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.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Presto! Smarter Than The Average Bunny

Requested by Alicia, here is Pixar's 2008 animated short, Presto! Director Doug Sweetland's homage to vintage magic and magicians, this wonderful cartoon played in theaters with WALL-E. It's available on the WALL-E DVD as well, but why not just watch it below for free?

There are some great sight-gags in the credits; my favorite is an ad for The Civil War, re-enacted by poodles!

Grab A Stick And Start Shaking - More Houdini On The Way

Just when you thought there could not POSSIBLY be more Houdini coming your way, Summit Entertainment announces a film adaptation of William Kalush's and Larry Sloman's book The Secret Life of Houdini, The Making of America's First Superhero.

The film joins Dreamworks' "Voices of the Dead" and the Syfy Channel's "Among the Spirits" in exploiting the ubiquitous escape artist in the coming onslaught of Victoriana and steampunk set to assault screens in 2012.

Click Here for the full story from The Hollywood Reporter.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Thursday, February 17, 2011

The Divided Woman

P.T. Selbit was one of the most creative magicians of the Edwardian age. Born Percy Thomas Tibbles in Hampstead, London, Selbit invented many classic illusions still used by performers to day. Wrestling Cheese (1912), Walking through a Wall (1914), Sawing through a Woman (1921), Girl without a Middle (1924), Through the Eye of a Needle (1924) were all his creations, though some of contemporaries would claim otherwise, most loudly American Horace Goldin.

Goldin improved upon the trick by allowing a method for the subjects head, feet, and hands to remain in view for the duration of the trick, and registered many names for the illusion with Vaudeville Managers' Protective Agency which forced Selbit to call his trick The Divided Woman when he toured the states.
Mark Kalin and Jinger Lee perform a version of the original illusion.

Below, Howard Thurston performs the illusion, which he bought from Selbit for his own act. This illusion became so ubiquitous that it may well be the most recognizable stage magic trick ever.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

More Thurston Lore from Jim Steinmeyer

Here's a little promotional video featuring Jim Steinmeyer talking about Howard Thurston, the subject of his latest book. I'm enjoying reading The Last Greatest Magician in the World: Howard Thurston versus Houdini & the Battles of the American Wizard and will post a review in the next week or so. If you just can't wait to buy it, click below to find it on

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Houdini And Doyle - The Game Is Afoot!

Voices From The Dead, writer J. Michael (Babylon 5, The Changeling) Straczynski's spec screenplay, has sold to Dreamworks. The script concerns Harry Houdini and Sherlock Holmes creator Arthur Conan Doyle as they team up with a psychic to solve some puzzling murders in 1920's New York.
Straczynski's last feature script was for The Changeling, bought and produced by Clint Eastwood's Malpaso company, and directed by Eastwood as well.
This could be a big budget thriller, and a lot of fun. My casting suggestions for Houdini are illustrated above: either Sean Penn or Mark Feurstein from the USA Network series Royal Pains. Who would make a good Doyle?

Click Here to Read The Whole Story At The Hollywood Reporter Website.

It turns out The Syfy Channel is developing a television series based on exactly the same premise, Houdini and Doyle solving mysteries together. I bet Straczynsky was thrilled to hear that...

Friday, February 11, 2011

King Of Koins!

T. Nelson Downs was a contemporary of Houdini, Thurston, Kellar, Herrmann, Maskelyne, and Devant, performing worldwide from around 1895 until his retirement in 1912 at the age of 42. He almost certainly devised illusions for Howard Thurston, and though he was billed as "The King of Koins" he was a pretty amazing card handler by all accounts. After his retirement, he opened a vaudeville theater, wrote several magic books, and spent time amusing his grandchildren. Amazingly, I've found some footage of Downs performing, below.

At the height of his career, he performed a trick which required him to palm sixty (!) coins at once. That's almost unbelievable. The King suffered a stroke in 1938 and passed away at the age of 71. He was buried at Riverside Cemetery in Marshalltown, Iowa. His gravestone reads "King of Koins".

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Hello Kids, I'm Vincent Price...

Columbia Pictures' The Mad Magician starred Vincent Price and was released in 1954. In the film, Price plays illusion designer Don Gallico, a frustrated magician who's indentured to a slaving employer, Mr. Ormond (Donald Randolph). Injuncted by his boss to stop practicing magic and stick to slaving in the workshop, Price hatches a nasty scheme to get rid of his tormentor and a fellow magician.

Patrick Oneal and Eva Gabor co-star, and The Mad Magician is an entertaining murderous romp behind the scenes of music hall magic of the early 20th century. Price, as you may imagine, is not the hero of this piece. You can order a couple of repro posters for the film.

And you can watch it in it's entirety on Youtube! Good thing, as it's not available on DVD.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Vintage Magic Apparel and Gifts!

I'm going to do a trick that magicians call a transformation now, so watch closely. A transformation is actually a combination of a vanish and a production, so it's two tricks in one. That's a great value, actually.

Now here's the trick, are you watching closely? Nothing up my sleeve...

Ya know what else is a great value? Vintage magic poster art on a t-shirt from Heyday Graphix. They have an excellent selection of retro magic poster art available on t-shirts, ties, mouse pads, buttons, magnets, mugs, postcards, prints, and many other products. Houdini, Thurston, Kellar, they're all there, as are many more classic conjurers.
Heyday Graphix is adding new products and new images all the time, so keep checking back. They're a bunch of fine folks over there who support Sleighted: The Vintage Magic Blog and send us a portion of every sale they make through links here on the blog (look in the Links From Beyond box on the right of the page) which helps me keep making posts every day, or as often as I'm able. CLICK HERE TO GO TO HEYDAY GRAPHIX AND BROWSE. Amber up there is wearing a great looking shirt bearing some "Great Raymond" poster art, why not check it out?

And so dear readers, that's how I rather hamfistedly performed the transformation of this blog from content posts to an advertisement with just the lightest of taps on my keyboard. I'll try not to do it too often here in the middle, as long as you keep clicking on the links to the side of the page. Many thanks for your kind words about the blog, help in promoting it, and buying from vendors and advertisers that support us!

Monday, February 7, 2011

David Devant's Mascot Moth Illusion

The Mascot Moth is an illusion that was created by David Devant in the early 20th century. Here's the Magicpedia entry for it:
"Devant considered The Mascot Moth to be his masterpiece. In full view of the audience and in the center of a lighted stage, he makes the lady disappear. As soon as the conjurer attempts to grasp the moth-girl, she immediately vanishes out of sight, although the figure is not concealed in any way during the trick. In performance the illusion was spectacular. The children's writer E. Nesbit featured it in her 1912 play, The Magician's Heart. It was reconstructed nearly a hundred years later for Doug Henning's show Merlin by Jim Steinmeyer and John Gaughan. There is a story about it in Steinmeyer's book, Art and Artifice."
The only video I can find of it is the Merlin television ad below. The Mascot Moth is the final illusion at the end of the video.

Devant was a terrifically well known conjurer in England, the partner of J. N. Maskelyne, proprietor of the Egyptian Hall in London. They were both pretty fascinating fellows.
Click Here To Read Magicpedia's Full Entry On David Devant.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

The Ghost Illusion Automaton

One of the few actual geniuses that I've ever met, Thomas Kuntz is not only an amazing artist and sculptor, he makes incredibly designed and engineered automata in the spirit of Robert-Houdin and other past practitioners of the conjuring arts. Thomas' work is unforgettable and amazing, and I'm very happy to have one or two of the resin figure kits he sculpted in years past. Here's a sample of his work, which features an example of the "Pepper's Ghost" illusion.

To see more of his work, why not visit his website at

Friday, February 4, 2011

Schooled By The Professor

Dai Vernon (aka "The Professor") was possibly the greatest sleight of hand practitioner of the 20th century. Known as The Man Who Fooled Houdini, Vernon was the magician's magician - one of the most knowledgeable and generous performers and scholars of the art. He was magician in residence for thirty years at The Magic Castle in Los Angeles. Watch him do his stuff with cups and balls.

Vernon wrote several books and mentored many younger magicians including Ricky Jay and Doug Henning. Click Here To Read The Wikipedia Entry for Dai Vernon.

Steinmeyer Talks Thurston

Jim Steinmeyer appeared on the Magic Newswire Podcast to talk about his new book, The Last Greatest Magician In The World. CLICK HERE to listen to the podcast.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Blacke's Magic - Barney Miller with a Top Hat

Blacke's Magic was a rather dull retread of Bill Bixby's "The Magician", which aired for thirteen episodes in 1986. Despite having a fine cast including Hal Linden and Harry Morgan, the shows writers were the real culprits every episode. Jim Steinmeyer was the magic consultant (at least for the pilot), and apparently was unable to steer the producers away from utilizing optical effects and cheap gimmickry instead of sleights or stage illusions when they couldn't come up with plausible explanations for their story points.
Though it's a bit of a throwaway show, it's worth a watch; especially if you can see it for free. The pilot, "Breathing Room", is available (as are several episodes) for viewing on Youtube.

Though Linden is a good actor and has personality, the series lacks the panache of "The Magician", and definitely the clever characterization and writing of "Jonathon Creek."
Blacke's Magic is not currently available on DVD, and I can't imagine there are legions of fans clamoring for its release.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

The Last Greatest Magician in the World

Jim Steinmeyer's new biography of Howard Thurston is released this week! Steinmeyer wrote the excellent "Hiding The Elephant" and his books are always entertaining reads, as well as thoroughly researched. His storytelling skills are excellent, and I've been anticipating this book for a couple of years. It hits the streets in hardcover on Thursday, February 3rd.
Click Here To Order It At Amazon.Com