Showing posts with label Grave. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Grave. Show all posts

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Continued Clean-up of Robert Heller's Grave

I just received a note from Tony Selletti about a young man, Ken Biddle, from Philadelaphia who, along with his wife, have begun some additional clean-up of Robert Heller's grave. This has been a long project. I first started a push a few years back to help clean-up the grave. Thankfully, the Friends of Mt. Moriah who have been periodically cleaning up this abandoned graveyard, eventually found their way to Heller's grave and uncovered it. Let's take a look back at some of these images from Heller's site.

This first image was one was what we were up against. Underneath this brush and mix of twisted vines was Heller's grave. It sure appears to be a daunting task from the looks of it.

Next we have the first image of the grave in the 21st Century. I was told it was laying down flat on the ground when they discovered it.  This image comes from Ed Snyder.

Since the initial rediscovery of the grave, someone cleaned up the gravestone itself. Then we come to the photos I received from Tony Selletti taken by Ken Biddle. And finally, Ken standing next to Heller's grave. I'm guessing this last shot was taken before they started their work on the site as the photo above shows the area more open.

In 1878 Robert Heller died unexpectedly in Philadelphia. He was buried a few days later in Machpelah Cemetary in Philadelphia. But a few years after he was buried, all the graves in that graveyard were dug up and relocated to other locations. Thus, the search was on to find the grave of one of the great 19th Century magicians. Houdini located the grave in 1910 and the photo at the top of the page is Houdini standing near the grave.

Thankfully through the hard work of volunteers like the Friends of Mount Moriah and others, the grave of Heller and the entire cemetery is getting a gradual make-over. If you would like to contribute to the cause or be part of a future clean-up, you can click the Friends of Mount Moriah link and you can find out more information on how to help.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Wyman the Wizard's Final Resting Place

When last I wrote about Wyman the Wizard, I mentioned that I had discovered the cemetery but had yet to visit it. Then fellow Magic Detective Gary Hunt contacted me to confirm that the cemetery I discovered was indeed correct. Well, Gary has beaten me to the cemetery and recently sent me some fantastic photos of Wyman's grave.

He is buried in Oak Grove Cemetery in Fall River Mass. His gravestone is quite weathered as can be seen in the photo. In a few years it will be totally unreadable.

I first became interested in Wyman when I found out he lived in Washington D.C. for a period of time. He also performed for several US Presidents including Abraham Lincoln. But one of the most fascinating things about Wyman is that many magic historians from the early 20th Century credit Wyman for being the most financially successful magician of his time.

I found an unusual mention of Wyman in the Feb 1995 issue of MUM. It's from a column called 'Significant Events in Philadelphia Magic History'. Here is what it says, "July 1881, John Wyman walks out of the shop of Philadephia magic dealer Thomas Yost and says, 'You will not see me again. This is the last of Wyman.' Several days later on July 28th, Wyman dies."  The original quote came from an article by Frederick Eugene Powell that appeared in the August 1927 issue of The Sphinx. According to Powell, Wyman was not ill at the time, but apparently had some sort of premonition that his end was near, and it was.

Incidentally, Gary Hunt pointed out to me that John Wyman is buried with his wife Jane Wyman who appeared early on as a magician along with her husband. In fact, she received top billing as The Enchantress or Lady Magician and he performed as a Ventriloquist. Magic history never ceases to amaze me and continues to deliver incredible treasures of information!

Big Thanks go out to Gary Hunt for providing the grave photos!

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Heller, Houdini and more

Photo taken during Houdini's visit to the grave in 1910

My fascination with Robert Heller began with Houdini. Specifically, the image of Houdini next to Heller's grave. Houdini referred to Heller in his Conjurer's Monthly Magazine, as "the most versatile magician who ever lived." Had it not been for Houdini, the whereabouts of Heller's grave would be likely be lost forever because it was Houdini who had rediscovered the grave.

When I began to research Heller back in 2011, I had no idea I would become so fascinated by the man. He is certainly an interesting character. I had done a ton of research on him and thought I had uncovered about all there was to uncover, but it turns out I was very wrong. I came across a wealth of new material this weekend on Heller, including playbills and posters and some images and illustrations that I'm not sure have seen the light of day for a very long time. So I will be delving back into the life of William Henry Palmer aka Robert Heller, to see what new mysteries and insight can be uncovered. In the mean time, I hope you enjoy the new photo of the Heller grave, taken in 1910, very possibly by Houdini. And enjoy the poster below, it's a beauty. All three images come from a Houdini scrapbook.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

HELP NEEDED- Magician's Grave Photos

Grave of Compars Herrmann
I am reaching out and seeking help to find photos of graves of our dearly departed magicians. I have been fortunate in the past to receive photos from folks like the photo above of Compars Herrmann's Grave which I received from Heinz K├Ânig. 

Usually I try to write a bio about the magician and then show the grave photo. All graves that I do find are listed at my other blog,    I wanted to have a central location so that anyone wanting to visit the graves could look up their location and find where the grave was easily. However, I hardly have a large database of graves. I think there are about 60 graves and their locations listed on the site.

The person doesn't have to be a magician but does need to be connected to magic. For example, I have a great photo of Margery the Medium's grave that I received from Norman Bigelow. Margery was not a magician, but she certainly was connected to magic via Houdini. And Houdini had a lot of associates who could easily fall in that category, like Jim Collins, Rose Mackenberg, Daisy White, Franz Kukol and James Vickory.

If you have a photo you'd be willing to share, I'll gladly put it up with your permission. Also, if you know where the particular grave is in the photo, let me know that as well.  You can contact me at
Anna Eva Fay's Grave

Sunday, April 1, 2012

The Magicians Gravesite Fund

Gravestone of Carter the Great, Illusionist Charles Carter*
As many of my readers known, I'm very interested in locating the graves of our compeers in the art of magic and documenting the location of the graves and trying to keep the graves in decent order. Unfortunately for me, the one grave I put a lot of effort into organizing the clean-up (Robert Heller's grave) which fell through when I got terribly sick on the day of the clean-up. There are additional issues with these clean-ups, the main one being where they are located. In my case, I don't live close to the Heller grave so it's not like I can stop by anytime I want.

Well, I was thrilled to discover that I was not alone in this quest. Richie Magic and his wife Barbara from NYC have been searching out these old grave sites as well. In fact, they've been working with the SAM Parent Assembly #1 to set up a fund for the upkeep and in some cases restoration of various grave sites. In the NY area there are a lot of magic graves. Houdini of course is the most famous and the work on that grave was actually done by the Houdini Museum folks. But there are other graves in NY, like Alexander and Adelaide Herrmann, Bess Houdini, Signor Blitz, Washington Irving Bishop and many others.
Grave of Herrmann The Great*

*The two grave photos above were taken by Richie and Barbara Magic!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Upcoming Articles and other stuff

In the new few days & weeks, I'll be posting a bunch of new stuff. I've got an article coming on the magic used during the Civil War which is proving to be a lot of fun to research. In September I'll have a biographical piece on Walter Truman Best, better known as MARO Prince of Magic. Also coming is a biographical piece on Anna Eva Fay. Plus, there may just be one or two new Houdini articles, but you'll have to wait for those.
Over at my DeadConjurers blog, I just added the graves of Samri Baldwin, the White Mahatma and Maro, Prince of Magic. Please go over and check those out. I believe most of the graves on that blog also show the location of the grave. There are a few exceptions because at least three people listed over there were buried at Sea, so no grave exists.

I'm trying to get together a group of volunteer magicians to help with the clean-up of the grave of Robert Heller in Philadelphia. I've contacted a woman who is a member of the Friends of Mt. Moriah Cemetery, and she is helping me with that. If you are in the Philadelphia area or anywhere nearby and you might be interested in donating your time in the clean-up of the grave/grounds please contact me at I'll give more details as they come.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Chung Ling Soo's House

According to the The Glorious Deception, by Jim Steinmeyer, he gives an address for the house that William Ellsworth Robinson owned when he lived in London. In the back yard is his workshop. I have no photo of the workshop, but I do have a picture of the house and WOW what a house it is! I'm really glad it's this house too because most of the houses on this street are obstructed from view by the many trees and shrubs. Not to say that this house has a clear view but you can make it out, many of the other homes can't be seen at all due to the trees. The book says that he lived in a 3 story mansion and indeed that is exactly what we have here, at the exact address from the book.

As you may know, William Ellsworth Robinson was the real name for the Chinese Conjurer Chung Ling Soo. He was American, not Chinese. On March 23rd, 1918 while performing the dangerous Bullet Catching Feat on the stage at the Wood Green Empire Theatre in London, Soo was shot to death. There was a great deal of controversy following the death, some people thought it was murder, others thought it might be a clever method of suicide. But in the end, a faulty gimmicked rifle seemed to reveal the truth, it was an accident. Houdini at one time wanted to perform the Bullet Catching Feat and was persuaded not to by the beloved Dean of Magicians Harry Kellar. Houdini listened to Kellar and decided not to attempt the stunt. The Bullet Catch has a history of killing it's performers. Some 12 people have died presenting this stunt and so far only Penn & Teller have presented it on a continuous basis without being harmed.

Here is a photo of the Wood Green Empire Theatre in London. Sadly, the only thing that remains of the theatre is the facade. The theatre itself was turned into a Television studio in the 1950s and then in the 60s it was demolished to make way for a parking garage and stores. There must be a law in England that says if you have an old theatre it must be torn down to make way for a freaking parking garage! That's frustrating to hear and to continually find out. The building that says 'Halifax' on it is the site of the Wood Green Empire.

I will say that for a magician any books on Chung Ling Soo are required reading. He worked for both Alexander Herrmann and Harry Kellar. He was such an iconic performer that he is the only REAL magician mentioned in the movie 'The Prestige' with Christian Bale and Hugh Jackman. His posters today are some of the most highly prized. I'll be focusing on one of his illusion creations in a later blog to show you his creativity.

Soo/Robinson is buried in East Sheen Cemetery, Section B, grave number 219/220/221 London. Here is a photo of the cemetery entrance. Here is a picture of the grave from Genii Magazine courtesy of
IF you have a color photo of the grave, would you please send it to me so that I can post it on the blog. Thanks!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Houdini Grave Videos

You never know what you'll turn up when doing research. I found this site which is filled with online video clips of Houdini's Grave. Actually, one of these clips caused me to head in a new direction on research (can't say what that is yet). The very first clip is John Cox from the famous and fantastic blog. It's kind of funny watching the various videos because some of the people who are visiting are either magicians or Houdini fans and know their stuff while others are not too knowledgeable. Still, I found it interesting. Also, there is a video there of a look inside an old BF Keith's Theatre in Flushing NY. It's really wild, kind of sad also at the same time. That video has nothing to do with Houdini that I know of, it just so happens to be listed on this site.

You'll find out if you didn't already know that Bess has a gravestone with Houdini but she is not there. She was Catholic and thus not buried in the Jewish cemetery. She is buried at Gate of Heaven Cemetery in Hawthorne NY. Harry Houdini had two birthdates and two places he was born, but Bess out did him because she has two tombstones! (is that morbid? sorry)

Just a little historical note, not far from Houdini's grave in Machpelah Cemetery is the grave of magician Signor Blitz. He was such a popular magician that upwards of 13 other performers were traveling the country and using his name and some were using his promotional material. Blitz wrote his own autobiography which is called ‘Fifty Years In the Magic Circle". There is a famous exchange between Blitz and President Lincoln. Lincoln was present during a show Blitz was doing for a group of children, among the children was Tad Lincoln. Lincoln asked Blitz how many children he has made happy. Blitz replied that it must be thousands. President Lincoln follows with "I fear that I have made thousands and tens of thousands unhappy." This exchange took place as the Battle of Gettysburg was being fought.

Friday, December 3, 2010

The grave of Hofzinser

Johann N. Hofzinser
Vienna, Austria
photo courtesy Magic Christian
I was just thinking that in some way Houdini is like a gateway drug. You get interested in magic because of him and then you get hooked and move on to bigger things! One of his fascinations was visiting the graves of famous and not so famous magicians. Somewhere along the line this too became an interest for me. So much so that I started collecting images of these famous graves. They are not always the easiest things to find. The photo above is the grave of one of the GREATS! He came years before the golden age of magic. This is the grave of Johann Nepomuk Hofzinser (1806-1875) and he was a great Viennese Magician. He has been referred to as the most important card conjuror of all times. He was also one of the early Salon performers and as I suspected after so much of my research on Robert-Houdin, he was probably just as influential in Austria as R-H was in Paris. Both of their contributions to magic are still felt today!

Hofzinser was a cousin of Ludwig Dobler. Dai Vernon held  Hofzinser in high regard. He even gave one of his sons the middle name of Nepamuk. Hofzinser’s card work lives on today in many ways. His effects are still popular as are his sleights and even a number of his gimmicks. In fact, even I use one of his forces and spread cull. The charming ‘Everywhere and Nowhere’ card routine is Hofzinser’s and I’m wondering if it wasn’t first called “To Think and Forget”. One famous piece of magical apparatus that I am familiar with was called ‘The Rose Mirror’. I have seen the Rose Mirror in person as it is in the collection of Ken Klosterman. There are a number of Hofzinser’s apparatus pieces in the collection as a matter of fact. His ‘ink to goldfish’ is there as well.

As I continue down the road researching Victorian magic, I look forward to learning more about Johann Hofzinser. By the way, the photo above and much of the biographical information here is courtesy of Magic Christian who gave me permission to use the above photo. Please visit his website at to learn more about this wonderful Viennese magician. Ottokar Fischer wrote two books on Hofzinser which were translated into english by S.H. Sharpe which is no doubt how much of his card magic survived. Magic Christian has also written a couple books on the card magic of Hofzinser. For those that might not have these books, try ‘Greater Magic’ as there are several references to Hofzinser in the pages of that book.

The grave is located at the Vienna Central Cemetery, Group 4, Row 2, Tomb 16
J.N.Hofzinser, Rest in Peace.

(most of this is a reprint from a previous blog post I did at