Sunday, January 30, 2011

Spectral Motion Busts Out!

Mike Elizalde of Spectral Motion is a magician as well as a wizard; he's an amateur prestidigitator, but Mike's work as a special effects makeup artist and animatronics designer has been seen in many major motion pictures including Hellboy, Hellboy II: The Golden Army (for which he was nominated for an Academy Award™) Land of the Lost, Men in Black I&II, Lord of Illusions, Species, Bicentennial Man, and many more.
A lifelong fan of magic, Mike's reverence for the classic fathers of the art has led to Spectral Motion's line of Magicians of the Golden Era, a series of limited edition, museum quality bronze busts. Sculpted by Mitch Devane, the busts measure approximately thirteen inches. Currently, Thurston and Kellar are available, with Chung Ling Soo listed for pre-order. Other busts in the works include Houdini and Jean Eugene Robert-Houdin (which was sculpted by Mario Torres).

Click Here For Spectral Motion's Magician Busts

UPDATE!: The busts of Kellar, Thurston, Chung Ling Soo, Houdini and Jean Eugene Robert-Houdin are currently in-stock and ready for shipment, with a bust of Alexander Herrmann in the works. For up-to-date- photos and information, drop an email to

Here's a photo of Mike and his wife Mary on the red carpet at the 81st Annual Academy Awards in 2009.

Photos courtesy Spectral Motion and

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Illusionist Nominated for Best Animated Feature Academy Award™

Sylvain Chomet's brilliant and wistful animated film, "The Illusionist", has been nominated for Best Animated Feature Film in this year's Academy Awards™.
If you're unfamiliar with the film, here's the trailer from Youtube.


Chomet's previously most well known film is The Triplets of Bellville.
If you're an Academy member, please view your screener and vote for The Illusionist!

The Star - Houdini’s Inescapable Influence

Here's a link to an article on the Houdini: Art and Magic exhibit on display at the Jewish Museum in Manhattan, and the inescapable influence he's had on modern entertainment.
Click Here to Read The Star: Houdini’s inescapable influence

Monday, January 24, 2011

Pepper's Ghost

I've had one or two readers ask for more information on the "Pepper's Ghost" illusion, mentioned in my last entry on The Haunted Mansion.
The illusion was created by Henry Dircks and refined and made feasible for modern theaters by John Pepper in 1862.
The illusion is for transparent, ghost-like images of performers or objects to be seen onstage with live actors, and its a relatively simple process. A large sheet of glass is suspended at the front of the stage at an angle, between the audience and the performers. Below the audience at the front of the stage, a black backed secondary stage is created where the ghost actors will perform, facing the primary stage. The ghost actors are illuminated in a manner so that they cast a reflection onto the angled sheet of glass and appear transparent. They can be made to fade in and out by attenuating and intensifying the lighting.

In a variation, the ghost performers can be under or in front of the stage facing the audience. The illumination is projected through an oppositely angled two-way mirror onto the performers. The mirror then reflects the transparent images onto the sheet of glass.
In the Haunted Mansion at Disneyland, this effect is used for when the spirits appear next to you in the buggies as they're reflected in the mirror, and at the ghostly cotillion.
Variations on this effect have been used in illusions and stage craft since its invention. Click here for a link to the Pepper's Ghost entry at Wikipedia.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Welcome, foolish mortals, to the Haunted Mansion. I am your host – your ‘Ghost Host!’

Conceived and created by Imagineers Ken Anderson, Rolly Crump, Marc Davis, Claude Coats, and Yale Gracey, The Haunted Mansion at Disneyworld is one of the premier "dark" rides in the world. Its classic mix of humor and scares is highlighted by unforgettable effects and illusions, many of which are based on classic stage illusions, such as "Pepper's Ghosts."

Though designed in the early 1960's before Walt Disney's death, the attraction didn't open to the public until August 12th, 1969. It immediately became one of the park's premier attractions, a distinction it still holds today.
Click Here For A Behind The Scenes Look At The Haunted Mansion, Including The Full Text Of The Ride's Operator's Manual, Circa 1975.

“Hurry back... be sure to bring your death certificate, if you decide to join us. Make final arrangements now. We've been ‘dying’ to have you…”

Friday, January 21, 2011

Get 'Round Here And Make Me Bark Like A Sea Lion.

If by some chance you aren't familiar with Jonathon Creek, you're very lucky that the entire series has been uploaded to Youtube and may be viewed for free.
The series follows Jonathon, who works for a magician designing stage illusions, and investigative crime writer Maddie Magellan as they solve "unsolvable" murders. Quirky and humorous, the show ran on the BBC from 1998 for four series and several specials. The most recent was broadcast April 4th, 2010, so Jonathon may not have solved his last crime yet. The full series is available on DVD as well, Click Here to buy it on Amazon.
In the meantime, enjoy the first episode below, which guest stars the inimitable Colin Baker, former Doctor Who and bon vivant of wide repute.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Right Way To Do Wrong

Read Harry Houdini's book from 1906 on con artists and successful criminals, "The Right Way To Do Wrong," for free at Google books. Its pretty short at just 97 pages.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Houdini Speaks!

Here's a vary rare recording of Harry Houdini talking about his Water Torture Cell Escape illusion. Bess also talks briefly about Harry and their pact to prove or disprove life after death. Below are a few seconds of very low-resolution film of Houdini's funeral.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

You wouldn't like him when he's angry...

The title sequence for Bill Bixby's TV series, "The Magician," which ran on NBC in 1973-74. Bixby played Anthony Blake, a stage magician/amateur sleuth who went to great lengths to help friends and acquaintances out of tight spots using his skills. Click Here for the Wikipedia entry on the series.
Sadly, its not yet available on DVD. Running less than two full seasons, this would make a great special edition box set and is high on my wish list for release.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Translated From Memory

“It is easy enough, no doubt, to play the conjuror without possessing either dexterity or mental ability. It is only necessary to lay in a stock of apparatus of that kind which of itself works the trick. This is what may be called the “false bottom” school of conjuring. Cleverness at this sort of work is of the same order as that of the musician who produces a tune by turning the handle of a barrel organ.”

From The Secrets of Conjuring And Magic by Robert-Houdin. The Essential Robert-Houdin reproduces the entire text of this book and almost every other word he ever wrote. The volume is currently out of print and very hard to find.

Friday, January 14, 2011

This is what it sounds like...

...when doves cry.
Channing Pollock was possibly the greatest bird manipulator in the history of stage magic. Watch as he effortlessly produces two birds at once from the empty black scarf - seamless. He appeared on several prime time TV shows in the 1960's, most notably Bonanza, Daniel Boone, and The Beverly Hillbillies.
Pollock retired from show business in 1969 to become an organic farmer in Moss Beach, California. He continued to mentor proteges and teach magic to young performers until his death in 2006 at the age of 79.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Playing With The King of Cuffs!

Every vintage magic enthusiast needs a Houdini action figure! Accoutrements' figure of the most famous escape artist ever comes with a straight jacket, ropes, cuffs and more accessories to enhance play value (especially if Barbie happens by). Essential!
Mini-dini is available here:
Houdini Action Figure on Amazon.Com

At the Beginning

Just posting a quick Robert-Houdin poster to get things rolling here. In the future I hope to cover graphics, stories, books, films, and all aspects of vintage magic and the traditions of magic on this blog.
Stay tuned.