Rich Hill’s Magic &
Story and photo by Paul Minnis
Life took a magical turn for Rich Hill one day long ago, when the third-grader visited the shop of a Fort Wayne magician.
The child saw card tricks. Illusions. Mysterious boxes that seemed to swallow up whatever was dropped inside, perhaps sending them to another plain of existence. Hill was hooked, and a dream began to form in his young mind.
One day he would become a magician. He would wow his friends. He would spark the very sense of wonderment in others that he himself experienced. He decided then and there that he’d own his own magic shop.
Forty-some years later, Hill, now 53, has opened that shop. You can find Rich Hill’s Magic & Fun Emporium in downtown Nashville, among the Antique Alley Shops at 75 S. Jefferson St. An accomplished magician in his own right, Hill stands ready to amaze any curious boy, girl, or skeptical adult who may wander inside.
The shop is the latest addition to his business. For years, Hill has built and sold illusion equipment and props to other magicians. His online website showcases stage illusions like the Crystal Casket, in which a seemingly empty, glass-sided box is covered with a cloth. When the cloth is removed, a person appears inside. His website also has card tricks like Final Card, a classic take on a this-is-your-card illusion that uses a colored wheel.
Eli Rodriguez, who, along with Hill, co-owns the Nashville magic shop’s parent company, RH Adventures, said Hill is naturally gifted.
“Magic has always been his secret thing,” Rodriguez said. “He does stuff around here that is just mind blowing.”
Rodriguez said that showbiz mentality springs naturally from Hill’s passion for theater and teaching. The magician was a theater major in college, and he uses that skill every day in his performance of magic. Teaching opportunities arise all the while, as Hill reveals how his tricks work during one-on-one and group tutorials.
Hill demonstrated on a recent Monday by wadding up a dollar bill, placing it in his left hand and coaxing it on with his right. The dollar bill twitched, turned and rose slowly from his palm. The magician waved both hands around the levitated dollar, showing that the impossible really is possible, if only the onlooker is willing to believe.
Then there was the Traveling Jewel trick. Hill showed how brightly colored stones affixed to a tiny stick could shift with the flick of a wrist. Flick once, both stones crowd onto the same side. Flick again, the stones disappear.
And let’s not forget the behemoths. Hill told of a box he built that is large enough to hold a full-sized person. A woman would lie down inside, and the magician would saw the box at two points, effectively dicing the woman into thirds. At the end of the trick, the woman would walk away whole again, completing the illusion.
You won’t find that one in the shop. The space is much too confined. Hill stocks his shelves instead with knickknacks, many of which, like the bigger tricks and props, he makes with his own hands to supplement his business.
The magic sticks and the floating-dollar kit? Those are his. He loves to demonstrate those and many others to anyone who happens to pop in. He reveals the tricks’ secrets only after the customer completes the purchase.
The illusions are really the whole point, after all. To give those secrets away early would hurt sales.
Hill has a first-hand theory as to what possesses people to reach into their wallets for something they know isn’t real. He used to be a wide-eyed child himself. It was the reason he returned to performing magic in the shop and booking events like birthday parties after a 15-year hiatus to concentrate on building props for magicians.
“Kids believe in everything,” he said. “There’s a kid who resides in each of us. We lose track of him as adults, but he’s always there. Magic is a willing suspension of belief. It instills a nurturing feeling, and that’s what’s so cool about it.”
Hill said that although the shop opened only in October, he already has gotten a glimpse of how popular it could become. During spring break, many children and young adults saw the shop and stopped in on a whim. Many left with their jaws hanging open, mystified at the illusions Hill conjured up for their enjoyment.
The spring and summer months will provide more informal data about how well a magic shop can do in Nashville. Hill has no doubt. He said he eventually would add more shelves to his small shop, relocate to a larger space and continue to invest in a community that gives artists like him a chance to demonstrate their wares.
Starting the first weekend of June, he will hold a twice-
daily magic show. Stay tuned for details.
Hill’s magic shop is one of only three in Indiana.
But is it the best?
The proof is in the poof.
For more information about the Magic and Fun Emporium call (812) 720-7029.