Like any relationship, the one we have with reality is built on a foundation of trust. Jumpers trust gravity to decommission their misery, just as pilots look to aerodynamics to avoid the same fate. Plants root in the soil, the world is round, taxes are certain, death is inevitable and people can’t bend metal with their minds. We need these rules, and we trust in their predictability.
Andrew Wigglesworth is the kind of guy who challenges that trust. A roving, Squamish-based magician, Wigglesworth likes to poke and prod the expectations people have of reality. He’s the type of guy who rolls into local bars on his wheelchair, pulls a fork from his pocket and, without further ado, bends it between pinched fingers.
Most people know there’s a trick behind the magic, so unshakable is their trust in the properties of cutlery. But some people go into shock.
“One girl,” says Wigglesworth, “she looked me in the face and she was truly frightened. She looked at me like she was terrified, like, for her life. She kneeled in front of my wheelchair and said: ‘You have to stop doing this. It’s wrong.’ Then she picked up the fork and threw it across the parking lot.”
As far as relationships with reality go, this little incident is the equivalent of watching your wife cheat on you. Even after Wigglesworth let her in on the secret, the girl refused to believe him. Her faith had been utterly shattered.
“She thought I was a devil,” he said.
Magic first impressed Wigglesworth when he was about six or seven. David Copperfield performed in a Vancouver hotel and, as was his tradition, he strolled the lobby afterwards, meeting fans and signing autographs.
“I asked him why he didn’t pull a rabbit out of a hat,” laughs Wigglesworth. “You know what he said? ‘That one’s old.’”
Even then, Wigglesworth knew there was something behind the magic, some quick trickery that eluded the eye, which is one of our central tools for building trust with reality. Now in his 20s, Wigglesworth didn’t get serious about magic until a few years ago. Since then, he’s become something of a nightlife entertainment fixture in Squamish, wheeling through boozy mobs with a pocket full of coins, a deck of cards and that damning cutlery. He even has a consultant in a Granville Island magic shop proprietor.
You necessarily develop a good understanding of human psychology when your hobbies hinge on playful deception. As such, Wigglesworth is schooled in things like audience management, the impact of timing and the doings of the human eye.
“It’s called a guise,” he says, “which is where they’re gazing. A huge part of magic is controlling that. If they don’t see the secret part of the trick, then it didn’t happen for them.”
The psychology, he says, is the hardest part, infinitely more difficult than the trick itself. Because Wigglesworth specializes in sleight of hand, his trick repertoire is based around his fingers. That requires an intimate rapport with his audience, members of which are usually seated right next to him. Their eyes are dead focused on his hands, and he needs to check that focus for just a second before completing the trick. There are myriad ways to do that, but one of them is to invoke a memory in the audience; people’s eyes move to the corners of their sockets when they try for recollection, a movement that happens unconsciously. It can be all the time in the world if you’re quick and in control.
But, as with the girl and the fork, trickery can sometimes be a sketchy business. There is, Wigglesworth says, a contingent of people known as magic-haters.
“People get mad at me all the time,” he says. “Magicians I’ve talked to say people like to be tricked. I don’t always think so. People don’t like to feel stupid, especially if they think they’re pretty clever.”
On the other hand, some people love consensual deception. Wigglesworth recently went to the Children’s Hospital in Vancouver, where he performed for a young cancer patient, himself quite the magic buff.
“It was very, very rewarding,” he says.
Anyone looking for a similar experience can e-mail Wigglesworth at firstname.lastname@example.org. Just don’t go throwing his forks around. As it is, they’re already in high demand and low supply in the drawers of the family home.