Showing posts with label Dean Carnegie. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Dean Carnegie. Show all posts

Monday, November 16, 2015

Maro's Ghost!


I’ve only shared this story with one other person. Looking back, it might have been an ideal Halloween story to share. At any rate, I’ll share with you the story of my experience with Maro’s Ghost.

Back on September 19th, I was in Leland Michigan performing at the Old Art Building, also known as the W.T. Best Theatre. I was there to present two magic shows during the day and one lecture on the Great Maro in the evening. When I had arrived one of the folks there told me the story of the ghost in the building. They jokingly wondered if it was Maro. I was even told that an outdoor video camera once captured images of mysterious orbs in the yard area one weekend. I chuckled, as I usually do at such things.

Fast forward to the afternoon performances and the first show went quite smoothly. The second show was coming up and I was busy resetting props and making sure everything was where it needed to be. Once everything was set, I looked out to see how many people were there. We held the curtain an extra minute or two to allow for more folks to come in.

At showtime I opened with one of my signature routines. A magic routine that I have been doing for well over 20 years. All was going well until near the end of the routine when something happened that never happened before. By the way, the trick was a giant version of the Linking Rings using Hula Hoops. The calamity that happened at the end of the routine was that all 4 hoops seemed to knot themselves together. I don’t know how else to describe it. They were interlocked in such a way that I couldn’t get them apart at all. I pulled and tugged and finally held them up in the clump as if that was the end. I doubt the audience knew what had happened. But in my mind I was befuddled.

After the show, I went back to the clump of hoops to figure out what had caused them to join together in such an odd fashion. But, as I picked them up, they were once again four separate hoops, not stuck together, not joined in anyway.

I have since attempted to get the hoops tied/knotted up in the same way and cannot duplicate it no matter how I try. I have a specific series of movements that are identical every time and it simply does not allow for this odd occurrence. Yet, that afternoon, something unusual did happen.

As I’ve mentioned in previous blog articles, the evening’s lecture on Maro went off without incident. Everything went perfectly. But then again, Maro was the star of that program. Do I really think it was a ghost? No. But it has left me scratching my head ever since.

I wonder if anyone read my article about Maro in the November Linking Ring? I've not seen it and would love to know how it turned out. The next episode of The Magic Detective Youtube Show will have video from Leland Michigan. And I think I've finally figured out the proper format for doing that show. The show will go up on Youtube as it has in the past and the blog will contain further information not covered on the show. And I'll include a link to the video, but I won't be embedding the video in the articles anymore. Hopefully that works out better than I've done it in the past!

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Hear The Magic Detective On The Air!

On Sunday, Nov15th at 8pm (cst)  yours truly, Carnegie The Magic Detective, will be interviewed on the Jeff Richards: Paranormal Radio Show out of Edmonton Canada. I'll be talking about HOUDINI. I'm looking forward to it. It will be on 650 CKOM, or 980 CJME and I've been told there will be a podcast replay, so I will be sure to post the podcast for all those not in Canada or not able to listen to the original broadcast. This is my second Canadian interview this year!

Sunday, October 25, 2015

National Magic Week Is Upon Us

Today begins National Magic Week. This is an annual thing started by The Society of American Magicians. It honors one of their past Illustrious Presidents Harry Houdini. Houdini served as President of the organization from 1917 to 1926. Houdini's grave actually has a plaque on it that reads M-I President 1917-1927. He was elected for the 1926-27 year, but died on Oct 31st of 1926.

And speaking of Oct 31st, we know it as Halloween. But it's also National Magic DAY! Though this is an annual tradition started by the S.A.M., magicians all over the globe perform magic shows on this day and during this week. It's a great time to see LIVE magic!

For me personally, I've not had much time to work on this blog due to my very busy performing schedule. This month alone I have almost 50 performances. On Saturday October 31st, I have two, which I'm very happy about. Though, I would rather be at the Annual Houdini Seance in San Francisco, but, oddly, I never got an invitation. But many friends will be there enjoying the event and who knows, maybe this year is the year Houdini will return!

For those wishing to find out more about Houdini's last days, here is a link to an article I wrote a couple years ago that describes the route of his final Tour. Enjoy!

Watch for MORE Magic News/History This week!

Monday, September 28, 2015

The Maro Adventure Completed

I finally returned from my trip to Michigan to perform and lecture. The performances were at the W.T. Best Theatre, also known as The Old Art Building in Leland Michigan. The lecture I presented was on the Life and Magic of Walter Truman Best, better known as MARO Prince of Magic.

Why, you might ask did I present a lecture on some obscure magician? Well, it turns out, Maro lived in the town of Leland in the early 1900s. His home still stands there to this day. In fact, his home is for sale for a whopping $4.5. million dollars! The Historical Society and the Leelanau Community Cultural Center were aware of Maro's connection to the area and I was contacted to come and lecture and share some magic.

The shows were great fun. The stage is not very large, nor is the theatre, but given that the building is close to 100 years old, it had a very unique feeling to it. Like stepping back in time to be truthful. I presented mostly modern routines during my two afternoon shows. Interestingly, even though I was 800 miles from home, I met two people from my area who were in attendance at the earlier shows. Small world!
I also have an odd feeling that the place may just be haunted. Why do I say that? Well, my second show had two mishaps. One during a routine that NEVER EVER EVER has given me trouble. Somehow a string from who knows where got twisted into a prop and made it impossible to function. Later in the show something else went south on me. Again, stuff that never ever happens and it happened twice in the same show.  It made me somewhat apprehensive about the evening lecture.

The evening lecture is something I had been working on for months. It began with tons of research into this fellow Maro, who I had only known of because of his posters. I dug up a lot of information from quite a few sources. After compiling all the historical facts, I had to put it together so that a lay audience could understand and appreciate it. Let's face it, magicians who are into magic history would eat this stuff up. But lay people, that's another story.

I decided to include a number of Maro's routines in the lecture. First up was Maro's Slate Trick which I found in an old issue of The Sphinx. I combined it with the Spirit Dial, an effect popular among Victorian Era Magicians. I actually combined the Maro Slates with the Spirit Dial into an effect that was quite entertaining and mysterious.

The big effect I had planned for the lecture did not come to be. I had wanted to present The Flags of All Nations, a staple of Maro's show. However, the Flags I obtained began to disintegrate as I worked with them. Perhaps sometime down the road I can get them remade/restored but it didn't happen this time around. Instead the big feature was my Hand Shadow Act. It lasted just over a minute long, probably much shorter than Maro's actual routine. I think my version gave the 21st Century audience who was watching enough entertainment and got the point across as to the various things that can be done with hand shadows without going too long with it. Maro's ghost did not show up during the lecture at all.  I had the distinct feeling that he was sitting in the back watching and smiling. The audience of non-magicians thouroughly enjoyed the lecture, magic and power point presentation. Many came up to me after and shared their connection to Maro, Maro's home, or some of the magicians who performed in Leland after Maro died in 1908.

I will be doing a more complete write-up of my trip and of Maro for a magic magazine. Once that article is finished, I'll let you know where to check it out. Oh, and I took some video footage that I will edit soon for an upcoming episode of The Magic Detective Youtube Show. Yes, it's coming back!
Historical Display created by Kim Kelderhouse of the Leelanau Historical Society

Monday, January 19, 2015

Listen To My Radio Interview on Houdini, Magic History and more

Just wrapped up two hours of discussing magic history, HOUDINI, and then we also talked about me :)   It was really fun. This was on You can listen to the replay here

I even do a card trick during the final thirty minutes of the show, so if you listen, get a deck of cards and try it along with the replay! The host, Jim Tyson, really did his homework and it's clear he is also a big fan of magic. By the way, here is a little bit of behind the SpacedOutRadio is a radio show devoted to the Unusual, the Paranormal, Ghosts, UFOs and that kind of thing. Well because I was going to be interviewed for 2 hours, I made sure to take some notes on things to talk about in case I needed it. 35 minutes into the interview (I think it was 35 minutes), the power went out in my home. I'm on my cell phone, so it's not problem, but I'm also in the dark, so no access to notes. It's all 100% memory. Which turned out just fine. But I couldn't help but think about the 'ghost' thing for a second....the power almost NEVER goes out and it wasn't even storming! Strange.

I plugged everything I could think of during the show. I mentioned the touring shows, Masters of Illusion and the three ILLUSIONISTS productions. I mentioned the Copperfield Theatre at the MGM and even Criss Angel's shows in Vegas. I also mentioned the various TV shows dedicated to magic. I felt like the magic ambassador last night. Oh, and I plugged my own theatre show as well.
The interview must have had some pretty strong airplay because I just noticed the numbers on a couple of my websites shooting through the roof!

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

The Magic Detective on the Radio This Weekend!

This Sunday, January 18th at 10pm PST, 1am East Coast Time, I'll be interviewed by Jim Tyson for Spaced Out Radio. We'll be talking Magic History and probably a lot about Houdini. The good news is it will be available to listen to online after the initial broadcast.

Spaced Out Radio is a new online radio show dealing with the unknown. It's part of programming. You can find them at

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

The Magic Detective is IN the Linking Ring

Sammy Smith, editor of The Linking Ring, the Official Magazine of the International Brotherhood of Magicians had contacted me back in September and asked if I could write a review of the HOUDINI/History Channel Movie for the magazine. I said, "Sure!". Afterall, I had already written one for my blog. But I wanted to expand on a few things and delve a little deeper into the movie than I had initially done in my blog article.

The article is in the October 2014 issue of The Linking Ring. It's titled "A Magician's Guide to HOUDINI-The MiniSeries." Please check it out if you get a chance. I have had more people contact me regarding that article than just about anything I've written before. It's always nice to hear from people and it's even nicer to know people appreciate what you write.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Me and Houdini 1953

I have a personal annual tradition, on Halloween each year I watch the 1953 HOUDINI movie starring Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh. This was the movie that first inspired me to get into magic and search out the life and world of Houdini. IF you're new to The Magic Detective, my name is Dean Carnegie and I'm a full time magician and have been for nearly 20 years. Let me tell you about my early days and how this movie played a role in my magic life.

The movie starts with a fun scene with a young Houdini performing as part of a side show. Among the tricks he does is vanishing some milk and turning it into evaporated milk. Seeing this tonight sparked a great deal of memories that I had long forgotten. The memory of a young 7 year old boy pouring milk into a paper cone, only to have it gush all over the kitchen floor. Then only a couple years later to add the Vanishing Milk to my early shows....doing it the correct way at that point.

I remembered my fondness for Hamburg 8 handcuffs, and that was due to the scene in the movie where Houdini is short some money and his wife questions him and he says he had a chance to get 'a bargain' and produces the cuffs. A moment later he escapes from them and I remember being quite struck with the way that escape was done. Tonight as I was watching the movie and recalling my first set of Hamburg 8s it occurred to me that my cuffs may have been stolen about a year ago today. When I say stolen, it's more likely that I forgot them and someone picked them up and they're gone now. I've searched a number of times for them and I can't find them anywhere...though my storage unit is a nightmare so they might still be there.

I remember the scene with someone I always looked up to and actually used to correspond with fairly
often, Bill Larsen. This is the very same Mr. Larsen who would later go on to run Genii Magazine and along with his brother Milt, the Magic Castle. Bill appears in the movie during the scene where Harry and Bess attend a dinner which turns out to be a Halloween Magicians Dinner.

That also triggered the memory of meeting Mr. Larsen for the first time. Not at the Magic Castle however. It turns out that the very first time I went to see Le Grand David in Beverly Mass, that Bill and his wife Irene were also attending for the very first time. I saw Mrs. Larsen standing by herself in the back of the theatre and I looked around and sure enough there was Bill Larsen. I went up and introduced myself and got to speak with him for several minutes. Sadly, that was the only time I would ever get to meet Bill. But his kindness and all his advice he had given me through his letters have always meant a lot.

One of the many wonderful things about this movie is that Tony and Janet actually do perform a lot of the magic. There is a scene were the are performing the Houdini-Metamorphosis trick, also known as The Substitution Trunk or Sub Trunk. It's a great scene and if you watch closely you'll see Janet Leigh struggling to catch her breath during the shot. The whole scene is shot with one camera I believe, no cut-aways. 

Now as strange as it is, I never really added the Sub Trunk to my show. I did perform it a couple times, but I think because so many other acts were doing the sub trunk I just left it out. That didn't stop a young 8 year old magic fan from doing escapes from trunks. That's right, my first magic show that I ever did featured and escape from a large blue box, which was actually my toy box that my Dad had built. I had my brother and best friend Billy wrap the outside with ropes and chains and locks and I escaped at the end of the show from this trunk. I didn't have handcuffs at the time, so my hands were wrapped in a bicycle chain and I got out of those as well. I was a daring 8 year old.

Years later I actually built a sub trunk with my Dad. But again, rather than use it as the regular Substitution Trunk routine, I used it as a packing box escape. I would leave the box and the lid at a venue for examination. We'd put a big poster on the box promoting the show. Then at showtime I would climb inside that thing and get out. I still remember the reaction from a friend who had hired me to do this very thing. I knew he had spent a good deal of time with the box and the lid and he was dumbfounded when I got out. Come to think of it, that was a Halloween gig too.

Another scene that always stuck with me was a brief scene just before Houdini attempts the escape
from the Pagoda Torture Cell. In the scene two gentlemen come up with a challenge restraint, a Steel Straight Jacket. Oh my God, that was the coolest thing I had ever seen! All my life I always wanted one of those. Then...I got one. I was no longer 8 years old, lol. The first routines I did with the Steel Straight Jacket were similar to what was done in the movie. I did that for a while until I realized there was more that could be done. In one show, I presented the SSJ kind of like the sub trunk, in that I was in the jacket first, and then a few moments later, I was free and the jacket was on a friend of mine.

Still later, as my mind moved from thoughts of magic and into escapes, I saw the potential for even stronger routines. I used the SSJ to close the show at my Underground Magic Theatre for one season. That was also the year that I met Steve Baker the famous escape artist known as Mr. Escape. I sent him a video of the routine and we talked about ways to improve it further. He had so many fantastic ideas and there was no way to include them all. But the key ones I did eventually use. The last time I performed the SSJ was at the National Theatre in Washington D.C.. I performed it two times and during the first show wanted to test out an idea. I had always heard that modern audiences would not sit through long drawn out escapes like they did in the time of Houdini. But I always heard this from folks who didn't do escapes. So I figured, why not test the theory. I struggled and struggles and even tore my shirt and did some very unorthodox things to get out of the jacket. The audience sat there spellbound. In the show that followed I did the SSJ again, but this time without all the lengthy drama. There were people present who had seen both shows and they immediately asked about the difference in the performances when it was over. They were very intrigued and frankly, I was thrilled with their interest.

At the conclusion of the movie, Tony Curtis as Houdini dies trying to attempt the Pagoda Torture Cell or what we know as the Water Torture Cell. This scene and an earlier scene where Houdini is trapped under the frozen Detroit River after doing a packing box escape, made me very aware of the dangers of escapes and water. But it didn't stop me, I was just careful. I used to practice several times a week escaping from handcuffs underwater. My method was quite ingenious. At the time, we lived on a farm. I would clean out the water troughs that were used for the horses and fill them full of clean water and work on the escapes underwater. My chosen method of escape was picking the cuffs underwater. At the time I was unaware of something called 'bridge jumpers'. But it was still good training.

Here is an interesting thing I had also forgotten. When the movie opens up, this picture is the first
thing you see. Houdini's name written in Black and Red bold faced letters. Don't ask me why this stuck in my brain, but it did. Not long after I had decided to do magic full time, I had a huge banner made with my name written just like that, in black and red letters. It was to promote a series of theatre shows and it looked very cool.

It's amazing to think just how much that movie inspired and even shaped my magic career. A lot of it I really didn't pay much attention to, but now that I look back, it's quite ironic. And to think, most of that movie was fiction! What kind of trouble could have I gotten into if they had made a truthful movie??? Well, they did eventually with Paul Michael Glaser. That movie was called The Great Houdinis. And yes, that movie also played a part in my early magic years, but that's a story for another time.

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.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

The Magic Detective Show Season 2 Episode 4

On this weeks episode I share some old Victorian Style Magic. The effect was known as The Magnetized Cards and is a very cool routine that uses cards in a none pick a card fashion. Also, I'll be showing another one of my magician figurines.


Sunday, September 7, 2014

The Magic Detective Show Season 2 Ep 3

It's time for another episode of the weekly, or semi-weekly, Magic Detective Youtube Show, the five minute online magic history show. This week, I share a new acquisition with you, a piece of apparatus that comes from the book Modern Magic by Prof. Hoffmann. Also, I share one of the large statues from the collection of magician figures! In the coming weeks, I hope to share material from the various Prof. Hoffmann books, as well as Greater Magic, the Tarbell Course and more.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

The 30 Days of Houdini Celebration is Now Complete

Well, looks like I pulled it off. 30 Days of articles on Houdini. And actually, there were more than 30
articles. Sure, some were fairly light fair, but I also gave some meat in the mix. It sure was fun and it sure put my Houdini skills to the test, both as a researcher and actually as an escape artist. You see, there was something you didn't get to see. During the filming of The Magic Detective, I did a multi-handcuff escape. There were 8 pair of cuffs on my wrists and a pair of thumbscrews clamping my thumbs down. I have not done an actual escape for several years because I had an unusual injury (not related to escaping) that resulted in me being on blood thinning medication. So escapes were out.

But I picked it back up for this one time. I must tell you it felt pretty good and was also a little painful. The darbies I have are really too small for me now and dug into my wrists. The escape went really well. Later in the evening when I went to edit the footage I discovered the handcuff escape was not there. In fact, more than half of the video footage I shot was missing. I apparently must have forgotten to shut off the camera after one of the sequences and then every time I went to shoot a new one, I was actually turning the camera OFF! ARRRRRRRRRRRRRGGGH!!!

I would have reshot it, but instead chose to let you see the Steel Straitjacket routine from my old Underground Magic Theatre. I'm going to save the handcuff escape for a later date. You see, this is not the last of my Houdini Marathons. I have had plans for some time to do a number of them. The next one will begin sometime in the Spring and will be VERY different from this one. So keep your eyes and ears open for news.

To complete the month, below is the 4 minute trailer for tomorrow's History Channel 2 Part HOUDINI Miniseries. Thank you for reading my 30 Days of HOUDINI and enjoy the trailer and tomorrow, let's all hope for a Fantastic Night of HOUDINI MOVIE MAGIC!!!!

To check out all the 30 Days of Houdini articles, follow this link

The Magic Detective Show Season 2 Ep 2

A special treat for the 30 Days of Houdini is a new episode of The Magic Detective. The show is a semi-regular weekly video blog on magic history, typically the episodes run about 5 minutes. This episode has two Houdini items and then finishes with an ESCAPE.

My interest in magic began with the Tony Curtis Houdini movie and one of the things that always stuck out to me in that movie was his Steel Straitjacket. I thought it was such a cool looking prop and a little over ten years ago I had to opportunity to have one made. My jacket routine evolved over time from the type of routine done in the movie to more of a true escape. The current version, is more intense than the one on this video, but I thought you might like to see it just the same. Enjoy!

Monday, August 25, 2014

A Secret Houdini Education From a Genii

Genii the International Conjurers Magazine has been around since 1936. The second issue of the magazine had Houdini on the cover. I would like to draw your attention to the column 'The Genii Speaks' which is written by William Larsen Sr.. He spends some time discussing the fact that Houdini had been dead now for ten years. Read what he had to say,

"Surely, ten years should reconcile us to his departure. But, it hasn't. When he went, magic lost something; an intangible something which it has never regained. Perhaps it was prestige that we lost, or a leader-or, an idol."

That is a telling statement by someone quite involved in the world of magic. Most any magician, who has been dead ten years, is all but forgotten, sadly. But Houdini's name was being spoken so often it was almost as if he had never left. Mr. Larsen goes on to say that had Houdini lived he no doubt would be involved in theatre, radio and getting himself ready for television. Imagine HOUDINI being an early television pioneer. Wow.

The last half of the article is the part I refer to as 'the secret education'. Mr. Larsen shares his insights on the escape act, the concepts and how to present one properly in 1936. I can tell you, as someone who has performed escapes, he is right on the money. The one area though that I seem to part company with my fellow magi is in the area of the 'fast escapes'. I do believe a quicker pace is helpful in the 21st Century, but I can also tell you from personal experience that a long drawn out escape will also play today, IF structured properly, contrary to popular opinion.

I can also say that being shackled, chained, roped, straitjacketed and so on, gives one a unique insight into Houdini that the non-performer doesn't have. I'm not saying it makes you smarter, I'm just saying it does make you understand some of the things he went through and makes a lot of these challenges really come to life more so than someone who has never been nailed into a packing crate or coffin or some other crazy device.

I can just see Houdini laughing at our modern day expression "Thinking Outside the Box." For him it would have had a double meaning. In truth, that is the escape artists greatest tool, is being able to think outside the box and think under pressure. In the world of the magician we have something called 'outs'. These are preplanned schemes to use in case a trick goes wrong and we can adjust and bring about a successful conclusion regardless of some aspect not going properly. Well, in the world of escapes, if something goes wrong, you can be in serious trouble. You can be facing injury and even possible death. No matter if you are using specialized equipment or things totally 100% legitimate, if something goes wrong you step into the danger zone.  In a great article by Chuck Romano over at his site, My Magic Uncle, he mentions an incident when Hardeen was stuck inside the MilkCan and DoubleFold Death Defying Mystery Box.  This was potentially deadly, but thankfully Hardeen did not panic and had a preplanned out (please go read the article to find out what Hardeen did).

I have had things go wrong with escapes on more than one occasion and let me tell you, your brain shoots into overdrive. You begin thinking so fast it hardly makes sense until suddenly your brain 'clicks' on the right solution and everything comes back into focus. And that is not a panic mode, it's just what happens when you are faced with a potential failure and you need to turn it around.

If you ever get the chance to read The Genii Speaks from Vol 1 Issue 2 of Genii, you'll get a better understanding of the mind of the escape artist once you finish the article.  And despite the fact that there were other people who did escapes before, during, and after Houdini, he was without question the archetype of the grand escapologist.

Oh, if you are a Genii Subscriber, you can go use the digital version of Genii to access this issue.

BY THE WAY, We are now on the final week of the 30 Days of Houdini. So far I have successfully put up an article each day this month of Houdini. The Final Week, MIGHT, have a few surprises...MIGHT, lol. Or they may have to wait until the next 30 Days of Houdini, which will be very different trust me. Keep watching and thanks for being faithful readers of my blog.

To check out the previous articles

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The Magic Detective SHOW New Episode

Well, after a VERY long absence, the Magic Detective Show is back. If you're new to this, the show is a 5+ minute video blog on magic history. This week's episode features a very unusual item from Robert Heller.  Enjoy.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

The Magic Detective YouTube Show is Returning Next Week!

After a very long absence, The Magic Detective Youtube Show is returning! I had a lot of emails over this from folks wondering when I was going to resume. Well, the first new episode is already done and will debut next week. The upcoming episode will actually not have any Houdini stuff, but you can expect Houdini pieces after. The upcoming episode has a couple items on Robert Heller.

So get ready for the new season of The Magic Detective Show! Coming Soon....

Sunday, March 16, 2014

The Magic Detective & Mandala Magazine and More

I just found out yesterday that back in 2012, Mandala Magic Magazine had an article about HOUDINI and in the article they spent a little time talking about THIS blog. They also discussed John Cox's Blog and Kevin Connolly's blog as well. It was a pleasant surprise and the article itself was posted to another website by the original author of the piece, so you can read it here.

Also, coincidentally, yesterday was my first introduction to the Mandala Magazine itself, even before I found out about the earlier article. I found out they had done an rather extensive interview with David Bull of Le Grand David and also interviewed Rick Heath and Ellen Sheehan from the show as well. It is a FANTASTIC article which shares some insights on the last few years of the show, the death of Cesareo and how it affected the cast and the reasons why the show closed and what is going on currently and what the future holds.

The issue can be found in the 'past issues Volume 4'.  If you are interested in checking it out click the link, the issue costs $5.95 and is digital, so they will send you a link to download it.

The Mandala Magazine is a product of and owned by Shawn McMaster.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

News From the First Annual Houdini Festival in Danville VA

This has been a whirlwind weekend. So many stories, like the car breaking down on the way to Danville and having to turn back to have the car checked out. Long story short, we arrived at the Historic North Theatre in Danville VA shortly after midnight on Friday.

Magician Wayne Alan owns the theatre where the Houdini Festival takes place.  Attached to the theatre is a bed and breakfast which is just amazing. I'm not sure how many rooms there are, but Wayne has turned them into themed rooms. Of the ones I can remember, he has the Marylin Monroe Room, the Sinatra Room, the Tonight Show Room, the Today Show room and there are others I've forgotten. You can access the theatre from the Bed and Breakfast which was great.

First thing, Saturday morning Wayne gave us a tour of the Theatre. Let me say, this place is a real treasure. At one time, Danville VA sported 5 Vaudeville Theatres. Today, the Historic North Theatre is the only one which remains. It was recently refurbished before Wayne purchased it, so it has brand new seats (500 of them) and really a brand new everything. It's an amazing place.

In the basement below the stage, Wayne has put in what he calls Houdini's Haunted House. It's a normal Haunted House with some rather interesting Houdini artifacts scattered throughout. He also keeps several of the side show style illusions down there. It's certainly clever and word was he did a really strong business over the weeks in October because of Halloween. I will write about some of the artifacts in a future blog this week.

In the balcony of the theatre, Wayne Alan has created a sort of mini-theatre and this is where the lectures took place. The first lecturer of the event was Tony Econ. Tony is a fantastic card magician with a truly amazing life story. He was a great guy and did a simply fantastic job with his lecture.

Next up was ME! I was doing my lecture on Houdini and Escapes. To be specific, it's more on escapes and only briefly covers Houdini. The reason is because you can't talk escapes without mentioning Houdini. I talked a bit about the history of escapes and then taught a number of rope escapes, thumb cuff and thumb screw escapes and finally gave them some very clever information on handcuff escapes. I finished by performing an escape called The Strong Box. I was really thrilled with the reaction to my lecture and the response that followed. I'll be presenting this lecture again in the future.

After my lecture we had a surprise guest. But I'm going to hold the information on this wonderful lady because I need to get some photos and more biographical information. So this part of the day is for a future article.

Wayne Alan prepared an interesting talk on Why Houdini Was So Famous. I must say I really
enjoyed this talk. One of the first reasons Wayne sited for Houdini's success is actually almost identical to the first chapter of my book on Houdini (yes, I have a book and no it's not done.)
Wayne gave some really wonderful examples to back up his thoughts on Houdini's success and I'd say he was pretty much right on the money.

At this point in the day, Denise, my assistant, and I had to leave to run some errands so we missed
Carnegie & Wayne Alan
some of the activities in the afternoon. Basically, we had to get to the store to buy a video tape to record the evening Gala Show. Once we returned, the evening was spent preparing for the show, loading in our props and getting on costumes.

I should mention that Wayne Alan acted as M.C.for the Gala Show. He said a few opening words, did a quick routine and then proceeded to introduce the first act. Up first was Tony Econ doing his wonderfully executed Manipulation Act. Tony was great during the day with his lecture and he proved equally strong performing Card Manipulations and Billiard Ball moves with Large Dice.

Next up was Denise and I presenting our Steampunk Illusionist Act. During the course of the act we actually presented one escape routine and closed with my signature story trick about Houdini and Charlie Chaplin.

Wayne wrapped up the last part of the show by presenting the Misers Dream, A clever Shrinking Illusion using someone from the audience and then Floating a Member of the Audience in the Air. The audience loved the show! We got to meet and talk with them in the lobby following the performance.

After the last person exited the theatre, the boring part of showbiz began, which is tearing down the props and loading them in the car. Then stripping off all the costumes and makeup and getting ready to hit the road again. 

Another thing I missed was the Friday evening Close-Up Show in the Mini-Theatre. I forgot to ask Wayne how this part of the event went over, but I'm sure it went fine.

The First Annual Houdini Festival was fun. The number of attendees was less than Wayne would have liked but it just meant that it was more of an intimate gathering. For all who attended, they got a real treat with some bonuses that I have not mentioned. Wayne Alan is already beginning work on The Second Annual Houdini Festival. I know he is looking for lecturers, speakers, performers and of course attendees. Wayne has some Houdini related artifacts that he told me about which would make any Houdini-fan very envious and I'm sure they will show up in future editions of this festival. There are already some really cool things planned for next year so it's going to be something I personally will be looking forward too!

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Thank You For Visiting The Magic Detective!

My friend Adele alerted me earlier tonight that this blog was mentioned in an email from Stevens Magic. And sure enough, in my email box was an email from Mark Stevens asking for permission to include my site in their email. As far as Stevens Magic goes, they are a class act. I've always had positive dealings with them and really appreciate their dedication to the art of magic and I'm honored they included me in their email newsletter.

If you are new to my blog, I might suggest you try this link 
which lists some of the more popular articles. You can also scroll along the right side and find articles listed by topic.

The blog usually gets updated several times a week, but I've been out of town on a family matter and just returned today. So hopefully, once things get settled, you'll see some brand new articles on magic history! Until then, there are certainly a lot of articles you can view from the past!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

The Magic Theatre Series Pt 2 The UMT

First Studio (before)
After writing the article on The Cabot Theatre recently, I got to thinking about other magic theatres and venues strictly devoted to magic. There have been a number of them, some more successful than others. I was actually involved with a theatre of sorts with two friends of mine.

First Studio (after)
It started back in 2000, my friends Ralph Metzler and Adam Burger and I were looking for a place to store our props and possibly rehearse. After much searching we came across an odd place in the back of a shopping center. It was a very narrow space but deep and with high ceilings. We snapped it up, built an office and a loft and hung mirrors to rehearse. It was a really cool place to work and rehearse but it had some drawbacks. For one, there was no air conditioning in the place and in the summer it could get brutally hot. Two, there was no bathroom. Three parking was less than stellar. So even though we liked our spot we kept our eyes open for something else.

As fate would have it, another unit in the back would eventually open up. This unit was 5 times the size of the space we were renting, it had an office that was air conditioned and more than enough room for storage, rehearsals and a bathroom! So we snagged it.

This new unit was also in the back of a shopping center. Coincidentally, in the front of the shopping center was an old movie theatre that had recently shut down. The new tenants wanted to renovate the place and they knew that I had done some shows there in the past and offered to GIVE me as many seats as I wanted. So my two friend and I loaded up 100+ cast iron seats and lugged them to our new location. It was back breaking work and we only did it because Ralph and I had this crazy notion of fixing them up and selling them on eBay!  As it was, our friend Adam suggested taking some of the seats and putting in a theatre. I'm not sure how keen we were on this idea at first, but he kept bringing
it up, so in the end, it was really his idea to have a theatre.

Installing Chairs only days before First Show at Theatre
That is where things begin. But now it was a matter of transforming what was essentially a warehouse spot into a theatre. We wanted to keep the warehouse look, but 'clean it up'. And we had a tight budget....practically no budget really. So we painted the walls black. We purchased industrial looking lights that we could hang down from the ceiling. There were probably 25 or more lights. We put our old mirrors back up at the back of the area that would be the theatre. And to show just how devoted to the concept we were, we only installed 30 seats. Eventually we would install 50 seats.

The walls were decorated with vintage magic posters and various pieces of memorabilia. The theatre area itself was covered with my magic paintings. Along the wall as you walked into the theatre were large scale magic illusions on display.

When we were working or rehearsing in the space we always used the florescent lights that were part of the unit when we moved in. But when it was time to transform the place, we turned off the florescents and turned on the hanging lights. The first time we did it we were stunned at how cool the place looked. I had come up with the name 'Underground Magic Theatre' (UMT). And we were the 'first' to use the underground name, before Mark & Jinger's Magic Underground, and before others as well.

Though having our own theatre was our friend Adam's idea, he actually didn't want us to install the seats. He thought folding chairs would be better. But the inspiration for what it would become came from two sources, the Larcom Theatre in Beverly MA and Robert-Houdin's Theatre in Paris. At the Larcom, which is the sister theater to the Cabot, they have a huge room upstairs with a gallery of magic posters on display. In the basement is another gallery of all their props and illusions that have been used over the years and were retired from the show. The way this looked inspired what would become known as the 'magic museum' area of our space. The intimate theatre was really from Robert-Houdin and just as he did everything from stage magic to illusions, so would we.

We did not have a raised stage, it was floor level. And the front row was actually part of our performing area. There was an isle down the center dividing the chairs into two sections. My friend Ralph sewed the fabric of what would become the theatre curtains for the entire run. And though I helped, Ralph also drilled 99% of the holes in the concrete so we could install all the cast irons chairs!

We used the space for rehearsals, video taping segments of our shows, magic lectures, magic workshops, birthday parties and field trips. In the summer months, I offered field trips to Summer Camps to visit 'The Underground Magic Theatre'. Not really sure how it would play, it became a surprise to everyone involved that the concept took off! During the first show, the audience was so into things, two boys in the back of the theatre were heard saying "This is awesome magic" and his friend replied, "NO, this is UNDERGROUND magic!". As part of the field trip, the campers saw an hour long show and were taken on a guided tour of our magic museum. First year, we also offered a magic class, but we discontinued that after year one.
We found the show and tour of the museum was more than enough value as people would contact us saying "this was the kids favorite field trip of the summer". Oh, and we did not do a 'kids magic show'. We presented a theatrical magic show with stage magic and illusion and music and costumes. In fact, one evening we opened the theatre up to adults and they loved the show as much as any camper that had come through. It was never designed as a kids venue, it was designed to impress all ages.

My friend Ralph used the theatre to present birthday parties. It was so cool because he could do a much larger show, then set up tables and chairs for the party. We never advertised the parties yet stayed pretty busy with them.

 The theatre also became a 'hang out' of sorts for magicians who were passing through the area. Of the magicians who stopped by at one time or another, they included: Bob Sheets, Bob Fitch, David Kaye, Ken Scott, Mark Daniel, Tim Hannig, Jozo Bozo from Croatia, Joe Romano, Bruce Bray, Scott Humston, Joe Holiday, Dave Risley, Trixie Bond, and many others.

The theatre ran until the end of Summer 2005. At that point, my friend Adam had already moved away. My friend Ralph had decided it was time for him to move as well and he moved out west. The theatre didn't seem the same without my friends, so I closed it down and regretted the decision off and on for years.

It's now 2013, and for the first time since we closed the UMT, I've decided to take a version of that show back on the road this summer. I call it 'The Traveling Underground Magic Theatre Show' and basically taking the best parts of the theatre shows and creating a traveling version. There won't be any illusions, at least not as of this date. But the show will be about the 'history of magic' so it will be fun and educational at the same time. It will pay homage to the original venture, but this will be something unique in it's own way.

Below is a video of what the place looked like with the florescent lights up. It was not the look that theatre goers saw however. But it's still pretty cool looking back. Coming Soon: Part 3 The Magic Salons