Magician “violates the code” and teaches tricks to teens

Find out why this professional magician presented a program called ‘Violating the Magicians Code’ at Midland Library – and why it turned out to be a good thing …

“Charles the Magician” performs the famous “Mystery of the Linking Rings” at his show and class at Midland Library.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Dating back 100 years or more, magicians’ societies have pledged to adhere to a code of ethics that prohibits them for exposing the secret workings of magic tricks. While the International Brotherhood of Magicians and Society of American Magicians still uphold this secrecy pledge, one man dared to break the magician’s code: Charles the Magician.

As a member in good standing of both societies, we watched Charles the Magician (a/k/a Charles Kraus) with a gimlet eye, as he started his program for 22 teenagers at Midland Library. He called it, “Violating the Magicians Code”.

Kraus performed historically common magic tricks, such as the vaunted “Steel Linking Rings”: Making solid metal rings link and unlink at his – and his helpers’ – command.

After being securely tied up by two young men from the audience, Charles the Magician escapes his bonds in an instant.

As he performed, Kraus talked in general terms about the psychology of misdirection.  “Not only do magicians use misdirection, it’s used every day by politicians and public speakers to emphasize the message they want you to hear, not necessarily what is really happening.”

While performing, Kraus told how, as a youngster, he wanted magic lessons, but couldn’t afford the fees of the professionals then living in New York City. They suggested he go see a man named Jack Miller. “When I got to his house, here is this old man, all bent over.  But when he started to perform, he straightened up; his fingers were nimble and he showed me magic tricks like I’d never seen before in my life.”

His moral: “I learned a great deal from that man. Don’t judge a teacher based on first impressions.”

The playing card Charles the Magician holds in his right hand will soon vanish, and appear in a picture frame – covered with the green striped cloth. He showed the class how to make this trick; we promised not to reveal the secret.

The magician then had an audience member select a playing card from a pack. The card appeared to vanish, and reappear in a previously-shown picture frame. Then, breaking the code of secrecy, he showed the teens how to make and perform the trick themselves.

Finishing the formal part of his program Kraus performed a 15-object memory feat. With one audience member keeping track by writing the items down on a card, he encouraged other audience members to think of objects or animals – and they named objects ranging from a duck-billed platypus to a baseball bat.

Then, he asked audience members to call out numbers; he accurately named the object associated with each number with surprising speed and accuracy.

“This is called associative memory,” Kraus said. “You can learn any of several different memory systems by reading books – books that are right here in the library. Imagine how this could help you remembering answers for tests and other things that you need to remember to help you in school – and later in life.”

Librarian Ann Tran with Midland Library cautiously starts twisting a balloon to shape an animal – but fears the balloon will burst in the process.

Kraus wrapped up his seminar teaching the teens how to shape balloon animals – much to their delight. “There are many books – and now videos – on this subject, also. Read, learn, and you’ll enjoy entertaining others throughout your life.

After the program Kraus told us while he grew up in New York City, “That was a long time ago. I lived in Los Angeles for twenty years before moving to Seattle where I now reside.”

Asked why he chose such a provocative title for his program – one that might make magicians bristle a bit – Kraus replied, “I’m trying to get young people interested in becoming magicians.”

Amateur magicians learn so much about being with other people, not necessarily how to fool other people, Kraus continued. “They learn a lot a psychology. They learn to feel more comfortable in front of audiences. And they learn a lot of science, and a lot about mathematics. There are a bunch of books on magic – and after a program like mine, suddenly kids are reading, when they were never particularly interested in reading before.”

Soon, a whole class full of teenagers are learning the fine art of balloon sculpture from Charles the Magician.

About “giving away secrets”, Kraus pointed out the only secrets of tricks he exposed during the program were those of magic tricks that he, himself, had invented. “I talked about the categories of methods that magicians use, and gave a ’em a peek ‘behind the scenes’. It’s just enough of a peek to get them interested. Perhaps some of these kids will go on to think up their own tricks, which is the really creative part of being a magician.”

About the afternoon show, Kraus observed, “I’m glad to see a lot of young ladies here – I’d love to see more women and girls become magicians.”

Interested in learning more about Charles the Magician, and his alter ego, Charles the Clown? See is official website, filled with stories, tricks, and other cool things for kids: CLICK HERE.

There are lots of great things happening at your Midland Library. CLICK HERE to see our Community Calendar – we list many of these free programs.

© 2011 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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