Showing posts with label Ken Klosterman. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Ken Klosterman. Show all posts

Thursday, October 22, 2020

Ken Klosterman Has Died


Ken Klosterman Has Died.

This is a sad day. Ken Klosterman curator/owner of the Salon de Magie has passed on. He was an avid collector even later in life. He has some incredible pieces in his collection. But mostly, I have to say, Ken was a super nice guy. I remember visiting him and spending the day with him at the farm/complex. It was a most enjoyable visit. I think we left the museum some time in the early morning around 8am or 9am. So we'd been down there probably 12 hours, lol. It was awesome. Ken always seemed like a big kid to me. Just as excited for his latest piece no matter how big or small. He loved the history of magic. Sure going to miss him. RIP Ken Klosterman. More on Ken later.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

More Forgotten Illusions-The Decapitation

The Decapitation is an old illusion and I'm not 100% sure of the creator. I know the origin of the illusion dates back hundreds of years. In fact, it might be the very first illusion. It was known as the John the Baptist effect for a long time. The historical John the Baptist was beheaded by King Herod. By 1584, the beheaded John the Baptist was turned into an illusion. It appears in The Discovery of Witchcraft by Reginal Scot as 'The Decollation of John the Baptist". In the illustration there is a long table which splits down the middle. Two holes in the table allow one actor to lay upon the table and put their head through, thus looking like the beheaded body, and a second act sitting underneath the table and inserting his head through upwards, so as to look like the head. It was usually set upon a platter or plate that also split in half to allow it to surround the persons head. It was a crude illusion and probably used for church dramas.

If we move forward in time to the mid to late 1800s, we come upon The Decapitation Illusion of
which I'm referring. I know of at least two performers who presented it and given these two were big names in the art, there were likely others performing it as well. The two names are Alexander Herrmann and the other is J.N. Maskelyne. The version of the decapitation illusion they used involved a chair and a cabinet. Both items were made to look like ordinary furniture. The cabinet had glass doors in the front and was filled with bottles and plates. The chair just looked like an apolstered chair. In the effect, a person reclining in the chair would have their head removed and the severed head would be set upon the top of the cabinet. The beheaded body could still move its arms and legs with no problem. The head could smile and talk. I imagine for the Victorian Era audiences this was quite a remarkable and yet grisly illusion.

I saw one at the Salon deMagie, which is Ken Klosterman's wonderful collection of magic artifacts. I think the chair may have belonged to Alexander Herrmann to be honest. I also have a feeling this same chair and cabinet combo may have also been on display at the now burnt down Houdini Museum in Niagra Falls.

The method is really quite remarkable and the workmanship that went into building these things is stellar. Below are two photos from my visit to the Salon de Magie and you can see the Chair and the Cabinet used in The Decapitation Illusion. If you're wondering if the skull is part of the trick, I'm afraid I really don't know for sure.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Houdini's Rose Bush and GENII Magazine

I love Genii Magazine! It was the first magic magazine I ever purchased as a kid. I'm so grateful it continues to this day. Each month it's sort of a fight to see which of two articles I will read first, Jim Steinmeyer's Conjuring column or John Gaughan's Chamber of Secrets column. This month I read John Gaughan's article first and let me tell you what, fellow Houdini fans, your head will explode!

In the October 2014 issue of Genii, John's column is sub-titled "Houdini's Blooming Rose Bush and Flower Cone. The photo at the top of the page is the 'OTHER' Houdini Blooming Rosebush, which is in Ken Klosterman's collection. But trust me, that photo above is nothing compared to the photos in the magazine. In the article you'll see an exposed view of the inner workings of this magnificent piece of magical apparatus. And just as soon as you think you've seen it all, then comes the Flower Cone.

The Houdini Flower Cone was an illusion used in his final tour and can be seen in HOUDINI His Legend and His Magic by Doug Henning and Charles Reynolds on page 122. But in the book you only see a black and white image which is not exactly high resolution. In the Genii issue you'll see the actual cone and the flowers in full color!!! It's breathtaking and you must check it out, NOW!!!!!

Also, be sure to check out the great article on the Masters of Illusion Show! This is a touring show as well as a TV show. Every magician should be watching and or attending this production!

The Oct 2014 Issue of Genii Magazine

Friday, August 29, 2014

The Houdini Tramp Chairs

In the photo above, is an unusual item from the Salon De Magie, the collection of Ken Klosterman. I'm not sure of the origins, as far as where Ken got this, but he is very thorough in his documenting items that he puts in his collection, so I have no doubt it's authentic. My guess is that it's a challenge that Houdini received. I do know it's featured in his book Salon De Magie, unfortunately, it's one of the few books I do not have. In the photo above, you'll need to excuse the leather device underneath the chair and the orange/red box sitting on the chair, as they are not part of the Tramp Chair.

I did some general research on this type of chair and they were basically made in small jails when there was no space for extra prisoners. These could sit in a hallway or outside the cells and still contain a prisoner because they would be handcuffed to the chair. I have a feeling the neck collar was added just for Houdini, and for all I know, it may have been added BY Houdini.

The was this would look in performance or in challenge performance is Houdini would have both wrists handcuffed to the chair section and his neck would be put in the neck collar and locked up. This would prevent Houdini from bending down, so he couldn't use a key in his teeth. He also would be unable to lift a hand to help undo either the neck collar or the other hand. At least this is how it would appear by the audience. Whether he did this in full view or behind a cabinet I do not know, though my guess is with this particular device he probably presented it behind some sort of curtain.

His brother Hardeen also encountered a Tramp Chair which was dubbed the Maine Tramp Chair. This is a very different device. The Maine Tramp Chair is like a portable jail cell, or a chair on wheels surrounded by a jail cell. It's a very strange relic from the 19th Century. Hardeen successfully escaped from one of these at the Bijou Theatre in Bangor Maine, in 11 minutes 54 seconds.

Houdini also claimed to have escaped from a Maine Tramp Chair in Boston, but he called his a 'Witches Chair'. For historical purposes, there was something called a 'witches chair' but it was not the same as the Maine Tramp Chair, it was a wooden chair with spikes embedded in the seat and back cushion so as to cause the sitter extreme pain. I think that Houdini's Witches Chair however, was not this, but in fact was another Maine Tramp Chair or one similar. The description of the Maine Tramp Chair can be found in Houdini's Magic & Escapes by Walter Gibson.

Maine Tramp Chair
You can check out ALL the various articles from 30 Days of Houdini HERE!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

The Great Lafayette on TV

One of my favorite articles, from this blog, was called Beauty and Lafayette. It's the story of a magician and his dog and the tragedy that ends the magician's life. It's one of my favorite stories in the history of magic because it has so many interesting layers to it.

The TV show Mysteries At The Museum has done a piece on Lafayette. I don't know when it was done originally, I just heard about it. They share the story, rather briefly, of Lafayette's death and the amazing thing that happened afterwards. The fellow doing the interview is David Stahl, who just so happens to be on the cover of the December 2013 MAGIC Magazine. And you need to read the article about David because along with being a successful performer he is also a collector. There is a wonderful story about a 'chance encounter' related to Lafayette that is a must read within his MAGIC Magazine article.

Now, enjoy the video from the show Mysteries At The Museum.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Adelaide Herrmann and the 1926 Fire

Warehouse on 46St NYC
This is a story I had read about in different books over the years, but always in snippets. I never quite knew the whole story and now thanks to the publication of Adelaide Herrmann's Memoirs, I've got more information. But I'm also going back to other sources to pull out the various discussions of the event because other historical figures get involved.

Adelaide Herrmann was the widow of Alexander Herrmann, known as Herrmann The Great. After Alexander died in their traincar in December of 1896, Adelaide decided to take a version of their show out. She chose Alexander's nephew Leon to fill the male role and she sent for him in Europe.
They toured together for three seasons until personality clashes caused them to part ways.

Adelaide had inherited all of the properties from the original Herrmann the Great show and these were stored in a warehouse near 37th St in New York City.  However, Mrs. Herrmann had been notified that the warehouse building that held all her equipment was due to be demolished and she would need to find a new location. The new warehouse was at 611 46th Street NYC.  Along with all the props, costumes, scenery, and illusions were also all of Adelaide's animals that she used during her 'Noah's Ark' routine.

On the morning of September 7th, 1926, an explosion occurred at the warehouse and the building was engulfed in flames. All 200 animals perished in the fire, along with an animal trainer and the majority of the Herrmann props. Apparently, one crate remained unharmed but was later broken into by thieves so nothing remained of the Herrmann legacy.

What caused the fire? The New York Times reported that an alcohol still, or several stills, hidden on the roof of the warehouse had exploded causing the fire.

It would seem that Adelaide Herrmann's show business career was over. However, a number of professional performers came to her aid. Among them was the President of the Society of American Magicians, Harry Houdini, who donated a Noah's Ark Illusion to replace the one that had been destroyed by fire. Harry Blackstone Sr. also helped Mrs. Herrmann by donating equipment. She quickly put together a new act and was up and running by October 1926.

Though the majority of the props owned and used by the Herrmann's had been destroyed in the Sept 7th warehouse fire, some props still remain today in private collections. Among the props that still exist are a Pistol used by Alexander Herrmann to vanish rings and a pair of Rapping Hands, both in the collection of Ray Goulet. Also Ken Klosterman has a center table that belonged to Herrmann, and the magic wand that used by Alexander Herrmann, which once was owned by Houdini, is now in the Copperfield collection. There may be other props scattered among collectors but those are a few I'm aware of.

Below is a photo of the location of the 611 46th Street warehouse. You'll see today it still remains a shell of it's former self. However, at the top of the page is a photo of 609 46th Street,  a warehouse that has been there since 1879 and this is very likely exactly what Adelaide Herrmann's warehouse once looked like. One other note, this location is walking distance from the pier where the USS Intrepid is docked and also where one of the NASA Space Shuttles now sits on display.
Location of Adelaide Herrmann's Warehouse & Fire

Milbourne Christopher, The Illustrated History of Magic
M-U-M Magazine, March 1981, article 'Ladies of the Hall of Fame' by Colette Cozean
Genii Magazine August 2000, article 'Adelaide Herrmann' by James Hamilton
M-U-M Magazine, May 2011, article 'Adelaide Herrmann & The SAM' by Margaret Steele
Frank Dudgeon with Ann Goulet, RAY GOULET Recollections of a Renaissance Man
Adelaide Herrmann & Margaret Steele, Adelaide Herrmann Queen of Magic, Memoirs

Friday, May 4, 2012

Politics, Magic and a Wooden Chest

Imagine for a moment that President Barack Obama decides the only way to solve the crisis in Afghanistan is to send David Copperfield there to put on a show and demonstrate that American Magic is stronger than anything the Taliban have to offer. Sounds ridiculous doesn't it? Especially given the political climate today with the NSA, IRS, and Secret Service prostitution scandal and all the other various scandals. Frivolous spending is being scrutinized by politicians and the public alike.

But in 1856, this is essentially what happened. Not with the US, but with France. The French Government called upon recently retired magician, Jean Eugene Robert-Houdin, to travel to the country of Algeria. The government of France was trying to prevent a conflict between themselves and a religious sect called the Marabouts. These Marabouts were thought of as wonder workers and were trying to influence the local Arab tribes to break from France. So the French Government thought, 'why not send Robert-Houdin down there and show them that our magic is far superior to anything the marabouts have to offer'.

Again, think about that. Imagine this conversation, "Hey Penn & Teller, would you mind going to Syria and doing your Bullet Catch to help calm the hostilities there?"  That is basically what Robert-Houdin was asked to do. Crazy, wild, wacky? Yes, but read on...

Don't think that Robert-Houdin only met with the Marabouts either. He went straight to the theatre and put on his show! All the typical magic that he was famous for, but with one unusual addition. He walked to the front of the stage and made the bold claim that he would remove the strength from any warrior present. He asked for a volunteer and he quickly got a male from the audience. Robert-Houdin requested the young man to lift a small wooden chest that was on the floor. With very little effort, the Algerian man raised the wooden box off the ground.

Now, Robert-Houdin proclaimed he would rob the man of his strength. He asked the man to once again lift the box. But this time, the man struggles, he even falls to his knees and screams out. Then he let go of the wooden box and runs off the stage and out the theatre. I can just imagine the pandemonium that must have broke out following this. Needless to say, 'Conflict Averted'.

A wonderful story. Somewhat hard to believe but apparently true. If it happened today, the media would be having a field day with this, and not in a good way. But in 1856, it was a huge victory for the French Govt. Robert-Houdin was a hero, but rather than bask in his celebrity, he returned to retirement to work on scientific inventions and experiments with electricity.

Amazingly, the wooden box, which Robert-Houdin called his "Light & Heavy Chest" still survives. Today it is in the collection of Ken Klosterman and his Salon De Magie. It is a remarkable piece of history and unbelievably it still works today. Though I believe that Ken had it refurbished and tweaked the method slightly. But the fact that it remains is incredible. The "Light & Heavy Chest" has made appearances on a number of TV Specials about Magic History and appeared at more than a couple magic conventions as well. It's basically one of those pieces that has become legendary. Below is a photo of the wonderfully preserved Robert-Houdin Light & Heavy Chest. I would imagine it's the crown jewel in Ken's collection and he knows all about the history of the chest and who owned it after Robert-Houdin and he loves to share the tale of how it arrived in the Salon De Magie!

As I mentioned in a previous blog, Ken Klosterman is writing a monthly column in M-U-M Magazine (which you get as a member of the Society of American Magicians). He'll be featuring different pieces from his extensive collection. Please check it out because it is sure to be great.

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.