We read with great interest an article on the incredibly reliable Weekly World News web site, "Houdini Speaks from Beyond the Grave." The article is probably not totally true but says Houdini has made contact through professional medium John Edward. Houdini provides several predictions to prove his authenticity. Like we said, it is probably not true but still interesting.
We live by few rules as magician / magic writer persons. First, "if it bleeds, it leads." The shocking and graphic stories go to the front of the line. In this way, we are very much like Disney World. The more grotesque or disgusting a person is (either in mannerisms or odor) the more likely he or she will be permitted to cut ahead of others standing in the Florida Sun.
Our second rule gets us in trouble, sometimes. "When in doubt, don't leave it out." Some news sources will pass on stories that have only a single source, seem self-serving or seem highly unlikely.
If it wasn't for Inside Magic, you would never know what got passed over. We publish the stuff others won't because they have "standards" or insist on "some basis in reality." Not this major magic periodical. If it wasn't for this policy, none of the following would have found a voice on the endless maze of copper tubing we call the internets.
1. President Magic Will Be Criminalized
This seemed within the realm of possible when we printed it several years ago. Our source assured us that the hobby and profession enjoyed by millions was about to be made illegal and practitioners would face jail time. Imagine how embarrassed we were to learn that the headline was technically true but just barely. It was the president of a local fraternal lodge that made the statement. And that he actually said, "Magic should be taught to criminals as a practical skill to boost self-esteem and confidence." Whether he intended jail birds to learn escape techniques is still the subject of litigation and debate within the lodge.
2. Ching Ling Foo Not Who He Seemed
For pure volume, this article should rank high on our Google search results. Unfortunately, we were wrong. Ching Ling Foo was actually a magician from China and not really Billy Robinson, former assistant to Kellar and Thurston. Mr. Robinson used the derivative name Chung Ling Soo to hide his Anglo identity and perform until he was killed performing the Bullet Catching Trick &ndash not the Cups and Balls as we also erroneously reported. We agree now that it did not make sense that a person could be killed when his or her Cups and Balls routine went "Horribly Wrong" and that we should not have guessed at what happened.
3. David Blaine's Box Falls Kills Paul McCartney and Others
We had to go with it. Yes, we could have immediately verified the story by looking at the live web cam showing every second of the 44 days of boredom induced and experienced by the American magician's endurance test. But we were writing from our phone while waiting in line at the 7-11 convenience store. We note that several of the letters in Mr. Blaine's name alone take forever to type out on a cellphone key pad. We were lucky to get the story out at all.
4. Blindfold Drive Test Ends in Tragic Failure
We admit now that we just made up the entire story. We thought it would catch the attention of the readers and get us some notoriety. It did and so it was sort-of successful. Looking back, we think we should not have used real names and places to describe the accident because it was so easily debunked. Still, for a good 45 minutes, we were the buzz of the web and everyone was clicking to Inside Magic to read more about Lindsay Lohan's wild romp around the hills along the Malibu coast whilst donning a blindfold and the sudden and unfortunate end to said romp when her car plowed into several parked and occupied luxury vehicles. As it turned out, the accidents did happen as described but Ms. Lohan was not wearing a blindfold at the time.
6. Six Card Repeat Record Set at 1,002
This one was sort of true and sort of false. Local Mystic Hollow magician and annoyance, Tony "Pull My Finger" Spain announced he would set the record for performing the famed Six Card Repeat by breaking the previous mark of ten repetitions. The rules were established by the Guinness World Records people the magician must perform in a business suit or similar ensemble, no assistants may come within five feet of the performer, no tables or free-standing props could be on the stage at the time of the attempt, and the final iteration had to show six individual cards. Mr. Spain began with a fist-full of what he represented were six cards and began in earnest. We left after three iterations because we have a life. As the story noted, we do not have independent verification that the record was broken or that the new record was 1,002 iterations because apparently no one stayed around to watch, much less count. A check this morning of the Guinness World Records site shows no entry for this particular stunt so we guess even the judges couldn't bear to stay in attendance.
7. Dove Droppings The Secret to Long Life
There is an ingredient in dove or pigeon droppings that, if taken in moderation, can lower cholesterol and help kidney function. So that much of the story was true. Of course, that ingredient needs to be distilled out of the fecal matter collected before ingesting. We thought that was obvious and did not need to be included in our short article on the subject. We were wrong, sue us. Actually, many did. Fortunately, we have no money or personal possessions so the lawsuits came to naught. We are very lucky to be impecunious.
8. Politician Killed in Bullet Catch Trick Gone Wrong
This was very early in our publishing career. The politician was Abe Lincoln and we assumed it was an attempted performance of the Bullet Catching Trick because the trigger man was famous stage actor John Wilkes Booth and the event happened in a theater. Given those facts, anyone would assume President Lincoln was trying his hand at stage magic and got his signals mixed. We agree that having made this incredible blunder, we should have second-guessed our subsequent story about James A. Garfield's assassination but we thought the headline wrote itself and we had a big void on the front page. At the time, Inside Magic was a printed periodical distributed at railway stations throughout the United States. Imagine our chagrin when it turned out President Garfield was shot in one of the train stations that carried Inside Magic. Talk about ironic.
9. Roughing Fluid Cures Baldness
The story made sense. Roughing fluid does amazing things and if the reason someone was bald was because their head was too smooth or slick, the popular magician's liquid would make one's dome good and rough. As it turns out, the reason people are bald is almost never because their heads are too shiny or smooth. We stand by our story, though, for those who suffer baldness due to the admittedly very rare condition of lubricus caputus or "slick scalp."
10. Copperfield's Air Sickness Ends Vegas Run
Someone had told us that world-famous illusionist David Copperfield had a very sensitive inner-ear. It did not seem much of a stretch that while performing his incredible "Flying" illusion, he could become nauseous and void his stomach contents whilst levitating over the expensive seats at a major Las Vegas theater. The animation that accompanied the article was produced by an off-shore creative studio and was too graphic. It went further than our actual made up article with the vivid images of the great magician hurling with apparent deadly accuracy on the patrons below. As a professor at MIT noted, "your cartoon is not only disgusting but also illogical. Assuming he was propelled in directions by the expulsion of emesis, he would have moved in an opposite direction from the stream, not towards it. Check out Newton's Third Law of Motion ('for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction')."