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What are the BEST Magic Shows (in Toronto) for 2024?

Magician with crystal ball in Toronto Ontario

Turn off Hockey Night in Canada and switch it up for a change. Head out into the magical streets of Toronto, one of Canada's most vibrant cities, and treat yourself to some head-scratching, mind-blowing and down-right mystifying magic. There are many choices to an evening filled with wonder and delight. Catch the latest big stage act coming to "a theatre near you", or keep it casual and join one of the regular acts in town for an entertaining evening of mind-reading, illusion and prestidigitation.

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Toronto Magic History

The Toronto history of magic shows
From left to right: Ross Bertram, The Moccasin Game, James Randi

Toronto is the fourth largest city in North America. Cityscapes, scenic wonder and ethnic variations too many to claim are what makes this capital of Ontario a mecca of commerce and culture. This super city of skyscrapers provides avid entertainment and things to do for visitors and its 2.8 million inhabitants. Exciting and scenic, this super old city (wiki said 12,500 years. Truth? Who knows) is known for its festivals and upscale nightlife. Arts are a primary focus here and so it is no surprise that magic has found a home in Toronto.

Before the Europeans even arrived in North America, the indigenous peoples were using cowrie shells to perform rituals and show off their so-called supernatural powers. A little sleight-of-hand with some shells, and lo-and-behold all the villagers are convinced of your powers! Many tribes also played a game called the moccasin game which seems at first a lot like the magicians shell game. The shell game often left the player broke due to it being more of a con artists trick than a fair game. In the case of the moccasin game, however, the pebbles hidden in the moccasins were not magically manipulated and the two teams would honestly compete to find the hidden pebbles, stacking up points for each correct guess. Less flim-flam, more fun. It wasn't until the late 1800s that what we think of today as performing magicians started to tour, with both Canadian and international talent bringing their illusions (and cons) to eager audiences.

One notable Toronto magician, Ross Bertram, had a long and distinguished career in Canada as a close-up magician. He was best known for his incredible sleight-of-hand magic with coins. He spent most of his teens working, as his father had up and left the family, and he often found jobs that required he use a variety of talents including playing saxophone and performing magic. He continued to practice and perform when he could and eventually met with the now famous Canadian magician Dai Vernon in the 1940s. Dai was very impressed with Ross's magic and was soon spreading the word of his fellow Canadian's talents. Ross was eventually invited to be part of the Stars of Magic series and contributed with Series 9: Ross Bertram on Coins.

James Randi was a contemporary of Ross Bertram albeit sixteen years his junior. James endured 13 months in a body cast as a teen and spent a great deal of time reading books about conjuring. Soon he was working in a carnival roadshow and eventually took the name The Amazing Randi specializing in escape tricks. He still holds the Guinness World Book of Records for being in a sealed casket underwater for an hour and 44 minutes, breaking Harry Houdini's record of one hour and 33 minutes. He went on to be a strong proponent of debunking those with supposed paranormal and supernatural skills, most notably Uri Geller who made a career out of bending spoons. He wrote many books and articles on the subject including the book Flim-Flam! which Penn & Teller mentions as being a serious influence on him as a magician.

Other well-known Toronto magicians include Sid Lorraine, Jay Sankey, Gary Kurtz, and David Ben, who is the sole protege of Ross Bertram. Toronto has certainly been the birth-place of many talented performers whose contribution to the world of magic is significant. And it continues today to produce serious practitioners of the art-form, whose talents continue in tricking us to believe that magic really does exist, like villagers in those early indigenous tribes.

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