To call Aiden Sinclair an illusionist, or even a stage magician, would be oversimplifying what he does. I first caught his act at Dragon-con three ago, and was most taken by how he wove a story that took me back to another time period. His act invokes elements of Victorian spiritualism, as it centers around a theatrical séance. He takes the stage with an impressive collection of haunted artifacts and uses them to make time stand still within the stories he envelopes his audiences in. Delving even deeper into the other side, Aiden has a residency at The Stanley Hotel, which is hailed as the world’s most haunted hotel. While The Stanley also served as inspiration to Stephen King’s classic novel The Shining, it is also where Sinclair met and later married his wife. So I caught up with Aiden to discuss not only what it is like to perform in such a notorious haunt, but to discuss the lines where theatrical magic and the real world of the supernatural meet.
Loved the show we caught Friday night. How did the rest of your shows this weekend go? How is it to take the show on the road?
Aiden: It was great. Fully grown adults and children were volunteering to sit on the floor, we tried to move things around enough to get people into the space; as a performer, you hate to have to turn someone away who’s been waiting there for an hour. The first time I did Dragon-con, I didn’t know what to expect. I saw this line of people outside the room, so I assumed they were waiting on whoever was in the room next, until the guys running the track said, “No, they are waiting to see you.”
So I am always humbled by how fans demanded me back. Dragon-con is after all a fan-run convention, and there was a time earlier in the year when it looked like I might not have been asked back, but the outpour online made it happen.
It’s a testament to how you connect with people in a more intimate way than just pulling rabbits out of a hat, so to speak. How do you see yourself being set apart from traditional stage magic by creating more of interactive story telling experience?
I think most mainstream performers are focused on the trick. Max Maven one said “We have taken what was once extraordinary and profound and made it trivial”
It’s more about the experience and connecting with the audience. Howard Thurston who performed the floating lady act known as “the Levitation of Princess Karnac” knew to set the foot lights just right. He also knew children are honest in their reaction. So he would bring a child on stage and all the audience would see is the child’s expression with it’s mouth open and eyes wide, but Thurston would be leaning over and whispering to it that if he told anyone his secret he would kill their parents.
Before every performance he would sit in front of his mirror in his dressing room and chant to himself.
“I love my audience, I love my audience, I love my audience”, to remind himself that they were his existence.
Penn & Teller are also some of the most appreciative performers. They always run to the back to make sure they can shake everyone’s hand and look them in the eye to make that connection and ensure everyone has a good experience and did not walk away feeling like it was contrived. Which is why I always try to do the same thing because at the end of the day it’s about that connection with your audience.
When it comes to the performance, there is always an element of improvisation. There are any where from 4 to 8 things on stage that might not work into the show just depending on where it goes. So it’s like playing jazz in that regard vs classical music where you as the performer are in control.
With the séance, before the performance we announce the show might illicit an emotional response, what it is that we are doing and that it’s not just someone doing card tricks. Maybe once every six months some one will get up and walk out. They might be devoutly religious , like Jehovah’s Witness are allowed to take part in that. That’s disappointing because if they stayed they would have had an entertaining evening. Though in reverse I have had a woman raise her hand with questions , and I told her if she did not enjoy herself the box office would refund her money and it’s rewarding that she stayed and later told me how much she enjoyed it. But I am willing to gamble a night’s wages on that every time because I want to have an emotional impact that is what is truly magical.
What is it like performing in the worlds most haunted hotel? I know you used some suggestions in your to half separate what the show might bring up from what the audience takes home with them. But in that environment there must be different boundaries
I was playing a show in one of the ball-rooms of the Stanley Hotel and I saw this woman on the first row and she looks up set and I noticed the lights flicker, but it’s an old hotel, but more and more she keeps looking over at the piano in the corner.
“I asked if she was ok and if she needed to talk, as she was to the point of tears.
“I don’t believe in ghosts, I upset. Did you see the lights flicker? Did
“ Did you see the woman standing by the piano? She was telling me in my mind to tell you that she likes your show.”
We tend to think of haunting as just places where people experienced trauma. People went to the hotel and spent their summer’s there, so they wish to remain in a place were they have theses great memories So that might be heaven, remaining in those places that brought us happiness.
Everyone is haunted. Our child selves haunt us, since on a cellular level ,all our cells have died off and regenerated so we are physically different, that child no longer exists.
Which brings me to another question I have. As a performer of stage magic where do you see the cross over into the energy used in ritual or high magic?
The television show we are currently looking to get off the ground addresses that, as there are people who have these beliefs and it’s a very genuine experience. Of all the mystery schools I am most familiar with Wicca, lot of it is grounded in what the series the Dresdan Files describes well is about that has a lot to do with intent. Jim Butcher is a great writer. What I do 20 to 25 percent of it is visualization. I have no control . You never know who you are going to get, I can look over some one and get a read, but an OCD person is more than likely going to pick the joker. So I can try to discern that. In a sense it’s improvisation like jazz.
I’m not sure if you saw the documentary ‘What the Bleep Do we Know About the Universe” but it talks about how everything is connected. Ghosts play into that. The interest in spiritualism has ebbed and flowed reaching its first peak during the Civil War when people were experiencing loss. Dies off and then returns during the World War 1 and 2. Then in the 60’s with the Vietnam War it sees resurgence and Parker Brothers mass-produces Ouija boards. Then in the 80’s it went away. Since 911 Paranormal investigative shows and ghost hunters have popped up all over natural TV. So we are now in a resurgence of supernatural .