I’ve been a fan of David Ginn for many years, since I first read his book, Clown Magic — David is not a clown, but he is one of the great children’s magicians of our time, with decades of experience. I’m glad to say that he shares some of his favorite routines, and some of his experience, in his book, Children Laugh Louder, now back in print. In addition, it now includes a 2-hour DVD of David performing the routines as well. Read More…
The Magic World of the Amazing Randi – mystifying tricks easily performed by wizards of all ages. Including tricks by such world renowned magicians as David Copperfield, Harry Blackstone Jr., Penn and Teller and many more!
In short, The Magic World of the Amazing Randi is an excellent book for someone just beginning to be interested in learning magic. It’s a collection of magic and magicians from around the world, with 1-page biographies of current magicians (current when the book was first published in 1989, that is) with each magician contributing a simple 2-page trick. It’s clearly written, with nice illustrations of both the individual magicians as well as the tricks themselves when needed. Read More…
Editorial review of Houdini’s Escapes and Magic, courtesy of Amazon.com
The secrets of the greatest magician of them all are revealed in this new one-volume edition of two classic long-out-of-print works, Houdini’s Escapes and Houdini’s Magic. Prepared by Walter Gibson after Houdini’s death in 1926, from the magicians private notebook and memoranda, and with the assistance of his widow, Beatrice, and his friend and attorney, Bernard M. L. Ernst, then President of the Society of American Magicians, these books provide the most complete description available of Houdini’s feats and how he performed them. Read More…
The Book of Secrets: Miracles Ancient and Modern, by Walter B. Gibson
Many people have heard of Walter B. Gibson — best known as the author of “The Shadow,” a prolific writer. What is less known is that he worked as a ghostwriter for Houdini, Howard Thurston, and Harry Blackstone Sr. He was a lifelong lover of the art of magic, an amateur magician and historian who was the first vice president of the Magician’s Guild of America. In The Book of Secrets he combines these interests, writing about famous magic illusions of the ancient world, as well as some more modern. Read More…
Conjuring Among the Menomini Indians
By Walter James Hoffman
The following are excerpts from Walter Hoffman’s report on the Menomini Indians of Northern Minnesota found in the Fourteenth Annual Report of the Bureau of Ethnology to the Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution 1892-1893. This almost 300 page report contains a detailed discussion of the ceremonies and ritual magic of the shamans among the Menomini and other tribes. The author was invited to attend several initiation ceremonies to the Mitawit or Grand Medicine Society. He also discussed reports on ritual magic among different Indian tribes. Read More…
From Gleason’s Pictorial Drawing Room Companion, 1851
This so called “Wizard of the Age” came among us a few seeks since quite unheralded, and in the most quite manner put up his magical apparatus at the Boston Theatre, Federal Street, where he has ever since been performing, aided by this wife, to a series of the largest assemblies probably, that have ever convened within that house. There has been no evening that parquette, boxes and galleries have not been filled to overflowing, and with an audience that has universally retired highly delighted and amused with the unique and puzzling character of the entertainments. It would be impossible for us to enter into a detailed account of the elaborate and amusing experiments that are nightly performed by Mr. Macallister: but suffice it to say, that they are of the most unexceptionable character, and calculated to interest, amuse and delight, without in any way offending the delicacy of his audience. Our artist has given us herewith a very excellent picture of his utensils and automaton figures, as they appear on the rising of the curtain to the audience. The immediate feat represented as being performed by the wizard is that known as the shawl trick, wherein he produces a whole brood of hens, chickens, ducks, pigeons, lap-dogs, etc., from out of a shawl borrowed from one of the audience, and this too, without going near any place of concealment, or any assistant of his company. But this is only one of his very curious and unaccountable representations, which to be appreciated must be seen. Probably no artist of his school ever visited Boston, whose mechanical arrangements were so perfect, and whose instruments and accessories are so elaborate and fine as Mr. Macallister’s. We are gratified to see that he is reaping a golden harvest by this efforts to please. We should not fail to mention that Mr. Macallister is assisted by his wife, who is a most important auxiliary to him in the execution of his deeds of necromancy. She is dressed modestly, thought in male attire, and attracts much interest and attention by her pleasing manners and prompt enacting of the part entrusted to her skill. To her husband, she is invaluable as a most adroit assistant.
(Gleason’s Pictorial Drawing Room Companion, Vol. I, No. 27, November 1, 1851, Boston )
The Marvelous Creations of Joseffy
By David P. Abbott
The Open Court Publishing Company, Chicago 1908
Were the public at large to become thoroughly instructed in the means by which magicians perform their effects, the noble art of magic would disappear. It can exist only by there being suitable subjects, upon whose minds the performer can produce his illusions. Any advance in the knowledge of magic made by such subjects, necessitates a corresponding advance in the art by the performer.
Of late there has been considerable publication of the secrets of magicians, which has reached the public at large. There has also been a certain amount of exposing, conducted from the stage, by persons who could not earn their salaries by the legitimate presentation of the art.
Accordingly, any pronounced advance in the art has been welcomed by magicians generally. Performers are continually looking for improvements in their art, and are diligently searching for new principles of which they can make use. Some recent important advances in the art, are the subject of this article.
When such apparent marvels as I am going to describe can be accomplished by the magician who uses nothing supernatural, and who claims nothing of the kind. it should be a lesson to all in credulity. That the usually clumsy tricks of so-called mediums should he attributed to the supernatural, certainly seems an absurdity, after witnessing such marvels as we are now to describe.
Certainly, if the performance of a medium requires the assumption of the supernatural on account of the mystery, then this far more mysterious appearing performance requires the same assumption in a far greater degree. This we know is an absurdity, for even the performer makes no claims to the supernatural.
The performances of magicians are usually along well defined lines. They are well exemplified by those of the late Alexander Hermann with whose work most readers are familiar. The great magicians of this day are of that type, and their performances are based on principles well known to conjurers. These principles which underlie the art consist in adroit substitutions, the misdirection of the spectator’s attention at the vital moment, the use of invisible threads worked by concealed assistants, some mechanical contrivances, etc.
Occasionally some performer is able to add a new principle or a new trick to the stock of those already employed by performers. The growth of the art has been slow, and a gradual process of evolution: although occasionally some new star has appeared above the horizon, who was of such undoubted genius that he was able to revolutionize or greatly change the magic of his day.
Of this class was Robert-Houdin, whose original productions are well known to readers of magical literature, and whose improvements were so sweeping that he may rightly be called “the father of modern magic.”
At a later date the great De Kolta appeared. He was a great originator: and by copying his ideas as best they could, other magicians were enabled to add many new things to the conjurer’s art. De Kolta, however, always refused to divulge his best secrets. At his death they perished with him. A committee of conjurers called on his widow and offered her a large sum for his secrets: but she positively refused to divulge a single one: and she is said to have concealed or destroyed all of her husband’s apparatus. Thus some of the greatest secrets of the art passed from the earth and perished with De Kolta.
His mysterious cube illusion was the greatest mystery to the magicians of his day: and they could in no way discover, or buy the secret. It has been the dream of conjurers ever since that time to re-create that illusion: but it has never been accomplished until the present day. Further on, I shall describe this illusion, and shall also describe that great improvement upon it which has lately been perfected by an originator of undoubted genius. De Kolta also originated the flowers, of which the ones used by conjurers of to-day are supposed to be copies : but this is only a surmise: for De Kolta never revealed the secret of his flowers, and his wonderful flower trick.
Of late there has appeared in the firmament of magic a new star whose brilliancy has attracted considerable notice. This originator calls himself ” Joseffy.” It is his creations that are the subject of this article. In the opinion of the writer Joseffy is among the best originators since Robert Houdins day. To be sure he started where Houdin, and later De Kolta, left off; but he has certainly reached a high degree of perfection in his particular line.
Who is Joseffy? He is Mr. Freud an Austrian who was born in Vienna. He is a man with a scientific trend of mind, a splendid violinist, and a master of six languages and five trades.
To be sure, Joseffy has in many instances obtained his original ideas from other sources: but the perfected forms of his illusions are certainly original with him. I am not at liberty to reveal the secrets of his strange creations. even in the limited degree of which I am capable. I may also say that many conjurers are puzzled as to certain of his effects. I do not mean to disparage the performances of other conjurers: but merely to say that the creations of Joseffy are in a class by themselves.
In describing some of his creations, I shall describe some similar illusions as heretofore performed and give the secrets of the latter: and the reader can then see wherein lies the particular superiority of Joseffy’s productions.
Joseffy traveled all over Europe when quite youthful, and came to this country when nineteen years of age. When he first came he lived in a quiet way, did not push himself forward and was not heard of by magicians at large. He devoted some of his time to manufacturing apparatus for a certain dealer. Magicians marveled at the perfection of this apparatus, and did not know who the maker was, as the dealer kept his name in the background. During all of this time he was quietly working on his own ideas and experimenting.
Most of my readers have doubtless seen some form of the rising card trick performed by the various magicians. This consists in the performer passing among the spectators with a pack of cards from which certain persons draw cards of their own (?) choice, look at and replace them. The pack is then placed in a glass goblet which sits on a table upon the stage, and at the performer’s command the chosen cards arise one by one. Sometimes a nickeled card case is swung on two ribbons and the cards are placed therein or there are various other devices The principles of this trick have always been the same. The magician forces the selection of the required cards on the spectator. He does this by running the cards from one hand to the other rapidly, and requesting the spectator to take a card. Just as the spectator reaches for one, the performer adroitly pushes the proper one right into the spectator’s fingers, and the latter thinks that he has exercised free choice. Next the performer adroitly exchanges the first pack for a second prepared one which is concealed in a depression on the back of a table on the stage, or about some other piece of furniture. This prepared pack has an invisible black silk thread placed across its top end when it is being prepared, and the required duplicate cards are placed against this thread and pushed down into the pack, thus carrying down a loop of the thread which accordingly runs under each selected card. This thread is led to the floor, then through an eyelet and off to a concealed assistant in the wings, who at the proper time pulls on the thread thus causing the cards to rise one at a time. The spectators think that they see their chosen cards rising, and the trick is considered marvelous and is applauded accordingly. If no goblet is used, sometimes the thread runs through the double ribbons from which the nickeled card case is suspended.
Now it has always been the desire of conjurers to do away with the forcing of cards so as to allow the spectators free choice. It has also been their wish to do away with an invisible thread worked by an assistant, but this has never been accomplished before. For years Joseffy has been working on this idea, and he has stated to his magician friends that he hoped some day to be able to do away with all threads, forcing, and everything heretofore used: to permit his spectators to handle and examine his card case, to let them bring their own pack and freely choose the cards they desire, to let them place the pack in the case themselves: to make no substitution, to have no outside connection with the card case, and yet to cause to arise at his command, any card called for at any time.
The reader can judge the effect of this on magicians, who regarded such things as impossibilities. They smiled a quiet smile and said nothing, but it was understood that Joseffy was just a little off. They knew he was an enthusiast, that his work was excellent and all of that, but they did not think that he could accomplish this. Frequently, when he was at work upon it, they would, when calling upon him, and when they thought he was not looking, tap their heads significantly, look at each other and smile in a quiet but sympathetic way, as if to say. “Poor Joseffy! He is crazy. He ‘has wheels.'”
The day has come for Joseffy too smile when he meets these same friends. He has actually accomplished what he undertook: and these magician friends can only look on with admiration.
Joseffy uses a tiny card case made in imitation of a lyre, with glass front and back. This is held in the hand of a little cupid made of metal. The case has flat sides so as to hold a pack of cards and is very artistic. This is handed to a spectator. The latter brings his own pack of cards, which he may freely shuffle. He places the pack in the card case himself. Joseffy now takes the latter in one hand and holds it aloft so all can see. There is positively no exchange. He sets the case on a small table in full view of all. There is no thread running to a concealed assistant. Joseffy leaves the side of his card case, and can be in any part of the room, hall, or auditorium.
Now, any spectator who desires may choose any card freely. Joseffy then calls upon it to arise, whereupon it does so. It will remain up as long as desired, and at the spectator’s desire return into the pack. It will keep rising and returning as long as the spectator wishes, or it will again arise at any time during the performance. This spectator or any other may now choose any other card and repeat this same performance. There is absolutely no forcing of the choice of cards, and any one may choose at any time.
In the performance, the spectator can at any time remove the pack from the card case, examine everything, and replace the pack. He can then choose another card, or the same one, and it will come up, stay up, or go down as he desires. When the performance is finished, he may remove the cards from the card case himself and keep them as a memento.
In a recent letter, while describing this creation. Joseffy said, “I know that this sounds pretty extravagant, but you may take my word for it that it is really true. It is the outcome of three years of continuous research and labor.” Joseffy claims that he has been offered two thousand dollars for this illusion, but he says that he does not think that five times that amount would tempt him.
The illusion which I shall now describe may be a little more understandable to some, than the last, but it is surely a marvel of ingenuity. He calls it “Balsamo, the Living Skull.” There is a stage trick something like it in appearance. A papier mache skull with a movable jaw is placed on a glass plate suspended by four ribbons on the stage. This skull answers the conjurers questions by working its lower jaw. The secret is an invisible black silk thread leading across the stage and glass plate to a concealed assistant who manipulates it. The jaw is just over the thread and a pull on the latter moves the jaw. This can be had for a few dollars.
The skull used by Joseffy is made of copper beautifully decorated or painted in the most natural manner possible. Real human teeth are set in sockets in a natural manner. It rests on a neck around which is a lace collar. Its lower jaw is articulated so that it can move and answer questions by clicking its teeth. The skull can also turn on its neck. He uses a glass plate and any four spectators may hold the cords supporting it. Joseffy places the skull on this plate in the usual manner when he performs in halls, but in a parlor he merely places it on any piece of furniture.
There is no thread or outside connections, yet this skull carries on a most intelligent conversation with its master, by clicking its teeth the required number of times when asked a question. There is positively no outside connection.
Joseffy first relates how, nearly two centuries ago, in the dungeons of the Holy Inquisition, he visited the old-time arch-enchanter of other days, Monsieur le Comte de Cagliostro (Joseph Balsamo). He relates how in these dungeons just three weeks before his death the Great Kophta presented him with his own skull.
While he is doing this, the skull turns around on its neck and looks about the room in a most life-like but ghastly manner. Finally its master discovers it looking at some lady in a very impertinent manner, and he calls to it to look around and to attend to business The skull turns instantly and looks at him. He now asks, ”Balsamo, do you know any of the persons present? The skull turns slowly about looking at each and then turns back to the performer clicking its teeth for “no.” He then permits the spectators to choose cards, to write figures on a small blackboard, etc., the skull always telling by the clicks of its teeth the correct card or figure. The skull then proceeds to add up a set of figures, tells the time of day that it then happens to be, ect., and when asked always gives answers in a very lifelike manner. It frequently turns and looks at the indicated individual when its master calls upon it for an answer. This ‘Living Skull’ Joseffy has always refused to sell.
There is also an old trick where a papier mache hand, which is laid upon a glass plate, answers questions by rapping. It is worked like the other old skull trick, by a concealed assistant pulling an invisible thread. Joseffy has a hand which he can lay upon any object anywhere, and it will answer any question he asks it by rapping. There is positively no outside connection to the hand, and no magnetism employed. He is now perfecting a means by which at the close of the performance with the hand, he can, as a climax place it against an upright easel, upon which some sheets of white paper have been stretched. The hand will remain in that position of itself, and proceed to write on the paper answers to questions which spectators have previously written on slips of paper, sealed in envelopes and retained in their own pockets.
Recently, when in Kansas City, Joseffy desired to purchase some ribbon for the cuff of this hand. The latter is a small, very beautiful model of a lady’s hand, and is very lifelike in appearance. In fact, to look at it gives one the creepy feeling of looking at a hand cut from a beautiful lady’s arm. Accordingly, he took the hand to a large department store; and placing it on a glass showcase, asked it to tell the lady by rapping, how many yards of ribbon it wanted, the kind, color, etc. When it began to make its lifelike motions and to manifest human intelligence in answering questions, the various clerks gathered quickly about, deserting their respective counters.
Soon a large crowd was collected, and as the manager was unable to recall the clerks, or disperse the blockade, he called in the police. Some reporters got hold of the matter and their reports proved a big advertisement for Joseffy.
Joseffy obtained the original idea of his perfected hand from a more crude model designed by another magician. A hand like this could formerly have been purchased of Joseffy for one hundred and twenty-five dollars. It is needless to say that but few magicians indulged in the luxury.
And now to describe the mysterious cube illusion of De Kolta, of which I made mention in the beginning. His stage was set with a center table near the rear side of which sat two wings or screens. De Kolta entered, carrying a small hand-satchel which he handed to his assistant, who immediately remarked that it was very hot. De Kolta replied, “Your wife would be hot also if you carried her in a thing like that as I do mine.” Then taking the small satchel he opened it and took from it an eight-inch cube. This he placed upon the center table, where it was seen by all spectators to grow slowly to a size of nearly three feet. Then De Kolta proceeded to lift the cube, and sure enough, his wife was found under it.
This is the mysterious illusion that for years has baffled conjurers; and of course it is naturally one of the wonders that Joseffy would set himself the task of surpassing. I shall now describe his illusion “The Enigmatic Cube.”
His stage is set with a low table, but there are no wings or screens, and it is out in the open. He first produces from the air a one-inch cube which he exhibits to the spectators. This is seenby all to grow slowly while in his hands, first to a two-inch, next to a four-inch and then to an eight-inch cube. It must be a marvel of ingenuity. This he now sets in full view upon his table, where it is seen to grow slowly to a size of three feet and six inches. The wizard now lifts this cube from under which steps a beautiful young lady who starts to run up the stage. Joseffy snaps his fingers, when she instantly stops and disappears in a sheet of flame in full view of the spectators; and in her place is seen to be a gigantic bouquet of real roses, which are picked and distributed to the audience.
Magicians, what do you think of this? “Pretty strong,” is it not? The last transformation is surely no mirage, or deception of the vision; for the lady is seen to visibly run to her position, and the succeeding roses are real and are distributed. This all takes place where but an instant before was nothing but the transparent atmosphere. I recently requested Joseffy to photograph this metamorphosis, and he replied to me, “To photograph this transformation will surely be quite an interesting problem, but I will attempt it if it if you desire.” I was glad to have this promise from a man of Joseffy’s resources, as I knew if such a thing were possible, he could accomplish it.
Probably one of his most weird and grotesque creations is what he calls “The Phantom Quartette.” Four real human skeletons that play music on those weird-sounding instruments, ocarinas. Their repertoire is not limited; for they can play anything, however difficult, within the scope of their instruments. This is where Joseffy’ s musical talent has certainly been of great assistance to him. These skeletons can also sing. To see these weird figures apparently endowed with life, making their lifelike motions and playing this weird music, is surely a grotesque sight. However, the observer must remember that he is not visiting the infernal regions, and that the creator of this uncanny spectacle is not His Satanic Majesty, but merely a peculiar and strange individual who resides in Chicago.
At the time of this writing the Phantom Quartette is dismantled, but Joseffy is soon to resurrect it.
The “Congress of Nations,” is the title of a new illusion originated by Joseffy, and it depends upon entirely new principles for its production. A ring twenty-four inches in diameter, made of metal, and representing the sun and its rays, is first exhibited. A sheet of paper is now stretched over this ring, and another ring slipped over this to hold it in place, as in the old tambourine trick. The paper really takes no part in the illusion other than furnishing an excuse for some interesting “patter.” This ring is now placed upon a standard which rests on a three-foot spread eagle and shield.
The paper of the ring is now punctured and a few handkerchiefs removed. This process being too slow, however, he steps to a distance and fires at the ring rapidly. At each shot, in perfect time. flags of all nations rise out of the ring on stems one foot, three feet six inches, and six feet long. This makes a very beautiful spectacle. He now enhances this by taking from the ring a real table and three real chairs. Next, he takes out of the ring a complete dinner set, also food and coffee, all real. He now sets the chairs around the table, and takes from the ring two living ladies. The three now seat themselves at the table, light some candles, and begin a light lunch as the curtain descends.
This illusion, Joseffy assures me, is of unlimited capacity, there being no limit whatever to what he can produce, and he assures me that it depends upon entirely new principles.
There is an old-time trick in which a living rabbit was placed in a metal box, the same being held by the spectators. The performer would then place a canary in a paper bag, and shoot it to pieces; upon which the canary would be found in the metal box from which the rabbit had disappeared. There were also cages which had deep bottoms and that contained mirrors, which magicians used at times.Joseffy has made a cage that is perfectly open to view with no deep bottoms, mirrors, or anything of the kind. He places the rabbit in full view in this cage. He also uses a dove as it is larger than a canary and can be seen much better. When he shoots time paper bag to pieces, the rabbit is seen to visibly disappear before the very eyes of the spectators, and its place to be taken by the dove. The rabbit he takes, wriggling, from a spectator.
To him an idea is the birth of a desire. With this man who does not understand the meaning of the word “impossible,” and to whom obstacles present no difficulty, to desire is to possess. He immediately set about the task of creating a rabbit that would not eat. Is it alive? Well, to all outside appearances, it is. Its wriggling is certainly the same as that of life, and so is the grace with which it hops off the stage. Its fur and skin are surely those of a real rabbit. It seems under one’s very eyes to be a living, breathing creature, and the spectators certainly consider it as such.
Sometimes Joseffy uses a duck in place of this rabbit. I asked him why this was, and he replied, “Bunny was lonesome, so I created a helpmeet for him.” This duck is taken from the spectators, flapping its wings and quacking, but I am sure that it never eats.
Sometimes he finds other use for this duck. He exhibits an empty sauce-pan, and breaking some eggs into it, proceeds to set them on a fire. He covers the an with a lid for a moment, then removes the latter, and next lifts the duck flapping its wings and quacking, from the pan. The duck then proceeds to lay as many eggs as there are rings which have previously been borrowed and broken up with a hammer, etc. These eggs are now broken, and each is found to contain a borrowed ring tied with a bow of ribbon, to a beautiful rose. If he prefers, the eggs may either contain written answers to questions written and retained by the spectators, or previously borrowed and broken up watches, etc.
Earlier in this article I spoke of De Kolta’s wonderful flower trick. Joseffy has lately concluded successful experiments for one that I consider far superior to De Kolta’s, or in fact to any other.
An empty flower-pot is exhibited to the spectators. A paper cone large enough to cover it is also exhibited. The open end of the cone is always held towards the spectators, yet when he slowly covers the flower-pot with the cone for an instant, it is filled with beautiful roses on long stems. This he can repeat indefinitely, filling as many flower-pots as he may desire, and always using the same cone.
Then, again, as a climax, he can hold a flower-pot high in time air, or if preferred, place it anywhere on any object suggested by the spectators; then, leaving its side, and with no outside connection or contact to any living being or mechanism he can at the snap of his fingers cause it to visibly and instantly fill with real roses which are plucked and distributed. This I assure my readers is not an idle phantasy, but a fact.
Many marvelous tales are told of the performances of Hindu magicians. During the fair at Chicago many persons had an opportunity to witness some of their feats. One that appeared quite mysterious to most observers, and that has been told and re-told over the land, is the trick of popping corn on a white sheet with no fire, while the corn is being fanned.
Four Hindus held a white sheet by its four corners. A fifth one placed some unpopped corn on this sheet, and then he proceeded to fan the corn. First he did so gently, and then more wildly, continually striking the sheet. After a time he ceased, and the upper portion of the corn was found to be popped. This seemed very mysterious, but the secret lay in the fan.
The first fan exhibited was the usual article. This was secretly exchanged for a duplicate, which contained a secret compartment, filled with corn which has previously been popped. When striking the sheet, he secretly opened the compartment, allowing the corn to gradually escape. The popped corn being the lightest, naturally settled over the unpopped corn on the sheet.
This trick naturally suggested to Joseffy the idea of actually performing what the Hindus but pretended to do. He suspends a porcelain platter in mid-air. He allows the spectators to bring their own corn, and to count the grains and place them on the platter. The spectators can then cover the corn with an open wire hood, or glass cover, the only office of which is to prevent the corn scattering over the room. At Joseffy’s command the corn is seen to visibly pop, and it is then served to the spectators.
I here quote a few words from Edwin L. Barker, in The Lyceumite. “Over the river; out on Chicago’s West Side, up-stairs, there is a small room, the appearance of which resembles a combination machine shop, druggist’s prescription case, and chemist’s den, the whole enveloped in a shroud of creepiness. This is Joseffy’s laboratory – a place few noses save his own are ever allowed to peek in. When not ‘on the road’ here he labors from eight in the morning until midnight or later, experimenting and inventing. Joseffy is a mechanical, chemical, and scientific genius, and the world is sure to recognize it the same as I, as soon as the world sees what I have seen.
“When visiting his laboratory I asked, ‘Aren’t you afraid of an explosion?’ ‘Oh, no,’ smiled the inventive necromancer, ‘A bottle did blow out of the window the other day though. But, you see this is a quiet street, and the landlord is deaf, so there was no fire call.’
“The lathes, drills, wheels and pulleys formed a miniature machine shop. I backed away from a point where the sparks were flying like an imaginary starry rain-storm, during the millennium that is to be, when Joseffy exclaimed: ‘Look out! Don’t back into the quartette.’ I turned, saw four skeletons, and retreated toward the shower of sparks. ‘They are the members of my instrumental quartette,’ said the magician, pointing to the skeletons. ‘Their names are Cord, Accord, Discord, and Nocord.’
“‘Here is their companion, continued the inventor, ‘Balsamo, the Living Skull. He does everything but talk.’ And he did.
“I saw a pile of ‘junk’ which Joseffy said was to be a new illusion. He made me promise never to tell how it is done, and believe me, that is one promise I will always keep, truly I will – I can’t help it. But the effect will be like this:
“He borrows a rose from a lady in the audience. He drops a few drops of magic oil upon the rose; there is a flame several feet high, followed by an expansion into an American Beauty some sixteen or eighteen inches in diameter. Soon there is seen growing out of the rose a bubble – not unlike the soap bubbles of our youthful days. As the bubble expands, the face and form of a young lady are seen growing inside. This continues until the bubble has grown the full size of the lady. Then the bubble bursts, a shower of petals scent the room, and there stands the young lady holding the rose that was first borrowed from the audience.
“His ‘Card Riser’ is, in many respects, the most wonderful invention I have ever seen. Magicians have told me it was a dream – nothing more. But I know better. I saw Joseffy do it, and I was not dreaming. Every minute I was more and more wide-awake. I saw and examined its innermost workings, and the more I saw the more wonderful it seemed. I will not explain it – I can’t.
“I went away from the laboratory thinking as I have never thought before. Here, right in Chicago’s busy heart is a genius – a genius of the olden days – who is content to work and wait.
Prophecies are not in fashion, but if this intelligent worker does not make the world of magic and entertainment open its eyes, well – I’m a poor guesser, that’s all.”
Charles Sandburg has said, “You have seen Joseffy play the violin? Then you have seen a man possessed.” A Joliet newspaper said, “He might have been god or devil.”
Elbert Hubbard says, “In every meeting of men, there are two factions – the conqueror and the vanquished.” A magical performance, unlike any other form of entertainment, may be said to be a continuous, bloodless war between one man and an entire audience. The majority of spectators usually attend with the intention of solving the secrets of the magician. The latter of course will not permit this, and the performance is thus a continuous contest of wits. Usually, in the beginning is the time when the psychological relation between the performer and his audience is established, which decides whether or not he shall be the conqueror.
Here it is that Joseffy first establishes himself. As he comes forward with a slight sweeping bow, he looks as many spectators in the eye as possible. He pauses for an instant in the intoxication of conscious power, which he well knows soon will triumph. In that instant that peculiar psychological atmosphere is established which assures him success. Sandburg once remarked that Joseffy does not seem to walk, but to float out.
His ready wit is well illustrated in the following incident. In Citronelle, Alabama, he had just exhibited Balsamo’s Skull, when a lady rather loudly remarked, “That can not be a real skull. It shines too much.” This remark could not be overlooked. Now Joseffy quickly turned and replied, “Madam, you say the skull shines – quite true – but you must not forget that it is quite natural, as the Count was a highly polished gentleman.”
When walking one Sunday afternoon with one of the world’s great magicians, our conversation naturally turned to that enigma of the conjuring fraternity, Joseffy; for I may as well say that among the thirty thousand magicians of the world, many eyes are now turned toward this strange and unknown man. I remarked to my friend that I thought Joseffy might make large sums of money by abandoning the stage, which he has recently taken up, and by creating for magicians at very high figures. My friend remarked, “I do not know. Joseffy is a peculiar man. I fear it would not be a successful financial venture. You see, when he would have finished the most beautiful and perfect work of his imagination, he would suddenly think of some slight improvement wherein it might be bettered; and then he would not permit his work to be used, but would begin all over again.”
As an instance of this, he worked two years on a wonderful effect, only to consign it to the scrap heap at the end of that time. The effect was this: A guitar and a mandolin were shown, and placed on a table, supported in a position as if being played by invisible performers. The Spectators could then select any composition, and the instruments would execute it. This he actually accomplished; but it did not quite suit him, and he discarded it, only preserving the mandolin as a memento of his youthful dream.
Joseffy has studied science and delved into the occult. He is a man of infinite patience to whom time or even money is of little value. He is simply wedded to his art. Thus it is with the dreamer and with the enthusiast; but it is just this thing that enables him to accomplish the marvels that he does. To me Joseffy said, “I take this subject very seriously, for I have practically devoted my life to it.”
He also, when speaking of his creations, recently said to me, “Some of the most beautiful scientific problems are employed in some of them.” Then again he said, “There are some other things in embryo which I hardly dare to talk about for fear that it will induce violent language, so I suppose I had better not. However. I do hope to startle at least a small portion of the world some day. You see, Mr. Abbott, I fear you have guessed my secret. I have ambitions, and those classicists Houdin, De Kolta and others are my inspiration. Yes, I do intend to penetrate the mysteries of higher magic, and to go as far as it is possible for mortal to go.”
This wizard in the true sense of the term spoke thus. I could not deride him or tap my forehead. Who can say how far he will penetrate? Who can say what marvels that strange, eccentric and powerful intellect will evolve?
The Air Brahmin
(People’s Magazine, June 14, 1833)
Most of our readers will recollect the celebrated Indian Jugglers, who a few years ago visited this country, and performed some very extraordinary feats at public exhibitions. One of them had acquired the astonishing and dangerous power of passing a naked metal blade into his stomach, or, as he himself termed it, of “swallowing a sword.” He fell a sacrifice to his temerity: in one of his performances the blade taking a wrong direction, wounded him internally, and he expired in violent convulsions.
Another person of this description, but of a higher native caste, has lately appeared in India. His performance, though of a no less astonishing, is altogether of a harmless, nature. By the kindness of a friend we are enabled to present our readers with an engraving, from the original drawing of an Indian artist, together with an account, which may be relied upon, of this singular person, as he appears when exhibiting this strange feat
The drawing was taken at the Government House at Madras, and represents the Cuddapah Brahmin, named Sheshal, in the act of sitting in the air, apparently without any support, an exploit which he performs with great address. When he is about to exhibit, his attendants surround him with a blanket so as to screen him from the view of the spectators till he his mounted; a signal is then given, the blanket is removed and he is beheld sitting in the posture represented in the sketch. Read More…
The Hobby of Book Collecting
By Leo Rullman
Of the making of many Magic books there is no end.
Prefacing this article with an apology for paraphrasing a well-known quotation, I respectfully beg to submit that in respect to Magic books “the mills of the gods” do not grind slowly,” and certainly they have not, in the past, ”ground exceedingly fine.”
In the past decade, which marks the span of my association with the subject, the magical market has been literally inundated with a flood of “literature.” Nearly every week marks the advent of a new title. Every would be follower of the late Harry Keller , every aspirant to the fame of Mask elyne, every neophyte in the mysteries of deception at some time in his life feels himself endowed with a “message” of which he must sooner or later unburden himself – which he generally does to the tune of ”Magic and its Confessors,” “Fretful Magic,” Banana Wizardry,” “Making Magic Stay,” “Excusable Magical Secrets,” and so forth, ad libitum and ad summum!
During the past ten years not less than 432 magical publications, in nine languages, comprising pamphlets, brochures, and books dealing with the subject have been given (save the mark!) to a patient public that, in the vernacular of the street, ”doesn’t know what it’s all about.” Many of these publications have long since passed, and been forgotten, consigned to the oblivion they merited.
And here – Enter the collector! Read More…
The New York Dramatic Mirror, June 3, 1899
During the past four weeks the Chinese conjuror Ching Ling Foo, whose picture appears above, has been mystifying audiences which have test the capacity of Keith’s Union Square Theatre at every performance.
He is no ordinary professor of legerdemain, is Ching Ling Foo, but a past master in the art of fooling people before their very eyes, who has come all the way from the Far East to show us a few tricks we have never seen before. Read More…