The Witching Hour


Last night I got to attend a special performance at See Scape put on by the Toronto Magic Company. They forewent their usual weekly performance The Newest Trick In The Book, and replaced it with The Witching Hour; the same format but featuring an all female cast.

The show did have one marked improvement over there regular format and just goes to show what happens when you let women be in charge.

L to R: Nikki Runnals, Bella Muerta, Suzanne, Felice, Jacqueline Swan Duct Tape: Jonah Babins, Ben Train

L to R: Nikki Runnals, Bella Muerta, Suzanne, Felice, Jacqueline Swan
Duct Tape: Jonah Babins, Ben Train

Later this week, I’ll be appearing on another TMC production: The Carnival of Wonders, which also features Bella Muerta and a number of strange, unusual and wonderful people. Tickets are still available for the early and late sittings (8:00 PM and 10:30 PM) at the Super Wonder Gallery.


Poof - Tickets for "Impossible" have vanished

Thrilled to report that our special performance with Pepe Lirrojo in Toronto is sold out! We’re looking forward to seeing everyone at the show on Tuesday, May 14 at Suite 114 in Toronto. Remember: There are extra special magical treats in store for guests who wear red.


We have limited tickets remaining for Magic & Martini in May. Readers can use the discount code olive for a special discount when booking online:

I will also be appearing this week on Thursday night at the Toronto Magic Company Carnival of Wonders. Tickets are available for the 8:00 and 10:30 sittings:

The BBC on Why We Like Magic

The BBC takes a look at why we like magic.

The article is inspired by a recently released book by Dr. Gustav Kuhn from the University of London: Experiencing the Impossible: The Science of Magic. Using science to investigate magicians and how magic works has become rather popular lately. Magicians are, at their core, empiricists. A trick either fools people or it doesn’t. It generates astonishment and applause or it doesn’t. And psychologists are now excited to explore the why behind the how.

But why is magic exciting for us, even when the unexplainable can be deeply discomfiting? As Dr. Kuhn puts it:

Dr Kuhn likens the appeal of a magic trick to that of a horror film.

If such bloodshed was seen in real life, he says, it would be traumatic and awful, but when it’s shown in the safety of a movie, the fear becomes something that people can enjoy.

Likewise, if we were confronted with something which disorientated and distorted our senses, it would be deeply disturbing, but when it’s put into the context of a magic trick, it becomes entertaining and amusing.

The fact that we know it’s not real is an essential part of making it an enjoyable sensation.

A Carnival of Wonders

If you’re in Toronto next week come to the Carnival. inside the Super Wonder Gallery, the Toronto Magic Company is hosting The Carnival of Wonders. I’ll be appearing alongside cheaters, sideshow performers and men and women of mystery and ill repute.

There are two shows that night. The early show is family friendly. The late show is…. less that. In addition to the performances, there will be carnival games and a couple of surprises I’m not allowed to mention.

Thursday, April 18, 2019
8:00 & 10:30 PM
Super Wonder Gallery
(584 College Street, Toronto)

From the organizers:

Join Ringmaster Dick Joiner for the incredible Family Circus show, featuring jugglers, magicians, and jaw-dropping sideshow performers while you check out all the exibits. All attendees will get loot bags on the way in with chips for game play and food, as well as some fun surprises.


From Spain: Pepe Lirrojo "Impossible"

Coming up in May, we will be putting on a special show for a visiting performer from Spain, Pepe Lirrojo. In Europe, they take a slightly different approach to magic shows and many specialize in intimate immersive small audience magic shows. In countries like Spain, Germany and Italy, it’s not uncommon to find theatres specifically designed for close-up magic. So we thought his show Impossible would be perfect for the intimate setting at Suite 114 where we are presenting Magic & Martini in Downtown Toronto.

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Doors open at 6:30 with the show starting promptly at 7:30, so come early to sample Suite 114’s fantastic cocktail menu comprised entirely of original creations. We have a (very) limited number of seats. Tickets are available below.

Fine Print:
Your tickets include the secret password needed to gain entry to the venue, so don’t lose them!
19+ event with dress code: Jackets & Cocktail attire. (Wear red and something special might happen!)
Performance will be in English (or at least a funny accent in a language that closely approximates English.)

Vice: Truth and Lies

Vice has a wonderful longform article about the ethics of deception in magic. It’s part of an issue they’ve put together about truth and lies.


Magic is undeniably flourishing in a sea of new media outlets like YouTube and Instagram. Now Netflix is firmly on board producing a variety of series and specials with magicians you may never have heard of. (And of course the doom and gloom naysayers are hot on their heels screaming about how they are ruining the great art of magic… yawn.)

But since the earliest days of magic on film there has been a problem: Camera Tricks.

A disclaimer precedes the first episode of Magic for Humans, clarifying that there are no camera tricks.
Why is this insistence on magical authenticity such a big deal? You might think that editing and camera placement are merely additional tools to create a final effect—not better or worse than smoke, mirrors, and wires, just different. The reality is a bit more complicated: While editing magic is in some respects its own art form, the often-unspoken code around what magicians are and are not allowed to do on camera—and who gets to make the rules in the first place—can be quite strict.

We experience this kind of ethical confusion in other areas: sports. We understand that it’s important that baseball has rules even though we’re never able to convincingly explain why this particular set of rules is better than any other. We understand the goal of boxing is to knock your opponent out, yet understand that bringing a baseball bat into the ring is not allowed. We simultaneously understand that both the goal and the constraints are part of the game.

While a magic show might be in a theatre, it is less a theatrical pursuit than an intellectual endeavour. The magician wants to convince that the impossible is happening. While CGI and camera tricks are tools that filmmakers use to tell a fictional story, magic is more about the impossibility for its own sake. So camera cuts and CGI move us away from the impossible and towards something we understand. So even though magic is all cheating, some forms of cheating clearly weaken the result.

Lots of prop-based magic tricks have an obvious flaw. When a (reasonably alert) person sees it they immediately think to themselves “If only I could handle that box, I would not be fooled.” Without understanding how the prop works, they are able to localize the mystery — it’s somewhere in that prop. And a contained mystery does hint at a grander magical world; does not inspire a sense of wonder.

Great magic gets past that by moving the audience from a place of “I don’t know how that was done” to “I’m positive that can’t be done.” (That wonderful pithy phrasing comes from Chicago magician Simon Aronson.) So maybe instead of a box, which could conceal a trapdoor, the magician borrows your coffee mug. Now instead of having a box to contain the mystery, the magician could have used anything and the mystery deepens.

Magic on a screen offers up a similar problem. “If only I could have been there and been standing a little bit to the left…” or “If only I could have seen the director call cut and watched them sneak that tiger into that box.”

Since magic was first brought onto network television decades ago, we have only had one solution that kind of sort of worked: Filming tricks head on in a single take, often in front of a live studio audience with no do-overs. Now the norms of filmmaking have changed, the screens have gotten smaller and an audience simply will not tolerate an unedited recording. We need the camera cuts to guide our attention and help us assimilate the narrative.

So a new breed of magic is coming where you will watch it and say, “Even a camera trick couldn’t make that work.” But tricks like that are few and far between… for now.

So the issue that the authors of the article are dancing around but can’t seem to figure out is that magic is a (for lack of a less gender specific term) gentlemanly pursuit. The magician is a liar but an honest liar. We are deceiving, but always playing by “the rules” even though