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About Magic

The use of magic has been around since time began. It has been used to both entertain and to cheat. The Trojan Horse could be deemed an early illusion. The famous cups and balls trick has been depicted in the pyramids of Egypt. Many moves used by magicians when showing card tricks were initially developed by crooked gamblers to cheat at cards

In 1584 Reginald Scot published “The Discoverie of Witchcraft” as a way of showing that witches did not exist by exposing how many of the 'miracles' that they performed were actually done. This became one of the first textbooks on magic.

Father of Magical Entertainment - Harry HoudiniThe father of modern magic is widely regarded a Jean Eugene Robert Houdin (1805 – 1871) . He was a French clock maker who opened a theatre in Paris in the 1840’s. His speciality was making mechanical automata which appeared to move and act as if they were alive. In the UK, Maskelyne and Cooke opened a theatre in London and realised more illusions could be performed within these settings as the audience’s sightlines could be controlled.

One of the most famous magicians was American Ehrich Weiss who changed his name to Harry Houdini in tribute to his hero Robert-Houdin. He took magic to a new level by introducing escapology into his act and whilst he became famous for his stunts he was a talented magician who used the stunts as a tool of self promotion.

The secret of creating illusions is no longer limited to stage magic shows. Many of the secrets create wonderful effects in the movies and musicals and plays often use illusions to enhance the magic of their productions. Go to many theme parks and you will often see a technique developed during Victorian times to show ghosts dancing in a ballroom as you are transported around the ride.

In fact magic saved many lives during Wold War II. Jasper Maskelyne was the grandson of JN Maskelyne named above. He was a stage magician in the 1930s and 40s but his greatest success came in his work with British Military Intelligence. His team developed ruses using camouflage and deception and his greatest feat was making the town of Alexandria and the Suez Canal “disappear” to misdirect German bombers.

Magicians today are helped and challenged by modern technology. On the one hand, TV, camera and computer imagery can allow many 'impossible' events appear to occur on screen and 'live' on the stage, but on the other hand, an ever demanding, informed and sceptical audience are difficult to trick.