I am sitting in a chair in front of Her, who is locked inside a wooden cage with only a small wire-meshed hole that I can look through. And I am watching Her like a hawk, not blinking any more than absolutely necessary, afraid to even turn my head away for one second. Illusions of the Passed
Her is the doll that inspired Rod Serling to write the Twilight Zone episode called “Living Doll.” Most people remember that episode as the terrifying tale of “Talky Tina,” the world’s most horrible talking porcelain figure. Her doesn’t talk – thank goodness – but according to our pre-show host, Becca, she absolutely does move. Becca’s happy to show us pictures of the doll standing up in that cage and even pulls up a time-lapse video that does appear to show Her sitting back down again. Having never been in the same room as one of these dolls that is supposed to move, I am determined to see if it happens – and Becca says it happens quite often.
The rest of this pre-show room is filled with other haunted items. Items from the Titanic, items from circus fires, all of which are things connected in some way to the past. It’s a rather unsettling way to frame the show I am here to see – Illusions of the Passed: Legends of the Queen Mary. For those who take the time to examine these items in their glass display boxes, a sense of being surround by ghosts becomes almost overwhelming. You begin to understand that this show may be about something much deeper than the small pun in the show’s title (past/passed).
That turns out to be the exact point as the show begins and Aiden Sinclair walks onto the stage. Because Sinclair’s show turns out to be all about ghosts and the past – but not in the way you might think. This is no ordinary séance, although there will be moments that appear to be impossible if there aren’t ghosts present. This is no ordinary magic show, although there are plenty of illusions sprinkled throughout the performance, some of them absolutely astonishing to see in such an intimate space.
Illusions of the Passed is so unique I am not quite certain how to describe it – other than to say everyone should run to see it as fast as they can. It’s a magic show that’s not really about magic. Instead, Sinclair has put together a narrative for the entire experience that leads the audience through the question of what the word “haunted” really means. Sinclair shows us what a séance was actually about from the point of view of someone from the 1800s but then dismantles the entire idea of a séance. He includes the ghosts of the Queen Mary in the show and respectfully questions the entire idea of what a ghost means and whether we know anything about the figures that so many people have reported seeing on this grand old ship. When Sinclair asks for spirits to join the audience, what happens next seems to be only possible if they’ve actually arrived – and then he finds ways to undercut what you have just seen. And it’s brilliant. It’s one of the most compelling magic shows I have seen in years.
Sinclair himself is brilliant. His calm demeanor belies the mind-boggling events that unfold in front of him, almost as though he doesn’t expect them to happen. And yet, Sinclair carefully choreographs every moment in this show to generate actual gasps from the audience – and he gets them, more than once. His welcoming nature works like a charm as it puts the audience’s guard down, making them (and me) even more susceptible to the wonders they witness. Truly, Aidan Sinclair should become a worldwide celebrity from this show.
But when people come to see any show that suggests magic or illusions, they always want to know if the ‘tricks’ are any good. Let’s be clear: Illusions of the Passed possesses some of the best magic I have seen in a long, long time. Having known several magicians in my lifetime, I tend to be pretty good at figuring out at least the general idea of how something has to be done, even if I don’t always spot the actual secret as it occurs. I have no idea how this show works. Maybe it really is actual spiritual activity, because I’m still wracking my brain on how any of the tricks could be done in any rational way.
Illusions of the Passed is far more than just an enjoyable attraction on the Queen Mary. Aidan Sinclair has created a compelling treatise on why we care about ghosts at all. He has spun a marvelous spell about why we continue to search the narrow hallways of a remnant of a past age for a glimpse of a tall gentleman or a woman in white. This is a show that makes you think about ghosts in an entirely different way. So let me say it again – get your tickets immediately. Because while Her didn’t choose to stand up for me, the rest of the experience will haunt me for a long, long time to come.
Find out more information on Illusions of the Passed: Legends of the Queen Mary and buy tickets here. And if you’re really interested in the doll, she even has her own Instagram account. Check out our Event Guide for more immersive and horror entertainment throughout the year.
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