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Magicians Are Wizards

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"89% of magic tricks are not magic. Technically, they are sorcery."
The Fact Core, Portal 2

Fiction generally features two distinct types of magic users:

Characters of the first kind stereotypically wear robes and pointy hats, have long white beards, and can perform impossible feats such as raising the dead, casting spells, and summoning fabulous creatures. We call these kinds of characters wizards or sorcerers (among other things), and they don't exist in Real Life.note  Characters of the second kind wear capes and top hats, usually perform their acts before a wide audience, (or a children's birthday party) and can perform simpler tricks like pulling rabbits out of their hats. We call these kinds of characters stage magicians, conjurers or illusionists, and they do exist in Real Life. Their magic is not real; they use misdirection, special effects and optical illusions to create the impression of magic. As Lee Siegel says, "'Real magic', in other words, refers to the magic that's not real, while the magic that is real, that can actually be done, is not real magic."

Sometimes, in fiction, the lines between realism and fantasy blur, and magicians really can perform feats of magic that would normally belong strictly in the wizards' territory. There are no smoke and mirrors here; the magic is all real, but the audience may not realize this, and think that the magician is relying on the same old sleights-of-hand. There may be subtle differences — their magic may come from a different source, and/or the two groups may operate at different Power Levels (perhaps magicians can perform spells based on manipulating people's perception, whereas wizards can outright modify reality). If there is rivalry between the two factions, it falls under Unequal Rites. If a legitimate wizard really does use his magic for a magic show, then it's a Mundane Utility. If he uses it only for his show, then it may be an example of Misapplied Phlebotinum.

In other words, some Magicians Are Wizards. See also Magitek which in this case can be called "Engineers are wizards" because they make magical technology. If the wizard-magician hopes no one realizes that real wizards exist, his act is an example of Fiction as Cover-Up. When the Fourth Wall audience (you, the viewer or reader) isn't sure, it's a case of Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane.

The opposite of Fake Wizardry, where someone uses stage magic to pretend to have actual magic powers. Compare Our Mages Are Different for differentiating kinds of mages (especially the first kind mentioned above), Magical Clown, which involves clowns and jesters instead of stage magicians, and Circus of Magic, where an entire circus is magical. Contrast Magician Detective, where training in the art of deception have given magicians an ability to see the mundane solution when no-one else can. Subtrope of this is the Occult Detective. Contrast Impossibly Awesome Magic Trick, which is supposedly not true magic, yet is more spectacular than anything possible in real life.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Cat Soup features a clearly supernatural circus performer who dresses like a fantasy wizard rather than a stage magician, and his tricks include bloodily dismembering his assistant, spinning her pieces around in midair, and reassembling her unharmed.
  • In Darker than Black, August 7 was a stage magician before he became a Contractor with powers that seem almost magical. The price of his power is that he must reveal one of his tricks, which might not seem too bad a price for getting superpowers, especially compared to other prices like breaking one's fingers or drinking blood, but it hurts his pride as a former magician and takes away any professional benefit he could get from his powers.
  • Ghost Hunt: Naru with his spoon is variant with telekinesis.
  • Asuma from Hibiki's Magic did his fair share of street performances for kids, conjuring up flowers and birds. War orphan Misaki mistakes this for real magic and is understandably upset when she finds out the secret to his trick... until he casts a well-timed and very real spell to save her from her abusive guardian.
  • In Kaitou Saint Tail, the titular protagonist is a Magical Girl Phantom Thief using stage magic... But she's so good you'd be forgiven for mistaking it for actual magic. Also, the fact she prays for forgiveness before she's not "using gymmicks or tricks" opens interesting questions...
  • Hisoka from Hunter × Hunter could be an inversion. While it's obvious that he's using some sort of magic, he uses clever tricks and misdirection much like a Stage Magician to make his powers seem far more varied than they actually are. For the record, he can create an invisible gum-like aura, and change the texture of objects. That's it.
  • This is what Magical Emi, the Magic Star is all about: She became a Magical Girl and used her powers to become a Stage Magician.
  • The main character of Magical Travel Boy encounters a street magician and is convinced he's an actual magic-user. Which he is...
  • Variation in Magic Kaito where real magicians are the enemy of stage magicians.
  • In one episode of Magic User's Club, Takeo performs magic for a group, and justifies it by saying "since they just think it's magic tricks, it's okay."
  • Uten from NEEDLESS who dresses like a magician and uses the catchphrase "It's magic!", can apparently really do pretty much everything, even breaking the rule of having only one power. In reality, his sole power is making things invisible, combined with carefully prepared tricks and traps, and he uses actual stage magic strategies to distract people to stop them from finding him out.
  • Regalia: The Three Sacred Stars has Johnny Mabett, a minor villain with a stage magician motif that does a lot of things not possible through stage magic.
  • Urusei Yatsura has Tsubame Ozono, an inverted Ethnic Magician who left his native home in Japan to study Western Black Magic. As such, he dresses up like a stage magician. He still wields very real magic, at one point getting into a Wizard Duel with his girlfriend's disapproving Buddhist priest uncle, countering the priest's summoning of obake with his own conjurations of Western monsters such as Medusa and Frankenstein's Monster.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh!: Black/Dark Magician, and to a lesser extend his apprentice, the Black/Dark Magician Girl, has a stage magician and a wizard imagery. He can pull out classic magic tricks, but with actual magic, but he also has access to magic circles and other occult wizard stuff.

    Comic Books 
  • The DCU: Sargon the Sorcerer was a Golden Age hero who used stage magic as a mask for his real magical powers.
  • Hieronymus Borsch: In the Danish comic, the eponymous hero's mentor was a real magician who worked as a circus illusionist. However, he never used his magic in his act — he didn't need to.
  • The Magic Order: Leonard Moonstone and his daughter Cordelia both use their magic powers to act as magicians; he as a regular but impressive stage magician and she as an escape artist.
  • Rat-Man (1989):
    • Spoofed in an issue parodying Conan the Barbarian: the seemingly all-powerful wizard our "heroine" met fought with playing cards, a rabbit and spells from... a bunch of Magic: The Gathering cards!
    • Later, we get a three-issue spoof of Harry Potter in which wizards liberally combine Potterverse-like magic and stage magic tricks. We're even treated to pulling rabbits out of hats for use as projectiles from the top of a castle's walls and a giant top hat used as a siege cannon.
  • Smoke And Mirrors: Inverted, as the illusionist training the protagonist utterly baffles a society made up entirely of wizards because they've never had to think about or study science. They think he's a high level wizard when in fact any of them could probably wipe him off the map.
  • Spirou & Fantasio: The recurring character Ito Kata plays with this. He is a stage magicians who is unambiguously explained as having no magical ability, even though he keeps pulling off stunts that seem beyond what even the most talented magician should plausibly be able to do. For example, he seems at any time capable of producing more rabbits from his hat than its entire volume would allow him to conceal, or one man could carry weight-wise.
  • Tex Willer:
    • The villainous Steve Dickart, a.k.a. Mefisto, debuted as a spy with a stage magician act as a cover (Mefisto being initially his stage name, complete with devil costume). After his initial defeat, however, he eventually returns with actual and vast magic powers linked in some way to the powers of Hell itself, but not through an explicit Deal with the Devil (he feared the consequences of not being able to pull off his own side of the deal and so refrained).
    • Later, we meet Mefisto's son Blacky, who later starts going by Yama, and his past lover and Blacky's mother Myriam. While Blacky starts out as a stage magician who obtains his powers by studying from the black magic books left him by Mefisto, Myriam has minor powers (can see far away events from a crystal ball) while still a magician, and, differently from her past lover and son, never leaves the job.
  • Wonder Woman Vol 1: Hypnota does not have any magic, but they are a telepath who uses their powers in their show while disguising it as a hypnotist act in the middle of all the illusionist bits.
  • Zatanna: Zatanna Zatara and her father, John Zatara, are from a species called Homo magi, and they use their powers for both entertainment and fighting evil. In Justice League, Zatanna admits to using both real and stage magic to give her act flair yet also give it Plausible Deniability. An earlier comic even implies that she actually finds stage magic more difficult since it requires actual practice.

    Comic Strips 

    Fan Works 
  • Child of the Storm has Zatanna Zatara appear in the sequel as an Italian graduate of Beauxbatons and the new Defence Against the Dark Arts Teacher, wielding a form of magic that her parents developed, which merges wandless and wanded styles. However, she mostly seems to use the aesthetic rather than actually working as a stage magician.
  • The third edition of the anthology series Halloween Unspectacular introduces Madame Athena, a stage magician who turns out to be one of the last human practitioners of magic in the world, and one of the most powerful to boot.
  • Trixie Lulamoon of RainbowDoubleDash's Lunaverse is both a competent stage magician and one of the rare unicorns whose mark encompasses all forms of magic. But interestingly, her grandfather, from whom she inherited her mark and proficiency in stage magic, was an earth pony and thus had no spellcasting ability.

    Film — Animation 
  • The Care Bears Movie features a young man named Nicholas, a magician's apprentice who finds a book containing an evil spirit who teaches him to perform real magic... for a price.
  • In The Hunchback of Notre Dame II, Sarousch steals La Fidele by putting a curtain over it and saying some magic words.
  • The entire plot of The Illusionist (2010) is that Alice believes that the Illusionist has real magical powers.
  • In Scooby-Doo! and the Goblin King, The Amazing Krudsky is a stage magician who wants to be a real wizard. He ultimately drains the fairy Princess Willow's magic to grant himself real magic powers.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • Carnival Magic is about a stage magician who secretly has real powers of mind-reading and telekinesis.
  • In Chronicle, Andrew uses his newfound Psychic Powers to do magic tricks at his school's talent show.
  • In Devil Doll, the main villain is a ventriloquist who's really a soul-stealing hypnotist.
  • Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves: Played with. Simon is a sorcerer introduced trying to eke out a living with stage magic. But in a fantasy setting where spellcasting is extremely common, his show comes off as extremely boring and basic, which is fine — because his actual plan is to distract the audience with how bad he is at magic as he pilfers them of their valuables.
  • Most of the tricks in The Illusionist (2006) are impossible without modern special effects. Ironically, the last trick, which wows the audience the most, is actually possible without advanced technology. According to the DVD extras, Eisenheim's effects are largely the result of an Unreliable Narrator, to show how his illusions must have appeared to an audience unaccustomed to CGI. The Orange Tree trick, for instance is a real trick involving an unbelievably complicated clockwork setup, some sleight of hand, and real oranges pinned to the clockwork tree.
  • Philip Swann in Lord of Illusions passed off his real magic as stage illusions. He explains to the man investigating his "suicide" that "Illusionists get Vegas contracts. Wizards get burned at the stake". (In modern-day America?) But consider that his teacher Nix was a Straw Nihilist and an Omnicidal Maniac. In the original story, Swann pretended to be a fake simply as a Take That! to the infernal powers he bargained with.
  • In Hong Kong film Magic To Win, Charlie is a stage illusionist, but also uses his Metal Magic to perform incredible tricks, in the film he as assisted by Bi Yewu, perform an illusion where Charlie divides himself in 4, then one by one Bi Yewu makes each part of his body vanish.
  • Now You See It...: Played with; Danny suspects himself to be capable of real magic, but Max claims to the others he's just pulling a famous magician trick and trying to gain attention through claiming to have paranormal abilities. When Danny is sent to prove his powers for a panel of skeptics, Max's point is proven further thanks to Danny's levitation being the result of a cleverly made chair, and not Danny himself. However, it's then revealed that both Danny and Max really do have actual magical powers, and that Max was just trying to hide things from everyone else.
  • Subverted in The Prestige: the movie explains every trick, and at one point Michael Caine snaps "You're a magician, not a bloody wizard! If you want to do magic, you've got to get your hands dirty." However, Tesla is a "wizard" of a sort, having created Angier's cloning device.
  • Gargamel in The Smurfs 2 has been successfully touring the world using magic in a stage show. The plot kicks off when he starts running out of Smurf essence that powers his magic so has to summon more Smurfs to the modern day.
  • The Sorcerer's Apprentice: Drake Stone was Incompletely Trained and decided to use what he had to make a living with show business.
    Horvath: Did you ever see Morgana pull a rabbit out of a hat?
    Drake: Look, my master disappeared when I was 15, vanished! Left me with nothing but an Encantus and some prescription-grade abandonment issues! So I improvised.
  • In Willow, the title character defeats the evil Sorceress by using sleight of hand to pretend to have made The Chosen One disappear. Bavmorda is so used to true, actual magic that in her amazement she is Hoist by Her Own Petard.

  • In the Deverry novels, Salamander poses as 'The Great Wizard Krysello' in the Bardek marketplaces. Everyone in the audience assumes that he's doing stage magic when he's actually using real magic. Nevyn was not amused.
  • Diogenes Club series:
    • In "Sorcerer Conjurer Wizard Witch", the titular conjurer is The Great Edmondo, who is a celebrated stage magician and also one of the four magic users who defend London.
    • Possibly the Mystic Maharajah of the Splendid Six in "Clubland Heroes", although it's unclear how much power he actually has. One of his colleagues is convinced all his magic is trickery; another comments that however he does it, the important thing is that it works. Catriona recalls that before he joined the Splendids to fight weird crime, he was a low-rent stage performer whom she encountered while investigating fraudulent psychics; perhaps significantly, she doesn't specify whether he himself was a fraud.
  • Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency has Reg, a university dean who performs an impossible magic trick to entertain a restless little girl at a formal dinner. Nobody but the protagonist realizes this, and he decides to investigate. As it turns out, there was Time Travel involved.
  • Discworld:
    • Mostly averted. Real Wizards look down upon mere magicians, and consider being called a magician an insult. However, "magicians" are low-level magic users; the people who saw women in half are called "conjurers". Conjurers don't seem to have any magical abilities at all, but are still higher up the magical hierarchy than thaumaturgists (more or less magical IT guys). It's also stated that conjurers are quite popular: people find tricks done with misdirection and sleight of hand to be more impressive than boring old magic.
    • Also partly inverted with both Witches and Wizards. As noted above, magic is nowhere near as flashy as people think and can be done with everyday objects. As such, they make sure to add as much showmanship to their spells as possible — Wizards tend to use props while Witches usually prefer mind games.
    • However, the basic unit of magic (the thaum) is defined as the amount of magic needed to produce a pigeon or three white balls.
  • In Dragonlance, Raistlin Majere does some sleight-of-hand trick in Demi-season Dragons, with a vanishing coin. Since a major part of spellcasting involves intricate patterns of hand movements, it's not that weird that Raistlin (and others) have a certain affinity for sleight-of-hand tricks.
    • He also shocks (and ticks off) Fistandantilus by using flash powder to pretend to cast a spell when Fistandantilus casts an Anti-Magic spell.
    • Later in that scene, he uses his sleight-of-hand skills (which Fistandantilus considered unfitting of a true mage) to steal his Immortality Inducer without him realizing it's gone, thereby allowing the two of them to engage in a Wizards Duel fairly evenly.
    • Once, a duergar (dark dwarf) was juggling a knife while Raistlin was trying to talk to him. He grabbed the knife out of the air, and the duergar assumed he'd used magic to do so.
  • In The Drawing of the Dark, Aurelianus is a wizard of sorts (in fact he's Merlin), but at one point he is called on to perform some juggling tricks to amuse crying children.
  • The Dresden Files:
    • Averted for Harry's dad, Malcolm Dresden, who was a stage magician with no actual magic. It's specifically noted that he was, in many respects, entirely ordinary.
    • Harry Dresden is a wizard, but his yellow pages ad specifically says he doesn't do parties. Harry seems to know about this trope, and tries to defy it as much as possible... yet people still phone him to ask if he really is a wizard, and not just some magician or charlatan.
      Harry: Magicians do sleight-of-hand. I do real magic.
      • Inverted later in the series, when Harry starts learning how to play Xanatos Speed Chess and masters the Indy Ploy, and begins relying just as much on trickery and misdirection as on brute force to resolve matters for his employers. He also laments that a magician's arsenal contains a wide variety of very useful tricks (like slipping out of a pair of handcuffs) that he wishes he could have learned from his dad.
    • He apparently also gets calls asking him if he's really a wizard named "Harry". He is however, named after three famous magicians (at least) and a city that is famous for being bombed / burned down. Houdini, Blackstone, Copperfield and Dresden. This is Meaningful Name as he is a Guile Hero Occult Detective who has a "problem with buildings".
  • Elemental Masters series:
    • Jonathon Hightower, from Reserved for the Cat, is a skilled stage magician ... and an Elemental Master of Fire. Most of his stagework is sleight of hand, but he enjoys using "real magic" at least once in each show.
    • In Steadfast, Lionel Hawkins is also a stage magician, and an Air Magician, who uses sylphs to help with his magic act.
  • In Forgotten Realms, Finder Wyvernspur did a sleight-of-hand trick with a vanishing lockpick when Olive tried to help him to run away from his second Harpers' trial, just to demonstrate he could have vanished long ago if he thought it was a good idea. May be Shout Out to Raistlin.
  • Aziraphale in Good Omens liked to do stage magic as a hobby. He's also an angel, perfectly capable of doing real magic anytime he wants, but considers that "cheating" while working as a magician.
    • He's also an absolutely dreadful magician - though it is implied that he was once at least competent, and is just a century out of practice. The fact that his grasp of the 20th century, showmanship included, stopped in the 1950s, didn't help.
  • In Harry Potter, the Weasley twins once mention going down to the nearby town to show some magic tricks to a Muggle girl. The tricks are so good they almost seem like real magic, don't they? They also learn more mundane tricks like picking locks.
  • In one of the Heralds of Valdemar novels, a group of real mages make their way across an enemy country by pretending to be a group of stage magicians in a traveling show.
  • In The Immortals' third book, we learn that Numair's hobby is sleight of hand. He actually supported himself as a stage magician for a while when on the run from Carthak, and didn't use real wizardry because the emperor and his court could trace that.
  • Journey to Chaos
    • Eric Watley picked up sleight-of-hand tricks before he learned Functional Magic. Afterwards, he added the two together to create new tricks. He was even hired to perform dinner-and-a-show style in a restaurant.
    • Dengel is a famous researcher and codifier of magic in 21st century Tariatla, but in his own time he was closer to a court jester performing parlor tricks for his clients. That is, when he wasn't helping lay siege to fortresses.
  • Odysseus Grant from the Kitty Norville series does a stage show in Vegas, but when he puts someone in the disappearing cabinet, they go somewhere else entirely. He appears to be some sort of guardian or other. Grant knows both stage magic tricks and real magic. In Kitty's House of Horrors, he pulls a quarter out of a skeptic's ear. He also practices hypnotism, carries around a set of lockpicking tools and can put himself in a state of hibernation which another character says is how real-life stage magicians spend long hours locked in chests or underwater. He finds a hidden half of a locket in record time, but it's never made clear how. He would be the most mundane character in this series, if it weren't for the necromancy...
  • The Last Unicorn: Schmendrick the Magician entertains the sightseers at Mommy Fortuna's Midnight Carnival while they wait for the show to start, but he could "work more ominous wonders if he chose."
  • Prior to the events of The Lord of the Rings, Gandalf was best known to the Audience Surrogate residents of the Shire for his fireworks shows, "some of which were obviously magical." He also tells Bilbo that he should "not take [him] for some conjurer of cheap tricks".
  • In G. K. Chesterton's Magic, the conjuror, it turns out, does know real magic, but he doesn't use it in his act. He has very good reasons.
  • Magic 2.0 is about people from the modern era discovering Magic from Technology and settling all through time. Minor characters Sid and Gilbert work as stage magicians in Victorian England. They don't use their powers in the shows themselves, considering that to be cheating; they do steal more advanced tricks from the future, though.
  • Quentin Coldwater's first brush with real magic in The Magicians actually began with him learning basic slight of hand in the hopes of brightening up his rather dull life, unwittingly getting the attention of one of Brakebills' talent spotters, who sensed some potential in him. Later, one of Quentin's first instinctive uses of real power features Quentin performing a coin trick - and making it disappear for real.
  • Patricia C. Wrede's Mairelon the Magician is a wizard who chooses the role of stage magician (in which he is also competent) to hide from the law, as nobody would expect a real magician to waste his time playing marketplaces.
  • In The Master and Margarita, Professor Woland is a magician who performs a magic act. Given that he is actually the devil, this act involves real magic, but the audience is convinced there must be some trick behind it and demands him to reveal his secret.
  • The Night Circus: One of the two main characters has been trained since childhood to be a stage magician at the titular Night Circus, as well as having been trained since childhood in real magic.
  • Played with in Petty Pewter Gods, when Magodor demonstrates the powers of her magical rope. Her demonstration is exactly like the routines which stage magicians perform with short pieces of rope, but in her case it's all done for real. Knowing better than to kibbitz a goddess with a title like "the Destroyer", Garrett does not mention the analogy when he spots it.
  • Part of the Early-Installment Weirdness in Redwall. During the feast just before Cluny shows up, Ambrose is performing magic tricks, and the narrator comments: "Was it magic? Of course it was." These magical powers never show up again. Perhaps it was just an instance of Unreliable Narrator.
  • Jacob Maskelyne of the Seekers of Truth is the scion of a line of magicians who have real powers that they use for the betterment of humanity, as well as to enhance their stage show.
  • Peter Straub's novel Shadowland is based entirely upon this trope, and derives much of its power from the distorted and unreliable perceptions of the main characters as to what is really magic, what was merely illusion, and what "really" happened/is happening at any one point in the action.
  • Inverted in A Song of Ice and Fire, where many people who claim to be sorcerers rely partially or entirely on sleight of hand, chemistry, and clever engineering to simulate the magic they can't do. This even includes Melisandre, who notes that her supply of powders which among other things, she throws into fires to change their color, is running low. But with the dragons back, real magic is becoming more common and powerful.
  • Mister Mystic from Soon I Will Be Invincible is a wizard that dresses like a stage magician, and acts like one to boot. The database at the end explains that he used to be a hack magician that stumbled upon the secrets of real magic.
  • A stage magician finds his way to the world of Spellsinger, where all his tricks suddenly work for real, in The Moment Of The Magician. Makes sense, since in Spellsinger universe magic is similar to technology — and he's using a kind of technology.
  • The Great Farloss in Ssalia and the Dragons of Avienot is a stage magician whose tricks include turning himself invisible and transforming a volunteer with a magic powder, so the fact there's real magic involved is fairly evident. Not surprisingly, he is later referred to as a sorcerer.
  • In Robert A. Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land, Mike (who was raised by aliens) decides to live as a magician for a while. Despite being able to make things magically float and disappear, he's really bad at the job because he utterly lacks human raconteur skills.
  • Subverted in The Trouble With Peace when the Wolf of the North is looking for a magic-user to counteract the Mad Oracle Rikke. One of the people his men find is a travelling showman who makes grand claims about the High Art, clearly panicking that if he can't convince them of his power, he'll be killed. He eventually has to admit that he can't back up his claims and just does tricks and, surprisingly, is only thrown out.
  • In The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, the Wizard was a stage magician mistaken for the real thing when he landed in Oz. Later on, he began to learn real magic from Glinda.
    • Parodied in The Muppets' Wizard of Oz, where the Ozians thought he was a powerful wizard because he could do the detached thumb trick.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Tarot from Ace Of Wands, though technically psychic powers rather than magic.
  • In The Dresden Files, little magic Harry helped his dad out a bit with his conjuring act, without his father's knowledge or permission...
  • In the Free Spirit (1989) Halloween Episode, Magical Nanny Winnie tries to help Jessie impress a few high school students by performing a magic trick in which Winnie would make Jessie disappear. Unfortunately, Winnie's powers malfunction on Halloween (she blames all the mortals performing stage magic), complicating the process of making her reappear.
  • iCarly: One of the episodes features Malika, a stage magician who asks Freddie to the girl's choice dance and seems to be practicing real magic. Even the iCarly gang can't explain her magic tricks, which might be genuine magic.
  • In Kamen Rider Zi-O, a stage magician is granted the genuine magic powers of Kamen Rider Wizard, which he uses in his act. Unfortunately, like all cases of hijacked Rider powers in Zi-O, they come with Sanity Slippage and he becomes the Monster of the Week.
  • There's a whole society of wizards in the Magical Land of Bottom World, in The Legend of Dick and Dom, who make their living putting on stage magic shows.
  • Legend of the Seeker: In "Desecrated" the gang watched some stage magic in a village. Then it's revealed the stage magician knows some real magic too. He uses this to seek revenge on others.
  • Power Rangers:
  • The fourth season Supernatural episode "Criss Angel is a Douchebag" revolves around the idea. The main characters, Sam and Dean, spend the entire episode trying to find a serial-killer wizard, who is hiding by pretending to be an elderly stage magician. Turns out he has a fondness for entertaining an audience when he's not committing homicide. Ironically enough, he dies when an Average Joe stage magician uses sleight of hand to use his own cursed stage-props to kill him.
  • In She-Hulk: Attorney at Law Donny Blaze is a magician who uses real sorcery to enhance his show. Unfortunately he's bad at both of them, his stage magic a series of cliched tricks executed poorly and his real magic novice-level and performed with dangerous ignorance. His main sorcerous trick is using a sling-ring to open a portal to a seemingly random location and having an audience member walk through it, which is not even all that visually interesting. When he tries to spice up his act further he accidentally unleashes a horde of demonic imps on the audience.
  • In Today's Special, Waldo the Magnificent, a recurring visitor to the store, makes his living as a stage magician, but he can do real magic. He's the one who gave Jeff his magic hat and brought him to life.
  • The X-Files: The episode "The Amazing Maleeni" features a magician who dies from having his head fall off after performing a trick where he rotates his head the whole way around. This turns out to be a subversion; unusually for this show, there is no magic or anything supernatural involved, and only mild foul play.

    Music Videos 
  • Invoked in the video for Coldplay's "Magic", where Chris Martin's good character figures out how to levitate things and people.

  • Matra Magna in Capcom's Pinball Magic is implied to be one; she is Really 700 Years Old, but resembles a twentysomething young woman.
  • Theatre of Magic:
    • It is themed after stage magic, but the acts are presented as being done using genuine wizardry.
    • The boutique sequel, Magic Girl, had original advertising flyers showing stage magic trappings but was rethemed to fantasy-style magic during development.

  • Inverted in Acquisitions Incorporated. It's a Dungeons & Dragons game, where real wizards are a dime a dozen. But when the resident mage, Jim Darkmagic, isn't adventuring with the group, he's using his powers to entertain the masses. He's apparently quite the celebrity, despite some mishaps on stage.
  • The Stranger, a formerly retired Red Panda Adventures superhero, started life as a stage magician. However, around 1890, he gave up stage performance to seek out real magic and real power. He claims it found him, rather than the reverse, and in the decades following he fought evil as a member of the League of Gentleman Adventurers.

    Tabletop Games 
  • In Brave New World, this is one of the standard covers used by Bargainers. In fact, the first Bargainer was Harry Houdini who developed delta powers after a near-death experience when one of his escapology tricks went wrong.
  • In Castle Falkenstein, there is an order of wizards called The Cabinet of Cups and Wands who mix actual spellcasting with stage magic.
  • This is discussed as an option for mages in Mage: The Ascension. Most people can stop real magic working if they see and disbelieve it, but it's possible to pull it off by pretending to be a stage magician. There is even a skill, called 'Blatancy', to simulate how good a character is at passing their vulgar magic off as stage tricks.
  • In the rebooted Mage: The Awakening, the possibility is still open, but game mechanics discourage it. Using magic for mere personal gain can be considered an act of Hubris and ding your Karma Meter. Furthermore, "Vulgar" magic (which would be necessary for most stage tricks) risks attracting the attention of an Eldritch Abomination. Primarily the difference is that certain classes of effects are now just classified vulgar by definition, and while covert magic can become vulgar the reverse isn't true. So if you, for instance, conjure a flame the size of a lighter flame on top of an actual lighter, you take the penalty roll regardless of the impossibility of anyone calling you on it. Though it does sometimes work the other way, too. Softening a stone wall to play-dough and digging your way out with your bare hands would get you paradoxed in the old world, but now it's still covert if no-one's watching, even though the effect is pretty... blatant.
  • Played with in the Old World of Darkness crossover game Midnight Circus: though the eponymous circus has quite a few mages among its ranks, the position of Magician is currently occupied by Calabris, a Toreador vampire. However, Calabris has actually lived long enough to master the Ravnos discipline of Chimerstry and even manipulate the Glamour field surrounding the Circus. On the other hand, he doesn't actually use his supernatural powers at any point during the magic show, instead relying on his expertise in mundane illusion to enrapture the audience.
  • Lampshaded in a Spelljammer adventure. A minor NPC is a wizard who works as a stage magician and is immensely frustrated that his audiences refuse to believe that his carefully-practiced sleight-of-hand tricks are not just accomplished by him using real magic.
  • Averted in the Vampire: The Masquerade book Havens of the Damned. Despite his skills in illusion and special effects, Jesse Van Reginald doesn't know real magic, nor is he a member of the Ravnos or the Tremere — as he no doubt would have preferred. Instead, he's part of clan Toreador, and currently laboring under a massive case of Creative Sterility.

    Video Games 
  • Zander from Battlerite comes from a troupe of performers and has the magician look, but he can still hurt and heal people just by throwing cards at them, shoot giant bolts of energy, open up portals, and turn enemies into sheep. His Self-Duplication could be exaplained as stage trickery, but considering the rest of his abilities they're probably actual magic too.
  • Cirque De Zale
    • Played straight with The Great Astoundo in the opening, who is just a normal circus magician, but still magically banishes Alexander to another dimension.
    • Inverted/parodied with Adrastos the Non-Wizard, who was raised learning the art of magic, but prefers doing sleight-of-hand illusions, which he specifically refers to as "non-magic", because they require actual skill compared to just casting a spell.
  • Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony: Himiko Yumeno, the Ultimate Magician, claims to be a member of an order of stage magicians who are secretly mages.
  • Fallen London: With the Neath being as odd as it is, naturally magicians were bound to stumble onto something to make their tricks a little less reliant on sleight of hand. The process is not detailed, but it ends at magician turf wars fought with strange and powerful sorcery that not even the magicians themselves understand. This reaches the point where, among the various "Hunting Dangerous Beasts" sort of quests, you get a commission to capture a certain stage magician alive as one of the harder quests, and the preparations recommended are nothing short of unnerving:
    Mr. Inch: Don't look into his eyes. In fact, wear darkened lenses. Ensure you have no mirrors on your person, and smash any nearby. Don't ask any questions.
  • In Genshin Impact, Fontainian twins Lyney and Lynette are Stage Magicians who also happen to possess Visions (Pyro in Lyney's case, Anemo in Lynette's). As shown in the Archon Quest, the two start their magic shows by setting their Visions aside, making it clear that they aren't using real magic - their act is built entirely around clever sleight-of-hand and carefully hidden props.
  • In the game Gray Matter, Angela's father is revealed to be a magician whose magic was not an illusion, and Angela inherited his psychic powers.
  • In the Guild Wars franchise, the Mesmer profession is easy to take for granted as a fantasy combat wizard like any other since you always play a hero, but they have a heavy stage magician theme implied to be the sort of thing Mesmers usually do for a living. This is shown early on with the first Mesmer trainer being found at the Actor's Stage. Their illusion powers make them great magicians or actors, while (lore-wise) they are also potentially the most powerful form of wizards, manipulating magic in its raw state to alter the fabric of reality.
  • LeBlanc from League of Legends resembles a stage magician in her quotes, mannerisms, and costumes, but her illusion and misdirection oriented spells are no less magical than anyone else's.
  • Harvey from No More Heroes has a variety of tricks that would be just about impossible without actual magic, such as summoning pigeons literally out of thin air, teleporting, and turning your screen upside-down.
  • Phantasmagoria: Carno, a world-famous stage magician/escape artist became frustrated with just performing illusions, and wished to discover real magic. This lead him to an ancient book...which contained an evil demon.

    Web Animation 
  • Harrison from Camp Camp refers to himself as an illusionist and dresses accordingly. However, he has several times demonstrated that he really does have genuine powers, albeit difficulty controlling them due to a lack of experience.


    Web Original 
  • Cosmo the Astounding is a mediocre criminal wizard for hire in the Metro City Chronicles.
  • David Blaine is portrayed as one of these in the street magic parodies by Thoselilrabbits, much to the dismay of his two victims.
  • Defied in the Why I Should Write Dr Strange blog by Mightygodking, which specifically states that Doctor Strange doesn't know anything about stage magic.
    Stephen Strange (who, if we’re being honest, can never remember which is the turn and which is the pledge and which is the prestige, and still doesn't quite understand how the linking rings work).

    Western Animation 
  • Classic Disney Shorts:
    • Mickey Mouse in "Magician Mickey". His tricks become more elaborate and implausible as the cartoon goes on. Most of these tricks are directed at Donald specifically in almost Looney Tunes fashion.
    • Another example is "Baggage Buster", where Goofy has to deliver a magician's trunk to the train station that is obviously magical. Hilarity Ensues.
  • DC Animated Universe: Zatanna is an odd case. When she first appears in Batman: The Animated Series, she's a skilled stage magician and Escape Artist, with no implication that she uses actual magic. By Justice League, she's capable of real magic like the comic-book version. She explains that most of her acts are mundane stage magic but she will throw in a genuine magical feat somewhere in the show to help with the Willing Suspension of Disbelief.
  • Subverted in DuckTales (2017), where Magica De Spell becomes a party magician at Funso's Funzone, but only after being stripped of her powers.
  • At least one episode of Dungeons & Dragons (1983) suggested Presto was an amateur stage magician before Dungeon Master gave him a magic hat. (Jimmy Whittaker in "City at the Edge of Midnight" says that Presto can show him some card tricks at school.) Which might explain why he's called Presto.
  • In the classic Christmas Special Frosty the Snowman, a magician's top hat is caught up in a gust of wind, and lands on a snowman. This hat is so magical that it makes the snowman come to life. On the other hand, it is made clear that Professor Hinkel, the hat's owner, cannot even do stage magic very well.
  • It's Magic, Charlie Brown: Snoopy takes up stage magic, and learns the ability to perform many seemingly impossible tricks, including turning his owner Charlie Brown invisible. Charlie Brown briefly gets stuck that way, but not before taking the opportunity to finally kick that football before Lucy pulls it away.
  • The Great Fondoo, a member of the Really Rottens in Laff-A-Lympics, was a sorcerer who dressed like a stage magician. (Possibly supposed to be an Expy Abner K. Dabra from the 1963 book, Yogi Bear and the Cranky Magician; his origins are unclear otherwise.)
  • In Littlest Pet Shop (2012), Sunil's greatest dream is to become a famous stage magician, so he's constantly practicing magic acts, with mixed results. At times, he seems to display genuine magical abilities, like swapping his position with another character using a teleportation-like effect.
  • The Tex Avery short "Magical Maestro" is about a magician who gets even with an opera singer by taking the place of the conductor and using his wand in place of the baton, causing all sorts of silliness.
  • Ace Cooper, the titular hero of the French series The Magician.
  • The Merrie Melodies short "Presto Change-o" features Happy Hare (the earliest version of Bugs Bunny) as a magician's rabbit. While the magician is not present, Happy does do a series of impossible tricks, like making himself disappear by closing his hands on himself.
  • In Mixels, the Wiztastics are a magic-based tribe. They're traveling stage magicians, yet their powers are straight-up magic.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic gives us The Great and Powerful Trixie, a magically-gifted unicorn who has a flashy, traveling stage show where she shows off her powers. Although all unicorns are capable of some kind of magic, it's usually highly specialized. Trixie's specialty is stage magic, hence her magic is mostly flash and no substance. On the other hoof, she's obviously not performing simple parlor tricks and illusions. Very few unicorns have strong enough telekinesis to throw another pony into the air, and conjuring things out of thin air — like a small thundercloud — is something only Twilight Sparkle has been shown to be able to accomplish. Unfortunately, she's got a bit of an Inferiority Superiority Complex and tends to consequently undervalue her own talents while trying to show up Twilight Sparkle, who's much better at traditional unicorn magic than she is.
  • The Pink Panther cartoon "Bully for Pink" features the Panther as a bullfighter who confuses a magician's cape for his red cloth and accidentally causes all sorts of magical mayhem during the bullfight.
  • The Pixar animated short Presto (2008) features a magician with both a top hat and a pointy wizard hat; anything placed into one will come out the other. He intends to use this magic to pull a rabbit out of his hat before a live audience, but the rabbit (who's angry about being forced to skip lunch) has other plans. Hilarity Ensues.
  • Played with in Scooby-Doo where magicians won't have actual magic as far as the mystery is concerned but will frequently pull tricks on Shaggy and Scooby that could only be done by actual magic as Rule of Funny is at play.
  • Teen Titans (2003) features the Amazing Mumbo, a blue-skinned villain in a cape and top hat who uses elaborate magic tricks to commit his crimes (usually bank robbery). If his wand is broken, he loses his powers and reverts to his normal human form. Word of God states that he was an ordinary magician who got his hands on a real magic wand, which gave him magical powers at the expense of his sanity. In a later episode, he has his own little world where he controls everything tucked away in his hat. Once caught inside, Raven (herself a magic user) insists that everything Mumbo does is "just" an illusion (seemingly just because it's not a kind of magic she is used to). She ends up admitting it's real enough, and uses a mundane illusion to trick Mumbo and save the team.
  • Inverted in one episode of Thundarr the Barbarian, where the evil wizard turns out to only be using stage magic. By using clever strategy and planning he shows himself to be as effective as most of the real wizards Thundarr and company face.

    Real Life 
  • A number of stage magicians in the early days claimed in advertising and/or in performances that their powers were derived from supernatural forces. Interestingly, the first book discussing what we now call stage magic was a book entitled "The Discoverie of Witchcraft." Naturally, they were careful to avoid this in the era of witch-hunts. The magicians at that time always advertised their abilities as sleight of hand, because real magic would be a sign of a deal with the Devil. Some magicians still got in trouble because they were too good. Modern stage magicians consider it extremely unethical to claim to have supernatural powers. Doing so calls discredit on the entire profession and can get you banned from magic clubs. A number of magicians also publicly debunk claimed supernatural phenomena that they can replicate using the tricks of their trade. There is a long, long tradition of magicians being incorrigible skeptics.
    • "The Oldest Trick in the Book" is from an Ancient Egyptian tale of a man who would pull the head off a chicken and then reset it to the chick completely unharmed. It is considered the oldest trick since the man never claimed to use magic or be blessed by the gods, just that he was skilled in ways that the audience was not.
    • Harry Houdini himself may have started the trend when he caught a Phony Psychic in the act and later set up safeguards with his wife to prevent others from "raising his ghost" after his death.
    • James Randi, aka The Amazing Randi, has an entire foundation dedicated to debunking claims of supernatural powers, with a one million dollar reward for anyone who can demonstrate genuine supernatural powers under laboratory conditions. In regards to this trope, Randi preferred to be called a 'conjuror' as a 'magician' is someone who can actually do magic.
  • In some languages the word for "magician" and "wizard" is the same - in German e.g. it's "Zauberer". Or "Magier", but that one can also refer to both. If you wanted to talk explicitly about one kind, you'd have to say "Bühnenmagier" (magician) or "echter Zauberer" (someone doing real magic).
  • Herman Rucker, who performed under the stage name Black Herman, was trained by his mentor Prince Herman both in conventional methods of stage magic and the folk magic popular in the region. Herman was known to perform both in his traveling shows, cultivating a reputation as a master of spiritual arcana in addition to being a skilled illusionist. This got him into a fair bit of trouble as well, as the law had a thing or to to say about his practice of selling "healing elixirs".
  • Street magicians in India still like to pass themselves off (or imply that they have) genuine magical powers and sell protective amulets to their audiences.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): All Magicians Are Wizards


Merlin the Mysterious

A magician who comes to give a magic show at Henry's school. Later, after Henry wishes for real magic powers, Merlin comes to grant his wish and reveals himself to actually be a top-class wizard.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (2 votes)

Example of:

Main / MagiciansAreWizards

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