Eleven Questions with the Market Magic Shop

with William Pennington


The art of the magician has always fascinated mankind. While we (as humans) fail to create any real sense of magic, there are two sides.  One, the magician as performer, on stage, creating the illusion of magic.  The other, the magician killer scientist, debunking the myth that any sort of magic exists whatsoever.  While I will always hope that magic exists in real life, I can't get my hopes up too much, for fear that scientists will always prove it otherwise. 

I emailed the Market Magic Shop in Pike Place Market this week, hoping to get my magic fix with an interview with the owners.  Instead, they asked their resident magician, William J. Darkow (a.k.a. The Amazing William), to ponder my questions, stew on them, and produce the best possible answers money can buy for free.

The Market Magic Shop is one of my favorite places to go inside Pike Place Market.  Right across from the Giant Shoe Museum, it houses an eclectic mix of old and new in the world of magic.


I'm really interested in the history of magic shows in Seattle. Is Seattle known for anything unique? I guess what I mean is, what place does Seattle have in the magic scene, historically?

Seattle had its fair share of vaudeville houses, and Houdini is known to have performed here a number of times.  Alexander, “The Man Who Knowsalso performed during that era and had a home in the NW corner of Washington State.  I have in my collection a video of a performance Harry Blackstone, Jr. did at the Seattle Opera House in the early 80’s.  David Copperfield and Penn & Teller regularly sold out The Paramount on their touring shows.  Doug Henning also played The Paramount during his heyday.  The Moore occasionally hosts touring shows, and a Google search of  “seattle magic show” will often yield results.  Drop by the shop, if there’s a show coming up, we probably know about it.


Have you ever sold used or vintage magic kits? It seems like 50 year old magic kits would have some kitsch value, no?

We do have some on display in the front window of the magic shop.  Do a Google search on “mysto magic set” for more information.  Gilbert Mysto Magic Sets are much prized by collectors.


Could dark matter be the key to real magic?

Short answer: no.

Longer answer: I don’t think so, but a lot depends on your definition of real magic.  I instead refer you to Clarke’s Third Law: “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”  For more on Arthur C. Clarke’s laws, click here.

I have yet to receive any inquiries from theoretical physicists on the nature of my work.  Nor do I expect a professional magician to win, much less be nominated for the Nobel Prize in Physics anytime soon.

There are plenty of amateur and professional magicians in the fields of science

Persi Diaconis and Martin Gardnerto name but two.

The late Richard Feynman was a fan of magic, and regularly corresponded with “The Amazing” James Randi


When do science and magic connect?

Magicians, mentalists, and illusionists are practitioners of the art of deception.  To succeed, it certainly helps to understand and be aware of the science of human perception and psychology.  We use our knowledge and understanding of human behavior to create the illusion of supernatural events.  In other words, I am a professional liar, but I deceive only to present the most entertaining lie possible.  I prefer not to foster any belief in the supernatural, and the more I learn about the art of deception, the less I believe in the supernatural.


How often does someone notable or famous come into your shop? Your blog seems filled with interesting people.

It’s hard to predict when a celebrity will drop in, but I’m pretty sure it happens here more often than it does at, say, a random grocery store.  It’s almost guaranteed if a magician or magic enthusiast  is visiting Seattle, a visit to Market Magic is on their agenda.


What’s next for the shop? How would you like it to grow or expand? Any regular events planned?

Hard to say, I’m not in charge.  I certainly hope Market Magic is in business long after my broken wand ceremony


The Magic Castle in LA is one of the coolest places in America. Any chance of anything similar opening up here? Ever?

That would be cool.  Makes me wonder if Bill Gates is a magic fan.  Or Steve Ballmer.  Paul Allen, maybe…


Have you ever been approached by a film crew about shooting a scene in your shop, or by anyone needing reference material for a film?

Here is George Takei filming a commercial at our shop.

And here is a new short film called Trickshop, which will be partially filming at our place (IMDB, Facebook)


Can performing magic sometimes act as a coping or defense mechanism for some magicians?

Magic is empowering.  I remember meeting a young magician some years ago who did some of the most beautiful and smooth sleight of hand I’d ever seen, but who could barely string together three words at a time.  Fast forward a dozen years or so, his magic chops are phenomenal, and he will talk your ear off given half an opportunity.  The ability to mystify your fellow creatures does wonderful things for self-confidence.


What is the biggest misconception about magic?

A couple spring to mind:

“Oh, I could never do that.” – C’mon, chances are you can.  Read the directions and practice a bit, you may surprise yourself, as well as others.

“I know how you did that.” – That’s nice.  Maybe you do.  But what if you’re wrong?

“I wanna do the trick just like (insert popular magician name here) did.” – Uhh, no, not really.  Do (insert popular magician name here)’s trick like you’d do it.  Even better: it’s much cooler if folks are saying that about an original presentation of your creation.

“Magic scares me.” – Relax.  What I do works only because I know something you don’t.  If you knew what that was, you would understand your fear is unfounded.

Also, the notion that what magicians do is somehow demonically inspired.  Nahh.  Though I’ll often (jokingly) say, “Yes, I am in league with the devil, but the duties are largely ceremonial.”


And why does it seem to be male dominated?

Well, some hundreds of years ago, certain women who displayed knowledge and abilities beyond the understanding of current science were persecuted for “dealings with the devil”.  As society has become more enlightened, that attitude is changing, but far too slowly.

However, the most recent Magic Castle Close-up Magician of the Year, Suzanne the Magician is a sign of progress.  Watch her on “Penn & Teller’s Fool Us” as she attempts to fool them with a band-aid.