Inspired by Houdini’s escape stunts, Steve Spade plans to re-enact the bulk of Houdini’s classic feats. Introduced to magic at a young age, Spade continues to perfect the art of mind-control, escapism and close-up street magic.
What led you to magic?
My uncle was a magician. He used to show me bits and pieces every now and then. It built from there, as I got more into it he started giving me better books and he would teach me tricks. I think I always had an interest in it. For my 7th birthday I got a Paul Daniels magic set. I found it recently when I was cleaning out my attic, it’s hilarious.
With magicians like Derren Brown and Keith Barry becoming widely recognized through their TV shows, do you think performing magic is becoming more demanding?
Yeah, it is getting more demanding, but it is good because it is giving magic another spark. Dynamo is coming back on the streets, and David Blain is doing a ten-year anniversary show. It’s nice to see how magic has developed ten years on.
The wooden box stunt you performed in 2011 was one that created a lot of hype. Why did you choose to perform this stunt?
It was for the ISPCC, and a guy called Simon Baker who is an amputee was walking from Dublin to Limerick for charity. So he asked me to come along on the day to do a few card tricks and mingle with the crowd. By the time I got out of the meeting I was being nailed into a wooden box and chucked into a river.
What kind of training is involved with that stunt?
I did some stuff with the Marine Search and Rescue in Limerick and then I did shock training, which expands your lungs. You are dunked under water, pulled back up and then dunked again. You literally only have ten seconds to take a breath before you are pushed back under for ten seconds, so it expands your lungs very quickly.
Is it your intention to concentrate on the classic Houdini style tricks?
Yes I always liked the classic Houdini style stuff. I like illusions too, but if you go to Vegas and see a ‘secret box trick’, it is the box that is doing the trick, it’s not the magician per say. So I never really liked that side of it, but I do appreciate it. I like the organic side of things. That’s why I like close up magic, because it is all in front of you and nothing is hidden.
Magic is, above all else, a performance. How long would it take for you to perfect a trick?
They are all different. With stunts, you know if you don’t put in the work then it is going to go bad. The hardest part of the wooden box stunt was being nailed into the box and wrapped in chains because any right-minded person would know “this isn’t good.” So it is mind over matter. You only have so much time to escape and if you panic, you lose time and then it gets dangerous.
What is the best reaction you got after performing a trick?
I was in Boston, in a park doing card tricks. The card was wrong, and I handed it to the girl wrong. Then I clicked my fingers, asked her what her card was. She turned her hand over and it was the right card. She didn’t react at all, she just looked at the card, turned it over, dropped it, took a few steps back and started pointing and screaming at the card.
I saw an amusing video with you and Dublin based magician Shane Gillen. Is there a magic community or is it quite secretive?
There are societies all over the place, and the Magic Circle in Britain. It is secretive and a community all in one. There’s older magicians that don’t see the younger magicians in the same light, but that’s the same in all industries.
What is the future for magic? Are card tricks out dated? Is it all about the big stunts and mind control?
I think there will always be a place for the close up stuff. People see it on TV but they think it’s fake until you do it in front of them and it is nice to see people believe it. Magic is like any type of art, there are different aspects within it. It goes from everything to manipulation magic, to escape, to illusion, to close up. The master magicians are the ones who do it all.
Can you give anything away about your next big stunt?
It is happening on Sunday, 26th of August in Dublin. It is a dangerous one, but a real Houdini classic. I want to keep re-enacting his work, so if you look through a Houdini back catalogue, I’ll be doing them all!