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!

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Spooky TrucksTickets are now available for the Spooky Magic Evening, which will include a Theatrical Seance. This unique event will be held in The Minstrel’s Chambers in the Town Hall at 6:45 on Saturday 1st of November. Doors will creak slowly open at 6:30.

We’ve also got some rather haunting posters. Let me know if you can display one for us. Once again they’re available in A3 and A4. If you have a printer we can email you one as a pdf, or you can collect from Magick (when you’re picking up your tickets for the Saturday and Sunday shows…).

Appearing are Ashton Carter, Roger Curzon, John Blackwood plus that world-famous special guest, TBA. Tickets are £8. This presentation is designed for over 16’s only. Due to the nature of the performances latecomers may be refused entry.

Tickets can be obtained direct from Magick, 82 Broad Street, Sheffield, S2 5TG. Or by ringing us during opening hours (11:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. every day except Thursdays and Sundays). You can pay by cash, Paypal or any major debit or credit card.

Please note that this is a traditional parlour style performance and is limited to 50 spectators only. First come…

Spooky Tickets_smTickets are now available for the Spooky Magic Evening, which will include a Theatrical Seance. This unique event will be held in The Minstrel’s Chambers in the Town Hall at 6:45 on Saturday 1st of November. Doors will creak slowly open at 6:30.

Appearing are Ashton Carter, Roger Curzon, John Blackwood plus special guests. Tickets are £8. This presentation is designed for over 16’s only. Due to the nature of the performances latecomers may be refused entry.

Tickets can be obtained direct from Magick, 82 Broad Street, Sheffield, S2 5TG. Or by ringing us on 0114 276 0482 during opening hours (11:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. every day except Thursdays and Sundays). You can pay by cash, Paypal or any major debit or credit card.

Please note that this is a traditional parlour style performance and is limited to 50 spectators only. First come…

Flesh Wound CoverFlesh Wound is the most gruesome, most graphic, most disgusting magic trick ever. Forget needle through arm. Forget eating fire. Capture their attention with something they’ll never forget.

Here’s what happens… Take a knife and cut straight into your forearm. Blood starts to ooze from the fresh wound as you cut.

After you’ve carved out a good chunk of your arm, you reach over to the wound and begin to peel the skin away until it hangs down as a loose flap! They can now see directly into the open wound.

And now for the best part… close the flap of skin and your arm visibly heals itself. Wipe away the excess blood and you’re as good as new. It’s absolutely unforgettable.

Flesh Wound offers three jaw dropping must-see surprises – you cut yourself and bleed. You then peel your skin back so spectators can see right into your arm. You then finish by completely healing yourself. If you like you can produce a coin, folded chosen card, or other object from the open wound….

Warning, choose your audience carefully for this effect.

Reset time is under a minute, and it works with any knife and any skin color. It includes the custom Flesh Wound prop designed by veteran Academy Award winning animator David Spafford. You also receive blood supplies plus a performance and explanation video-CD detailing the entire routine.

We have a further supply of Flesh Wound currently in stock at the bargain price of £32, post free. (Previously sold at £40.)

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A few frame-grabs from the video of Ashton Carter’s Mysteriosa presentation at The Magick Lounge.

It’s been a busy few weeks here at the Lounge with the IBM British Ring Convention and magical vistors from Germany and Canada, but more of that later. For now, a quick reminder that we are hosting an appropriately seasonal performance and lecture by Andy Cooper under his stage persona of Ashton Carter on Thursday 6 October.

Ashton will be presenting his Mysteriosa show and then talking through some of the effects and presentations. The show has been well received by audiences around the country including several nights in a London theatre and is Andy’s own take on Bizarre and Storytelling Magic.

Ashton Carter takes you on a strange journey into the paranormal and the bizarre. Blending storytelling, magic, theatre and illusion, Ashton will raise goose bumps and send shivers down your spine. Could you be the most psychic member of the audience? How do you gain entry to the most secret of secret societies? Can a bell really foretell disasters? Where did Ashton’s Great Great Aunt meet her final moments? All will be revealed by this spooky entertainer. Warning: Contains dark humour and may make you question reality!

Start time is 7.30 pm at The Magick Lounge, 82 Broad Street, Sheffield, S2 5TG.  Admission £10, but free to Sheffield Circle members.

An interesting post from Chris Walden in today’s Shadow Digest touched on the creation of alternative universes.

Isn’t the creation of an alternative reality the basis of all magic? Whether we (apparently) make ghosts walk, reveal fragments of the future, make coins disappear, or even (dare I say?) have a wooden duck find a playing card…

Without that we are presenters of puzzles, or displayers of skill. Nothing wrong with that; but it’s not magic.

Perhaps that is what attracts some of us to bizarre magic, in which the story — the temporary creation of an alternative reality — is central.

If the focus of our performance is to fool our audience I believe there is something missing. Indeed, many spectators may feel a little aggrieved. It’s “fun to be fooled”? Not always. As magicians we may enjoy that; some equate it with being made to feel foolish. Or being challenged to seek a solution.

The magic isn’t in the puzzle, it begins in the narrative — the story — which surrounds and supports the trick. Only then can the magic happen where it’s supposed to happen… in the minds and hearts of our audiences.

To put it another way, aren’t our tricks the illustrations to our stories? And doesn’t our craft lie in the way we bring them together to truly tickle our spectators’ ‘wonder muscles’?

Tell me what you think. I’d like to know.