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Monday, Jan. 23, 2006
Local Magician Entertains Children

He brings his wizardry to kids
Monday, January 23, 2006

For the Courier-Post

Dennis Michael Dowhy walked on stage at the Assumption School auditorium in Atco carrying a magic comedy table. The table quickly lost a leg and the children in the audience burst into laughter.

From then on, Dennis Michel (Stage Name) had 170 pairs of eyes and ears giving him rapt attention.

It isn't surprising that the magician from Waterford most enjoys performing for children. The entertainer has been interested in wizardry since he was a young boy, when he first watched a magician perform at a school assembly.

"There is the wonderment, silliness and fun when entertaining children," says Dowhy after his recent performance at the Catholic elementary school.

Although his career path took him in a different direction when he became a firefighter, Dowhy has been a professional magician for more than 30 years. His specialty has been entertaining children whenever he had time off from his firefighting duties.

Last September Dowhy, who is now retired from the Camden Fire Department, founded New Jersey's first chapter of KIDabra International, an association of family and children's show performers that began in 1991.

"KIDabra members are professional children's magicians who help each other improve and share ideas," explains Dowhy, who is chapter development coordinator for the international association.

The new chapter boasts 15 members, five of whom are full-time, professional magicians.

"Most magicians don't know how to entertain children," Dowhy says. "KIDabra members show them how to have fun with their audiences, how to get the kids involved as a group and individually as assistants. The best magicians empower children by involvement and interactions."

During his childhood, Dowhy read every book on magic he could find.

When he was 18, he joined the former Houdini Club of Philadelphia and served in numerous officer positions.

He performed part time while attending college and even through the years he was a Camden firefighter.

When he was performing at a charity show for the Cerebral Palsy association in the early 1970s. Dennis recalls. "I had no idea what this organization was about," he admits. "Entertaining children requires their interactions to the magic tricks I perform. I started out by asking them to say "abracadabra' when I had counted to three. I counted, but got no response from the children. It was then I realized these handicapped children's minds were active, but their bodies and voices could not immediately react to their thoughts. In the middle of the show, one child loudly screamed out, "kidabra!' and his mother started crying. After the show, I found out she cried because her boy hadn't spoken in six years. You never know what effect you'll have on an audience."

Dowhy first heard of KIDabra in 2002 and formed a local chapter. The new local KIDabra chapter trains members to perform the "Rabbit In the Hat Puppet" trick, how to develop shows for daycare, preschool and school-age children and how to present library shows.

And here's a little secret he tells.

"When a magician entertaining children and messes up, he does it intentionally," Dowhy notes. "His motive is to interact with the kids and create laughter. A magician wants to have the kids catch him making a mistake. For example, I hold a flower and it starts to wilt. The kids yell, "Look, it's drooping.' When I look at the flower, it is perfectly straight. Also, each child has a logical explanation about how a trick is done. I always present magic to the kids in a fun way."

Dowhy's most successful trick is a "snake" in a basket.

"A child selects a playing card and puts it back into the deck, which is next to the basket," he says. "I cause the snake to come out and open its mouth. The card that was selected is in the snake's mouth."

Paul Ricci, who is principal at Assumption School, appreciates Dowhy's volunteer work with students.

"Dennis has been involved in school activities for several years, running a chess club and magic club for our children," Ricci says. "He is a natural teacher who works well with the kids because he loves what he does. They get excited about watching him perform and learning how to do the tricks. He is also the Webmaster for our school and parish."

Donna Horn, a member of the new KIDabra chapter, feels Dowhy not only teaches, but also "energizes, motivates and inspires chapter members to improve and refine our magic performances."

Dowhy's special bond with the children at Assumption School seems to carry over to all his performances.

"It is a great feeling knowing when someone gives of themselves to please others, it comes back tenfold," he says. "This is what entertaining children does for magicians. Seeing the joy in their faces and their laughter calms the soul and banishes the daily stresses of life."

Marlyn Margulis is a freelance writer. She can be reached at

Contact: Magician Dennis Michael
For Family & Children Magical Entertainment:
Phone:     856-768-2281
Toll Free: 856-768-2281

Dennis Michael as a Firefighter
Photo Provided
Captain Dennis Dowhy was a Fire Officer in the Camden Fire Department and retired after serving 28 years.

Stage Name: Dennnis Michael
Age: 59

Residence: Waterford

Family: wife, Catherine; children, Bernadette Edgerton, 26; Dennis, 25; William, 12

Education: Bachelor's degrees in computer science and informational systems from Stockton State College in Pomona and an associate's degree in fire administration from Camden County College

Occupational background: 28 years as a member of the Camden Fire Department, was a captain in Engine Company No. 7 (Mount Ephraim and Kaighn avenues), where he served most of his career.

Professional affiliations:
  • Served as President and founder of local KIDabra International Chapter# 1 in Atco (KIDabra International)
  • First Vice-President of the Philadelphia Society of American Magicians Assembly #4. (SAM)
  • Magician Alliance of Eastern States
  • International Brotherhood of Magicians Ring 165 in Collingswood (I.B.M.)

    Other highlights: As Assistant Cub Scout leader for Pack 159 in Waterford, he taught cub scouts how to do magic. He is now Assistant Troop Leader for Boy Scout Troop 159.

  • PARIS L. GRAY/Courier-Post
    Dennis Michael (Stage Name) performs a magic trick for the students at Assumption School in Atco.
    Assistant must be six-feet tall!
    PARIS L. GRAY/Courier-Post
    Abdul-Jabbar Ramos, a third-grade student at Assumption School in Atco, assists magician Dennis Michel with a trick during a recent performance at the school.
    A child vanishes and reappears a mult-color handkerchief.
    PARIS L. GRAY/Courier-Post
    Abdul-Jabbar Ramos, a third-grade student at Assumption School in Atco, watches as magician Dennis Michael performs a scarf trick on stage.
    Children are amazed at Dennis Michels Performance.
    PARIS L. GRAY/Courier-Post
    First-grade students in the audience (from left)
    Emily Myers, Britney Caraluzzo and Paul Thomas
    watch "The Abracadabra Magic Show"
    by Dennis Michael.

    Photo Provided
    Dennis Michael is warming up the audiences with his Drooping Flower
    Dennis Michael at age 24 Pulling a Rabbit out of the hat
    Photo Provided
    Dennis Michael Dowhy was 24 years old when he performed this Rabbit in the Hat trick in 1970
    Dennis Michael Performing in 1970
    Photo Provided
    Dennis Michael Dowhy performs another trick in 1970.
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