historical figures who are magicians

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

Postby Bill Wheeler » 07/14/05 10:30 AM

Hello!

I wanted to get a list of historical figures who had magic as a pastime. Not Hollywood celebrities, entertainers, etc. Contemporary figures (like Norman Schwarzkopf) are OK. I realize some politicians are also magicians; so please lets keep this oriented on magic.

The meager list so far:

HG Wells
Lewis Carroll
Norman Schwarzkopf
George Bush
Prince Charles
Ben Franklin (Can someone confirm?)
Leonardo DaVinci (Didn't he illustrate one of the first books on magic? I thought I read this in Genii)
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Postby Jonathan Townsend » 07/14/05 10:53 AM

Originally posted by Bill Wheeler:
...Ben Franklin (Can someone confirm?)
...
There is a nice woodcut of him doing the 'calming the waters' bit with a hollow staff containing oil.
Mundus vult decipi
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Postby Lisa Cousins » 07/14/05 12:15 PM

From "You Don't Have To Be Crazy" by Frances Ireland (Marshall):

"One group of famous Americans no one would suspect of being magic-minded is the St. Louis Cardinals. These boys got their start during training in Cairo. Time hung heavily on their hands, and they began to watch Claude Keefe, stationed there with the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company and magic-nut of long standing. Claude ate his meals at the player's hotel, and during the training season a number of them took up magic in earnest. This group included Sylvester "Blix" Donnelly, Stan Musial, Pepper Martin, Danny Litwiler and Harry Breechen. All the members of the club were interested and made a good audience for the magic-students listed above. During the 1944 training season, Mr. Keefe obtained little tricks for them, most popular being the ball and tube and the cigarette vanisher.

"During the 1945 season, Blix Donnelley had read Tarbell Volumes I and II from cover to cover and was doing a lot of magic studying. He proved to have unusual ability in analyzing tricks. Stan Musial was getting very good results from his magic before he went into the Navy. He was very casual under adverse conditions, and would pull out a deck of cards in a hotel lobby completely surrounded by people and nonchalantly proceed to amaze everybody.

"The most colorful of them all was Pepper Martin. Pepper had a great personality and was an outstanding example of the value of good showmanship over technique. He used the thumb tip in a manner that would make a magician weep with despair. But the showmanship and personality exercised with his unusually inefficient technique would put the effect over in a very satisfactory manner."
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Postby Ryan Matney » 07/14/05 01:01 PM

Charles Dickens. I saw a documentary on him a few years back and he used to do several tricks during his public readings. One of them was a burnt and restored handkerchief. I assume he used a thumb tip from his description of the effect.
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Postby Guest » 07/14/05 01:07 PM

Bill, You mentioned Leonardo DaVinci . I am

listing to the CD version of the DaVinci code.

Is'nt that a two person mind reading act.I bet

Max Maven knows.....Mike
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Postby Guest » 07/14/05 02:41 PM

One of the magical magazines had an article on Dickens, he actually did shows.
Steve V
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Postby cgscpa » 07/14/05 03:52 PM

John McLaughlin, current CIA director.

Phil Mickelson - pro golfer.
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Postby MitsuMatsu » 07/14/05 07:38 PM

I remember that Bart Whaley's "Who's Who in Magic" gives a good list of those people in its front pages just after the preface.
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Postby Lisa Cousins » 07/15/05 10:13 AM

Fran Marshall also names Edward Windsor, the love-embracing crown-ditcher, as a magician, and she quotes from a 1929 newspaper notice which reports that "the prince has an amusing and rapid fire patter, as captivating as his conjuring."

Is that a positive review? We don't know. We only know that the patter was on a par with the conjuring.
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Postby Bill Wheeler » 07/15/05 10:25 AM

"love-embracing crown-ditcher" never heard it put quite that way! LOL

Many thanks for the answers and additional references provided.
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Postby Guest » 07/15/05 05:40 PM

British esayist, critic, and author, Edmund Wilson. In a collection of his essays, actually on the back of the dustjacket, there is a picture of him with cards in hand, apparently preparing to "Diagonally Shift" a card. Inside, a short story about magic...

G.K.Chesterton (the Father Brown Mysteries and various religious commentary) wrote a play called Magic" - apparently inspired by his early interest. In fact, a poem from it is quoted in Wilfred Huggins (I think), excellent book, "But Not To Play"...

Have always wondered about "The Magician of Lublin" by Isaac Bashevis Singer...

Does Lewis Carroll count?

And our own Martin Gardner, or Persi Diaconis, famed mathematicians?

There are certainly many more, depends on your definition of historical figures, I guess...

Best, PSC
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Postby Joe Mckay » 07/16/05 05:11 PM

Jesus?

Mohammed Ali used to do a few tricks.

Jimmy Stewart had a couple of effects published in 'The Jinx'. Apparently he used to help out a friend who was a magician in his youth. I am not sure if his interest in magic ran deeper that that.

I think however, the best example of a genuine magic nut and a genuine superstar would be Charles Foster Kane himself. Orson Welles.

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Postby Jacky Kahan » 07/17/05 03:21 AM

Wasn't Churchill a magician?

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Postby Gary Brown » 07/17/05 06:55 AM

I recognize that Bill initially limited this to famous individuals other than Hollywood celebrities. Yet several posters have posted several nonetheless, and I wanted to participate in this post and couldn't think of any non-Hollywood types. So here are a few more:

Johnny Carson

Steve Martin (worked in a magic shop and used to do a hilarious magic act parody called The Great Flydini)

Danny Kaye (used magic during his work with UNICEF)

Orson Wells (already posted, but worth posting again)

Dick Cavett (one site notes "Before leaving for college, he . . . began doing magic shows for $35 a night under the tutelage of Gene Gloye. He attended the 1952 convention of the International Brotherhood of Magicians in St. Louis and won Best New Performer trophy. Around the same time, he met fellow magician Johnny Carson, 11 years his senior, who was doing a magic act at a church in Lincoln.").

Incidentally, one page that contains an extensive list of celebrity magicians can be found at:

http://www.magictricks.com/library/celebmagic.htm


Cheers,

Gary Brown
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Postby Brian Marks » 07/17/05 12:32 PM

Orson Wells qualifies as a historical figure in the film industry and in American history. I know we like to reduce "Hollywood" as not important but the film industry in a multi-billion dollar industry who has influneced the last 100 or so years. AMI's best film ever is one Orson Wells directed. The current top box office holder is a remake of another Orson Wells film.
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Postby David Alexander » 07/17/05 01:16 PM

Charles Dickens was an amateur magician AND a "mesmerist" as well. However he did the Burnt and Restored Hank, he didn't use a thumb tip as I don't believe it was invented during his lifetime. I recall something in the Sphinx about the TT being invented by some guy trying to duplicate a Chinese performer's Torn and Restored strip of paper.

General Norman Schwartzkopf (sp?) is a amateur magician.

Frakson had an interaction with the Prince of Wales that I will be detailing in an up-coming article in Genii. Just waiting for a few more sources to come in.
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Postby Pete Biro » 07/17/05 04:52 PM

Frakon (SP?) hahahah

Arsenio Hall
Stay tooned.
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Postby Bill Mullins » 07/17/05 09:54 PM

Originally posted by Brian Marks:
The current top box office holder is a remake of another Orson Wells film.
Orson Welles' production of "War of the Worlds" was a radio play, not a film.
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Postby Brian Marks » 07/17/05 10:40 PM

sorry your right. but its still a remake
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Postby Antony Gerard » 08/16/05 04:24 PM

Samuel Colt: He performed a magic and medicine show to finance the development and patenting of the Colt Revolver.

Isambard Kingdom Brunel: He was a famous Engineer and Architect who also practiced magic. He once accidentally swollowed a coin that he had vanished - the removal of the coin led to the development of the "Brodie's Forcepts".

Lewis Carroll: Yes I know that he has already been mentioned on a previouse post but did you know that Lewis Carroll once witnessed another magician performing the "Peppers Ghost", an illusion where a person slowly vanishes. The vanishing of the Cheshire cat was inspired by Carroll witnessing this illusion.

Edward VII (The Prince Of Wales)

Prince Charles

George Bush

Dr. Oliver Goldsmith (Poet)

Sir William S. Gilbert (Lyricist)

Philip Morris (Owner of Morris Costumes)

Prince Reniar

I also have an extensive list of film celebrities, but because this post requested "Not Hollywood celebrities", I will only mention one that is little known who is Bela Logosi "Count Dracula".

Take care and take cards
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Postby Richard Hatch » 08/16/05 04:38 PM

Originally posted by Antony Gerard:
..I will only mention one that is little known who is Bela Logosi "Count Dracula".
I'd be curious to know more about this. My recollection is that Lugosi in his declining days was hired to assist Bill Neff in his illusions, but I don't recall where I might have seen this. Are there references to Lugosi performing indepently?
Also, while George Bush (41, not W) is often cited on such lists, I once had a chance to perform for him at a private event here in Houston and, having read of his interest in magic, tried to talk to him about that. It quickly became clear that he had no idea what I was talking about! I believe his listing stems from an occasional purchase he made at Al's Magic Shop while vice-president. In my opinion, his level of interest did not rise even to the "hobby" level. He was a very gracious audience, however!
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Postby Antony Gerard » 08/17/05 01:22 PM

In 1984 while attending the Stewart James Courtright magic convention, Stewart told me that he had heard that Logosi was doing magic shows.

Another credible account of Logosi performing magic independently is Steve Dushek. In an interview with Magic Manuscript in 1989 he claimed to have seen Logosi perform the Saw The Lady In Half Illusion. He said that his father brought him to a magic show performed by Logosi. Steve claimed that the experience rekindled his interest in magic.

As for George Bush there may be underlying reasons for his response to you. There have been a number of magicians who have been called in to the CIA as advisors. The CIA brought the magicians in to teach their people about deception, misdirection, and illusion. It is possible that George Bush got interested in magic because of the CIA magic project and simply didnt feel comfortable talking to a non company person about it. Then again, it could simply be that the bug didnt bite him as it did us. The fact remains though that he at least for a time had the magic bug.

Take care and take cards
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Postby Richard Kaufman » 08/17/05 02:19 PM

Lugosi (NOT Logosi) was in dire financial straits late in life and toured the country performing a skit prior to the start of a movie. This was common in the 1950s when you often saw a stage performance of some sort in addition to the film. I believe Lugosi changed a woman into a gorilla using some sort of gimmicked coffin that stood upright on stage.

Orson Welles (NOT Wells).

John McLaughlin is retired from the CIA.

George Bush used to buy more practical jokes from Al rather than magic tricks, so perhaps that explains the discrepancy.

Let's try and make at least some attempt to spell people's names correctly! If you're on the computer, then you can use Google to find the proper spelling for anyone's name in a nanosecond.
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Postby Guest » 08/17/05 03:30 PM

I was in West Africa in 1982 when then VP Bush was also there and a practical joke went too far and I had the unique pleasure of being chewed out by him (as well as by an admiral, a Marine Col., an embassador, and a Navy Commander). You SURE he liked jokes?
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Note: I wasn't involved at all with the 'joke' but I was the lowest ranking person present, you know how that goes.
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Postby Bill Wells » 08/17/05 09:27 PM

Bela Lugosi can be seen performing the Vampire Bat (Modern Cabinet) Illusion in Volume 2 of the "You Asked For It" video set sold by William McIlhaney.
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Postby Antony Gerard » 08/18/05 05:10 PM

Richard Hatch

I looked up the Magic Manuscript article and it was the Buzz Saw Illusion that Steve Dusheck said he witnessed Bela Lugosi perform. Steve went on to say that it was a Vaudeville like show not the performing a skit prior to the start of a movie that Richard Kaufman referred to. I will attempt to find more information on the subject for you. Look forward to seeing you at FFFF next year.


Richard Kaufman

I of all people should have known that it was Bela Lugosi not Bela Logosi. I have owned a magic and costume shop since 1974 with over 11,000 costumes including dozens of vampire costumes. I also own a haunted house in Michigan called Phobia House where vampires are frequently lurking. It is just that I have not written his name in quite a few years and just forgot the correct spelling . My mistake.

Richard do you always express yourself so confrontationally? Personally I find it amusing but others may not. As an example, when you use all capitals like NOT Logosi on a computer it is like yelling not Logosi instead of saying it. Lugosi (Not Logosi) would have been sufficient. Your statement Let's try and make at least some attempt to spell people's names correctly! was also not necessary. You had already made your point about the misspellings. Your follow up statement was construed, at least by me, as an attempt reprimand.

Take care and take cards
Antony Gerard

PS: I also misspelled Steve Dushecks last name in a previous post. Again it is just that I have not written his name in quite a few years and just forgot the correct spelling (Sorry Steve).
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Postby Bill McFadden » 08/18/05 06:52 PM

Originally posted by Richard Hatch:
Also, while George Bush (41, not W) is often cited on such lists, I once had a chance to perform for him at a private event here in Houston and, having read of his interest in magic, tried to talk to him about that. It quickly became clear that he had no idea what I was talking about!
Maybe he was all messed up on Halcyon that day? :rolleyes:
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Postby Gregory Schultz » 08/20/05 01:16 PM

Glad to read this thread. I learned a lot. First of all, I am happy to hear that Charles Dickens was a magician. I am a direct descendant of Charles Dickens. Maybe that is where I got the Magic Gene. Second I used to subscribe to Abracadabra magazine during the periods of 1973 to 1975. It was a weekly magic magazine run by some rich English Squire who lived on a vast estate. They described him as touring his estate in his Rolls Royce. I think his name was Goodliffe. I remember reading notes about various magic clubs. Every once in a while they would note that HRH Prince Charles was attending. So I have known for a long time that Prince Charles was a magic fan. He did have to do an audition show for the Magic Circle. According to the last issue of Magic Magazine, he did the cups and balls.

Regards,

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Postby Guest » 08/21/05 09:15 AM

Richard Kaufman: "Let's try and make at least some attempt to spell people's names correctly!"

"Diego Rivera" could not agree more.
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Postby Richard Kaufman » 08/21/05 09:24 AM

I think Mr. Rivera would agreee that using the wrong name is not a spelling error!
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Postby Allan Kronzek » 08/21/05 10:08 AM

Leonardo da Vinci definitely qualifies. Magic historian William Kalush writes: "In Milan before the close of the fifteenth century, Luca Pacioli, a Franciscan brother in the Catholic Church, with the help of a young artist, wrote what I consider to be the first book devoted primarily to conjuring. The young artist was Leonardo da Vinci who, it can be conclusively shown, had an independent interest in conjuring methods..." This appears in the wonderful essay "Sleight of Hand with Playing Cards prior to Scot's Discovery," which appeared in "Puzzler's Tribute - A Feast for the Mind" (2002), compiled as part of a Gathering for Gardner. The Italian magician, Vanni Bossi, apparently has more on this subject.
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Postby Bill Mullins » 09/07/05 10:07 PM

I recently read an article about football coach Lou Holtz that mentioned him being an amateur magician.
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Postby George Olson » 09/08/05 11:32 AM

Yep, he is.

At a Corporate function about 1983 in Acapulco at the Princess, he had a 59 minute motivational speech during which he made points using Professors Nightmare, Gene Anderson's Paper Tear, and the thing with the dots that keep changing you know two, four six etc. I had a video of it and loaned it out never to see it again. He had just come from a Bowl Game (lost to one of the Texas Teams) he coached Arkansa at the time.

We visited a little afterwards super guy!

GO
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Postby Guest » 09/10/05 12:34 PM

I want to add the Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen here. He was into magic as a youngster.

Bjrn
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Postby Ross Welford » 09/24/05 03:38 PM

Personally, I'm suspicious of the claim that the mistress-marrying, crown-awaiter Prince Charles is a magician.

The only evidence I've ever seen is a picture of him performing the cups and balls for a Magic Circle audition aeons ago.

What are the chances of the membership committee turning him down? "Er, sorry your royal highness, you weren't quite up to scratch. Try again after more practice." Ain't gonna happen, is it? Other than that I've never come across any evidence.

ANother for the list is Muhammad Ali. I've seen TV pictures of him doing the Haunted Key and silk-in-a-TT (badly). He says his Muslim faith obliges him to reveal the secret after performing a trick.
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Postby Richard Kaufman » 09/24/05 05:10 PM

Prince Charles performed magic via video just this summer for the Magic Circle's 100th anniversary. I saw it!

I've also seen (in person) Muhammed Ali vanish a silk in a thumbtip and then expose the thumbtip. One too many whacks in the head if you ask me.
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Postby Anthony Brahams » 09/27/05 01:38 AM

Barbara Stanwyck had the cover trick, autobiography (magic part) and photo in The Jinx 52, January 1939, page 359.

For those who do not know of her, her day job was a top-class actress in many varied films, the most notable being Double Indemnity (Billy Wilder) which is sometimes referred to as the last of the true Films Noir. IMHO it is superb with wonderful moments and lines.
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Postby Don Spurrier » 09/27/05 05:09 PM

Double Indemnity was a wonderful film noir offering. It is funny to see the young folks reaction to the fact that Fred McMurray is the villain/victim in that movie rather than the kindly father they remember from TV's My Three Sons.
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Postby Bill Mullins » 09/28/05 12:17 AM

Originally posted by Anthony Brahams:

the most notable being Double Indemnity (Billy Wilder) which is sometimes referred to as the last of the true Films Noir.
Double Indemnity was 1944, putting it closer to the beginnings of film noir, than the end. It preceded The Big Sleep (1946), The Killing (1956), Out of the Past (1947), The Killers (1946), The Big Heat (1953), The Asphalt Jungle (1950), Body Heat (1981), DOA (1950), Blood Simple (1984), The Last Seduction (1994), The Grifters (1991) and dozens more.
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Postby Anthony Brahams » 09/28/05 04:55 AM

I was quoting from ??? (will post if I find or remember) the The Maltese Falcon, 1941 verson, not those of 1931 or 1936, was considered the first, Double Indemnity (1944) the last.
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