Have you ever seen anyone overreact to the performance of a magician? I’m not talking about a typical response of “Wow! That was a really good trick!” or even a “Ok, THAT was cool!” I’m talking about the kind of reaction where someone maybe screams or runs away or starts crying.

I’ve always loved watching magicians. I much prefer the close-up kind of magic and sleight of hand stuff as opposed to the big spectacle of disappearing tigers or national monuments. My fascination with magicians was big enough at one point for my mom to take me to a magic store so that I could get the tricks and perform them myself. That was utter disaster. I quickly found out that being able to do the trick immeasurably paled to experiencing the trick. I didn’t want to KNOW how to do it. I wanted to watch it and be amazed, even though I know it’s not really “magic.”

So it amazes me when I see someone freak out over some magician making a coin disappear or “magically” know which card you picked out of a deck. A while back, there was this guy in the racquetball league at the YMCA. We’ll call him Walt. Seemed like a good guy. Funny, bright, easy to talk with. Well, one evening while hanging around in the hall waiting for our court times, one of the other league guys (Ed) brought up the fact that he knew a wizard. A wizard who he could call on the phone and who would be able to tell what someone what card they were thinking of. Of course, everyone demanded proof. So Ed asks Walt to say the name of a card. Walt picked one, let’s say the 6 of hearts. Ed borrowed a cell phone, put on the loudspeaker so we all could hear and called The Wizard. He made some small talk, saying where he was and asking if the Wizard had heard from some sort of mutual friend yada yada yada. Then he went ahead and told The Wizard that he had a guy there who was thinking of a card and no one believed that The Wizard could guess it. The Wizard said, “Well, I’ll prove it. 6 of hearts.”

That was pretty fucking awesome. Everyone registered the amount of shock and surprise you would expect them to show at how such a spontaneous and unplanned event played out. It was fun and of course there were the questions. “How’d you do that?” “Oh come on, really! What’s the trick?” and so forth. But Walt was stunned.

Now, it just so happened that Walt was the guy I was scheduled to play that night. Our time came and we went into the court. As soon as the door closed, Walt said, “How did he do that?” I was smiling (cuz it was a good trick) and told him I didn’t know. Well, because I was smiling, Walt didn’t believe me. He started getting angry. “Don’t tell me that! You know! Tell me, please!” I assured him that I didn’t know and that there was certainly some trick to it. That’s when Walt said, “Things like that are unnatural. Black forces like that can cause big problems.” He was visibly shaken.

So at this point I was thinking, “Cray-zee.” But I told him that there was obviously some kind of code in the small talk or something that Ed said to tip off “The Wizard.” Walt wanted to know what that code was, because he sure didn’t hear any code. So I explained, “That’s the whole point of HAVING a code. What fun would it be if the code was blatantly obvious?” Walt didn’t want to hear any of it.

It ended up with Walt quitting halfway through the fist of what was supposed to be 3 games. He said that he was dropping out of the league and would not rejoin if Ed was going to be in it. He didn’t want to risk being around that kind of stuff. And he never came back.

Now that’s something I just don’t get. I mean, really. In the 21st century, how can anyone honestly believe that mystical, dark forces were invoked and psychic abilities were called into play just to tell someone which card they were thinking of?