Tonawanda News

March 18, 2014

CRITTER COMPANIONS: The magic of animals

The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — When I was in high school and working at the Aquarium of Niagara, I learned that ,the following year, magicians were coming to add two complimentary shows a day, six days a week for the summer months.

I had met them when I was in elementary school, first at school and then at one of their shows at the Buffalo Zoo. I was so enamored with their show and their use of real animals, I needed to remember the moment. And since the Internet was in its early days, Twitter and Facebook did not exist and cell phones and cameras were two separate things, my parents took a photograph using a camera. I still have it.

Fast forward to me learning that I would have access to full-time magicians at my workplace, I became beyond excited. I quickly learned their show times and my coworkers quickly learned when I would be taking my two half-an-hour breaks.

Magic and animals seem to go well together. Both have their own entertaining properties. I wondered how long animals have been associated with magicians.

“Since the beginning of time,” said Rob Allen of Magic with Rob & Carol Allen, the very magician who took me under his wing and not only dealt with me watching probably literally 100 of his shows, but taught me several tricks.

“The cavemen performed what’s called ‘sympathetic magic.’  They’d draw animals with spears in them on the walls of their caves, thinking that at the next hunt those drawings would make the hunt successful.”

He also told me that you can see drawings of magicians performing magic on the inside of the Great Pyramids of Egypt. “Magicians are depicted doing tricks with alligators and snakes — some of the tricks are very similar to the ones performed by magicians today.”

Allen became interested in being a magician after seeing a magician at his elementary school when he was 8 years old.

“I took out a number of magic books from our school library and for years enjoyed performing the tricks for family and friends,” he said. “I started making money as a magician when I was 14, doing kids’ birthday parties and Scout functions — it beat delivering newspapers!”

Around the same time he first saw the magician performing at his school, he received a pair of turtle doves as critter companions. He raised them for several years as pets, until almost 10 years later, when he added them into his act at around age 17 or 18. It was then he started seeing magicians on TV working with doves.

In addition to performing magic, Rob is also a collector. Some of this collection includes posters, signed photos and statues of magicians working with animals. He has many photos of Siegfried and Roy, who performed in Las Vegas for years with their white tigers, lions and an elephant.

“I also have a beautiful poster from Germany that was printed in the 1940s of a magician named Kassner that had a huge show traveling throughout Europe,” Allen said. “He made an elephant disappear!”

Next week, we will find out the unique pet Rob has, how he cares for his professional pets and why it is so important for critter companion caregivers, including magicians, to give the best care possible to their animals.