FOUR POINTS: This is why AI will never make better magic tricks

November 17th, 2014 | Joe Hadsall | Filed Under Four Points


FOUR POINTS: This is why AI will never make better magic tricks

So you saw that story about how a computer designed a magic trick, and it made you give up magic, right? Seeing that a computer is capable of devising a trick that fools laymen and magicians alike, you threw down your deck of cards, completely gave up on your idea of combining a glide and a cop and went back to browsing listicles involving cats and Emma Watson?

Yeah, we didn’t think so.

The report about researchers from Queen Mary University of London touts that researchers programmed a combination of the mechanics of a jigsaw puzzle, the method of a mind-reading card trick and results of experiments into how humans understand magic tricks. From that, the computer came up with some variants. Able to process a larger amount of variants, one of the co-creators of the project said that the amount of variants “keeps audiences guessing.”

Most of you probably caught on that one of the tricks is more of a puzzler, and the other is mathematical. Probably didn’t leave you feeling all that threatened, and you went back to practicing your table faro shuffle. Still, there might have been a seed of doubt — is this just a harbinger of things to come? Will AI progress to the point where we can get fooled by machines? Is this the beginning of technology changing magic?

We feel your pain, and we’re here to assure you that magic will be fine. We may eventually be enslaved by hopefully benevolent robot overlords who at least give us sme food before they use poisonous gases to poison our — you know. But they will never fool us with magic tricks. Here’s why: 

• Magicians are already at the forefront of technology. We are the kind of people who see myriad unorthodox uses for everyday items. And if it doesn’t exist, we create it. Look at Adam Wilber: He wanted a device that let him shoot fireballs, so he created it.

• Neurologists, AI programmers and other researchers rely on magicians to understand perception. Our methods of deception teach crucial lessons in how humans process the world around us, and it’s anything but mechanical. But magicians never show the researchers ALL the tricks…

• Magicians’ creativity extends far outside any programming limits. The computer in this project researched only variants of established tricks. While we could probably have an interesting debate about whether new tricks are simply variants of the original 10 plots, there is no argument that effect creators weave together new effects from a much wider loom of experience.

• Sleight of hand and misdirection remain weapons that can be armed only by humans, because they depend on natural action. Robots may move gracefully and smoothly, but they will never move naturally — at least not anytime soon. Until sentient robots live among us enough to be as commonplace as vending machines, they will remain objects of curiosity and interest (That’s a fancy way of saying that robots’ hands will be burned constantly).

See? Nothing to worry about. You can plug back into the matrix now.

FOUR POINTS is a regular feature that celebrates magicians’ favorite number by highlighting four critical bits of importance, awesomeness or otherwise. Send your suggestions to joe@ellusionist.com.

 

Shoot like Kings: Instagram users make incredible art with latest deck

October 21st, 2014 | Joe Hadsall | Filed Under General, Products


Shoot like Kings: Instagram users make incredible art with latest deck

It’s not long now. The Kings deck, a collaboration between Daniel Madison and Peter McKinnon, will soon be available to Black Club members, and then the rest of the world.

But a handful of people, who are close friends and associates with DM and p:m, have already had some quality time with the Kings. And the artistic work they have posted to Instagram is simply breath-taking.

From the impossible flotations of Jeremy Griffith to the subtle shadows of Benoit Pervier, from the inspired etchings of Tomas Hlavaty to the devious destruction of Praxis Control creator Chris Ramsay — these artists, magicians and creators have taken this incredible new deck and transformed it into works of art.

Some of our favorites are below, others can be found on Instagram. Each one deserves your follow and many likes. While you’re there, make sure to follow us.

Sacrifice… Ode to the brilliant @chrisramsay52 Kings by @ellusionist

A photo posted by Jeremy Griffith (@lost_angelus) on

Sword in the…

A photo posted by Jeremy Griffith (@lost_angelus) on

 

Throw… Kings by @ellusionist

A photo posted by Jeremy Griffith (@lost_angelus) on

Pocket.

A photo posted by benoitpervier (@benoitpervier) on

 

The Lion King.

A photo posted by benoitpervier (@benoitpervier) on

Dress Like Kings.

A photo posted by benoitpervier (@benoitpervier) on

 

Drink Like Kings.

A photo posted by benoitpervier (@benoitpervier) on

Almost there… #kings

A photo posted by Tomas Hlavaty (@tomashlavaty) on

 

Be like Kings

A photo posted by Tomas Hlavaty (@tomashlavaty) on

Ink like Kings

A photo posted by Tomas Hlavaty (@tomashlavaty) on

 

Troublemakers.

A photo posted by Tomas Hlavaty (@tomashlavaty) on

291. Sacrifice.

A photo posted by Chris Ramsay (@chrisramsay52) on

 

289. Blood and Gold.

A photo posted by Chris Ramsay (@chrisramsay52) on

Artist Interview: Mat Franco’s “AGT” win was good for all magicians

October 11th, 2014 | Joe Hadsall | Filed Under Artist Interviews


Artist Interview: Mat Francos AGT win was good for all magicians

His plan was to get some footage that he could use for his promo reel, so that he could advertise himself with the phrase, “As seen on ‘America’s Got Talent.’”

But Mat Franco went much further.

The magician made history by becoming the first magician to win NBC’s talent show. Winning over viewers in season nine, he beat singers Miguel Dakota, Quintavious Johnson and Emily West, the band Sons of Serendip and the acrobatic ensemble AcroArmy. And season nine was a good year for magicians, with Mike Super, Smoothini, and David and Leaman progressing far in the competition.

A magician winning “AGT” is no small feat — magicians know that the show has a history of not being kind to magicians. And though that reputation has changed over the last few seasons, magicians were still competing against singers and dancers, two performance fields with their own reality TV shows.

So when Mat said his win is a big deal for all magicians, we say “Amen.” He also said that his win didn’t pull magic out of a dark cellar of obscurity — his win was just the latest chapter in a pretty vibrant magic scene right now, from Darcy Oake making the finals in the most recent season of “Britain’s Got Talent” to the success of “Wizard Wars” on SyFy.

“This is huge for magicians. This is something we all should be feeding from, we should all be getting work from right now … We should all be feeding off this any way can, whether you had a television pilot you were trying to get done, or if you had a gig you were trying to close in your hometown, this is big for magic. I want us all to continue with this momentum to move it forward.”

Artist Interview: Mat Francos AGT win was good for all magiciansMat beat out a talented field of performers with a carefully customized blend of close-up magic and big-stage spectacle. His routines included close-up classics, including an ambitious card routine, cups and balls and an oil and water routine that used a human deck of cards. They also featured intricate stories told in precision with magical effects.

About two weeks after the win, Mat talked to us for a podcast about his career before the show, how it really is a different world for magicians on the show now and what the future holds.


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Rising-star triplets get a lift from Ellusionist for their card-throwing act

October 5th, 2014 | Joe Hadsall | Filed Under General


Rising star triplets get a lift from Ellusionist for their card throwing act

When Corey King recently asked for a few extra copies of King Rising, his levitation effect, Brad Christian had no idea what King’s plans for them were. As it turns out, Corey got them into the hands of some potential stars who have already been featured on “America’s Got Talent.”

Rising star triplets get a lift from Ellusionist for their card throwing actDom the Bom’s Triple Threat is a card-throwing act featured in the most recent season of NBC’s talent show, which was won by magician Mat Franco last month. Comprised of Dom, brother Phoenix and sister Lyric, the 8-year-old triplets made it to the quarterfinals before being eliminated.

According to a show bio, Dom has been practicing magic for two years, throws up to 500 cards a day and has aspirations to perform with David Copperfield. Looks like he’s off to a great start.

Check out the triplets’ appearance in the audition round below:

Spirit of jam sessions inspired Syfy’s ‘Wizard Wars,’ a show about creation

August 10th, 2014 | Joe Hadsall | Filed Under General


Spirit of jam sessions inspired Syfys Wizard Wars, a show about creation

Rick Lax, like any magician, loves jam sessions. Every week he gets together with Justin Flom, Bizzaro and others for a creative crash. Those sessions were so crazy that they inspired him to create a reality TV show concept.

“Sometimes our jam sessions are more entertaining than the magic that comes out of them,” Lax said. “That got me wondering how to get people to care about the magicians’ creative process. And the reality competition format seemed like a perfect fit.”

That competition starts at 10 p.m. EST Tuesday, Aug. 19, with the debut episode of “Wizard Wars.” Featuring Lax, Flom, Penn & Teller, Shimshi, Murray SawChuck, Angela Funovitz, Nathan Burton and other Las Vegas performers, magicians will compete to create the best magic tricks possible.

The show will give a spotlight to the creators of magic, who are unheralded, unsung heroes, he said. Dan Hauss, Ekaterina Dhobrokotova, Blake Vogt, Gregory Wilson and others will be featured on the show, and Dan White and Johnny Thompson work behind the scenes.

Creation, not revelation

The concept of the show might raise questions about trick revelation among magicians. Lax said that’s not the case: The creative process is featured, not the end result of a trick.

Competitors will be featured in a magic workshop, charged with meeting a goal and developing ways to accomplish that goal. While audience members will get a peek behind the curtain, it doesn’t get pulled back completely. The only methods that might get revealed are ones that don’t get used.

“Let’s say the secret item is ‘tennis ball,’ and one magician does a trick where the ball vanishes from one hand and reappears in her other hand,” he said. “If the method she ultimately decides on is a duplicate ball, we’re not going to show the duplicate ball. But let’s say that before she figured out to use the duplicate, she tried to build an elastic contraption that would bring a ball up one sleeve and down the other. That’s something we might show.”

Each episode will feature the creative process — the unique thinking that leads to moments of brillance, resulting in the creation of a beautiful illusion. The competitive format will give creators the spotlight — names that magicians know like others know pop singers.

“(The concept) means so much to me because magic creators never really get the national spotlight,” Lax said. “Guys like Gregory Wilson or Blake Vogt. You see their tricks being performed everywhere, but you so rarely get to see them in front of the cameras. ‘Wizard Wars’ is their chance to shine.”

Spirit of jam sessions inspired Syfys Wizard Wars, a show about creation

Best network possible

According to a story on Wired.com, Lax pitched his idea to a bunch of networks. Syfy was the last pitch, and the one that picked up the idea. The pickup was double-sweet, Lax said — all because of a bunch of people who did movie makeup, and the TV viewers who watched them.

“I’m a huge ‘Face Off’ fan. Seen every episode,” Lax said. “And in ‘Face Off,’ Syfy masterfully got people who knew nothing about special effects makeup to care about special effects makeup. So the hope is it can do the same for the magic creative process.”

A magic reality show is different than other talent-based shows, because of the secrecy of methods. Lax said “Wizard Wars” focuses on laymen, but magicians will appreciate incredibly good magic and how challengers are treated with respect. The competition is intense and heated, but the featuring of quality magicians means plenty of respect between each other.

And magicians will find plenty to learn and apply to their own acts, Lax said.

“Note the show’s judging criteria: creativity, originality and deceptiveness. The best magic acts have elements of all three,” Lax said. “Think about how to make the trick your own. And think about how to make it entertaining, not just deceptive. Communication and connection are so important.”

Almost gone for good: Last of the Gold Arcane decks won’t be hoarded

July 20th, 2014 | Joe Hadsall | Filed Under Products


Not everything lasts forever. One of the most treasured decks of cards on the market is about to be gone for good.

Almost gone for good: Last of the Gold Arcane decks wont be hoarded

“Hunger for gold is made greater as more gold is acquired.” Prudentius

There’s nothing like gold. The precious metal found in nature and forged in fire has become a symbol of beauty, desire, excellence, power and wealth. Wars have been fought over it, lives have been lost in pursuit of it. Part currency, part rarity, gold has been formed into all sorts of things, from coins to chandeliers. It is the ultimate allegory in stories and philosophy. The thirst for gold is unquenchable; the more we have, the more we want.

In 2010, a few months after the release of the Arcane deck, we teased our fans with a glint of gold on a playing card. Soon after, we released the Gold Arcane deck out into the wild.

The creation of the deck was just as much a challenge as its predecessor. While printing the original black Arcane in 2009, decks and decks were destroyed because the quality and color wasn’t exactly right. The incredible level of detail on the Arcane deck challenged the staff at U.S. Playing Card Co., who rose to it and printed what they call one of the most stunning decks they had ever printed.

There was only one way to up the ante: Gold ink.

We added gold details to the back and slathered the indicies and the pips of the hearts and diamonds of the faces with gold, using metallic ink. The result was one of the most stunning decks ever printed by USPCC — the first casino-grade deck ever printed with such a look. Because gold should be a treasure, we had only 5,000 decks printed. After that, the printing plates were destroyed.

Almost gone for good: Last of the Gold Arcane decks wont be hoarded

“Mystery is a resource, like coal or gold, and its preservation is a fine thing.” Tim Cahill

Since then, the Gold Arcane deck has been one of the most sought-after decks of playing cards in this new era of custom playing card creation. A quick scan through ebay.com reveals that it’s hard to find one for less than $100. But the deck has never been up for regular sale at Ellusionist. For a while, it was the subject of a contest series on our Facebook page: A lucky winner on Gold Wednesday would claim one for themselves. The deck was also a prize for other contests, and was given away through other promotions.

Those days are nearing an end. Our supply of Gold Arcane decks has been reduced to less than 500. But unlike others, we don’t plan on hoarding our gold.

Your last chance to secure a Gold Arcane deck from Ellusionist is coming soon…

FOUR POINTS: FIFA World Cup filled with lessons for magicians

July 3rd, 2014 | Joe Hadsall | Filed Under Four Points


FOUR POINTS: FIFA World Cup filled with lessons for magicians

The 2014 FIFA World Cup tournament is getting close to its finish. As of now, eight teams remain in contention to call themselves world champions in a game played in virtually every country of the world.

This year’s tournament has been especially thrilling. Football is close to a religion in many countries, and the game’s popularity has surged even in the “soccer”-shy United States.

Because we have magic on our minds almost all of the time, we haven’t followed much of the action. Our staff is international, but there hasn’t been much trash-talk between us. We can’t help it — the things we are seeing in the magic world are just too awesome to ignore, and we have so many incredible irons in the fire.

But there are a few things about this year’s tournament that inspire our sleight of hand. It might seem counterintuitive for something played with feet to influence an art that depends a lot on our hands, but we found some important lessons that the beautiful game can teach the beautiful art of magic.

PATIENCE

Haters point to the low scores of matches and think the sport has no excitement. Obviously, they’ve never sat down to watch a game, and understood the thrill of watching a successful defensive stand or a brilliant scoring shot.

Magic is much the same way. If we hurry through a trick and rush it past our spectators, we risk losing the impact needed for that incredible reaction we crave. The old saying of how the hand is quicker than the eye leads us to assume that speed is king in magic, but that’s the furthest thing from the truth. Slow down. Let your play develop. The perfect opportunity for maximum impact will present itself.

MISDIRECTION EVERYWHERE

One of the daily Google searches we check is for “magician,” and we can’t tell you how often that terms is associated with players. We didn’t really understand why, until we watched a few highlights from the tournament. We saw top players displaying a dizzying level of proficiency moving the ball, whether they moved into position or took a shot on goal. They are always juking, dodging, faking and making other moves to make defenders think the ball is headed elsewhere.

Every move we make has to be similarly structured. We must display the same amount of proficiency, in order to keep spectators guessing about where we are going. The advantage we actual magicians have over a player on the pitch is that we get time to plan and structure everywhere we want to go, everything we want to do.

INCREDIBLE SAVES

Even before Tim Howard’s record-setting performance in the U.S. loss against Belgium, we have been impressed with the efforts of keepers. Goofs happen to us, whether it’s a dropped card or a lippy spectator. Those are shots on our goal. Part of our skill as magicians is to deflect those shots on our goal. We learn how to cover a goof, how to handle a rowdy audience member, how to transition off a failed trick.

PERFECT PRACTICE TIME

The perfect time to absorb all those lessons is during a match, which runs about as long as a movie. That’s also the perfect time to practice your moves, especially the ones you’ve recently learned, and are looking to advance them to an instinctual level. Remember that practicing while your eyes are focused elsewhere is great conditioning for muscle memory — you start to feel when things are right or wrong.

FOUR POINTS is a regular feature that celebrates magicians’ favorite number by highlighting four critical bits of importance, awesomeness or otherwise. Send your suggestions to joe@ellusionist.com.

FOUR POINTS: Consider adding these accessories to your wardrobe

May 26th, 2014 | Joe Hadsall | Filed Under Four Points


FOUR POINTS: Consider adding these accessories to your wardrobe

A lot of our customers ask us which deck of playing cards they should pick, and our answer is usually the same. Because all of our decks have some of the best stock, finish and handling in the business, we recommend that people choose the deck that best fits their performance character.

That’s a fancy way of saying this: Match your style.

Not everyone can use a deck of Arcanes in black, for example. The iconography lends itself to a darker, more mysterious style. Someone who seeks an elegant, refined design will lean toward Artifice, and someone who sticks with table demonstrations will be best served with a deck of Dealers.

We encourage people to treat deck selections like clothing, in a sense, because the same philosophy applies to wardrobe. And that’s something you should be carefully considering, because part of entertaining is looking the part. Nothing enhances your appeal and professionalism like the right wardrobe (consider it your costume), and a magician who does not dress like a pro will find it difficult to score repeat bookings.

We’ll assume you’re familiar with the basics, such as pants, and get right into advanced-class material — you should be thinking about accessories. These enhancements to our clothes also offer performance advantages for the right kinds of effects, as well. (If you really must know what we think about pants, we highly recommend wearing them.)

Whether you are selecting a wardrobe for professional gigs or you want to dress to be magical anywhere anytime, here’s four accessories you should consider as part of your performance character:


FOUR POINTS: Consider adding these accessories to your wardrobe

WATCHES

Wristbands such as the Halo Fiber Optik could also fit in this category. But watches and timepieces have an understated allure and elegance — especially with the wide selection available today. Most people keep track of time with cellphones, which makes a watch even more a statement of style. As for magical uses, they come in handy as a great hiding place for a coin or folded card. They hide loops of invisible thread. And there are even tricks such as Eric Jones’ Entrapment that require the use of a watch or bracelet.

Pro tip: This is an area where an investment in quality can pay off. A cheap-looking watch may take your style statement in the wrong direction, and may be damaged more easily. While saving up for a true timepiece may not be practical, there are plenty of great watches that will add to your style, not take away. Also, make sure the face is big enough to hide a Mercury-folded card.

RINGS

We’d be hard pressed to find a magician who doesn’t have a ring of some sort. It’s the perfect piece of jewelry for a magician — because our hands are constantly inspected. a ring becomes a place to make a subtle style statement. The amount of magical things that can be done with rings is dizzying, because everyone’s familiarity with a band of metal helps lay groundwork presentation without saying a word. We have our idea of what makes a good ring. But there are also trick rings that can be found with even more functionality for devious doings.

Pro tip: Fit is important. The ring needs to fit snugly but not tightly. Many jewelers will gladly size your fingers, so you can get an exact fit.

FOUR POINTS: Consider adding these accessories to your wardrobe

HATS

Some say hats are coming back, but we say they have never left. We’ve never observed a lull in lids — this is one of the few areas of fashion where guys get a larger than normal pool of selection. The right hat puts a crown jewel on your style, and may have qualities that can be used for sleight of hand. No one rocks a flat-bill cap like Eric Jones, and no one pulls off a top hat like Messado.

Pro tip: There’s no way to overthink this one. Because there are so many varieties of hat, there are plenty of wrong ones, but the right one makes a night-and-day difference.

SHOES

Really? Shoes are accessories? We’d argue that shoes are a necessity that should be treated ALSO like an accessory. Give a lot of thought to the kind of shoe that fits best with your style. Comfort can be enhanced with special insoles, so a look that feels painful at the shoe store can be fixed. Also, keep in mind that slip-on shoes can be used for a variety of tricks, including Justin Miller’s Card to Shoe.

Pro tip: Learn to polish, and polish often. You’ll keep your shoes looking sharp until the day the soles wear out.

FOUR POINTS is a regular feature that celebrates magicians’ favorite number by highlighting four critical bits of importance, awesomeness or otherwise. Send your suggestions to joe@ellusionist.com.

Whether in magic or marketing, creativity a way of life for Luke Dancy

May 20th, 2014 | Joe Hadsall | Filed Under General


Whether in magic or marketing, creativity a way of life for Luke Dancy

It’s hard to find a facet of magic that Luke Dancy is unfamiliar with. And that applies to things that have nothing to do with magic — seemingly.

Luke has more than 25 years of experience as a magic creator, consultant and performer. But his magic has also helped him found a marketing company — he is the founder of Social Mischief. It’s such a great fit that it makes us wonder how more magicians haven’t dived into the field.

“I’ve talked to a lot of friends in the marketing world and it seems to be a natural fit for me as I create magic for other magicians and for television,” Luke said. “It’s really no different than creating a campaign for a brand or specific product. Marketing for me is a way to exploit those creative ideas and thoughts for the business world.”

Luke brings his marketing magic to Ellusionist: Last week he joined our staff as marketing manager. He’ll be actively involved on our website and social networks, fueling new promos and interacting with customers.

Whether in magic or marketing, creativity a way of life for Luke DancyLuke’s first effect, Misprint, is an all-time best-seller for Elmwood Magic, and he has created effects for other magic sites, such as Penguin Magic. But a significant amount of work has gone into making tricks for other magicians. Most notably, Criss Angel: Much of Luke’s work can be seen in the fourth, fifth and sixth seasons of “Mindfreak.”

His creations encapsulate a wide variety of work, from sleights to devices. Dancy has never been afraid of a gimmick or gaff when trying to create an incredible illusion.

“I’m a firm believer that there are some things you just can’t do without the help of a gaff,” he said. “I take whatever means possible to get the effect that I’m looking for. When you take something like sleight of hand and mix it sparingly with gaffs, real magic starts to happen.”

It’s one thing to create, publish and release your own creation to the world, but it’s another to create for the fast-paced environment of a TV show. He said working as a consultant was an incredibly rewarding experience.

“But don’t kid yourself. It’s A LOT of work,” Luke said. “Being creative isn’t something that just happens when you decide to turn it on, so you definitely need to be in the right frame of mind and make it a way of life.”

That creative path includes music and a notebook for Luke. He said the right music helps him get in the zone and unlocks extra energy during a creative session. He also keeps a notebook, and writes down every idea he has. Even if the ideas don’t make much sense now, they will one day.

Pushing that magic into the field of marketing might seem like a no-brainer. But Luke said that while the two fields live in the same city, they also live in different neighborhoods.

But Luke found a way to make it work.

“My magic background definitely gives me an edge over the other people in the marketing world,” he said. “First, people find it to be really interesting, which is a great conversation starter. But it also shows them that I can be creative and think outside the box in fun and unique ways. Most people in business are used to doing things the traditional way.”

Never left magic: Raymond Singson kept performing during service in Marines

March 31st, 2014 | Joe Hadsall | Filed Under General


Never left magic: Raymond Singson kept performing during service in MarinesThe U.S. Marine Corps is one of the toughest branches of the U.S. Armed Forces. Standards for admission are higher. Marines are members for life, and pride themselves on being “disciplined, professional warriors”; the best of the best.

“So it was always really fun to see that stoic facade fall apart when they were amazed by something,” said Raymond Singson. “I worked with Marine Drill Instructors for the past three years. These are some of the hardest, most intimidating men the Marine Corps ever trained. They are responsible for making men out of boys and getting them ready for the challenges of war. Despite that, some of my favorite memories in magic were making these drill instructors scream and giggle at each other like children by doing magic for them.”

Before Singson served as a Marine Officer, stationed in places such as San Diego, South Carolia, Iraq and Afghanistan, he was a magician featured in Kard Klub and earned a reputation for redefining reveals in Stained Skin. He has rejoined Ellusionist as lead forum manager and content writer. You’ll see him on our Performance HQ Forums, on the Ellusionist Blog and more.

He got his start in magic early, with a copy of “Royal Road to Card Magic” that he bought at 10 years old with his own money. That led to a key moment with his dad that cemented his love of magic.

“Everything about that orange, hardcover book exuded mystery to me,” he said. “I remember legitimately fooling my dad for the first time. It was such a rush, it was like a power trip. When first starting out in magic, I wanted to experience that over and over again.”

But what really made Raymond connect with getting a reaction was inspiration from David Copperfield. Before seeing the legendary stage magician, he had an idea that magic was just a method for fooling people, but Copperfield showed the power of emotion, and how it bolstered the rush from performing.

“It’s not until you experience magic a different way — GOOD magic — to acknowledge that it’s art,” Raymond said. “For me, that was Copperfield. After seeing Copperfield, I knew magic could be a worthwhile emotional experience for people. I also knew it was something I’d do for the rest of my life.”

Never left magic: Raymond Singson kept performing during service in MarinesTrue to his word, magic has remained an important part of Raymond’s life — even as a Marine. Care packages always included playing cards, so he was able to keep up his chops and make jaws drop. No matter where he was stationed, he always performed for fellow Marines, locals, anyone. Those performances, for him, highlighted how “human and dynamic” everyone is — even in the face of one-dimensional portrayals of servicepeople and citizens.

“Magic strips away so many layers and just reveals an awesome innocence in people,” Raymond said. “I performed magic for Marines as well as the locals, and it was really interesting to see how similarly they all responded when they saw magic. Regardless of rank, culture or background, magic reminds us that we’re all equals at some level. Not many performance arts do that.”

Lately, mind-reading and mentalism has snared his attention. Influenced by the work of Derren Brown, he’s been diving into Annemann and other work. With a drive to study how to get in someone’s head and challenge core beliefs about the way the world works, Ray is enjoying the exploration.

“After performing close-up magic for 15+ years, I really appreciate how people respond to mind-reading so dynamically,” he said. “Even today, epople still legitimately believe in the possibility of psychics and the paranormal. So phenomena like mind-reading feels much more possible and real to people, and I enjoy that because it really facilitates a human connection.”