Spooky Tricks

Spooky Tricks

The Retroist has shared quite a few embarrassing stories from his childhood with us in the podcast, and I thought it was time for me to do the same. When I was in grade school (maybe 3rd grade?), I did a magic act for our school talent show. I went on stage and performed a few tricks. I had no costume, no repartee with the crowd, and no real talent, and I accordingly got no applause. Not from my fellow students. Not even from the teachers. The auditorium was deathly silent as I stumbled my way through my act and even more silent as I took my bow and sat down. It remains one of my greatest shames to date. What possessed me to do such a foolhardy thing? Spooky Tricks by Rose Wyler and Gerald Ames.

Spooky Tricks was a book I had somehow gotten my hands on in those young days. It blended two things I was quite fond of: magic and ghosts. The book not only instructed you how to perform some simple tricks, but it illustrated these instructions with some very evocative pictures of specters and other spooky things.

I recently acquired a copy of this book. I hadn’t remembered that it was “An I CAN READ Book” (and I was really surprised when I discovered it was), but I had remembered just about everything in it. I found memories on every page. There are things from this book I still do today, such as put a tube to one eye so I can see “holes” in my hand. There are too many pages I remembered to show here, but this is a small sampling.

There was also a ghost helper called Willie who featured in several of the tricks, and a two-headed ghost who popped up in the beginning and end. They were more charming than scary, and I stared at their pictures for long amounts of time.

Looking at Spooky Tricks today, I think it is a strange thing to give kids. Even though it isn’t dripping with evil, it is still a little off in its talk of spooks and death (there is one trick in which you “stop” your pulse), and I probably wouldn’t give it to my daughter. I’m glad nobody stopped me from getting it back then, though. I’m glad I had it. I just wish it hadn’t convinced me to do that magic act.

Find a lot more great scans from Spooky Tricks here.


Doug is a child of the 80s who was raised in Ohio and is now living the life of oblivion in the bay area of California.

This Post Has 6 Comments

  1. Oh, wow. I grew up with a hand-me-down copy of this book. I was a huge fan for pretty much the same reasons — ghosts, magic, how to stop your own pulse — what’s not to like? In practice, I found most of these tricks too difficult to do convincingly, but that may have to do with the fact that I was six or seven years old.

  2. I remember having this book as a kid, pretty sure I ordered it from Scholastic Book club in grade school. Remember a trick to make it look like you were sticking needles into your thumb inside a handkerchief with the sneaky use of a carrot.

  3. Yeah, I didn’t scan that one, but I did it in the show. Didn’t go over as well as Willie led me to believe it would.

  4. I remember having that book when I was in first grade. I remember the severed finger in a box trick. I seem to recall there being some more traditional tricks like the rope trick or cups & balls in there too, but I might be mixing it up with some other book.
    I was actually thinking about that finger in a box trick & the book I read it in not too long ago, but I couldn’t begin to remember just what that book was. Thanks for posting this.

  5. Yeah, there was a finger in the box trick. You can see it on the page I linked to. Glad this brought back memories for you.

  6. Oh, Doug…thank you friend for posting this! When I saw the cover those squeaky wheels in my brain started to grind just a tad faster with the memories of reading it on the school bus on the way home. Great find, man, great find! :)

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