John C. Bunnell

Magic, insists stage illusionist Adrian Ware, is entirely a matter of imagination, not supernatural ability.  But is he fooling himself?

Only Your Imagination
Marion Zimmer Bradley's Fantasy Magazine

Issue #4 • Spring 1989

cover not available

This story was originally written when I was in college, and arose from a discussion with a good friend and classmate who was himself a professional magician at the time.  (Patrick has since changed careers, and is now a veteran Broadway stage actor....)

 

Read an Excerpt....

"Psychic abilities aren't dishonest," Frank said patiently. "Last couple of years, Meriwether's psychology department has done some experiments that show definite indications of clairvoyant effects. There's a long way to go yet, sure, and it's not anything like the tricks I sell in the shop. But it's still legitimate scientific study, and it's still ESP."

There was a touch of exasperation in Adrian's amused reply. "We've had this argument for years, Frank, and it always ends in a draw. You insist I've got a closed mind, and I keep telling you it's a matter of professional ethics. Stage magic and ESP just don't mix -- look how most magicians stay as far away from Kreskin as penguins do from the Sahara."

Frank raised an eyebrow. "But look at what Kreskin does, Adrian. Oh, I know a lot of his stunts have been explained away, but that still leaves some very interesting cases. Granted, there's no conclusive proof-- "

"And there never will be," Adrian returned, "because ESP only works when the people who believe in it say it does. You know as well as I do that the laboratory studies always come up ambiguous. There's enough 'potential' for believers to say it works, and enough margin for error that the skeptics refuse to accept the results."

"In other words," Frank said dryly, "ESP is as much a product of the imagination as stage magic."

Adrian's comeback was cut off by another knock on the dressing room door. "What is it?" he called.

One of his assistants pushed the door open and nervously took a step forward. "We've got a problem," he said. "It's the wiring on the Aladdin's Carpet motor. One of the connections is blown out -- it must have shorted during the show, or maybe at the end of rehearsal this afternoon. Only that's impossible..." He trailed off.