CHICAGO — In an unassuming red brick building situated on the corner of North Wolcott and West Lawrence Avenues in Chicago’s Ravenswood neighborhood is Magic, Inc., the oldest magic shop in North America.
“It’s one of the oldest – if not the oldest magic shop on the planet,” manager Pedro Nieves Bosque said.
For one week each summer, in the back of the shop behind a burgundy curtain, the shop hosts a popular magic camp for children from ages 7 to 15.
The campers spend an intense week, learning a series of tricks and illusions under the expert tutelage of Los Angeles-based master magician and comedian Dave Cox.
But, Cox said the real lessons don’t involve concealing cards or waving wands.
“Here at magic camp, we’re developing not just magic skills and the ability to do magic,” he said. “But it’s about confidence and being able to stand up and speak and be understood.”
The skills include learning public speaking, the art of persuasion, creativity and confidence.
“Some of the kids have come in here and they were super shy,” Cox said. “But by the end of just one week together, they’re boldly coming up. They’re saying ‘ta da’ when things go right and they’ve really come out of their shells.”
The magician’s oath is to never disclose the secrets behind the illusions, but the campers shared what they learned in general terms.
“I learned some new card tricks, and we did a lot of fun stuff,” said Kai Sterba, 8, who attended the weeklong camp. “He gave us some things to take home to practice them and he gave us our own card mats so we can spread out the cards.”
Cox said magic tricks have the ability to spark wonderment, inspire imagination, and suspend disbelief.
“That’s the job of magic – to make people feel like a kid again, and these people are already kids,” Cox said. “So, they’re already full of wonder. To see that blossom, and their excitement and thrill about being able to make other people feel that way and make other people feel wonder – and it’s also very empowering to give them skills and things that adults don’t know and can’t do.”