The Darker Side of Magic

Jul 16, 2011
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1
Hey everyone,
I've recently been watching some people performing on various sites such as youtube, vimeo, and metacafe. After watching these performers, I've realised that magic is presented (more often than not) as kindof a hokey puzzle. I've never preferred this style of presentation (infact it kindov irritates me). I find that magic should be presented as somewhat of an ability, or supernatural power, and that the performer should be a bit "dark" in his style. Does anyone have any ideas or comments upon this style of presentation? Thankyou.

ps. If you've ever seen Criss Angels TV special in 2002 before he was famous, he sort of touched upon this idea of a dark presentation/performer, or course now he definately isnt.
 
That's the best thing about this art form, it gives you the freedom to take it in whichever direction you want, it doesn't only have to be dark and spooky. Look at artists like Sylvester the jester he takes his performance to the point of being pretty much a human cartoon. Daniel Garcia presents his magic where he usually is laughing and having fun with the spectators. Other performers might even go past the illusionist style and really just enjoy showing their work as pure skill. You can take your art whichever way you choose. Also, look at a lot of the old school magicians going back to when they would wear tuxedos and present their show with more of a classy elegant style, perfect example of that would be Lance Burton. Just my .02 cents on the subject.
 
Nov 15, 2007
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Raleigh, NC
If everyone was presenting magic 'darker' then there would be a thread made that said 'Wow, shouldn't we lighten up as magicians?'

It's all a matter of choice and perspective (Illogical post reflects that as well) and I'm entirely too goofy to pull off dark and mysterious. I do my performances as an amped up version of myself when I'm with my friends. It's taken a while to get the details down, and I'm still working out presentations that I both enjoy and make some sense (as much sense as you can while doing the impossible, I suppose) but overall being dark and spooky would ruin my magic...because I'm neither dark, nor spooky.

While getting away from the same old illusions, performed the same way with the same music is a great idea, there are hundreds of ways to get away from it.

I will say, if you want to get into the darker side of magic (incorporating the idea that you actually have these powers) then you should consider learning mentalism (the right way...Best Free Resource <-Craig Brownings free E-book).
 
Dec 18, 2007
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Northampton, MA - USA
Last night I went to see a show in Cambridge, Mass at The Mystery Lounge. The headliner has a reputation for being dark, sinister, demonish, morose, you name it. He's a physical giant with a booming voice and looks a touch like Anton LeVey, founder of the First Church of Satan in here in the U.S. and yet, he had the audience rolling with laughter.

Max Maven likewise has that dark "vampiric" look and yet when he comes to the stage and makes his opening statement of "Boo" everyone cracks up, the ice is broken and folks are ready for some fun.

Even I have a very long history of being found in crypts, handing around with skeletons, skulls, and any assortment of morbid pet (very big snakes, ravens, vultures, large bugs, etc. ) and yet, I still invoke the great spirit of humor more than any sort of dark & heavy madness. The reason for this is simple; dark & heavy is very, very difficult to pull off. Angel, in his early days came off as either balancing the persona or very moody and chaotic. . . the latter ultimately became the norm because of how things in his life changed so rapidly and he wasn't able to maintain the delicate balancing act that original character required. . . then again, success really can screw-up things all the way around.

The gent I mentioned in my opening was Docc Hilford and he is very much a showman who just happens to use that darker aura as a marketing ploy more than mode of performance. Same goes for me, Max and any dozen of other successful entertainers working within the Bizarre & Mind Magick arena. This doesn't mean we can't or won't scare the every living hell out of our patrons and too, every one of us have been known to spill more than a few pints of blood here and there. The "trick" is however, helping people to learn how to not fear the dark and learn how to enjoy and even laugh at death. May seem a odd concept but not all that long ago it was a very common tradition even when aspects of the prudish Christian element managed to become part of a native tradition. . . Día de los Muertos is an excellent example but so is Halloween, the Mummers of Mardi Gras, etc.

I've worn many hats & masks over the past 40ish years of doing magic, each in their season. Find what "fits" you for right now, make certain that you are not a mimic of others, that your style and look defines you and what you deliver. Be as original as you possibly can always remembering that you are not a Magician. . . you are a storyteller first and foremost and the story begins well before you step foot on stage. . . just as my friend Docc has done for years, he's already tricked the audience to see him as something far darker, mysterious and dangerous than he really is. Once that page is turned the story reveals him as a hero that is more jester than wizard.

Think about it.
 
Jul 16, 2011
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WOW, the above post is genious! ^^ I'm not talking about being so dark that people fear you, but dark enough that they believe what you're doing IS infact real. Its almost like a fairy tale. If you walk up to someone, and perform a miracle with a borrowed object of theirs (with the aforementioned dark persona) and then walk away, the experience they are left with is unbeatable. The story they tell their friends will be soemthing like,"i saw this man, he came up to me and did the craziest thing with _____ and it was unbelieveable. I think he was for real..." that would be the makings of a fairy tale like story, as opposed to ,"This magician walked up to me and did a trick, it was pretty cool!" thats just my opionion, i love magic no matter how it is presented, i just think magicians as a whole havent quite tapped into the darker side of magic.

ps. this^^ also reflects the "storytelling" aspect that Craig Browning mentioned in the post above this one. (fairy tale)
 
Dec 31, 2010
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The only thing magic SHOULD be is YOU. If you are a dark person, make your magic dark to fit you. If you are a funny joking person, you would look like an idiot trying to be dark. Try to picture Gazzo being dark, you can't. He isn't a dark person.
If you are a classy person, you might like more classical stage magic. Don't try to be anything you aren't, just be yourself! :)
 
Jun 22, 2010
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Martinez, CA
I was reading Expert card Technique, and I came across something that I think fits nicely into this thread, Pg 431 paragraph one. It may or may not be true but I thought I'd bring it up.

Edit: Now that I read into it more, the whole chapter relates to this.
 
Oct 20, 2008
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Austin, TX area
I have a signed theatrical one-sheet of a horror film on my wall, Freddy Krueger watching me sleep, skulls for bookends, the works. I podcast original horror as another hobby. Dark/mysterious magic has a good place in storytelling. Do yourself a favor and also think of all the drive-in horror movies that went so bad they turned funny. Not the intentional stuff -- the stuff Joel and the bots used to poke fun at.

I really do say this with some respect for where you're coming from. I credit Billy McComb's brief appearance in the film Lord of Illusions with being one of the strongest draws for me to learn magic. The character of Philip Swann was a lot like Criss Angel before there was a Criss Angel. You don't need to stop there, though. A YouTube search for "Alice Cooper I Love the Dead" brought up a nice sample from 1973 for me. And hey - who was that masked executioner?!?!" ;)

Be sure to even go back to Houdini and his ventures into the darker side of spiritualism.

As I said, I love Billy McComb. Masters of Illusion had segments from Dale Salwak and Levent that I thought were completely amazing. It doesn't need to be spooky or mysterious just to avoid the hokey puzzle imagery. There are a lot of ways to go.
 

Lyle Borders

vp of operations // theory11
Staff member
Aug 5, 2008
1,569
797
Seattle, WA
www.theory11.com
I can, and do occasionally, bring a slightly darker side to my magic. Typically, I do card magic. If I do anything that strays from card magic, I usually pass it off as an experiment. One thing I like to do is to cause my pulse to stop. Not the W:H method, but actually cutting off the blood flow to my arm. (There are a few ways.) When I do this, I don't pretend it is magic. I simply tell the people what to do (take my pulse) and have them watch. I usually add something along the lines of "You have a phone on you, right? Just in case something goes wrong..."

Dark doesn't mean costumes and blood. It can simply be something that makes people question life. If you can do something that slightly unnerves someone, they will not forget it. You can make their skin crawl simply by how serious you present what you do.

Get under their skin.

L
 
Jul 16, 2011
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Thats exactly what I'm trying to convey (Above post). I'm not talking about presenting magic as like a horror act or something, Just in a way so that somebody couldnt possibly say that it was a "trick". Magic is a wonderful art and I believe it deserves to be more than just tricks
 
Dec 18, 2007
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Northampton, MA - USA
Thats exactly what I'm trying to convey (Above post). I'm not talking about presenting magic as like a horror act or something, Just in a way so that somebody couldnt possibly say that it was a "trick". Magic is a wonderful art and I believe it deserves to be more than just tricks

Ok, I know what you're saying but there's a problem to it; psychosocially magic as it is known in today's culture is seen as being pure trickery and mystery free, this is why a handful of guys some decades ago started a new kind of magic known as BIZARRE (Charles Cameron, Tony Andruzzi, Tony Raven, Jim Magus, Docc Hilford and others). This is the area where you will find traditional magic methods and classic bits turned on their head so as to deliver a kind of psychological "block" in the mind of the non-magician; they may think it is real but the most certainly will walk away not knowing for sure and trying to talk themselves into making it into a "trick" . . . think about what I just said; the psyche of the observer, in order to bring about personal "comfort" (perspective) will invent an explanation in their own mind in order to escape the possibility that something may be real. This is especially true when the performer presents routines steeped in the Occult, Voodoo and such; I don't mean the obvious silly form of presentation such as we see in a lot of Eugene Burgers' material but most certainly the more matter of fact forms as we'd see someone like Hillford or Sebastian Black come up with.

To learn a bit more I'll point you to the Dragon Skull site which is loaded with historic overviews as well as mini-lectures on the topic. There are likewise a handful of books you should probably take a gander at starting with The Arcana of Bizarre Magick by Jim Magus and the Larry Baukin Anthology. . . other material to look for would include most anything by Ed Solomon, Eugene Burger, Gene Poinc (see The Learned Pig's tribute site to Gene). There's likewise the Shadow Network though it's but a shadow of its former self these days.

Hope this helps.
 
Jul 16, 2011
152
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Thanks for the links and resources! I can easily connect exactly with what you just told me. When i perform a version of ACAAN or invisible deck, the audience will go crazy, but then they will say something like,"well i know theres got to be a trick behind it, i mean nobody can actually predict what card I will think of!"... So yes, during performance, I do get the spectators "self re-asurance" that what they just saw was a trick, and is impossible to do for real. Thanx again for the links
 
Magic is an art form, and every single piece of art is unique so why shouldn't magic be the same way? Think of magicians as artists, do all artists create the same piece of artwork? Of course not! So why should all magicians present themselves the same way?
 
Dec 18, 2007
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Northampton, MA - USA
I should mention that I have a Bizarre Magick introduction & resource book underway that, like my other FREE Intro books, offers a fair overview on the issue alongside a listing of books, videos, on-line resources, etc. I hope to have it up and available by the end of August along with a SEANCE text so as to aid those that always show up for the Halloween season, wanting to throw something together real quick

HINT: To do it right, you can't!

I'll let you all know when it's finally ready and where to find it.
 
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