Wayne Houchin apparently thought his lecture started at seven o’clock? Clearly, he hasn’t been checking our Web site often enough. He was an extremely good sport about the snafu, however, demonstrating saintly patience, and by the time 7:30 rolled around (our announced time) all the chairs were full of warm bodies with many more standing for a better view.
Lecture Chair Dave Bogden introduced Houchin, detailing his quick rise to fame (lots of compliments) before playing a bit fast and loose with the pronunciation of Wayne’s last name. The butt of Dave’s jokes laughed louder than anyone in the room, and even added a few of his own quick one-liners, setting the tone of the evening to one of fun and friendliness.
Houchin started the lecture with one of his more famous effects: Thread.
A whimsical performance of the classic effect, Gypsy Thread, fictitiously detailing Houchin’s introduction to magic as a young child, left the magician standing center stage with a two-foot length of restored string.
“As I got a bit older,” Houchin then told the audience, “I became a bit . . . stranger.”
Placing one end of the string onto his tongue, Houchin slowly began feeding the length into his mouth, until only six inches remained in view. “Mmm,” he muttered, apparently in some slight discomfort. Panning from one side of the room to the other, holding his hands up so everyone could see they were entirely empty, Houchin reached thumb and forefinger to his right eye where he grasped what, to all appearances, was the other end of the partially consumed string. Slowly, he pulled. As one end of the string emerged from Houchin’s squinting eye, the other end was pulled into this mouth, until ultimately it disappeared. And still Houchin continued to pull.
Cameras flashed repeatedly as the string continued to appear from the depths of Houchin’s eye. With slightly over a foot of string hanging from his eye, Houchin turned to the volunteer on his right. “Can you see that okay?” he asked Gil Scott, spurring a quick nod from Gil and a round of incredulous laughter from the audience. With a few more grunts and moans, Houchin pulled the remaining string from his eye, finally assuming his applause cue with a sly half smile evident on his face. And the crowd went wild.
We’re just getting started
After a short anecdote involving mail fraud (and that’s all that needs to be said about that), June Horowitz was asked to toss a crumpled sheet of paper to someone else in the audience. Charles Bennett was the lucky recipient.
“Despite not feeling well,” Chuck intoned, “Houdini gave a performance last Sunday at the Garrick theater. He astonished the audience with feats of magic, including a card trick during which he impossibly predicted a young lady would select the three of spades.”
The card Chuck had earlier pushed forward?
Yep. It, too, turned out to be the three of spades. The effect, which Houchin calls “Houdini’s Influence,” is as yet unreleased to the public, but was available to Ring members at the lecture.
Explanations followed the two introductory effects, including a lengthy discussion on the merits of various types of thread. Monofilament fish line, it was decided, probably isn’t the best choice for Houchin’s Thread.
Houchin performed and explained several more effects, including Stigmata, where a thought of card mysteriously appears in the skin of the performer’s arm, as wells as a quick trick using one of the numerous gaffed cards in the UltraGaff deck he designed with Daniel Garcia, before finally arriving at what was — for me — the highlight of the evening.
My favorite effect
Counterfeit Hollingworth was another as-yet-unreleased effect Houchin was making available only during his lectures. While it may not be for sale elsewhere just yet, a quick Google search will provide several videos and more than a little discussion in the forums. It’s worth investigating, trust me.
Counterfeit Hollingworth, at its simplest, is a torn and restored card effect. It was inspired by Guy Hollingworth’s Reformation effect (hence the name), but uses a different method based in large part on Paul Harris’s Ultimate Rip Off. It also employs misdirection first described by Juan Tamariz in his book, The Five Points in Magic, which Houchin did a truly excellent job explaining. The combination of all this is an effect that looks every bit as good as Reformation, but is simpler and more practical for a close-up performance.
I know it’s an overused cliché, but THIS is what magic should look like.
By the way, even though Houchin’s press claimed he was only going to do one card trick, Counterfeit Hollingworth was in reality his third of the lecture. Stigmata, no doubt, was the one card effect he intended to do. But Houdini’s Influence used photographs of cards, with a card reveal no less, and by my estimation that has to count as a card trick, too. Houchin may perform Counterfeit Hollingworth with his business card, but it is nonetheless a torn and restored card effect (and he even used a playing card in the lecture). That’s THREE card effects, Wayne, not one. And all three of them were absolutely delightful.
We’ve had a lot of great lectures in Grand Rapids these past few months. None, I think, have been better than that of Wayne Houchin.
What did YOU think? (Add a comment below the Photo Album.)