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Local magician finds joy in performing illusions and mind tricks

Local magician finds joy in performing illusions and mind tricks

Will Wrinkler explains the instruction to his card trick to a volunteer assistant during his act. Wrinkler travels the area putting on street performances. Kesley Shoemaker

Local magician finds joy in performing illusions and mind tricks
October 18
21:14 2017

Sitting among frantic students in West Oak Coffee, a man sips his beverage with a sly smirk and a few cards up his sleeve.

To the average eye, Will Winkler, 35, is just a regular guy enjoying hot coffee on a chilly Monday night. But Winkler isn’t here to cram for exams — he’s here to practice magic and illusions on unsuspecting locals.

With total command of the room and the confidence of a regular performer, Winkler taps on the shoulder of a student working on an assignment.

“Hey, what’s your name, man?” he asked the student.

“My name’s Jon,” the student said.

“[Have] you ever had a bad day, Jon?” Winkler asked.

Winkler knew the answer already.

“Yeah,” Jon replies immediately, laughing and nodding.

“So, the deal with magic is if I can make you, Jon, forget about that for five seconds or five minutes [then] I’ve done my job, and you can’t tell me that magic isn’t real,” Winkler said. “It’s an illusion, it’s a trick. Right? It’s a sleight of hand. But the experience that you had, if you don’t think about it for five minutes, then that bad day doesn’t matter.”

Born and raised in Dallas, Winkler has been a practicing magician for around 11 years and has taken a more professional approach to it within the past year.

“Magic is one of those things that feels like a vehicle that takes me to do the things that I love,” Winkler said. “That’s why I do magic.”

Winkler decided to quit his software developer job once he realized his passion for magic about a decade ago, and he hasn’t looked back since.

He also partakes in climbing and exploring in places like Yosemite National Park in California, where he lived briefly. This wanderlust has led him to a far happier life than before.

Will Winkler performs a money trick for a group of design communication studies students at West Oak Coffee Bar. Will Winkler has been performing magic around the Dallas area for 10 years. Kelsey Shoemaker

“If I didn’t do the things I did when I was slightly younger, I wouldn’t be able to do magic now,” Winkler said. “I had a good job as a software developer and I was just like, ‘This isn’t me. I’m not happy doing this.’ At that point, I was not happy being in a cube every day from 9-to-5. I hate that lifestyle. I want to be outside. I want to enjoy life and people.”

Winkler attended UNT briefly around nine years ago. However, he found himself more interested in a magic club offered at the time than the classes.

He now finds solace and community every week in the Fort Worth Magician’s Club.

“I love having that community because I didn’t have that before,” Winkler said. “It’s a great atmosphere and great people to be around because they love the art.”

He mostly performs card and coin tricks while also focusing on close-up illusions and “mentalism” tricks, like reading minds.

When it comes to his audiences, he finds that most of them are shocked by his craft.

“There’s a lot of people who haven’t seen a magic trick in real life,” he said. “They’ve seen it on YouTube, but never in real life. When you see it with that degree of separation, you can say it was a camera trick or that people were in on it.”

Communication design junior Aileen Sanchez is one of his many audience members who had never encountered a magician before Winkler.

“It was pretty cool watching it, I’ve never seen a magician up close like that,” Sanchez said after watching Winkler perform several coin tricks and mind-reading illusions before her eyes.

Communication design juniors Brianna Merich and Victoria Flores both agreed that they were skeptical at first, but became impressed by his performance by the end of it.

“I was very intrigued by it,” Flores said. “I wanted to see more. Seeing it up close makes you believe it more.”

Liberty University student Jon Bernal immediately recognized Winkler from his past performances on the Denton Square, and he fondly remembered not only his act but his charisma.

“I think what’s interesting about his show is his sense of humor — it’s not a cheesy show,” Bernal said. “He’s real, it’s not a façade.”

Winkler said audience reaction varies from person to person, but stopping the first few people is the toughest part of his job.

“Most people are disinterested,” Winkler said. “I’ve had a few people walk off on me during tricks. [Stopping] the first person is the hardest. I have to work really hard for that. Once you get those first two or three people, then you can start building a crowd [and] building an audience.”

As a former Starbucks barista, Winkler discovered his enthusiasm for cheering people up — particularly selling coffee to groggy customers in the early morning.

“If you can have any kind of banter it can make their day,” Winkler said. “Right there, at like 6:10 in the morning, you can make that person’s day, and I think that’s huge. That idea of making someone’s day, making the world a little bit better with political views aside, all that stuff aside, is great.”

Winkler’s passion for brightening people’s days is where his passion for magic stemmed from and what fuels him through long days and nights of performing.

“I heard a magician say the world needs us now more than ever and I believe that,” Winkler said. “It’s just like when I was talking to [Bernal] or to anybody else, having that escape for five minutes. I’m doing it for that.”

Featured Image: Will Winkler explains the instruction to his card trick to a volunteer assistant during his act. Winkler travels the area putting on street performances. Kesley Shoemaker

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Kayla Henson

Kayla Henson

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