A Halloween Reflection

Dear Friends,
Our guest contributor this month is the dean of the McBride Magic & Mystery School, Dr. Larry Hass. Larry offers some thoughts, and a few challenges, that are particularly apropos for this time of year.

Photo by Michael Caplan

It is well known that autumn was Eugene Burger’s favorite time of the year. He loved the transition from warm to cold weather, the turning of the leaves, and the weeks of anticipation for Halloween—the time for his scary stories about spirits, witches, and a haunted bell.
Above all, Eugene loved the season because it carried his thoughts to what he saw as the heart of magic: “As the leaves change, life changes as well.” “Halloween has always been a celebration of transformation…” (Eugene Burger: From Beyond, pages 131, 171).
With our teacher in mind, these days I have been reflecting on times of transformation in my magic career. As you may know from my book Dying to Change, Eugene was there at the start of it, but he was also there at some of its most pivotal points. Here is a story about one of them.
Many years ago, Eugene and I were backstage after one of our two-person college shows. He came up and put his hand on my forearm—his favorite gesture for these moments—and said, “Larry, you were really good tonight…really good!” I beamed because Eugene didn’t give false praise. Then he gently added, “I think you have enough card tricks.”
Boom! Wow. Yes. In a flash I realized Eugene was correct. I had more than enough card magic, not merely in that show but in my repertoire. I needed more variety in the props I used so I could create different textures of experience, and a wider range of effects.
In retrospect, I understand how pivotal this moment was for the magician I would become. After Eugene spoke from his heart, my mind and eyes quickly opened up to other objects and the effects and themes I could explore with them. For example, my well-known “Philosopher’s Rope” routine grew out of this new perspective, along with several non-card openers and close-up effects that are in the core of my working repertoire.

Photo by John Costello

Of course, I still love creating psychologically “deep” routines with playing cards. I love working on my key sleights to make sure they stay invisible. But after Eugene’s little gift of seven words, “I think you have enough card tricks,” the world of magic got much bigger for me, and I became a better magician.
The memory of this moment brings some questions to mind—for me, but perhaps also for you. First, how are we doing with card tricks these days? Do we have enough already!? Have I been backsliding? Perhaps, because after seeing the wide-ranging innovation at FISM in July, I came home and developed four non-card routines. Coincidence? I think not!
But also let me ask: what have been one or two pivotal moments of change in your work as a magician? Who or what brought about these transformations? Can you write or tell the story of them? These are excellent tales to share over dinner with family and friends, or perhaps around an October fire when the wind blows cold.
And there is one last question for this Halloween reflection. Is there some real change in my magic or in my life I need to make at this time of seasonal turning? If there is, how can I transform that thought into action?
At this moment, I feel Eugene’s hand on my forearm and hear him say, “Larry, by taking one single step.” 
My best wishes to you during this season of change.

Photo by Michael Caplan

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