In The Beginning

After Hours Magic: A Book of Al Thatcher Card Magic

Encyclopedia of Card Tricks

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July 5th 1957 I came into this world, weighing in at 5lb 14ozs. "I've put on so much weight since then."

My earliest recollection was Christmas day 1968. I was 9 years old, and I can remember opening my presents and receiving a David Nixon magic set as a gift from my parents. I didn't care about any of my other presents, all I was interested in was how the magic wand seemed to rise by itself, or how a coin, when placed into a small plastic box, just melted away! However, the one trick that really inspired me was the Egg Bag. An egg would appear and disappear when placed into a small cloth bag. That evening various members of my family visited the house and all I kept doing was trying to impress them with the Egg and Bag trick.

As Christmas subsided and the years passed by, I still had an interest in magic and was always glued to the TV on Monday teatime, watching the David Nixon Show, but somehow school seemed to take its place. Although I was quite academic, I found school and studying extremely boring. Nothing about school inspired me. In fact all of my school reports said the same thing; I was easily led and preferred clowning about. I also got into trouble with the police on a few occasions. Myself and friends raided the school Tuck Shop, smashed a supermarket window, and generally I was just a pain in the arse. So, I have nothing interesting to write about my school days, except for the day that my life changed forever.

I was 15 years of age; I and about 40 other school friends (and enemies) were taken on a day trip to London. The coach parked in Great Russell Street, just outside the British Museum, and whilst the teacher was giving verbal instructions about how interesting the visit to the museum was going to be, my interest was diverted. Out of the coach window I could see a shop, whose sign read: Davenports Magic Shop! As everyone left the coach and made their way to the museum, I just casually went across the road towards the magic shop. I really didn't know what to expect when I went inside, but I remember wondering if it would be like how I imagined a magic shop would be. I expected it to be fusty, spooky and dark with lots of magic boxes scattered all over the place. To my utter amazement it was all of these! This was heaven, and it never even crossed my mind that the teacher might realise that I had gone missing.

Upon entering the shop, a man appeared from behind the counter, who spoke in a very broad Scottish accent. He said to me, "Let me show you a trick". He then performed the 'Cups and Balls'. He made the balls appear, jump, and vanish from cup to cup. The climax of the trick is when the three cups are lifted to reveal a genuine orange, a lemon, and a potato, one under each cup. This was real magic! I thought I would never be able to perform that! "How did you do that?" I asked. "Very well", he said with a smile on his face. He explained that if I practised enough I could also do this trick. Little did I know that I had just witnessed Patrick Page, one of the world's greatest exponents of sleight of hand, performing the Cups and Balls trick! What I also didn't realise was that later in life Patrick Page would become the magical advisor for my television shows, and also a very good friend. I couldn't leave the shop without buying something, so I very quickly scanned the glass-topped counter and spotted a trick called the 'Vanishing Cigarette'. I asked how much it was and was told £1.20. I checked my pockets and realised I had enough money to make the purchase. I left the shop clutching the brown paper bag that my trick was wrapped in.

As I ventured out onto Great Russell Street, I noticed that my school friends were just coming out of the museum. I rushed across the road and mingled in with a few kids, and luckily the teacher was none the wiser. That day was spent visiting various monumental landmarks of London, Trafalgar Square, Nelson's Column, Big Ben etc. All of these places seemed insignificant to me, as all I kept thinking about was the Cups and Balls trick. I then remembered the little brown paper package in my pocket that contained the Vanishing Cigarette trick. I was desperate to see what I had bought. I didn't want the teacher to see it as I knew that they would confiscate it, as it was connected with smoking, and that was strictly taboo, even though lots of other kids and I were secretly having the occasional cigarette. I made an excuse that I needed the toilet, and as and when we happened upon a public convenience, I was allowed to go. It was a lavatory somewhere near Tottenham Court Road and I remember that I went down lots of steps to get to it. When I got there I realised that you needed a five pence piece to get into a private cubicle. There was no way that I was going to open my new trick whilst standing at a urinal. I searched my pockets, and I could only find a ten pence piece. I asked some guy if he could change it for me. He didn't have the exact amount of change, but I didn't care. So I settled for eight pence.

I got into the cubicle and locked the door, and very quickly ripped open my package. There was a set of instructions, a small metal tube which was attached to elastic, and a safety pin. To say that I was disappointed would be an understatement. I was expecting some sort of sophisticated secret device, not a bloody safety pin and a bit of 'lakky' [elastic band]. I wrapped it back up and put it back into my pocket. As I put my hand into my pocket I felt a couple of cigarettes and matches, so I decided to stay for a couple more minutes and light up one of my Players No. 6 cigarettes. We all then ventured down Tottenham Court Road back towards the coach on Great Russell Street. As we got near to the corner of Oxford Street, I noticed another magic shop! I saw a guy demonstrating magic tricks and I couldn't resist taking a look inside.

The guy behind the counter was showing a trick where he took a lit cigarette, very clearly shoved it into his closed fist, immediately opened his hand, and the cigarette had completely vanished! My immediate thought was that this must be a different trick to the one I had bought earlier. I inquired if the trick he had just done was for sale. He said it was, and pointed to the packet that it came in. It was exactly the same packet that I had bought earlier. I asked, "Is it done with a small metal tube and elastic?" He said it was. I then showed him what I had brought from Davenports and explained how disappointed I was with the content. He then told me that I had paid for the secret, not the simple apparatus. I left the shop, caught up with the rest of the party and got back on the coach.

On our way home to Leicester, the kid who was sitting next to me was talking about when he leaves school how he would like to become a pilot. He asked me what I wanted to be and I said that I wanted to be a magician. "How do you become one of them?" he asked. I said: "I haven't the faintest idea, but I'll find out!" And that I did.

The very next day I went to my local library and asked if they had any books on magic. The lady librarian went to the appropriate section and found two books: The Amateur Magician's Handbook and The Royal Road to Card Magic. I took the books away with me; however the librarian reminded me that I must return the books within two weeks. I did return them, but immediately booked them out again. I repeated this procedure for the next few months. I went home and started to read these books. My Mum and Dad were in total disbelief, as they had never seen me reading a book before. From these books I learnt a few simple card tricks, but I spent most of my time practising The Vanishing Cigarette trick. Rather than using a cigarette to practise with, I used a small pencil, as I didn't want my parents to know that I was smoking. Eventually I plucked up enough courage to show my Mum and Dad the Vanishing Pencil (cigarette) trick.

So I went to school all rigged up with my new trick. Break-time arrived, and quite a few of us kids would congregate in the toilet and have a crafty smoke. When one of the kids had smoked his cigarette halfway down, I offered to show them all a trick. I took his burning cigarette, placed it into my closed fist, opened my hand, and the cigarette had completely vanished! "How the fuck did you do that?" one of them asked in utter amazement. "Do it again, Dobbo!" said another. I told them that the golden rule of magic was never to repeat a trick. So they all left, and I stayed behind to re-set my trick. To re-set the effect, I had to retrieve the metal tube from my sleeve, and remove the half finished, fully extinguished cigarette. As the cigarette was only half smoked, I thought why waste it? So every time I did the trick, I used to get a free smoke, and as I was the only person left, I had the cigarette all to myself.

Over the next few weeks I performed this trick so many times, with lots of kids asking me to show their mates and girlfriends. All of a sudden I was getting a lot of attention. It was at that point I realised that I could do something that nobody else could do. I was special, and I liked it!

"I was once a member of the 'Secret Six'. It was that secret I never knew the other five."

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Fundamentals of Magick

Fundamentals of Magick

Magick is the art and practice of moving natural energies to effect needed or wanted change. Magick is natural, there is absolutely nothing supernatural about it. What is taught here are various techniques of magick for beginners. Magick is natural and simple and the techniques to develop abilities should be simple and natural as well. What is taught on this site is not only the basics of magick, but the basics of many things.

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