The Origins of the Center Tear

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

Postby Magicana » 10/06/10 03:53 PM

We learned through his memoir that Sid Lorraine had a part to play in bringing the Center Tear to the world of magic.

It seems he was shown the technique in England by J.T. Garrus. It came to Garrus through an unknown Florida medium. At the time Joe Ovette and Ted Annemann believed it to be "entirely new".

In Sid's notebooks, ca. 1928, he has what is most likely the earliest written record of the Center Tear. We've reproduced the pages from his notebook along with the relevant section of his unpublished memoir on his blog, The Magical ChatterBox.

Let us know what you think.
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Postby Barefoot Boy » 10/06/10 04:45 PM

I have known about this for a long time now, but it is nice to see it in his own handwriting.
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Postby David Alexander » 10/06/10 06:36 PM

As I posted over at the "green place" this was originally published by Al Mann in the early 1990s in "The Purloined Thought," his treatise on the Center Tear. Sid supplied his notes and recollections. Al reproduced Sids notes in facsimile as well as additional material from Sid.

The book is quite detailed and one of Als best productions. It is also one of the harder to find and more expensive Al Mann publications. I think he did an edition of 200. As I had done him a favor or two, he sent me an autographed copy.
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Postby David Ben » 10/06/10 08:18 PM

David, thanks for your post. I would like people to know, however, that although much of the information is in the Al Mann manuscript and, Al reproduced the pages from Sid's notebook, albeit on a much smaller scale, "this" (Sid's 'blog', the description of the event in his own words from his memoirs) was not published by Al Mann. It appears here for the first time. It's also nice to see, we believe, the digital scan of the original documents.

Your post on the Magic Cafe echoes our sentiments; it is nice to bring the source material and story to a wider audience.
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Postby David Ben » 10/06/10 08:43 PM

David, would you mind checking your files to see if Al Mann published it "The Purloined Thought." (I can't locate my copy of that manuscript.) He does describe some of the history of the Center Tear, and Sid's role in disseminating it in "The Apodosis" (page 3) and in Chapter Three of "The Tesseract" (page 12). Page 16 of "The Tesseract" has the photocopy reduction of the pages of Sid's notebook.

So, did Al Mann also publish this information, and the pages of the notebook, in "The Purloined Thought"?
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Postby David Alexander » 10/07/10 11:25 AM

David,

Happy to help you out with the facts. I have Al Manns The Purloined Thought at hand, number 18 of 200 printed and signed to me by Al on November 23, 1990almost exactly 20 years since he gave it to me.

On page 2 of The Purloined Thought Al begins his history of the Center Tear by describing Sids experiences in England, his meetings with various famous English magicians (George Johnson, Davenport, Wheeler, Edward Bagshawe, Harry Leat and others) as well as his visit to Cambridge, his entertaining the Cambridge Rowing Club and how Sid met with John Gambling who Al described as entertainer to Royalty and the first magician to design and have built a locking flap slate in 1887.

During Sids entertainment of the rowing club he was invited to visit the exclusive Cambridge magic club for university students called The Pentacle where he met the secretary of the club, an American student, J.T. Garrus.

Apparently Al got this information from The Sphinx as Sid wrote two long letters describing his experiences in England that were published in the October and December 1928 issues. Sid made no mention in his letters to The Sphinx of the Center Tear. He did however write three letters to friends describing the Center Tear in detail. These friends were Tom Bowyer, Joe Ovette, and Ted Annemann as noted by Sid on the upper right of the first page of his notes.

On page 7 of The Purloined Thought Al reproduces in reduced form what you have reproduced on your blog in an enlarged version.

Al also reproduced the contents of a letter from Sid describing how Sid found a copy of Ovettes commercialization of the Center Tear that Ovette called What Is It? which he advertised for $1 in the September, 1931 issue of The Sphinx. Sid sent Al a copy of Ovettes publication signed: To my friend & Pal Sid Lorraine Oct 20, 1931. Al noted on the bottom, Sent by Sid Lorraine 4/14/78.

Al didnt think Ovette sold many as Ovettes gift to Sid was numbered 32A. As Sid wrote to Al, I didnt keep too many of Joes mns as they were always badly written and mimeographed and usually copies of someone elses material. Sid mentioned that he had chided Ovette for marketing the thing I had sent him from England.

There seems to be more contributions by Sid to Als research as Al reproduces a photo of Tom Bowyer that is signed by Bowyer to Sid. Sid also sent the information that when he returned to the US he tried to find a Mr. Wyman of Boston but did not learn of his identity. Als research discovered that he was Dr. Leland C. Wyman, at one point the president of Boston Assembly #9 of the Society of American Magicians. Al writes that Dr. Wyman was a fine magician and a serious student and investigator of spiritualists and mediums. Presumably Wyman learned of the Center Tear through his interactions with spirit mediums. Also interesting to note that Ovettes commercial use of the Center Tear was as a Living and Dead test.

I think it safe to say that Sid felt left out of the history of the Center Tear as neither Ovette nor Annemann bothered to mention Sids generosity in their published material. Sid also sent letters trying to set the record straight. In the Feb1966 edition of The New Jinx Editor Bill Madsen inserted a paragraph within an article by Leslie May with Sids memory of how the Center Tear came to be known in the magic community. Sid wrote that he performed it in England after he learned it from Garrus, I puzzled quite a few English magi with it, at the time. It was quite unknown among magic circles.

Sid also wrote a letter to Bascom Jones that was paraphrased in the October 18, 1974 issue of MAGICK.

These last two correspondences by Sid were reproduced in The Purloined Thought.

Al relates many other details about the dissemination of the Center Tear, who recognized it for its value and so forth, but that goes beyond Sids great contribution.
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Postby Jonathan Townsend » 10/07/10 01:19 PM

Okay so what's the name of the medium who effectively spilled the beans? Was this billet/paper tear method in common use in that profession?
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Postby T Baxter » 10/07/10 02:04 PM

Excellent post, D. Alexander! Great information.

Just goes to show -- If you can't find what you want by "Asking Alexander", then ask DAVID Alexander (also a "man who knows" (or has the book)).

Re: The identity of the medium who originally tipped the work, Jonathan, there doesn't seem to be any way of knowing for sure, but some fingers point to Charles Foster.

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Postby Jonathan Townsend » 10/07/10 02:28 PM

Thanks Tom.

That gets us further over the hurdle of pretending that there are no people worthy of recall outside our pigeonhole.

Same as the bit where two mediums moves a pair of canvases together to make a "spirit painting" appear - IMHO well worth knowing where that came from and how it was used in context and how useful it was back then.

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Postby David Ben » 10/07/10 03:44 PM

Great post, David. Thank you for summarizing the contents of the Purloined Letter. On another note, I find it interesting that Al Mann repeated much of the information in several of his manuscripts, all of which were of limited supply, and high priced.

It is certainly fun for me to wade through Sid's notebooks of the time. Lots of great information and tips that have yet to see the light of day. Sid certainly deserves a great deal of credit for being, as we have suggested in other publications, the hub of the wheel.
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Postby David Ben » 10/07/10 03:48 PM

By the way, David, the marking "32A" on the Ovette routine was most likely Sid's/Bowyer's personal marking system for filing and trading secrets, not any indication of the edition or run of the original publication. This same marking is found on a great number of letters, manuscripts, etc, that were, at one time, in Sid's possession.
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Postby David Alexander » 10/07/10 04:07 PM

Too bad Sid didn't explain that to Al when he sent over the Ovette material.
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Postby David Ben » 10/07/10 04:29 PM

Sid, of course, died before Al released the Purloined Letter.

Sid was part of a small group that pooled their resources. The group consisted primarily of Sid, Tom Bowyer, Bert Douglas, and Murray Sumner. Sid and Bowyer also used to trade manuscripts occasionally with Faucett Ross.

Basically, one of the group would buy or receive a book or manuscript, and then pass it on to the other in the group. The recipient would be told to read and return the original, or just keep it. Those that were meant to be returned, were often copied by hand, or typed out anew, before being returned.

It was a different era and publications did not appear with the frequency of today. Secrets were valued, although shared in this manner, and people had to write them out by hand, or retype them. I have samples from all of the above, and the matching correspondence with instructions, in the files. I am particularly amazed at how diligently illustrations were copied.

Murray Sumner, for example, not only retyped the complete text for each installment in the Stars of Magic (which were issued separately initially, and quite expensive), but he also traced the photographs to create illustrated renderings of each image.

Again, a different era.
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Postby David Alexander » 10/07/10 10:15 PM

Yes, Sid died the year before Al published The Purloined Letter but as Al wrote twice on the Ovette manuscript, and as I mentioned in my post, Sid gave the Ovette material to Al in 1978.

It is unfortunate that apparently neither Al asked nor Sid clarified in the 11 years before he died otherwise Al would not have made that erronious assumption about Ovette's sales of the manuscript.
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