Sunday, January 17, 2010

A kind of magic.


It's what magicians do. Duh.

But it's something musicians do, too. And painters.

Crafters, writers, singers, sculptors, effects people, actors (well, mostly) and even good plumbers and electricians can do it. Ever watched the mechanic take apart and rebuild a carburetor? Between that and how they make money fly out of your bank account, they are magicians too.

I'd guess all kids and most adults are intrigued and attracted to stage magic. When I was growing up, my brothers and I were fascinated (as we still are) by good close up/sleight of hand magic. Oh, there's nothing really 'wrong' with the kind of stage illusions that make the car turn into a killer shark which then flies over the audience and explodes in confetti which has your social security number on it.

(Actually, that would be a rather impressive accomplishment)...

But every one of those shows has a dozen (at least) helpers and prop people and assistants. With the flamboyant, annoying 'magician' and the glitz and glamour and canned music, there's just not much to impress after you've seen a few of them.

On the other hand, close up, sleight of hand magic takes real personal, intimate skill and effort, and nerves of steel, and done right, never fails to impress mightily.

Where was I going with this? Oh, never mind. I like magic.

We got started in the hobby (not profession) of magic with some very fun and informative books, not least being my brother's prized Mark Wilson's Course In Magic (signed by Mark Wilson himself!); that one got read and reread many, many times.

But other less prestigious (and costly!) books were always in rotation.

One of my favorites growing up in the '70s was a TAB/Scholastic book that always got friends excited to try tricks (where most of them just sort of stared dumbfounded at the complex Wilson book).

I give you a few pages from:

Larry Kettelkamp's Spooky Magic was first published by TAB for The Arrow Book Club in 1955, and remained in print at least into the '70s (as far as my research shows). William Meyerriecks' stylized, '50s-era illustrations remained intact into later printings, keeping the feel of the little book for generations.

To read these, I think a left click to enlarge will do the 'trick'. Ahem.

Now, I'm not going to cap every page. I just used my new Coolpix (thaaaaaanks Veeeeee!) to grab a decent representation for you!

The Invisible Flea was a perfect beginner's bit, as well as a hit song for
Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass.

The Spirit Hand is one of those tricks that worked on paper but not in real life;
I don't ever recall anyone buying it, not even in 3rd Grade.

Ah, the always relevant and just-plain-cool lemon juice invisible ink,
here dressed as Ghost Writing. A classic!

Of course that's what you write with ghostly ink!

This and the next are my favorite illo's in the book.
Seriously, are any of you surprised?

Actually, this page is even cooler than the last because the illo' of
the kids doing the table-raising seance cracks me up; the face of the
kid seated at at the top right is priceless.

Okay, in honor of cheap, fun kid magic, I give you the full illustration sequence (and most of the text)
of the last great illusion in the book...

The Floating Body!

Come on, when was the last time you performed that one? When was the last time you showed a younger friend or relative how to do it? It's a classic, and funny, and more people ought to be teaching kids the tricks and stunts we all used to pull when we were their age... when real magic was free, exciting, and came from the mere fact of being together.

Is this where we play Asleep in the Deep? OH no, I remember now... let me clear my throat ...



  1. Mike - you sure do dig up the gems! I had the "Spooky Magic" book in grade school - when I saw it listed in the Scholastic catalog, it was a must have! I put on magic shows in the basement, in all their hokey glory!
    Haven't thought of this book in YEARS - thanks fror the fun memories!

  2. Thanks Chris. I enjoy being able to offer the occasional memory jog for fellow monster lovin' kids!
    This one hopped off one of the dustier, older shelves here at the pub; glad you found it, bud!