December 21, 2014

Magic Tricks at Funerals? Unlikely Bedfellows in a Staid Industry

magic funeral

You may not think magic belongs at a funeral. But it turns out there is occasionally a market for it.

. That’s because in addition to owning Lee’s Funeral Home in White Plains, New York, he’s also a licensed magician.

The 64-year-old began practicing magic 30 years ago when he was looking for a hobby to distract him from the sadness that goes along with his profession. Now, he even serves as the president of the Manhattan-based Society of American Magicians, Parent Assembly No. 1. That’s a title that Harry Houdini once held.

His career as a mortician, on the other hand, is something that has always been a part of his life. His father first opened his own funeral parlor in 1915. So Lee grew up around the business.

He generally keeps his career separate from his hobby. But for those who want to add something unconventional to a loved one’s funeral, Lee can make exceptions. He told the New York Times:

“Sometimes – certainly not most of the time, but once in awhile – if someone asks me, I use magic in a service.”

One of the “tricks” he can use in such a situation is called “silk-go.” He uses a small cylindrical bottle, which represents the body, and a red silk handkerchief, which represents the soul. He stuffs the handkerchief inside the bottle and does some slight of hand while explaining how the soul departs the body for eternal existence. While never more than a few inches from the onlooker, Lee manages to make the handkerchief disappear from inside the bottle.

Of course, the magician’s vow of secrecy prohibits Lee from explaining how he manages to complete the effect. But you can see how “silk-go” or similar slight of hand might fit into a funeral service, though it might seem unconventional.

So while magic might not be the most likely match for funeral services, Lee has found a way to mesh both his hobby and his profession.

It’s not necessarily for everyone. But his ability to offer something unconventional like magic as part of his services definitely sets Lee’s Funeral Home apart from the competition.

13 Comments ▼

Annie Pilon - Staff Writer


Annie Pilon Annie Pilon is a staff writer for Small Business Trends, covering entrepreneur profiles and feature stories. She is a freelance writer specializing in marketing, social media, and creative topics. When she’s not writing for her various freelance projects or her personal blog Wattlebird, she can be found exploring all that her home state of Michigan has to offer.

13 Reactions

  1. I dont even want to consider the issues of hiring a ventriloquist for a funeral.

  2. It can be quite amusing but a funeral is no location for happiness. Honestly, would you want people laughing when you die?

    • I don’t think it’s really about laughing. The trick he described doesn’t seem like what you’d typically think of as a silly magic trick. And he only includes them when the family asks him to. Plus, funerals are sad enough that it could help to have something a little lighthearted there. It doesn’t take away from the sadness of it all, but could help to relieve some of the immediate pain.

  3. Aira… I disagree. That is where laughter is most needed. I love GBS’s quote : Life does not cease to be funny when people die any more than it ceases to be serious when people laugh. Laughter relieves pain. Proven fact and what is more painful than the loss of a love. Personally I hope there is laughter at my funeral… and tears.

  4. George Schindler

    Ted is PAST PRESIDENT OF NY MAGICIANS

  5. Ted Lee is the nicest guy you’ll ever meet, in life or death. If you’re lucky enough to have him preside at your funeral your family and friends will send you off with respect and a laugh. You’ll be remembered with respect. You can’t ask for more than that.

  6. I’m a mortician and a magician also. One question… How do you become a licensed magician?

    • The term “licensed magician” was invented by the writer…just a poor choice of words. We could say, “recognized” or established”, but of course all members of both the NY chapter of the Society of American Magicians and the Int’l Brotherhood of Magicians have to pass a test to be accepted. More important is the fact that Ted is a generous, kind-hearted person and a devoted member of these two organizations, that are like family. Most important, as my late husband, magician/attorney Morris Weissbrod advised, “keep smiling!”.

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