Archive for the 'History' Category

Magic Is Hot… Just Like 75 Years Ago!

Posted by Michael on April 23rd, 2019

Lately we have been seeing a surge in magic popularity. Broadcast television will soon be seeing new seasons of two shows dedicated to the performance of magic (Masters of Illusion and Penn & Teller: Fool Us, both on The CW) but magic is regularly featured on the hugely popular network talent show programs as well. Add pay television into the mix and you have The Carbonaro Effect with Michael Carbonaro (TruTV), Tricked with Eric LeClerc (BYU TV) and Hip Hop Houdini with Smoothini (Fuse) not to mention Junk Drawer Magical Adventures (Universal Kids) and the upcoming NBC sitcom pilot Like Magic. Magic, it seems is everywhere.

Of course, this is not the first time magic has been surging in popularity. 75 years ago this month Genii was reporting Joe Dunninger, the mentalist and star of his own radio show, had just been featured in an eight page Life Magazine spread. Not to be outdone, the Saturday Evening Post had a similarly sized feature on John Scarne while Collier’s had just run a shorter piece on Arnold Furst. These were three of the most popular publications of the World War Two era and each had focused not only on magic, but on a personality in magic. The 1940s were undoubtedly a great time for magic, in fact that same issue of Genii proclaims it a golden age.

So what does that make today!

Tenyo’s Phantom Clock

Posted by Michael on April 10th, 2019

The Phantom Clock was designed by Lubor Fiedler and released twenty years ago by Tenyo. Dominic Malini posted this demonstration of the classic prop.

Happy Birthday Harry Houdini!

Posted by Michael on March 24th, 2019

Born on this day (March 24) in 1874, Harry Houdini is still the most recognized name in magic even though he died almost a century ago. We think Houdini would have been thrilled to realize he was still dominating magic after all these years!

The footage above is not a “real” escape but footage from one of his movie serials… do not forget, Houdini was a real star who made movies, printed dozens of articles (mainly ghostwritten by others, but that was a widely accepted practice at the time) and performed live. In fact, to continue celebrating Houdini’s birthday you may want to check out Under the Pyramids, an article where Houdini tells the true tale (or maybe that should be tall tale) of spending the night in an Egyptian pyramid. It was actually penned by famed pulp horror author HP Lovecraft and you can read the text on this site dedicated to Lovecraft’s works.

Milbourne Christopher Appearing On TV Circa 1959

Posted by Michael on March 20th, 2019

Milbourne Christopher made an appearance on I’ve Got A Secret in 1959, playing at fooling the panel and levitating former Miss America Bess Myerson to boot.

Alfred DeLage On To Tell The Truth

Posted by Michael on March 20th, 2019

Alfred DeLage, billed at the time as the world’s fastest magician, made an appearance on the classic game show To Tell The Truth in 1960. Can you figure out which one is really Alfred?

His billing was probably connected to an effect he invented called The Fastest Trick In The World, which involved the instant disappearance of a potted bush without cover.

Remembering Celeste Evans

Posted by Michael on March 13th, 2019

We’re going to be honest: it is kind of a slow news day. Since it is Women’s History Month we are going to take the day to highlight some women in magic… something we will keep up all month long. We won’t just highlight today’s great ladies of magic, either. Speaking of that: we are trying really, really hard to find footage of Dell O’Dell. We can find footage of other magicians she shot, as shooting home movies was one of her favorite hobbies, but we can not find any footage of her!

Today’s first clip is of Celeste Evans’ appearance on CBS game show To Tell The Truth sometime in 1957 or ’58. Celeste passed away in 2017 at the age of 85. She spoke to iTricks back in 2013, leading to a two part article on her (here and here).

June McComb (aka June Merlin) Circa 1953

Posted by Michael on March 11th, 2019

We have run this clip before, but it is Women’s History Month so we are determined to remind you of some of the great female trailblazers in magic such as Irish beauty queen turned nightclub magician June Merlin, also known as June McComb and June Cochrane. We ran a feature on June back in 2014 which you can read here.