Do you believe in magic?
John Stessel sure does.
Sitting on the steps of Wilson Hall, John removed the deck of cards from his pocket and began to shuffle.
It was just last year that John was a student at Monmouth University. He double majored in Business Real Estate and Finance and manifested the spot to graduate first in his class in both majors; but that is not what John is remembered for.
He is known for exactly what he’s doing right now on the stairs of Wilson: Manipulating a deck of cards and mesmerizing whatever crowd happened to walk by.
He has since moved from those steps and climbed to new heights in the direction his dreams.
Nowadays, he can be found in New York City serving as Head Magic Consultant for the renowned magician, Dan White, on his off-broadway show called, “The Magician” at the Nomad Hotel.
John’s job is to oversee all operations of every show.
“The Magician” transcends all statuses with audience members from Kanye West, Kim Kardashian-West, Neil Patrick Harris, and Ivanka Trump, just to name a few that have attended.
Jimmy Fallon is also a huge fan of Dan White’s work; out of the six times he has appeared on The Fallon Show, John has been present for five of them.
“The word is not luck, though,” John explained before telling his story. “I am very fortunate to be doing what I love and it was quite a journey to get here.”
John’s journey began when he was eight years old. His sister, Jen, gifted him a magic kit that consisted of a green tray that had the power to make a quarter disappear. “I was absolutely obsessed,” John said. “Ever since that day, I was completely enamored to making magic.”
Jen, also a Monmouth University alumna, said she is so proud of the magician her brother has become. “I remember the day I gave John that magic kit,” Jen said. “I would have never thought it would take him to where he is today.”
John’s love for magic and wowing anyone that would watch only increased over his childhood years.
Around 11 years old, John picked up his first deck of cards; all 52 of them soon became extensions of his hands. He had a fire burning in his heart to learn more magic, but didn’t have the resources to fuel it. At this time, the internet was still up and coming, which posed a major challenge.
“There were no tutorials for me to learn from,” John said. “And any website potentially worthwhile required a credit card, which was an easy ‘no’ from my parents.”
When all of John’s options were exhausted, he didn’t give up. In fact, it only made him stronger. He then decided he would create his own magic tricks, which was truly the beginning of something remarkable.
The invention of a now world-famous magic trick called “Flush” was created while John was in high school during his freshman year.
“Flush” is essentially the linkage between two rubber bands without applied force or damage. A You Tube blogger named “TokoSalup” describes the process in this way: “Simple, elegant, and impossible. You lightly hold two rubber bands at your fingertips. You touch them together. They link. You blow on them. They unlink.”
Reflecting on the creation, John explained how it happened. “It was the third time that week that my teacher took away my deck of cards,” he said. “I took the bag of rubber bands from my backpack and started experimenting. Before class was over, Flush was born.”
Impressed with himself, John decided to film himself executing Flush and submitted it to a magic company. In turn, it became a best-selling, world-famous magic trick. John then appeared as a contestant on television’s Wizard Wars with master magicians Penn and Teller. Quicker than John can shuffle a deck of cards, he was stapled into the magic industry.
What tends to shock most people about John is that he never intended a career that revolved around magic.
He enrolled as a student at Monmouth University in 2012, hoping to one day succeed in the real estate field. Little did he know, his passion for magic was too big to ignore by not only him, but also everyone surrounding him.
John’s girlfriend, Alli Scarpa, a health studies student, describes a quality about John she admires the most.
“He is so unapolagetically himself,” Alli said. “It doesn’t matter what people say about magic or who he was going up, he would never change to fit in and I find that so special.”
John recalled a professor that completely made his Monmouth experience and career path what it has become today. His name is Peter Reinhart, Director of Monmouth University’s Real Estate School.
“Professor Reinhart was equally interested in my magic career as my college career,” John explained. “He really was my mentor and helped other professors understand that when I had to miss class for magic, it was legitimate.”
At this point in John’s life, he was commuting from his internship at J.P. Morgan and Chase in Delaware to New York City where he first started working on “The Magician” show, and working at West Long Branch’s Bagel Guys Deli to make some extra cash.
Christopher Brigandi, owner of Bagel Guys Deli and former boss of John, said that it took less than 10 minutes of him being on the job before he broke out his deck of cards.
“And he didn’t disappoint,” Brigandi stated. “It was really cool having a professional magician on staff to entertain kids, locals, and mostly us when we were slow.”
While juggling a trio of three jobs and being a student, John decided to take a semester off of school to finally make a decision between the magician world and the real estate world.
It’s no secret which of the two won the battle.
Kevin Zielaznicki, senior finance student, is brothers with John by means of their fraternity, Phi Kappa Psi. “I have to say something nice about Stessel?” Kevin joked, but continued in sincerity. “I highly doubt there are people out there who have a more ambitious spirit than John. His personality, great attitude, and skills are all components of his success.”
John is a humble example of a successful Monmouth alum. “I went to M.U. not to find a career, but to find myself,” John said with a smile turning upward. “And It’s pretty safe to say that I think it’s paying off.”
Your Monmouth family thinks it’s paying off, too, John!
Want to see John in his natural habitat? Check out TheNomadUpstairs.com for “The Magician” show times and tickets!
PHOTOS COURTESY of Matt Fernandez