Showing posts with label Magic Detective Podcast. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Magic Detective Podcast. Show all posts

Friday, May 3, 2024

The Magic Detective Podcast Breaks the 50,000 Mark


Breaking 50,000 downloads is quite the milestone for this little podcast. And I am grateful beyond words. Yet, I'd like to make it to 100,000 FASTER than it took to get to 50,000. A lot of the blame lies with me not getting out episodes regularly. I get them out, but not on a very consistent schedule. Various reasons, which usually boils down to work taking over. If I had a 9-5 job, I could do the podcast regularly. But I'm a self employed magician and that means I'm doing most everything myself. It's that old saying, Show Business is made up of 2 parts, show and business. The show is such a tiny part of things, it's the business stuff that take the majority of the time. And when it consumes my time, the podcast gets put on the backburner.

But even though, I've not had a new episode since February, the podcast still shot past 50,000. This is due to new listeners coming on board all the time. I just discovered a had a couple more 5 Star ApplePodcast Reviews, again, I am so grateful for those!

In honor of the 50,000 downloads, I've got a contest for you. This one is different than the one which will be on Episode 100. Today, May 3rd is the birthday of an iconic magician. What was this iconic magicians middle name?  Send your answers to:  put the words: 50,000 Contest in the subject line. Include your name, address (in chase you win) and the ANSWER to the question. I'll draw a winner from among the entries. OH, and the winner will receive a piece of authentic magic memorabilia.

Saturday, May 27, 2023

The Magic Detective T-Shirt Can Be Yours...


Well, after much delay (on my part) the Official Magic Detective T-Shirts are available to purchase. I'm very excited to be able to offer these to my readers of the blog and listeners of the podcast. I teamed up with a fellow who knows a great deal about the printing business and does an excellent job in his branding business, Billy Diamond from Branding for Entertainers. He will be printing these awesome looking tees. 

I think this is just the first t-shirt of a series. I'm considering doing a run of my artwork on t-shirts. And I may be offering other 'swag' down the road. For now, your purchase of the shirt helps me to cover the cost of producing the podcast as well as helps me add more books to the library for future podcasts!

Here is the link for your own Magic Detective T-shirt

Tuesday, December 27, 2022

Charles Dickens: The Amateur Conjurer Corrected


Episode 86 of The Magic Detective Podcast was on Charles Dickens and the fact he was an amateur magician. I will admit to being a bit rushed to get that episode out. I wanted to have it out before Christmas Eve and I did, but only by an hour or so. And because of that, it looks like I made a few errors.

Ian Keeble, who I mentioned is an authority on Dickens as a Conjurer, and is the author of the book, Charles Dickens Magician: Conjuring in Life, Letters, and Literature, reached out to me in regards to my podcast on Dickens. He was kind enough to point out a few errors I had made and provided the background and reasoning behind the mistakes. Basically, I was not the first person to make these mistakes, they were mistakes magic historians and writers made before me, and I just passed them along.

I'm going to attempt to re-record the entire episode with the correct information. However, if I'm not able to do it without loosing the stats from those who already listened, then I'll have to pass on it. I'll be contacting my host company to see what can be done.

In the mean time, for historical accuracy, I'm putting the errors and corrections here.

1. The supposed connection between Ramo Samee, Dickens, Nicholas Nickleby and Hull in 1838 was first made in the magical press by Frank Staff in The Magic Circular in 1929 (the original 'spot' was made in The Dickensian, 8 years previously). It was picked up by JB Findlay in Charles Dickens and his Magic (1962) and also by Eddie Dawes in The Great Illusionists (1979). It was actually Trevor Dawson in his book Charles Dickens: Conjurer, Mesmerist and Showman, 2012, that demonstrated Dickens was in London at the time (which I have also checked out). So a relatively recent discovery that it is highly unlikely that Samee played any part in Dickens taking up magic.


2. How Clarke, in Annals of Conjuring, came up with Eugene Bosco as the name of the magician Dickens saw in France in 1854 is not known. Clarke did admit that he wasn't completely sure it was him. It was, ironically (given his error above), Frank Staff who cracked the name as being Alfred de Caston in another article in The Magic Circular in 1931. I have subsequently compared what de Caston did according to Dickens (he gives a very accurate description of his repertoire) with his tricks from other sources; and it is quite clear that it was de Caston.


3. The article which was supposedly written by Dickens about Robert-Houdin was called 'Out-Conjuring Conjurers'. It appeared in Household Words, vol. XIX, no. 472, 9 April, 1859 and was a review of Robert-Houdin's Memoirs. The review came out before the English edition was published, so the reviewer must have read it in French. I think the first assumption that the article was by Dickens was made by Will Goldston in Goldston's Magical Quarterly in 1934. The article you probably saw was from The Sphinx, November 1938: this reproduced parts of the article with the heading 'About Robert Houdin by Charles Dickens'. 


This myth has long been sustained, including by Ricky Jay (Celebrations of Curious Characters) and Jim Steinmeyer (Hiding the Elephant) - so you are in good company! The true author was actually first revealed in the magic press by Stephen Tigner in his short-lived The Journal of Magic History (1979 - the revelation was made in an undated supplement). No magic historian (Jay actually references the original Tigner article, but apparently didn't see the subsequent supplement) seems to have spotted that, including Trevor Dawson in his 2012 book Charles Dickens: Conjurer, Mesmerist and Showman. Dawson incorrectly claims that Dickens didn't only write this article on Robert-Houdin; but also many other articles which have magic references in them. In reality Dickens didn't write any article directly about magic; although he wrote two or three about spiritualism. He had a particular dislike of Daniel Dunglas Home.


'Out-Conjuring Conjurers' was actually written by the Reverend Edmund Saul Dixon. If you read the article, it's in fact pretty boring: doesn't have any of the flair of Dickens' writing so prevalent in his own articles.

And there you have it. The errors and the corrections. I am so grateful that Mr. Keeble took the time to explain all this. If I had more time when writing my article and IF I had Ian's book in hand, which I don't have, I likely wouldn't have made as many of the mistakes.  One thing I can say is that information that appears in The Sphinx magazine is often wrong. I find this time and again when researching a particular subject. And because that info is wrong, much of what is in David Price's book is wrong. This then leads to a detour in the research, just to discover the correct information.  But we are all human, and we make mistakes. And frankly, I love the research, so even though the source material was incorrect, it was still great fun to work on. And It's nice when the record is corrected for future researchers, so thank you again Ian Keeble. 

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Special HOUDINI Playlist

I didn't realize it until just last night, but you can actually set up your podcasts by a playlist, just like you can with music players. With that in mind, here is a sample playlist with all the episodes featuring Houdini. In truth, I could have included a couple other episodes that he is also featured in, but these currently make up the core of the Houdini episodes. And I'm taking it one step further. I'm embedding the episodes in the following order so you can listen to them from right here!

BTW: the additional episodes where Houdini is mentioned include the Samri Baldwin Episode, The T.Nelson Downs Episode & the Raymond Episode. I did not put them on the playlist.

ep  5  Early Years
ep 32 Martin Beck
ep 01 The section on Houdini’t trip to Germany 1900
ep 03 The section on Queen Victoria’s Dress 
ep 35 Milk Can
ep 10 Harry Kellar
ep 34 Protege
ep 33 Evanion
ep 26 Minerva
ep 22 Anna Eva Fay
ep 50 Men Who Fooled Houdini
ep 46 Radio Illusion
ep 7   Houdini & Congress
ep 36 His Own Words
ep 6   Final Days

Just the Portion on Houdini's Trip to Germany 1900...starts at 13:35 into the podcast

Just the Portion on Queen Victoria's Dress.....begins at 21:30 into the podcast

Thursday, December 26, 2019

Karl Germain The Wizard

Today I get to talk about one of my favorite magicians of all time. I became fascinated with this gentlemen when I first saw one of his breathtaking posters (see above). It was hanging in the American Museum of Magic years ago and I was awe struck. The poster was tall, a 3 sheet poster, with an image of a witch and black cat leaning over a fire. The smoke from the fire revealed an image of Germain who himself, was conjuring a spirit. And across the top of the poster the words, GERMAIN The Wizard. I read what little I could find on Germain in books, and then learned there were two biographies written on Germain, but a the time they were long out of print. When I finally was able to get a copy of them, I read them cover to cover. Germain truly seemed like a real wizard. I think you too will become fascinated by Germain just as I did, after reading this article. 

Our subject was born Charles Mattmueller on Feb 12, 1878 in Cleveland Ohio. Technically he should be Charles Mattmueller Jr. as his father was  also Charles Mattmueller. David Price’s book, MAGIC A Pictorial History of Conjurers in the Theatre, explains The name Karl came about during his school years when several other boys in his class also had the name Charles. The teacher decided this Charles would be called Karl. It must have pleased young Karl Mattmueller because he kept the name. 

He became interested in magic in his youth, but I’m not sure what the specific event was that peaked his curiosity. I have a feeling that his interest in magic came directly from his father, who had seen magicians in his native Germany and often told young Karl about the feats he had witnessed. Also, I know young Karl had a copy of Modern Magic by Professor Hoffmann which was given to him by his father when he was 14. At age 15, in 1893, he sketched out a design for a possible poster inside his copy of Modern Magic, on a blank page no doubt. His name in the design  is listed as Chas. Mattmueller. The following year he would create another sketch for a potential advertising piece but this time his name was listed as Karl Mattmueller-Magician. 

Young Karl’s early magic career, in fact, his entire magic career, would be a family affair. Census records from the time list his father as being a machinist and also working in the picture framing business. He was clearly a skilled craftsman. Karl’s father would make many of the props that Karl would use in his show. Another family member would be a regular part of Karl’s show and that was his sister Ida. She would act as assistant and would participate in his mind reading experiments. More on both of them later.

He would have several stage names before settling upon the best one. First he was Charles Mattmueller, then 
Karl Mattmueller, then for a time he went by the stage name Alexander, but upon being selected to perform for the Central Lyceum Bureau in 1899, he chose the name Germaine. Actually the chose the name GERMAIN without the ‘e’, but due to an error by a printing company, he became Germain with an e at the end. They didn’t have spellcheck back then sadly. 

Now before I can get into his magic, I must point out something that I read in several different articles and books on Germain. When describing his act, many people use the word ‘artistic.’ The first time I read it was in David Price’s book, and then I also saw it in The Annals of Conjuring book. In several magazine articles on Germain, they also use the word ‘artistic’ to describe him. On the surface it might seem that these various magic authors are simply being lazy and copying each other, which happens a lot in magic literature. But having looked over the material in Germain’s show, and seen photos of the incredible props, plus having seen a number of them in person, I can attest to the fact that ARTISTIC is probably the perfect word to describe Karl Germaine.

Beyond the look of his props, why do so many say Germain was artistic. I truly believe it was because he was highly creative, presented many of his own original creations. When he did regular magic routines, he always added something to the routine to make them unique to him. His patter was different from the standard performer of the time. Of course, he dressed immaculately, as did his on stage assistants. And this appears to be the case from the very start of his career right up to the end.

Germain’s bread and butter seems to be the Lyceum and Chautauqua circuits. As mentioned he began in 1899 and continued for several years. In the book, Germain the Wizard and His Legerdermain by Stuart Cramer, he shares the story of an event that took place in July of that year. The Germain company was onboard a train heading for their next destination. They were part of a larger troupe of performers. Germain was there with his sister Ida. Unknown to the passengers, a cargo train off in the distance was on the same track as the passenger train. No one knew, and the sudden realization did not prevent a disaster from happening. The two trains collided, sending various cars crashing, and some tipping off the tracks. The passenger car that Germain and his fellow performers were on, was further down the line but still suffered from the impact. The result was that their car came to an abrupt stop and tilted at an angle off the tracks. No one was hurt, though everyone was very shaken up. 

After helping other passengers out of the wrecked cars, Germain realized it would be impossible for him to make his show unless he made other arrangements. I’m not even sure how they pulled this off but they were able to get a buggy to take them and their luggage and equipment to another train and booked passage just in time to make it to their destination. They also made it in time to do give their performance!

Another story from the Germain The Wizard and His Legerdermain book, tells of Germain’s appearance at the Opera House in Wheeling WV. The company was unaware that the entire area had flooded, but the organizers met Germain at station with a raft to bring them to the theatre to do the show! Unreal. 

If you’re wondering what kind of magic Germain did, well, he was capable of doing most anything. He had primarily stage or platform style tricks, but he kept a number of very deceptive close-up tricks on him at all times. He also excelled at mentalism, which included his sister Ida. And one of the bigger surprises for me was to discover that Germain also presented illusion magic, as in Grand Illusion. At this time period, Grand Illusion was really in it’s infancy, but there were some truly marvelous creations that came out of this period. One early illusion was called The Mystery of Malabar. The thinking behind this routine was brilliant. The effect was a two sided platform which was set up in front of the audience. A top went onto this two sided platform and then a basket similar in style to that of the famed hindu basket effect was placed on top of this platform. You could see above, below, and to the sides of this platform. Next, Germain put on a robe and mask or beard and climbed into the basket. Only seconds later, walking down the aisle in the audience was Karl Germain. He vanished from the basket and in impossible time, appeared at the back of the theatre! He wouldn’t be the first or last to present this type of effect, but his method was quite clever. 

Each year Germain added new an amazing mysteries to his show. Let’s take a moment to examine some of his other unique effects…

The Block. This is an incredible effect with a crazy method but completely original. From the perspective of the audience, this is what they see. There is a block of wood, probably about 12 inches long and maybe 2.5 inches square. This is handed out for examination. In addition is a wooden board, 16 inches long, twelve inches wide, and a quarter inch thick, which is also given out for inspection. Germain then took the block and held it against the board and mysteriously it passed right through. He then pulled it back out, and placed the block at another position on the board at a different angle and once again, the block passed through the board. He repeated it a third time. To the audience it appeared he could push the block through the examined board at any spot and it would pass through, like a knife going through butter.  The image of Germain passing the block through the board is just crazy. In it’s most basic form, this is a penetration effect, and there are many of them in magic. What makes this one so diabolical is the fact that the items are handed out beforehand. Also their appearance is quite organic, meaning they don’t look like magic props but rather normal pieces of scrap wood. They also don’t appear to leave a hole in the board once the block is  passed through. Keep in mind, I do not reveal methods on this podcast, but trust me the method is wild. In the book, CONJURING by Jim Steinmeyer, he has two effects of his own creation that are inspired by Germain’s Block trick, if you are interested.

Another incredible Germain effect is his Butterfly. Again, this was one of the early Germain photos that totally had me intrigued. Keep in mind, this is totally original. Here is the effect: Germain would tell the audience he was about to produce a somethingness out of nothingness. And then he reached up and produced a 14 inch silk. He continued to do this again, and again until he had a dozen or so of varying colors. All of this was done to patter. The dozen silk scarves were then rolled into a sort of ‘cocoon’ and suddenly the bundle of fabric sprung open to reveal a very large butterfly with fluttering wings. I don’t know the actual size of the butterfly but in images it looks to be approximately 3 feet wide. Very large. Once it was produced it was handed off to an assistant who carried it away. Sadly, it almost seems that the better approach would have been to have it float or fly away on it’s own!

Flowers have figured prominently in the acts of many magicians. The Kellar Flower Growth is a wonderful routine where two planters of dirt, eventually sprout two large bushes of flowers. Kellars routine used several tables and two large metal cones which were first showed empty. I have mentioned this in previous podcasts, there is a video of Nickolas Night presenting the Kellar Flower Growth on Youtube, it’s a must see! Oh, and the technique that is used in this video is an improvement suggested by none other than Karl Germain!

Germain’s personal favorite routine was his own Flower Growth. This was the creation of Karl and his father. You see, according to the book Germain the Wizard by Stuart Cramer, Karl’s father had seen a magician in Germany do a similar trick and it always stuck in his brain. So now father and son went about creating a version of their own. In fact, Germain would create several different flower productions before working on the actual Flower Growth idea.   It went through various renditions until the final version, the ultimate one was finally realized. This is how it appeared to the audience. On stage sits a gold Louis the 14th Style side table. It is away from the curtain, and has a clear view above and below the table. On a second table sits an empty flower pot. Germain shows the empty flower pot and proceeds to fill it with dirt. He carries the now full flower pot to the other table and picks up a fan that was resting on the table. Without any covering, no tubes, no curtains, Germain simply waves the fan in the direction of the flower pot. Almost immediately a small tiny green sprout is seen. Germain then continues to wave the fan and move or dance around the table. Gradually, the tiny sprout blooms and gets larger. As Germain continues his fan dance, the plant grows higher and higher until the audience sees large roses on the table. The plant grows to a height of several feet. Germain then takes a pair of shears and cuts off some roses at their stems and passes them out the members of the audience, thus proving he has just made a LIVE rosebush grow right before their very eyes.  

I have been very fortunate to see the Germain Flower Growth prop LIVE in person. It resides in the collection of Ken Klosterman. It is a thing of beauty. The elder Mattmueller hand made this table, with ornate carvings on angels on each leg of the table. The method is diabolical, there was nothing like it when it came out. Many have said it was superior to Kellar’s Flower Growth, at least, that is what I’ve read in a couple books. I swear I saw a video of it being presented online, but now I can’t seem to locate it anywhere. There are three Germain Flower Growths that exist, one , as I mentioned is in Ken Klosterman’s collection, another other is in the collection of David Copperfield, and a third earlier version is in the collection of TELLER.

There is another effect of Germain's that is purely his, and that is his Egyptian Water Bowl Mystery. I recently wrote about it on this blog, so here is a link to that article.

Earlier I mentioned Ida Mattmuellar. This was Karl’s younger sister. She was born in 1880 and thus was 2 years younger than Karl. She provided the music in the show by playing the piano, and served as an assistant to Karl since his earliest days as a magician. In his first tour in 1899, she is listed on the brochure, along with her photogragh, as Ida Germain. She is also singled out as helping him in his ‘Telepathy’ Act. She continued in this role until Karl was offered the chance to perform in England. 

In June 1906, Germain set sail for England. He arrived 7 days later, after an awful sea voyage which left him sea-sick the entire time. But he recovered quick enough and was soon performing. He would tour all over England and Ireland. Eventually he ended up in London where he appeared at the New Bedford Palace Theatre. Germain was very popular in London, as was magic in general. Many of the greats of that era where in town the same time as Germain, folks like Chung Ling Too, Houdini, Lafayette and more. 
In 1907, Houdini and Karl Germain were both in England. Germain, happened to run into Houdini at a banquet and decided he wanted to amaze his friend. He then proceeded to present his favorite pocket trick, the term that was used then for close-up magic. The trick was called The Spirit Writing On Cigarette Paper.  The effect was a blank piece of paper was pinned to the end of a pencil. The spectator (HOUDINI) was asked to name someone, and the signature of that person appeared on the previously blank paper. Houdini watched like a hawk, but in the end was amazed by the presentation.

The highlight of his time abroad was working at St. George’s Hall for Maskeylne and Devant. He was there for a quite a long run. By December 1907, he was back home in Cleveland…..after another LONG sea-sick filled ocean voyage.

On Feb 26th, 1908, Germain’s friend Edward Maro passed away from Typhoid Fever. You can learn all about Maro by listening to podcast ep#11. Maro’s real name was Walter Truman Best, and his wife Allie was abruptly left a widow. Germain did not find out about the death until after Best had been buried.

Allie Best asked Germain for help in dispersing her husbands show props. Germain agreed and headed north to Maronook, on the shores of Lake Lelanau, in Michigan. While going through the various props. Germain naturally got first dibs on things he wanted. He came away with Maro’s Meteroic Ribbon effect, and he came away with a very famous piece that had once belonged to Charles Bertram. And he almost came away with Allie Best! Apparently, that relationship did not last. But let me backtrack to the Charles Bertram item. This was Bertram’s Spirit Lock, that no one knows how it ended up with Maro, but here it was in Maro’s collection. Germain apparently tried to purchase it while he was in England a few years before but was unable. And now it was his. And as he always did, he made it his by creating a unique routine. He told the story of Dr. Faust who was in prison, this lock held the prison door shut. He held up a picture of a lock and then held his fingers as if they were a key. A shadow was cast on the picture of his fingers and as the shadow entered the lock, he turned his hand and the real lock sprang open. 

Thanks to an article in the Dec 2005 issue of MAGIC magazine by Tim Moore, he said no one knew what Bertrams routine was, nor did they know what Maro’s routine was.  So here was Germain, making this clever trick his own by creating a mystical and memorable story. 

Curiously at the conclusion of his tour in 1909, Germain gave what he called ‘His Farewell Performance’ at Marktinka’s theatre in NYC. FAREWELL PERFORMANCE???? It seems rather abrupt, and premature to say the least. 

However, in only a few months an event would happen to make him want to leave the stage for good. On Jan 30th, 1910, Ida Mattmueller died from a tumor on her spine. She had been in declining health ever since he returned from England a few years before. But now, her death left a huge void in his life. He began to reassess his priorities. The lure of the road and stardom no longer appealed to him  . The reality of the road was that it could be brutal and miserable more than it was good. And as far as stardom, despite the constant demand for his shows, he had not achieved the kind of celebrity status like Kellar, Herrmann, or Houdini. 

It was time to look for a new profession, something that would keep him home, near his father, who was still alive and near friends and familiar surroundings. He was able to convince the president of Western Reserve Law School to allow him to attend classes, despite not having graduated high school nor ever attending college. What would happen to the show you might ask? Germain trained a new person to be Germain. Paul Fleming, who was an up and coming magician was chosen to take out the show and fill the many dates that were already booked. He would hit the road as Paul Germain. On the rare occasion Paul was unable to fill a date, Germain himself went out and presented it. He was not completely out of the magic world, but he was heading in that direction.

In 1914, Karl Germain became a lawyer and opened a practice in Cleveland. He dealt with probate law and had a partner in his practice. He intended to be out of magic at this point, and leave the performing to Paul Fleming. But for whatever reason, Germain couldn’t  leave magic alone. By 1916, he accepted another Chautauqua Tour. This one however, would prove to be the final tour for Germain. During the 2 month tour he was having issues with headaches and blurriness in his vision. He went to see a specialist who recomenneded he go to Boston to see another specialist. The verdict was a tumor in his brain pressing against the optic nerve. An operation was nessesarry or else he could go blind and mad. But the operation could also cause him to go blind. Germain agreed to the operation and when it was completed, he had zero vision. It turned out to be temporary to a point. He never regained his full vision. This predicament also caused him to leave his law firm and also put an end to show business. His father, would assist Karl for the remainder of his life, at least until he died in the 1940s. 

I’m not sure the date of this, but the story comes from Germain the Wizard by Stuart Cramer. In the story,
Houdini was in Cleveland performing and had contacted Germain about some curtains he had for sale. They worked out an agreeable price, but before settling on the deal, Houdini said he needed to see them hanging in the theatre to get a better idea of their condition and if they’d work for him. The curtains were hung and Houdini went on with his show. After the show, Germain was waiting in his dressed room and Houdini said he’d be happy to take the curtains but the offer was now half what had been agreed upon. Germain vanished for a bit and when Houdini went to look for him, he had departed, along with his curtains. The curtains eventually found their way in Paul Flemings show and today they hang in the mini-theatre in Ken Klosterman’s collection. And I’m assuming these are the plush green curtains that are there. Though for some reason I was thinking they were the black curtains that hung in Germain’s show.

In 1922, Germain decided to put together a talk/lecture on spiritualism. This was something he had been interested in his entire life. In fact, many of his shows featured a spirit cabinet, different versions, or other spirit effects. It was a perfect topic for Germain to talk on. But a tour never developed. It could be he didn’t have the name recognition that HOUDINI had and this made it near impossible for him to get hired to deliver the talk. Plus, his partial blindness was very apparent, so I can imagine that figured into people’s decisions not to go with his program.

 This remarkable man, who created so much original magic had been dealt a terrible blow with this partial blindness. But things would get worse. In 1938, while crossing an intersection, a truck ran into him. He survived the accident, but was left completely blind. 

There was one saving grace and that came in the form of a young amateur magician who befriended Karl Germain, his name was Stuart Cramer. If it had not been for Cramer, the final days of Germain would have been much worse. If it had not been for Cramer, we likely would know very little about Germain, other than what was little was written in magic magazines. 

As it was, Stuart Cramer was with Germain in the hospital in his final days and his final moments on his planet. Karl Germain Mattmuellar died on August 9th, 1959. He is buried in Riverside Cemetery in Cleveland Ohio. He was 81 when he died, and he lived with his blindness for 43 years, more years than he was full time magician. A sad ending for such an incredible performer.

I was surprised by one thing, the Mattmueller family plot, has all 4 Mattmuellars buried there. On Germain’s grave it has this on the tombstone, “Karl Germain Mattmuellar”, but on the fathers grave it has “Karl Mattmueller” as well. However, in Census records he is always listed as Charles. I can’t help but wonder now if his name was actually Karl, as this is a German name, and it was changed when he immigrated to the United States. It also stands to reason why his son, Charles, continued to use KARL throughout his life. And it also makes me wonder about the ‘school house’ story. 

Like his friend Edward Maro, Germain’s posters did not include the devilsh imps, which were standard for the time. Instead, much like Maro, he had mythical creatures like elves, fairies, witches and the like. It appears that Germain had one full color lithograph, it must have been printed sometime between 1899 and 1905, as the poster has the spelling of his name, G-E-R-M-A-I-N-E. His other posters all have a red/black color scheme, or red/black/white color scheme. And they are very striking posters. I am not sure, but the long poster with Germain conjuring the spirit, I have seen this poster in a reddish color, yellowish color, as well as orange. I’m not sure what the original color was, or if there were indeed several versions of different colors. Also, Stuart Cramer reveals in his book that a stash of posters was found in the attic of Germain’s home after he died and these included 1 sheet, 2 sheets, 3 sheets and 8 sheet posters. I have NEVER seen one of these 8 sheet posters, so I can only imagine what that was like. 

A final point I would like to make about Germain. I believe Germain may have given the very first TED Talk. If you don’t know what a TED Talk is, I suggest you look it up on google. On May 9, 1949, Germain spoke before SAM Assembly #10. He was at the home of magician John Grdina and unknown to Germain, Grdina made an audio recording of the presentation. So Germain’s trust had been betrayed, and when he later found out, he was quite livid. But for posterity sake, that recording still exists, and thankfully so. I have not heard the recording, but in the May 2002 issue of Genii Magazine, a transcript of that speech is featured. It’s a bit heavy, and frankly for an audience, probably even boring. But if you read the content you really should be enriched. The point of the talk was to be a true artist, you must be original, and to be original you must be yourself. So to present a trick, word for word, move for move is not art, but copying. And please, I know there have been countless debates on this very subject. But I’m talking about Germain’s opinion here, and I think he has the moral high ground when it comes to talking about originality. His point was not to change everything in a given routine, but to include yourself, your personality, your thoughts, your opinions in the routines. A great example of Germain taking a standard trick and adding himself was his approach to The Misers Dream. IF you are not familiar with the Misers Dream, you should listen to Podcast Ep#23 about T. Nelson Downs the man who revolutionized that trick. But suffice to say, many people perform the Misers Dream in much the same way. Germain added something that I just love. At the conclusion of his routine, after having pulled countless coins from the air and from other places, he turns all the coins into candy. The method can be found in the Stuart Cramer books, and it’s genius, and rather simple.

Another example would be Germain’s approach to The Kellar Flower Growth. He never presented this, but he recognized it could be stronger with one simple change. In Harry Kellar’s hands, this routine was a thing of pure beauty. How it looked when other performers presented it I do not know. But Germain suggested changing the table drapes to a mesh-like fabric, in this way the audience could see through them. And proof of the brilliance of this one simple change can be seen in the Nicholas Night performance on Youtube of Kellar’s Flower Growth!
I wish I had the ability to include Germain’s recorded speech here on the podcast. Maybe in the future, I can track down a copy and then get permission from whoever the owner is. I would LOVE to hear Germain speak of originality in his own voice. Wow. 

I wonder how many magicians in the past 100 years have had a similar approach? Off the top of my head, I’d say Slydini, Tommy Wonder, for pure originality. And as far as putting themselves into their magic, one only has to look as far as the top performers in the field, Henning, Copperfield, Siefried and Roy, Penn & Teller. Sure there are lots of others, but the point is, those performers were unique, and they were unique because they were themselves.

It may come as a surprise to many of you, that Karl Germain would not approve of this particular episode. He was very much against people writing or talking about him after his death. In fact, he was even against people writing about him after he retired but was still alive. 
He told Stuart Cramer that he would come back and HAUNT him if he dared write about him after his death. And Stuart wrote two books, The Secrets of Karl Germain in 1962 and Germain the Wizard and his Legerdermain in 1966. 
Paper Mache Bust of Germain (Klosterman Collection)

 This is the transcript from the Feature of Episode 25 of The Magic Detective Podcast. It has been slightly edited to conform to this format.

Research Materials for This Episode Included:

Stuart Cramer GERMAIN THE WIZARD by the Miracle Factory
David Price     MAGIC A Pictorial History of Conjurers in the Theatre
Prof. Hoffmann MODERN MAGIC
Sidney Clarke  The Annals of Conjuring
The Linking Ring Vol 40 #12
M-U-M Vol 104 #4
M-U-M Vol 204 #9
MAGIC Vol 15 #4
MAGIC Vol 24 #6
MAGIC Jan 1997 Conjuring Column

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

HOUDINI Week 2019 On The Magic Detective Podcast

Over the years, I have had a Houdini Month and or Houdini Week here at the blog. This year, I'm trying out a Houdini Week over on the podcast. It involves a lot more work, but so far things are coming together well. You can also go over to and listen there. I'm on all the various podcasting sites, iTunes, stitcher, spotify, iHeartRadio and more.

On Monday, Oct 28th, I posted an episode about The Man Who Made Houdini. This was basically about Houdini & Martin Beck. I talked about a new theory that has arisen among some Houdini historians that Beck never saw Houdini in St. Paul, but rather it was a surrogate and only later in Omaha did Beck and Houdini meet. First, I think it's a valid theory. But I explore it a bit further and give you my opinion on the matter. You can listen to episode 32 below.

On Tuesday, Oct 29th, I posted an episode about Evanion-The Royal Conjurer. Henry Evanion was one of the early magic collectors as well as a performer during the Victorian era. He ended up selling part of his collection to Houdini, which became the cornerstone of Houdini's magic history collection.  It's a wild story, and you can listen to it below.

On Wednesday, Oct 30th, I share with you the story of Houdini's Forgotten Protege. I've discussed him here on the blog in the past. This time around I've gathered even more information, so I'm sure you'll enjoy this episode. You can list to it below.

On Thursday, Oct 31st, I talk about one of Houdin's game changing escapes, The Milk Can Escape, or the Death Defying Mystery. You can listen to the podcast episode below.

On Friday, Nov 1, I let Houdini talk for himself. I feature an address he gave before a club in Boston in 1922 and the final article Houdini wrote that didnt make it to print until after he had died. You can listen to this podcast episode below.

Saturday, September 7, 2019

Magic Detective Podcast Season 1 Complete

With the addition of episode 31, I've decided to wrap up season 1 of my podcast. I am NOT stopping the podcast. It will be back in October. I just realized I was coming up fast on the 1 year anniversary and with all that is going on in my life, now would be a good time to stop. One of the major things is a move to another state. So right now, my library of research material is split between two locations and it would make doing the podcast somewhat difficult.

Year In Review

When I first decided to do the podcast, I was unsure if I would even find any listeners. Though I figured if a few of my blog readers went to the podcast, I'd be ok. The blog has traditionally had a LOT of readers, though that has declined since my focus has been the podcast. As of right now, I have over 4200 downloads of the podcast. Those are not huge numbers by popular podcast standards, but for a niche topic like magic history, I'd say those are pretty good. And the best part, they continue to increase each month as more and more people find out about the show.

I took the approach to just jump in with both feet knowing I'd figure out how to do the podcast along the way. I did enough preliminary research to know what I needed to do on the backend. The most important thing was sound quality, as I noticed that was one thing that could make or break a podcast. As far as topics, I didn't really think that would be an issue. I had an early list of some 30 potential stories to cover. That list then grew to 100. And now the list stands at over 150. So there are several years of episodes planned.

My first thought was to do the show kind of like popular talk radio shows, with segments, a main topic and then shorter segments. But I don't think I was quite pulling that off the way I had wanted. Then a friend of mine contacted me and said, 'why not try one topic'. So I did, and by episode 4 (Servais LeRoy) I was onto the one topic concept and that worked out better. Another listener contacted me and asked if I could include the references of where the information was coming from, so I soon added the book/magazine references as well. I love the fact that my listeners, YOU, have helped shape the way the show has grown.  One other thing I've attempted to do is link episodes. So if there is a reference to a certain magician in one podcast, and I've covered them already, I can tell the listener to go to Episode such and such, to learn more. IF I were a listener, I would LOVE this particular service.

I think one of the biggest surprises was that it took 3 Episodes to cover Harry Kellar's life. I really covered a lot of ground in those podcasts. The only person who has taken more is Houdini because frankly, I could have just done the entire podcast on his life. In truth, I contemplated that originally, and you'll notice that Houdini's name comes up in almost every podcast. I think there might be 3 podcasts that his name is not even mentioned. But other than that he is a fixture of the podcast. And in Season 2 you can expect considerably more Houdini.

Wyman The Wizard
I love the fact that I covered so many obscure magicians like Wyman the Wizard, Brush, Minerva, and Ablini. They all had incredible stories to tell and deserve their place in the history of magic. As I researched each of them, I contemplated how they would feel, all these many years later to hear their name being spoken of. I try to give everyone a fair shake and if there is a lot of 'negative' stuff to their life, to not focus on it, or at least approach it delicately. I hope I've been successful there. The one person who comes to mind is The Great Raymond. He had a difficult life. He was a great performer, but not the kindest person offstage. Albini was another, he was an alcoholic and chose to insult his audiences during his shows. I believe this was his style, kind of like an early Don Rickles. However, some audiences 'got' him and others did not. And sometimes he was sloshed when he was performing which didn't help.

I think one of my favorite episodes was the one of T.Nelson Downs. I was amazed at the amount of information I discovered on Downs. I continued to find info even after the podcast was completed. I did an extra article on Downs here on the blog to cover something I missed. I could probably do another episode on him easily if I really dug deeper.

My least favorite podcast was Frederick Bancroft, but not for the reason you might think. I did a great deal of research and was happy with what I uncovered. Then as I was scripting out the podcast, I learned that Gary Hunt had written an article on Bancroft in Magicol Magazine, and I didn't have access to it. I just KNEW that some of the stuff I had would potentially be wrong. Sure enough, AFTER, I put up the episode, I found the article and Gary had discovered details that corrected the history. Bravo for him! But not so happy for me. I did mention the corrections in the following podcast. Oh well, win some, loose some.

Daisy White
Another favorite podcast was Daisy White. She has always been a bit of a pet-project. She is an enigmatic figure in magic. Finding details has not been easy, but I did uncover some things a few years ago and wrote about them in the blog. I was always determined to find MORE. And this time around I did. But not only did I find more, I found photos of a young Daisy White!!! I am certain these photos have not been seen in over 100 years. So it was quite fulfilling to include those on the blog at the same time as I did the podcast episode.

About half way into the season I had this idea to start doing short podcasts, which would run no longer than 15 minutes. It was a big experiment really, and it turned out to be successful and I'd received a lot of positive comments on the short episodes. Some performers of old, just don't have enough information out there to cover a 30-45 minute podcast, but I can usually get at least 10 minutes worth. So the short episodes fit the need. The short episodes include: Frederick Bancroft, Litzka Raymond, Houdini & Anna Eva Fay, Minerva, Albini, and finally Talma Queen of Coins.

Oh and the two Doug Henning episodes were personal favorites because Henning was someone I saw in person and looked up to very much.  I was also happy to start including females into the mix, and though I've only covered a few so far, there are many more to come. The episodes featuring females include: Litzka Raymond Gibson, Minerva, Anna Eva Fay, Daisy White & Mercedes Talma.

I think the biggest revelation I had doing this podcast was finding out how inaccurate the David Price book, A Pictorial History of Conjurers in the Theatre is. Don't get me wrong, its a fantastic book. And it gets so much correct. But since the book was published, many details of various magicians lives have come to the surface and they are different from what is in his book. I still use it in every episode. I just try and double check the information. I do know a lot of his information came from Mahatma and The Sphinx.


As I have mentioned on the podcast, I would like to include some interviews with other magic historians and collectors during Season 2. I do not intend to do the entire season that way. But it would be nice to give the spotlight to some other folks so they can share their passion for magic history here. I am also considering having on some guest narrators.

There will be some changes coming to the blog too. About 80% of the Season 1 podcasts were scripted. So I plan to take those and put them up as blog articles, and include photos and images that I obviously cannot do on an audio podcast. It will help with SEO and will help future researchers. Because this platform is owned by Google, it tends to rank fairly high. So for those people who like to read, you can enjoy the blog. For those that like to listen, you've got the podcast. And for those who like both, hey, it's going to be awesome for you.

Some of the episodes planned for Season 2 include: Adelaide Herrmann, Anna Eva Fay, The Fox Sisters, Dr.Lynn, Signor Blitz, Dr. Walford Bodie, Henry Ridgely Evans, Frederick Eugene Powell, Richard Potter, Ching Ling Foo, and many MORE!!!! Oh, and the occasional episode on HOUDINI.

Right now I plan to have Season 2 start some time in October 2019. I am contemplating doing something special for the first couple episodes, but that I'm keeping to myself for now.  I do know I'm going to have more contests throughout the year. With any luck, I may even have some swag for fans of the podcast. I also intend to do more outreach to pick up a larger audience. So expect great things for Season 2! Until then, why not go back and re-listen to some of the podcasts, or check out the ones you missed. October will be here soon enough!

Thanks for being a listener and reader of The Magic Detective!

Thursday, January 31, 2019

Episode 12 Podcast Wyman the Wizard Notes

Episode 12 of the podcast is up and already getting downloads, thanks everyone! I don't have a lot of notes on this episode because most of it was covered in previous blog articles. However. I do have an image for you of Professor Pugh, the friend who Wyman met during his retirement. He gave or sold some of his props to Prof. Pugh and here is a photo of the good professor with them.

By the #s, there is #5 Little Bobbie, you can barely make out the carved head on this thing. # 6 is hard to see but it's in the back, the Spirit Clock/Dial. #7 is the rifle, or as it's listed, Gun and Target. #8 is that odd looking thing that the rifle is leaning against, it's a Pearl Inlaid Chair Back. #9 is pretty obvious, it's a Card Sword. #11 is the Money belt, though I don't see the number in the photo, but I do see the belt. And #13 is also not marked but it's the Canister and Bird Cage. You can see the cage right behind Little Bobbie. The man in the image is Prof. Pugh, not Wyman.

This is the link for the various articles on Wyman that can be found here on the blog...

Monday, December 24, 2018

Magic Detective Podcast Ep 9 -Notes

Episode 9 is up and ready to listen to. This is part 2 of the Amazing Life of Harry Kellar. It covers his years right after the tragic shipwreck, right up to his retirement in 1908.

Along the way I mentioned a few things and I wanted to share them below. First up was the Automaton Psycho that Harry Kellar ripped off from John Nevil Maskelyne. Below is a video of Kellar's Psycho in action.

Next I mentioned the Blue Room and also The Spectre Cabinet. After reading through the book Kellar's Wonders by Mike Caveney and Bill Miesel, it appears that the video below is actually The Spectre Cabinet and not the Blue Room, IF I understood this correctly. It is referred to as The Blue Room, and I'm assuming the two effects are similar in operation. At least you get an idea of how magnificent this effect really was.
This next video has a clip of The Mascot Moth, but you have to wait till the very end of the video. It's in the last few seconds.
Finally, here is an image of the beautiful Golden Butterfly Poster.
Episode 10 will conclude the series on Kellar and will cover his retirement years.