Unsung Heroes

“What’s the story of the hidden daisies among the roses, 
and the stars which break at the dawn?”

– Saleem Sharma

Unsung Heroes
Larry Hass, Associate Dean

In the run up to magic convention season, I found myself observing how many familiar names were on the convention bills. Many of them are the same names we saw at last year’s conventions or the year before. Some of them will be the same at different conventions this year. And some of these people are familiar because they receive a lot of attention in the magazines.

This is terrific for these magicians, and I am delighted for their success and celebrity: it helps spread the word, get the bookings, and pay the bills. But I am also aware that the famous names in magic are a very thin slice of all the magicians who are out there performing excellent magic shows for non-magicians in real-world venues, night after night, week after week, year after year.

So as a gentle corrective to the “season of celebrity” I wanted to dedicate this Museletter to some of the unsung heroes in magic today. That is, talented magicians who are out there making excellent shows and who are unlikely to get much coverage in the echo chamber of our subculture. You might well know some of the names I’m about to mention, but it’s more likely you won’t. That’s part of the point and the fun!

To gather these names, I emailed a wisdom team of respected friends and advisors, asking for their recommendations. My approach was not scientific or systematic. I simply asked some people whose opinions I trust, and by no means do they canvas the country or the world. Also, I am severely limited in the space I have available here. This all means there are a lot of unsung heroes I have missed!

Let me also say that it wasn’t at all necessary for the performer to be connected with the Magic & Mystery School. Instead, the criteria I presented in my request were simply: 1) that the magicians should be performing excellent magic on a regular basis, and 2) that they haven’t yet received the kind of recognition in the magic subculture their work probably deserves. Despite these rather open criteria, I was amazed to see a number of these names appear on several replies. Tells you something!

Here they are, then, in alphabetical order; some unsung heroes performing magic in the world today:

  • Alfonso (Southern California): close-up and parlor magic
  • Jeff & Kimberly Bornstein (Los Angeles): corporate mentalism
  • Dennis Debondt (Chicago): comedy magic
  • Dan Fleshman (Vail and St. Louis): close-up and restaurant magic
  • Greg Gleason (Las Vegas and on cruises): illusions, close-up, and card magic
  • Geoffrey Grimes (north Texas): walk-around, close-up, family entertainment
  • Mark Haslan (Southern California): close-up card magic
  • Debbie Leifer (Atlanta): comedy magic
  • CJ May (Hartford): environmental magic
  • Eddie Medrano (Southern California): comedy magic, clowning, and circus
  • Erick Olson (Orlando): comedy magic
  • Roland Sarlot & Susan Eyed (Arizona): parlor, platform, illusions
  • “Baff-alo” Bill Smith (Atlanta): hospital, community, clowning
  • Steinar Thelen (Norway): parlor, platform, emcee
  • Phil Van Tee (Southern California): comedy magic
  • Arjan Van Vembde (Amsterdam): close-up and parlor magic
  • Tom Verner (cities all over the world): Magicians Without Borders
  • Jim Vines (New York): close-up magic
  • Woody Woet (Amsterdam): comedy magic

In closing, allow me to say what a deep personal pleasure it was to read and learn about these magicians and the very fine performance work they are doing. I hope that you, too, will take a little time to broaden your magic horizons by getting acquainted with them.

So, who have I missed? Who are your unsung heroes? Whether they are folks on my list or on your list, I encourage you to make a special point to go see them work next time you are in their area. If you enjoy their magic, let them know. Working in the trenches is challenging, and your good words can make a big difference. Also, spread the good word to others whenever you can.

Indeed, the world needs magic. And there are unsung heroes all over delivering it.

Magic Explodes in Vegas

“Magic is an international language that transcends all cultural and language barriers.”   – Jeff McBride, Creator of The Magic & Mystery School

The Art of Magic is EXPLODING! In Las Vegas!

Magic Explodes in Las Vegas
Greetings friends.

Jeff here in Vegas. It seems like I’m getting booked more and more in Vegas these days and with good reason!

Not since “the magic boom” of the mid 1990’s has there been such a demand for magic in Vegas. “The Magic Center of the World” now hosts more than a dozen magic shows on and off-strip, and more are starting soon.

Q: Why is magic so popular?
A: It is a form of theater that appeals to all generations.

  • Visual magic has no language barrier. All cultures can enjoy its wonders.
  • Magic combines many other forms of theater, storytelling, music, quick change, dance, mime, circus, and variety arts.
  • The art of illusion reminds us that our world is filled with beautiful and terrifying mysteries.

Magic Store
Photo: Sheryl Garrett


Oh, I LOVE magic shops!  When I was a teen I worked at FLOSSO’S magic shop in NYC. It was the oldest magic shop in America. Filled with secret devices and esoteric books. I would practice and invent magic effects, read the strange books, and experiment with all the old tricks and the new magic innovations.

Recently, we built a new wing onto the Mystery School with a huge magic library, museum and yes…a real magic shop. Take a look–or better yet, come here and visit!

There are 2 ways you can visit our new magic shop.

  1. You can visit the shop if you attend a class
  2. Shop online. Take a look! We have many EXCLUSIVE items to be found nowhere else. CLICK HERE

Jeff & Abbi Masks
Photo: Clay Patrick McBride

 Jeff & Abigail McBride on MASTERS OF ILLUSION

We appear on multiple episodes this season with many “never seen before on TV ” acts.
Abigail will perform one of her solo pieces on the show too!


For  more than 20 years I played mostly East Coast nightclubs and casinos, so this seems like going home again!  I’ll be at Harrah’s Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City on July 16th with the show. I’ll be performing my classic “Mask Act.”

Kabuki Shaman
” Here is a shot Abbi took of Jeff as “The Shaman”, backstage at MASTERS OF ILLUSION
Explore The Mystery School – “A Philosophy of Magic, Art, & Life.”

Jeff TeachingPhoto: Sheryl Garrett

What the students are saying:

“Simply the best way to learn magic.”   Jeff Christensen

Come join me every Monday night, and you can also tune in each and every day to see streaming videos of some of the top magic teachers in the world. If you have a hankering for hocus-pocus, this is the place for you to learn the new tricks of the trade. www.mcbridemagic.tv

“Mystery School is The REAL Hogwarts” – CNN  news

CNN Video Clip

WGPhoto: Sheryl Garrett

Every month, the  top magicians of Las Vegas are seen at WONDERGROUND.  It is the “mecca of magic” for the world now.

Why has WONDERGROUND outlasted many shows in Vegas?
 We change the show every month! Yes, a new show, with a new cast of new acts! It keeps it fresh and exciting. You never know who is going to drop in. Recent guests included Teller, Lance Burton,  Dan Sperry, Amazing Jonathan, Criss Angel, Mac King, Xavier Mortimer, Johnny Thompson and many more…

“Shock Illusionist Dan Sperry will be appearing at WONDERGROUND  July 16th!


8PM –   Tim Wise- Host with a ghost!
Randilyn-  as MJ
CK the  Modern Mystic – Magic from Singapore

9PM –   Christian Diamond – Sparkle & Mystique
Scott Steelfyre – With his Box of Mystery
Murray Hatfield – Canada’s #1 Illusionist
Dan Sperry – From AGT and The Illusionists

10PM – Tim Wise- Man on fire!
Dan Sperry – Beyond words!
Ryan Stock- Comedy Daredevil
Jarol Martinez- The ILLUMINATION act-direct from Paris!

Plus: The New World Rhythmatism Dancers, Bar Magic with Zack Pattee and Scott Steelfyre, Iam Creed, and Randilyn
Psychic Sideshow with Alan Scott, live art with Areeya, photography by Sheryl Garrett, and many more surprises and special celebrity guests!!

Matthew Wright & Eugene
Marvelous Matthew and one of his co-stars “Eugene”, see them live when you are in Costa Del Sol!

International News

Learn the Secret behind “THE CHAMBER OF SECRETS!”

Our friend and award winning student Matthew Wright has a new venue! His secret to success was a quote he heard when he attended Mystery School…here is the secret.

“A Goal is a dream with a deadline”

…and for Mystery School alumni and FISM award winner Marvelous Matthew Wright, that deadline was met this month with the opening of a brand new purpose built magic theatre in Torremolinos on the Costa Del Sol in Spain…visit “THE CHAMBER OF SECRETS.”

Matthew says:

“Inspired by a single line taken from Eugene Burger’s early video “Gourmet Close up Magic” Matthew has held a dream of opening his own theatre for almost twenty years. The “Chamber of Secrets,” as it is named, is a close-up/parlour theatre fully fitted with state of the art lighting and sound, as well as tiered seating and raised stage, so that everyone in the 36 seat room gets a perfect view of the action.

If you are in the Costa Del Sol this summer make sure to drop Matthew a line….he even has a special deal for friends of Mystery School!



Thank you Marvelous Matthew. You are doing great work bringing magic to an entirely new audience!

Magic is alive and more popular than ever…it is my hope that I can share my magic with you in person or online very soon!

We will end this month with one of our favorite poems by Rumi

“Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing
and rightdoing there is a field.
I’ll meet you there. 
When the soul lies down in that grass
the world is too full to talk about.” Rumi

See you in the field!

Jeff & Abigail

The Illusion of Laypeople

Dear Friends:

Today we hear from Craig Conley (a.k.a. Prof. Oddfellow), whose illustrations you’ve seen in Jeff McBride’s The Show Doctor and Eugene Burger’s “A Magical Vision” documentary. Craig collaborated with Abbi Spinner on the new Young Wizard’s Hexopedia: A Guide to Magical Words & Phrases. In his lexicographical work, he has uncovered a controversy in how magicians refer to audience members.


The Illusion of “Laypeople”

“I am a magician . . . and so are you.  We are all magicians—illusionists—who survive, take pleasure, and find meaning in life by means of the illusions we create.  I am here to remind you that such magic runs rampant in our lives and that this is a good thing.”

—Bob Neale


The most controversial word that magicians use might very well be “laypeople.”  Its primary definition of course refers to a non-ordained member of a church, but that’s the least of the problem.  We might do well to consider whether the very idea of laypeople is an illusion in itself. As a well-diplomaed philosopher, if Larry Hass chatted about the nature of reality with a stranger, that person wouldn’t strictly be a “layperson” but a fellow philosopher (even if to a lower “degree”).

The very concept of a layperson might put up invisible walls that are more of a disservice to the magician than to his or her participants in wonder. That’s because we all have specialized knowledge and experiences that others don’t, and if only we had a way of knowing how to communicate them, we’d all blow each other’s minds quite regularly. Sure, a magician may know the secret of a particular card trick that the participant doesn’t, yet a participant may be well-practiced in some other operation or art equally difficult or requiring flair. The participant may in fact know a card trick of his or her own, too, but not necessarily self-identify as a magician.  The word “layperson” literally means a non-expert person, and is that how we’d describe our audiences (at least on our better days)?

A passage in César Aira’s novelette The Literary Conference feels apropos, in that it’s about how unlikely it is for any two people on earth to have read even just two of the same books, and how the unlikelihood increases exponentially for three books and so on.

An intellectual’s uniqueness can be established by examining their combined readings. How many people can there be in the world who have read these two books: The Philosophy of Life Experience by A. Bogdanov, and Faust by Estanislao del Campo?  Let us put aside, for the moment, any reflections these books might have provoked, how they resonated or were assimilated, all of which would necessarily be personal and nontransferable.  Let us instead turn to the raw fact of the two books themselves.  The concurrence of both in one reader is improbable, insofar as they belong to two distinct cultural environments, and neither belongs to the canon of universal classics.

Even so, it is possible that one or two dozen intellectuals across a wide swathe of time and space might have taken in this twin nourishment.  As soon as we add a third book, however, let us say La Poussière de Soleil by Raymond Roussel, that number becomes drastically reduced.  If it is not ‘one’ (that is, I), it will come very close.  Perhaps it is ‘two,’ and I would have good reason to call the other ‘mon semblable, mon frére.’  One more book, a fourth, and I could be absolutely certain of my solitude.  But I have not read four books; chance and curiosity have placed thousands in my hands. And besides books, and without departing from the realm of culture, there are records, paintings, movies …  All of that as well as the texture of my days and nights since the day I was born, gave me a mental configuration different from all others.  (p. 9).

Indeed, every person has a unique mental configuration, meaning that we’re all fellow unlikelihoods, all brethren of wonder.  What if no-one of us has ever technically met a “layperson”? What would happen if a performer came on stage, looked at a sea of faces in the audience, and quoted Bob Neale about what an honor is it is to be in the presence of so many genuine magicians?  Even at a pro-magicians-only conference, given just how many magics there are (see Burger and Neale’s Magic and Meaning), who is technically ordained when there’s no one holy order, no one definition of kosher?

How does the concept of a “layperson” serve us?

Life, Death & Other Card Tricks

“You should never hesitate to trade your cow for a handful of magic beans.”
— Tom Robbins

Greetings friends,

I do not consider my life normal…thank heavens for that!

As you may know I’m on tour and traveling half the year, and, as you may not know, CHAOS is a major part of that aspect of my life. I can’t avoid it… so I’ve learned to dance in the chaos, until it becomes my new normal!


The art of magic is often a dance of opposites; appearing and vanishing, something from nothing, life and death. Death and danger seem to be recurring themes in magic shows…in fact many shows feature dark themes and dangerous stunts.

Our good friend Eugene Burger has inspired many to explore darker themes…witness now performance artist Christian Cagigal, as he performs Eugene Burgers famous piece “THE INQUISITION.” (Christian will be headlining  WONDERGROUND in September!)

Cagigal Video

“The TED Talks of Magic…”

That is how people describe our Magic & Meaning Conference.  Bob Neale will be joining Eugene Burger and our very special featured guest, Max Maven, at this year’s Magic & Meaning, coming up in October, here in Las Vegas.


Bob Neale has written an inspired Book entitled Life, Death & Other Card Tricks… it is filled with magic routines that dance the razor’s edge. He has the ability to really make us think about our lives…using the medium of card magic.

Speaking of Life, Death & Other Card Tricks

Our friend, Ferdinando Buscema reminds us of the “game of life.”  Life is a game that ends with death. Ferdinando has a very artistic outlook on life and death. I think you would like to read his fascinating essay. It’s on the contemplation of death through the use of playing cards!


Steve Jobs

Life and Death Quote 

“Music is the strongest form of magic.”

— Marilyn Manson

Lou Reed Sings about “Magic & Loss”

The late Lou Reed’s lyrics are echoing in my head these days. I’ve been thinking and feeling deeply about life, death and magic. Listen to Lou sing this haunting song…it is one of my favorites.

Lou Reed Clip

Magic & Loss

When you pass through the fire, you pass through humble

You pass through a maze of self-doubt

When you pass through humble, the lights can blind you

Some people never figure that out

You pass through arrogance, you pass through hurt

You pass through an ever present past

And it’s best not to wait for luck to save you

Pass through the fire to the light

Pass through the fire to the light

Pass through the fire to the light

-Lou Reed

The Symbolism of Magic is Rich, Indeed.

Even the effect BEKOS symbolizes  That magic often has a “cost”…a loss that makes room for the magic.

BEKOS clip

Asia Gives Birth…to Magic Wonder Lands!

The great mystics and sages say “All new life emerges from death, and the cycle continues.”  It’s astonishing to see the new life magic is having in the media and in major entertainment venues around the world.  Our friend, Franz Harary, is making global headlines with his new House of Magic in Macau.

World’s First Multi-Venue, Interactive Magic Experience

‘The House of Magic’ 

MACAU, June 10, 2015 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE)  ”The House of Magic’ at Studio City is the first and only permanent magic extravaganza in Macau.

Designed, curated and hosted by world-acclaimed illusionist Franz Harary, ‘The House of Magic’ is the world’s first multi-theater, immersive visitor magic experience, designed for magicians by a master magician, and featuring live magicians, and set in a mystical three-theater showcase complex of amazing, mind-bending magic. It represents just one of the stunning world-class entertainment centerpieces at the US$3.2 billion Studio City…

Read the full story here: http://tinyurl.com/nkhvaxp

WG June

WONDERGROUND NEWS… one night only!

Thursday June 18th at 8 pm–You are invited to the “Biggest Magic Party in Vegas”!!

8PM:  Tim Wise, Emcee

Jeff McBride – New Magical Creations

Dixie Dooley – King of Escapes

The Shocker – The Ambassador of Kick- your Ass-ador!

Bizzaro – Innovative illusion that always surprises!

9PM:  Christian Diamond, Emcee

Murray Hatfield – Canada’s top illusionist!

Jordi Magomero – Sensational Close-up Artistry

Jeff McBride

10PM: Murray Hatfield

Jeff McBride – The Masks of Mystery

Chris Randall – The Las Vegas Kid


Plus: The New World Rhythmatism Dancers, Bar Magic with Zack Pattee and Scott Steelfyre, Iam Creed, and Randilyn

Psychic Sideshow with Alan Scott, live art with Areeya and many more surprises and special celebrity guests!!

Abbi and I hope to see you in Las Vegas very soon…hey, life is short! What are you waiting for?


« Older Entries