Sign up for our Newsletter

Magician Jim Vines. (Photo courtesy Jim Vines)

When Jim Vines was 12 years old, he read a book that changed the course of his life.

“I was at school one day, and this friend of mine told me he’d been studying magic and knew sleight-of-hand,” Vines recalls. “And I asked him to show me, but he wouldn’t. I kept asking him and finally, one day, he borrowed a quarter, sleeves rolled up, and he just made it disappear.”

Vines was impressed, but his buddy refused to show him how he did it — magicians, of course, never reveal their secrets. Vines, tantalized by the trick and eager to replicate it, found “The Amateur Magicians Handbook” by Henry Hay.

The book, according to Vines, is one of the best books on sleight-of-hand out there, “especially if you don’t know anything about magic. It takes you from the very basic fundamentals all the way up through very advanced stuff. Years later, I realized that one of the reasons the magic bug bit is because of that book.”

Vines, who hails from Montgomery, AL, now lives in Greenport and performs sleight-of-hand around the world. He’s appeared on “Penn & Teller: Fool Us,” performed at Mohegan Sun, City Winery in Manhattan, Smoke & Mirrors Magic Theater in Philadelphia, the Magic Castle in Hollywood and many others. He’s competed and won at events like the North American Championship of Magic.

One of his most memorable shows was at the Cyclones Stadium in Coney Island before a baseball game.

“It was for 7,500 people!” Vines recalls. “It was on the jumbotron and it was really cool. It was so funny — you look up and all these people are looking at you on the jumbotron!”

“I only do the gigs I want to do,” says Vines, who runs a marketing company as his day job. Those gigs include repeat performances at the North Fork Community Theatre, and an upcoming performance at Green Hill Kitchen in Greenport on June 22. Readers may have also seen Vines at O’Malley’s in Southold, where he went table-to-table and performed sleight-of-hand for five years prior to the restaurant’s 2022 closing.

Vines was a self-professed theater kid growing up, which has certainly lent itself to his work, especially as magic has evolved into more than just trick after trick.

“One of the reasons magic [is so popular today] is that magicians try to bring story and character and a real beginning, middle and end to a show,” he says. “Something that is set up at the beginning of the show doesn’t resolve until the final act. “I think people are much more sophisticated now, and they’ve seen all sorts of theatrical experiences — not only live, but on Netflix. That, to me, has been really exciting. That’s as interesting as the tricks themselves; how can you bring that experience, that story arc?”

In addition to smaller (but no less impressive!) tricks with coins and small objects, Vines also goes for spectacle. At North Fork Community Theatre, he performed, along with collaborator Carl Mercurio, a “levitation” on their friend Kristen Greek. 

“She comes dancing, and we put her into a hypnotic trance and she falls down onto the sofa,” Vines explains. “We lay a silk sheet over her, she slowly floats way up in the air, and suddenly we pull the cloth down. She vanishes in mid-air and reappears in the middle of the audience! That’s a real showstopper. You can’t follow that up with anything.”

Vines (from right) with Kristen Greek and Carl Mercurio after a showstopping trick. (Photo courtesy Jim Vines)

So…how did Vines do it? He’ll never tell.

Catch Jim Vines at Green Hill Kitchen (48 Front St., Greenport) on June 22, and at the North Fork Community Theatre (12700 Old Sound Ave., Mattituck) on Aug. 16. Check out @the_northforker on Instagram to see Vines perform a sleight-of-hand trick now!