Written January 2014

The Linking Ring Story


Leonard A. McHugh, International Brotherhood of Magicians member #43990R

There was an article in a recent issue of THE LINKING RING, a publication of The International Brotherhood of Magicians Seeking stories about brick and mortar magic shops, since they are closing all across the country.

My story about the shops I think is quite unique.

In the early-1980s I was invited to a Halloween costume party. I went to the Magic Shop in Lemoyne Pa. I was looking for some small tricks or something that I could take to the party. Being blind, I asked the late magician Joe Homcheck if a blind person could do magic. He pondered and said absolutely. He then went on to tell me that there are more illusions that I would not be able to do than those that I could, and I would have to practice much more than a sighted magician. He explained that the majority of illusions require sight and some I could put an indiscriminate mark to feel. He also pointed out that I would not have the luxury to practice in front of a mirror so I would have to depend on my wife. He worked with me with a few small items.

I left with a few illusions, and one I still on occasion use today. It was the original nickels to dimes with the heavy brass pieces. It was a whole $5.00 at the time. As I started collecting more items I started doing more shows. I use to call it Motivational Magic.

I used magic to get out the message that just because you have a disability it does not mean that you cannot do anything. I would mention the irony of me doing magic. I explained that when you watch a magician he can see things that you cannot and when I perform, you can see what I am doing and I canít. In both cases you cannot figure out how it is done.

After we lost Joe, Evan Katz took over the store. I continued to work with him for a few years. In 1992 I did a show for the local Jerry Lewis telethon and there was a nice write up in my local Pottsville paper. That article really helped to promote magic. I gave a copy to the Magic Shop. Evan posted it on the wall and when people asked if they could do magic; he took them to that newspaper story. He would tell them that if a blind person can do magic they surely could. I often wonder how many people were introduced to magic because of that article.

Later I found a much closer local magic shop, The Magic Touch owned by Jeff Oílear, Tamaqua, Pa. Jeff worked with me for a few years. All of these brick and mortar shops were wonderful for me as a blind magician. I think that it may even have been better for the sighted magician; they would always get a small show in the form of a demonstration. Before I purchased something, they would explain and make sure that I could perform it. Also Joe, Evan and Jeff all took the time to teach me some sleight of hand, something you cannot learn over the internet. They taught me to use some sponge balls and how to vanish coins. I really do miss that hands on option but now fortunately I have a close second choice. In 1995 I had cervical spine surgery with many complications forcing me to give up magic. The surgery complications left me with about 40 percent use of my left arm and 60 with my right. So I no longer have the finesse that is required for large stage shows. Interesting, my last big show was the night before that surgery.

About three years ago, I dug through the old trunk and found a few smalls that I could do for my church picnic. I then, via the internet, met Gary Barker Sr. of the Magic Emporium, Tampa Fl. Over the phone Gary has worked with me making sure I would be able to perform the illusions. At my church picnics people are still kept in the dark on how I do the illusions. My favorite line when someone asks how do you do that is: Can you keep a secret? When they get excited thinking that I will tell them, and say yes, I respond with so can I!

Anyway, walking into a magic shop was always a wonderful experience for me. On a side note, I had one newspaper article left that was intact and it now proudly hangs in Gary Barkerís parlor at the Magic Emporium. I hope that that article is still helping to inspire new magicians. So if it were not for the small brick and mortar shops Motivational Magic would never existed. I know that my shows helped and motivated hundreds of people. It also gave a message to kids that a loss of sight does not mean that all is lost. Thank you to all the magic shop owners across the country.

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