History of Floating Table

Discuss the historical aspects of magic, including memories, or favorite stories.

Postby Guest » 03/22/07 08:09 PM


I am looking for a history of the levitating table. Do we know who was the first to come up with and perform this feat?



Postby Guest » 03/22/07 10:36 PM

Probably spirit mediums, later adapted and adopted by magicians.

One of the "Dr. Q" manuscripts is the "Gyrating Tables," if I remember the title correctly. It is done with spectators from the audience and lots of suggestion.

Postby Matthew Field » 03/23/07 03:50 AM

From Bart Whaley's Encyclopedic Dictionary of Magic:

Floating Table, (The)
n. Table Lifting (see) being the original and still more usual synonym.

Jargon by 1912 Stanyon in Magic; 1919 Thayer cat #4; 1924 Heaney cat #25; 1926 Clarke in Magic Wand; 1936 Jarrett; 1936 Holden cat #5; 1940 Abbott cat #6; 1951 Scarne; 1952 Christopher in HMM; 1976 Owen cat #9; 1985 Price; 1988 Waters; 1991 Walker; 1991 KT Magic cat #4; 1997 Abbott cat #25.

a. [adjectivally]
Jargon by 1944 Fitzkee as "a floating table act".

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Postby Guest » 03/23/07 02:38 PM

A number of effects/techniques have been incorporated into the body of magic that originated in the psychic con rackets.

Almost certainly the Center Tear came out of that if the history of that technique written up by Sid Lorraine is correct, and I see no reason why it wouldn't be.

Pellet and billet switches all came out of mediums and early "psychics" who did readings and needed to gain hidden information...Charles Foster and Bert Reese being two masters of the aforementioned techniques.

Probably the most famous modern exponent of the Table Levitation is David Berglas whose personal method was given to David Copperfield but is almost certainly similar to the one employed by the old time mediums.

Smaller, portalbe versions were made by Thayer and Owen using a different method. More recent additions have appeared on the market in the last few years doing more float than their predecessors.

Postby Matthew Field » 03/24/07 03:43 AM

David Berglas performed his Floating Table on stage at The Magic Circle Centenary Celebrations in 2005.

It was one of the most magnificent things I have ever seen on a stage, and I am fortunate to have been able to tell David that in person.

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Postby Guest » 03/28/07 04:49 PM

It might not be possible, at this late date, to identify the originator of the "floating table," or more correctly (in the contemporaneous vernacular) the "table levitation." It's safe to say, though, that it originated with the resurgence of the movement -- inspired by the Fox sisters -- to communicate with ghosts, which came, of course, to be known as Spiritualism.

Eusapia Palladino was, without question, the queen of the table rappers and levitators, and it may well be she who "invented" the technique. There are numerous accounts of her having performed the phenomena in both magic and early psychic research literature. The first account of her lifting a table mentioned in print was, I believe, in 1888.

The first account of a magician duplicating the feat I've encountered is described in Burlingame's " Leaves From Conjurers' Scrap Books," published in 1891. In a chapter entitled " Second-Site Artists ," Burlingame writes: "An exceedingly clever performer in the anti-spiritualist line, is Prof. Marvelle. He has displayed a great deal of genius in his tricks and apparatus, which has not been confined to magic alone... He excels in anti-spiritualist work, such as rope-tying, slate-writing, materialization, table lifting [emphasis mine] and mind-reading..."

Hope this helps.

Greg Edmonds
Official Historian, Psychic Entertainers Association (I knew I'd be able to use that title somewhere :p )

PS As it's mentioned above, I thought I'd also mention, for those interested, that the term "Second Site" did not originally apply to mind readers or psychics. In ancient British folklore, those endowed with "second site" were the only ones capable of actually seeing Fairies. This all changed, of course, when Sir Arthur Conan Doyle published the famous pictures of the winged creatures, photographed by an adolescent Cottingley girl.

Postby Guest » 03/28/07 04:57 PM

This is what I get for depending on Spell Checking software. "Second Site," mentioned above, should, naturally, have b

Postby Guest » 03/28/07 05:05 PM

should have been "Second Sight."


Sorry for the split message, my laptop hiccupped as I hit "Add Reply."

Postby Pete Biro » 03/28/07 07:29 PM

Berglas probably has the best version. Copperfield did it on Oprah one day and it was AWESOME. I'd love to have seen Berglas' presentation.

We (Arthur Bull and I) did a version in the Francisco's Midnight Spook Shows that was a fooler and very entertaining. I have marketed this through Stevens Magic. My version works with just about ANY card table. You only need one assistant and use two ungimmicked borrowed spectators.
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Postby Guest » 03/28/07 10:02 PM

My understanding, Pete, is that David (Copperfield)'s presentation is almost identical to David (Berglas)'. It was, after all, Berglas who coached and taught him the routine. The description in the Berglas book published by Jim Steinmeyer is note for note what Copperfield did.
That said, however, they are strikingly different personalities and I imagine watching them perform this same routine back to back, they would still vary greatly in tone and style.

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