Melbourne’s Magic Age Featured in New Exhibit

The young, Australian museum curator Simon Gregg believes “the history of Melbourne as two parallel stories: one about the development of a modern-day metropolis and the other about the emergence of floating ladies, vanishing handkerchiefs, straitjacket escapes and a bottomless barrel of logic-defying tricks and illusions.”

Mr. Gregg is featured in a big way in Melbourne’s The Age for his new museum exhibit Hocus Pocus: Melbourne Magic, Mystery and Illusion.  The show starts next week, December 6, at the beautiful City Museum.   The focus is “the city’s so-called golden era of magic, from 1850 to 1950.”

Gold was discovered in Melbourne’s environs during the 19th Century.  And where there is gold, there are people.  And where there are people, there are audiences.  And where there is an audience, there is bound to be at least one magician.

Mr. Gregg believes Melbourne’s “emergence as a magic town came to be after the discovery of gold and the subsequent population explosion of the 1850s.”

The big stars of the day travelled by ship to Australia and brought along their crates of equipment and troups of assistants.  Because the journey was lengthy and expensive, Mr. Gregg says only the best of the best could afford the fare.  So Melbourne audiences saw the true masters such as Chung Ling Soo, Dante, and Harry Houdini.

Mr. Gregg said he was “blown away by how many of the greatest magicians of all time actually came to Melbourne.”

“I hadn’t realised how central magic has been and how intricately woven it is through the history of the city. When you read about the history of magic, you actually learn about the developing culture of theatres, you learn about the entertainment habits of Melburnians.”

Check out the article for some great moments in Magic.  There’s the story of an escaped lion, who left the stage and ambled away; only to be found resting in an office in a near by building.

Or when Houdini performed a bridge jump and in the process of escaping freed not only himself but the rotting corpse of a less fortunate soul.

Visitors will have a chance to see — in real life — Pepper’s Ghost.  The Age does not reveal the secret to this true illusion and we thank them for their discretion.

In fact, whilst Mr. Gregg developed the exhibition, he was supervised by “magic historian Gerald Taylor, 81, to ensure no secrets are revealed. This was a condition stipulated by the Performing Arts Collection, which loaned many of the objects on show.

“I will be displaying the apparatus so that people can see them without giving away any trade secrets. It’s just a case of displaying things at the right angle in many instances,” Mr. Taylor says.

Mr. Taylor is a good choice for the job.  He has been a fan and performer for more than 70 years.  His work as a professional magician, writer, and magic shop owner qualifies him for Guardian of the Magic Secrets.

Check out the full article and if you are in or around the area, make sure to see the exhibit and report back for the benefit of all Inside Magic Readers.

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