Magician Ian Flinn ’16 Conjures Curiosity November 9
The magic show and book signing will begin at 7:30 p.m. on Monday, November 9 in Hynson Lounge, Hodson Hall on the college campus. Co-sponsored by the College’s Miller Library and the C.V. Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience, the program is free and open to the public. Conjuring Curiosity, published by the magic company Dan & Dave, will be available for sale after the show.
In his new book, a concise history of magic researched and written with help of fellowships from the Starr Center and Miller Library, as well as support from the Department of Psychology, Flinn unravels the rich pedigree of the “secret-driven art form.” Much of his writing was done at the Custom House, where he is a student associate at the Starr Center.
Using primary sources from the Library of Congress, the Conjuring Arts Research Center in New York, Miller Library archives, and online databases, Flinn uncovers fascinating material—from Captain John Smith’s reputation as a conjurer among his Native American captors to the story of America’s first documented professional magician. The son of a New England tax collector and his African-American slave, Richard Potter became the most celebrated American magician of his era, according to contemporaneous 19th-century accounts.
A clinical counseling and psychology major, Flinn also describes a study he conducted under the aegis of co-advisors psychology professor George Spilich and Starr Center Director Adam Goodheart, in which he measured people’s perceptions of magic tricks performed in different eras. “It was very hopeful, because we discovered that people are just as astonished seeing a video of a trick performed in the 1940s as they are of a trick performed today. It seems that magic, that sense of wonder, is timeless.”
Flinn, who has been a devotee of magic since he was 7, says he wrote Conjuring Curiosity to fulfill a need for a good, short history of the art. “Everything was like an almanac, a huge book, and I wanted to make a more accessible platform for people, a small snippet they could read quickly and understand,” he says.
An award-winning magician, Flinn has performed all over the country and done standing-room only shows in Chestertown—at the Harry Potter Festival and the Chestertown Tea Party and at the College. But he wants his readers and his audiences to understand that magic is “so much more than card tricks.” Magic is a word we use to describe the impossible, anything we don’t understand, he argues. At its best, it inspires wonder. But it has also inspired fear—and persecution.
“Working on this book made me so happy,” he says. “Anyone can learn to do a magic trick, but it is so much deeper than that. People died for this stuff, and the fact that I can do it now, entertain others, give people a little bit of hope when reality stinks—it’s so cool to have the power to do that.”