Thursday, October 20, 2011

By the Pricking of My Thumbs...

Something Wicked This Way Comes!

Retrieved from his basement just a few months ago by friend Terry Pace, here is Ray Bradbury's magic set from when he was a kid! Terry didn't have too many details about the set, but Ray was happy as a clam to see it after many years in storage. Apparently, he pulled out a few of the tricks and did some sleight of hand for Terry and his wife Anita! Still nimble in his 90's, Ray has never lost his sense of wonder or his love of magic.
Keep vanishing the coins, Ray!

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Amy Pond Loves The Magic

Doctor Who's resident Scottish hottie Karen Gillan is a magic fan. In her recent appearance on Crag Ferguson's talk show, she talks about her desire to visit The Magic Castle while in L.A., and her love for the Masked Magician. Click below to watch the full segment.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Always Entertaining Paul Daniels - Heroes of Magic

England's Paul Daniels makes a splash in Part Three of Heroes of Magic!
Daniels is one of the wittiest performers ever, and very quick with a joke. Its always a pleasure to watch him perform.

Once again, sorry for the sparse postings, I've got a lot of projects in progress at the moment, but I'll try to be better about posting more often.

The Paul Daniels' Magic ShowcaseTHE PAUL DANIELS MAGIC ANNUALPaul Daniels Adult Magic Book

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Ebay Item of the Week - 20th Century Magic Book

This week on eBay! A classic volume of vintage magic lore; 20th Century Magic by Nevil Monroe Hopkins published in 1904. From the description:

By Nevil Monroe Hopkins

As I post this there's 1 day, 19 hours left of the auction and bidding stands at $5.00. What a bargain!


Thursday, May 26, 2011

More Heroes of Magic

Sorry I haven't posted in a while - lots of projects coalescing and sucking up my time at the moment. I'll try and be better about posting more often!

In the meantime, enjoy more heroes of magic with Tommy Cooper and the great David Nixon (above), among others.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Magic Lawyers Practice Magic Law

I know it's not vintage magic, but this billboard has been a few blocks from my house for the last year or so and I always chuckle when I see it.

"Your Honor, I'd like to present Defense Exhibit A... this rabbit. From this hat. Nothing up my sleeves..."

I'm not affiliated with Robert Speer in any way, but he's obviously a magic fan and probably an amateur practitioner himself.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Dover Magic Books - Classic Reprints

Dover Publications has a long history of reprinting public domain (copyright free) books and graphics, and they've made quite a few hard to find magic texts available over the years.

CLICK HERE to see their current listing for magic (and related) books, which includes volumes by Walter B. Gibson, T. Nelson Downs, Houdini, Jasper Maskelyne, Henning Nelms and other classic magicians.

If you act quickly, they're even having a spring sale on many books, but hurry - it ends tomorrow, Thursday the 21st.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Great Simpsina - Homer vs. Houdini!

Ok, Homer vs. Houdini MAY be a bit of an exaggeration - in fact, nothing of the kind takes place in this special magic-related episode of The Simpsons. Actually, Lisa is the Simpson who takes up the conjuring arts in the episode, which aired last Sunday. Guest voices include the great Martin Landau, David Copperfield, Ricky Jay, and Penn & Teller. Watch the episode in its entirety here or at

Heroes of Magic - Blackstone, Cardini, & Pollock

Here's a clip from the 2000 UK TV Documentary, "Heroes of Magic," featuring performance footage of Harry Blackstone, Sr., Cardini, and Channing Pollock. Commentators include Ali Bongo and Max Maven, among others.

The Cardini footage is especially cool to me, he had such a smooth sense of comedy that served him well. For more on Cardini, take a look at his official website by CLICKING HERE. The link on that website to the book Cardini: The Suave Deceiver is outdated; CLICK HERE to go to the page for it at The Miracle Factory.

I'll be sharing more clips from the documentary over the next week or so, stay tuned!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Secrets of Houdini?

Yahoo has posted a new video professing to reveal the "Secrets of Houdini's Magic!"
The producers really delved deeply to come up with the hard-hitting journalistic work seen below. And then they saw a squirrel and ran off topic for a bit.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Secrets of Magic - Ebay Item of the Week

This week's eBay item is a vintage copy of Walter B. Gibson's "Secrets of Magic," from 1945

From the auction:
"Vintage booklet - Secrets of Magic by Walter B. Gibson, Associate of Blackstone, Houdini and Thurston, published Wm. C. Popper, New York - 5 1/4" x 7 1/4", paper covers, 50 pages, illustrations, 1945, complete."

"Condition is fair - some creases with some wrinkling, few small tears, some wear on the corners and edges, some yellowing, no stains."

Click Here For More Information Or To Bid

Gibson was indeed an associate of Blackstone, Houdini, and Thurston, as well as one of the most prolific pulp novel writers of his time. He created The Shadow under the pen name Maxwell Grant, and ghost wrote books for all three magicians. It's believed that Gibson wrote 282 Shadow novels!

As a magician himself, Gibson introduced the Chinese Linking Rings trick in America and invented the classic "Nickels to Dimes" trick. He died December 6, 1985. Click Here for more information on Walter B. Gibson at

Complete Illustrated Book Of The Psychic Sciences
Houdini's Escapes and Magic
Complete Illustrated Book of Card Magic
Walter Gibson's Big Book of Magic for All Ages : With over 150 Easy-To-Perform Tricks Using Everyday Objects

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Ricky Jay and His 52 Assistants

Ricky Jay is one of the best card men in the business, and always a joy to watch. He's also an actor of renown, appearing in many of David Mamet's movies as well as magic related films like "The Prestige." Here he appears on the Arsenio Hall show circa 1988, and displays his amazing prestidigitation skills.

Click Here to visit Ricky's website, or any of the links below to buy his books and films.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Happy Birthday, Harry! Google Celebrates Houdini

Today would have been Houdini's 137th birthday, and Google is helping celebrate with a special Google doodle logo created for today. CLICK HERE to see it at!

How will you celebrate Houdini today?

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Dorothy Young, Houdini's Last Surviving Assistant Dies

Dorothy Young has died at the age of 103. She was the last surviving assistant of Harry Houdini, touring with his company from 1925-26. Her death from heart failure was announced today by Drew University, where she was a prominent donor.

Young portrayed the futuristic "Radio Girl of 1950" onstage with Houdini and later went on to become a professional dancer and novelist, as well as a patron of the arts. For more information on Dorothy Young, CLICK HERE. For her obituary in the UK newspaper The Telegraph, CLICK HERE.

The announcement of her death comes the day before the 137th anniversary of Houdini's birth.

CLICK HERE to watch Dorothy talk about her experience onstage with Houdini.

Monday, March 21, 2011

HBO Hobgoblin - Chabon Sets Magicians Against Hitler

From Entertainment Weekly:
"HBO is developing a drama series about a group of con men and magicians who battle Hitler and the Nazis during WWII. They use their powers of deception to outwit the Third Reich, you see."

"Titled Hogoblin, the project is from Michael Chabon (Wonder Boys) and Ayelet Waldman (Chabon's wife-AT)(Bad Mother) and is described as in early development."

In an update, they breathlessly gush about discovering that Jasper Maskelyne did in fact help the Allies in the war effort. Amazing what a bit of research will uncover if you bother to do it, huh?

I'm a fan of Chabon's The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, which features the exploits of an escape artist turned comic book penciller and his writer cousin in the New York of the 1930's and '40's. Chabon won the Pulitzer Prize for the novel. I'm looking forward to seeing how Hobgoblin turns out.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

George Pal's HOUDINI

CLICK HERE to watch George Pal's 1953 movie, HOUDINI for free on Youtube. This movie fascinated me as a child and made me want to find out more about Houdini and magic. Though not very accurate, it's terrifically entertaining. If you've never seen it, enjoy - if it's an old favorite, enjoy it again!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Davenport Brothers and Their Spirit Cabinet

Once again, Carnegie: Magic Detective comes through with a brilliant post on the Davenport Brothers and their spirit cabinet, the trick that inspired Thurston, Houdini, Charles Morritt, David Devant, Carter the Great, and many other magicians of the golden age.

Early adopters of Spiritualism, the brothers presented their illusion as actual paranormal phenomena rather than stage magic. This tactic inspired others to debunk the act by recreating it onstage and explaining the techniques used to create the phenomena.

CLICK HERE to read Carnegie's history of the Davenport Brothers and Their Spirit Cabinet.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Review - The Last Greatest Magician In The World: Howard Thurston Versus Houdini & The Battles Of The American Wizards

"The function of the magician has characteristics common with those of the criminal, of the actor, and of the priest...and he enjoys certain special advantages impossible for these professions. Unlike the criminal, he has nothing to fear from the police; unlike the actor, he can always have the stage to himself; unlike the priest, he need not trouble about questions of faith in connection with the mysteries at which he presides." - Edmund Wilson

The name Houdini has become synonymous with magic. Though he was arguably the best escape artist and one of the most dynamic stage performers in history, Houdini wasn't the greatest magician in the world. In Jim Steinmeyer's new book, The Last Greatest Magician In The World: Howard Thurston Versus Houdini & The Battles Of The American Wizards, the author posits that Thurston deserves the accolade. Why isn't Thurston's the name we associate so closely with magic now? According to Steinmeyer, Houdini publicized himself to create a legend, while Thurston was simply trying to fill theater seats.

Thurston's beginnings were criminal, starting out as a hobo and confidence man at a young age. He traveled the countryside by freight train, made a living as a pickpocket, potato peeler salesman, and eventually was inspired to become a magician after seeing a performance by Alexander Herrmann (The Great Herrmann) in 1893. Along the way he spent time in reform school and a Christian school for boys, the effects of which would last a lifetime.

Thurston became a tireless practitioner of prestidigitation, mastering the art of palming and producing cards and coins. He worked as a barker at the Columbian Exposition, on the midway at the Chicago Worlds Fair. There he honed his stagecraft and presentation skills, often exchanging tricks and jabs with an also young Harry Houdini, who shared his passion for magic.

Always a hard worker, Howard's efforts began to pay off in the early 1900's, after touring the western states. The advent of Vaudeville brought new venues to play and new audiences eager to be mystified and entertained. Thurston's magnificent voice and smooth way with digital manipulations made him a popular act, and bookings increased as word spread.

Steinmeyer is a great storyteller, though much of the drama is extrapolated from the magician's letters and second or third-hand accounts of some events. He's fond of comparing passages from Thurston's autobiography (of which Thurston himself wrote nothing - just another sleight of hand from the master) with a more balanced account of events he uncovered through research, which gives additional insight into not only Thurston but the people with which he surrounded himself.

Thurston eventually eschewed Vaudeville to create his own traveling show, which swelled to fill eight train cars with props, animals, and personnel. His show became so popular that he had to turn down bookings overseas, so he took on a franchise performer, Dante, and sent him abroad to perform the show with his blessing - for a substantial financial consideration.

As he ruled the world of theatrical magic, Howard Thurston's personal life was never stable or wonderful. His brother Harry was almost certainly a part of the Chicago mob, running hoochy-kooch shows and other unsavory businesses, his wife had chronic health problems, and his fellow magicians stole tricks from his repertoire, or took pot shots at him for sharing secrets with kids at his shows.

Though he began as a criminal, Howard Thurston became an accomplished actor, and in his own way a priest - he never lost the faith he found as a young adult and always played shows at childrens' hospitals and orphanages for free, which had the added bonus of being great free publicity for his regular performances.

He was, as Steinmeyer asserts, The Last Greatest Magician In The World, if only for the amazing transformation he performed upon himself. His legacy is that of one of the best card handlers of all time, as well as one of the best performers onstage. Though he created very few of the illusions he performed, Thurston dealt fairly with his fellow practitioners, licensing tricks from other magicians and inventors rather than stealing them. The battles alluded to in the title of the book refer more to his dealings with Harry Blackstone and a few other magicians who stole his tricks than his relationship with Houdini.

Howard Thurston died of a stroke in 1936, ten years after Houdini passed.

The Last Greatest Magician In The World: Howard Thurston Versus Houdini & The Battles Of The American Wizards is a bit long, but it was written for completists. It's an entertaining record of Thurston's career and a welcome addition to Steinmeyer's other volumes.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Original Dante Souvenir Program - Ebay Item of the Week

From the Ebay Auction:
"This is an original souvenir program that was sold during Dante's "Sim-Sala-Bim" magic shows in the 1940s. Its subtitle is "50 Tricks For Everybody." The red, black and white cover is beautiful and is suitable for framing.

The program contains biographies and nice photographs of Dante (Harry August Jansen) and Moi-Yo Miller. Also includes advise for potential magicians and a $10,000 challenge to any show that could equal its success. There are around 50 simple magic tricks explained, horoscopes, an essay titled "The Truth About The Hindu Rope Trick," a letter from Howard Thurston, and many press clippings.

It is a 28-page, saddle stitched, 9x12 inch program with many photographs and illustrations. Excellent condition."

CLICK HERE for more information or to place a bid.

Dante (Harry A. Jansen) was Howard Thurston's "Minor League" franchise act. While Thurston played in the U.S. to great demand, Dante took the same show on tour around the world. Click here for more information on Dante.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Smoke and Mirrors - Professor Morritt Sets The Stage

When Harry Houdini decided that being the world's greatest escape artist was no longer enough and set his sights on becoming the worlds greatest magician, he turned to Charles Morritt. Morritt was a Yorkshire born mentalist and illusionist that began, like many of his contemporaries, by recreating the Davenport Brothers' spirit box onstage when he was only eighteen years old.

Within a few years, "Professor" Morritt had become something of an impresario, managing several theaters in northern England and touring with his partner Lillian performing a very effective mentalist act.

Morritt was a very talented creator of illusions, but had a dark side and was a serious drinker. His problems got so bad that he disappeared for five or six years, and was eventually found by David Devant performing in a makeshift theater in a tiny village in the English countryside. Morritt had created an illusion in which he vanished a donkey onstage in a raised cabinet on wheels which was thrown open and made completely visible on (almost) all sides for the audience's inspection. It was then closed and the donkey was trotted out the same way he went in.

Devant was amazed by the apparatus and the illusion, and bought the trick from Morritt to use at the Egyptian Theater in London. Morritt had trained there himself with John Nevil Maskelyne, Devant's partner. When Houdini began his search for new illusions, he turned to Morritt, who suggested a version of the trick using an elephant instead of a donkey.

Houdini performed the illusion at the famous New York Hippodrome, but it was not a particularly successful trick. Much of the audience could barely see inside cabinet to verify the elephant had indeed disappeared because of the viewing angles and altitude of the seats in relation to the stage. Houdini wasn't bothered by this and most audience members weren't either; they came to see the great Houdini. The elephant was a supporting cast member.

Morritt continued creating illusions and performing, as well as drinking heavily; Eventually he died from tuberculosis in 1936.

Jim Steinmeyer's Art and Artifice has an excellent section on Morritt and how Steinmeyer deduced the secret of the donkey vanishing cabinet and recreated it himself.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Ebay Item Of The Week: Yu Li San & Professor Alba Posters

From the Ebay listing:
"Two original 1950's stone litho posters looks more like their from the 1930s. Great graphics of Professor Alba the famed Magician from Spain and his Medium assistant Yu Li San. We are also offering them individually in two pother listings on eBay. These posters are from a small find of them we made in Spain. The one with a skeleton measures 13x27"and the medium Yu Li San measures 29x27”. We are the original source of these posters. They have sold for $1000+ EACH in fine art poster galleries but here it is far less as you are going right to the source. Both have some tears, but otherwise in excellent condition and with great eye appeal. Will be shipped rolled, will look amazing framed. $7 shipping."
CLICK HERE to bid or for more information.

There are several auctions up for these posters simultaneously, so check the seller's other items to see which has the lowest bid. These are great looking original magic poster graphics for what seems to be a very reasonable price. I may bid on a set myself!
HERE'S AN ENTRY on a similar poster at the Vintage Poster Blog.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Magic Poster Auction Makes Chicago Newscast

Potter and Potter Auctions are preparing to sell an enormous collection of vintage magic posters on Saturday, March 26th in Chicago. After spending the last forty-odd years in a vacuum cleaner box in a basement, the posters were unearthed by the wife of a recently deceased collector. There are quite a few rare pieces, and most are in very fine condition. The Houdini poster on the cover of the auction catalog seems to be the most valuable, estimated in the $20,000.00 range.

For more information or a catalog, CLICK HERE. To view lots available for online bidding, go to Nothing up as of this posting, but I assume they will be posted soon. The local ABC affiliate in Chicago covered the upcoming event, watch it below.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Hat Trick - Three Goals or One Rabbit

A friend asked me who invented the trick of pulling a rabbit from a hat after the Pixar cartoon post. Though it was probably first performed by Louis Comte in the earliest part of the 19th century, it was certainly perfected and popularized by John Henry Anderson, a.k.a. The Great Wizard of the North.

Anderson (1814–1874) was a Scottish magician and a contemporary of Jean Eugene Robert-Houdin and the Great Herrmann. He's credited with being one of the first magicians to move performance conjuring from the streets into theaters early in his career. He was also one of (if not) the first magicians to publicly expose the Spiritualist movement and the Davenport Brothers as a hoax.

Harry Houdini was born the same year that Anderson died, 1874. In 1909, Houdini made arrangements for the upkeep of Anderson's gravesite in Aberdeen, citing him as a major inspiration.