If you go trick or treating at Piff the Magic Dragon’s house, it’s best to keep a few things in mind. One: don’t claim that he’s wearing a costume. Piff is a very real dragon, and he doesn’t like being insulted. Two: know that you’re probably not going to walk away with anything more than a few sarcastic quips and some playing cards chucked in your face. Stuart Edge recently chronicled his Halloween visit to Piff’s house, and as you can see in the video above, it doesn’t go terribly well for him. Mr. Piffles seems to be having a blast, though.
Halloween isn’t just a fun excuse for magicians to mess with people, it’s also the anniversary of the death of Harry Houdini, and conjurers and magic historians of all stripes take time to honor the life and legend of one of magic’s most prolific artists. At the Wild About Harry blog today, Houdini expert John Cox has revealed a breathtaking bit of lost history: the previously untold story of a suspended straitjacket escape attempt in Times Square.
While Houdini performed suspended straitjacket escapes across the world for years, November 5, 1917 was largely considered to be his only attempt in New York City. According to the blog, this was actually his second escape there; his first took place a year prior, in March 1916.
The story goes that the press agent for the Palace Theatre wanted to drum up publicity for Houdini’s upcoming performance. The agent made an announcement on March 28 stating that Houdini would escape from a straitjacket suspended in the air to honor, as Cox writes, “Vaudeville’s special contribution to the Shakespeare Tercentenary celebrations”.
New York police weren’t exactly pleased by the public disruption this would cause, and decisively shut it down. This prompted Houdini’s agent to proclaim the very next day that the escape would happen anyway, but they weren’t going to tell anyone—let alone the fuzz—where it would take place.
And so, the famous photo (seen below) long thought to be capturing Houdini’s grand 1917 straitjacket escape attempt was actually chronicling this secret, long-forgotten show over a year before.
For a more in-depth analysis of this fantastic find, including exclusive photos and newspaper clippings detailing reports and reviews of the event in question, be sure to check out Cox’s full story over at Wild About Harry.
Halloween festivities have taken over the Magic Castle for a few extra days this week, so the regular schedule’s a bit truncated as a result. There’s still a great week of magic planned though, including the close-up card and billiard hustle of Chef Anton, Dunninger Show Recreation creator Joe Atmore, and the man who literally wrote the landmark book on newspaper magic, Gene Anderson.
Performances take place every evening from November 1-5 unless otherwise noted, and include:
Chef Anton: 7:00, 7:45, 8:30, 9:15
Brian Gillis: 10:00, 10:45, 11:30, 12:30
John George: 5:00-7:00 (Thursday-Sunday)
Rick Merrill: 7:15, 8:15, 9:15
Joe Atmore: 10:15, 11:15, 12:30
Gene Anderson: 8:00, 10:00, 11:30
Stephen Bargatze: 8:00, 10:00, 11:30
Chris Pilsworth: 8:00, 10:00, 11:30
Jamy Ian Swiss: 7:30-11:30 (Thursday-Sunday)
Shawn McMaster: 8:00, 10:00, 11:30 (Thursday-Sunday)
Mad Tad: 8:00, 10:00, 11:30 (Thursday-Sunday)
John George: 12:00, 1:00, 2:00
Parlour Kids’ Shows: 11:30a, 1:00, 2:15
For more information on what’s in store at the Magic Castle this week, as well as details on how to become a member, be sure to visit the official site for the Academy of Magical Arts.
No, Hogwarts isn’t real (no matter how much we wish it were), but that doesn’t mean there isn’t actual history behind the magic taught in its hallowed halls. And if you’re in London this winter, you can learn about the real-world magic and folklore that inspired J.K. Rowling’s beloved Harry Potter novels at the British Library in an exhibit entitled Harry Potter: A History of Magic.
The exhibit, in partnership with UK publisher Bloomsbury, compiles a variety of books, manuscripts, scrolls, and artifacts from across the globe detailing a cultural history of the arcane and mystical, along with never-before-seen glimpses at original notes and drafts of J.K. Rowling’s novels and illustrations by Jim Kay.
The centerpiece of the exhibit is the Ripley Scroll: a massive, 16th century document that gives instructions on how to build a Philosopher’s Stone, an alchemical device that could, according to legend, transmute metal into gold. Additional pieces include an ancient celestial globe for stargazing, Chinese oracle bones, the Battersea Cauldron, hand-painted drawings of mythical beasts, and much more.
The exhibit is launching to coincide with the 20th anniversary of the release of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (better known to Americans as Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone). In an article written by the Los Angeles Times, lead curator Julian Harrison described the event as “a great way to actually mark [the anniversary], as well as explore the history of magic in a wider context.”
The main exhibit will run from October 20, 2017 to February 28, 2018 at the British Library in London. 20 public libraries throughout the United Kingdom will also feature displays containing pieces from the collection. Visit the official event page for more information on the exhibit and how you can book your own tickets, or visit this page for a full list of additional libraries featuring displays.
If you’re not able to make it to London by the end of February to check out the exhibit, don’t worry: Harry Potter: A History of Magic will move to the New-York Historical Society Museum & Library in October 2018, and will partner with Scholastic to add US-specific artifacts to the exhibit.
Every day is Halloween for anti-conjurer Dan Sperry, who impressed Megyn Kelly with his distinctive brand of trickery on The Today Show. Given how the trick unfolds, it seems clear we need to launch a series of PSAs educating the public about suits of cards. The curly ones are clubs, Joy.
When master illusionist Jim Steinmeyer built his career, the internet was the domain of text-based computer terminals managed by a handful of universities. His social sphere and bubble of influence extended out as far as the magicians in Chicago, who helped teach and inform his craft. Now, up-and-coming magicians have access to YouTube, message boards, reddit, and a variety of other instant sources of knowledge from all corners of the globe right at their fingertips. In part four of our six-part interview at GeniiCon 2017, Steinmeyer discusses the perils and rewards of using the internet to expand one’s bubble of influence, and how to finally break out of that bubble and onto one’s own path.
Be sure to watch the rest of our interview with Jim Steinmeyer, which can be found at the links below:
Part one: Consulting for Doug Henning and Walt Disney Theme Parks
Part two: The different types of Disney Magic
Part three: On digital media: “I don’t know if it’s changed everything about magic”
Part five: How Bozo the Clown made Jim Steinmeyer a better magician
Part six: Jim Steinmeyer’s advice to budding performers: “hang around magicians”
CBS Sunday Morning talks magic in a modern setting with Jonathan Bayme from Theory11. “You can explain everything with Google, but magic is one of the few things that still survives,” says Bayme, talking about magic’s timeless appeal. Still, that’s not to say magic’s image couldn’t use a bit of a makeover. As Dan White puts it, “Magic has had a connotation for a long time of being kind of cheesy. And we just try to make it not cheesy in any way that’s possible.”
Ron Carnell also gives a mini tour of the American Museum of Magic in Marshall, Michigan sharing a tiny slice of insight into how Robert-Houdin took magic from being the business of witches to a theatrical production. The video wraps up with an appearance from Richard Turner and includes a few clips from Dealt, which is now available via video on demand services.
Welcome to GeniiOnline’s Weekly Puzzle, powered by Art of Play! We’ll bring you a new puzzle every Monday, then publish the solution on Tuesday.
In case you missed it yesterday, here’s the puzzle. Now, on to the solution!
Erika is thinking of the 6 of spades. Both Natalie and Dave know what cards exist. When Natalie says that she knows that Dave doesn’t know the card she is passing on the info that the card is NOT hearts or clubs because the 8 of hearts and queen of clubs do not have duplicates of their values. The announcement that Dave now knows the card eliminates the value 4 because Dave would still have two valid choices of this value. This leaves 6 of Spades, 7 of diamonds, and jack of diamonds. Because Natalie is able to claim knowledge of the card we know the suit was not diamonds because Natalie would still not have enough information to choose between the 7 and jack. 6 of spades is the only remaining valid choice.
Come back next Monday for a new puzzle!
The magic community is reacting to the sad news that Ricardo Roucau – better known as Fantasio – has lost his battle with cancer. Tributes are cropping up everywhere as friends and fans pay tribute to the legendary performer. Born in Buenos Aires, Fantasio was the creator of many effects, best known for his work with candles and canes. His inventions have been used by magicians for decades, but his legacy is more than that. As Shawn Farquhar posted on Facebook:
He and I had been friends since the early 90’s and in fact he chose my PCAM convention to present his final show as Fantasio. I was later thrilled to share the stage with him when he created his new act FunTasio. Every time we met it seemed like time stood still for me. He always had time for me and was always encouraging and inspirational.
I’m going to share a story Ricardo shared with me about his true love Monica. The story goes that they were unwed but in love and were offered a contract in America but it included just one room, and to live in the same room unmarried would be impossible. Ricardo proposed to Monica and explained that if when the contract was over, she did not want to stay married, she could find a good lawyer and he would pay for the divorce and so they were married.
My family were privileged to be invited, along with Rick Del Vecchio and his wife, to celebrate their 60th anniversary. The dinner began with Fantasio raising his glass to compliment his wife as the most beautiful woman in the room and then quietly leaned in and asked if she had found a good lawyer yet! So was the magic of Ricardo and Monica Fantasio. They are once again reunited and our loss is their gain.
I will miss him dearly.
And from Dan Stapleton:
Fantasio was always a “boyish” kind of fellow full of fun and still got excited when showing a new trick. Just a few years ago I was performing in Miami and he assisted me in a trick, on stage and again, acted like a kid who seemed to be on stage for the first time….all smiles. Two years ago I asked him about a special trick that he put on the market. A few days later a small package arrived in the mail…it was the trick, as a gift. We were honored to have him perform his comedy magic act as Fun-Tasio at our 50th anniversary Florida State convention a few years ago. Fantasio is responsible for starting many a kid on their journey of magic. He was an inspiration and a friend to all. He never acted like he was “above” others and spoke to all magicians in making them feel he was on their level. He will be missed.
We at GeniiOnline would like to express our deepest condolences to the friends and family of the incomparable Fantasio.
Some of the language in this bit from comedian Patton Oswalt is definitely not safe for work, but be honest: you’ve either seen this magician or you’ve been this magician.