Kellar's Golden Butterfly Illusion

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Postby Dean Carnegie » 04/28/02 06:12 PM

Does anyone know exactly what the effect was for Harry Kellar's Golden Butterfly Illusion. I've seen pictures of the beautiful poster that was created for the illusion. However I have no idea what the actual trick was.
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Postby Jerry Harrell » 04/29/02 06:52 AM

I believe the effect was Kellar's version of David Devant's Mascot Moth, which involved the "instant" vanishing of a young lady wrapped in silk. . It was last performed by Doug Henning in the short-lived broadway musical Merlin. Kellar had a lot of trouble with the illusion apparatus, and dropped it from his show. It sure made a pretty poster though.
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Postby Michael Edwards » 04/29/02 03:15 PM

This was not the only Maskelyne and/or Devant illusion incorporated into the Kellar show. When The Golden Butterfly was added to the program for the 1906-7 season, it joined the Levitation of Princess Karnac and The Witch, The Sailor and the Enchanted Monkey as featured numbers. In fact, by then Paul Valadon was a major player in Kellar's production. And, of course, another beautiful Kellar poster -- The Queen of the Roses -- captures yet another illusion borrowed from Devant's work: The Birth of Flora (though Kellar's method did differ).

As for The Mascot Moth, it debuted in August 1905 at St. George's Hall. Stanyon's Magic of July 1906 gives a rather complete description with some suggested explanation of Devant's methods. The script for the sketch can be found as one of the appendices in Devant's My Magic Life. Goldston has a brief illustrated exposure in his Magician's Annual 1909-10. And S.H. Sharpe has a rather lengthy description in Devant's Delighful Illusions.

As has been noted, John Gaughan and Jim Steinmeyer brought the Moth back to life in Merlin. Jim Steinmeyer's essay on the challenges they faced can be found in The Moth in the Spotlight (chapter 2) of his 1998 book Art & Artifice. However, the Mascot Moth did not meet its end when Merlin closed in 1983. Jim Steinmeyer et al receated the illusion once again as part the LA Conference on Magic History in 1999.

Hope this helps.

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