Basil Horwitz

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Postby Sam Kesler » 02/20/06 09:09 AM

I'd appreciate comments about the material in Basil Horwitz's five book series Mental Magic. Thanks in advance.
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Postby Bill Palmer » 02/20/06 03:27 PM

In a taped interview with Craige Snader, Basil stated that he was not a professional mentalist, and that he never performed for money. He used mentalism as an ice-breaker for his regular job, which if I recall correctly, was selling insurance.

This might explain some of the things he did.
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Postby Richard Hatch » 02/20/06 03:34 PM

My understanding is that once his audiences became convinced of his ability to predict the future, they were more inclined to trust him with their investments. I understand, however, that he left South Africa for Switzerland with some of those funds in tow, never to return. Can anyone confirm this?
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Postby Doug Dyment » 02/21/06 08:00 AM

Basil's observation that he was not a "professional" performer may be literally correct (his "payment" was not money, but the right to distribute his promotional material to audience members), but it belies his extremely strong performing skills. He worked constantly, much more than many who would not use his "disclaimer".

I've seen him perform on several occasions, and can assure everyone that he could really deliver the goods. Even to seasoned mentalists, a tough crowd.
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Postby Bill Palmer » 02/21/06 01:42 PM

My comment was not an evaluation. It was merely a statement that Basil had made himself.
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Postby Sam Kesler » 02/21/06 03:14 PM

I think I've just found the subject for my next screenplay. Based on true events... ;)
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Postby David Alexander » 02/21/06 07:15 PM

Originally posted by Richard Hatch:
My understanding is that once his audiences became convinced of his ability to predict the future, they were more inclined to trust him with their investments. I understand, however, that he left South Africa for Switzerland with some of those funds in tow, never to return. Can anyone confirm this?
I find it troubling that an accusation of embezzlement is made and substantiation requested. Does anyone else have a problem with this post?
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Postby Richard Hatch » 02/21/06 11:08 PM

Originally posted by David Alexander:
I find it troubling that an accusation of embezzlement is made and substantiation requested. Does anyone else have a problem with this post?
Actually, I find it troubling myself, but my curiosity got the best of me. I probably should have worded it more cryptically and diplomatically. I had rather hoped that some of those who knew him well would address the rumors and set the record straight, now that he is no longer among us. Martin Breese does implicitly confirm that he used his mentalism skills to attract clients to his investment business in his blurb for the first volume of Horwitz's books, which states:

"During Basil's lifetime he was also involved in investment and finance. He used to perform for charity and demonstrated mental miracles that stunned his audience. When each member of the audience left the show Basil ended up with the name, address and telephone number of hundreds of people desperate for him to ring and discuss financial plans, investment and insurance."

Even if Horwitz did not, as rumored, leave South Africa with clients' funds, I personally find such use of his skills disturbing. He was apparently not using the skills merely to entertain, but to convince them that he had powers that would make investing with him a wise decision. Hopefully Martin Breese will comment here and let us know what he can about this fascinating character.
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Postby Anthony Brahams » 02/22/06 03:00 AM

I met Basil Horwitz several times when he was in London, mostly at Ken Brooke's and got the impression (no pun intended), quite strongly, that he (Basil) had the clients, would be asked to perform for them and did it for free because he felt that after talking thousands, maybe millions, it would be petty to ask for a few hundred as a performing fee. I supppose it could be said that he would say this wouldn't he (quote from Mandy Rice Davis in the Christine Keeler case). This may be on a cassette tape of his.

Nevertheless there were accusations made against him although he was never found guilty, if it did ever come to court.

Facts remain that he was a good, practical mentalist and Martin Breese has published some excellent material.
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Postby Q. Kumber » 02/22/06 07:45 AM

My understanding was that Basil perfromed in South Africa for no fee but did get the contact information for audience members so's he could follow up and sell insurance.

I do not know if he left South Africa because of any kind of fraud or embezzelment but I do know that Basil believed that parties in South Africa believed he was involved. Basil also believed there was a contract on his life and he spent the rest of it in hiding.
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Postby Guest » 02/22/06 08:37 AM

Originally posted by Quentin Reynolds:
My understanding was that Basil perfromed in South Africa for no fee but did get the contact information for audience members so's he could follow up and sell insurance.

I do not know if he left South Africa because of any kind of fraud or embezzelment but I do know that Basil believed that parties in South Africa believed he was involved. Basil also believed there was a contract on his life and he spent the rest of it in hiding.
In the couple of years, I knew Basil and Heidi(his wife) I can confirm he didn't charge an entertainment fee .Although I believe he was connected with Prudential Assurance of ENGLAND He didn't sell insurance. He was involved in some sort of money exchange involving trading the Rand with other currency And his performances I saw him perform two or three times. He referrred to as magic not psychic. While he was an adequate performer, in my opinion, I don't think he would convince any one he was psychic
As far as "investment fraud" I think he was found innocent of any complicity. BUT, I believe his testimony convicted others. Accounting for his feeling his life was threatened
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Postby Sam Kesler » 02/22/06 05:26 PM

Thank you all for your input. Wow. Magic, and magicians, are a fascinating series of conundrums. I received Mr. Horwitz's five books yesterday (thanks Richard!) and couldn't put them down. Nothing earthshaking, but quite a clever fellow. Looks like I need a Haines ESP deck as well as some preparation if I'm going to do some of these.

All conjecture asside about his guilt or innocence, I still think a movie about a fictitious mentalist on the run for his life would make a great script.

I still await Mr. Breese to check in...
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Postby Guest » 02/23/06 12:31 AM

Don't know much about Basil Horowitz, but truth is stranger than fiction: Mentalist/illusionist, "Dr." Ralph Richards, in the 1930's, used the airwaves and mail, promoting investments in fictious oil wells,(a common ruse in the depression) and broadcasting corporations, that were non-existent.

The Postal Inspection Service, FRC/FCC, and other Federal agencies, were after him for years.
When he was indicted for mail fraud in 1941, he fled and was a fugitive, until someone saw his photo in a detective magazine, and turned him in.
Serving just a year in prison, he was again convicted in 1946 for 3 counts of mail fraud, and did 3+ years in Leavenworth.

NOTE: I am trying to find out what happened to Ralph Richards, AKA Ralph Bruce Ennis/Ennes, since his release in 1950. Any leads anyone?
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Postby Richard Hatch » 02/23/06 07:21 AM

Some additional first hand information about Horwitz's precarious situation may be found on another forum at the following link:
Basil Horwitz in Hiding Anecdotes
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Postby Guest » 02/28/06 12:57 PM

I have defended Basil Horwitz and his wife for many, many years and I don't really think it is necessary to comment yet again. On the first point about free shows: Basil performed free of charge at various functions and any money raised was given to a selected charity. Basil entertained his audience with "magic" and never made any claims that he had psychic powers. At the end of the the show he made a statement to the effect that he was business advisor and could offer various investment schemes. Most of the people attending the show were fascinated by Basil's tricks with cards and wallets and money and not by any false claims to the effect that he had psychic powers. He left a small card on each chair in whatever hall he was performing in and simply asked anyone who was interested in meeting him personally to provide their name address and telephone number and age.
Basil was a clever thinker and told me and I think wrote in his first book that people were fascinated by him and his magic and were keen to meet him again especially if they were interested in investing in one of his investment plans.
Instead of joining a golf club Basil used this innovative and strictly honet method of gaining new clients. Many of those that he contacted were keen to profit from his plans and in many cases Basil was able to offer at least 25 per cent interest on these investments. When the South African rand started to crash a competitor anxious to better Basil started a rumour to the effect that Basil's plans were about to crash. There was a subsequent run on the investment plans and many people withdrew their money and consequently as he relied on investors not to withdraw earlier than an agreed date the program collapsed and Basil repaid the majority of the money owing to his investors. In order to repay the balance of the investors Basil started to sell high level insurance schemes and all of the commission he earned and the majority of the money was repaid. The man who had spread the rumour also had money invested with Basil and then some time later Basil and Heid were attacked at night by a masked introduder and both were knocked unconscious. Basil had done all that was humaly possible to repay everyone but when he realized that his life was in danger he left South Africa and led a quite life in Europe.
Further rumours were spread and this lead to a court case in South Africa and Basil and Heidi returned to South Africa for the court case and eventually all charges against him were dropped and the judge even commented on how Basil had worked so hard to repay all his investors even though it had not been legally necessary to do so.
Basil returned to Europe and lived in Switzerland in inexpensive accomodation and lived a modest life until his death some time ago. Basil put back everything he had earned over the years into repaying his investors.

Basil and Heidi were my closest friends and he was the most honest person that I have ever met. There were many critics and one who was the most vociferous had more than quadrupled his money with Basil in less than a year.
He was such a dishonest person and so intent on damaging Basil's reputation that when this man was on holiday in the UK he knocked on my door and pushed past my wife and stormed into my office demanding Basil's address. He wouldn't leave and the police were called and he was ejected with a warning about trespassing on my property.
There were a number of reports in the South African press about such things that Basil was travelling the world, living a life of luxury when I know that such accusations were completely false. It is probable that the leukemia that Basil contracted and from which he finally died following 14years of suffering, was the result of the awful shock he received when his business plan collapsed through no fault of his own.

I knew Basil for at least 30 years and I know for a fact that he was an honest, kind and exceptionally generous soul who would never take advantage of his investor's admiration for his clever business skills. And this is the last time that I will comment on the various problems that my dear friend suffered from.
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Postby Guest » 02/28/06 01:04 PM

A further comment for those who are not influenced by silly rumours spread to damage Basil's reputation: the comment is that Basil left me a vast amount of tape recordings and his press books and many of the articles that he published in magazines. David Britland and I have been working on this material which might fill two books and we look forward to releasing them to the magical community.
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Postby Sam Kesler » 02/28/06 03:33 PM

Thank you Martin for setting the record straight (AGAIN!). I apologize to you for starting this thread and taking your valuable time explaining the story again. I am new to Basil's material and did not know the story. Thanks again for sharing.
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Postby Richard Hatch » 03/01/06 01:11 AM

Thanks, Martin, fascinating stuff. Happy to have the records set straight (and my curiosity satisfied!). Look forward to the forthcoming volumes.
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Postby Guest » 03/03/06 07:46 PM

Thanks Guys for your kind words.

Martin
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Postby Bob Baker » 03/04/06 06:13 PM

Martin:

Thanks for setting the record straight on Basil Horowitz. However, you wrote:
It is probable that the leukemia that Basil contracted and from which he finally died following 14years of suffering, was the result of the awful shock he received when his business plan collapsed through no fault of his own.
As unfortunate as his death was, I am aware of no evidence in the medical literature that leukemia results from stress.

Bob
(M.D.)
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Postby Jeff Haas » 03/06/06 06:10 PM

Just to give some more insight...

Leukemia is a form of cancer, the cause of which is currently unknown. Different types can attack children and adults. See the website of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society for more information.

Leukemia information
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