Step away from the magic

In which Chris puts down the card tricks and explores other things in life.

This is the continuing story of my journey to identify and rid myself of magician voice in performing mystery entertainment. It will make the most sense if you look at them in order. See here for the whole series.At this point in my journey I had a lot of things swimming in my head. I was aware of the shallow nature of what I had presented as magic, mostly for laughs. I had a concept of a deeper purpose, that of creating experiences rather than just diversions. I was also suddenly more aware of all the things that I had set aside.

It seems that many who become interested in magic tend to make it a sort of obsession. I know of one young man who seemed completely ignorant of any area of popular culture that was not reflected in a magic book or routine. I wasn’t quite so isolated, but I was pretty immersed. These new revelations started to point out the ways that I was disconnected with the world. I didn’t really view things as a normal person. I viewed it all through mainstream-magician-colored glasses. It was a somewhat cynical, somewhat superficial view of things. This had a lot to do with my magician voice.

I spent a lot of my time thinking about the methods of magic. I looked into its history. I looked at moves. I studied tricks. I looked at other magicians’ performances. I kept up with what was popular on the market. I mixed and remixed things. I was a bit of a storyteller, so many of my effects had a sort of story with them, but I never strayed too far down that path. Magic shows are measured in “tricks per minute.” Everyone knows that you need to keep it moving and keep doing something amazing or you’ll lose them.

As I dealt with this conventional wisdom I began realizing that something was terribly wrong. I knew that I wanted to be more magical. I wanted to tap more into that space where things like Harry Potter had captured the imagination of millions (without any card tricks whatsoever). I knew about themed magic tricks and had ideas about ways to dress up as a character for themed shows, but it felt like I was missing something.

I decided to dig deeper. I did a writing/acting exercise and looked into magical lore, the legends and the myths that lay behind things like the fantasy novels that I found inspiring. Maybe I could find some patterns or something that I could feed back into my magic tricks. That’s when I fell down the rabbit hole.

I was digging into various perspectives on magical thinking, reading books on witchcraft, divination and other things. It reminded me that I used to have a lot of interest in the paranormal. I was that kid who watched In Search Of every Saturday. I read the book Chariot of the Gods when I was in the 5th grade! I played Dungeons and Dragons and always wanted to be a wizard. I was interested in a lot of odd stuff.

When I set my sights on being a commercial magician I laid a lot of that aside. Much of it had slipped away as I worked harder to keep up with the latest magic catalog and magazine rather than the latest fantasy novel. In fact, I noticed that there was a lot that I had set aside. I used to be able to name every Star Trek episode by number. I used to play guitar. I used to be involved in theater productions. I used to do a lot of things. Now it was just being magic boy.

I realized that not only were my performances overtaken with magic voice, but my life was as well. If I was going to get this under control I needed to take a big giant step back. My “professional” magic shows were not in real high demand. I was doing some here and there but had not established a serious following. There were plenty of people who could deliver the sort of superficial entertainment that I was doing. At the same time some of my serious, bill-paying work was demanding more focus. It was easy for me to just bow out for a bit.

So, I did. I quit performing magic. I packed it away and started digging back into the things that I had set aside. I started tinkering with divination and ended up being pretty good with it. I started focusing on entertainment other than magic shows. I dug back into the paranormal and weird stuff that used to fuel me.

In the middle of all of this I had the idea to do a podcast. Originally I thought of trying to make it a sort of psychic chat show but after listening to a few of them I realized that they were mostly pretty wretched and limited! I wanted something more like Coast to Coast AM. I used to love Art Bell and I missed having him on. Maybe I could do something that would just connect to different ideas of the paranormal. I wouldn’t be there as a debunker. I wouldn’t be there as a practitioner. I would be a seeker who was curious and let people just tell their story. The Shadow Hour was born!

Once a week, for nearly three years, I popped up on the Internet to discuss ghosts, psychic phenomena, UFOs, ancient mysteries and all manner of strange things. I had real conversations with people where we sometimes went a little deeper than I typically heard on the more introductory shows. I tried to keep it accessible to anyone who was curious, though. I tried not to get too geeky. It was an amazing experience! Some of my guests were actually on Coast to Coast AM, which was exciting. I also had a chance to talk in some depth with these people during the pre-show interviews and in my follow-up thank-you calls.

For such a long time I had only looked at the “magician’s guide” to these topics…the skeptical “this is bullshit but how do we wrap it around a magic trick and fool ‘em” sort of perspective. When I had real conversations with people about this stuff I discovered a lot of depth and ideas that had never occurred to me. It turned out that I could be interesting without any special effects whatsoever, just exploring fascinating stories and concepts.

Along with the podcast I was also involving myself in some theater projects, on and behind the stage. I was spending more time reading novels, watching movies, connecting with music and other things that I had set aside on my quest for the killer effect.

As I stepped away from the magic I noticed that I started having really more meaningful conversations with people. Folks I didn’t know would start opening up to me about personal ghost stories and their interest in strange things. Sometimes I didn’t mention my own involvement; they just started to talk about it. Was I giving off a different vibe? It was pretty weird.

Part of my goal for doing the podcast was to see if I could separate myself from magician voice. I wanted to see if I could just be an interesting and entertaining person without all that. As it turned out, I could. I thoroughly enjoyed doing The Shadow Hour and would love to do it again. It just became more work than I could handle on my own at the time.

I also enjoyed the sort of person I seemed to be becoming. I could be with people and not do any magic tricks at all. I was able to be in front. I was able to engage and hold interest just based on mutual curiosity.

Somewhere around this time I started to reconnect with magic again, but it was a different path now. The world was a different place for me. It was richer. It had more kinds of experiences and emotions and possibilities. But, it also presented some intense challenges.

You see, because of my journey, I’m not like the other hobbits anymore. I’m changed forever. Next time I’ll talk more specifically about what stuck with me after stepping away from the magic and what you might discover for yourself.

For now, consider what you may have set aside that used to be fulfilling and whether you might not want to add those flavors back into your life.

Author: Chris Walden

Chris Walden is a multifaceted guy with a background in technology, writing, and theatrical production. He is the force behind Mythmade Productions in Austin, Texas and enjoys creating unique experiences for people that go beyond mere entertainment. He lives in Cedar Park with his wife, daughter and some number of cats. He is a regular correspondent for Saul Ravencrafts activities.

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