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Back in Black

by Mark Edward, Dec 18 2010

Awhile Back at The Magic Castle

After over ten years of banishment, I'm happy to announce that I have been granted permission to perform my mentalism act at Hollywood's Magic Castle. This hasn't been easy to accomplish. The history and reasons why it has taken this long to get back on track with the Greater Magic Community is a tale of how skepticism and magic can sometimes collide.  Secret societies and magical training are the stuff of legend and even today, the selling or giving out of any perceived magical knowledge is a tricky business. There has always been a very thin line between magic and psychic fraud. And that's been the crux of the issue for many, many years.

The Glory Years in The Houdini Seance Room

During the time I worked The Houdini Seance Room through the late 90's, everything went smoothly enough. I learned a lot, was fortunate enough to have great teachers and was grateful for the opportunity to work in an area of performance art where few if any mentalists are given the chance to practice. It was a heady blend of fun and educational growth. As I became more and more involved with the lore of mediumship, that interest took me into the realm of psychic readings. This soon became a powerful addition to the portrayal of the Medium. The modern medium travels light, depending on verbal deception rather than props. 

Unfortunately at that time, doing readings with Tarot cards, Palmistry or anything outside of tricks and illusions was frowned upon by those magicians unfamiliar with magic's applications to mentalism and mediumship. The uneasy truce between mentalists and magicians is a conflict that I never fully understood. It seems that magicians consider mentalism an unskilled and vagabond appropriation of the much more technical side of magic that includes sleight of hand, illusions and stage craft. Granted, the practice of a skilled and confident sleight of hand artist or stage illusionist may indeed seem much more highly polished and slick than giving a Tarot reading or reading a mind, but therein lies the true nature of misdirection and deception. Both schools of thought are about entertainment; no more, no less. Back when magic was spelled magick, I seriously doubt whether one was judged against the other in such a way. In fact it's my belief that alchemists and shamans far out shined the mountebanks and street buskers of olde as far as popularity and – power. People believed in necromancy and witches and a juggler was just a juggler – or as in the French appellation of an itinerant street performer – a jongleur. Things haven't changed much.

The trouble began when I became aware of the power of doing anything supposedly psychic for lay audiences outside the cloistered walls of The Magic Castle. I quickly learned performances of this nature (without benefit of any disclaimer) could be a profound experience for everyone concerned – especially me. Where my sleight of hand coin tricks garnered mild appreciation for their clever moves and chirpy banter, a solid palm reading drew long lines of seekers eagerly awaiting a few precious moments to speak with me. Whoa – what a revelation!

All this time I was close friends with Michael Shermer and on the Editorial Board of Skeptic Magazine. Michael got me more and more involved with the skeptical movement and as I was drawn into that early group by its honesty and commitment to critically looking at all things paranormal, I also began doing lectures and television programming with him. We did two episodes of “Exploring the Unknown” together; one dealing head-on with  psychic readings and another on seance mediumship. Both were presented with the intention of explaining how the tricks of magicians and early performers like The Davenport Brothers, could (and still are) used by fake mediums and psychics to give the impression of communication with the spirit world.

Since the days of Houdini, this unfortunate dilema has been dogged by magicians as “exposure.” Whereas some people called me a hero when I put the damper on the blatant cons perpetrated by Rosemary Altea on the Penn & Teller pilot episode of “Bullshit”: “Talking to the Dead, “*  many other people (particularly magicians) went on a rampage to have me removed from any magical group worldwide that hired me. To this day, I'm officially banned from lecturing or being paid by any organized magic club or group affiliated with England's prestigious Magic Circle. Can you believe it? The NBC program “Secrets of the Psychics Revealed” * that I took part in pretty much put the kibosh on my magical career for many years.  BTW: I still stand by the cons I revealed for NBC.  If it took tipping one little trick that is in any kid's magic book to keep one person away from the clutches of another John Edward or Sylvia Browne, it was worth it.

Nowadays, just about any magic trick ever conceived is available in a few clicks on the Internet. So what was the big deal? I pushed buttons, that's what. And I have payed a dear price for those pushes. With my sights set on targeting outright fraud, I stepped into territory where no man or magician dare go. Called many nasty names by many people in magic, I lost so-called friends and was unfairly painted with a broad brush as an opportunistic exposer.  Whereas I was once upon a time ostracized by magicians for doing “professional psychic” work, after “Secrets” aired, I was literally blacklisted for all these years for taking a stand against fake psychics. There was no pleasing magicians. I have learned the hard way that the only way to stay gainfully employed as a magician is to remain somewhere in the middle of the magic road, where it's safe to stand amongst people who don't rock the boat too hard.

So okay,  I'm starting all over. I'm going to be a good boy now. I'll will perform in the standard fashion I know will please everybody. There will be no exposing, no ridicule of magicians, no blood capsules, pentagrams, trance talking or button pushing for now. I'm out to play the game with the wisdom gained through painful experience  and keep my de-bunking to a venue where it belongs: Right Here.

Conjuring New Magick 2010

Am I becoming more conservative?  Naaahhhhhhhhhh. Just keeping my options as open as possible! There's no use biting the hand that might feed you, especially in this economy. Never fear, I'm still on the trail of those who might make use of the tricks of the magician's trade to defraud the public, but I'm treading that road like the frightful minefield it can be. 

If you are in the Los Angeles /Hollywood area over the Holidays and would like to catch my act, I'll be at The Castle from Dec. 20 -26th, (with no shows on Christmas Eve of Christmas Day) Three late shows per night: 10:30, 11:30 and midnight. Pure mentalism with no balloon animals.  Email me at markmindreader@gmail.comand use the code word EDGE so I will know you are coming from skepticblog, and I will see what I can do about putting you on my guest list. The Castle is especially festive and warm this time of year, so please join me in celebrating a new year – and a new me. It should be a fun week.


* Video clips from both of these television shows can be viewed at my website:

11 Responses to “Back in Black”

  1. steelsheen11b says:

    No balloon animals? I’m out.

  2. Chrios11 says:

    I’m happy to hear that you got things all worked out. Maybe now that you’re back in, you can be a positive influence on the Magic folk. Good luck with that.

  3. MadScientist says:

    Congratulations Mark. So – what do you see in the future?

    I find it hard to believe that anyone would be upset for what you did on Penn & Teller’s show. I didn’t think any of that stuff was even considered secret. Now I understand why Penn gets so pissed off and says “they should write a new —– act”

  4. Anita Ikonen says:

    Congratulations Mark for your official welcomed return to magic! I had no idea of the personal sacrifice you underwent, and good that you no longer have to choose between the two worlds magic and skepticism since it is clear that you belong to both!

    The field of magic as a whole should follow to embrace skepticism and join its cause in fighting harmful practice of its methods. Magic should remain something more sophisticated and responsible and distance itself from the average woo fraud conducted by any heartless imbecile. At a slight cost of some of the mystery and secrecy of magic, exposing the methods and joining skeptics would greatly serve the public and add a certain value to mentalism.

    I too endure a lot of resentment and opposition from both sides as I try to merge the two irreconcilable worlds woo and skepticism. I look up to you for inspiration and courage along the way.

  5. WScott says:

    Welcome back, Mark!

  6. Robo Sapien says:

    Mark, the Magician’s Union will not stand for this. Our tricks bore the piss out of everyone, but we will protect their secrets at all costs! This is war, buddy!

  7. Kitty says:

    Glad you are BACK! it takes a lot of talent to be a psychic. Well, unless you are Allison Dubois, then it just takes a whole lot of nuttiness!

    Seriously, can you get invited to a “Real Housewives” dinner party?

  8. Wendy Hughes says:

    Naturally, I read everything backwards… my comment on the next blog post would have been more appropriate here. xoxoxo Wendy

  9. Beatrice says:

    Check you out . . . you were quite a handsome young man back in the swingin 70’s Mark. Check out those threads and the lapels, foggedaboutid lmao. . .

    I’m feelin groovy!