Conventions


Those of us interested in matters arcane and occult will be familiar with the name of Doctor Jacob Tordoff. When we meet he can usually be relied upon to relate some story of strange and ghostly happenings. How many are strictly true I couldn’t say, but there are times when his eyes betray the wild and haunted look of a man who has looked deep into places more rational souls would avoid or deny.

On his last visit he sat in his familar place on the battered chaise longue (formerly the seat of certain others of his ilk now passed to the great beyond; but that’s another story). As I reverently unscrewed the cap of his personal bottle of 18-year-old Triple Cask Macallan, he pulled from his shabby overcoat a small wooden box, tightly bound with string.

He placed the box before him on the table then paused to watch as I poured three fingers of the fragrant amber liquid into his crystal Lalique nosing and tasting glass. Did I perceive a slight tremor in his hand as he picked up the glass and took a deep, appreciative sniff? Was there a story which troubled him that he needed to tell?

He took a small sip, replaced the glass on the table and picked up the curious box, turning it in his hands for what seemed like several minutes before he apparently made a decision. With shaking fingers he undid the knot in the string and unwound it from the box.

“You’ll have heard stories of the hauntings at Borley Rectory?” he remarked.

“Of course,” I replied, relaxing. I’m afraid I’m something of a sceptic when it comes to Borley Rectory stories. Borley Rectory was a Victorian house that became known (or infamous) as ‘the most haunted house in England’ after being described as such by ‘psychic researcher’ Harry Price. Fascinating as the imaginative, or credulous, Mr Price’s stories are, they are now rejected by serious researchers into such matters.

Borley3

Paranormal image taken at Borley Rectory

 

“Ah, but this has nothing to do with illicit monastic relationships and bricked-up nuns,” continued Doctor Tordoff, staring down at the box gripped in his calloused hands. His thumbs pressed down on the box lid as if he were afraid that the contents would somehow burst forth from its confines….

What did the box contain? What was Doctor Tordoff’s story? And why was this seasoned dabbler into arcane thaumaturgy so disturbed by such a seemingly innocuous object? For the answer to this and many other questions, come and see us at Blackpool.

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Whitby Firewalk_800

Just back from a great weekend in Whitby at the Doomsday bizarre magick gathering. More information soon. In the meantime, by request, here are a couple of pics of the Friday evening Firewalk. I tried broken glass last year, without ill effect, so firewalking was the obvious next step…

The fire-pit reached a temperature of over 1600 degrees Celsius during the preparation but the embers had cooled to between 600 and 700 degrees for our walk. It certainly felt hot, but we survived without a blister.

Firewalking has been practiced by many people and cultures in all parts of the world, with the earliest known reference dating back to Iron Age India – c. 1200 BC. It is often used as a rite of passage, as a test of an individual’s strength and courage (or, possibly, foolhardiness?).

Any suggestions for next year?

What better meeting place for the purveyors of dark, magickal tales than Sneaton Castle situated on the wind-swept moors above Whitby, a town with plenty of darkly magickal connections itself. On Ashton Carter’s recommendation we stayed at the Number Seven Guest House, near the whalebone arch. The house was built in 1847 and in Bram Stoker’s Dracula, published in 1897, is mentioned as the home of Count Dracula’s lawyer.

I’d been hoping to attend this gathering of practitioners of magic’s more bizarre reaches since Roni Shachnaey first introduced the event. This year I made it. Doomsday VI was the first to be organised by Dan Baines of Lebanon Circle; he is to be congratulated! I’ve attended many conventions in the UK and across Europe and this has to go down as one of the most enjoyable.

We met for introductions and drinks early Friday evening after a somewhat protracted journey from Sheffield. The opening performance was guaranteed to put us in appropriate mood for the weekend: Doctor Diablo‘s Carnival Macabre — classic sideshow featuring “fire, nails, swords, pins, electrocution, escapes and many other dark delights”, plus guest contortionist and sword-swallower Bendini.

Saturday’s array of lectures, discussions and performances opened with Todd Landman’s Mystery Boxes, a real lesson in carefully-crafted story telling magic rooted in a deep understanding of the history and philosphy behind each tale.

Stuart Burrell followed with a discourse on The Dark Origins of Escapology, with demonstrations of ancient and modern devices of restraint. Stuart is a multiple world record holding escapologist and stamina strong man. He finished his piece by bending a heavy frying pan in half and rolling it into a curl.

In At the Heart of the Tale Prof BC revealed his aproach to ‘haunting investigations’, in which his role was as a facilitator working with a group of spectators in a way which got them truly involved in the development of the presentation and its resolution.

The morning concluded with the incomparable Voodoo Mick, The Singing Psychic, with musical revelations of thought-of songs. Thence to lunch in the castle refectory.

Lothar Malmberg, assisted by his daughter Grace, presented Echoes, which gave us a fascinating insight into Lothar’s approach to bizarre magic which aligned with his own religious beliefs — a gentle approach which eschewed the traditional tales of horror and darkness in favour of presentations which could be positive and thoughtful.

Ingeniously constructed first-class mentalism was at the core of Lars Ruth’s Arcanum Mentis — Secrets of the Mind.

To close the afternoon Oskar Hejll opened his Cabinet of Curiosities to fascinate and entertain us with his talk on the history and folklore of vampires and the ‘undead’.

On to the evening show, which opened with a classic performance by Master Bizarrist and godfather of Doomsday, Roni Shachnaey.

Nick Brunger had the unenviable task of following that, which he did with his richly textured Strange Tales from the Darker Side.

CSI Whitby? Tracy Wise’s Crime Scene Illusion brought together mentalism and crime investigation in a novel presentation which featured the enthusiastic involvement of Lounger Tony McMylor as the ‘murderer’.

I’d been primed beforehand to watch out for Brian Maxwell… his hilarious The Travelling Werewolf Show did not disappoint, from the opening werewolf song to the final manifestation of the lycanthrope itself!

Closing a memorable show was Iain J Mindwraith’s Glass-Walking demonstration which he took that extra scary step further by at one point being sandwiched between broken glass and a bed of nails with a hefty volunteer atop the lot. Afterwards he kindly offered to teach a few foolhardy spectators the correct technique of fractured glass perambulation. (I made it without a scratch.)

This bare description of the programmed events doesn’t really give the full flavour of Doomsday. The late-night discussions and unscheduled performances were fascinating, provocative and invaluable in stimulating our own thoughts and ideas. Difficult to single out one item with so much going on around me, but a definite highlight was watching the reaction to Jim Critchlow’s ‘one step beyond’ ACAAN which culminates with the thought-of card at the chosen number in a punched and laced deck, cased, sealed in plastic and wrapped in brown paper.

Next year we’re promised twin Northern and Southern Doomsdays. Put my name down for both!

Props boxed and ready to go. Titanic, a great new routine from Jim Critchlow and Tony McMylor. Limited supply available at the 2014 Blackpool Convention at a bargain price. Not to be missed!

IMG_0128_smWell, Blackpool came and went as Blackpools do. We had a good one; sales were steady, we met old friends and several Sheffield magicians, saw a great show and half a good one, and even got in a bit of dancing (magic can take a variety of forms).

After an initial surge on Friday morning sales slumped somewhat for the rest of the day, although there was a constant demand for our update sheets. They must have had some effect because (despite the fact that I’d managed to miss Bolted! off the list) we had a steady stream of customers through Saturday and Sunday.

Talking of Bolted!, this was a definite hit. Jared zipped across the Coronation Street set (a popular TV programme about people who shout at each other a lot, I understand) and demonstrated virtually non-stop… including in the Ruskin at night.

Since Blackpool he’s been working hard to produce more and we now have additional stock. Please note that Bolted! is a precision-made item, each one being produced and hand-finished to a high tolerance (vital in card magic) so orders are being dealt with in strict rotation. As I write they’re available off the shelf, but to judge by the number of enquiries coming in, this situation is unlikely to last long. Ring or email if you’re interested.

In case you didn’t go to Blackpool and missed the buzz, here’s the promo:

Different Decks from Magick

A good convention in Blackpool with lots of interest in our new products (and quite a few sales too). More information  later, but in the meantime, for all those who’ve been asking for ‘designer decks’ here’s a selection from the range we currently have in stock.

And for professional magicians, we sell proper Bicycle cards too.

Recently moved some boxes from storage and in going through them I came across several packs of old photographs. There are quite a few taken at various magic conventions and events I’ve attended over the years. I’ll probably post the odd one here from time to time as I have a moment to scan them. Here’s one of me giving some up-and-coming magician a few tips on his cup-and-ball routine…

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