At age 8, after reading a children's book on Harry Houdini, the Ames resident became obsessed with becoming a magician. "It's sort of like saying, 'I'm going to be a pirate,'" Staniforth says.
While studying history at the University of Iowa Staniforth perfected illusions as a street performer around campus and at fraternity and sorority parties. During his senior year in 2005, he took his show on the road to campuses across the country, and is now considered one of the top collects acts in the country. He worked as a consultant on magic star David Blaine's latest special and is making a documentary about magic around the world.
His act is a stripped-down affair. "I spend five months of the year inventing new magic and writing new pieces for the show. The rest of the year, I pack everything that I need to do my show into two gigantic suitcases and travel around the country to show it to people.
"One of the illusions I borrowed from Houdini is where you swallow a bunch of needles and thread, and when you regurgitate them, the needles are threaded on the string," he says. The last illusion of the show revolves around coincidence. I put my wallet on a stool onstage so everyone can see it clearly. I take a Nerf ball and toss it over my shoulder; it is thrown around six times to random people in the audience, and each person calls out a number between 1 and 50. When I open the wallet, there's a lottery ticket inside--and the numbers on the ticket match the numbers that the audience shouted out.