Love of Facts. Predictability. Logic. I’d say these things these are fairly important elements of the American psyche. But how then, do you explain the Harry Potter craze, the wild throngs of fans for David Copperfield, David Blaine, Penn and Teller?
Because underneath the surface, people, people everywhere and from every walk of life are hungry. Hungry for mystery. For shared ritual. For magic.
My own hunger for those things recently led me across the threshold of a small shop in my neighborhood here in Chicago. I live in Lincoln Square, on the north side of the city, and Magic, Inc. (5082 N. Lincoln Ave) is about two blocks from my apartment, a corner shop at the intersection of a busy street and a quiet residential block. I’ve looked in the window often and was fascinated with the vintage posters I saw on the wall, the people I saw fanning cards, or linking rings, and not too long ago I finally went in.
I was not disappointed. In just a few visits, I saw playing cards change color, rings lock together and come apart with a mere sweep of a hand, had my mind read, saw a dime change into a quarter, and the quarter turn into a solid dollar, and all of them appear and disappear at a magician's whim. Most importantly, I was given delight — that eight-year old's "the world is a shimmering, new, unexplainable treasure" kind of delight.
The store is owned by the family of world-class magician Jay Marshall. His son, Alexander (Sandy) Marshall and his wife Susan, hold court along with three demonstrators, who are all professional magicians in their own right. Terrence Francisco and Pedro Nieves-Bosque are both able to perform a variety of card tricks and sleight of hand with humor, charm, and an almost casual ease. The third, Jay Collen, has a decidedly gentlemanly approach to this art, and after a ring demonstration left me intrigued, I pursued an interview, included in the latter portion of this piece. But before you find out more about one man’s approach to everyday enchantment, I have to let you in on what you’ll find if you’re lucky enough to visit Magic Inc.