Tag: Magic History

Guest Contributor Lisa Cousins: A Spirit Among the Magicians

Joining the Magic Castle has been a wonderful experience and a great opportunity to meet people who share our passion for Magic.  Lisa Cousins works keeping the prestigious The William W. Larsen Memorial Library the fantastic resource it is for all members of The Magic Castle.  We are honored that she allowed us to print her essay in our humble magic news outlet.  You can read more about Ms. Cousins in an article published on LosAngeles.com.

I.  Obsessions

Harry Houdini is remembered first as an escape artist, but he was also a “séance-buster” who despised fraud in the séance room, and did all he could to expose it.  His 1924 book, A Magician Among the Spirits, is an account of his experiences with the spirit mediums of his day, and in no case did he discover anything but scams and shams and magic tricks.  He conducted his investigations with both an open mind and a wishful heart, as it was the death of his mother that led him to his inquiry into the realm of spirit in the first place.  He sincerely hoped that life continued after death and that communication with the departed was possible.  He was mortified to discover nothing but hokum, and morally outraged that bereaved people were being fleeced by con men using standard magician’s effects.

While he maintained that he was not a skeptic, his activities as a debunker inspired several generations of skeptical magicians to embrace him as their mascot.  There is a branch of magic called “gospel magic” where standard magic tricks are presented with a religious-instructive twist, but in the main magicians are a skeptical bunch.  They have direct experience with how easily people can be tricked, controlled, manipulated, and deceived, and using Houdini’s example as something of a guiding light, are in general quite dismissive of spirituality in any form.  This is all perfectly understandable, but for someone like myself, an avid reader and tremendous fan of spiritual literature for decades before I took up the study of magic, I entered the world of magic and magicians and found myself a stranger in a land already famously strange.

I don’t “believe in God.”  I experience divinity every minute of every day.  This has nothing to do with what becomes of us when we shed this mortal coil; this is strictly here-and-now.  What’s more, I have zero interest in persuading anybody to join me in my opinions.  I don’t see truth as some kind of numbers game, where stacking up the believers makes a truth any truer; indeed, I’m fond of Oscar Wilde’s observation that “A truth ceases to be true when more than one person believes it.”  Even if I ardently wished to make you see this splendid world as I view it through my enraptured eyes, I couldn’t do it anyhow.  It’s too late, too unique to myself, the road was too long and full of surprise twists to fill you in on all the parts that contributed to “the making of” my point of view.  In other words, do your own studying.  Or not. Continue reading “Guest Contributor Lisa Cousins: A Spirit Among the Magicians”

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Houdini: Who’s Your Daddy?

Houdini’s father was a ________?

If you answered Rabbi, you may or may not be correct.

If you said, “lawyer,” you may be close.

If you asked, “who is ‘Houdini’?”  You are on the wrong site.

If you whined, “a person is much more than what he does for a living,” you are probably also on the wrong site but because your response evidences so much depth and sensitivity we assume you have lived life of considerable pain and disappointment and would hate to add to the long list of places and people who have rejected you.  You can stay but don’t touch anything.

The Houdini File is publishing a multi-part series on the question of Houdini’s daddy.  It is absolutely fascinating.

The series is a product of The Houdini Birth Research Committee of the Society of American Magicians.  Their task was to “ferret out hard facts about Mayer Samuel Weisz.”

As an aside, we love the phrase “ferret out hard facts” for inducing a wonderful melange of visual imagery.  In fact, our first World War II novel was titled “Ferret Out!” From the dust jacket “Captain Elmo Ferret was a young aviator trained as a crop duster in rural Key West, Florida drafted into Uncle Sam’s Air Corps to put a hurtin’ on a different kind of crop-destroying pest.”

Continue reading “Houdini: Who’s Your Daddy?”

Letters to Editor: Republishing Magic Stories

It is a policy of Inside Magic to respond to letters to the editor related to inaccuracies or clarification from time to time or as required by a court order.

If you have a question or comment for the editorial staff of Inside Magic, please send it to us at editors@insidemagic.com.

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Dear Tim:

I read Inside Magic every day except for when you have repeats. Why do you repeat articles from a long time ago when if I wanted to read them, I could just look them up on your site? Are you trying to fool people by pretending it is new news?

K. Maloney, Orem, UT

Dear “K”:

Although you may read Inside Magic daily, there are many behind the Iron Curtain who are denied this privilege.

When our internet signal is not blocked by the censors along the East – West Germany border, we push through as many of the articles we can fit. Yes, this means some of the articles will appear to be revised versions of previously published works, but rest assured we are doing this only to promote freedom and individual property rights around this world. Although the Kremlin may haughtily impugn this site’s motives or discount the important news we bring to the repressed and imprisoned masses in the Soviet Blocked countries, until we are forced at gun point to salute a commie flag, we’ll keep up our often solitary fight to free our brothers and sisters squirming for liberty beneath Stalin’s huge, filthy thumb.

Also, we never just republish for the sake of republishing. We also update the information contained within the story so that it provides a unique retrospective telescope into the past with zest of the future we call present day.

For instance, we did republish the article about Chung Ling Soo being killed in the UK when his bullet catch trick failed. That article was originally published in the March 25, 1918 edition of Inside Magic. We did republish a version of it during on December 8, 1941 but only because it was a slow news day. And yes, it was republished 12 times during the 1960s and 1970s, twice in the 1980s, 15 times in the 1990s, only once from 2000 to 2010, and of course the latest republication not too long ago.
Continue reading “Letters to Editor: Republishing Magic Stories”

Magicians = Creepy Anti-Hero?

The new trend in horror film stars are described by Cinematical today as “brooding, pale-skinned, sparkly, fangless, vegan vampires.”

The on-line movie site longs for the days of real horror icons.  Cinematical wants real vampires, real, carnivorous creepy types trolling the earth for victims, not lovers.

Take, for instance, the 1980’s classic Fright Night.  There were no pale, blotchy, moribund slivers of human flesh to be found in the film.  The men were men and the women were victims and  usually half-naked, according to the author.

To provide artistic balance to the wimpy, dysthymic, translucent-skinned, after-picture-for-a-weight-loss-plan-marketed-to-anorexics, boys and girls made fashionable by the ponderous paper-doll dramatis personae of Twilight, Hollywood is producing a remake of Fright Night.

The producers wanted a creepy, scary anti-hero and determined the best fit would be a Las Vegas magician.

David Tennant of Doctor Who fame will play Peter Vincent, a Vegas illusionist known for his horror-themed stage shows, who presumably overcomes his fear of vampires to become their worst enemy.

In an earlier piece on the pre-production gossip, Cinematical offered its hope for remake’s choice of characters.

The only concern with the new plot information is that the remake may stray too far from the original. The addition of Charley’s Chriss Angel mentor proves that even if our hero lives in a cozy abode off The Strip, we’ll eventually find ourselves under the Vegas lights . A straight remake was never the answer, but let’s hope (script writer) Noxon doesn’t push this too far.

We could see a Criss Angel type playing a vampire and a vampire hunter but think it would be so much better to have Lance Burton for either role. Lance Burton is classy, healthy, and has the beguiling smile sufficient to hide the horrific fears and emotions felt by the Vincent character. Or, maybe if they want to go contrary to all stereotype, why not use Carrot-Top?

Master Magician Lance Burton Starts Final 5 Months

Master Magician Lance Burton will end his historic run at Monte Carlo September 4, 2010.

The final performance follows 14 years of captivating audiences at the resort’s Lance Burton Theatre.

Beloved by fans worldwide  and named the Las Vegas Review-Journal’s “Best Magician” for a dozen years running, Burton has been with Monte Carlo since its opening day on June 21, 1996.

“It has been an honor and a pleasure to have Lance Burton headline at Monte Carlo for the last 14 years,” said Monte Carlo President & COO Anton Nikodemus.  “We are proud to have called Lance a member of the MGM MIRAGE family and wish him nothing but the best as he pursues a new chapter in his legendary career.”

Known for his astounding illusions and mesmerizing sleight-of-hand, Burton will continue to delight audiences at Monte Carlo through Labor Day Weekend, celebrating one of the longest and most fruitful partnerships in the history of Las Vegas entertainment.

“Performing at Monte Carlo and introducing over five million people to the world of magic has been a fantastic experience for me,” said Burton.  “I have loved every minute of this historic run and look forward to turning my attention to new opportunities.”

Visit the website of our craft’s finest at LanceBurton.com

Sad News: Jerry Conklin Passes

Jerry M. Conklin, a regular at Abbott’s Get Togethers and lead of the long-touring Amazing Conklins lost his battle with cancer on Monday, March 29, 2010.   He was 82.

Mr. Conklin was born in Battle Creek and served in the U.S. Army’s Special Services Entertainment Division after high school.  He married his partner in life and magic, Shirley Robertson on June 24, 1951.  Shirley passed away in 1987.

From the Sturgis Journal of March 31, 2010:

“In 1961, Jerry moved his family to Colon and began working at Abbott’s Magic Company.  Soon afterwards, he became a professional magician, and the ”family of magic” known as The Amazing Conklins traveled throughout the United States, Nova Scotia, New Foundland, Quebec and New Brunswick.  In the 1960s they performed at the Boy Scouts National Jamboree in Colorado Springs, Colo.
Continue reading “Sad News: Jerry Conklin Passes”

Truly Grand: Boston’s Le Grand David Featured

The Boston Globe provides an excellent retrospective on one of the unique stars of our craft.

As, Le Grand David celebrates its 33rd year, The Globe asks how much longer it can exist.

The show, the theater, the performers, and the audience are an anachronism to a time that may have never existed.

The Globe asked Magic Magazine Editor, Stan Allen to speculate on the show within a show’s future.

That’s a very big question,” he said.  “Le Grand David is very unusual, and the way the show came about is very unusual. There isn’t anything usual about it.  It is as close to Brigadoon as anything in magic that we have.  It doesn’t pack up its tent and go away.”

Like the mythical Scottish village that appears for one day each century, Le Grand David has been a constant but almost ethereal presence in Magic.

Be sure to check out the full article in The Globe.

Visit the show’s web site for great images, information, and show schedule.

Houdini Slated as Next Movie Superhero

There scattered reports earlier this year that Summit Entertainment purchased the film rights to William Kalush and Larry Sloman’s biography, The Secret Life of Houdini: The Making of America’s First Superhero, to make “an action thriller featuring a character who is part Indiana Jones and part Sherlock Holmes.”

Entertainment web site IGN opined Summit’s decision to stray from the bio-pic format was to build a franchise on Houdini’s fame; not necessarily his life.

The studio announced in March 2009, it was looking for a writer to craft the story and build the super-hero character.

They apparently found their writer and his credits fit the need for a super-hero take on Houdini.

Jeff Nathanson, writer of Indiana Jones and The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull will write the script. Mr. Nathanson worked with Steven Spielberg on Catch Me if You Can and the horrible waste of celluloid The Terminal. His action credits also include Rush Hour 2 and Speed 2: Cruise Control.

IGN was not able to receive confirmation of the writing assignment from Mr. Nathanson’s Hollywood agents, CAA.

Summit was apparently excited by the book’s suggestion that Houdini was a spy for Britain, and possibly murdered by spiritualists in retribution for his very effective debunking of their craft. The book certainly made the suggestions but offered very little support for either the spy or murder claim.

News of this potential deal brings up a sore subject for us here at Inside Magic.

Continue reading “Houdini Slated as Next Movie Superhero”

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.”

Continue reading “Melbourne’s Magic Age Featured in New Exhibit”

Warm Greetings and Offerings from Lee Asher

Recall a couple of weeks ago when Magician, Instructor and bon vivant Lee Asher made a special offer to Inside Magic Readers?

Sure you do. He promised Inside Magic Readers a free gift on his web site that would help inspire us.

Mr. Asher followed through in spades.

The gift is very limited access to incredible magic videos from our craft’s rich history.  The videos are available for viewing for 24 hours and then moved back into the vault for all time.  We don’t know if he considered the effect of this policy but it has us going back to his site daily.  Hmmm.

In the past week or so we have seen some great (and not so great but nonetheless inspiring) magic and magicians.
Continue reading “Warm Greetings and Offerings from Lee Asher”