The Conjuring Arts Research Center: Manhattan's hidden library of magic

Atlas Obscura discloses a secret library, The Conjuring Arts Research Center, established to preserve the secrets of magic!

The not-for-profit organization was established in 2003, “dedicated to the preservation and interpretation of magic and its allied arts.” It was started by William Kalush, who developed a love of magic from the card tricks shown to him by his father, a Marine wounded in World War II. This love of card magic turned to a love of collecting magic books, which now form a wondrous collection of over 15,000 books—some dating to over 600 years old—housed in this hidden location.

“I like early books that no one else has ever seen”, Kalush says, sitting in a high-backed, ornately carved wooden chair that wouldn’t look out of place with a wizard sitting on it. “Books of performances pieces, card secrets, many that are unique.”

Browsing through the shelves stacked with all things conjuring, you will find obscure books on sleight-of-hand techniques, mentalism, deceptive gambling, the history of magic, and the mysterious secrets of card tricks. One book is the seminal The Expert At the Card Table, which appeared in 1902, written by an S. W. Erdnase. It’s one of the most detailed collections of sleight-of-hand techniques and card sharping, a book so iconic and well-studied within magic circles it is known as “the Bible.” Appropriately enough, S. W. Erdnase was a pseudonym. The real identity of the writer has remained a century-old mystery.

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A "Maker Magician" does tricks with an open source hardware version of the Pixar lamp

Katie sez, "Mario 'the Maker Magician' Marchese has made a name for himself with his DIY robotic props. This is Mr. Lamp, a full animated lamp that combines elements of 3d printing, DIY electronics, Arduino, and found/repurposed objects. Mr. Lamp has a style all his own." Read the rest

Theory11 'Archangels' are the prettiest playing cards

I still love these Archangels. 90% of the time, this is the deck of cards I have in my pocket.

I buy a lot of decks of cards, and this remains my go-to favorite. The beautiful black on white back design is mesmerizing to watch go by as I practice flourishes, and I think helps distract people from clumsy sleights. The Ace of Spades and Joker designs are some of the best I've seen, and the gold foil used on the face cards adds a touch of class.

No blank card or double backer is included. There is one Theory11 advertisement card that can be used for "write on this card" tricks and still preserve the decks 52 card integrity.

Bicycle Archangels Playing Cards via Amazon Read the rest

Entrancing avant-garde music video generated by algorithm

Damien Henry, co-inventor of Google Cardboard, trained a machine learning algorithm using footage shot from a moving vehicle and then had the machine generate this beautiful video.

"Graphics are 100% generated by an algorithm in one shot. No edit or post-processing," Henry writes. "Except the first one, all frames are calculated one by one by a prediction algorithm that tries to predict the next frame from the previous one."

The soundtrack is the Steve Reich masterpiece "Music for 18 Musicians."

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Magic Mondays in Santa Monica

On Monday evenings some of the best magicians in the world perform intimate sets at the Santa Monica Playhouse.

The Santa Monica Playhouse is a long running, classic, beautiful small theatre just off the 3rd St. Promenade in Santa Monica, CA. I was thrilled, last year, when I had the chance to catch a few performances at Albie Selznick's Magic Monday. Albie is an accomplished actor and magician who brings together phenomenal acts for a very playful and in-your-lap kind of night. Frequently, you'll see the most sought after magicians and variety performers from the Magic Castle here, in a far less formal but no less charming setting.

This week, Monday May 8th, two of my favourites are in the cast: puppeteer Scott Land, and (if memorry hasn't failed me) Troop 2 Santa Monica Eagle Scout, and world renowned magician Matt Marcy.

The most fun you'll have on a Monday west of Sepulveda!

Magic Monday at the Santa Monica Playhouse Read the rest

These cards are for throwing

These Banshee playing cards are made for throwing!

Made of plastic, heavier and stiffer than my normal US Playing Cards Bicycle 808 style decks, the Banshee cards sail through the air. The cards also have some cuts in their face to make them scream!

Made of tougher stuff, these cards last a lot longer than a paper deck and are a bit easier to learn with. You will need to practice, however, these cards do not instantly imbue you with skill.

Talk about useful skills to have at a party!

Banshees: Cards for Throwing via Amazon Read the rest

Tiny magic shop on roadside in Arizona

Emory Williams Sr., 82, has been performing magic for 70 years. He owns and operates a tiny roadside magic shop east of Tucson, Arizona. Scott Craven of the Arizona Republic profiled Williams, and took photos of his place. He also took a video of Williams performing a trick.

Calling it a shop is giving it the benefit of the doubt. It is nothing like the store the 82-year-old once owned in Tucson. That brick-and-mortar spot held more than 6,000 tricks in roughly 2,000 square feet, a destination for amateur and professional magicians throughout southern Arizona.

This shop, parked on a dusty gravel lot roughly 50 feet back from the road, is a 13-foot by 18-foot trailer, modified with solar panels providing power to the TV, radio, computer and air conditioner. Inside are 1,000 tricks and novelties. Some visitors can’t quite believe what they are seeing, as if the bold black letters that say “Magic Shop” must be, well, an illusion.

But it's no mirage, as shown by the tourists who stop just long enough to take a photo, as if Instagram posts could pay Williams' bills.

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Teller on how magicians "alter your perceptions"

Teller, the silent half of the Penn & Teller magic act, explains seven cognitive biases that magicians exploit in order to "alter the perceptions" of their audiences and achieve impossible-seeming feats. Read the rest

Why magicians should never snap their fingers as part of a trick

Andy from The Jerx (previously) continues to develop the theory of "audience-centered magic" with an excellent post on the deficiencies of snapping one's fingers to mark the moment at which some magic effect is meant to be happening. Read the rest

The Haunted Mansion Ghost Post wins a Themed Entertainment Award!

When I wrote about the Haunted Mansion loot crates ("Ghost Post") last March, what I couldn't say was that I was a writer on the project, penning the radio scripts, newspapers, letters, and associated gubbins and scraps that went along with the three boxes of custom-made props and merch, tying them together into a series of puzzles that the boxes' 999 owners solved together over the internet. Read the rest

Beyond Brookledge, May 19-21st at the iconic Mission Inn

Erika Larsen curates the best live shows I have ever seen. Bob Self puts on the most amazing events. Once a year the two of them throw Beyond Brookledge, an amazing private weekend of magic and mayhem. Read the rest

That jumbo size deck of cards you've been needing

Doesn't everybody need a jumbo sized deck of cards?

These are great for the jumbo sized magic tricks I'm playing with

Gameland Super Jumbo Playing Cards (Humongous 8-1/4" x 11-3/4" Cards) via Amazon Read the rest

10 easy toothpick magic tricks

Magician and magic instructor Evan Era of EvanEraTV demonstrates 10 easy toothpick tricks to impress your kids, your friends, or just yourself. Read the rest

Towards an empirical theory of performing Tenyo tricks and other magic gadgets

For decades, the Japanese magic trick company Tenyo has delighted amateur conjurers with their little magic gimmicks, which can be very clever indeed, but which are nearly guaranteed to fall flat when performed for friends and strangers. Read the rest

Get yourself thrown out of this show, if you can

In & Of Itself is the fantastic brainchild of three-time Academy of Magical Arts Award winner Derek DelGuadio. Though it stopped running in Los Angeles a few months ago, the lucky folks in New York will have 10 weeks to catch it at Union Square's Daryl Roth Theatre from April 5 - June 18.  A few months ago a good friend took me and the next block of 48 hours was filled with surges of amazement, fear, pride and relief - and I guarantee that my experience was different from the other attendees. Read the rest

Some delightfully sweet Valentine's magic for you to perform

Andy from The Jerx (previously) shows how you can use Thomas Bloomberg's Konami Code effect (which allows the performer to force an observer to pick a certain square in a grid, despite a seeming free choice) to perform a baffling and delightful effect using a box of assorted chocolates this Valentine's Day. Read the rest

This Wand Remote makes couch surfing magical again

Do you remember the first time you used a remote control on your television set or favorite toy? It was incredible right? I can honestly say that making my sister believe I had telekinetic powers was fantastic! But as I’ve accumulated more and more remote controls in my life, I’ve become jaded. 

And then, I got a package from The Wand Company that brought back my old feelings of wonder.

Do I care that my wife won’t touch it because it makes her feel silly? Of course not - it just means more magical gestures for me.  Now, to turn on my TV, I swipe the wand from vertical to horizontal position and to increase the volume, I simply point it at my receiver and twist.

The Kymera Wand has 13 slots into which infrared commands can be stored, and the beautiful thing is that it’ll control ANY infrared device. Right now, I’m only using 4 of the 13 slots and I can’t wait to fill the rest up.

PROSGreat packagingEasy to SetupMakes you feel like a wizardEveryone (except for my wife) loves it

CONSSometimes you need to repeat a flourish in order to send the proper signal to the target, but the same thing happens with my regular remotes.The wand is made of plastic and would feel much better if it was made out of mahogany and crystal - but then again, the price would be sky high.The Apple TV interface doesn’t lend itself well to the Kymera wand because there are so many flourishes needed to get from the home-screen to the episodes you want to watch. Read the rest

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