Secrets of an illusionist
By Mersiha Gadzo
As 14-year-old Alexis Mayorca pulled out his ten-dollar bill from his wallet, a crowd encircled around him. All of the students watched attentively, eager to witness another incredible magic trick.
Slowly, he unfolded it. Upon seeing the imprint on the bill, the crowd broke out into excitement, screaming simultaneously at the top of their lungs and running around the courtyard.
“Let me see! Let me see!” many of them shouted as they all tried grabbing Mayorca’s bill, trying to inspect it closely themselves.
Sure enough, upon closer examination, they saw it was really there- the imprint of the quarter was marked on the bill.
“Holy shit!” “Oh my god!” they shouted.
“It’s not valid anymore!” another student teases Mayorca, referring to the bill.
Standing farther away from the dispersed crowd, smiling while watching the enthusiastic crowd react to his trick, is 18-year-old Jake Ryle, or as others call him, “The next Criss Angel.”
At his former high school, Silverthorn Collegiate Institute in Etobicoke, everyone knows him for his magic tricks, which he would often perform during breaks, school performances and even during class.
After graduating last year, he came back for a visit one late November afternoon, just as classes were ending, to show some tricks once again to his former audience.
The students start piling out of the front entrance doors, and once they see him, they immediately start asking for his tricks.
“Yo, Jake! Are you gonna make yourself disappear?” asks one boy, laughing, as he walks towards him in the courtyard.
In the past, students have witnessed him fuse a toonie and a loonie together into one coin. In another trick, a spectator signed their initials on a toonie. Ryle then swallowed it and pulled the same toonie out of his eye, with blood gushing down his face.
Today in the school courtyard, he holds a jack of hearts card one minute, turns it over to face him, swiftly blows on it, and as he turns the same card over again- it’s a four of diamonds.
“It’s pretty weird how he does this shit,” said 14-year-old Peter Perovic, a spectator. “He doesn’t even change it [the cards], he doesn’t put it in his pocket, he doesn’t even have those long sleeves [to hide them.]”
But, it’s the imprint trick that garners the most attention today. Ryle told Mayorca to keep his bill in his wallet. Ryle then drew a small line on a quarter with his blue pen. (Another boy offered his blue pen, but Ryle needed his own blue pen specifically).
He kept the quarter clenched into his fist, blowing on it a few times. Rubbing his fingers together, bit by bit, he slowly unfolded his hand, to show an empty palm- the quarter had disappeared.
“Now, I want you to open up your wallet,” Ryle told Mayorca.
“Take out the bill.”
An anticipating silence ensues for a few seconds before Mayorca unfolds his bill.
“Open it up,” Jake said.
That’s when the shrill screams start ringing out from the courtyard as they marvel at the feat.
The screams of wonderment are what Ryle loves most about being an illusionist, as he explained at the local McDonalds, just down the street from the school, where he sometimes performs.
“People love to see things that are impossible right in front of their very eyes. That’s the art of it. That’s what I love doing,” Ryle said.
Just the other day he made a girl scream so loud after seeing his card trick that they almost called security, Ryle said laughing.
He’s determined to follow in the footsteps of the famous American magician Criss Angel ever since he saw him on TV one summer four years ago. Angel was performing a stunt where he was set on fire, and fire extinguishers surrounded him, trying to put it out.
Ryle was shocked to discover that one of the fire extinguishers ended up being Angel himself. From that moment, he was hooked on magic.
Just by looking at him, you wouldn’t be able to guess that he can pull a toonie from his bloody eye. He has blonde hair, blue eyes and rosy cheeks- contrasting Angel’s gothic look.
Sitting at a table at McDonalds, wearing a black leather jacket, he’s glad to explain which tricks have garnered the loudest of screams.
For one of his tricks, he wrote his initials on a deck of cards. He then asked one of his spectators to roll up their shirt sleeve to see his initials imprinted clearly on their arm. It leaves spectators shocked, gaping with their mouths wide open.
“I call that telegraph,” Ryle said. “It’s short for teleporting autograph. That one got a phenomenal reaction. It’s not easy to do. It’s all about psychology too.”
Ryle explained there’s a reason why they’re called illusionists.
“It is an illusion, it’s not real,” Ryle admitted. “That’s the good part, it’s all a trick.”
They’re cleverly made illusions mixed with psychology, which make these tricks possible to pull off.
“From the audience point of view, when they would think about it [the trick], they would always think of the magic part, not the logic,” Ryle explained. “They would think, ‘how is that magic possible?’
“They would freak out, but really, if you think of the logic, when you figure it out you would think ‘oooh, that’s the way to do it.’”
Ryle has spent over $2,000 worth of DVDs over the years, imported from the US to learn these tricks. Often, he would be surprised with how simple the tricks really are. It seems so obvious, once he finds out how it’s done.
Just like every illusionist, he won’t give away how he does his tricks- not even to his parents. But, he did give away one beginners’ mentalism [the art of reading one’s mind] trick for us.
An illusionist would ask the person to think of a number from one to ten. While the illusionist stares at the person intensely, displaying showmanship as if he’s trying to read their mind, he would quickly draw a number in the air, like the number seven for example.
This movement would catch their eye subliminally. The person would think of the number seven without realizing why they chose this number.
You would be forcing them to think what you want them to think, Ryle explained.
“It freaks people out,” he said, laughing.
“Sometimes I would get lucky, and oh man, the reaction is just incredible,” Ryle laughed. “That’s one secret I can let you know, the rest I can’t.”
It’s psychology, trickery and use of props that create illusions.
Props can cost hundreds of dollars, Ryle explained. They’re used for all tricks, from making a toothpick disappear to levitating oneself or disappearing.
One Youtube video shows Ryle holding a large black sheet in front of himself. He waits for a few seconds, and then quickly pulls the sheet over his head. In the few seconds that he lets go of the sheet, it falls flatly to the ground and Ryle is nowhere to be seen.
Students at Silverthorn C.I. agree it’s the most amazing trick they’ve ever seen on video.
So, how come Ryle won’t be showing off that trick this time at Silverthorn’s courtyard?
It’s because his props broke and it takes time to fix them, Ryle explained.
“I’d explain further about how they broke but then you would know how to do it,” he laughed.
These tricks have left students at Silverthorn baffled, marveling how it’s possible to be done.
Angel exposes many tricks similar to Ryle’s, such as levitation, on his TV show.
He shows himself wearing a special type of black pants with hidden panels and magnetized shoes, which appear to be his feet to the audience. In reality, his legs are hidden inside these panels.
He makes sure he stands right in the centre, with his back facing the spectators. Angel explains, he’ll distract them while he unveils the secret panel from his pants and stick out one of his legs (dressed in black tights to blend in) to step up slowly on a ledge.
From behind, where the camera is filming, it really looks like he’s levitating.
“Remember, it’s important to create some misdirection,” Angel explained on the show. “You don’t want them concentrating on your legs at this point, you want them looking elsewhere so you can do the dirty work, which is probably the most difficult part.”
He distracts the audience by raising his arms, looking up into the air, pretending that he’s floating in air, while he discreetly pulls his leg out, to stand on the ledge.
But, don’t illusionists ever feel bad for tricking people so easily like this?
“People love that wonderment, that’s why I do it,” Ryle said.
He remembers his first magic trick that he learned- making a coin disappear. One day, while he was at Centennial Park in Etobicoke with his family, he went up to a kid and did the trick for them.
“Their facial expression was unbelievable, I never got that before,” Ryle said smiling. “So, I thought you know what, I’m doing magic.”
Performing tricks successfully isn’t easy. Learning how to levitate a duffel bag took him two years to learn, Ryle explained. Sometimes his fingers are covered in bruises from rubbing coins and cards too hard, trying to carry out a trick.
But the hard work is worth it in the end, when he sees his spectators left bewildered.
“He’s the devil!”
“He’s possessed!” the students yell at the courtyard outside.
15-year-old Ahmed Dirie tries to unseal two cards with his fingers, which Ryle somehow put together into one. On one card, Jake signed his name. A volunteer named Nicole signed her name on another card. Now the two cards have been fused together into one.
“What the fuck? That’s one card!” Dirie said, giving up.
“No, no, no, no, no. That can’t be. It’s fake. That’s not logical,” his friend insists.
They have no idea how Ryle did it, and that’s just the way he wants it to stay- an illogical illusion.