Note ye ed's email address: email@example.com.
This event is in the books.
Last month's July issue discusses the IBM/SAM combined convention in Louisville, Magic, Inc.'s A New Angle by Ryan Plunkett and Michael Feldman and Conjuror at the Table by Al James, Illusions/The Art of Magic, the Bammo Dekronomicon from Bob Farmer, and warm memories of John Moehring.
Pick a book, any book.
Regrets! This time last year I was writing up the 25 highlights of MAGIC's 25th anniversary convention. Choices, heavily influenced by geography and family member access, kept me away from Las Vegas this summer, and I know I'd have loved experiencing and writing about "nine Lives." Stan would have had me with the opening night fifties sock hop and milkshakes. My kind of party. Huge thanks to Scott Wells and Bill Mullins for keeping us posted.
Indeed, I've little to review this month. There was an interesting, trivial thing in JAMM 07 called First Date Waltz, effective because it is trivial, that I quite liked, but can't tip it here. Given a lack of new topics, I'll discuss a spooky magic show that I did for a book signing at Barnes & Noble. It was fun to relive the material from The Little Egypt Book of Ghosts. Also fun, and I would have missed this had I attended MAGIC Live, was catching my nine-year-old granddaughter's first headlining gig with her rock band. Check the photo at the bottom.
And otherwise, like everyone else in magic, I was devastated by the loss of Eugene Burger. With various options as to how to remember him here, I've elected to revisit things I've written about him in the past, in happier times. Nothing suffices, but we'll try.
GHOST SHOW -- My first novel, Lucas Mackenzie and the London Midnight Ghost Show, is a tale of love, death, and magic. It features Lucas Mackenzie, a ten-year-old ghost who techs a traveling midnight ghost show. The spectacular cover art is by Christa Holland.
My second novel, McGrave's Hotel, is a tale of love, death, and spiders. Big ones. A takeoff on the movie Grand Hotel, the entire action takes place over one night in a haunted NYC hotel in 1936, beginning with guests checking in and ending with them checking out. Its cover art is by Mat Dawson, from London.
"It's the spookier of the two, don't you think?" I said, holding up a poster of the McGrave's cover.
Check out that poster.
And indeed it was, to gasps from the crowd, as I suddenly seemed to be holding the second cover with more hands than possible. A Third Hand always creates a nice effect.
Barnes & Noble provided me a nice crowd of friends and strangers, about as many as I had once seen for a Bobby Ann Mason book signing, more than I had once seen for an Alison Lurie, and way fewer than for a Kareem Abdul Jabbar. But, a perfect size for a spooky close-up magic show, which was my intent.
A nice crowd.
The material sprang from The Little Egypt Book of Ghosts, from the "Nightmare on (Your) Street 2008" chapter. For those interested in such things, here is the rundown.
Ranch Hand. A disembodied hand finds a selected card. As I said in the book, "It's both scary and funny and sets the tone for the entire act."
A disembodied hand finds a card.
Return to Motel 666. The spek cuts to three random cards, all 6-6-6. Patter involves that voice on the psychic hotline, a gypsy girl with sad eyes, a voodoo priestess. And thank you, John Bannon.
McScary Aces. A ghost story frames a McDonald Aces routine, the best sequence I know. All in the book.
Infestation. My "educational" presentation for Mac King's and Peter Studebaker's marketed Scorpion Moth, in which a deadly butterfly flies out of a book on insects. It was time to replace my butterfly, and I found a great one from Adams Pranks and Magic, on Amazon and elsewhere. Better than the one that comes with the trick. "And if you want to know more about the Scorpion Moth, just stop at the information desk here at Barnes & Noble. They will be happy to tell you all about it."
The Twilight Zone Aces. My spooky presentation for Simon Lovell's The Lemming Ace Exchange. All the details are in the book. "With a key, you unlock the door to imagination ..." Thank you, Simon.
The Ghost Palm. As I say in the book, "My spooky take on Paul Gertner's spooky trick. Most audiences have never seen anything like this card trick."
Hand Trick. (Yeah, I just renamed this.) Anna Eva Fay's skeletal hand finds a selected card ... and rearranges the deck.
That was the show, and it was nicely received. I was especially interested in pleasing the Barnes & Noble staff, and they seemed to like it. I saved back a couple of tricks to perform for folks who stopped by to chat or have a book signed. These follow.
Journey to McGraves. An update to David Regal Goes Psycho, itself a takeoff on David Regal's Journey to Love. "Welcome to McGrave's. Your room is ready."
Welcome! You've been expected.
Dead Reckoning. Peter Duffie's marketed effect, revamped to reveal the covers of my novels. As I had mentioned in a recent issue, it's an amazing four-card effect in which you conduct a test to contact the dead, revealing two cards in the process
A TEST to talk to the DEAD.
VALEDICTION, MOURNING EXPECTED -- "What's wrong?" my wife asked as I lost nearly two days this month, completely sequestered in my office with videos of, books by, and memories of Eugene Burger. How do you begin to explain what a loss this is to magic, to humanity? How does such an asset to the planet die while others, such a detriment, seem to go on and on?
But to specifics, and magic. I wrote of Eugene far too little here, and elsewhere, given what an influence he was on me, but let's revisit those moments nonetheless.
I touched upon my first encounter with a "Eugene Burger" in a review of the softbound books that most influenced me in magic, in June 2009. Even before I heard Eugene's physical voice, he had a "voice" on paper that was compelling, and he wore a beard long before beards were cool. That mention:
I acknowledged my favorite Eugene Burger book, Spirit Theater, in a bibliography to The Little Egypt Book of Ghosts. (My own book was my attempt at writing the second best book on spirit magic.) Recognizing that a big part of Eugene's performing impact is from his voice, Richard even included a phonograph record. Of Eugene's book itself, I wrote, "So beautifully and relevantly designed by Richard Kaufman that this book even looks scary. If you can afford only one book on spirit magic, or only one book by Eugene on any subject, this is the one to buy."
The bible of spirit theater.
My most recent mention of Eugene in these pages had been a May 2016 review of his second Penguin lecture, Eugene Burger LIVE 2. After The Little Egypt Book of Ghosts came out, Eugene thrilled me by performing a trick from it, The Lake Witch Project, at his next Halloween event. Needless to say, he made it more than twice as effective. Details are in the lecture:
DARK SECRETS -- In 1986 Eugene Burger's Spirit Theater immediately established itself as the best book ever on spooky magic (still is) and Eugene himself as the leading authority on dark side magic. I crave any opportunity to hear Eugene expound upon the subject and thus happily tuned into his new Eugene Burger LIVE 2 lecture from Penguin Magic (premiered May 15).
World's greatest spooky magic book.
The lecture, a download from Penguin, is a fast 153-minute chat with host Dan Harlan, Eugene Burger, and Lawrence Hass. The viewer has the sense of sitting in on a conversation that is punctuated by occasional performance pieces. Among the highlights:
Details of the Hauntings that inspired Spirit Theater, performed in a basement at Yale, at the University of Illinois in Champaign, in an attic in Evanston, and at the Lake Geneva Playboy Club.
How to haunt a house.
Discussion of a Ouija Board routine with a terrifying climax. Amazing Johnathon told me of a similar routine he had planned, to contact Grandma at a Halloween party.
The Bell, Max Maven's Genii routine (August 2010) as perforned by Larry Hass. Dan had a cool suggestion for using the prop.
Robert Neale's Soul Survivor, a creepy routine performed by Eugene, based on the PATEO force. There was a minor slipup in the execution that made the trick impossible, and yet it worked, fooling me badly!
How Eugene used Micael Carbonaro as a spectator in a bizarre hypnosis stunt with an ending so eerie the team felt they had to explain it to the spectators. I'd have let them worry! The participants should film this for Michael's TV show.
Demonstrations of the gadgets Eugene uses in the dark at his seances. Houdini might have featured this on stage.
How to make ectoplasm.
A discussion of The Lake Witch Project, my scream-inducing trick from The Little Egypt Book of Ghosts. Thanks, guys, for the nice words about the book and the trick.
Eugene performing Edna St. Vincent Millay's "Ballad of the Harp Weaver," with a magic trick climax suggested by Jeff McBride. This was just as creepy to watch as I had always envisioned it. No better lead-in to a dark seance.
Eugene performs with Larry and Dan.
I've been very happy with Penguin downloads, and this is no exception. Dan, Eugene, and Larry seemed to be having a great time. $29.95 from Penguin, immediately available. Spooky!
As luck would have it, both my parents died, on separate occasions, while I was attending magic conventions in Las Vegas. My mom's death, in particular, was a surprise and shock, and I would have to wait until the next day to catch a flight home. I had no idea how to pass the time until I wandered into a salon where Eugene was holding court. He was performing The Trick That Cannot Be Explained over and over, and it became more impossible with each iteration. It was one of the most wonderful things I had ever seen in magic, and it took away from my grief for a bit. I was aware that Eugene occasionally offered a seminar on the routine and hoped that I would one day be blessed to attend. I listed it as one of my primary mysteries here in April 2014. See below. (Amazing news. Regarding the routine, Larry Hass told Scott Wells on his themagicwordpodcast.com to stay tuned! Apparently Eugene has two books written that will come out.)
One of the highlights of my life in magic was a visit to Eugene's home, a one-bedroom apartment on Dearborn. I was surprised at how small and therefore selective his book collection was. (Should I ever have to truncate my own library, Eugene's books will be among those spared.) His path was not my path, but I appreciated its simple elegance. In his earliest writing he stressed drawing the line. I especially enjoyed the aspect of city living that allowed him to take an elevator to the first floor to a very nice restaurant, where we had lunch. How practical on a cold winter's day in Chicago!
According to Eugene's Chicago Tribune obituary, he passed away at the Northwestern Memorial Hospital. Nearly ten years ago, my granddaughter was born in that hospital. When she appeared, a tiny bell, like a fairy bell, tinkled to announce her arrival. That's how we knew. What happens, if there is another side, to announce new arrivals to eternity?
As with all of magic, I miss Eugene Burger, and I wish you joy in his memory.
The fate of this man or that man was less than a drop, although it was a sparkling one, in the great blue motion of the sunlit sea.
-- T.H. White, The Once and Future King
I'll see you at the beach. I'll be reading McGrave's Hotel and Lucas Mackenzie and The London Midnight Ghost Show.
The official Lucas Mackenzie web site.
The official McGrave's Hotel web site.
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Little Egypt Magic is the erratically updated web site of Steve Bryant, spawned (the site, not Steve) by a former internet magazine known as The Little Egypt Gazette/for magicians only.
Steve Bryant is an obscure magician and writer who generates this site from an iMac in Bloomington, Indiana. He used to frequently journey to and perform magic in Little Egypt, the local name for extreme southern Illinois, where the towns bear such names as Cairo, Thebes, and Karnak.
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