Cherokee Conjurers bring magic to Basin Park
Bobby Neugin and his son, Jeramy Neugin, are packing their bags and coming to Eureka Springs this weekend. Some of the things going into the bags: the eye of a witch killed in Oklahoma. The preserved hand of a chupacabra. A medicine bag, crystals, dream-catchers and a rock that can make it rain.
What they aren't bringing along: black snakes, a mummified head or one of the Little People, small horned spirit-creatures that help the Cherokee.
The Neugins, who live in Lost City, Okla., are magicians that combine their Cherokee heritage with show business, producing a unique entertainment experience. Starting Sunday, June 16, they will be performing free, 15-minute magic shows in Basin Park continuously through the day through Friday, weather permitting, as a way of introducing themselves to the community.
"We were going up there as a regular vacation, and we saw you guys allow street performing," Jeramy said. "So we thought, why not give you a show?"
None of their family is coming with them -- as Jeramy puts it, "People are not too comfortable traveling with us for some reason." Nor can they keep an assistant -- they all quit after Bobby performed the cut-rope trick with a black snake, he said. The snake did survive.
"There was a lot of blood and gore to clean up," Jeramy said.
What they will be doing in Basin Park: family-friendly street magic, close-up magic, mentalism and voodoo tricks with a native twist. One illustrates why Cherokees carried medicine bags, which tell if a person is in tune with himself. Another illusion ends with ashes appearing in people's palms. Jeramy's grandmother gave them an illusion performed with Tarot cards -- after a person picks three cards, he plays a recording his grandmother made, describing the person and the cards they picked.
"I was there when she made it," he said. "It was weird."
Magic has always been a part of Cherokee culture, Bobby said, but was stamped out by missionaries at the beginning of the 19th century. The Neugins' goal is to recover as much of it as they can before it is lost.
"It was like religion -- everybody had some sort of power," Bobby said. "Then it got weakened and just medicine men and magicians had it."
Their own heritage goes back beyond the Trail of Tears, which Bobby's great-great grandmother, Rebbecca Neugin, traveled when she was 13. She was one of the last survivors, he said, dying at the age of 105 in the 1960s. And everyone in his family saw and heard the ghost of a child who inhabited the house they lived in after their house burned down.
The Neugins will also display exhibits from their museum at Lost City, including the witch's eye, which is psychic -- if you look through it, you can see the future. They are bringing the rock that a cousin who was a rainmaker used, and will give a demonstration. In addition to the demon hand, they have other mythical objects, including the finger of a Bigfoot, but they don't reveal how they got it.
"He was attached to it," is all Bobby would say.
They will have a hat set out for donations if anyone is feeling generous, but are mainly in Eureka Springs because they visited here earlier in the year and wanted to come back for more than a day.
"Eureka Springs is gorgeous, with a magic of its own," Bobby said. "We're on a working vacation and want to see if the crowd and the city like us."
If they do, they might come back and do a stage show, he said. Illusions Bobby performs on stage: pulling a 5-foot-long black snake out of an egg shell. Mixing mud and water in his hand, and when he opens it, red wasps fly out. The Neugins also do illusions involving cut-off limbs and setting Jeramy's head on fire, but they require a large stage.
"We usually do the gory stuff at Halloween," Jeramy said, "and even then it's more Adamms Family than Freddy Kruger."
The Neugins will be performing in Basin Park Sunday, June 16, through Friday, June 21. Shows run 15 minutes throughout the day, and vary in content. For more information about Lost City Magic, go to www.neugin.vpweb.com.