Joe has plenty of tricks up his sleeve
DO you believe in ESP?
You will once you've spent time with Ipswich magician Joe Lewis and witnessed his extraordinary card tricks.
The 85-year-old is believed to be the oldest practising magician in Australia and is well known in Ipswich by his stage name 'Anton the Magician'.
His business card refers to him as 'Amazing Danton' and it is hard to argue with that title.
The QT visited Joe in his 'magic room' in his Ipswich home and the first trick he showed me was a cracker.
Joe holds a pack of enclosed cards in front of me and tells me the deal:
"There are 51 cards in here face up, and one is face down," he grins.
"You are going to name what it is, because unbeknown to you I have been zooming the card in.
"Have you felt the power?"
I had to say "yes" in answer to that, because Joe does have something happening in that area.
I then nominated out loud that the Jack of Clubs was my card.
I was watching Joe's hands closely to look for any trickery, but could detect none.
Joe then took the cards out of the packet and found the reversed card and handed it to me.
Lo and behold, yes, the face down card was the good old Jack of Clubs!
"It is not a trick," Joe says with a grin.
"It is a demonstration of ESP.
"Science recognises five senses, but there is a sixth…extra sensory perception."
Joe performs the trick a few more times for me and my offsider, photographer Rob Williams.
Each time my nominated card is the one that is face down.
"There are quite a few magicians who know how this is done but do not do it because it is too hard," Joe says.
"One said to me, 'I get nervous and I stress too much'.
"But in my opinion, that is the best card trick in the world."
Another trick had Joe clenching his fist and stuffing a green hanky into it with his other hand, all the while telling me there was "a trap door" in his hand.
He unclenches his fist and holds his hand up, only for the hanky to be gone.
He then clenches both fists, opens them and the hanky mysteriously reappears.
"There's a trap door…microsurgery," he grins.
"It costs thousands of dollars, but I wouldn't advise it."
Joe, born on August 20, 1930, has been practising magic since he was 10 years old.
"To my knowledge I am the oldest person doing magic professionally in Australia," he says.
"My mother was an Irish war bride of the First World War and she took me back to Belfast to meet her parents when I was nine.
"On board the boat I saw a magician come on and do quite a lot of tricks, and that got me going.
"But when we went through the Suez Canal the 'Gali Gali magicians' came on board and did what we call 'the mango tree trick of India'.
"On board the boat they had a mound of dirt, they put a mango seed in the dirt, cover it with a cloth, say the magic Gali Gali words and whip the cloth off and there would be a real mango tree growing there.
"That just blew me away.
"About 10 years ago the magic profession came up with a version of that trick…and I will show you that now."
Joe then shows me the trick.
He shows me an empty cylinder and places it on a board, then he says the magic words, lifts the cylinder and a blooming plant with red flowers miraculously appears.
It is a trick that Joe uses to complete his shows.
Another card trick that Joe has is the deck of cards that changes colour in front of your eyes.
He uses a deck of 'Bicycle' cards used in all the US casinos, not a trick deck, which has all the cards with a blue pattern on the backs.
Joe shuffles them and it is clear they all blue.
Then holding the blue-backed cards to me he says "that's not blue. That's a scam. That's a fraud. That's a swindle. That is actually red."
He then takes the top card and puts it to the bottom while the cards are face up. When he turns the deck over the backs of the cards are all red.
He sifts through all the cards and it is clear they are all red.
Then he says: "When I came here today my head was all blank…and when that happens the whole deck goes blank."
Joe then turns the cards over and all the faces are blanks.
"But that's no good to me. I need faces to do tricks," he says.
He turns the cards over and shuffles, and when he turns them over all the faces are back.
It is an impressive trick.
"When I was a kid there was a magic shop and for two or three bob you could buy a trick pack that would do that very trick, but it was only years later that I decided I would invent my own version of it," Joe says.
"It is not in any book or on any tapes that you get nowadays."
Over the years Joe would buy tricks from magic 'dealers' from all over the world and then fine tune them with hours of practice.
He also learns from other magicians who often tour Australia and give lectures.
Joe is a favourite of Ipswich residents where his magic acts have entertained thousands.
"Swags Restaurant was across from Big W in Booval and I got a booking there two nights a week, three hours a night for eight and a half years," he says.
"That really honed my skills and I can do things without thinking now.
"I am still practising every day.
"My father was a bookmaker, and I was a bookmaker for 16 years.
"He used to bring friends home for the races for a party every Saturday night and they were all conmen and card tricksters.
"They'd show me all the card tricks in the world.
"I am a barber, but I was always doing magic part time. When I came to Brisbane in 1967 I started doing it professionally."
Joe has 20 doves and does numerous tricks with them, making the birds disappear and reappear at the click of his fingers.
"Seven or eight are trained for the one trick and I have got to work them all the time," Joe says.
"All the magicians use doves because they are very tame and easy to train. They are very smart."
When he was a kid his namesake Joe Lewis was the world boxing champion and young Joe soon learned how to handle himself.
"I was nine years of age in Innisfail and because my name was Joe Lewis the kids used to line up after school and want to fight me one at a time, just because my name was Joe Lewis," he grins.
"So I became an amateur boxer and fought as a featherweight."
Joe is also the fastest runner in Australia in the 80 to 85 age group.
He has won the 800m and 5000m national titles…and adds that there was "no trickery" involved.
Joe, the president of the Queensland Society of Magicians, has a magic den at home in Ipswich where he keeps all his paraphernalia - oodles of packs of cards, a fake thumb, swords for swallowing and a library full of magic books.
He lives with his biggest fan, who is unlike many magicians' wives in one respect.
"I go into banks and when they find out I am a magician the tellers are frightened that I will get into their money," Joe grins.
"I say, 'no, you're OK'.
"It is because my wife Rene always wants me to do tricks wherever we go."
*To book Joe for a show call him on 32811417 or 0422 132072.