RUMFORD — Rain drizzled from an overcast sky early Friday evening in Abbott's Mills Cemetery as a Las Vegas magician paid homage to the 19th-century magician whose title he now holds.
With his hair flamboyantly dyed in red streaks, Jeff McBride deftly performed card flourishes beside Dr. James William Elliott's family tombstone.
That was one of the many card tricks performed by Elliott (1874-1920), a physician from Rumford who went on to become an accomplished magician. Another was the Back Front Card Palm.
Elliott, a Rumford native, also gave up medicine for 10 years to tour in the part of Bosco in the magic act Le Roy, Talma and Bosco.
McBride, a card manipulator and magician who has headlined for several years at Caesar's Magical Empire in Las Vegas, holds Elliott's title, that of the King of Kards.
He flew in from Vegas Friday morning to perform his family friendly show “Magic Behind the Mask” at 7 p.m. on Saturday, May 26, at Grassette's 49 Franklin theater at 49 Franklin St. in Rumford.
“This is surreal to me,” Grassette said, watching McBride perform card deck flourishes beside Elliott's tombstone.
“I'm meeting my maker in a way, you know,” McBride said of Elliott.
“We have the world's premier card manipulator here in my hometown of Rumford, Maine, paying tribute to the original King of Kards, Dr. James William Elliott,” Grassette said.
Before Grassette finished his sentence, McBride quickly stepped up to him and began "pulling cards" from Scot's left ear, another Elliott trick.
“So his technique still lives on in this cemetery,” McBride said.
“We're bringing new life to these old card techniques that would have been lost (he continues to talk while seemingly pulling a deck of cards from his mouth) if it wasn't for the history books, and people like Scot bringing it to people's attention to pass on to future generations.”
“And I think that's real magical — making magic live in a real modern era where mystery is something rare, something to be experienced at a magic show,” McBride said.
“These days, so many people are online, and magic is something you have to get out and encounter, you know, face to face.”
It's not something that can be mediated.
“It has to be something that's immediate, and that's why magic is such a rare form of entertainment, and that's why people make pilgrimages to Las Vegas to see live entertainment magic shows,” McBride said.
He said a magical experience is "the greatest thing that you can have" and that's what a magician delivers.
“There are a lot of similarities between Elliott and Jeff McBride,” Grassette said.
“Except the dead part," McBride quickly interjected.
“But one of the major differences was that Elliott was a luminary who shed light on modern-day magicians,” Grassette said.
“And many people have been inspired by it, but we didn't know where the light was coming from.
"A lot of people aren't aware of Elliott," Grassette said.
"Jeff, on the other hand, is a bright shining light that we can see. He's visual, he's online, he teaches, he lectures.”
“And I took a lot of the techniques that Elliott created and passed them on to other magicians, and I put them onto my teaching videos to teach future generations of magicians,” McBride said.
“So, in a strange way, we're connected through time through magic and we're kind of passing that torch on to future generations that historically started with him.”
After performing several card tricks beside Elliott's gravestone, McBride then placed an autographed card beside his name.
It reads, "To Dr. Elliott with great respect, Jeff McBride."
Then, McBride stood and said, "Bye, Dr. Elliott. Thanks for the Back Palm."