Showing posts with label David Bamberg. Show all posts
Showing posts with label David Bamberg. Show all posts

Thursday, May 9, 2019

The Amazing Zancigs First Couple of Telepathy

The Zancigs were probably the first mind reading couple to make a name for themselves internationally. Granted, Robert Heller and Haidee Heller did raise a few eyebrows in their day, but they didn't have the impact of the Zancigs, nor did they tour as much. 

Their Real names were Julius Jorgensen, born in Copenhagen, Denmark March 7th, 1857
His partner was born Agnes Clausen, also in Copenhagen, Denmark in 1849.
Julius moved to the US in 1882 and a short time after he arrived, he met up with Agnes at a social gathering of Danish people who had immigrated to the US. They had known each other in Denmark and here upon meeting, they struck up a new relationship which eventually led to marriage. 

When he was living in Denmark his father had him apprenticed in the iron smelting industry. So when he came to America, this was one of his first jobs. While still employed in the iron plant,  an unusual request came to the young couple to perform at a church function. Because they didnt play any sort of instrument, they decided to try their hand at telepathy. Yeah, that makes sense. I can’t play an insturment, so I’ll read minds instead, lol. I’m going to guess that at some point Julius may have had an interest in this subject or picked up some of the expose pamphlets on how this was done. They began with the work that Robert Heller had done with his Second Site Act and expanded upon it. At any rate, they gave their crude demonstration and were surprised at how well it went over. 

According to Will Goldston’s book, Sensational Tales of Mystery Men, Zancig had an accident at the smelting plant, he badly burned his hand and was out of work for a long while. During his recovery, he decided that he would leave the iron works plant and try his fate in the world of mind reading. 

According to numerous sources, Their career began in 1899, when they start to present their telepathy act at San Souci Amusement Park in Chicago IL. This is even confirmed by a short article about them in a Mahatma Magazine in 1902.  Sensational Tales of Mystery Men, has them at Coney Island and claims that Horace Goldin discovered them there and later introduced them to Oscar Hammerstein.  I have a feeling Coney Island is incorrect, but it’s possible Goldin saw them at San Souci Park. And the Oscar Hammerstein connection is correct. He brought them to NYC to play his Roof Garden at $400 a week. The couple also performed at countless private functions for the high society of NYC. LONG before Steve Cohen took up residency at The Waldorf Astoria, The Zancigs performed there for 12 weeks.

In 1903 they met H.B. Leavitt, a theatrical producer who organized a Globe trotting tour for them.  And indeed they did travel the Globe. Arriving in London at one point they soon became a sensation. 

In 1906, The Zancigs gave a command performance before King Edward VII at Buckingham Palace. After this they toured across England as they had done before and again, the sensation continued. In the book, Illusion Show by David Bamberg, he talks about his family running into the Zancigs on a train in Norway. Agnes asked Okito if the young son, David, was going to follow in his footsteps. Because if he wasn’t she could make a ‘mind reader’ out of him. Remember that anecdote…

Here is a write-up from The Sphinx Magazine in 1906 of their act. “The Mysterious Zancigs were a strong feature of the Orpheum the week of Nov 6th. Their act is certainly a great one in every sense. They work rapidly and accurately in all their tests and are never baffled by any of the attempts made by the audience to fool them. Their exhibition may be termed telepathy, mind-reading, second sight, or by any other name. It goes just the same. Mr. & Mrs. Zancig honored the Sphinx with their presence, and during their call favored us with a private exhibition of their extraordinary powers. While this gifted couple were visiting Mammoth Cave recently, they had one pleasure of giving an entertainment in the bridal chamber of that wonderful cave”

Mammoth Cave is a National Park and Cave in Kentucky. One of the areas is called the Bridal Alter or Bridal Chamber and it was here in 1906 that the Zancigs gave an impromptu performance. 

In a 1906 issue of The Conjurers Monthly magazine, Houdini writes about the Zancigs, “Their act is about the best of it’s kind that we have ever seen, and we have seen almost all!”

In 1907 they were hired to work at the Victoria Roof Garden. They had an extended run that went into 1908 with the amazing salary of $1500 per week, the most ever paid to a mind reading act at the time.  From there they went to the Alhambra for a seven month run, then off to the Wintergarten in Germany.  Then back to America before the year was up.

IN 1910, they were requested to return to England and Buckingham Palace to perform again, this time during the coronation of King George V. They remained in England until 1913, when they finally returned to the US. 

This is just the early part of their career. On The Magic Detective podcast Ep 21, I go over the entire life story of the couple and those performers who joined the show later. Here is the link to episode 21

Thursday, October 2, 2014

New Episode of Magic Detective Show Season 2 Ep 5

Well turns out I missed last week. Just been busy since I got home from my trip and I've not been able to keep up. However, I do have the new episode up and running. It starts with another trick from the world of Professor Hoffmann. I found what I thought was an unusual trick with a borrowed pocket watch that appears inside a glass of milk. I presented the trick as per the instructions in the book, along with a homemade gimmick that I made fashioned after the one Pro. Hoffmann illustrated. I did have to make a few modifications because in the book the magician gets the help from an assistant. In this case, I had to do everything. One thing I found was that this was a fairly tricky thing to pull off. Despite how it might appear, a mirror glass is not used. The glass that is turned and shown empty and then filled with milk truly has NO pocket watch inside when the milk is poured in. At the conclusion of the trick the pocket watch appears to be dripping with milk, however that is all part of the illusion and the watch is never in any danger. It's definitely a stage trick only. Interestingly, there is a trick in Tarbell where a borrowed watch appears in the soil of a potted plant that has similarities to this effect.

The last item on the show is a photo of FuManchu's grave which I received from Martin Pacheco. I had always heard and I also read it in Genii, that David Bamberg/FuManchu got a burial at sea, in other words his ashes were scattered into the ocean. It turns out this was wrong and indeed he was buried in Argentina. But because there was no upkeep on his grave, Bamberg's remains were eventually moved to a common grave and the whereabouts today are sadly unknown.

Enjoy the episode. It may be a week or two before the next one is up. I've got a busy schedule of shows and some personal things to tend to. By the way, sorry for the slightly blurry footage this week. I'm not sure what was going on, but I was in a rush to get it all shot and this was the result.

Friday, April 4, 2014

In Search of Fu Manchu

David Bamberg, Fu Manchu
I first heard of Fu-Manchu/David Bamberg while reading the book The Illustrated History of Magic by Milbourne Christopher. David Bamberg came from a long line of magicians, six generations. His father was the equally famous Okito/Theo Bamberg. But it wasn't until I saw the Le Grand David Show for the first time in 1980 that the Bamberg Dynasty took on new life. Here was a show, Le Grand David and his own Spectacular Magic Company, that was inspired by the show's presented by Fu Manchu that Cesareo Pelaez, the groups founder, saw as a boy.

There must be something to this guy, David Bamberg. Then I read that Dai Vernon, Jack Gwynne and Jean Hugard thought the Fu-Manchu Show was the most beautiful show they had ever seen. In fact in his column for Genii Magazine August 1974, The Vernon Touch, Dai Vernon refers to the FuManchu show like this, "to my way of thinking it was the perfect show." Many professional magicians of the 20th Century thought David Bamberg's show was one of the most incredible magic shows to ever grace the theatrical stage. But, precious few people saw the show here in The United States. The show mainly toured South America and Mexico. In that part of the world, Fu-Manchu was bigger than life.

I'm going to share some elements of the life of David Bamberg in the hopes that modern day magicians who are unfamiliar with Fu-Manchu can discover a new respect for this giant in our art.

It all begins with the Bamberg Dynasty of Magicians.

Jasper Bamberg (early 18th Century)
Eliaser Bamberg (1760-1833)
David Leendart Bamberg (1786-1869)
Tobias Bamberg (1812-1870)
David Tobias Bamberg (1843-1914)Papa Bamberg
Tobias (Theo) Bamberg (1875-1963)Okito
David Tobias Bamberg (1904 - 1974)Fu-Manchu

Young David was clearly born into a world of magic. He was appearing as an assistant on stage with his father at the age of four. He would meet every famous magician of the time. When his father Theo was working for Thurston, young David would often be one of the 'volunteers' for the Eggs from Hat routine. One of his earliest jobs was working with The Zancigs, who were a mind reading duo. Julius Zancig apparently did a pretty good selling job on Okito by promising the boys work would not interfere with his studies. The stagename that young David chose was Syko. The name Syko was suggested to him by none other than Harry Houdini.

One of my favorite stories of David's magical education comes when he learns about the early Tarbell Course being offered. According to his autobiography, Illusion Show, David contacted Harlan Tarbell with the hopes of getting on the mailing list. But to his surprise, he began receiving the course along with nessesary gimmicks. He was able to put together two shows that he could travel with easily. Having this magical foundation helped him greatly when he took on the venture of a much larger show.

If you're wondering what material David chose early on, well he lists a few of the items in his book, on pages 152-153. These include: The Egg Bag, The Vanishing Wand, the Linking Rings, the Paper Tearing, the Card in Banana, the Needle Trick, the Multiplying Balls, the Ghost Silk and Tarbell's Cut and Restored Rope (which is a hidden gem).    The Paper Tearing would remain a staple with him throughout his career and he continued to use the other items as fill-in material when needed.

Incidentally, there is a great story in his book Illusion Show on how David Bamberg discovered the mystifying secret to Houdini's Needle Trick. I won't give it away because I don't want to deprive anyone of the wonderful stories contained in the pages of his autobiography.

Before, he ever built his big illusion show, he toured as an assistant with the Great Raymond throughout South America. David's autobiography has many interesting stories of his life touring with Raymond. When the Great Raymond returned to the United States, David remained behind to try and make a go at magic in South America. 

Okito and Fu Manchu
Like his father, David went with an Asian themed show and character. Unlike his father, Theo, who created a unique name OKITO, David took different route. I always thought it was a coincidence that the Fu-Manchu name that David Bamberg used and the Sax Rohmer character called Dr. FuManchu were the same. However, there is no coincidence. Sax Rohmer created the name first, and David appropriated it for his character name. Though, David's character was not a diabolical evil genius. Copyright law prevented him from using the name Fu-Manchu when he came to perform in the United States for a brief time, so for a short time he was known as FuChan.

It was interesting to read that Okito was very discouraging when it came to the idea of a big illusion show. Okito thought it was better to travel light while David had the vision of a much grander production. David's show had other issues besides size. The number of people in the company made it practically impossible to present in the United States, he had to scale the show back some. But in South America and Mexico, where he mainly performed he didn't have the issues with theatrical unions that he ran into here in the States. He did occasionally run into travel issues with a large show. But his success in South America proved that he knew how to make it work.

As Fu-Manchu David was very successful. He eventually made three films as a sort of Magic Detective. The movies are available today through the The three films were called; The Ghost of the Bride (El Espectro de la Novia),  The Headless Woman (La Mujer sin Cabeza), and  The Black Ace (El As Negro).

Fu-Manchu presented his final show in 1966 and then retired and opened a magic shop in Buenos Aires. He passed away on August 19th, 1974 thus ending the longest family dynasty of magicians. There is no grave for David Bamberg as his ashes were scattered at sea.

David Bamberg was certainly a fascinating character. I've mentioned his autobiography ILLUSION SHOW, several times. It is out of print but can still be found. It's a must read for any student of magic. The next book he wrote along with Robert Albo and Eric Lewis is called The Oriental Magic of The Bambergs. This book has many of the secrets not revealed in the Okito on Magic Book by his father. And there are many wonderful photographs of the props used by both Okito and FuManchu. In addition to this, there is a great article written by David Bamberg that appears in GREATER MAGIC in the chapter on Stage Presentation. It's a must read. There is also another fine book on the magic of FuManchu called Illusion Builder to FuManchu by Robert E. Olsen.

Cesareo Pelaez and Juan Tamariz in particular were inspired by the Fu-Manchu Show. Cesareo went on to produce the longest running resident magic show in the history of the U.S. And Juan Tamariz went on to change the face of magic not just in Spain but all over the world!

I used to bring up old articles on Fu-Manchu and read many of the show reviews. For the most part the reviews were the same, complimenting Bamberg on the beauty and spectacle of his marvelous show. I did come across one review however that made me chuckle. The reviewer clearly enjoyed the show but couldn't understand why Fu-Manchu included those 'old' hand shadows in his act. I guess not everyone is a magic historian!

I did a lot of research on David Bamberg for this article, but only ended up using a very small part of what I discovered.  So, I have a feeling I'll be returning to Fu-Manchu again and again.  I hope you enjoyed this brief journey into the life of David Bamberg and I look forward to bringing you more stories from his life in the future.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

FuManchu Floating Ball

I love museums, I love collections of historical items and frankly anything to do with history. Though I have a small collection of my own made up of posters, programs, magic props and one large illusion owned by Harry Blackstone Jr., it's not enough to satisfy my craving for history.

So I seek out other collectors and have been fortunate enough to view a number of really wonderful collections. Every collection is impressive to me. I remember years ago Richard Kaufman showed me his collection of magic sets. It was just so cool to see so many wonderful examples of magic sets from all over the world. Ken Trombly invited me over to see his poster collection a couple years ago and that was truly amazing.

But the one collection that has really stood out above all others for it's magnitude of incredible pieces has been Ken Klosterman's collection. He calls the area he displays the collection the Salon De Magie.
It's awesome beyond words. But I'm not sure how many folks know that there is a second location, kind of an annex with some equally cool items.

There is one item in that collection that really caught my eye. It's a prop that was once owned by David Bamberg. The item is the Fu Manchu Floating Ball. I am sure the ball itself was made by David's father Theo Bamberg. The ball is inside of a plexiglass box which was used during the presentation of the illusion.

The plexiglass box is designed to have the lid open on it's own, as if by magic. The floating ball is often attributed to Okito (Theo Bamberg) but apparently, Theo learned the effect from David Abbott. Today, Teller presents a version of the Abbott Ball effect in the Penn and Teller show in Las Vegas.

By the way, Ken Klosterman is now writing a monthly column in MUM Magazine which features a different item from his collection each month. I'm sure he'll also share with the readers the way he obtained the various items and from whom.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

The Magic Detectives

Before I became the Magic Detective (a name given to me by Mark Daniel), there were a number of others. One of the first was Harry Blackstone Sr.. His Magic Detective began as Radio Serial which ran from 1948 to 1950. These were 15 minute adventures in which actor Edward Jerome played the part of Blackstone the Magician and shared exciting stories from his life. These were written by the man who was also responsible for another popular radio serial called The Shadow. The author was none other than Walter Gibson.

Gibson was also a confident of Thurston and Houdini as well as many other magicians. His Blackstone radio series was complimented by a Blackstone the Magic Detective Comic Book series as well.

Here is an episode the Blackstone The Magic Detective for you to listen to. If you are interested in listening to more of the series please visit the website 
And if you like you can purchase all 55 known audio recordings of Blackstone The Magic Detective from The Miracle Factory

The next magic detective was David Bamberg, who performed under the stage name Fu-Manchu. David came from a long line of magicians, and his father Theo Bamberg performed under the stage name OKITO.

David made a series of three Spanish language films in which he solved crimes using magic. The films were The Ghost of the Bride (El Espectro de la Novia), The Headless Woman (La Mujer sin Cabeza), The Black Ace (El As Negro) and all were made in the 1940s in Mexico. These are available through The Miracle Factory at

The next two magic detectives were Bill Bixby and Hal Linden and they both who had their own TV series. Bixby's was called "The Magician" and ran for one season on NBC back in 1973. I'm pretty sure that Mark Wilson was the consultant on this one as Bill Bixby dresses in the same costumes that Mark wore. I vaguely recall this show from childhood, but fortunately the SciFi/Syfy Channel ran the series a few years ago.

Bixby played a character named Anthony Blake and drove a White Corvette equipped with a PHONE! (this was long before cell phones). As I recall there were a number of scenes shot in the famous Hollywood Magic Castle. 

Bill Bixby continued to be a big supporter of magic even following the cancellation of this show. He was a member of the Magic Castle and appeared on a number of magic related TV specials.

Hal Linden played a magic detective along with Harry Morgan in Blacke's Magic. This ran for thirteen episodes on NBC in 1986.

Hal Linden has the classic look of the magician, like a Mandrake or a Cardini. Unfortunately, I can't help but wonder if the consistent use of this kind of dated imagary is what killed the show. Magic appears 'out of date' and frankly, sometimes magic is out of date or out of touch.

I'll bet money that the consultant on this show was Harry Blackstone Jr.. The show's logo looked just like that used by Blackstone Jr. the Magician. I remember seeing Hal Linden on TV promoting the show and doing some magic and he was pretty good. Here is a clip from opening of Blacke's Magic...

But as far as I can tell, the very first magic detective was none other than Harry Houdini. In his 1923 film Haldane of The Secret Service, Harry goes after the bad guys and in the process gets tied up, chained up and bound in every way imaginable.

Houdini is the star, the director and the producer of this movie. It's interesting that he used his old moniker of "World Famous Handcuff King" in the promotion of the movie. I think it's pretty clear who the star of the movie is by looking at the image to the left.
Haldane of the Secret Service is available on the Houdini DVD compilation by Kino, along with The Master Mystery, The Man From Beyond, Terror Island, and clips from The Grim Game along with some archival footage.