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Host Ramblings | The Shadows Radio | See you in the shadows!

After Tom’s appear­ance on our show regard­ing mag­ic and his mag­i­cal career we had so many lis­ten­er ques­tions come flood­ing in that we did­nt even get to half of them.  Tom was gra­cious enough to answer the remain­ing ques­tions we’d col­lect­ed by email.  Here are his respons­es:



First, let me thank your lis­ten­ers for tun­ing in to lis­ten to my bab­blings. Their inquiries are real­ly insight­ful, and they run the gamut from ques­tions about the­o­ry to per­for­mance.

What are your thoughts on men­tal­ists? Are they con­sid­ered magi­cians?

Whether you believe that men­tal­ists have real pow­ers or are doing illu­sions depends upon whether or not you’re a magi­cian. The term “men­tal­ist” is magician’s jar­gon and was cre­at­ed to dif­fer­en­ti­ate the per­form­ers from actu­al psy­chics and mind read­er. “Men­tal­ism” is a per­for­mance art in which prac­ti­tion­ers, known as “men­tal­ists,” appear to have spe­cial men­tal abil­i­ties, includ­ing var­i­ous forms of mind-read­ing (such pre­mo­ni­tion, clair­voy­ance, pre­cog­ni­tion, telepa­thy), mind con­trol, and unusu­al phys­i­cal phe­nom­e­na such as psy­choki­ne­sis and telekine­sis. Some also per­form the allied fields of hyp­no­sis or being a spir­it medi­um. But bot­tom line: men­tal­ists are psy­chic enter­tain­ers.

Who his­tor­i­cal­ly was your favorite magi­cian?

I hate to name a cliché, but Har­ry Hou­di­ni, both as an enter­tain­er and a self-pro­mot­er, is end­less­ly fas­ci­nat­ing. Just when you think you’ve heard every sto­ry there is about him, you find out a new tid­bit that makes you reeval­u­ate all you know.

Is there any eti­quette in using bought tricks? Do you have to cus­tomize them?

There’s noth­ing wrong with per­form­ing a trick right out of the box, exact­ly as the instruc­tions are writ­ten and using the sug­gest­ed pat­ter that comes with it. For exam­ple, part-time pro magi­cian Gene Ander­son invent­ed and pub­lished the method for the most pop­u­lar con­tem­po­rary ver­sion of rip­ping a news­pa­per to shreds and restor­ing it. When Doug Hen­ning did the trick on Broad­way in “The Mag­ic Show” in 1974, he per­formed Anderson’s rou­tine word-for-word. As do I today. I’ve seen oth­er pre­sen­ta­tions for the trick: they were dif­fer­ent, but none have bet­tered Gene’s orig­i­nal.

Ide­al­ly, how­ev­er, magi­cians should come up with a new “take” on stan­dard effects to make them unique. When an audi­ence hears a singer per­form “Over the Rain­bow,” they want to hear the per­former bring some­thing fresh to the Judy Gar­land clas­sic.

Magi­cians often put their stamp on mar­ket­ed effects with their pat­ter (the words magi­cian say while per­form­ing) or by adding back­ground music. Some change the entire premise of the trick. As an exam­ple, there’s a magi­cians’ stan­dard that uses three dif­fer­ent lengths of rope. The magi­cians then stretch­es the ropes to become the same length. The trick’s orig­i­nal pat­ter was about a math­e­mat­ics teacher who became obsessed with the geo­met­ric prin­ci­ple that all par­al­lel lines are equal if stretched to infin­i­ty. The trick was mar­ket­ed under the name “The Professor’s Night­mare.” Although the trick is still sold with that nae, very few (if any) magi­cians still the title as the pre­fer for their rou­tines.

Is “Trick poach­ing” a com­mon thing? Do you have to wor­ry about some­one steal­ing an orig­i­nal trick?

Unfor­tu­nate­ly, yes, theft in mag­ic is a com­mon prac­tice, and there’s very lit­tle that can be done about it. It’s next to impos­si­ble to patent the method of an illu­sion or copy­right its pre­sen­ta­tion, and even if either one is secured, they’re dif­fi­cult (and expen­sive) to defend in a court of law.

A few magi­cians have been suc­cess­ful in this regard. David Cop­per­field intro­duced a new a self-lev­i­ta­tion effect over a decade ago that he called “Fly­ing.” Although the trick’s method relied on ear­li­er tech­niques, it was orig­i­nal enough that the cre­ator was able to secure a patent. The patent was moot, how­ev­er, because the trick’s exe­cu­tion required a full stage and major resources to pro­duce. Plus, it put an enor­mous phys­i­cal strain on the per­former. Even if peo­ple want­ed to steal the trick, they would prob­a­bly be unable to per­form it.

Teller, the silent half of the duo Penn & Teller, sued a Euro­pean magi­cian in inter­na­tion­al court over one of Teller’s sig­na­ture tricks. Not only had the oth­er magi­cian begun to per­form Teller’s orig­i­nal rou­tine, he was adver­tis­ing online that he would sell the props to oth­er per­form­ers. After much time and expense, the court ruled in Teller’s favor.

A magi­cian in Thai­land ripped off the entire act of Vegas per­former Jeff McBride move for move. I’ve had two of my own rou­tines lift­ed over the years.

This type of “acqui­si­tion” has been going on for cen­turies. In the 1870s, French magi­cian Buati­er De Kol­ta invent­ed an arti­fi­cial flower that he would pro­duce onstage by the hun­dreds. Oth­er magi­cians had no idea how he did it—until one day a breeze acci­den­tal­ly blew one of the fflow­ers into the audi­ence. A magi­cian who was at the show scooped up the fake flower and ran with it out of the the­ater. Soon every­one in the mag­ic world knew how the trick was done and was imi­tat­ing it.

More often, magi­cians don’t steal an entire act or rou­tine. They just “adopt” a joke, phrase or pat­ter.

I should men­tion that pil­fer­ing of intel­lec­tu­al prop­er­ty is also being done by some mag­ic deal­ers, the folks who man­u­fac­ture and sell mag­ic props. There is a major prob­lem with knock-offs com­ing into the U.S. from coun­tries such as India and espe­cial­ly Chi­na. Besides the eth­i­cal and legal issues, the equip­ment is sel­dom as well pro­duced as it is here, but because of labor costs it’s usu­al­ly much cheap­er.

Is some­one like Uri Geller who tricked the peo­ple on pur­pose doing an effect or is he doing a hoax?

Magi­cians use the term “effect” as jar­gon to mean “what the audi­ence thinks hap­pens or what it thinks it sees” (i.e., what “effect” it had on the spec­ta­tor). The word “hoax” isn’t used in magician’s jar­gon at all, so it can mean any­thing from a prac­ti­cal joke to a mali­cious act used to take mon­ey unscrupu­lous­ly.

I won’t enter the Geller debate (which has result­ed in major cross law­suits between “debunker” James Ran­di and “psy­chic” Uri Geller) except to say that every phe­nom­e­non Geller has pro­duced can be achieved by mag­i­cal meth­ods. It’s up to indi­vid­u­als to decide whether Uri has real psy­chic abil­i­ties, whether they are vic­tims of a hoax, or whether they’re just see­ing nov­el pre­sen­ta­tions to unfa­mil­iar mag­ic tricks being per­formed by a very con­vinc­ing enter­tain­er.

When you go see a mag­ic show, do you find your­self enjoy­ing the show or cri­tiquing?

Gen­er­al­ly, I do both. Because I’ve been per­form­ing pro­fes­sion­al­ly for forty years and sel­dom make changes to my basic reper­toire, I sel­dom try to fig­ure out the “method” of tricks (i.e., how they’re done). Instead, I try to watch like a non-magi­cian, to just enjoy the show.

If I’m crit­i­cal, I gen­er­al­ly find it has noth­ing to do with the tricks. It has to do with act­ing or stage tech­niques: Did the per­former roam back and forth for no rea­son? Were they audi­ble? Were they cour­te­ous to vol­un­teers from the audi­ence? And so on. A magi­cian can always defend why he or she tells a par­tic­u­lar joke, does a par­tic­u­lar trick or places it at a par­tic­u­lar point in the show. There’s sim­ply no excuse for bad show­man­ship.

Is there one trick you always want­ed to do or try that you didn’t because it was too com­pli­cat­ed or dan­ger­ous?

Dan­ger has nev­er been an issue, but they’ve been of inter­est to me. I’m a comedic per­former. My show has nev­er been about build­ing ten­sion or pos­si­ble phys­i­cal dan­ger. Even when I per­form pseu­do-dan­ger­ous effects (such as putting some­one in a guil­lo­tine or stick­ing a sword through an audi­ence member’s throat), no one believes that they could get hurt. Because they can’t.

I will con­fess that there are some tricks I decid­ed not to work on because of their dif­fi­cul­ty. Among these would be pro­duc­ing dozens of play­ing cards from an emp­ty hand. I learned the tech­nique but decid­ed that I didn’t want to ded­i­cate the hun­dreds of hours it would take to per­fect it.

More often I rule out tricks because they are messy (tricks with water), take a lot of time and prepa­ra­tion off stage (own­ing birds or a rab­bit), or tricks with fire. (I’m not wor­ried about fire dan­ger, but licens­es are required for its use in many venues.)

What is the most dan­ger­ous trick; and, if so, it real­ly the bul­let catch?

His­tor­i­cal­ly, yes, the bul­let catch is prob­a­bly the trick that has been doc­u­ment­ed as harm­ing the most magi­cians. In fact magician/author/historian Ben Robin­son wrote an entire book about the trick called Twelve Who Died.

Much more mun­dane injuries are paper cuts while open­ing a deck of play­ing cards, snip­ping a fin­ger while try­ing to cut a rope in half, or strain­ing an ankle while jump­ing off a box and yelling “Ta da.”

My son loves illu­sions but he gets frus­trat­ed with most of the mag­ic kits avail­able. Which books or web­sites can he look in to (he’s 10)?

I hate to sound self-serving—but I will be. Both of my instruc­tion­al mag­ic books are good for begin­ners, young and old. The Com­plete Idiot’s Guide to Mag­ic Tricks is out-of-print but still avail­able online as a used book. (Most of the used books will have the gim­micked cards that came with the book removed. Check before buy­ing it.) My Com­plete Idiot’s Guide to Street Mag­ic has more con­tem­po­rary items and is aimed at a slight­ly old­er read­er, but many of the tricks are still per­fect for a ten-year old. Mag­ic for Dum­mies is also a great stand-by.

I high­ly rec­om­mend you take your son to your town’s library. Mag­ic books are found at 798.6 in the Dewey Dec­i­mal sys­tem. As an eleven-year old I lost myself at the library and read every mag­ic book on the shelves. Even though I wound up not doing most of the tricks, learn­ing about them pro­vid­ed a breadth of knowl­edge that’s been invalu­able over the years.

For­give me if I don’t rec­om­mend any web­sites. I per­son­al­ly dis­ap­prove of most of the so-called instruc­tion­al videos that are post­ed online. The magi­cians who post them­selves range dra­mat­i­cal­ly in abil­i­ty, and most free “how to” videos on YouTube and else­where do lit­tle more than expose the meth­ods with­out hav­ing any instruc­tion­al val­ue.

What is your opin­ion on the “shock” magi­cians like Criss Angel?

I think there’s room for every style of per­former in every genre of enter­tain­ment. Criss’s wardrobe, groom­ing, music, and choice of effects appeal to a very spe­cif­ic demo­graph­ic, and he has many ardent fol­low­ers.

And shock sells. Dan Sper­ry, whose make-up is a goth/emo mash-up, is cur­rent­ly tour­ing inter­na­tion­al­ly with a mul­ti-magi­cian show called “The Illu­sion­ists.” Penn Gillette (of Penn & Teller) has been at the Rio in Las Vegas for almost two decades and is known for being bom­bas­tic. And until his retire­ment last year, The Amaz­ing Johnathan was a Vegas fix­ture. He was famous for his loud, caus­tic humor.

What is the biggest thing you’ve made dis­ap­pear?

My lunch?

I’d have to go back to when I per­form­ing “illu­sions” – magi­cian jar­gon for the “big box­es”– in a tent­ed cir­cus. I raised a girl in a cage high above the cen­ter ring. She pulled up a cur­tain around the cage; I fired a pis­tol; the cur­tain fell, and the girl was gone. I then point­ed to a locked steam­er trunk in one of the oth­er cir­cus rings. The box was opened, and the same girl popped out, none the worse for wear. The trick was a fea­ture in Howard Thurston’s show in the 1930s and was lat­er sold as the “Girl Cab­i­net Tabouret” by Abbott’s Mag­ic Com­pa­ny.

What is your favorite type of effect to do?

My act is a parade of well-known effects, from the cut-and-restored rope trick to the Link­ing Rings. I pre­fer to work the clas­sics for many rea­sons. First of all, audi­ences have loved them for gen­er­a­tions, and if I can bring some­thing fresh to them it’s as if I rein­vent­ed the trick. I have also been doing those tricks the longest, which means I don’t have to wor­ry that some­thing will go wrong: the tricks will work. Also, by know­ing the tricks like the back of my hand, I’m free to impro­vise com­e­dy pat­ter and ad-lib with the audi­ence.

What are your thoughts on shows like Penn & Teller’s BS or Magic’s Biggest Secrets Revealed? Does giv­ing away the secrets ruin the illu­sion?

Your two exam­ples are very dif­fer­ent. Although Penn & Teller became famous by adver­tis­ing them­selves as “the Bad Boys of Mag­ic,” very few of the minor tricks they exposed were of any con­se­quence. In fact, most of the secrets were already well known by laypeo­ple. In the case of their TV show BS, I think Penn & Teller are pro­vid­ing a valu­able ser­vice. They’re using enter­tain­ment to warn peo­ple about frauds and cheats.

Shows like The Masked Magi­cian and Magic’s Biggest Secrets Revealed have caused no per­ma­nent dam­age. Sure, the magi­cians who were per­form­ing those par­tic­u­lar tricks when the shows first aired were a bit miffed, but peo­ple have noto­ri­ous­ly short mem­o­ries. And as Penn & Teller proved, you can fool peo­ple even if they know how the tricks are done. They showed audi­ences how the clas­sic Cups and Balls trick worked by slow­ly explain­ing it while using clear plas­tic cups. Then they imme­di­ate­ly repeat­ed the trick at reg­u­lar speed AND STILL FOOLED EVERYONE.

Expo­sure of mag­ic tricks has been going on for mil­len­nia.

Writ­ing in Automa­ta in the first cen­tu­ry A.D., Horace of Alexan­dria (in Egypt) showed how priests used secret pneu­mat­ics to open the large tem­ple doors – which wor­ship­pers believed was being done by the gods.

In 1584, Regi­nald Scot wrote The Dis­cov­er­ie of Witch­craft to con­vince read­ers dur­ing the reign of James II in Eng­land that witch­craft didn’t exist. To prove his case, he explained how the most com­mon mag­ic tricks of the day were done. He argued that the peo­ple per­form­ing them weren’t witch­es. They were mere­ly street magi­cians.

In the 1920s, Horace Goldin was per­form­ing his ver­sion of Saw­ing a Woman in Half, at the time a brand-new illu­sion. When Camel cig­a­rettes revealed how he did it on the back of their cig­a­rette box­es (as part of a series “It’s fun to be fooled, it’s more fun to know”), Goldin sued – unsuc­cess­ful­ly.

My con­cern isn’t about tele­vi­sion expo­sure. It’s about tele­vi­sion magi­cians who cre­ate tricks that only work on tele­vi­sion. Some of the tricks are done by trick pho­tog­ra­phy, care­ful edit­ing or by using actors who pre­tend to be ordi­nary mem­bers of the audi­ence. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, view­ers at home believe all the tricks they see on TV can be per­formed live, when they can’t.



Hey Shad­ow-dwellers!

I have no idea where the last year went. We had so many amaz­ing guests on that the shows just flew by!! 2013 is not shap­ing up to be a weak year either!! Lots of fan­tas­tic guests com­ing your way as soon as we can book them.

Cara and I are also going on the road to a lot of events and con­ven­tions this year to spread the word about the show. If you check the “events” page and hap­pen to be in the area — be sure to say hi! First per­son to find us at a con­ven­tion (not at a booth) — we buy a drink for!

We’ve almost got the On Demand sec­tion back up! I apol­o­gize for the delay. We lost the Para-X On Demand serv­er and then we had host­ing lim­i­ta­tions on our old host­ing site. But now we’ve set­tled in to a new host and the On Demands are slow­ly going back up. Almost all of your favorite past episodes should be there! Check them out! Down­load them! Enjoy!!

2013 is going to be amaz­ing and we’re glad you’re join­ing us!!
See you in The Shad­ows!


Holy Cow did 2012 fly by so fast! We’re com­ing up on our hol­i­day break and this year has been amaz­ing — The Shad­ows has made so many new friends, learned about so many fas­ci­nat­ing places and gone to some great events! It’s been a blur of growth and change. We lost Mark (to his new job), gained Cara and moved to Mon­day nights… just to name a few things that changed!

I think we’ve final­ly shak­en that bru­tal ghost in the machine that plagued our first year of shows! We sur­vived our first anniver­sary and anoth­er 6 months after that! We’ve had some major scores with inter­views — Jeff Belanger, Bar­ry Fitzger­ald, The Con­stan­ti­nos, Jason Gowin, Karl Pfeif­fer just to name a few.

2012 has been an amaz­ing ride and 2013 is shap­ing up to be just as amaz­ing. Stay with us as we take this ride and we’ll see YOU in the Shad­ows!


This has been a sum­mer to remem­ber… Start­ing in June, I became the co-host of The Shad­ows and boy was I ner­vous!!! I real­ly didn’t know what to expect or how to present myself, as far as I was con­cerned I would just be glad that I could put a sen­tence togeth­er and get it out of my mouth with­out mess­ing it up. It has been so enjoy­able, I have learned so many things, met many inter­est­ing peo­ple and its only been a cou­ple of months. It becomes extreme­ly excit­ing to look to the future and what is in store for The Shad­ows fam­i­ly.… Thanks to Rebec­ca and Erick for hav­ing faith in me and their con­tin­ued sup­port. Even­tu­al­ly I will get more com­fort­able with this radio thing…until then I am off to fig­ure out the next blog.…


What a great year!!  One that has put so many won­der­ful peo­ple into my life, many of which I met through the Shad­ows Radio.   Loyd Auer­bach, Cal­lea Sher­rill, Debra and Tony Pick­man. Deb­bie and Mark Con­stan­ti­no, Jeff Belanger, Adven­ture Myths’ Frank and Jon, Danielle Stimp­son, Bar­ry Fitzger­ald and Kat­ri­na Wei­d­man just to name a few!

One day well over a year ago a good friend of mine, Rebec­ca, came to me and asked if I would be inter­est­ed in doing a pod cast on the para­nor­mal with her. Of course I was inter­est­ed and since we would be putting in all of that work lets go for Para-x. Short­ly after­wards the Shad­ows was born from a say­ing Rebec­ca used on her groups web­site, “See you in the Shad­ows”. We didn’t know how it was going to be received or how long we would be able to do it, but where it is we are both proud of!!

Not long after we start­ed, we need­ed some pro­duc­tion help and we were lucky enough to have met Eric. I knew then that the Shad­ows team was set and we would be togeth­er through this jour­ney.  Since then Rebec­ca and Eric have become very close and I am excit­ed for them. They are tru­ly two of the great­est peo­ple I know.

Each week I have looked for­ward to see­ing you in the chat room, hear­ing what was on your mind and try­ing to bring in the guests that you most want­ed to hear from. As there is nev­er per­fect tim­ing in the world we live and things do change, I now need to focus my atten­tion on oth­er things. This Wednes­day May 30, 2012 will be my last show. The Shad­ows will con­tin­ue on with Rebec­ca and a new co-host and I wish them noth­ing but suc­cess.

I want to thank each one of our lis­ten­ers; you are the dri­ving force behind the Shad­ows!! To each of our guests we were able to speak with I tru­ly appre­ci­ate you and what you were able to offer to our lis­ten­ers.  I laughed, cried and learned some­thing from each of you. I thank you for that and I will nev­er for­get any of you.

Those old enough to remem­ber the Bea­t­les lyric; “The long and wind­ing road that leads to your door, will nev­er dis­ap­pear”. I will always be there for Rebec­ca, Eric and who­ev­er else would like me to. My email will con­tin­ue to be open here for those wish­ing to con­tact me.  I may not be in front of the mic or in the chat room but I will always be float­ing around in……. The Shad­ows!

I wish you all love, light and peace

Mark D.



Hey all!

We’ve been quite busy around here.  The Shad­ows has some AMAZING guests booked out through the sum­mer and in to the fall!  Plus our one year anniver­sary is com­ing up quick and that should be an awe­some event!  Speak­ing of events, did you hear about our event at the Biss­man Build­ing in Mans­field Ohio on Hal­loween?  If not, lis­ten to the show and check the site — more details are com­ing soon!!  Also, Mark and I will be broad­cast­ing live from The Red Mill in Clin­ton, NJ in part­ner­ship with Scream Para­nor­mal this August.  Check out their site for tick­et infor­ma­tion!


Look­ing for­ward to amaz­ing things on Para-X and in The Shad­ows!



Hey Shad­ows peeps!

I was so involved in some seri­ous stuff this last month that I total­ly neglect­ed you all! I’ve been build­ing a new web­site for one of Mark and my favorite local “haunts” — Fort Mif­flin! After some 90 hours of cod­ing, www.fortmifflin.us is now com­plete! Check it out and let me know what you think! If you knew the mon­stros­i­ty of a site that they had before, you will under­stand why they went the con­ser­v­a­tive and sim­ple root this time.

We’ve had some amaz­ing inter­views over the last month. Did you catch our awe­some inter­view with Bar­ry Fitzger­ald at the begin­ning of the month? It was def­i­nite­ly one of our favorites! He was such a cool guy and real­ly easy to talk to. Plus how often do you get to men­tion the Titan­ic and William Shat­ner in the same sen­tence??

We have an amaz­ing event that is in the works! Want a hint? It has some­thing to do with our inter­view last week… but many many more details lat­er!!

See you all in the Shad­ows!
(and sor­ry for the encore show this week — both Mark and I caught the plague or some­thing and were down for the count)


First let me say Hap­py New year to every­one, I wish you all a safe, hap­py and healthy year filled with pros­per­i­ty and love.

Now for the upcom­ing year!! We have a lot going on here and we are excit­ed to share it all with you. We will start the year of on Jan­u­ary 4, 2012 by talk­ing to “Pro­fes­sor para­nor­mal” Loyd Auer­bach! Pro­fes­sor Auer­bach has been a pro­fes­sor of para­psy­chol­o­gy, author of numer­ous books deal­ing with haunt­ings and ghosts he has also been involved in numer­ous para­nor­mal inves­ti­ga­tions. Not a bad way to start off the year!!

This com­ing year we will be speak­ing with Bar­ry Fitzger­ald, Mark and Deb­bie Con­stan­ti­no, Jeff Belanger as well as our his­tor­i­cal loca­tions, The Stan­ley Hotel, Burling­ton Coun­ty Prison Muse­um Sloss fur­nace, just to name a few.

We have been hard at work­ing try­ing to get to you want you want to hear. If there is some­one or some place you want us to speak with let us know. You are a major por­tion of our show and we want to hear from you!!

Don’t for­get we’ll see you in the Shad­ows!!


Tagged with:

I got yelled at again by Rebec­ca because I don’t blog enough. So here I go…..

We are work­ing on some great shows for you!! We will be sched­uled Loyd Areubach, Bar­ry Fitzger­ald from GHI just to name a few!!!!

We also have some great loca­tions that we will be speak­ing with like the Wha­ley House and the Jen­ny Wade house!!!

You asked and we are going to deliv­er. Keep lis­ten­ing and also click on the link in the right col­umn of this page and”like” us on Face­book. There you can eas­i­ly keep up to date with what we have com­ing up and you can eas­i­ly tell us what you want to hear.

Don’t for­get, we’ll see you in the Shad­ows!!!



Ok ok ok… I took one for the team last night. Not only did Mark sac­ri­fice me by mak­ing me walk through the haunt­ed house at all, but he made me do it ALONE! I was very proud that I made it through with­out any seri­ous curs­ing and screaming…and I didn’t punch any­one! Although hear­ing Mark laugh at me on the phone while I was freak­ing out was … well… let’s just say it put him on the very short list to be smacked. But I sur­vived and lived to laugh about it. And in the end it was total­ly worth it! The Bates Motel is one of the best haunt­ed attrac­tions around and I was glad to be able to have the chance to expe­ri­ence it on air with you all. And I apol­o­gize in advance for any curs­es that might have slipped out.

See you all in the Shad­ows! (And not in the haunt­ed house!)