Note ye ed's email address:

Finally unearthed: The Little Egypt Book of Ghosts from H&R Magic Books.
It's to die for!
Check out Jamy Ian Swiss' review in our Bookstore.

With Todd Duff.

September 2010

When I folded The Little Egypt Gazette back in 1997, I needed an outlet for an occasional long piece on magic, and Erika Larsen gave me that break. I began contributing articles to her, and she remains the most fun editor to work with that I have known. (Such a cutie patootie!) When Richard Kaufman took over the magazine, he sort of adopted me, and I continue to contribute to him and to others as the occasions arise. With 70 years of Genii about to go on line for free, I thought it time to look back over my contributions to the magazine. Accordingly, I revisited some 222 pages for which I was responsible, lots of nice memories.

Those of you who are into Halloween have surely acquired a copy of The Little Egypt Book of Ghosts by now, 230 pages of scary magic tricks. What you may not know is that the sleeper among my H&R offerings, The Little Egypt Book of Numbers, also contains scary card tricks, several of which are not repeated in Book of Ghosts. As we've stated before, it contains "items that should baffle anyone, items that get people wet, items that are sexy, items that are seriously frightening, one that will get you kissed, and one that might result in your mom washing your mouth out with soap." If you want to have fun in a bar with a deck of cards, or want to frighten guests at a Halloween party, this is the book for you. Check the reviews in our Bookstore.

Rounding out this special "old Genii" issue is a visit with Todd Duff, a sleight of hand artist from Paducah, Kentucky, one of my favorite places to visit. Enjoy.

GENII-AL MEMORIES -- Back in the December 2009 installment of this sheet, I mentioned having subscribed to Genii for 50 years, and I listed some of my favorite issues from the Bill Larsen era. As of the October issue, I will have been contributing to the magazine for 40 years, and Richard Kaufman is on the verge of making all those pages available to you Genii subscribers for free, on line. Needless to say, these constitute some of my favorite issues of the more modern era of Genii, as they document many of my personal highlights in a life of magic. I had been planning on listing these to encourage readers to order back issues (still a good idea for a full-color reading experience), but now that they are free, it's even easier for you to revisit some of the magicians and magical venues I've gotten to know over the past four decades. Damn your hides if you don't look up and read every word!

Ghost Country.

Ghost Country -- In the October 1970 issue I documented a seance that my wife and I performed so long ago that we didn't even have children yet. It was my first experience with how chilling a total blackout could be. Hmm. We can make adults scream. 2.5 pages.

Boo! -- The Barans occupied the cover of the June 1989 issue, but the thrill for me was the fabulous Paul Butler artwork that Bill Larsen commissioned to accompany my article "Boo!" The best bits from this and the issue above were rewritten for The Little Egypt Book of Ghosts. 10 pages.


Brett Daniels in Tunica.

Brett Daniels in Tunica -- A young, handsome Siegfried bumped my December 1997 cover story on Brett Daniels' new show in Tunica, Mississippi, so Erika and I worked out a deal. She would publish half the article in this issue and half in the next. Brett got his cover, and I had a fabulous time in Tunica. "Daniels in Dixie" reviewed the first live performance of his show, Brett Daniels: Magic & Beyond. Years later I would get to review the first performance of Brett's mystery show, Wohscigam. 4 pages.

Beyond the Magic -- "Beyond the Magic" was my interview with Brett. In this January 1998 issue, Brett finally landed on the cover. His illusions were staggering, his dancers were beautiful, but what I liked most was his parrot that could snatch a selected card out of the air. 6 pages.

Elsewhere in this issue I reviewed the Desert Magic Seminar 1998. It was still at the Tropicana, my favorite of its locations. 4 pages.

Brett's assistant is lighter than air.

Hot hot hot.

Magic in the Ozarks -- This is the interview I liked so much I did it twice. The first was face to beautiful face at Branson, with no tape recorder handy, and my memory and notes failed to capture Melinda's "voice" and personality. Richard Kaufman asked me to repeat it, with a recorder, and Melinda was sweet enough to oblige. She and her brother, David Saxe, couldn't have been nicer. From this August 1999 interview on, I recorded all interviews. 12 pages.

Brett Daniels: Progress Report -- Circus Circus's Gold Strike Casino, where Brett had opened in 1998, allowed him to change his show annually, and the new one, Magique, featured 17 new illusions. Showroom manager and onstage juggler Dana Nelson gave me an inside look at a big stakes poker tournament during my visit. This Marvels near Memphis update appeared in the September 1999 issue, with Guy Hollingworth on the cover. 2 pages.

Marvels near Memphis.

Sam the Bellhop talks to the dead.
Vintage Spirits -- Wow, this October 1999 George Saterial issue was my third appearance in the magazine in three consecutive months, a record. A family vacation to the Keys took us to a seance just off Duval Street, created by Tim Glancey and performed by "Nigel," who looked suspiciously like Frank Everhart, Jr. Later in the evening we enjoyed a performance by the "real" Frank Jr. at the outdoor Schooner Wharf Bar, reported in the article "Son of Sam." 4 pages.

A letter to the editor in this issue described my articles on Melinda as "fulsome and sucky." That's me!

Magic heads downtown -- The closing of Illusions in Carmel, Indiana, left a void in magical dining in the Indianapolis area, at least until Dan Dygert (possibly my favorite tableside magician) and a fine cast created Magic Moments, an upscale restaurant 13 floors above the city in the heart of downtown. This June 2000 article, in an issue with David Ben on the cover, chronicles my first visit. 2 pages.

Dan Dygert and friends cook up a new venue.

Wrong on every level.

Amazing Johnathan invades the South -- What a kick to see Amazing Johnathan kill in a silo in Mississippi, with Billy McComb as his opening act. This September 2000 issue included interviews with AJ and with Billy, a review of the show ("Bedlam at Bally's"), and two great tricks you could perform at dinner ("My Dinner with AJ"). Easily the most striking cover for the pieces I wrote, and AJ's account of his first magic show is the funniest thing I've ever read. I laugh out loud every time I read it. 19 pages.

Rhyme time -- The January 2001 issue was extraordinary, and I was pleased to have my poem "A Millennium Night's Dream" included. The poem began as a New Year's Eve party at the Magic Castle and became, eventually, a love song to Billy McComb. Although you can access the poem here on line, it's worth seeking out the issue of Genii for all the other great contributions, the most notable being Jamy Ian Swiss's account of 2000 years of magical literature. Fascinating. Thanks to Richard Kaufman for the title to the poem. 3 pages.

Happy New Millennium!

The Great Steamboat Race is on.
Bodine Jackson Balasco on the Delta Queen -- Although Paul Osborne, who creates illusions at the rate Marlo created card tricks, commanded most of the June 2001 cover, Bodine Balasco rated a few square inches and deserved far more. The morning I spent with Bodine aboard the Delta Queen and the Mississippi Queen, the two gorgeous steamboats docked during their 11-day race, was the most enjoyable of my magic career. Of all the magicians I've seen or interviewed, Bodine is the one I would most like to be. His character is wonderful, and consuming. For the 25 years he worked for the Delta Queen Steamboat Company, he became a riverboat gambler whenever he stepped out of his stateroom. Bodine's palaver is the best in the business. Check the article for a sample. 10 pages.

It's all done with Fig Newtons -- I've written up three interviews with Mac King, with January 2002's "Mac King: Afternoon Delight" being one of the best. Mac has the most enviable magic show around. It's perfect, on many levels. He's a nice guy to boot, and he has a cousin who draws really neat cartoons. "Homing Deck Vanish," one of the tricks Mac contributed to this issue, is one of those buried gems, a stand-up card routine like the ones Mac does in his show. Give it a try. 23 pages.

Kentucky Konjuror.

A few things done well -- The September 2002 issue was gorgeous, a landmark issue. It was the first issue under the art direction of Richard's wife, Liz, and Martin Lewis was the beneficiary. Martin has always been one of my favorite magicians, and this issue was a delight to work on. How many knew that he came to the U.S. to race motorcycles? A must read. 27 pages including an appreciation by Jon Racherbaumer and trick contributions from Martin.

Eric Lewis's favorite son.

Birthday party, with ghosts.
Haunted house -- I visited the Magic Castle to do an article on its spooky side, and while there we realized that its 40th anniversary was coming up. With the addition of some historical background from Richard Kaufman and some contributions from Castle medium Leo Kostka, this January 2003 issue became the largest issue associated with my name. Contents included "The House that Milt Built/The Story of the Magic Castle," "Haunted Mansion,""Bumps in the Night/Experiencing the Magic Castle's Houdini Seance," "Dark Secrets/Behind the Scenes with James Gordon Williams," "Leo Kostka House Medium/Reflections on 20 Years of Dining with the Dead," and "Have Ghosts Will Travel/Leo Kostka's Portable Seance." Pete Biro supplied the terrific photos. An absolute must for Magic Castle buffs. Plus, I made the cover! You have to look closely: my date is the lady with the black leather jacket, and I am seated to her right. 34 pages.

Confession: Peter Mui poured so much wine that it was pretty hard for my friends and I to reconstruct just what Leo did in that seance!

Ian Rowland inside out -- Ian Rowland, the well-known British mentalist and magical innovator, creates both improbable and impossible objects with playing cards, and he understands cold reading better than anyone. His ReFlexion and FLinked cards are topological marvels, and Ian was nice enough to share some of these creations with me. Although this January 2004 article is based mostly on a telephone interview, Ian and I eventually met up in person, at the Mac King show at Harrah's and later at a convention or two. Ian is unique, with far-ranging intellectual interests. 20 pages.

Card wizard.

Cups you can see through.
The rise and rise of Jason Latimer -- In 2003, Jason Latimer sneaked away from college, went to Europe, and entered and won the FISM Grand Prix. A physics student and talented inventor, the former Castle Junior wowed the world with the Latimer Cups, beautiful crystal clear cups under which balls seem to come and go at will. One of the perks of working on this article is that I received a DVD of Jason's performance well before he began doing it on tv. I recall watching it over and over in wonder and wanted to own those cups. There was some talk of a prominent dealer manufacturing them, but that, alas, has not come about. A very nice young man who continues to push the envelope. 16 pages.

Phantom Manor -- As I wrote in the opening paragraph of this December 2004 article, Amazing Johnathan's estate in Las Vegas is "part county fair fun house, part Playboy bachelor pad, and part Disney Haunted Mansion." My visit to AJ's digs was all I hoped it would be (um, given that I was not there on the night they play topless volleyball). At least AJ let me ride his Segway and look at his cars. Check the piece out for a look at the dark side of home ownership. 6 pages.

Got milk?
Some Enchanted Evening -- Penn and Teller swam across the cover of this March 2006 issue, but the big story for me was the account of the evening my daughter and I spent at Teatro ZinZanni, in San Francisco. On that evening this pricey interactive dinner theater featured Joan Baez as a gypsy queen who takes over the restaurant (actually, an amazing European structure known as a spiegeltent) and Voronin as a dishwasher bumped up to maitre'd. It was the third time I had seen Joan perform but the first with her doing comedy, and she was a natural. Voronin, a graduate of the Kiev State Circus School, was hilarious throughout. 5 pages.

Odd couple.

A spooky mix.
Mystery theater -- Lurking in the pages beyond an August 2007 Pete Biro cover lay a description of Brett Daniels' latest and most ambitious creation, Wohscigam, an evening of murder, mystery, and magic. A theater full of Brett Daniels enthusiasts convened in Wisconsin for Brett's opening night show, a murder mystery whodunit that turned on magic and wordplay. Who killed Lester Tiband and why, back in 1912? And the trail had been going cold for 95 years. As Brett said, "Ahead lies doom and gloom, murder and mystery, death and dismemberment ... and all this on a school night." 5 pages.
Zombieland -- Michael Finney's February 2010 cover rivals AJ's, but Michael wasn't my story. That belonged to last year's IBM International President, Jack White. I had been friends with Jack for years without realizing he had performed theater midnight ghost shows in his youth. Or more specifically, zombie shows, way back before zombies were cool. Turn back the clock and join Jack White on the dark side of magic. 7 pages.

Dr. Blood's Zombie Show.

BLUE GRASS MERLYN -- Paducah, Kentucky, just across the river from Little Egypt, boasts a thriving riverfront restaurant and arts district. The downtown revitalization began in the 1990s, and it features such attractions as mural-covered flood walls that form a perimeter to its dining establishments, art and photography studios, and upscale antique shops.

Painted flood wall, Paducah.

I recently visited Paducah to attend a high school class reunion, and it gave me the opportunity to catch up with professional magician Todd Duff, who frequently performs there. My date and I elected to dine at Max's Brick Oven, a favorite restaurant and a current home for Todd's table to table performances. Todd will wow you with card and coin sleight of hand magic, and he will read your mind. It was pure magic, like watching, say, a Michael Skinner work, with no need to rely on bad gags to "entertain" us. The magic itself did that very nicely. (My date that night, a cousin, is on Facebook, and she posted the above photo of me and Todd before we could even peek at the dessert cart.)

Todd Duff table-hopper wand.

Todd also showed us a wand he manufactures in limited supply, a table-hopper's wand that featured a shorter length for easier pocket access, rounded edges that are easier on cups, classy design embellishments, and a durable aluminum body with a no-slip rubber grip. I have one here at the office and it's a pleasure to cast spells with. (Sorry, I've no idea on cost or availability.)

Ye editor on the cover of Genii, if you look really close.

Halloween is coming. Do you know where your copy of The Little Egypt Book of Ghosts is?

Sarah and Simon (Vixen and Spike to old Gazette readers) were married on April 1, 2006. You may access their wedding photos at wedding photos.

Little Egypt Magic is the erratically updated web site of Steve Bryant, spawned (the site, not Steve) by a former internet magazine known as The Little Egypt Gazette/for magicians only.

Steve Bryant is an obscure magician and writer who generates this site from an iMac in Bloomington, Indiana. He frequently journeys to and performs magic in Little Egypt, the local name for extreme southern Illinois, where the towns bear such names as Cairo, Thebes, and Karnak.

Past issues of this web site: Index to Past Issues

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