SAN LUIS OBISPO - These days, just about everything he does is magic, but Rich Ferguson didn't always live the charmed life.
He was born in Salinas in 1970.
His mother was killed when he was five years old, and his father was sent to prison for drug trafficking.
Ferguson says he learned to read people at a very young age.
"I just kinda had to fend for myself," he says. "I was very analytical, very observant, almost freakishly observant, which is my whole life. For eleven years, I had to sit, analyze, be a step ahead of people at all times. It has 100% to do with why I do what I do."
He was adopted by a family from San Luis Obispo when he was 11 years old and started going to school for the first time in his life.
"Junior high was very difficult for me," says Ferguson. "Scholastically, it was horrible, embarrassing. In high school, I started doing really well and getting into the more advanced classes, and college, it was just an explosion of freedom. It was awesome."
As he got older, his fascination in science and psychology grew.
"I had an interest in dabbling and creating. I wasn't so much into crunching numbers, but more like inventing things."
He studied mechanical engineering at Cuesta College and then Cal Poly, but it wasn't until a few years after he graduated that he stumbled upon something that would change his life.
"I was probably 24, 25 and I went, in Santa Barbara of all places, there was a place on State Street called "World of Magic," and I went in there with my cousin and I thought magic, oh tricks, ok this is cool."
Performing magic came naturally to Ferguson.
Soon after uncovering his new talent, he decided to quit his job and pursue his passion.
"From the moment I had interest in magic, the actual magic part, the cards and coins, it was within a couple of weeks, I'd say. It was, oh my gosh, this is it," he says. "I literally joined the Chamber of Commerce and started soliciting as an entertainer."
Today, Ferguson mystifies audiences around the world.
"I'm more of a magician/mentalist/psychologist mix," he says. "I kinda wing it, and I have kind of a high risk wing it style."
He's "winged it" for Oprah, Weird Al and Neil Patrick Harris.
He's also consulted for marketing firms and made a name for himself in the poker world.
Ferguson now specializes in helping kids here on the Central Coast.
If you'd like to see Ferguson in person, he'll be performing at the upcoming Zinfandel Festival, at the Sextant Wines barrel room in Paso Robles on Friday, March 18th.