Real Magic Stories

Jeff McBride here in Las Vegas. Recently, I was asked about my opinion on “flashy, Las Vegas magic,” versus more philosophical storytelling magic.
Visual Magic vs. Storytelling Magic
Are you more of a Storyteller or a Visual magician? I feel that the key to connecting with your audience might be cultivating the ability to perform both styles of magic at the right time.

Our guest writer this week is Eric Henning, who just received his certificate as “Ambassador of Magic” from the Magic & Mystery School for his continuing contributions to our Mystery School Monday classes and for the amazing work he’s been doing with the team at Washington Magic.
Sometimes the Magic is Real 
It happened on December 6, 2008. For ten years running, I did a holiday party for military families near Washington, DC. The party is in a secure military facility, which is inside another secure facility. It takes longer to get inside than to do the show! Once you’re inside, you are in a fairy land of Christmas trees, lights, garlands and cotton “snow.” Hundreds of children play games, color, eat popcorn and watch Christmas movies. 
Around 10:00 am, Santa arrives outside on a huge fire engine and holds court in the lobby. This is, by far, the most efficient Santa line I’ve ever seen. Every child gets plenty of time with the Big Guy, yet somehow the line keeps moving. At the end, the Lilliputian petitioner has a bag of goodies and a picture with Santa.
During all this, I am doing close-up magic, “pulling” lights from the Christmas trees, making coins appear, and generally making fun. Around noon, the 400 or so people line up and get lunch while I set up for my platform show. My holiday shows always have some new material, more if it’s a repeat client.

That year, I planned to end with the piece of classical magic “Snowstorm in China.” It had not snowed yet that year, so I ended my show by promising to add the one thing that was missing from that holiday season. The magic got a great response, especially from the kids, who rushed the stage to collect bits of the “magic snow” to take home. 
As I was leaving the base gate, I had a wonderful view of the US Capitol, the Washington Monument, and the Jefferson Memorial. Then I saw something else. It was starting to snow! This wasn’t a Hallmark Channel “gazebo snow.” This was a thunder cell dropping a massive load of snow all at once. I could hardly believe my eyes! I thought of those kids going home from the party, seeing the snow, and their parents trying to explain for the hundredth time that it wasn’t really magic – except it was. 

Then I remembered something that has had me chuckling ever since. Earlier that day, as I was entering the base gate, a huge Marine guard, bristling with armaments, greeted me. As he searched my car, he made conversation. 
     – “So what do you do in your magic show?” he asked.
     – “I make it snow,” I replied.
     – “No, really.”
     – “Really.”
Now all I could picture was that Marine looking up and seeing the snow! Sometimes things just come together, and they seem to happen more often when I’m open to seeing them. I live for moments like that.
Happy Holidays!
Eric Henning, “The Wizard of Washington,” has been doing magic professionally in the nation’s capital for more than 50 years. He’s appeared at the National Theatre, three Presidential Inaugurals, and the White House, where he performed for the Obama family.  

Reflecting Backwards and Looking Forward


Our guest contributor this month is Abigail Spinner McBride, the McBride Magic & Mystery School Human Resources Director. In this offering she urges us to pause, take stock, and plan ahead with purpose and vision.

Hello my magical friends,
Come and sit here with me, in the warm afternoon sun, before the evening chill comes in, and, as The Master would say, “Let’s talk.”

“Now listen,” I hear Eugene’s voice in my heart’s ear. “I want to tell you something. What you’re doing is really good.This hasn’t been an easy year for many of us, but you’ve gotten through it, and you’re here now, and that means something.”
We’re coming up toward the end of the year, so this is a good time to begin to reflect backwards on the challenges we’ve overcome this year, and to look forward to what we want our magic to be in the coming year.

When You Look Back

  • What is something you’re grateful for, as we approach the time of Giving Thanks? 
  • Who can you send a note of gratitude to?
  • What was one thing this year that was hard?
  • How did you get past it?
  • How did it force you to grow or change?
  • What did you learn in the process
  • Was there any gold that grew from that lead?

When You Look Forward

  • What is one challenge you anticipate having to face in the not too distant future? 
  • How can you prepare to handle it well?
  • What is one thing you would love to see happen?
  • What is one small step you can take today or this week to manifest that vision?
  • What do you need to learn or do to move forward toward this dream?
  • How would getting more support or training help you to do this?

For me, I want you all to know that I am incredibly grateful to feel connected to you, to be woven into this tapestry of magic together with threads both bright and dark. I am grateful to feel your support through times of challenge and times of celebration, and to be weaving marvelous things together.

I look forward to seeing you, either live here at the Magic & Mystery School, or online in the Mystery School Monday classroom soon!

Your friend in magic, music and mindfulness,


Tales of a Road Warrior

Welcome my dear friends to another chapter of (cue dramatic music…)

Tales of a Road Warrior!

I was scared out of my mind! I was only 16 years old and had to travel to Japan for my very first international tour. I was the opening act for a salsa band called the Fania All Stars, a huge band of famous Latin musicians. My adventure to Japan was full of unexpected challenges, and I have learned so much over my years of traveling. Here are a few of the lessons I learned the hard way, that can help you avoid the mistakes I made.

Starry-eyed world traveler Jeff McBride, just 16 years old, preparing for his first tour of Japan. Jeff still performs that card manipulation act and can also teach you all the moves!

The Magic Flying Carpet

My touring show is like a real magic flying carpet that takes me all over the world. One of the great pleasures of touring is meeting so many wonderful friends and fans. However, one of the down sides of traveling is that often there are dangers and pitfalls on the path. Following are some professional travel tips so you can enjoy your adventures in style and comfort!

Managing Energy

One of the challenges that face traveling entertainers is energy management. In my early days of touring, I would arrive worn out from the travel, and it would take days to recover. Managing energy is challenging, especially when there is a major time change. I suggest you travel with earplugs and a sleep mask. I have trained myself to fall asleep and get deep rest as soon as I put these on. I rest most of the flight, and arrive at my destination with energy to spare. Strange hotel rooms often keep people up at night. The sleep mask and earplugs will help you get deep rest even in noisy surroundings.

Arrive in Style

Always be prepared for magic! You never know when your friends and fans will show up in numbers to welcome you. In the video below I was surprised, but I was ready with a few magic effects to please the paparazzi. You will see in the following video that arriving at the Voodoo Casino in Riga, Latvia, was a joy. (I’ve learned a lot in my nearly 50 years of international touring.) The organizers did a fine job of helping me “arrive in style!” Thank you Dace and Enrico Pezzoli, the organizers of the Magic Mania competition!


In my early years of traveling, just arriving in a new country was full of surprises. I learned early on that if you perform a bit of magic for the customs agents, it will help you pass through faster. But as soon as I passed customs and arrived in the lobby of the airport – boom,Surprise! Dozens of fans with video cameras rolling were there to “Welcome Jeff McBride” to their country. These days, everyone is shooting content for their social media, and you are the news they will be posting about. So remember, this is part of our job as performers. Always be prepared! Shakespeare said it best, “All the world’s a stage.”

Always Dress Like You are Going Somewhere Better Later

I learned this fashion tip from a NYC hipster back in the 80s. When you are out in public performing, look like a star both on stage and off. If a news reporter entered a crowded room, could they spot that you were the magician? It is always better to stand out in the crowd than to get lost in it. This doesn’t mean you must wear a tuxedo all the time. Just look the role of “the magician!” 

Packing Tips

There are only two kinds of luggage:

  1. Carry-on luggage 
  2. Lost luggage

Always take an emergency show with you in your carry on. Here is my “Emergency Show Case.”  This is an eyeglass case filled with my Commando Show, my most essential props. I can perform a 60-minute show with what is in this case. Quiz time, can you name all the routines I can do with the props in this photo?

Travel in clothing you can perform in, or have that in your carry on as well. Make sure to take a book and a sweater. You will always have time to read, and you can stay warm and cozy!
Traveling to Las Vegas
Why come to Las Vegas to study? First of all, Las Vegas is the magic capital of the world! At any given time, it features shows by the world’s greatest magicians and is an entertainment mecca. Further, this is where over 3,000 magicians live, including top magic celebrities. Finally, travel to Las Vegas is inexpensive and easy. There are reasonably-priced flights from every major city many times a day. Hotel rooms and food are also notoriously inexpensive here.

Make It a Vacation

Bring the family. Between the shows, free attractions, and all of the shopping on The Strip, Las Vegas is a great vacation spot. We try to schedule our events so that the students have free time for playing with friends and family while they are here. Go see a great magic show, have a fine dinner, visit amazing new attractions. There is so much to do. Call Abigail to set up your private in-person or online zoom class at 702-450-0021.

Complete information to plan your Vegas vacation here:

So, with a spin of my cape and a wave of my magic wand, I vanish into thin air. But, each and every Monday night you can find me in the classroom for our online zoom class – Mystery School Monday. Just go to and I will magically reappear!
See you soon!

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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