The crowd’s “oohs” and “ahhs” are music to Paul Pettie’s ears, and his magic is mind-boggling to their eyes.

They watch as he stuffs magic partner Stacy Brim into the crate-size basket, dances to the background techno music as he snaps the lid into place, then pierces four shiny swords through each block of the basket.

Pausing for a minute or two, Pettie moves his body to the music and then removes the swords. A smile crosses Pettie’s face as he watches Stacy pop from the suffocating quarters – and step onto the stage unscathed.

“It doesn’t hurt,” says 18-year-old Stacy. “And I’m not flexible at all.”

For the past several years, Pettie, a senior at Lake Highlands High School, has been performing illusionary magic – a magic trick big enough to be performed on stage and requires props and assistants.

Pettie has performed for organizations such as Toshiba Electronics, Boy Scouts of America and the Texas Association of Magicians convention in San Antonio.

Pettie, who founded Paul Pettie and Magic Company several years ago, has been studying magic since he was 6 years old.

“I wasn’t really athletic, and I’ve always been creative,” he says.

Pettie stumbled upon magic when his mother, a marketing teacher at South Garland High School, walked with him along a street lined with specialty shops near her high school.

It was then that Pettie, who at the time was a first-grader at Merriman Park Elementary, first spied the magic store.

The store was called Positively Magic, and Pettie was positively inspired.

As part of obtaining his Eagle Scout ranking in junior high, he began working at Positively Magic. He ended up working at the store for three years.

As his magical knowledge grew, Pettie progressed from performing simple magic tricks at elementary and junior high talent shows to full-scale illusionary magic performances.

Pettie chooses the music, develops the choreography, creates the lighting techniques, constructs the stage props, and most importantly, performs the magic.

His performances require several graceful, athletic bodies, supplied by his high school peers. Stacy, whom he has known since second grade, is his main assistant. Other aides include Courtney Endres and Quentin Johnson.

Pettie’s company can bring Corky the Clown (Endres dressed up as a clown), dancing, balloon animals, walk-around magic tricks, costumed characters to children’s birthday parties, and other events.

“It takes a couple of Suburban-loads to get his stuff to his shows,” says his father, Ron, a Dallas police officer.

Pettie hopes to continue earning money with the company in college; he’s planning to attend University of Texas in Austin or Texas Tech University.

Besides running his own entertainment company, Pettie is captain of LHHS’ Wranglers country-western dance group and is interning with the City of Richardson’s Special Events Department, working on the Wildflower Arts and Music Festival in April.

Pettie plans to study fine arts and marketing in college and says he’ll see what happens from there.

Pettie isn’t aiming to be the next David Copperfield, but if for some reason that happens, he won’t be complaining.

And when asked the universal question: “Is magic real?” Pettie is quick to respond.

“Nope,” he says. “It’s all illusions. I don’t want to look like a god up there.”