Jack Daniels resides in a world of mysterious invention, dazzling showmanship and community service. Billed as the “Rock Star Illusionist of Australia”, Jack’s performances are astonishing, and even the most sceptical of viewers stand in awe and disbelief.
“I make intoxicating magic,” he says with a flashing smile. (As you may have guessed, his stage name was concocted over a glass of the famed Tennessee whiskey.)
A Sydney Hills resident, Jack finds inspiration everywhere, his eyes always wide open searching for his next unique grand illusion.
“If I go to a furniture store I’m not there to shop,” he says. “More likely I’m working out how to use the furniture for an illusion where I could possibly cut someone into six pieces and then make them whole again.”
But his ambitions for his own brand of grand theatrical magic do not stop there. Current illusions in the planning stage are for levitating Uluru and making it vanish, catching a bullet in his teeth, and hanging upside down in a straight-jacket over a pit of lions.
Magic is not something new for this 35-year-old entertainer. When he was just nine, he inherited an old steamer trunk which had belonged to his great-grandfather who, it turns out, was a travelling magician.
“This trunk was full of his magic,” he said. “There were lots of photos and vintage magic effects inside, and I thought, wow this is very cool stuff.”
His obsession for magic on a grand scale was ignited when he saw David Copperfield on TV when he was 12.
“In the steamer trunk were small tricks, but when I saw David Copperfield on TV, that was real magic,” he said. “David is one of my biggest inspirations. He is a genuine showman. I was captivated by his theatrical production, the dancers, the music — the whole show was thrilling. From then on I watched every show I could find on video — it was the way he moved and how he interacted with the crowd.”
At 14, Jack performed for the first time in front of an audience at a talent show. He made two girls disappear, and amazed onlookers. He says he was a shy lad at school, always at the back of class photos, but that all changed in a single moment.

“Here I am on stage, and I felt good about myself,” he said with a humble grin. Magic became an overwhelming passion. Every minute was spent thinking about creating illusions and performing, mostly at birthday parties. He read every book he could unearth on magic, the art of theatrical production and on building illusions. It wasn’t cheap doing it alone, and he saved his school lunch money to buy the materials he needed. “My parents used to say magic was a very expensive passion,” he said. “They thought that it was a passing hobby and I would eventually get a real job. That changed when people told my parents, ‘the kid’s got a gift, so let him follow it’.” Jack says it “wasn’t much of a business” in the early years when he was trying to establish himself, and it wasn’t until he turned 25 that things started taking off. “We entered lots of competitions to get known, but it was still a sideline,” Jack recalled. “I now have a mentor, Rod Junor, and the first thing I learned from him is that show business is two words. I had all the passion for the show, but I had to find out how to turn my passion for magic into a business.” During those years on the long road to “overnight success”, Jack worked at a major hardware store and for a short period as a policeman. “I was working full time to support my wife, Alison Marie, and our daughter, Robyn Grace. Any extra money went back into buying materials for creating the new illusions I was building at home,” he said. “Today we have a professional illusion builder in the States. An illusion can take 12 months to perfect and can cost up to $US11,000. With each illusion only lasting a few minutes on stage in a 60-minute show, you need a lot of illusions!” Jack is now riding a wave of success and is becoming known globally for his unique magic. “One of our illusions was one I developed when I was in Year 9. It involves a wall of 40 spears that come crashing toward me,” he explained. “Now, it’s the biggest piece in the show. It’s my own invention and the only one of its kind in the world.”
**Magic for good** Jack not only uses his skills as a magician for profit, he is also the Australian representative of David Copperfield’s Project Magic, which uses magic as a form of therapy. After idolising Copperfield’s magic for many years, the pair finally met in Sydney in 1994. Jack gave him a VHS tape of his own show, David was impressed, and the two are good friends and often talk on Skype. In 2009, on his most recent Australian tour, Copperfield spoke to therapists at Sydney University about how magic could help change lives. He introduced Project Magic to Australia, and Jack was quick to get involved. Magic therapy is helping patients with a wide range of conditions, including low self-esteem, depression, and even spinal cord injuries and other types of disability. The program is now running in over 30 countries, including in Australia at the Royal Rehab Centre of Sydney and at the Nepean Hospital. Project Magic is only a four-man team in Australia, but many clinicians are also learning these basic magic tricks in order to help patients.
**Home in the Hills ** Jack and his family love the Sydney Hills district, and he’s involved with a number of local charities as well. “It’s a beautiful place to live, and the local community is very active,” he said. “The first year we were in the Hills I performed a small show at the Hills Relay for Life for the Cancer Council.” Over the years he has astounded the crowd at the relay with a number of grand illusions. Jack almost scared the life out of then Hills Shire mayor Michelle Byrnes and two others with a driving illusion called “The Darkness” in 2014. He was in total blackout for the illusion, his eyes covered with a stainless steel blindfold and his face shrouded with a black hood. With his passengers gripping their door handles, Jack drove twice around the Castle Hill Showgrounds at speed, and then through a veritable obstacle course in the adjacent crowded farmer’s market — all completely blind! Don’t believe it? You can see it on YouTube. He has also predicted winning OZ Lotto numbers, and made a series of predictions for the 2015 Relay for Life. These predictions were signed, locked in a metal box which was padlocked then tied with cable ties, and covered with a signed security sticker. The metal box was placed inside another padlocked clear box and hung in public view for a week before relay day. His predictions were far ranging, and Jack aced every one. The number of registered relay participants was exactly 1,218 with two people sporting shaved heads. He identified a girl in the audience by name and birthday, a man wearing a purple beanie and a red jumper at the ribbon cutting, and the exact front page headline of the Hills Shire Times that week. If you get the chance, don’t miss his show. You will believe the impossible. I remain baffled by every one of Jack’s illusions, but I was careful not to ask the most important question: “How did you do that?” Nice guy that he is, he wouldn’t tell me anyway. •