By Cillea Houghton
MEMPHIS, TN — For magician Jeffrey Day, it’s the mystifying look on a person’s face when he performs a trick where the real magic lives.
Day was eight-years-old when he attended a school assembly where illusionist Hans Moretti performed and inspired his passion for magic. “I snuck backstage when we were supposed to go back to class and I begged him to show me just one more trick,” Day said. Moretti obliged, showing him the classic nickel behind the ear trick and then taught the young Day how to perform it. “I was hooked ever since,” he said.
Throughout his childhood, Day rented books about magic from the library and found a mentor in Emory Williams, a famous magician in the 1940s whom he met in Caruthersville, Missouri, that also taught him the business side of the craft. “Before I started doing any magic at all, I was a very shy, introverted kid,” he described. “After I was taught that first coin trick, I was the only the kid in the whole school that could do something like that and it boosted my confidence like you couldn’t believe.”
Day turned magic from a hobby into a career after graduating college as a music major, making his money in the summer doing magic shows. His routine has evolved over the years, from escape tricks and a cabaret show to close-up magic performed for a small group of people. Now he ties in his love of history by performing tricks from the 1800s, known as the “Golden Age” of magic, in his show “The Mesmerist.” Based off the word “mesmerism” used in the 1800s, Day performs mind reading on the audience. “It’s nostalgic,” he said of his routine where he dresses up in a 19th century costume. “A lot of these tricks have never been seen by magicians before so when I perform it, they’re just astounded.”
One of his most complex tricks involves calling an audience member to the stage who’s then blindfolded and handed a cup of markers to color in a picture on a canvas. Day instructs them on what items to color in, but doesn’t tell them which color to use. When the blindfold is removed, Day pulls a doll from a bag that’s dressed exactly how it’s colored on the canvas.
Perhaps his most noteworthy illusion is that of the famous Chinese linking rings and though most performers use eight, he only uses two. “I perform this routine to music using two rings and they’re just astounded that they cannot see what is happening,” he said.
Day performs regularly at the Woodruff-Fontaine House Museum, an historic Victorian mansion in Memphis where he feels “so much at home,” is president of the International Brotherhood of Magicians and a member of Opera Memphis.
“I think everybody likes magic. You can find magic in anything in this world, in nature, in music. But with magic, I think when you borrow something from somebody and you’re holding it right in front of them and you make it disappear, the look on the faces – I don’t care that’s a 7-year-old boy or a 70-year-old man – they are astounded and amazed and they want to see it again,” he expressed. “They love magic and I think most people do. I get enjoyment out of watching the faces on people.”
Day will perform at the Dixon Gallery on Oct. 20 and at the Woodruff-Fontaine House Museum on Oct. 27 as part of “Haunted Happenings,” as well as Jan. 19 and 26.