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Spectator Magazine
“Making Magic On Hillsborough St.”


by Frances Smith, as it appeared in Spectator Magazine

I was the last reluctant passenger to climb in the small white car plastered with yellow tape that reads, "CAUTION: BLINDFOLDED DRIVER." The driver was the famous Raleigh illusionist Jim Passe. He donned a three-layer blindfold, placed a black hood over his entire head and, using hand controls because he is a paraplegic, pulled out of a Meredith College parking lot, eased down the front drive, and turned into Hillsborough Street (one of Raleigh's busiest and most dangerous,) with Crabtree Valley as his destination.

It was Monday morning, bright and sunny, the trees resplendent in their fall colors, but our driver could see none of that -- not the stoplights, nor the traffic nor the curves in the road. Yet somehow a sense of confidence prevailed in the car -- well, most of the time. We couldn't resist giving him a hint now and then.

"You can smell where you are now," said Don Ross, WTVD NewsChannel 11 reporter.

"Yes, there are cows on the right," I chimed in.

"I know exactly where we are," said Passe in a soothing voice.

Going down Blue Ridge Road, he said, "I'm getting the image of something yellow, colored like a bumblebee."

"It's a yellow and black truck. It just passed you," I responded in amazement.

And so it went. Only once did Passe stop in a parking lain to regain control of his psychic images. An NBC camera woman was standing directly in front of him. The crisis over, he moved ahead and turned out into a lane of traffic just in time to miss the lady with the tripod. She didn't flinch. What a shot she must have gotten.

Confined to a wheelchair since 1996 because of a spinal cord injury, Passe is pure magic himself. An accomplished illusionist before his accident, he has persevered to become recognized as one of the best magicians in the country.

Though he is a patent attorney by profession, a former US Olympic Team Cyclist, an electrical contractor and a gourmet chef, Passe's passion is illusion. His production, The Magic Of Jim Passe is the largest touring show in the Southeast. At his headquarters in Raleigh, he has equipped a "Magic Warehouse" which contains over seven tons of staging. Passe will make his television debut on NBC's World's Greatest Magic on November 25.

He frequently offers his show to non-profit organizations for fundraising events and will perform at Meredith College on January 30 & 31 in a benefit to help Kids Together of Cary build a playground for the mentally and physically disabled children. On Wednesday, November 11, Passe will appear at WakeMed with Christopher Reeve who will headline a fundraising event that night for WakeMed's new rehabilitation complex.