Abracadabra, and Then Your Money Disappears

Tanya Butchick watches Wayne Alan
Tanya Butchick watches Wayne Alan "cut" Morgan Cully in sections. (By Susan Biddle -- The Washington Post)
By Peter Carlson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, July 24, 2005

Wayne Alan held a yard sale at his suburban house in Riva, Md., yesterday, hoping to get rid of stuff that was cluttering up the place -- a levitation machine, two tables designed for sawing ladies in half, a box used to make rabbits disappear, and, of course, some body parts.

"If anybody wants a body part," Alan announced to the shoppers, "we have these mannequin pieces here."

He smiled. "They do cost an arm and a leg."

Alan, 54, is a professional magician. He has been working theaters, conventions and trade shows for more than 30 years. And he has accumulated a lot of tricks -- or, as he prefers to call them, "illusions."

Some people lose their illusions. Alan decided to sell his, or at least the ones he no longer needs. So he organized this yard sale and -- to ensure that no trade secrets would leak out -- admitted only official card-carrying magicians.

About two dozen magicians appeared, from as far away as Norfolk and New Jersey, shelling out $10 to ponder Alan's illusions.

"This is a sword levitation," said Jack Julius, 44, a magician from Annapolis. He was squatting on the grass, checking out a device containing three long, curved swords. "You take the girl and you lay her down on top of the swords. You remove two swords and the third is still sticking in her neck."

"That sounds like it could be dangerous," said Julius's wife, Tanya, 34. She looked a tad worried, which wasn't surprising, considering that she would be the "girl" lying on the swords if Julius bought the illusion, which was priced at $600.

"You just have to stay straight and be hypnotized," Julius said. "It's like acupuncture. It's like you're lying on a bed of nails, except it's three swords."

He looked very calm about the whole idea. She did not.

A few feet away, Louis Hofheimer peeredinto a red steamer trunk.

"This is a nice box," said Hofheimer, 43, a magician/security consultant from Alexandria. "How much does he want for this?"

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