Magicians are Cognitive Artists

Inside Magic Image of Salvador DaliAt the very same institution where Houdini was fatally punched in the gut, McGill University in Montreal, psychologists and neuroscientists are trying to learn more about their respective fields by studying how magicians fool people.

We read about the investigations into psychology and magic in a recent issue of The Atlantic.

Jay Olson is one of the researchers working on what a recent issue of the journal of The Frontiers of Psychology call “neuromagic.” In an article “The Psychology of Magic, the Magic of Psychology,” Mr. Olson reported on a fascinating study where subjects were shown the same trick over and over until they figured it out.  We now have scientific data to support the maxim that a magician should never perform the same effect twice.

Mr. Olson studied the psychology of forcing.  To his credit, Mr. Olson refused to disclose the secret of the forcing technique he used.  He was able to successfully force a card on a subject 98 percent of the time – and 91 percent of the time, the subject felt the choice was entirely free.  The study authors wrote, that magic “can provide new methods to study the feeling of free will.”

Perhaps more importantly, some curious magicians might hope, the study can teach an effective forcing technique that works 98 percent of the time and leaves nine out of ten participants ready to swear the choice was entirely free.

Again, Mr. Olson refused to disclose his secret method.

We urge you to visit the study’s website to learn more about the work done and the areas of investigation.  It really is a fascinating read.  Like painters are masters of perceptual illusions, the study notes, “magicians are the cognitive artists.”

Check out additional articles in the field here.

Reveen the Impossiblist’s Tradition Continues

Inside Magic Image of Reveen The Next GenerationThe late Peter Reveen, known professionally as Reveen the Impossibilist, passed away in 2013 but his family’s gift to the St. John’s Arts and Culture Centre in Newfoundland, Canada.

Mr. Reveen’s last show was on the main stage at the Arts and Culture Centre in 2008 and now on Saturday, his son Ty will carry on in the Impossiblist tradition with a new Reveen show on the same stage.  Mr. Reveen’s 13-year-old grandson Taj was also at the presentation. He says he’s looking forward to taking over the show when his father, Ty, retires.

The family donated Mr. Reveen’s famous bejewelled red tuxedo to the Centre.

Tickets are available for this weekend’s show here.

Check out the Reveen website here.

Lucas Wilson & Kelly Defilla Put the Heart in Magic

Lucas Wilson and Kelly DefillaMagic performers Lucas Wilson and Kelly Defilla are everything we love about our beloved craft.

The duo received a great write-up in The Norfolk News in advance of their shows next Monday at the beautifully appointed Lighthouse Festival Theatre in Port Dover, Ontario.

They returned from the bright lights and big city vibe of Las Vegas with a new illusion they cannot wait to share.  “We’re bringing a slice of Las Vegas to Port Dover,” Mr. Wilson told the reporter during rehearsal.

“It’s fun, quick, colourful – illusion after illusion after illusion,” Ms. Defilla offered.

She is the putative assistant but really the key to the show.  She does the heavy lifting behind the scenes, gets cut in half and puts her professional acting background to good use.  After seven years performing together, “we play off each other really well now,” she said. “And I think my acting training really helps with that, because I know how to be animated (on stage) and stay in that world.”

They were separated during the Christmas season last year when Ms. Defilla needed surgery to repair a “toonie-sized hole in her heart.”  A “toonie” is a rather large one-dollar coin.  That’s a big hole.

Ms. Defilla said it felt “weird” to know that the show was going on without her – a classmate from Holy Trinity filled in for her – but she was touched by the outpouring of concern and love their fans sent her way.

They are their own roadies, responsible for the load-in, tear-down and load-out as they tour.  Do they get tired?  Yes, but it is a good kind of tired – a “rewarding exhaustion.”

“One of the things we try to remember is this could be someone’s first magic show. There could be someone who’s about to fall in love with magic because we put 100 per cent in,” Mr. Defilla said.

“You have to put that kind of energy and excitement in, because you don’t want to let anyone down.”

If you are in Ontario, check out their performance next Monday, March 16, at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. at the Lighthouse Festival Theatre in Port Dover.  There are a limited number of VIP seats available for each show so act quickly.  You can visit their website to learn more about the couple, their magic and upcoming shows here.

We wish the duo the best of luck and will keep Ms. Defilla in our prayers.

Peter Marucci Lauded by Canadian Press

Inside Magic Image of Peter MarucciMagician Peter Marucci received a great write-up from Canada’s The Wellington Adviser noting his unprecedented second win of the International Brotherhood of Magicians’ Howard Bamman trophy.

He is the only Canadian to win the award and the only magician to win it twice.

The award was given in recognition of Mr. Marucci’s 28-year contribution The Linking Ring.

IBM members know Mr. Marucci from his Showtime column in our organization’s official magazine.  He is a great writer and has been incredibly prolific.

The article provides a nice history of Mr. Marucci and his career in magic and journalism.

Mr. Marucci performed across North America in venues from conventions, trade shows, clubs restaurants, street fairs and festivals.

He even had his own restaurant where he performed for diners.

Congratulations to Mr. Marucci on the great piece and thanks for his wonderful contribution to our art over the years.

Meeting Our Old Friend Murray Hatfield for the First Time

Inside Magic: Murray Hatfield and TeresaWe finally had a chance to meet our friend and big-time illusionist Murray Hatfield this weekend at the Magic Castle.  He and his better half, Teresa were wrapping up their sell-out week in the Palace of Mystery and he went from his last show on Sunday directly into his lecture in the Parlor of Prestidigitation.

When we say ‘directly’ we mean, immediately.  The applause was literally still going as he entered the Parlor to begin his session with us.

We have written about Mr. and Mrs. Hatfield for nearly a decade; chronicling their tours of Canada with Illusions: Magic ‘n Miracles.  They have brought the full-evening magic show to lucky cities across our neighbor to the north on a yearly basis – each year with new illusions and a new featured performers.

Even though they stopped each year in our former neighborhood of Windsor, we never had a chance to see them perform or to take Mr. Hatfield’s kind invitation to see the show and meet afterwards.

It only makes sense, then, that we would finally meet in Hollywood, California.

Mr. Hatfield and Teresa put on an incredible show.  We have seen approximately a million illusion acts in our short time on this earth, but few can compare with the staging and presentation we witnessed.  They are fast, charming and mystifying – even to jaundiced magicians who have seen millions of illusions.

The audience loved the show and the performers.  They truly connected with the crowd from their opening and all the way to their incredible finale.

Mr. Hatfield comes across as a very modest but capable person who is fully in control of the illusions he and his lovely wife present.  He knows what is about to happen and cannot wait to share it with his new found friends.

That’s either a great act and tough to pull off year after year, show after show; or, he is sharing his genuine nature.

As we learned at his lecture, it is no act.  He is someone who has wanted to be a magician since he was a child.  He loves the art and enjoys people.  That’s a pretty good combination for someone who wants to do what he does for a living.

His lecture was a great chance to learn from someone who has created a new touring show every year for the last 25 years.  Yes, he taught us some tricks – good ones – but more importantly, he told us his secret of staging any performance for maximum audience engagement and enjoyment.

Mr. Hatfield taught the lecture attendees a special five step mnemonic device arrange a performance. Achieve all five and the show will succeed, he promised.  It does not matter if one is performing close-up or a big-time illusion show.

His stage show follows that formula to great success.

It was an honor to finally shake hands with Mr. Hatfield and a real education in how a true professional works.