by Bethany Paulsen, correspondent
Moody campus’s residential illusionist, Zachary Wilke, a senior pastoral studies major, is known for having a trick or two up his sleeve. He describes his illusions as doing the unexpected with everyday objects through methods such as exaggerated sleight of hand, mentalism (mind-reading), card tricks, and visual “magic.”
Wilke got his first magic kit at age seven. He saw magic as a toy, something he would pull out and play with and put away again. He began showing tricks to people at around age 13.
“The difference between me and everyone else is I never stopped being obsessed with it,” he said. “I would notice the look on people’s faces and I was addicted to that.”
Wilke started performing tricks around school and people knew him as “the magic guy.”
At 14, Wilke saw a magic show that incorporated the gospel. He remembered thinking, “This is amazing. I want to do that.”
Wilke’s first gig was a family fair where he did “walk around magic.” At 15, Wilke was determined to do his own show, so he walked into a hometown coffee shop and asked to use the venue. 120 people filled the seats for his first performance.
Wilke said a pivotal point in his magic career was around age 16 when the Lord was working in his heart.
“It was this merging of two things,” he said. “Falling in love with Jesus and falling in love with magic.”
He performed at a youth event, incorporating the gospel into his show. Following that performance, God continued to open doors of opportunity for Wilke to perform.
Wilke listed Drew Worsham among his biggest inspirations. Wilke was even given the opportunity to perform at the same venue as Worsham last year. Other inspirations were Penn and Teller and David Copperfield.
“The thing I love about Copperfield is he always attaches story to magic, and that’s what I try to do,” he said. “People connect more to story.”
Wilke said his parents are among his biggest supporters, “keeping me level-headed but also realizing, ‘you have a knack for this.’”
Performing illusions is not without it challenges, and finding venues is one of Wilke’s. “You’re going to run out of coffee shops and little theaters,” he said. When it comes to the art itself, Wilke noted several challenges. He noted that finding your own individuality in performing is not easy.
“Finding who I am as a magician is difficult as within any art. You do your best not to be[come] your inspiration.”
Wilke has encountered nervousness and discomfort from Christian audience members due to the unexplainable nature of his tricks. “I always have to gauge, how far do I go if this is a gospel, truth-centered show, and how do I touch on theatrics and not get into weird mysticism?”
Wilke has written a few of his own routines. One of the tricks he created is the disappearance of a signed card that reappears in a locked safe.
“The way that magic is, the method, is always the same, it’s just the way that it is presented is different. I want to present it with a new face.”
Wilke said though Christian magicians are among the smallest of minorities, the art is growing, and is a platform for ministry. His tour, “Deceived No More,” highlights the idea that we are all deceived, falling short of the glory of God and the only way to live undeceived is to find truth in Christ.
“A magic trick is always a connecting point,” he said. “The ministry of magic is definitely more a seed planter, and God has used it immensely.” People have come to Christ through his show.
“When people come to faith through this, it is a recognizing that, ‘I’m tired of living deceived, I can’t do this on my own, there is truth, and that truth is Jesus Christ.”
Students can check out Wilke on his website, zachwilke.com. He will be hitting the road in June with “Deceived No More” and is still looking to add a few venues on the way.