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.
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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.
I've entertained my kids, nieces, and nephews by pretending to pull off my thumb. This guy's routine puts mine to shame. Thumbs and fingers pop off, pinkies grow and shrink, and the finale is spectacular.
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Gaff cards are playing cards that have been doctored ion one way or another so you can do magic tricks that would be very difficult or impossible to do with an ordinary deck. I got The Blue Gaff Deck a few months ago and I love it. There are some amazing tricks you can do with it, and because they have the familiar Bicycle backs, no one will know that you are using gaff cards (as long as you don't flub).
You can do 40 different tricks with the deck
(and it comes with a DVD so you can learn them all) (a reader alerted me that they did not get a DVD. I got one in my deck). My favorite is the B-Wave, which is worth the price of the deck:
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I go through about one deck of playing cards a week. That's how long it takes for the cards to get dirty and bent from frequent handling (I spend a couple of hours a day practicing sleights during phone calls, watching TV, during meals, waiting in line, hiking, and so on). It feels extravagant to replace a deck every week, but it's actually an inexpensive habit. I buy decks by the dozen on Amazon. Right now a 12-pack of Bikes sells for $15.49. I wish I could subscribe to them.
You get 6 red backs and 6 blue backs. Jason likes blue back cards, and I like red back. (Hey, Jason - I'll save the blue ones for you if you save the red ones for me.)
If you want something to do with the cards, let me gently steer you in the direction of my book, Trick Decks:
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In the latest episode of Scam School, Brian Brushwood shows you how to always beat a sucker in a card order guessing game. Read the rest
John Park made a couple of videos with instructions on how to make two very cool mystery boxes. One is a wood box that opens only when you place a special item on the lid. The other is a deck of cards that makes a Morse Code sound when the deck is in free fall.
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Let's take the path less traveled for some holiday gift giving. Two brothers well known in the world of magic and
, Dan and Dave Buck, have a number of enterprises going, including a website called
Art of Play
. While its nucleus is the sale of unique decks of playing cards, the site has expanded greatly under the guidance of Adam Rubin, the "Director of Puzzles and Games."
We travel the world in search of objects designed to dazzle the eyes and fascinate the mind. From luxurious playing cards to ingenious puzzles and stimulating amusements—each beautiful item in our collection holds a whisper of mystery, brimming with potential for surprise and delight.
25 Days of Christmas Extravaganza!
Whatever you celebrate this December, we're honoring you and the ones you love with our 25 Days of Christmas extravaganza. Every day through December 25th we will offer either a free gift or an exclusive item, such as a rare deck of playing cards. Offers are limited to one day only. To take part, just be sure you're subscribed to our newsletter.
I'm personally not much interested in fancy decks of cards—I do my card tricks the old-fashioned way, using Bicycle Rider back cards from the U.S. Playing Card Company. But if, for example, you're a fan of Neil Patrick Harris (who also does magic in addition to being able to sing, dance, act, emcee, etc. and so on) then you might find this special deck interesting.
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NPH Playing Cards ($10.00)
Neil Patrick Harris Playing Cards are elegant, intricate, and visually stunning.
The Perpetual Puzzle is Tenyo's version of the "infinite chocolate bar trick." Five pieces form a rectangle that barely fits into a frame. Buy you can add two more pieces to form a larger rectangle that still fits in the frame. Read the rest
Magician David Blaine does a number of fantastic card tricks for Jimmy Fallon and the Roots. He's doing an incredible amount of sneaky stuff right before everyone's eyes and doing it so well that no one sees it. He ends with a non-card trick that freaks out the audience.
"David Blaine, your magic is real and I believe in you." -- Michael Jackson Read the rest
Oscar Owen has a nice tutorial for doing three different tricks with a standard Sharpie pen.
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There are geniuses in almost every creative field. In the world of magic and magicians, there is Lubor Fiedler. While many magicians create tricks, Lubor did something much more difficult: he created new principles on which tricks are based. Lubor lived in Czechoslovakia, escaped to the west and lived in Austria, then returned home after The Czech Republic was liberated. He was a brave and clever man; Lubor died two years ago at age 81 while sitting at his computer, still inventing. He was far and away the most creative person I’ve ever met, and he learned a lot in his years of working in a chemical factory. He would give lectures for groups of other magicians and fool them deeply because the principles underlying his tricks were always new.
One of his most famous creations is “The Gozinta Boxes,” as in “one goes into the other.” What you see is amazing: a box is displayed and the lid removed. There is a small box inside it. The small box is removed, then the lid is replaced on the larger box. Next the small box’s lid is taken off. And here’s the part that hurts your brain: the large box is then inserted into the smaller box, and the lid of the smaller box put back on. It’s a work of mathematical and optical genius which seems utterly impossible when you see it. This shaky video was taken at a magic convention where Lubor lectured the year before he died, and it shows him performing his “Gozinta Boxes.”
Author Peter Prevos, on his website Magic Perspectives has put up a downloadable file which allows you to make your own set of “Gozinta Boxes” with a bit of arts and crafts. Read the rest
Mental Floss presents a brief history of magic tricks with 26 facts. Read the rest
Do you trust Penn & Teller?
Do you think that magic is just for kids?
Do you have an urge to learn a few simple magic tricks?
If you’re thinking “Yes, no, yes” then the Penn & Teller Fool Everyone Magic Kit is just the thing you need to add a little pep to your step in the unbearably hot dog days of summer. Really … who the hell wants to go outside when it’s 95 degrees? (Well, actually folks who live in Las Vegas like Penn & Teller do—go figure.)
You may have even seen P&T give away some of these magic kits on their TV show Penn & Teller Fool Us as prizes.
Here’s what makes this magic kit good: it’s filled with classic effects that can be performed by and for both young and old. Some, like the Ball Vase, are so simple that an intelligent 5-year-old can do them, while others, like the Penetration Frame, come from the repertoires of professional magicians of years past and will handily fool adults.
The Penn & Teller Fool Everyone Magic Kit has been produced for Penn & Teller by Royal Magic of Chicago (who actually does all of its plastic injection molding in its factory in the U.S.A.; it’s actually possible to buy something that isn’t made in China). Royal makes a wide variety of tricks, which enabled those whose photo adorns the box to actually pick the tricks to include in this set. And in addition to all the plastic props you see in the photograph there are sheets of cardboard punch-out magic tricks, all customized with artwork of P&T to further delight. Read the rest
I don't know how long this deal will last, but you can buy a 12-pack of Bicycle playing card decks for $16. You get six red-backed decks and six blue-backs. I just bought 2 boxes. That should last me until the end of the year (I go through a deck a week or so). Read the rest
WARNING: A person gets stabbed in the hand in this video.
This has happened again.
Here's how the spike trick is supposed to work: a magician shows the spectator a large nail mounted on a block of wood. He sets it on the table so the nail is pointed up. Then he covers the nail with a paper bag. He places three identical paper bags next to the bag covering the nail. He turns his back and asks the spectator to shuffle the four bags around on the table so that the magician has no idea which one has the nail. The magician turns around to face the bags, then slams his hand down one a bag. It was empty. He repeats the process until only one bag is left. He lifts the bag to reveal the nail. It's a nerve-wracking trick.
Recently a magician performed the trick and made a bad mistake, driving the nail through his hand. You can see the photos here. Fortunately, he's going to recover.
And here's a video from 2007 that captures another magician stabbing himself. It's not too graphic, but it is hard to watch anyway because you know what's coming.
I have no interest in performing this trick. Read the rest
Bicycle playing cards are probably the most common playing cards, at least here in the United States. I prefer to do magic tricks using Bicycle cards, because they don't make people suspicious like a deck with an unfamiliar back might.
In my book, Trick Decks, I show how to mark your own Bicycle deck with a Sharpie, but to use it, you have to memorize the code.
If you are lazy and want an easy-to-read deck, get the Ultimate Marked Deck, available with red or blue Bicycle backs. The cards look and feel exactly like a regular bicycle deck, but you can instantly read the suit and value of any card with a quick glance at its back.
Historically, the company that makes Bicycle cards has not made marked Bicycle decks, so this is kind of a big deal in the magic world. At $30, it's pricey, but you can do some amazing tricks with a marked deck. Read the rest
I had no idea Muhammad Ali loved magic. This is a great story about a friendship between a young magician living with the aftereffects of polio, and the world's greatest athlete.
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[Terry] La Sorda took the dare, opened Ali’s pack of cards, and asked Ali to pick a card, any card. Then he gave Ali the deck to put the card back in it without telling the magician where it went. Ali turned his huge back and shuffled the deck.
"He turned around saying ‘You’re never gonna find this card, you’re going to make a fool out of yourself!’" La Sorda recalled.
Then Ali looked up and saw his card dangling from La Sorda’s mouth. Ali dropped the deck in shock.
"The cards fell on the floor and I thought he was going to hit me," La Sorda said. "One of those huge fists would hit me. Then, suddenly, he’s on the ground, the robe all around him, picking up all the cards … [saying] ‘put another one on me. I like that!’"
For the next two hours, the two men were nose to nose, as La Sorda performed one trick after the other.
La Sorda said that Ali told him that he had asked professional magicians in Las Vegas to teach him magic before, but no one took him seriously. That first night, Ali asked La Sorda who his manager was. La Sorda didn’t have a manager; he wasn’t a professional magician. La Sorda was, instead, an engineer, a burgeoning metallurgist, having first worked with steel when trying to fix a pair of broken polio braces when he was 13 years old.