Arts & Culture

This Cal Poly student has plenty of tricks up his sleeve

Up-and-coming magician (and Cal Poly student) shows off his best tricks

Magician and Cal Poly mechanical engineering student Elliott Hunter shows a few of his best card tricks. Hunter has a monthly gig performing at the Magic Castle in Los Angeles, on top of his studies.
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Magician and Cal Poly mechanical engineering student Elliott Hunter shows a few of his best card tricks. Hunter has a monthly gig performing at the Magic Castle in Los Angeles, on top of his studies.

Up-and-coming entertainer Elliott Hunter knows a lot of magic tricks. Perhaps the greatest is finding enough hours in the day.

Hunter, who’s studying manufacturing engineering at Cal Poly, belongs to the swim club, competes for the triathlon team and, oh yeah, has a burgeoning career as a stage magician — performing everywhere from the Cambria Christmas Market to the legendary Magic Castle in Los Angeles, where he has a monthly gig.

The secret, the second-year student joked, is “sleep deprivation.”

“It really comes down to how well I manage my time,” explained Hunter, whose full name is Elliott Hunter Hofferth. “When I was in high school, I was practicing three hours a day. And I don’t have time for that anymore.”

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Elliott Hunter Hofferth, who goes by the stage name Elliott Hunter, is a Cal Poly student and magician. Joe Johnston

Hunter has known he wanted to be a magician since childhood, when he saw one such entertainer perform at the public library in Anacortes, Washington.

After graduating from high school in 2016, Hunter enrolled in Cal Poly on his father’s recommendation. His dad, who worked as Hunter’s sound technician prior to him starting college, went to Cal Poly, while his mother, who handled Hunter’s marketing, went to Cal Poly Pomona.

“My folks have been supportive from day one,” said Hunter, whose uncle is also a Cal Poly graduate.

While an engineering degree serves as a safety net, Hunter said, it also has practical value within the magic industry. After graduating, he could work for a props company in Las Vegas or Los Angeles.

But the young magician has his eyes on a bigger prize: “I’m working on getting on cruise ships. ... You get to see the world and get paid for it.”

Hunter is off to a smashing start. In November, he won the inaugural Magic Master Summit competition, hosted by renowned magician David DaVinci. There, Hunter competed against 19 other performers from around the globe.

He said that performing for fellow magicians had a different feel than performing for “laymen,” the term magicians use to refer to non-magicians.

With laymen, “you might know 16 different ways to do a card trick, but all they see is the card trick,” Hunter said.

Elliott Hunter performing
Stage magician Elliott Hunter won the Magic Master Summit competition in November. Courtesy of Elliot Hunter

But when you’re surrounded by magicians, “They know their methods so well that it’s easy to figure out, so they tend to focus more on the presentational side of what magic is and how you’re able to use your magic to kind of tell a story.”

Telling a story, Hunter added, is key to making the old-school art of magic feel fresh and relevant for today’s audiences.

“People can say or not say that magic is real in the physical sense, but I do believe that it is real in the sense that it connects to life itself,” he said, explaining that everything in his act is inspired by his experiences. “I’m able to use that to my advantage to be able to tell a story, to connect further with my audience, to be able to increase the level of entertainment.”

For example, he created a trick where he tears and restores a newspaper for a high school friend who was at risk of committing suicide.

“It’s basically a story about how people were tearing her life apart and making her feel worthless,” Hunter said, “and with just one call from a friend, to sit her down and be able to talk to her and listen to her, she was able to restore her life and put it back together.

“I was able to take a story that came from my personal reality ... and turn it into a message my audience can experience and then take home with them.”

Hunter had some advice for aspiring magicians.

“I would say go to the library and check out any books you can. Books are the best place to learn, don’t learn online,” he said. “You don’t know who’s teaching you online.”

Andrew Sheeler: 805-781-7934, @andrewsheeler

San Luis Obispo magician and YouTube personality Rich Ferguson played a prank on visitors to Bubblegum Alley in downtown SLO. Watch as some scream, run away or get otherwise spooked.

Elliott Hunter

For more information about Elliott Hunter, visit

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