Sunday, January 15, 2023

Penn and Teller Return!

There was a time in the 1980s when this duo, Penn Jillette and his partner Teller, where known as the Bad Boys of Magic. By all accounts, they were like anti-magicians, exposing tricks and infuriating the world of magic while making cockroaches and snakes and who knows what appear all over David Letterman's desk!

They didn't do the ordinary coin tricks, stage illusions, or anything regular magicians did. Oh, well they did the Cups and Balls....and then exposed it brilliantly after performing it. No, they conjured with BEES, BUGS, BLOOD, all manner of craziness. They did magic upside down. They did magic underwater!

They've had a long career. And then 30 years ago, on Jan 14th, they began to perform in Las Vegas. They are now the longest running comedy act in Las Vegas History! They may just be the comedy act that lasted the longest. Martin and Lewis, Abbott and Costello, and others all broke up. Penn and Teller, still together!

In Oct 2022, Teller, took a break from the show to undergo bypass heart surgery, no small feat for a young person, but Teller is 74. He came through with flying colors and if I might add, I think it proves he is indeed a YOUNG 74! On Jan 14, 2023, Penn and Teller once again united on stage of the RIO Casino in Las Vegas to continue their stellar run. And get this, they opened with new material and announced they would be debuting more new material.

This is one of the reasons Penn and Teller are so magnificent and so incredibly GREAT for the World of Magic. They do not rest on their laurels. They continue to put out new material. And their stuff is killer. They have more original routines than probably any magic act around.  And I've not even mentioned their TV Show which is the greatest platform for great magic, EVER!!!!

I can say one thing. LONG LIVE PENN & TELLER!!!!

Tuesday, December 27, 2022

Charles Dickens: The Amateur Conjurer Corrected


Episode 86 of The Magic Detective Podcast was on Charles Dickens and the fact he was an amateur magician. I will admit to being a bit rushed to get that episode out. I wanted to have it out before Christmas Eve and I did, but only by an hour or so. And because of that, it looks like I made a few errors.

Ian Keeble, who I mentioned is an authority on Dickens as a Conjurer, and is the author of the book, Charles Dickens Magician: Conjuring in Life, Letters, and Literature, reached out to me in regards to my podcast on Dickens. He was kind enough to point out a few errors I had made and provided the background and reasoning behind the mistakes. Basically, I was not the first person to make these mistakes, they were mistakes magic historians and writers made before me, and I just passed them along.

I'm going to attempt to re-record the entire episode with the correct information. However, if I'm not able to do it without loosing the stats from those who already listened, then I'll have to pass on it. I'll be contacting my host company to see what can be done.

In the mean time, for historical accuracy, I'm putting the errors and corrections here.

1. The supposed connection between Ramo Samee, Dickens, Nicholas Nickleby and Hull in 1838 was first made in the magical press by Frank Staff in The Magic Circular in 1929 (the original 'spot' was made in The Dickensian, 8 years previously). It was picked up by JB Findlay in Charles Dickens and his Magic (1962) and also by Eddie Dawes in The Great Illusionists (1979). It was actually Trevor Dawson in his book Charles Dickens: Conjurer, Mesmerist and Showman, 2012, that demonstrated Dickens was in London at the time (which I have also checked out). So a relatively recent discovery that it is highly unlikely that Samee played any part in Dickens taking up magic.


2. How Clarke, in Annals of Conjuring, came up with Eugene Bosco as the name of the magician Dickens saw in France in 1854 is not known. Clarke did admit that he wasn't completely sure it was him. It was, ironically (given his error above), Frank Staff who cracked the name as being Alfred de Caston in another article in The Magic Circular in 1931. I have subsequently compared what de Caston did according to Dickens (he gives a very accurate description of his repertoire) with his tricks from other sources; and it is quite clear that it was de Caston.


3. The article which was supposedly written by Dickens about Robert-Houdin was called 'Out-Conjuring Conjurers'. It appeared in Household Words, vol. XIX, no. 472, 9 April, 1859 and was a review of Robert-Houdin's Memoirs. The review came out before the English edition was published, so the reviewer must have read it in French. I think the first assumption that the article was by Dickens was made by Will Goldston in Goldston's Magical Quarterly in 1934. The article you probably saw was from The Sphinx, November 1938: this reproduced parts of the article with the heading 'About Robert Houdin by Charles Dickens'. 


This myth has long been sustained, including by Ricky Jay (Celebrations of Curious Characters) and Jim Steinmeyer (Hiding the Elephant) - so you are in good company! The true author was actually first revealed in the magic press by Stephen Tigner in his short-lived The Journal of Magic History (1979 - the revelation was made in an undated supplement). No magic historian (Jay actually references the original Tigner article, but apparently didn't see the subsequent supplement) seems to have spotted that, including Trevor Dawson in his 2012 book Charles Dickens: Conjurer, Mesmerist and Showman. Dawson incorrectly claims that Dickens didn't only write this article on Robert-Houdin; but also many other articles which have magic references in them. In reality Dickens didn't write any article directly about magic; although he wrote two or three about spiritualism. He had a particular dislike of Daniel Dunglas Home.


'Out-Conjuring Conjurers' was actually written by the Reverend Edmund Saul Dixon. If you read the article, it's in fact pretty boring: doesn't have any of the flair of Dickens' writing so prevalent in his own articles.

And there you have it. The errors and the corrections. I am so grateful that Mr. Keeble took the time to explain all this. If I had more time when writing my article and IF I had Ian's book in hand, which I don't have, I likely wouldn't have made as many of the mistakes.  One thing I can say is that information that appears in The Sphinx magazine is often wrong. I find this time and again when researching a particular subject. And because that info is wrong, much of what is in David Price's book is wrong. This then leads to a detour in the research, just to discover the correct information.  But we are all human, and we make mistakes. And frankly, I love the research, so even though the source material was incorrect, it was still great fun to work on. And It's nice when the record is corrected for future researchers, so thank you again Ian Keeble. 

Sunday, December 11, 2022

News on the Magic Detective Podcast

Season 5 of the Magic Detective Podcast is will underway. I'm actually on track for once. I expect to have two more podcasts in December which will put the total at 6 episodes, which is half as many as I did in Season 4. I only got at total of 12 out in Season 4. Season 3 wasn't much better with only 13. I'm really trying to get at least 20 episodes per season.  

The next episode is going to be a very special holiday episode, #86. Then the final episode for 2022 will be another broadcasting of a Radio Interview I did on the history of magic. This one I did back in October of this year. 

I'm really behind in some of my plans for the podcast. I had expected to have my t-shirts up and available by now, but that hasn't happened, and sadly may not. I've fallen behind on the contests, which were always popular in the past. And I have yet to get another interview done. So my total stands at ONE, lol. That interview was with my friend Judge Gary Brown who wrote the book on Al Flosso. It is the second most listened to podcast of the entire run. I don't want to have a LOT of interviews, but I do want to include some.

I have been asked a number of times if I plan to continue the podcast. I guess that's because I've had trouble getting out new episodes. The answer is yes. I have a master list of 200 potential subjects to cover on the podcast. I've already done 85 of them. BUT, I'm always adding to the list. For example, Episode 85 was Milbourne Christopher, who I had never put on the list, and I'm so glad I did! I'd say the unfinished podcasts stands around a constant 120, because I get some done and then I add some, so it sorta stays around the same number yet to get done. And right now, if I only do the remaining ones, I've still got 6 years left on this. That's probably longer than most podcasts stay around.