchild, Bob Little ( known him since the mid-1960s!), Steve Hart and all the local Orlando and Florida Magicians.

The Convention borrowed by follow-spotlight. I realize that the magic community is shrinking and economics are an issue in an increasing expensive  convention business, so the lectures and performances struggled with technical issues such as sound and the Mark and Nani Wilson video feed from California. A proper CAT 6 or 7  video connection ,plus the gear on Mark’s end would have been an expense, so they made do with  Apple Facetime and used a video camera on  the I phone.  It is apparent that prop magic acts are on the decline. The final show was mostly juggling and ventriloquism with illusionist Jay Mattioli concluding with illusions.

Congratulation to Bev Bergeron for all the honors given to him at this years SAM Convention here in Orlando. A highlight of this 2018 Convention was a tribute to his work with Mark Wilson on The Magic Land of Allakazam. Bev was here in Orlando, along with Mark’s children, Greg and Mike and a video feed through Facetime was projected in the auditorium with Mark and Nani from California.














I will always remember Bev on  Mark Wilson’s “Magic Circus” TV specials, sponsored by Pillsbury and Poppin’ Fresh….

This cautionary note about the famous finger-stab in the tummy of the Pillsbury Doughboy.










Test your magic history knowledge :

  1. Who invented the Zombie floating ball?
    2. Who starred in a Broadway musical called The Magic Show?
    3. Name a Magician who became famous for floating a Violin.
    4. Who developed and sold the plastic thumb tip ?
    5. What Magician has made the most money performing Magic ?
    6. Houdini had several Brothers, name one who was also an Escape Artist.
    7. Harold Rice is famous for what product he contributed to Magic.
    8. Who invented the “World’s Fastest Flower Vanish” ?
    9. Name a Magician who became famous by changing a white glove into a rabbit named “Lefty” ?
    10. Who invented the ” Appearing Cane” ?
  2. Joe Karson
    2. Doug Henning
    3. Norm Nielsen
    4. The McElroy brothers, earlier than Alberto Vergonjeanne (stage name “Vernet”)
    5. David Copperfield
    6. Hardeen, ( also known asTheodore, Dash, Theo)
    7. Art designed silks and a wonderful encyclopedia on silk magic.
    8. Al Delage and made by Horace and Marie Marshall
    9. Jay Marshall
    10. Russell Walsh.


The French currently have us beat in the visibility of theatrical magic…They have a monthly variety program, “Le plus grand cabaret du monde” , presented by Patrick Sébastien. Many of the magicians can be seen on You Tube clips from the shows.

This sketch, in a very shortened version ( just the first part) was just seen on Britain’s Got Talent by another magician.

Like this single post version of the Assistant’s Revenge… it is about 3 minutes into the sketch. I never liked the Harbin version.

I think this method originated with Peter Marvey.


Now worth $1 Billion Dollars







Over the years David Copperfield has pulled off some extraordinary and unbelievable stunts. He’s made islands, jets and even whole monuments disappear into thin air. He walked through the Great Wall of China. He levitated across the Grand Canyon. David’s efforts have earned him 11 Guinness World Records, 21 Emmy Awards, a Knighthood from the French government and “Living Legend” status from the US Library of Congress. Impressed yet? It gets better. As of today, you can add one more extraordinary and unbelievable achievement to his resume: David Copperfield has officially become a BILLIONAIRE.

David Copperfield has been performing magic for over 40 years. His first major media exposure came in 1977 when he hosted an ABC special called The Magic of ABC. This appearance led to a series of specials on CBS called The Magic of David Copperfield that aired between 1978 and 2001. As of this writing, David has hosted 17 specials and two television documentaries.

In 2014, Forbes jumped on the Copperfield train and valued his total net worth at $800 million. By our count, between $60 million in annual gross income and the global increase in real estate values over the last four years, we can now conservatively conclude that David Copperfield’s net worth is at least $1 billion. Perhaps more if we’re undervaluing his art collection.

That makes David Copperfield the world’s first billionaire magician… which is perhaps his greatest feat of magic yet. Hopefully he doesn’t make it disappear!

Oh, and by the way here’s a fun little fact: When he was young and just starting out, David’s mom told him “You’ll never make any money as a magician”


No magician ever moved quite like Richiardi Jr. 

Click and enjoy. His dance style is Pasa Doble and Flamenco.   As Carl Ballantine use to say, “Every move a picture! “




A magician was walking along a Hawaiian beach when he kicked a bottle poking up through the sand. Opening it, he was astonished to see a cloud of smoke and a genie appear before him.

“For your kindness,” the genie said, “I will grant you one wish!”

The magician paused, laughed, and replied, “I have always wanted a golden highway stretching from Hawaii to California!”

The genie grimaced, and replied, “Listen, I’m sorry, but I can’t do that! Think of all the pilings needed to hold up a highway over such an immense distance, and how long they’d have to be to reach the bottom of the ocean. Think of all that miles of pavement. That’s just way, way too much to ask for! …Can you think of something a little more reasonable?”

The magician thought for a second and said, “Well, yeah, I’ve always wanted to know how Criss Angel managed to get his own stage in Las Vegas and headline there for so many years.”

The genie paused, and then sighed.  “Did you want two lanes, or four?”




My friend, Wes Iseli ( from Charlottesville, Virginia and a full-time professional) says on his Social Media pages:

“Did you know that I often perform a 100 ft rope escape in my show where an audience member ties me up? No tricks, just pure Houdini style escaping!”

I have seen Wes do this bit at least five times and it is always a hit with his audiences. It is amazing how much entertainment you can get from a $20 length of 100 foot rope from Home Depot!

Wes presents this as an audience challenge which asks, “Can I get out in less time than it takes for you  two guys to tie me up?”  The general tie-up time is less than 3 minutes and he always beats it.

He has someone time him and call off the time.

Lee Jacobs has written produced two excellent booklets on how to do this effect. The complete title of the first booklet is “The Real Methods & Secrets of the Challenge Escape From 75 Feet of Rope”. What a title!

The Novak book (also published by Lee Jacobs) is “What Jacobs Didn’t Tell You About The Rope Escape.” Both are out of print but often sold for a couple of dollars each at Magic Flea Market Tables. Few magicians appreciate the value. Both are full of real world tips. There is no “secret”. They just tie you up. Wes’ only instructions are “please do not wrap the rope around my neck”. Then he does hurry them along, and the spectator calling off the time , in 15 second intervals, encourages them to speed up  because the faster they tie you up the more they tend to just wrap the heavy rope around you and with a few wiggles it merely falls off. Wes adds to the struggle by kicking off his shoes. I sometimes will rock the chair until it tips over! It does little to alter the process and time  but gets a gigantic audience response.

Most audience members believe that the thicker and longer the rope the more secure you can be tied and the more difficult the escape. Just the opposite is true! Use 3/4″ nylon rope. White looks less tricky but  the bright yellow color and size on stage is very visible. Nylon is more comfortable than the hairy hemp brown ropes also. Use a rope that looks massive in weight and when the volunteer holds on to 100′ of it ,with  its mass, it gives the impression of being very secure. When asked, the majority of the audience is skeptical that you  will escape faster than it took the volunteers to tie you up.

Perhaps this wonderful bit of entertainment was bypassed by magicians who saw their audiences as  more interested in quick flashy stage props, thumping music soundtracks, glitzy girls and arrogant posing.   Magic also moved away from the outdoor stage in fairs and events in most urban areas in the 1980s and into television “assists” with the effect.   So the Strait Jacket and classically captivating routines, which take time and showmanship, faded into the background.   One note. This routine is psychologically masculine in perception ( as Houdini was) whereas , magic generally seems to have a more feminine approach.  I believe that both gender themes are valid and the individual performer has to decide  which approach to follow. In doing dove magic, I have avoided a long routines with dove steals from silks and favor Dove Catching and vanishing in a fall apart box. My stage look does not favor the mascara of a feminine thin looking Lance Burton  or Joseph Gabriel.  John Schrock and Rick Thomas have made Doves from Silks work for them, with their stockier body build, when combined with some props.

So not everyone can get away with the Rope Tie, but if you can, it is an entertaining interlude in a show.



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