Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Memory Day: Al's Magic Shop

On snow days and the occasional summer holiday in my youth, I would accompany one of my parents to work, because government coworkers are much cheaper babysitters than the real thing. Every trip had its traditions, like getting to punch the Bus Transfer button in the Metro station, and pulling the bus cord when we finally arrived back home.

Another tradition when I accompanied my dad was a trip to Al's Magic Shop, a longtime DC business that finally closed in 2004. This store was jam-packed with retracting knives, sleight-of-hand tricks, and an owner (Al) who was always willing to show off the latest tricks to wide-eyed seven-year-olds. His presentation was flawless, and though I could never pull off the tricks quite like he could, I'd always leave the store with a new magic trick to bore my parents with.

I kept these tricks in a box under the house which went missing about three years ago, so I presumed that perhaps a disappearing trick hat had swallowed the box from the inside and sent it into a Bermuda Triangle of magic.

The real story is more boring. I employ a technique known as "dual-boxing" when I clean: when I have two boxes, and the larger one is empty, I put the other box inside of it to save space. The magic tricks were safe inside a larger dehumidifier box, and I rediscovered them while setting up for the Halloween party last week.

Besides the collection of gag goods like Snakes In a Can, toy hatchets, and handcuffs, here are some of the other tricks you might find in my magical stash:


This colouring book is pristine when you flip through it, but after applying a few imaginary crayons to the cover, you flip through it again and everything's coloured in. You can then use your imaginary eraser to remove the colours, but if you erase too much, the pages become blank!

These ropes were used in various tricks where they all ended up the same size or knots magically disappeared. Pretty much the only trick I could do with them was to tie them all together and whip my sister with them.


These two boxes are labelled "Steel Tube and Balls" and "Cups and Balls". They required slightly less manual dexterity than the ropes, and I was an expert at making my balls disappear.

These swizzle sticks are meant to be flipped back and forth so the audience can see that the plastic gem settings are identical on each side. With a little trickery, you can then make the gem settings move to different places on the sticks. I was horrible at this trick, so I pried out a fake gem and had it set in an engagement ring -- don't reveal the magician's secrets!

There are so many trick decks quarantined in this box, it's a wonder that some of the cards didn't escape into my poker decks. One of the cards even has a partial straight printed on it, so you look like you have a full hand when you really only have a couple cards -- probably handy in Asshole. The other deck seems to have a few too many Eight of Diamonds.

One of my favourite tricks, because it required even less skill than blogging, was the pencil slicer. You passed a plastic pencil around the audience, stuck it in this zig zag box and sliced it into three pieces. Afterwards, you could magically heal the pencil!

Giant spider eats a large bird
Reluctant groom sets fire to hotel
Wearing red may boost your sex appeal
What's the best part about magic?

Bunnies (2 votes, 40.0%)


Coloured Kerchiefs (0 votes, 0.0%)

Disappearing Balls (1 vote, 20.0%)


David Blaine (2 votes, 40.0%)


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