New Site, New Blog!

November 22, 2012 § Leave a comment

Visit our New Mystery & History website and blog

We’ve moved!

Come and visit our  new website for Mystery & History:

Some features include:

  • A special offers page for Magicol subscribers;
  • resources page housing a collection of diverse links for research, posters, magic props, auctions, books and periodicals;
  • A “past issues” page of recently published Magicols; and
  • Our good, old Mystery & History blog where you can tune in for news and updates regarding Magicol.
If you subscribe, be sure to note we also have moved our blog to Mystery & History:

New Monograph on Henry Dean and The Whole Art of Legerdemain

November 16, 2012 § Leave a comment

Henry Dean

Although Henry Dean’s name has been famous to generations of collectors and historians as the author of The Whole Art of Legerdemain, or, Hocus Pocus in Perfection (London, 1722), even the most rudimentary details of his life have remained elusive despite dedicated inquiries and research spanning the last 150 years. Bibliographer Raymond Toole Stott most recently addressed this mystery, and his extensive annotations in A Bibliography of English Conjuring 1581–1876 (Derby, 1976) reflect an unprecedented intensity of research. But Toole Stott came away as stymied and befuddled as his predecessors, to such a degree that he even expressed doubts that Henry Dean ever existed!

After the late Burt Sperber’s acquisition of the rare first edition of The Whole Art of Legerdemain, he asked Eddie Dawes and Clay Shevlin to research and write a biographical essay on Dean, and to prepare an updated bibliographical checklist of Dean’s book.  With modern investigatory tools in hand, and aided by James Smith’s research contributions, Eddie and Clay have uncovered much new biographical and bibliographical information on Dean, his life, and The Whole Art of Legerdemain, and next year Magicana will publish their book on Dean.

At the Yankee Gathering recently held by the New England Magic Collectors Association, Eddie shared some of the fascinating discoveries made about Dean. To commemorate his lecture and whet the appetite of fellow collectors and historians, Clay has published a 28 page, well-illustrated monograph with a full color cover, which features subject matter covered by Eddie as well as additional material not included in his talk.  The edition of Henry Dean: Eighteenth-Century Best-Selling Magic Author/Compiler is limited to 150 numbered copies, of which approximately 125 have been made available for sale.

Copies may be purchased from Clay or Byron Walker for $25 postpaid in the U.S., $29 postpaid overseas, and orders will be filled strictly in the order they are received. You may contact Clay at or Byron at to inquire about availability.

Wild About Harry: Making “The Great Houdinis”

October 10, 2012 § 1 Comment

Harry Blackstone Jr. helps prepare Paul Michael Glaser for the Milk Can escape (Photo by Patrick Culliton, Genii)

To kick off our late harvest of blog entries, it seems fitting that our first fall entry begin with our new guest blogger, John Cox, who has graciously allowed us to share his findings and love of everything Houdini – because John is just Wild About Houdini! As October 31st is fast approaching and the anniversary of Houdini’s death, we thought John’s findings on the escape artist would be a proper tribute to his legendary life.

John Cox is clearly Wild About Houdini.  He is an American screenwriter, author and a recognized authority on Houdini. A great fan of the escape artist, John has made it his personal mission to continuously unearth and share interesting facts about Houdini, including (amongst plenty others) where the 1976 ABC TV movie, “The Great Houdini” was filmed.

He writes:

“The first three days of filming were done at the Wilshire Ebell Theater, a historic 1,270 seat theater dating back to 1927. Long a popular filming location, the Ebell would double for the Alhambra, the Hippodrome and Hammerstein’s Victoria, as well as unnamed theaters in San Francisco, Paris and Detroit.

The first day of shooting involved all the complex stage escape apparatuses. The first scene shot was The Milk Can Escape. Then the Water Torture Cell action was shot, with star Paul Michael Glaser failing to escape as a horrified Sally Struthers (Bess) looks on. Abb Dickson provided the cell, which would be touted in some media as “the original cell,” which of course is not correct. (…)

After a few days off, the production moved for a single day to Queen of Angels Hospital near downtown Los Angeles. Here one of the movie’s best dramatic scenes was shot — when Bess comes to see Harry after his nervous breakdown and pulls him from his funk by suggesting they make spiritualist exposes “part of the act.” This was also the first day of shooting for the legendary Vivian Vance, playing Minnie the nursemaid. Vance, of course, is best known for her role as Ethel on I Love Lucy. (…)

The fifth and sixth days of shooting foundThe Great Houdinis crew at the Home of Peace Memorial Park & Mausoleum, Los Angeles’ oldest Jewish Cemetery. The first scene shot had Bess and Harry copying information from headstones for a spiritualist act, and then making love among the graves. (…) On May 6, production moved into the historic 20th Century Fox Studios in Century City. Here the bulk of the filming would take place over the course of the next two weeks. The production would utilize Stage 5, Stage 20 and Stage 4, as well as shooting on the studio’s two remaining exterior sets (Fox sold their large backlot in 1961). (…)

After two days rest, The Great Houdinisproduction was again on location, this time at the Malibu Pier off Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu. Originally built in 1905, the pier was expended in 1938 and was made a historic landmark in 1985. The script has this down as being the Peekskill Bridge in New York in 1895, even though in the film a cop calls Houdini “that New York jerk.” Here, Houdini’s failed underwater handcuff escape action was shot. A double was used for Glaser’s dive – the only time a double is mentioned on the schedule. Another desirable prop used on this day is the banner that is hung between the two fishing houses at the end of the pier. Nice to see the production designer used authentic Houdini letting from his early European tour posters. (…)

The final day of principle photography for The Great Houdinis was planned for the Belmont Amusement Park in San Diego, which was to double for Coney Island. Here a scene in which Harry proposes to Bess aboard a roller coaster would be filmed.”

To read the full article, as well as some great photos of the locations, click here. Our thanks to John Cox for sharing his findings with our followers!

The Washington Symposium on Magic History

September 13, 2012 § Leave a comment

Ken Trombly has announced that the Washington Symposium on Magic History will be held next spring, April 25-27, 2013 atthe Bethesda North Marriott Hotel & Conference Center in North Bethesda, MD.

A memorable weekend includes:

  • A variety of unusual and provocative speakers and topics
  • A huge dealer’s room, teeming with vintage magic collectibles
  • A unique and exclusive Library of Congress Magic Exhibit on Friday April 26, featuring numerous highlights from the Houdini and McManus-Young collections
  • An auction of vetted magic collectibles (apparatus, books, posters, ephemera etc), something for everyone!
  • And a SURPRISE or two that is top secret and up the organizers’s sleeve for now!

Special convention room rates of $109 night, with free wifi in all rooms and discounted parking for all. This is a four star hotel, conveniently located near the easy-to-use Metro system.

Bring your significant other so you can play tourist. April is the best time to visit DC, with pleasant weather and the newly bloomed cherry blossoms.

For more information, please email Kenneth Trombly at, or REGISTER now.

Magicol 183: The Joy of Posters

August 13, 2012 § 3 Comments

No. 183 - The Joy of Posters

Yes, it’s true! Magicol is now in the hands of our printer! And we are proud of the beautiful issue No. 183, The Joy of Posters.

A massive collaborative effort, No. 183 focuses on the bliss of magic poster-collecting, the meaning and significance we place on the posters we posses, and the colourful history that each magic poster emanates. From “The King of Handcuffs” to “The Great Herrmann”, this issue will feature numerous, graphically astounding posters gallantly provided by collectors. A sure treat for our dear subscribers!

We start by revisiting Mario Carrandi’s wonderful article introducing readers to the lost art of lithography, originally published in Dr. Albo’s More Classic Magic With Apparatus in 1976. It is the perfect introduction, in fact, to the series posters which follow in, A Magical Oasis.

Then, Charles Greene III and Pietro Micheli enlighten readers with a pair of terrific articles on the essentials for Poster Preservation, Parts I and II. Anyone who has any artwork hanging on their walls will find these articles quite insightful and very helpful!

But how much does one invest in all that paper preservation and restoration? How much is your paper worth – to you? Well, David Ben explores this question by outlining his ‘metrics guide’ of how to determine the value of magic posters. It’s actually an open conversation which solicits your thoughts and comments on how to measure a magic poster’s weight in coin.

Dustin Stinett then provides an overview of our 43rd Magic Collectors Weekend, followed by an appreciation by Tom Ewing of long-time Magicol subscriber, Frank Dailey who sadly passed away earlier this year.

This is our largest issue to date and we hope you agree with us that it was worth the “weight”.

Your Last Chance to Steal Thoughts…and Wallets!

August 1, 2012 § Leave a comment

August 5th is closing in fast! So, if you’re still thinking about it, you had better just do it, and take advantage of Squash Publishing’s special offer for Magicol subscribers.

Order Unreal by Bruce Bernstein and receive  Cutting Up Touches by David Avadon absolutely free! Order now, and get BOTH for only $55 (plus shipping).


That’s right, two books for the price of one, but act now as this special offer will vanish on August 5th. Read more for details.

Stealing thoughts … and wallets!

July 17, 2012 § 1 Comment

Thanks to our friends at Squash Publishing, we have another special offer for Magicol subscribers, this time a two-for-one deal:

Unreal by Bruce Berntstein PLUS Cutting Up Touches by David Avadon
FOR ONLY $55 plus shipping

That’s right! Buy the soon-to-be-relased book, Unreal and  also receive Cutting Up Touches (history of exhibition pickpocketing) FREE –  just for being a Magicol subscriber!

This exclusive limited-time offer is good through August 5th for Magicol readers.

Click below to take advantage of this terrific offer!


UNREAL / Bruce Bernstein


Bruce Bernstein has spent over three decades creating, refining and developing some of the most devious feats of mentalism known to man. He’s become a trusted, go-to source for many of the greatest mind readers of the last twenty years. He’s collected an enviable list of endorsements from nearly every great magician and thought reader of the last thirty years. And now he’s gathered together years of thought-provoking, engaging writing into a comprehensive hardbound collection that showcases his work in the finest possible light.

It’s called Unreal.

This new book contains Bernstein’s most baffling, amazing brainchildren. From commercial predictions (Eat at Joe’s), to mind-numbing card miracles (Psych-Out, a revelatory 10 Card Poker Deal), to must-learn techniques (Bernstein Center Tear), and beyond, Unreal covers territory essential to every wonder worker’s repertoire.

The book outlines mysteries with the most basic of objects: slips of paper, cards, and money, as well as inexplicable feats of thought reading: predictions, mind reading feats, psychometry, utility techniques for obtaining secret information, cold reading scripts and techniques, and more. Ten new essays compliment the tricks themselves, each written specifically for this book.

All of the miracles described in these pages are within the skill set of the average mentalist. No complicated sleight-of-hand or digital dexterity is required. That said, a healthy dose of chutzpah may be necessary in several instances.

It’s all explained in a familiar, engaging style, expertly illustrated by Tony Dunn. Unreal may be the book’s title, but performing the miracles it explains is most definitely within reach of everyone that reads it.

256 pages in deluxe hardcover; all material newly edited and expanded and illustrated, with an introduction by Jon Stetson. Ships early August 2012.


Cutting Up Touches

Cutting Up Touches is the first book ever written on the history of exhibition pickpocketing. In it, David Avadon traces this light-fingered entertainment from its murky music hall beginnings to the largest showrooms in the world.

He profiles Giovanni and Borra, the architects of stealing on stage. He spotlights Dominique and Ricki Dunn, who made emptying pockets hilarious nightclub entertainment. He explains the stealth and showmanship of a wide array of wallet snatchers. He explores the powerful subliminal emotions touched by each act of pocket thievery. And he shares the fascinating lore surrounding this street crime turned performance art.

Illustrated with photos, playbills and posters, many published here for the first time.

Hardbound, 150 pages.

14th NEMCA Nov 8, 9, 10

July 10, 2012 § Leave a comment

Attention all magic enthusiasts!

The 14th Yankee Gathering of the New England  Magic Collectors Association (NEMCA) will be held in Westborough, Massachusetts November 8, 9 and 10, 2012, honouring Jim Alfredson.

NEMCA, founded in 1980, is dedicated to preserving the history of magic and the allied arts through the sharing of knowledge and expertise by collectors and magic historians worldwide.

In addition to the historical talks and performances there is an afternoon auction, a Wine & Cheese Reception, a Coffee & Dessert evening, and a sumptuous New England Dinner on Saturday evening.

Don’t miss out on this terrific gathering!

Registration Details:

Registration fee is $225.00 per person till August 1st and $250.00 per person after August 1st.

For registration questions contact:


For dealer table information contact:

The Amazing Harry Kellar, Great American Magician

July 4, 2012 § Leave a comment

Magic enthusiasts: a new release on “The Amazing Harry Kellar, Great American Magician” by Gail Jarrow. Structured as a children’s book, it features a flowing narrative and  a collection of posters that make for a rich visual presentation of Kellar’s life. Look for David Ben’s review of the book in a future issue of Magicol.

Here’s a synopsis from the author, Gail Jarrow’s website:

Presenting the amazing Harry Kellar! The most well-known American magician at the turn of the twentieth century! The model for the Wizard of Oz!

Kellar performed on six continents and was the first American-born magician to achieve international fame. He could make a man disappear, levitate a woman, and decapitate himself. Audiences loved him.

This biography of Kellar (1849-1922) follows the great illusionist from his days as a magician’s assistant during the Civil War to his travels as an international superstar. Kellar entertained emperors, kings, presidents, and thousands of children and their parents.

What Reviewers Say:

  • “Jarrow includes just the right mix of biographical information, anecdotes, and descriptions of the performer’s illusions…An excellent example of nonfiction that is readable, visually appealing, and well researched.” ~ School Library Journal

  • “Though it’s loaded with photographs, the real visual treats here are the dozens of reproduced posters used to advertise Kellar’s shows.” ~ Booklist

  • “Jarrow’s book is fun and engaging–reading it is kind of like going to a magic show. Each section begins with a full page color promotional poster from Kellar’s performances.” ~

  • “The Amazing Harry Kellar, Great American Magician is a fantastic book for young readers, adults, and especially magicians. It would certainly make a great gift for anyone interested in magic or interested in the history of the theatre or entertainment.” ~ Dean Carnegie,

Do you know?

June 21, 2012 § Leave a comment

On our Postcards of Magicians exhibition, we received an inquiry: “What is Signor Martino’s real name?”

Any thoughts? Send in your comments in the Leave A Reply box below.