Bontjes family full of magicians

Danville magician Christopher Bontjes, second from right, performs magic with, from left: his daughter Jill, 9, wife Julie, and son John, 11, at their home in Westville, Ill., in a Nov. 6, 2008 photo. Christopher has done magic for 35 years in front of au Matt Huber

AP

Danville magician Christopher Bontjes, second from right, performs magic with, from left: his daughter Jill, 9, wife Julie, and son John, 11, at their home in Westville, Ill., in a Nov. 6, 2008 photo. Christopher has done magic for 35 years in front of au Matt Huber

By Mary Kay Sweikar

DANVILLE, Ill. – Danville magician Christopher Bontjes has a lot of trade secrets that he shares with his family, which they promise to keep under their hats.

That’s because his wife, Julie; daughter, Jill, 9; and son, John, 11, are also into performing magic.

Christopher has done magic for 35 years in front of audiences of all ages. He feels that once the secret behind a magic trick is revealed, the wonder of the magic is lost.

Julie said she had to wait until she married Christopher, in 1995, before he would divulge any of the “secrets” behind his tricks. Today, Christopher shares these secrets with his children only if he’s teaching them how to do a trick.

“That’s the way it works,” he said. “Magicians are very proprietary.”

So far, Julie has served only as an assistant for the family’s magic shows. “I haven’t started planning my own stage show yet,” she said with a laugh.

“Our family does magic to entertain people, to keep them in suspense and to make them laugh,” Christopher said. “If it doesn’t accomplish that for people, then there’s no point in doing magic.”

Christopher tries to practice his magic every day. “I’m always working on new tricks and brushing up on old ones,” he said. “That’s the only way a magician keeps current with the profession.”

He does between three and five performances a month at places such as schools, the Veterans Affairs Illiana Health Care System, senior residences, churches or children’s events.

Christopher is a life member of the Society of American Magicians and serves as regional vice president for SAM Assemblies in nine Midwestern states.

You might say that magic runs through the veins of the Bontjes family. Both Christopher’s father, who is deceased, and his mother, who lives in Morton, were accomplished magicians.

“And my grandfather on my mom’s side was also interested in magic,” Christopher said. “Mom still does magic today, and we love to get together and share our latest tricks.”

Christopher attended his first SAM convention when he was only 6 months old. And his whole family did the “square circle” trick together when he was 4 and his sister was 6.

“My parents put my sister and me in their magic show because it was cheaper than hiring a baby sitter,” Christopher said, smiling.

The square circle trick is the same trick that Christopher does with his own family today. “To do this family trick, we pull around six scarves out of the empty box and then we end up with me pulling out a bouquet of flowers,” 11-year-old John said with enthusiasm.

John and Jill also assist their dad in some of his magic performances.

“I was surrounded by magicians during my entire life, so I had no choice but to become one myself,” Christopher said.

Christopher learns his new magic tricks from books, videos and other magicians. “I love the challenge of learning a new trick,” he said, “and my props are like toys to me.”

Christopher has about 100 tricks that he feels comfortable with and about that many more that he’s working on. “I use my family members as guinea pigs when I’m working on a new trick,” he said.

The whole family usually travels to the annual SAM convention, which is held in a different location each summer. “In 2005 our kids were the youngest children at the convention in St. Louis,” Christopher said, “so they had the opportunity to assist many of the magicians.”