Magic Month: Top 5 Magic Facts

October 01, 2012


This October at Sternberg Clarke, we’re celebrating the magic of... magic. And while we’ll be giving our favourite magicians and magic acts plenty of attention over the course of the month, we’ll also be looking at magic in more general terms to give you, the humble blog reader a better understanding of the craft.

To kick things off, we’ve collected our Top 5 Magic Facts for Magic Month. Read on for more.  

Harry Houdini Died on Halloween 1926

It’s almost as if we planned it – magic month, October, Halloween, the world’s most famous practitioner of the art and a slightly mysterious death. Houdini was giving a lecture to a group of students following a performance at the Princess Theatre in Montreal. Having heard Houdini’s claim that he could withstand any blow delivered to his abdomen, one of the students reportedly punched the unsuspecting magician in the stomach three times in quick succession.  Houdini later died of peritonitis (an inflammation of the lining of the abdomen) secondary to a ruptured appendix, many dispute the rumour that the blows caused his death... but those people are the kind of people who like to ruin a good story.

Jasper Maskelyne Fought the Nazis with his 'Magic Gang' 

When the Second World War broke out, British Illusionist Jasper Maskelyne was quick to offer up his skills to the War Department who at first believed his talents would be put to best use developing camouflage for troops. Maskelyne had slightly more ambitious ideas and proved as much when he created the illusion of a German Battleship on the Thames using mirrors and a model of a ship.  Maskelyne  was later afforded his own unit of 14 men known as ‘The Magic Gang’ (a gang I wish I was in) who were tasked with deceiving German Field Marshal Erwin Rommel and his men with Inflatable tanks, fake railway lines and an optical illusion to hide the Suez Canal... We’ll come back to Jasper at some point in October.

The Word Magic Comes from the Greek ‘Magi’...

... And the Persian Magus, both of which were terms to denote followers of Zoroaster, also known as Zarathustra, founder of Zoroastrianism – a religion that you can’t possibly expect the blog of an entertainment agency to explain to you. Point is, the term pertains to the reading of stars, alchemy and other areas of what Wikipedia unhelpfully refers to as ‘esoteric knowledge’. Sceptics began using the term ‘magian’ which came to mean tricksters or conjurers and it picked up a ‘c’ somewhere along the line.  

The ‘Bullet Catch’ has Killed 12 Magicians

Many a great stage magician has tried their hand at the infamous bullet catch. From Robert Houdin to Penn and Teller – countless conjurers have attempted to catch, or appear to catch, a marked bullet fired from a seemingly normal firearm. There are plenty of different approaches to performing the trick ranging from blanks to wax bullets to magnetic ramrods. But even with the greatest care and attention, there have still been a few casualties over the years – bullet fragments left in chambers or rigged guns have cost the lives of 12 magicians... 13 if you count Coulew of Lorraine, France who was clubbed to death with the butt of his pistol by an angry assistant.  

The Most Expensive Magic Show Ever Staged Cost $35.7 million

From humble beginnings as crew on a German cruise liner (a thing that apparently exists), Siegfried and Roy became one of the most famous double acts in the world with a Vegas show at the Mirage Casino that’s regarded as the most visited magic show in a city with no shortage of magic shows. Their production at the Mirage reportedly cost $35.7 million to stage and the duo performed 5,750 shows together before Roy was bitten in the neck by a 7 year old white tiger named Montecore, as Roy was carried out of the venue he was heard to say "Montecore is a great cat. Make sure no harm comes to Montecore." Which makes him nearly as cool as Jasper Maskelyne.

If you’re looking for a slightly cheaper, non-deadly, non-tank based alternative to any of the magicians featured in today’s post, head over to the contact page and get in touch, and keep an eye on the blog for more magic month posts, reviews and auditions.