Vic Lawson/House of 1000 Mysteries

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

Postby Guest » 11/19/01 09:11 PM

Does anyone remember Vic Lawson? He had a Mail order magic business based in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida for a time in the late sixties, if I remember correctly. The catalog cover I remember was yellow card stock with black and red ink. All the trick descriptions and artwork were original and appeared to be written by Vic himself. He had a cartoon monkey named Pumpernickel who recommended various effects. I got the catalog through some 'back of the magazine' ad, and bought Will Dexter's "101 Magic Tricks for Amateurs" from him. Does this ring a bell with anyone? Who was/is he? What happened to him? Did he turn into Paul Diamond? :confused:
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Postby Richard Kaufman » 11/19/01 11:28 PM

Bill Schmeelk of Wellington Enterprises just gave a talk on Vic Lawston at the history conference in Los Angeles last week. VERY funny stuff. What a rip-off artist he was!
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Postby Bill McFadden » 11/20/01 03:51 PM

Man, I'd give anything to hear that presentation. Memories of many hours spent pouring over Vic's Tricks. (I also remember him as "Lawston.") Many more hours waiting for my stuff to arrive, having sent Vic so many hard-earned early '60's kid dollars. Funny thing: after I got fed up with Vic, I became old enough to take the El Train to downtown Phila., and started buying magic from Jack Chanin!
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Postby Guest » 11/20/01 05:06 PM

Oh, man, Vic Lawston was my ROOTS! How I pored over that catalog. I may still have the two illusion manuscripts I bought from him...the Rajah Mystery Tent and the Vanishing Girl. Whatever possessed me to order them, I'll never know. I think I sent three bucks (a fortune for a 10-year-old circa 1964) for his mystery vanishing tube, which wound up being a 3-inch-long foil-wrapped cardboard tube (which arrived crushed in the mail), along with an egg-shaped vanisher bigger than my child-sized -- or adult-sized, for that matter -- fist. But I still have the nickels-to-dimes I bought from him, intact with the extraction ring. It was the first trick I ever did as a kid that left any adult scratching his or her head. And that provided the momentum.

Richard, did anyone record the talk on Vic Lawston? I would love to hear it.

later
r
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Postby Guest » 11/20/01 07:35 PM

Well, all apologies to Paul Diamond! I had no idea Vic Lawston was such a scammer (funny how my memory dropped the 't' in his name) or that anyone else remembered. I don't recall seeing or hearing anything about him. Around that time I was 12 or 13 years old and my 'bibles' were the Johnson Smith, Top Hat Magic Co., and Vic Lawston catalogs. I once saved up my 'hard earned kid money' and sent in an order with about six dollars worth of change in the envelope and one stamp in the corner! Many years later my Dad told me how the mailman had substituted dollar bills for the change and sent it on! What a different world it was then! Anyway, Richard: You can't just drop a comment like that and walk away! How 'bout some fr'instances for those of us not at the History Conference?
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Postby Lisa Cousins » 12/09/01 02:25 PM

The heart of the Lawston presentation at the LA Conference was a video called "Citizen Tweed," which contrasted young Tommy Tweed's expectation of his House of 1000 Mysteries order (the Vanishing Head illusion) with what he actually received. Tommy had envisioned a package so large that his mother needed help carrying it into the house; what arrived was an envelope containing construction plans. We were treated to a number of Tommy's come-downs, all of which went to explain the mysterious dying word of old Tommy, with which the video had opened: "Pumpernickel." It was the comedic highlight of the conference. (Although I'm still laughing at Richard Hatch telling us "I try to explain to people that the Bible is the Erdnase of religion.")

It was my good luck, after seeing this House of Mysteries presentation, to actually get my hands on a copy of the catalog the other evening. The one I have was published in 1963, the name is spelled "Vick Lawston," and he is operating out of Monroe, Connecticut. It opens with this hearty greeting: "HELLO THERE! It's mighty nice to know you! WELCOME to my amazing WORLD of MAGIC which has been created for you!" The Vanishing Head illusion is advertised on the back cover ($1.00).

Does anyone know what happened to Vick Lawston? Did he return to his home planet, or what?

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Postby Mitch Dutton » 07/09/07 05:54 AM

I just found a nice web remembrance of Vick Lawston and Pumpernickel by his son, Jeff. Check out

http://reflectivelyyours.com/generic89.html

Good memories! -Mitch
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Postby Lisa Cousins » 07/09/07 03:31 PM

Wow, Mitch - I can't believe you brought back this old-timer. There was actually follow-up on the Lawston story at a subsequent History Conference: Bill Schmeelk had connected with Vick's son Jeff (who wrote the reminiscence in the link you posted), and the two of them met in person, each carrying a "House of a Thousand Mysteries" catalog so that they would recognize each other!

Jeff also figures in the catalog item I find most intriguing: "St. Peter's Lesson." I have no idea what it is, other than the usual claims that the trick is "So surprising! So amazing! So perfect! So new!" as well as the assurance that "This trick will make you popular." But there's no description of the trick at all. Vick says that the trick left him at such a loss for words that he had to ask his son Jeff to name it. "If you don't buy anything else in this entire catalog, make sure you at least get this one," he writes - but the problem there is that the trick is priced at 59 cents, and the catalog is strewn with reminders that the minimum order is one dollar. So the reality is that "If you don't buy anything else in this entire catalog, you CAN'T get this one."
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Postby Guest » 07/09/07 04:07 PM

Vick was my first real catalog. I think I actually did order the Disappearing Head. Likewise, disappointed that I was supposed to construct some huge cardboard thing. When Paul Harris spent some time on the East Coast years ago he mentioned that it was his first catalog and he thought Daryl's. Daryl had memorized the whole Pumpernickle poem. I had called Paul Diamond asking about Vick, he only met him once. One piece of advise he gave Paul was to "get the paper"(money). Paul didn't seem to know much else about him..
Tom
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Postby Guest » 07/09/07 09:44 PM

I saw the instructions for "St. Peter's Lesson", many years ago.
You folded a paper a certain way and made cuts in it a certain way, and when you unfolded/separated them, it formed the words, "Heaven" and "Hell", while you spoke the included patter, that related to the different destinations St. Peter will be directing people to.

(Lisa, another reason to live, "A correct life"!)
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Postby Guest » 07/10/07 09:18 PM

I'm another who grew up with Vick and Pumpernickel! What was it about the "Vanishing Head Illusion" that mesmerized me to order the manuscript also? Must have been the great ad copy and the drawing of that hand waving where the head should have been!

Interesting to note that years later, MAK Magic produced U.F. "Grant's C-Thru - Headless" and later the "Flaming Head Chest" using the same method as Vick sold but with a hinged lid.

Terry
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Postby Blair Marshall » 07/15/07 09:08 AM

Even this Canadian boy remembers that yellow covered catalogue. How I wish I had been able to order. Douglas Magicland catalogues were also great! Loved reading my Dad's popular mechanics for those "send in 10 cents" ads in the classified sections.

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Postby Lisa Cousins » 07/15/07 12:36 PM

Diego, thank you so much for the inside scoop on "St. Peter's Lesson" - I had often wondered what could possibly justify being billed as "the cutest and best trick of the century," in addition to being "The trick that should win the Academy Award!" Well, now I know - and while on the surface it sounds like we're dealing with a case of the usual Lawston promise-to-fulfillment ratio, at least I've become extremely motivated to live a correct life, whereas I was seriously on the verge of doing just the opposite.

And Mitch - do you have any idea what happened to that "Asrah" guy who started this thread in 2001? Did he return to his home planet, or what?
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Postby Mitch Dutton » 07/15/07 09:06 PM

Asrah still lurks about, though I've taken his posting privileges away for now. He says to tell you "Hi," and that he intends to email you soon.
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Postby Tom Cauble » 07/21/07 09:49 PM

Wow. I had completely forgotten about this. I remember ordering the Vick Lawston catalog (must have been from an advertisement in either Boy's Life or some comic book) in the early 60's. I think I bought my first magic book from Vick--Sherman Ripley's "141 Professional Tricks You Can Do".
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Postby Guest » 07/27/07 08:17 AM

Re-remembering "St. Peter's Lesson", I think when you unfolded/separated the papers, instead of the word Heaven, you actually would be able to form a cross, and the word Hell.

(No wonder it made me immensely popular to do.)
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Postby Guest » 07/27/07 09:19 AM

If I'm not mistaken, an effect that fits the exact description of "St. Peter's Lesson" can be found in "Dunninger's Complete Encylopedia of Magic", and was recently shown to me by my friend Gary Ward. I remember spending countless hours pouring over the Dunninger book, marveling at the wonderful artwork and descriptions of miracles that always seemed impossible and beyond reach of my adolescent skills and resources (and still are!). I can still vividly remember the Pharmacist's stare when I tried to buy some potasium so I could light a candle with an ice cube.
Ahh, what wonderful memories!
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Postby Lisa Cousins » 07/27/07 12:36 PM

Once I'd thought about Diego's description, I realized that I know "St. Peter's Lesson" as Dell O'Dell's "Heaven and Hell" - and yes, it's a folding and tearing trick where you fold and tear and deliver some playfully judgmental patter (in rhyme!) and in the end reveal the word "HELL" and a cross. She claims that this "can be done to amuse your cocktail companions" - but I find it hard to picture your cocktail companions being much amused by any of this.
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Postby Mitch Dutton » 07/27/07 02:05 PM

Cocktail companions are not what they used to be.
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Postby Guest » 07/28/07 08:03 AM

The workings of "St. Peter's Lesson" or "Heaven and Hell" can be found in Dunninger's Complete Encyclopedia of Magic, pg. 51 (Paper Magic, mid-page).
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Postby Guest » 08/01/07 07:32 PM

I'm not trying to proselytize anyone here with this post. I thought it might be a useful historical addition to the discussion of the "Heaven and Hell" effect. If those in charge feel it's not an appropriate post, please make it vanish!

Late Gospel magician Jimmy Lake added an extra bit to this tear in his booklet "Paper Tearing With A Gospel Message." Lake wrote:

"Although not illustrated, we may also form the word 'LIFE.' From the word 'HELL' you would leave the 'E' and one 'L' as they are. Turn the other 'L' upside down and using the middle piece of the letter 'H', you can make the 'F.' One of the remaining pieces of the 'H' is now used to complete the word 'LIFE.' The other piece left is used as mentioned in the lesson."

The idea of using the word "LIFE" was to convey the opportunity of salvation/eternal life in heaven and, "as mentioned in the lesson," the "other piece left" ("I" formed from dismantling the "H") was used to convey that this decision regarding salvation is a personal matter.

I wonder who figured out this tear?

Terry
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Postby Guest » 08/01/07 10:41 PM

I remember there used to be an evangelist on Hollywood Blvd., on the weekends, who used to draw/paint over letters, so they would form and reform different words,on an easel, in a clever way, that kept his audience, while he spoke.

On a devilish note, the late Anton LaVey was fond of noting that "evil", was "live", spelled backwards.
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Postby atlantasteve » 12/05/08 09:12 AM

Oh wow! I know this thread is old and gone cold for over a year but I had to put my two cents in on Vick Lawston. I was considering buying my son some magic tricks for Christmas this year and that sparked the childhood memory of Vick Lawston (like others, I remembered him being Vic Lawson!). Curiosity caused me to Google him and led me here. I was thrilled to find others who also remember the magical yellow catalog! I spent countless hours pouring over those catalogs. I still have an old, dog-earred copy somewhere in my mother's attic with my old magic tricks. As a 9 year old (there-abouts) the pennies and dimes it took to afford an order came slowly. Of course, I wanted EVERYTHING in the catalog but had to settle for a few choice selections. I too remember being somewhat disappointed in the actual merchandise compared to the hand drawn advertisements, however, I bought the St Peter's Lesson and recall actually being thrilled when I discovered the outcome. I cut and tore that one a number of times. Maybe because it was only 59 cents! No idea where my instructions are now. Anyway, it was a thrill to find others who shared this mystical, magical, exciting element of my 60s childhood.
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Postby Ray T. Stott » 01/04/09 07:05 PM

[font:Arial Black]I paid Vick a buck for his secret of having "flashing" eyes while you performed.

The illustration that accompanied the trick show a turbaned young performer on stage looking at audience members a laser-like flashing emanating from each eyeball.

Sold!, sez me.

Several weeks later I received a rather thin envelope from The House of 1000 Mysteries containing instructions on how to go about cutting out two pieces of aluminum foil and attaching one of them to each eyelid with library paste.

Now there was FISM grade material and all for the price of one frog skin. Here is my take of this "trick' in 2009 A.D.

Image [/font]
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Postby bobcam1 » 07/20/10 12:31 PM

I anxiously awaited shipments from Vick Lawston's as a kid as well...I still have the Nickels to Dimes, Billiard Balls, and plastic Lota Vase that I bought from him.

I hope Jeff puts out the retro catalog, that he's been talking about for a while. I would LOVE to have a copy!

Strangely enough, one of the lasting memories of me doing magic, that friends and family members have, nearly 50 years after the fact, is of my "Flashing Eyes" in my first magic show at school...:)They talked about it for weeks afterward!
I guess the light on that stage was just right....

Cheers,
Bob.
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