Showing posts with label FuManchu. Show all posts
Showing posts with label FuManchu. Show all posts

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, July 26, 2014

The Floating Ball Illusion History

The Floating Ball was the creation of David P. Abbott. Well, actually, the original version was the creation of Harrison Davies and appeared in the September issue of The Sphinx in 1905. This information was uncovered by Teller and written up in his Prologue to The Floating Ball Illusion Chapter in the House of Mystery-Volume 2 by Teller and Todd Karr and David Abbott. This book, House of Mystery is basically an expanded edition of David P. Abbott's Book of Mysteries. It's a MUST READ for anyone interested in magic history. But within it's pages is contained the full explanation and step by step instructions for the Abbott Floating Ball routine. His routine was unique in that it was a one person version that he only performed in his home, so he had control of all conditions.

David P. Abbott taught the routine to Howard Thurston and Theo Bamberg. Thurston included it in his show and Okito would use the Floating Ball in his own show and develop a routine that set a new standard for the time.

The Thurston version of the Abbott routine was part of his Spirit Cabinet routine. Interestingly, the Thurston routine has a slightly different method to the Abbott version. Thurston routine begins with the ball floating forth from the Spirit Cabinet. It moves and floats about the stage and at one point is hovering above the stage. It's at this point that Thurston walks away from the ball while it is hovering in mid-air. The ball eventually floats back to the cabinet.

Theo Bamberg, known as Okito, used the Abbott version as the starting point but worked to develop his own moves and sequences. In his book, OKITO ON MAGIC, there is a 5 page chapter where Okito discusses the history of his routine. Interestingly, he never divulges his routine but he does divulge that his routine was ten minutes long.

Okito passed his routine onto his son, David, known professionally as FuManchu. In the book, ILLUSION BUILDER TO FU-MANCHU by Robert Olsen, a section on the Floating Ball is included. The chapter is mostly written by Edmund Spreer, who learned the Floating Ball from Okito and even hand made the Floating Ball for David Bamberg. The chapter gives a lot of details to the Fu-Manchu routine, which we can assume was identical or at least very close to his father's routine. The photo to the right is yours truly holding the Spreer made Fu-Manchu Floating Ball and below that the plexiglass box that mysteriously opened on it's own to allow the ball to float out or float back in.

Moving to the later part of the 20th Century we have Doug Henning's Floating Ball routine. The Doug Henning version came from Charles Reynolds who got the routine from a source I won't reveal. Well, it's not that I can't, it's that I have no idea what Gaeton Bloom said on the Luis Dematos Floating Ball DVD! And frankly, I so enjoyed the talk that Luis and Gaeton had about the ball, that I don't wish to spoil it. (You can read more about the DeMatos Floating Ball and DVD below.)  I can say that the Henning version always thrilled me but it seems the actually working of the routine was very different from what I thought it was. Let's just say the routine was 'All Doug'. Now, you take a moment to watch the following video of the The Henning Floating Ball.

That was part 1 of the Henning Floating Ball. Part 2 was something he only included on his TV Special. He would walk over to a large empty box and place the ball inside. Suddenly, the ball would emerge from the top of the box, but this time it was enormous. As it began to float up and down, it would begin to illuminate and the figure of a person could be seen inside. As the ball lowered it split in half revealing actress/dancer Joey Heatherton. This was really two different Floating Balls combined into one routine.

After Doug Henning, the next person to really bring the Floating Ball to the forefront was David Copperfield and Don Wayne, his magic consultant. The Copperfield version of the Floating Ball appeared on one of his early specials and featured the floating of a large disco mirror ball. The method for the Copperfield routine was the idea of Don Wayne. Following the TV special, Don Wayne sold a smaller version of the ball to magicians, along with a booklet on this Don Wayne method. His method, a two person version, opened the door to some amazing moves and sequences with the ball that were previously more difficult to do. The Copperfield routine was probably the most theatrical routine of all the versions combined. Like the Henning routine, Copperfield cleverly mixed different methods into a longer sequence. The Copperfield ball was covered at the end, floated upwards and then vanished as in an asrah levitation. You can enjoy that video now.

Peter Loughran put out a version not that long ago that was the creation of Steven and Michael Pignataro, it was called Voyager and was the first Floating Ball to include a lot of the 'hidden stuff' needed to create the full illusion.  

Next we have the TELLER Floating Ball. I have sadly, never seen the routine in person. I believe he calls his version 'The Red Ball'. The Teller inspiration came from the Abbott routine. Whether or not he uses the Abbott method or has developed something of his own, I really don't know. I'm not even sure the ball floats! From what I've read, it's more along the illusion of it 'coming to life'. But I do know that the 'secret' is told to the audience just before the routine is done and it still retains a very magical quality. Though with Penn and Teller, can you really be sure they've told you the secret????

The last Floating Ball belongs to Luis DeMatos.  The performance of the Floating Ball by Luis DeMatos is as close to real magic as you're likely to ever get. Having worked with the Floating Ball before, I was stunned at what he was able to achieve. I really was not sure what method he was using to accomplish his feat.

Luis has put out a DVD on the Floating Ball and his method as well as a history of the ball. He covers a number of historical things that I do not mention here.   As far as the Luis DeMatos Floating Ball DVD is concerned, I absolutely loved it. I've actually gone back and watched the performance part about a dozen times.

Luis DeMatos is not only selling a DVD but he is also selling his Mirror Ball, complete with DVD and all the necessary items needed to do his routine. I think that the Luis DeMatos version is not only the best routine of it's kind I've ever seen, it is also the biggest advancement in Floating Ball technology since the Don Wayne version. His routine might not be as theatrical as the Copperfield version, but it has a purity and elegance all it's own. For those interested, below is a somewhat edited version of his routine and you can start to get an idea that this is not your father's Floating Ball!
THE FLOATING BALL by Luis de Matos from Essential Magic Collection on Vimeo.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

A Little Fu-Manchu Trivia

Some Interesting Facts About Fu-Manchu

When he performed he spoke Spanish with a Chinese accent.

His oriental robes were authentic. Many were purchased in Hollywood.

He adapted a principle from a novelty toy into one of the most amazing pieces
of magic ever seen. This principle sat untouched for many years until recently altered
and updated by Jim Steinmeyer. It was used in Fu-Manchu's Pit & Pendulum Illusion.

His father was Okito (Theo Bamberg). Fu-Manchu (David Bamberg) was the 6th and last generation of magicians known as The Bamberg Dynasty.

During his years in South America, he auditioned many women to be assistants in his show. One of the women who auditioned for him was Eva Peron, the First Lady of Argentina from 1946-1952.  She would later be immortalized in the musical EVITA.

The above poster is very unique and quite striking. There is another version of the poster which features an image of a woman's face and more text. It can be viewed here, along with one of Fu-Manchu's Movie posters.

David Bamberg in real life was a very nervous individual. But Fu-Manchu on stage
was as calm as they come. It's been written that whenever his assistants wanted to
ask for a raise, they always waited to ask Fu-Manchu rather than David Bamberg.

According to David, eventually the Fu-Manchu calmness creeped into his real life
and later in life he became less of a nervous wreck.

David Bamberg took the name Fu-Manchu from the Sax Rohmer novels of the same name. Because of this when he came to the United States, he was not able, due to copyright laws, to use the name Fu-Manchu. Instead he used FuChan. However, Bamberg was not the last to use the 'borrowed' name. A rock band now uses the name Fu-Manchu.

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.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

The Spirit Cabinet - A History

This article is about the Spirit Cabinet illusion. However, there would be no spirit cabinet without The Fox Sisters. Margaret and Kate Fox were two young girls living in Hydesville NY with their parents. In 1848, the two sisters demonstrated that they could communicate with ghostly spirits by having strange rapping sounds manifest in their presence. Their abilities gave birth to a phenomenon/movement that would be known as Spiritualism. Later in life the sisters admitted they were frauds (but they even recanted that eventually).
Living not far from Hydesville, NY were two brothers, Ira and William Davenport. In 1854, the brothers started making claims similar to that of the Fox Sisters. To prove their abilities they created The Spirit Cabinet and took their show on the road. The Spirit Cabinet was a large rectangular wooden cabinet that rested upon two saw horses. This allowed the audience to view the cabinet from underneath. There was room inside for each brother to sit at opposite ends of the cabinet. I believe there was also room in between them as well for a spectator to sit if the routine called for that.  The basic effect was that the two brothers would be tied to the seats within the cabinet by members of the audience. A number of instruments, like bells and tambourines were placed in between them. The doors of the cabinet were closed to allow 'spirit darkness' and the manifestations would begin, the bells would ring, rapping could be heard and the tambourines would play.

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.