No one talks about this, but there’s a certain amount of risk that goes into performing a magic trick. We’re not talking about the risk of mortal injury from sticking your head into a tiger’s mouth or attempting to catch a bullet in mid-air. We’re referring to the soul-crushing risk of extreme embarrassment after committing to a trick and having it completely fail. Magician and puzzle solver Chris Ramsay knows the dangers involved, but he’ll still lay it all on the line.
“I did a video where I got a tattoo and I didn’t know if it was going to work,” Ramsay says. “I asked a tattoo artist to tattoo these numbers and while he’s doing the tattoo, I asked him if he believes our choices can be influenced. At the end, I asked him to put an ‘X’ on one of those numbers and he did. That evening, I found out which bar he was going to be at and I went there. I was like, ‘Let me show you a card trick,’ and he essentially shuffled these nine cards multiple times. I dealt them out and I asked him to point to one card. I flipped that card over and said, ‘Does this card look familiar?’ Then I lifted up my sleeve to show him the tattoo he gave me that morning which was in the same order with the same card he chose flipped around. He was completely gobsmacked and I’m really glad it worked.”
It took years for Ramsay to gain the skills and confidence needed to pull off this kind of trick. His interest in magic first sparked in 1997 when he watched master illusionist David Blaine’s “Street Magic” and “Magic Man” for the very first time. “It was just a different type of magic that I could get behind,” Ramsay says. “It was something that wasn’t so contrived and theatrical. It was also the first time I saw real people react to close-up magic. When I was around 21, I started working at a bar and that’s where I really honed my skills as a close-up magician. In a bar, there’s low lighting, loud music and a lot of drunk people, so it’s a really great place to practice and you can mess up all you want in that scenario.”
From there, Ramsay moved into the corporate sector and began doing magic on the side. When he launched his YouTube channel in 2011, he was still balancing two careers simultaneously. When the time was right, he took the plunge and dove head first into running a YouTube channel full time. “I set a goal for myself to make enough money on YouTube in one year to survive,” Ramsay says. “Once I hit that number on the side, I would quit my main job and focus solely on that career. That number for me was $40,000 a year and I was making a little over that at the other company. Once I quit that job, I basically cut my total salary in half, but I had enough to get by. Then my channel actually blew up, because once you put more effort into something you love, it pays off.”
Following in Blaine’s footsteps, Ramsay started making a name for himself through close-up street magic. He began taking to the streets of Montréal, pulling out some of his favorite tricks to whoever would be in a video. Ramsay soon realized that his fans were tuning in to his videos for more than just the tricks. “My audience wasn’t so impressed with the magic,” Ramsay admits. “Obviously, the magic was somewhat impressive for them. But they were more impressed by me being able to walk up to any stranger, have a conversation with them and make their day.
“That was a skill they wanted to learn because magic is a very introverted activity,” he continues. “It takes a lot of practice in your room by yourself, and getting out there for the first time, it’s very scary. You don’t know if the trick is going to go right, you don’t know if people are going to like you. I think because I moved around a lot growing up I had no choice but to fit in, so I got over the whole social awkwardness thing really quickly.”
Ramsay has been running his YouTube channel full time for about eight years and in that time, he’s been able to expand and grow as a content creator. He’s certainly pulled off bigger and badder card tricks, but has also brought puzzle solving into the fold. Now, he devotes a good chunk of his time to solving the most frustratingly elaborate and complex puzzles known to man. “For me, puzzle solving has always been adjacent to magic,” he says. “I was attracted to magic not to be the coolest person in the room or to levitate things, but to figure out how things work. With puzzles it’s almost like I’m allowed to explain a magic trick and show how they trick your mind.”
Ramsay has tackled some pretty impressive puzzles over the years, from a $100,000 escape room to puzzles that appear simple but take days for a master to figure out. He’s even commissioning a $30,000 puzzle without having a clue how it’ll turn out. But, one of his biggest puzzles to date took place in the 2021 film “Spiral,” where he portrayed a drug dealer caught in a Jigsaw copycat’s trap. “Darren Lynn Bousman, who was the director of this film and ‘Saw II,’ ‘Saw III’ and ‘Saw IV,’ is fan of magic and hit me up on email being like, ‘Hey man, I’m a big fan and I would love to kill you in one of my movies,’” Ramsay says. “In between takes, Darren would come up to me and be like, ‘Hey, I’m working on this, how do you think it looks?’ He’d just finished a scene with Chris Rock and Samuel L. Jackson, but he wouldn’t care and would ask me how a card trick looked. I would definitely do it again, and my character doesn’t die. I think he’s the only one who survived.”
“Saw X” is currently in development, however, there’s no word on whether Ramsay’s character Speez will be returning. What we do know is there is plenty in store for Chris Ramsay, who after filming one season of “Big Trick Energy” for TruTv will be heading out on a multi-leg live show tour. “We’re going to bring people on stage and literally interview them after we do the trick,” Ramsay says. “One surprise that I want to do is bring someone on stage during the show to get a tattoo. And that tattoo is going to somehow tie into the trick.”
You heard it here first, people. Get your butts to one of Ramsay’s shows and who knows, you might find yourself with a history-making tattoo.