Why I love Magic Camp

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In a few days, Lisa, Ava, and I will be heading up north toward Haliburton, Ontario, to participate in the Sorcerers Safari Magic Camp. When we visited camp for a few days three years ago, I wasn’t sure that I would like it. But I loved it, and each year the three of us can’t wait to go back.

I have a vivid memory of one moment during that first visit. Lee Asher asked me if I would discuss the faro shuffle with the campers in his card class. I was happy to do so. I talked about the shuffle and explained a method to learn how to do it. This turned into a hands-on workshop as everyone tried the shuffle while I offered suggestions and tag-team help.

After everyone had a chance to play with the shuffle, I asked if there were any questions. Someone asked me about the tabled faro shuffle, and I talked about that for a bit. (Mostly I just explained that I don’t do that shuffle, because I perform standing and I didn’t want to invest the necessary practice time, which is considerable, on a move I would never use.)

Then someone asked me about the anti-faro. This remarkable move was created by Christian Engblom. The cards are sprung from hand to hand; when they hit the left hand, they alternate into an in-jogged/out-jogged condition, looking just like a deck that has been given a faro shuffle. Although I don’t do this move (it is really difficult), I had a story about it, which I related to the campers.

In 1997, I visited Finland and I met Christian Engblom at a convention there. During the convention he took me aside and said, “I’d like to show you something, but you can’t tell anybody about it.” He then demonstrated the anti-faro, and I was astonished. I told him I would never talk about it with anyone. And I didn’t. I never mentioned it to my friends (or anyone else), until sometime in the early 2000s, when people started to tell me about it. I assumed that Christian had decided to go public with the move, and it was no longer a big secret.

When I finished my story, a camper said to me, “You never told anyone?” I replied that I had not. He said, “But it was so cool!” “Yes,” I said, “but keeping secrets is one of the most important parts of magic – especially keeping those secrets that someone has trusted you with.” This was a message no one had ever imparted to this young man. He and I discussed it further during time I was at camp.

And that’s why I love going to camp: I have the opportunity to interact with these young magicians and offer viewpoints that they are not getting from their other sources of information. And in turn, they challenge my perceptions. (Incidentally, I spoke with Christian Engblom about this at the combined convention. He thanked me very much for keeping his secret.)

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