GeniiCon 2017: Mike Caveney explores the lost history of magic

October 6, 2017

Magic historian and Genii Magazine columnist Mike Caveney gave a fascinating history lesson at Genii Convention 2017. In his hour-long talk, he explored two specific pieces of correspondence that have come into his possession, both of which fill in some of the gaps that would otherwise go unfilled.

One such letter was from Robert Smithson to a newspaper reporter. Smithson was an otherwise insignificant magicians in the grand scheme of history, but he was present on the night Chung Ling Soo was infamously shot dead during his bullet catching routine in 1918. Smithson noted that something didn’t feel right that night, and he suspected the botched trick to actually be a suicide. The story went unprinted for years, and would have been lost to time, had Caveney not found and archived it.

Or this weird story: When famed Alexander Herrmann died, H.B. Hargett and a handful of other magicians attempted to take an inkprint of his palm. This was, of course, unbeknownst to Herrmann’s wife, Adelaide, who walked in on the magicians attempting to make this print. Hargett hastily scrawled out a message, describing how they were going to use his hand print in a book called New Dimensions in Palmistry, and they would be happy to make a copy for Adelaide. Extremely normal.

In addition to detailing these letters, Caveney gave us a brief history of the Egyptian Hall Museum and how he came into possession of all these fascinating pieces of ephemera. You can read more about these bits of his collection and other notes from history in his monthly column ‘Classic Correspondence’ in Genii Magazine.