Magician raises tigers, perfects illusions from small Montana town


Magician raises tigers, perfects illusions from small Montana town 7-24-12

BELGRADE, Mont. - For years, magician Jay Owenhouse has used a Belgrade warehouse to invent the illusions that wow audiences.

"You can see we have a floating table there, we have an illusion done with a fan that's right here" Owenhouse said, pointing to various crates around his warehouse.

"This is a mental piece that we do called Dreamvision that's a lot of fun."

He became interested in illusions when he was just four years old. The passion stayed with him after college, and he's grown it in to a business that's taken him all over the world.

"We'll go out once a month and do three or four shows, then come home and then do it again next month" he said.

Owenhouse loves to surprise, and leave the audience wondering.

That's one reason he incorporates something special into the show. His two, two-year-old bengal tigers Sheena and Shekinah.

"What's interesting about them is they're both girls and they're twin sisters, even though one's orange and one's white."

Weighing in at 250 pounds, the pair are considered young adult tigers, and have 100 pounds to gain before they're fully mature.

Shekinah is one of only 200 pure white bengal tigers in the world. Jay and his son Peter raised them from cubs.

"I'm fortunate to spend time with them and get to know them" Peter Owenhouse said.

He runs sound and video for the show, and helps with the tigers.

"I'm more of a sibling" Peter said. "When it comes to interacting with them, they're a lot more rough and play as if I'm a tiger."

While Peter acts like the tigers' brother, Jay is more like their mom.

"They do great" Jay said, about their growing up in Montana. "They love the snow and they enjoy the weather, and the summers are beautiful- so they like Montana."

Owenhouse said Shekinah is fun loving and social, while Sheena is a little more reserved.

And like any socialized animal, they like to play and be loved.

Owenhouse said one of their favorite treats is drinking milk from a bottle.

But raising them, and incorporating them into the show hasn't been easy.

"You do something that looks, you know maybe fairly easy and simple- but I know the magic behind it" Peter said. "There's a lot of work."

They said it can take a year to train the tiger a new trick. And it's lot of work that can easily go wrong.

The tigers are wild animals at heart.

"We have a wonderful relationship with them, they're family for us. But then again we're also very careful with them" Jay said.

He's always loved tigers, and had them in his show.

Owenhouse raised Sherekahn, a bengal tiger who passed a way a few years ago at the age of 17.

He said his magic show just wouldn't be the same without his tigers.

"One of the reasons they do so well in a magic show is when you see them in person- they're just magical" Owenhouse said.

A touch of magic that's paid off for a Montana man who started dreaming of magic decades ago.

Jay Owenhouse's performs in Bozeman next May, where he said he'll unveil a new illusion with the tigers that no other magician has ever attempted.

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