Harrison Carroll by Christian Painter

Nov15 coverUnless you’re a working professional, you may not have heard of Harrison Carroll. For twenty-four years he learned, practiced, and worked to hone his magic skills. After careful consideration, at the age of thirty-three, he then began his career as a professional magical entertainer. For the next thirty years, he had quietly lived the life most magicians only dream about: traveling the world performing magic. Harrison is an interesting gentleman. I believe you’ll enjoy his story.
Harrison grew up in Buffalo, New York. At the age of ten, he and his buddy Ray Mertz discovered Gene Gordon’s magic shop. It was a wondrous place that fired the imagination of two young boys. Harrison and Ray would save up their allowances and ride the bus to the magic shop together. Since they had limited funds, they would pool their money to buy a trick and then share it. Ray would have it one week; Harrison would have it the next week.

As time passed, Harrison and Ray started going to different schools and lost touch with each other. Through high school and college, Harrison continued to collect magic books and tricks. He was always practicing and working on his sleights. Then, when he was twenty-three, he met up with Ray Mertz once again. Ray convinced Harrison to come to the Forks Hotel, where Eddie Fechter performed.

Eddie Fechter owned the Forks Hotel. It was an unimpressive-looking restaurant, with a handful of bowling trophies that lined the wall. Other than an array of magician photos it looked like a typical neighborhood bar; on Monday through Thursday, it was. However, on weekends there was a transformation. The place would be packed. It was a go-to spot for entertainment in western New York. Eddie Fechter was the master of bar and close-up magic. Magicians traveled hundreds of miles to perform for the patrons and learn from Eddie.

On any weekend, you could see Michael Skinner playing the pasteboards as tables shrieked in laughter and amazement. The hugely popular Karl Norman worked the bar to the delight of the audience. You might see Derek Dingle performing his famous effect, Rollover Aces. Lou Gallo could be seen spinning his coins as patrons gasped. Doug Henning frequented the Forks Hotel long before he became a television star. At the head of it all was Eddie Fechter, who decided who got to perform in this wonderland of magic.

Harrison didn’t know it at the time, but his masters class in magic was about to begin. He knew a lot of sleights, but had yet to develop as a performer. For the next year, Harrison sat quietly, watching and absorbing the work of all the gurus of magic who worked at this mecca of legerdemain. Harrison went to the Forks every weekend and learned from all these heavy-hitters of the close-up world. As he put it, “I kept my mouth shut and stayed on input mode only.” It paid off for him, because after a year of coming to the Forks Hotel, Fechter turned to him and said, “There’s a group in the Rug Room that could use a magician; would you mind doing their table?” Harrison knew that this was the go ahead to start working the rooms. He was being welcomed into the clan.

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