How did I get started in magic is a question I have been asked many times. For as long as I can remember I have always had an interest in magic. I can remember as a small child taking a trip to the Pottsville Library. I was issued my library card, and the first book that I brought home was titled "101 Magic Tricks".
I read this book from cover to cover, practicing the tricks and mentally picturing myself in a top hat and silk cape performing. (Funny, I never did get that hat and cape).
In the early 1980's, my wife and I attended a Halloween party and I chose a costume with a "magic" theme. I went to the magic shop at the hovers plaza in lemoyne Pennsylvania, and talked to the owner, the late Joe homcheck, who also happened to be a magician. I asked him if he thought it possible for someone who is blind to learn magic and perform in front of an audience. He said that yes, it would be possible, but it would require three to four hours for every thirty minutes a sighted person would spend practicing, and that there would be some illusions that I wouldn't be able to accomplish due to my blindness. Normally a magician would practice in front of a mirror so he can tell if an audience would be able to guess the secrets behind his illusions. Being blind, I wouldn't have that advantage. I left the shop with a few small things just for the party.
At the party there was a woman dressed as a gypsy telling everyone's "fortunes " with tarot cards she brought along as props. When it was my turn she happened to pull up the "Magician" card. Years later when I spoke to her, I asked her if she arranged the cards to match the person with the fortune, and she told me that that night was the last time the "Magician" card appeared for anyone; it never came up again.
Using small illusions I began doing magic for my family and friends. Before long, I was entertaining the kids in my neighborhood and several scout troops. Gradually I saw the irony of using magic to illustrate that being blind wasn't going to stop me from pursuing my interests. When a magician performs, he depends on the fact that he can see what he is doing and the audience cannot. In my case, the audience can see what I'm doing but I cannot. A successful magician lets the audience witness the magic without revealing his secrets.
One of the highest compliments I ever received was written on an evaluation form after a performance I did a few years ago. It was in front of an audience of about six hundred people attending a CQI (Continuous Quality Improvement) Seminar for the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation. When asked to evaluate the conference, someone wrote on his form that he didn't think the magician was really blind.
The image above is a newspaper clipping from The Pottsville (PA.)Republican & Evening Herald newspaper with the title "Magician Performs" and a photograph of Lenny McHugh demonstrating his magician ability. The caption below the photo reads "Blind magician Lenny McHugh presented a program for students at the Saint Joseph Center for Special Learning, Pottsville. McHugh, of Pottsville, is a magician and blindness awareness educator." The photograph was taken on January 31, 2001. Published in the The Pottsville (PA.)Republican & Evening Herald newspaper circa February 1, 2001.
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