Images from Egyptian Hall: Alexander Herrmann

Images from Egyptian Hall: Alexander Herrmann

If a non-magician were asked to create the image of a magician they would undoubtedly draw a picture of a tall, thin man sporting a goatee and twisted mustache. His costume would include a black tailcoat and knee britches. It is doubtful that our layman would realize they had drawn a picture of Alexander Herrmann, a French magician who died in 1896. Even though Herrmann vanished off this earthly orb 120 years ago, it is his image that still defines how the public perceives the classic magician. Born in Paris in 1844, Alexander was the youngest of sixteen children. His father, Samuel, and his oldest brother, Carl, were both magicians and much to his father’s dismay Alexander hoped to follow in their footsteps. For years he apprenticed with his brother traveling through Russia, Europe and America, learning the tricks of the trade. He established himself as a magician of the highest order during an engagement at London’s Egyptian Hall that lasted for an astonishing one thousand nights. It was during this engagement that he met a twenty-two-year-old dancer named Adelaide Scarcez. The mayor of New York City conducted their marriage ceremony in 1875. The years that Herrmann spent touring throughout America demonstrating his considerable sleight-of-hand skills and performing jaw-dropping stage illusions made him a star of the highest magnitude, who earned enormous sums of money. He and Adelaide lived like royalty with a mansion in Whitestone Landing on Long Island, New York, they enjoyed their private yacht called Fra Diavolo, and an extravagant railway car that once belonged to Lily Langtry. Alexander was Herrmann the Great every waking moment....
Magic of the Trick–Eddy Taytelbaum

Magic of the Trick–Eddy Taytelbaum

In my inaugural column we explored some magic theory as it related to the use of the term “trick.” As we discussed, many magicians hate the word “trick” so much that they will spew utter nonsense just to keep from saying it. One cause for this distaste is rooted in the performer’s ego. The idea of a “magic trick” suggests to the audience that a special prop or device, something that anyone could buy if they only knew where to find one, was the cause of the miracle the audience has witnessed and not the skill of the performer. But, as any passionate magic collector will tell you, there are props and tricks which are specially made just to create a miraculous moment, and some of these “tricks” are pretty darned amazing. Their inventors and builders manage to combine engineering, design, psychology, craftsmanship, creativity, and even sleight of hand into these amazing products that can amaze and befuddle as deeply as any other magic experience, by any name you wish to call it. I love “magic tricks.” Some of the most beautiful magic “tricks” ever presented were the design and creation of a Dutch magician named Eddy Taytelbaum. Eddy is 91 years old as of 2016. Like many, his interest in magic began in childhood. An early leg injury sent him into the hospital where he discovered a book on magic. He was attracted to a particular piece of card conjuring which necessitated remaking a standard card into a special magic changing card. His talents for arts and crafts served him well over the years, working as he did...
ON: WORD 1 – What’s Your Story? by Jon Racherbaumer

ON: WORD 1 – What’s Your Story? by Jon Racherbaumer

WHAT’S YOUR STORY?   ________   Jon Racherbaumer   “Every story I create creates me. I write to create myself.” -Octavia E. Butler   “A story to me means a plot where there is some surprise. Because that is how life is – full of surprises.” -Isaac Bashevis Singer   “Narration is as much a part of human nature as breath and the circulation of the blood.” -A. S. Byatt   “There’s always room for a story that can transport people to another place.” -J. K. Rowling   Stories. Story-Telling. Narratives. Narrativity.   The first time it happened I was 11. And when it happened I was psychically transported to another place (via magic). The staging area was in a high-school auditorium in Elmhurst, Illinois and the “transporter” onstage at first was not impressive. He shuffled onstage looking like a Zen priest wearing a tuxedo. What he said and how he spoke, however, made me piggyback every moment as it passed. For the most part he told stories—lots of them—using interesting props. At one point I remember he uttered a homespun declaration: “In the beginning,” he said, “the Lord created the world!” This was nothing new. I heard this kind of remark many times in church, but when this slightly stooped man said it, a red ball suddenly appeared out of thin air! Whoa! This guy was simultaneous telling and showing. Then he related an entirely different “take” on the story of Adam and Eve, using colored balls, which, as he spoke, magically appeared, disappeared, and multiplied. He pretended that a ball could be an apple, which he apparently...
Flibberty-Gibberty 7 by Jon Racherbaumer

Flibberty-Gibberty 7 by Jon Racherbaumer

FLIBBERTY-GIBBERTY #7 Jon Racherbaumer REGARDING A FEW OF THE QUOTATIONS PUBLISHED IN THE GREATER ARTFUL DODGES OF EDDIE FIELDS     Most quotable pundits belittle the practice of quoting other pundits. That being said, consider these two sentences by Ralph Waldo Emerson:          “I hate quotation. Tell me what you know.” Well, I know lots of little things. I know, for example, that I started to conscientiously collect quotations in 1955. Whenever I ran across a phrase or quotation that seemed supple, thoughtful, incisive, poetic, or witty, it was savored and saved. The quotations chosen for the Artful Dodges book were not capriciously picked. Each was germane regarding how Eddie Fields approached and presented his magic. Their allusiveness was meant to supplement my youthful, slap-dash prose. I needed to intermittently pump some gravitas into my wobbly exposition. Looking back, the quotations are not as suggestive and opaque as early critics claimed. I repeat: none of them were arbitrarily chosen. On the contrary, they are proven, pertinent points that Fields wanted to emphasize. I hope the following annotations will sharpen your understanding of any possible allusiveness or intent?   THE QUOTATIONS   “Imitation is criticism.” -William Blake Fields repeatedly stressed the importance of working from the inside and then outward. “Start within and work your way out. Learn the mechanics of the trick and then figure out the psychological parts.” He recommended internalizing these aspects. “Figure out how you would express any trick. If you do this, your presentations will be inimitable. Nobody can copy these things in an ongoing, spontaneous basis. If somebody can imitate you (not your tricks), then...
Fun at Home with Adam Rubin

Fun at Home with Adam Rubin

Stretching the Truth by Adam Rubin   The other day I was walking through New York City when I noticed these skinny letters in the street. Turns out nearly all the words painted on public roadways in America are skewed in a similar fashion. That’s because the type is designed to be read at an extreme angle by motorists whizzing by at 30 mph or more. To a pedestrian, the words look stretched out like rubber bands but to anyone driving by in a car, they seem perfectly legible. This is an example of “anamorphic typography”. Anamorphic comes from Latin and means “reshape”. In the case of the writing on the road, the letterforms are reshaped to make them easier for motorists to read. Maybe it’s just me, but this is pretty neat. It’s not every day you come across a government-funded optical illusion. My favorite use of this technique was created by Axel Peemoeller back in 2006. He designed an anamorphic wayfinding system for the Eureka Tower Carpark in Melbourne Australia. Unlike the High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) diamonds painted on a highway, parking garage directions need to work in three dimensions.   The words painted throughout the garage are only legible to drivers approaching from locations relevant to the information. Just like the “School” example, the letters look totally distorted to anyone walking by because they are designed as perspective-specific communications.     The inspiration and technique for this particular design came from celebrated French artist Felice Varini. Varini is famous for utilizing projectors to paint 2-dimensional images across 3-dimensional spaces. There are loads of great examples of...
Mahdi Gilbert

Mahdi Gilbert

As part of what will be an ongoing series of articles concerning significant people in the world of magic, we will kick off the series with a profile of a truly remarkable individual. We stayed close to home for this inaugural piece, for the subject is someone who occasionally takes up residence and works right here in the offices of the Conjuring Arts Research Center.   In July of last year, the following scenario played out four times a night, for a full week at the famed Magic Castle in Hollywood, California. A group of thirty smartly dressed people are sitting in the Close-up Gallery. The tuxedoed host greets them and says, “Our next performer has traveled the four corners of the Earth. He has been forced to reinvent magic for himself. Literally redefining how a deck of cards can be handled. Ladies and gentlemen, welcome a man who shuffles without fingers, palms without palms, and is living proof that nothing is impossible. Please welcome Mahdi Gilbert.” When the performer steps out from behind the curtain, the first thing they notice about him is that he is very short, about four-feet-six inches, and yet very imposing. He has dark, curly, hair, a beard, strong features, and an elegant bespoke tailored suit. And as they assessed the diminutive performer, a realization explodes in their brains, when they notice that he has no hands; then they remember the host’s comments, and the introduction start to make sense. Their minds start to race and they can’t help but wonder what Mahdi is going to share with them. This is the Magic Castle,...

Keep In Touch...

Subscribe to Conjuring Arts's Newsletter and Stay Up To Date on Everything Amazing.

Your Email Address is Safe With Conjuring Arts