Category: Magic News

News from the World of Magic

The Year in Review, 1926

To All our Magic Friends, We Wish You a Happy New Year!

2019 is upon us and we thought it would nice to look back on 1926.  We intend for this to be a yearly feature but didn’t think of it until now so we are starting with earlier years and working our way up to the present day.  We figure by the time the sun burns out, we will have matched the year in review with the previous year.  We’re happy that we will have completed our task but a little melancholy about the end of the universe as we know it.  And we know it as having a heat and energy-radiating center that affects our planet according to the portion of the globe facing the center.

But we began this post with the word “Happy” and we should continue in that vein.

Unfortunately the year 1926 wasn’t good for the magic world.  Harry Houdini died just after 1 pm on October 31st of that year in Detroit.  See the New York Times coverage of the event here. He did not pass performing the Water Torture Cell (aka “Upside Down”) but from a vicious (or as our spellcheck suggested “viscous”) attack in Montreal. His remains were moved to New York for burial days later. Some historians suggested he was being silenced by agents for Spiritualists.  Houdini was intensifying his efforts to expose the fraudulent practitioners.  Others suggested it was an accident, still others believe it was just an an attempt to humiliate Houdini gone wrong.  Whilst talking with the students, Houdini accepted a challenge from one of them to be punched to demonstrate his excellent musculature.  The student punched the great magician before he could get ready and continued punching until Houdini asked him to stop.

The punch(es) may or may not have ruptured an appendix that may or may not already been infected, thus spreading infection through his peritoneum and leading to his eventual death.  He allegedly left an estate worth $6,743,910 in today’s figures. According to a November 1st edition of The Montreal Gazette published ten-years after his death, Houdini’s spirit could not be encountered by séances attended by his wife or brother.

For all things Houdini, we turn always to Jon Cox’ incredible site, Wild About Harry.

So, that was one of the big news magic items during that year.    Earlier in October, 1926, the film The Magician was released.  It was panned for being too gross as one would expect when one is dealing with using the blood of maidens to make life; with the central character being a magician and a surgeon.  Critics have later praised the film for its innovative storytelling and cinematography.  We haven’t seen it yet and understand at least one of the scenes is “unwatchable” for the gruesome transformation of a character bitten by a venomous snake.  We’re not big on watching others in pain, so we might fast forward through this section and determine later whether it is essential to the plot.  The movie had nothing to do with Houdini – who scrupulously avoided drinking or obtaining blood from maidens and stuff.

Carter the Great published one of his greatest posters, “Carter Accused of Witchcraft.”  The poster is remarkable and dark.  It features the gallows on which he will be executed and text giving us hope that the great magician will cheat death and perhaps prove he is not using witchcraft.  We would have included the image for you to peruse but the only link we could find was from an eBay auction and we have a policy about endorsing products for sale – especially where we don’t get a cut.

“Professor” Joseph Dunninger published his Popular Magic Book in 1926.  The book cost fifty-cents.  In today’s money that would be $6.78 plus shipping.  Things are not as cheap as they once were.  It used to be we could buy just about everything (except for TVs) cheaper than we can now.  If we had a time machine, we would use it to go buy things in 1926 and tell Houdini to avoid Montreal.  We would sell the things we brought back through the time vortex and feel good that we helped Houdini live a long and valuable life.

Continue reading “The Year in Review, 1926”
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List of the Richest Magicians in the World

Who is the richest magician in the world?

We won’t give away the secret but the compilation at The Silver List surprised us.  And we are not easily surprised.  We figured for sure we could correctly identify all persons on the list but we were wrong.  We beat ourselves up when we make a mistake so this was crushing for us.

You can check out the list here.

We thought for sure there would be some mention of Inside Magic editor-in-chief and magician person Tim Quinlan but nary a comment.  We don’t like to brag but between the ad revenue for Inside Magic and our professional appearances, we’re rolling in the dough – plus we’re making a lot of money.  But we spend it on dough to roll in and we like a high-quality dough, not some Pillsbury fake dough that doesn’t give the comfort one expects when one is rolling.  We were going to put up a YouTube video  of us rolling but a woman beat us and she does a much better rolling that we could ever hope to accomplish.

You can see just one of her many dough rolling episodes here. The video shows her rolling in baked dough but she does real, unbaked dough as well.  We cannot compete.

Similarly, we are unable to keep up with the magicians who make millions of dollars every year for performing their magic.  We admire them but don’t envy them.  Envy is or should be one of the deadly sins and does not leave the person feeling the sense of envy in a good place.  It is like when you have a fight with your Uber driver about whether we should worry about fluoride or chem trails and he/she dumps you in a bad neighborhood.  That’s a physical bad place to be but as a metaphor it works.  Envy leaves you wondering what happened to the last few hours and why you can’t remember why you even worried about the success of others.

Check out  the list and see if you agree with the rankings.  But do it with an open mind and heart.  Embrace the success of others and the willingness of others to work very hard at what we all do.

We do find some pleasure (guilty, no doubt) that Inside Magic arch-nemesis Tony Spain is not listed.  He claims millions  per year from his itinerant magic travels around the world, but apparently he didn’t make the list.

Nick Lewin’s Ultimate Color Changing Deck

We first met Nick Lewin through Pop Haydn when Mr. Lewin was performing on the same bill with Mr. Haydn.  To be honest, we didn’t know what to expect.  Mr. Lewin took the stage with a befuddled look on his face and seemed to be overly relaxed in his approach to the magic.  Yet, he blew us away.

His Slow Motion Torn and Restored Newspaper was a thing of beauty, his Linking Finger Ring was a thing of beauty as well but also a thing of mystery.  We know or thought we knew how the routine should be done to achieve the effect but Mr. Lewin was doing something slightly different and yet achieving the same effect plus.

Since that experience, we have seen Mr. Lewin perform in various locals and he is the same.  Always smiling, slightly  befuddled, easy-going, and amazing.  He has the classics of magic finely tuned from years of practice and actual performances in his hands and is in no rush to perform them.

He is not being chased and so there is no need to run.  His jokes and humorous approach to the effects do not overwhelm or take away from the magic, they fit in the routines because there is time for them to fit.  He is going to amaze and there is no reason to rush to what will be a wonderful conclusion – he is a friend of the audience and we are all looking at it together.

We have bought several of Mr. Lewin’s routines and we will have reviews in the future but we received one just the other day that seemed perfect for our act – at least according to the advertisement.  The Ultimate Color Changing Deck is an effect that would be the right ending for our card routine as performed in the basement of the Magic Castle.  We currently end with the emotional equivalent of “Yeah, that’s about it.  No need to stick around, there ain’t no more.  Skat! Get!”

We order the effect and received delivery within a very few days.  We watched his DVD, checked out the props and smiled with the gleeful look of a very satisfied magician or someone in need of further attention by trained professionals.  It would work, it would work really good.  (When we become gleeful, annoyingly gleeful (“AG”), we lose our ability to think in proper English.  The effect could even be transferred to our pet deck and we already could do the relatively easy sleights to accomplish the apparently impossible.

There are other color changing decks on the market.  Some of them might be good.  We have seen many of them in person either being performed or explained in lectures but none of them come up to this standard.  Mr. Lewin credits Ken Brooke for the idea and effect and even provides an interlude that may or may not fit your style.  The last sentence makes sense once you receive and review the effect.

The cost for the pre-release is $65.00 and it is well-worth it.  This is a color changing deck that will really work in real situations for real magicians in front of real audiences and leave them really amazed.

Check out Mr. Lewin’s site today.  We do not know how long the deal will be available on the Ultimate Color Changing Deck he is offering so it is best to get there as soon as possible.  Go! Get! Skat!

Inside Magic Review: Five Out of Five – Our Highest!

What Does Magician David Copperfield Pack?

Some magic-oriented questions keep us up at night.  We toss and turn – our own body, to be clear – and stare at the top of the tent, wondering things, magical things.

Last night (and we’re writing this on our Palm – not the ancient electronic organizer but our own palm – so it is still last night technically) we wondered aloud, “What is the strangest thing David Copperfield has ever packed for a trip?”

We should have kept the question to ourselves and not uttered it aloud.  That wasn’t polite to the other campers (we call ourselves “campers” because we’re sly and think that gives us an edge if we are ever taken to the hoosegow by the coppers for setting up a small circus tent in a vacant field near the Ralph’s grocery store over by the Citgo across from the Bumper Bumper auto repair shop).

Nonetheless, we wondered aloud about David Copperfield’s packing for trips and were reminded by one of our fellow campers that David Copperfield was both a fictional character who was fascinated by cake and a magician who has toured the globe.  The camper – who will remain nameless because we were never introduced – suggested we be more specific in our wondering.

We knew the David Copperfield about whom we were wondering and so we ignored the camper and went on wondering.  We could not wait until the public library opened to have access to the internet and learn the answer to our wondering.

We have seen his show 17 times so far.  It is by far one of the best ever.  We wouldn’t see something 17 times if it was terrible or even just good.  For us to see something more than twice, it has to be great.  That’s why we don’t have mirrors.

By the time we woke up – so we guess we did fall asleep a little but it wasn’t good sleep – we had about a thousand questions written up and down our arm, extending from our palm.  They ranged from questions about David Copperfield’s packing habit, his wardrobe choices, what kind of plane he owned, how many shows a week he performed at the MGM hotel in Las Vegas, why there were no beans left, how often the dumpsters behind Ralph’s were cleaned, who owned the tent, why lettuce grows in a ball most of the time, and why David Copperfield bought an island in the Bahamas.

We suspect but cannot prove that some of those questions were from other campers.  The handwriting and spelling did not match our own and the topic seemed far afield from our original inquiry.  We suspect, as well, there are other questions written beyond our shoulder and down our back but do not have a mirror to verify this suspicion.  We are pretty sure we did not write those backside questions either.  Our arms have limited movement, restricted, we suspect (again), by ligaments and tendons that bridge joints that make certain writing on one’s own back virtually impossible.

Once we got a shower and went to the library, we were able to look up the answer to the David Copperfield questions.  We learned what he considered the strangest thing he ever packed for a trip, all about his plane and his island and his clothing choices on a website called Travel and Leisure.

It turns out the website and magazine by the same name but with spaces between the words, actually asked Mr. Copperfield the questions we were pondering last night.

Check out the full interview here.

Learn more about Mr. Copperfield’s spectacular show here.

Read about the various growing stages of lettuce vis-à-vis the latitude of growth here.

Finally, read about how to get permanent marker off one’s arm and back here.

Magical Guinness World Record

We have an inappropriate love for the Piddingtons.

Actually just the late Lesley Piddington.

They were a psychic team from a few decades ago but, boy howdy, did they do it up.  Ms. Piddington, our secret crush, once received a psychic transmission whilst flying on a Stratocruiser plane high above the military base in which her husband, Sidney, and other judges broadcast their thoughts psychically to his beloved.  You can read more about the dynamic couple here.

The Piddingtons never claimed to have psychic powers but for our money, they were the best (and our money isn’t much, we just invested in a company that is like 23 and Me but is just for people who like to send their DNA to people.  They don’t get results back but we figure there is a niche market for this service and we emptied our 401(k) to get behind it.  There are very little overhead costs since we don’t keep the DNA or even handle it but write back (in form letters) that their DNA is “pretty” or “handsome” or “smart” or “honest”).  We are starting a new affiliate for people who want to send DNA (salvia only) for their pets.  We write back that the DNA is “pretty” or “handsome” or “smart” or “honest.”  We’re thinking of opening a third affiliate to reach people who don’t want to send DNA but can send toenail clippings — personally, we want no part of that because 1) it is gross; 2) who is going to open the packages; 3) the smell; 4) how do we know they are not just sending random toenail clippings found at the gym or in a back alley where toenail clippers are alleged to “hang” and practice their art?)

Well, a long distance transference of information is one thing, but the transference of a person is something quite different.  The magician Scott Tokar  broke the world record according to our favorite beer company (it is a medical fact that one glass of Guinness has all the nutrients and protein needed for a day in Ireland and some islands off of Ireland) was just accomplished by Corteva Agriscience, A Division of DowDuPont & Tradeshow Magician, Scott Tokar (both USA) in Boone, Iowa, at the Farm Progress Tradeshow on 28 August 2018. By the way, we are well aware that the records book and the beer are not connected – but we can dream, n’est-ce pas?

“Magician Scott Tokar highlighted the many record yields achieved by customers of Pioneer by setting another record at the show – the Farthest Teleportation Illusion. Tokar wowed show-goers by transporting his assistant more than 936 feet from the Corteva Agriscience tent to the Pioneer tent. Michael Empric, Adjudicator with Guinness World Records, authenticated the record as did representatives of the International Brotherhood of Magicians.”

You can check out the very impressive information here.

Visit Mr. Tokar’s very impressive website here.

Magic Live Announced

Stan Allen has a great announcement for those who love magic and loathe sleeping:

I’m very excited to announce that the next MAGIC Live is August 4-7, 2019, at The Orleans Hotel in Las Vegas.

General Registration opens on Friday, September 28, at noon Pacific Time. A $95 deposit holds your spot until January 15, 2019, and registrations are 90% refundable until May 20, 2019.

To find out more about why MAGIC Live is like no other convention in the world, please visit our website. Or better yet, just ask a friend.

MAGIC Live is a great opportunity to see, learn and meet some of the greats of our Art.  You can even meet some of those who aren’t great yet but one day will be.

Check out Stan’s site here: http://www.magicconvention.com/

And join his mailing list here: http://www.magicconvention.com/2018-mailing-list/

 

Magicians, History and Corn Dogs

You can ask anyone, what does Inside Magic like?

Those in the know will say, usually with a chirpy tone, cool magic stuff from magic history and corn dogs.

Taking the list in order, we look constantly for cool magic stuff from magic history.  We have a key to the city given to Harry Blackstone Jr. given by the mayor of Dearborn, Michigan.  We have posters and pictures of great magicians through the years.  Some of our fondest memories have been eating corn dogs.

Other great memories have been talking to older magicians about the magicians they have seen or with whom they worked.

We recalled a wonderful conversation about Harry Blackstone, Jr. (the impetus for our mention of my souvenir) and how compassionate he was for his staff and assistants.  He certainly did not need to be – he was the star and his show was a hit.  But he was.

We have a multi-page letter handwritten by Doug Henning in response to our question, “how can a magician who is only 12 make it as a professional.”

Not surprisingly, he did not tell us to get an agent, make posters, berate theater managers; but to practice the art, learn the rules of being a magician and have fun.

We work in a wonderful art.  People genuinely love to be entertained and fooled and corn dogs.

We provide two out of the three and the more we do it, the more entertaining it becomes for us and our audience.

We wonder how the younger generation learns about our grand history.  Perhaps there are still meetings over an occasional corn dog where mustard-stained young performers can hear stories of Willard the Wizard, Thurston, Houdini, Kellar, Dante and our favorite, Harry Blackstone, Jr.

Although the image is not of Harry Blackstone, Jr. or any deep-fried hot dog, we think the poster used by Kellar displaying his “latest” illusion of “self-decapitation” is illustrative of our wonderful history.  No one – at least no one we have seen in the last 20-years has performed “self-decapitation” and even decapitation of others has fallen into disfavor (correctly in our humble opinion) due to world events.  But his poster was drawn in sketch form, colored in, placed on lithographic machinery and literally inked with several different passes – one for each color – leaving a space to make the poster applicable to the town or setting where Kellar would soon perform.  How wonderful.

You can find wonderful posters of magicians and non-magicians throughout history at the Library of Congress for your viewing and enjoyment.  We hope you do.

Join Inside Magic’s Online Directory

Inside Magic Image of a Magic Show

Inside Magic has been online since 1992 or 1996 depending on what you mean by online.  We began as a monthly newsletter sent to subscribers obtained through Boys Life classifieds and converted to CompuServe,  Genii (the GE electronic service – not the magazine) and then the Internet. 

We advertised through Yahoo at a cost of $140.00 (1990s dollars) and later advertised through the new and unproven Google search service.  Much less cost but at the start, many less clicks. 

There were months when the clicks were three or five.  But it was cheap so we kept with it.  We advertised on magic websites – there were very few back in the early days but Meir Yedid was a dependable site.   People trusted him, they trusted his opinion on magic and enjoyed his very honest description of magic for sale or for viewing. 

They still do.  

In the old days, Inside Magic had a news side and a catalog side.  We would never review tricks we sold – because that seemed improper. 

Eventually the catalog side faded from existence.  We sold the bulk of our remaining inventory on eBay and Amazon and focused on the news and reviews side of the website.  We liked that.  Selling magic is a tough business.  The margins are tight, there are so many sites now selling effects, and we are softies.  We can’t stand to disappoint people.  We did what no sane magic seller does, we gave refunds – even if the trick came back beat up and without instructions.  It just seemed fair.

Bright we are not.  We love magic and want to do nothing that could or possibly could interfere with an individual’s enjoyment of this great art.  That doesn’t make us ethical or smart – just us.  Similarly we would never interview or review a performer or trick/act we didn’t like.  We want to be positive always.  Maybe we didn’t like the trick or the act or the performer but that didn’t mean it/he/she/they weren’t great in the eyes of others. 

Additionally,  there are so many young performers and their first crack at getting publicity is through a review.  How terrible for the first review to be negative or mean.  We got our first review in a newspaper and it was horrible.  The trauma on a 12-year-old’s psyche is so significant.  We got later, more positive reviews but the first one stung and made getting back  on stage difficult.

All of this is coming to a point.

Continue reading “Join Inside Magic’s Online Directory”

Houdini: The Pinball Game. Heaven on Four Legs

There are three things we love: Magic, Houdini and Pinball Machines.

Imagine our glee to learn that our triad of triumph has been combined in one device.

The brand new Houdini Pinball machine from American Pinball Inc. in Streamwood, Illinois is a trifecta in our books.   It comes with special Houdini-esque obstacles and features that just makes us smile like a fool in a ball pit.

Consider:

  • Three Magnets to Control Houdini’s Magic (Remember the Thurston one had one magnet)
  • Over 20″ Launch into Houdini’s Steamer Trunk (Three more inches than a normal launch into a steamer trunk in non-pinball games)
  • Animated & Interactive Theatre Marquee (The glass is like a show.  No wooden numbers turning with a clunk and bump)
  • API Theater Stage  (The API Theater was a fine theater on the Bilbox Vaudeville Circuit later taken over by the forerunner of the Keith system)
  • Real Wood Laser Engraved Planchette (Like at the country fair where they carve your family name except this is for disembodied spirits through an Ouija board)
  • Theatre Spotlights (Of course.  Always shining from the front to enhance angles)
  • Custom Padlock & Gear Bumper Tops w/ Chains (Our first movie  made in Hollywood was coincidentally called “Custom Padlock and Gear Bumper Tops and Chains)
  • 6 Balls (because they are related to Houdini, likely larger than other pinballs)
  • 5 Multiballs (This is a quantum anomaly or simply five balls.  We prefer to think the former)
  • 10 Stage Modes including Straight Jacket Multiball (If you have never played pinball in a straitjacket you don’t know what you’re missing – but that’s okay because there are probably few that have so it’s not like you’re being left out of some really cool  group)
  • 3 Magician Modes (What? Who else would they put with Houdini? Kellar, maybe.  Dante, c’mon. Carrot Top, not even a magician)
  • 1 Master Magician Mode (You get to play as the Master Magician plays – includes cape between well-manicured fingers the bumper buttons)
  • 5 Secret Mission Combo Modes (Likely as H.H.)
  • 5 Houdini Silent Movie Modes (We would totally do voice-overs for the silent dialogue to compliment our playing)
  • 5 Jail Escape Hurry Ups (In our book, every Jail Escape is a Hurry Up.  We reviewed Houdini’s notes and found very little evidence that he trifled during any escape, especially a Jail Escape)
  • 1 Video Mode  (As far as we know, there was no video back in Houdini’s time – maybe he did a YouTube that we didn’t see yet)
  • Milk Can Playfield Multiplier

Imagine a game without a Milk Can Multiplier?  You cannot, can you?  It’s impossible.  Houdini wrote to his brother Theo “Dash” Weiss in 1919 “Now that I have the Milk Can and understand it’s multiplying effect, I cannot imagine the world without it.”  We have no word what response Theo provided his brother but likely it was along the lines of “Nope, I sure can’t, brother!”

The device is so pretty and so perfect, we just want to touch it and buy it.  It is more likely that we will touch it one day but not own it so soon.  Our magic friend Keiser got to try it out at the Arcade Expo in beautiful Banning California this weekend.  As he spoke about the Houdini machine and unrolled the special poster he brought us, we smiled beyond capacity; leading to slight tears to the corners of our well-chapsticked lips.  We were so enthralled, we worried that our special anti-enthralling medications were not working or, at best, overwhelmed.  But it was apparent, the medication was just whelmed – not overly or underly.

The machine cost a mere $7,000.00 USD ($6,999).  At $7.50 a show (assuming a complete sell-out of the back of the room Svengali Decks and knock-off Bullet Catch Trick with Nerf Guns), it would only take us a bunch of shows and lots of balloon animals (and we can only do poodles and giraffes (or poodles who look like giraffes or swords), to make enough to buy one.

Consequently, we are hoping one of our readers will decide to contribute the machine to us and perhaps through in some AC Generator wiring so we can play indoors.  We were going to do a Go-Fun-Me page but when we went to the site, it didn’t seem like a place one could raise money.  It seemed a little provocative.  We erased it from the computer and were thankful we didn’t use our own computer to search and find the site.

See or play the game, we would love to hear your experiences – and perhaps touch your hand to get some of your special luck.

We thank Keiser for his poster and his constant ability to fool us and be patient with our bad acting when we pretend to know exactly what he has done.

Check out the Pinball Machine with Everything here: https://www.american-pinball.com/games/houdini/; download the tech details here: https://www.american-pinball.com/games/houdini/docs/Houdini-Service-Manual.pdf; and the promotional materials here: https://www.american-pinball.com/games/houdini/Houdini-Pinball-Flyer.pdf

 

 

Ben Young is Up and Coming

Magician Ben Young has a fancy website, a long list of appearances and likely does a fair amount of advertising for his services but for our money, nothing beats the kind of press he received from a friend in the recent edition of The Tullahoma News.

Yes, he has been on Penn & Teller’s Fool Us and befriended by some of the top performers in our craft.  But for some reason we are more moved by accolades bestowed by a former classmate.

Erin McCullough’s column in the Tennessee news source inspires us to track Mr. Young on our upcoming visit to Las Vegas. That beats a Yelp or Trip Advisor review in our estimation.

Ms. McCullough knew Mr. Young from their time together in school and expresses surprise and delight in learning of her friend’s success since leaving the area.

“Now, I had known Ben was talented, but I had no idea of the depth of his craft until I saw it in person. If you’ve never been able to see a magic show, please do yourself a favor and go seek one out, because they are incredible!”

Apparently they studied Italian together in college and, sure, he would perform a few effects for fellow students but Ms. McCullough never saw him in full stage magician mode. Now, Mr. Young is beginning (or part way into) a tour of Air Force bases and cannot be confused with the talented hobbiest. He is a full-blown magician.

We’ll be in Las Vegas when Hollywood shuts down for the holiday break and will seek out Mr. Young — assuming he isn’t on tour — solely because of the apparently unsolicited but heartfelt endorsement of Ms. McCullough.

You can check out Ms. McCullough’s article here: http://www.tullahomanews.com/around-the-water-cooler-81/

Visit Mr. Young’s website here: http://www.benyounglive.com/