Sunday, December 15, 2013

"I Was Spider Boy" or "Yes, That’s My Severed Head Lying On The Table"

My mother awoke one day to discover that there was a coffin in her basement. Not only was there a coffin in the basement, but a body without a head, two heads without a body, and a giant spider. Technically, it was merely the illusion of a headless body and two bodyless heads, but the coffin was pretty much a coffin.

Explanations are in order. At a young age, my brother Tom had fallen under the spell of Houdini and had set out to follow in his footsteps. What began as a modest collection of small props and magic tricks soon spread its tendrils throughout the basement. In one corner sat a guillotine, in another sat the levitating woman illusion. At the back wall was the cage where he kept his doves. Any self-respecting magician needs some live animals in his act, you see. But when my brother informed our mom that he was picking up a few more illusions, she did not–could not possibly–anticipate what would soon be sharing our home. Our basement officially became a magic room/freakshow.

The equipment he brought home needed an actual living person; a headless body was not very impressive unless it actually moved. Likewise, the head-on-swords only really came alive when the head could speak a few words to the audience. Before Houdini met his wife, his brother acted as his assistant. Since my brother did not at this time have a significant other, I, at the age of 10, was pressed into service and was let into the Brotherhood of Magicians as my brother’s helper. I took props from him when he was done with them, and took care of the doves after he produced them from a flaming pot. I also became the Spider Boy and the Head that sat in a box on a table.

I learned the secret to every magic trick my brother knew. Our debut performance was at my elementary school, performing for the Brownie Troop. This gained me a bit of celebrity status amongst the girls at my school, but the status soon faded when I refused to tell how any of the tricks were done. To this day I have never given away any of the secrets entrusted to me. So don’t ask.

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