“Spooky Tricks” by Wyler and Ames: Willy the Ghost and a missed extortion opportunity

Posted: January 15, 2013 in Books, Magicians
Tags: , , , , , ,

spookyIt always gets me psyched when I find a book I loved as a kid online.

It’s kind of like Googling the name of a childhood friend and finding him. Even if you don’t intend to look him up or anything, it’s cool to say: “Hey! I remember that guy!”

This book was called “Spooky Tricks,” by Rose Wyler and Gerald Ames. I got it out of my school library when I was in grade school.

It featured a bunch of magic tricks for kids with a ghostly, Halloween-ish theme. Such as holding your fingers up in front of your face to create the optical illusion of a floating, “phantom” finger. Or making a coin disappear. Or summoning the demon Baphomet from the depths of Hell.

Just kidding about that last one. Although these days, the mere presence of a book incorporating magic tricks and any mention of Halloween in a Catholic school library would probably be enough to make some ultraconservative types get their pristine undies in a bunch.

Anyway, it was a great book. My personal favorite trick? A written message from “Willy” the ghost.

See, the supposed assistance of a ghost named Willy was a running theme for tricks in the book. One of them involved writing a message from Willy on a piece of paper in lemon juice.

Then you were supposed to invite your friends over. You say “My friend Willy the Ghost will write a message!” The trick is that you’d lean the piece of paper against a toaster. Then as the paper heated, the words would appear.

As I recall, the recommended message was something along the lines of: “My name is Willy and I’m a friendly ghost!”

I did this by myself, and it was really cool watching the words appear as through written in brown pigment with an invisible hand.

I never invited any of my friends over to see this trick. Because … well … much as I loved that book, I sensed even at the age of 7 that the trick was predicated on your friends being a bunch of dim bulbs who wouldn’t attribute any particular significance to the fact that you depressed the button on a toaster and leaned the paper against it before the message appeared.

In retrospect, of course, I could have hidden the toaster. If I had it to do over again, I might try that.

But instead of the recommended message, I would have made it something along the lines of: “I’m Willy the evil ghost! You can’t see me, but I look like a flayed human corpse with long fangs and glowing red eyes! Leave all your money on the table and get out, or I’ll be under your bed tonight, motherf**ker!”

Maybe that’s why I’ve never struck it rich. I lack that entrepreneurial instinct.

  1. Carlette says:

    What a little trickster, that ole Willy!

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