CLARKS GREEN — Ben Knox spends a lot of time with a deck of cards in his hands and it shows.
The Clarks Green resident, 19, shuffles them as he speaks, the cards gliding effortlessly from one hand to the other. His deft fingers occasionally flips cards on the top of the deck face up — first the six of spades, then the four, then the aces of hearts and diamonds.
While Knox has worked his craft with other objects, including coins, Rubik Cubes, rubber bands and pencils, there’s just something special — magical even — about a deck of cards, Knox said.
“I just like the versatility with them. With 52 pieces of paper, you can do so many different things with them,” he said.
Knox would know. He is a magician, after all.
The 19-year-old has been performing publicly for about three years at events ranging from opening for comedians and community events to private parties. Though he was always fascinated with magic, inspiration to make it a hobby came after seeing a commercial featuring one of the heavyweights of illusion, Criss Angel.
The ad proclaimed Angel the “magician of the century,” so Knox checked him out on the Internet and watched shows featuring Angel to see if he lived up to the moniker. The magic proved impressive, but something the master said also piqued his interest, Knox said.
“He was talking about how [magic] can be a perfect icebreaker for many kids who want to interact with others,” Knox said.
For Knox, social interaction didn’t always come easy, said his parents, Mark and Denise Knox. When he was very young, Ben Knox was diagnosed as being on the autism spectrum. Over the years, social skills proved a challenge for him. They were happy he showed an interest in magic, in part because he had to work so hard with therapists and school work over the years because of the diagnosis.
“For so much of his life, it was like, work, work, work, and he did it, but to find something he wanted to do, we were just absolutely thrilled,” Denise Knox said.
So Knox went to work, learning tricks with the aid of a magic kit and YouTube. He performed first for his family. His older sister, Olivia, proved a tough critic and a big inspiration to improve, Knox said. She could catch on to the secrets behind some of the tricks and point them out, Knox said.
He knew he was getting better when he started “finally fooling the skeptic,” Knox said.
Over time, he found Angel’s insight proved correct, Knox said. He’s made friends through magic and performing has helped him hone conversation skills, he said.
“Magic was the kickstarter of my confidence,” Knox said.
While he’s largely self-taught, Knox has also learned some chops from local magicians and has attended Tannen’s Magic Camp at Bryn Mawr College for a few summers. Other alumni of the camp over the years include magicians Michael Carbonaro, David Copperfield, David Blaine and actor Adrien Brody, who once portrayed perhaps the most fabled magician of all, Harry Houdini.
Knox works daily to refine tricks in his repertoire and learn new ones, usually for about two or three hours a day. He can see magic being a pastime for him for many years, he said.
“For right now, I’ll see what the next gig is,” Knox said.
CONTACT THE WRITER: COVER@TIMESSHAMROCK.COM; 570-348-9100 X5363; @CLAYTONOVER ON TWITTER
For more information on Ben Knox or to book him for an engagement, check out Ben Knox, Magician on Facebook, call 570-233-5459 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.