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composed of an amalgam of tinfoil and quicksilver, which was as heavy
as lead, but was broken into bits and dispersed in firing. He once
played a private engagement at the Winter Palace, St. Petersburg,
before the Czar Nicholas and a brilliant audience of Grand Dukes and
Grand Duchesses. His exhibition of second sight was an excellent one.
He was asked by the Czar to describe the watch he had in his pocket.
To the profound astonishment of the Emperor, Anderson announced
that it was encircled with one hundred and twenty brilliants around
its face, and a portrait on enamel of the Emperor Paul at the back.
He also said that the watch carried by the Empress did not go,
which was a fact, it being a very old one, a relic of Peter the
Great. It was only worn as an ornament. The wizard never claimed
supernatural powers. He undoubtedly obtained his information about
the chronometers from some member of the Czar’s household, and worked
upon the imagination and credulity of the spectators.

Anderson had an indomitable spirit which no misfortune could daunt.
He received the “bludgeonings of Fate” like a hero, and was “Captain
of his soul” through a thousand and one vicissitudes of life. He
built on Glasgow Green one of the largest theatres in Scotland,
and it was burnt to the ground, three months after its erection. A
fortune was lost in the terrible fire. In 1851 he came to America and
met with unbounded success. Returning to England in 1856, he engaged
Covent Garden Theatre. In March of that year this great play-house
was destroyed by fire, and Anderson lost his splendid and costly
{174} apparatus. On top of this disaster came the bankruptcy of
the Royal British Bank, and that event completely swallowed up the
remains of the wizard’s fortune. But he was undaunted. Borrowing
funds from his friends, he bought new paraphernalia, and toured the
world. After an absence of five years he returned to England, January
11, 1863. He had traveled 235,000 miles and “had passed through his
hands the enormous sum of £157,000 sterling.” He died at Darlington,
Scotland, on Tuesday, February 3, 1874. In accordance with a wish
expressed during his last illness, he was buried at Aberdeen, in the
same grave with his beloved mother. No inscription on the tombstone
records the fact that the Wizard of the North lies beneath.

What was the secret of Anderson’s success?

He was not a great magician in the sense of the word—that is to say,
an adept at legerdemain, an original creative genius like Houdin,
Robin, and the elder Herrmann. But he was an actor who played
the role of necromancer with great effect. He surrounded himself
with costly and brilliant apparatus which dazzled the eyes of the
groundlings. His baggage weighed tons and filled many trunks and
boxes. He believed in heavy artillery, like Napoleon I. The dashing
Hussar style was not his. That branch of conjuring belongs to Frikell
and De Kolta. Strange to say, in spite of the revolution in the
art of magic since Anderson’s day, we are coming back to the big
paraphernalia of the old school. The public is tired of small tricks.
A discussion of this subject will be found in the article on Frikell.

I doubt whether a greater advertiser than Anderson ever lived.
Bosco cannot be compared to him. Alexander Herrmann depended on his
social qualities and his laughable adventures in street cars, cafés,
and clubs to boom his reputation. Anderson adopted the methods of
the patent-medicine manufacturers. He would have made an excellent
advance agent for a new panacea. He literally plastered the streets
and walls of London with his advertising devices. Some of them were
highly ingenious and amusing and kept the public on the _qui vive_
with excitement. In this line of puffing, people are willing to
overlook charlatanry. One of his posters was a caricature imitation
of the famous {175} painting, “Napoleon’s Return from Elba.” It was
of gigantic size. Houdin describes it and other advertising schemes
as follows:

“In the foreground Anderson was seen affecting the attitude of the
great man; above his head fluttered an enormous banner, bearing the
words ‘The Wonder of the World,’ while, behind him, and somewhat
lost in the shade, the Emperor of Russia and several other monarchs
stood in a respectful posture. As in the original picture, the
fanatic admirers of the Wizard embraced his knees, while an immense
crowd received him triumphantly. In the distance could be seen the
equestrian statue of the Iron Duke, who, hat in hand, bowed before
him, the Great Wizard; and, lastly, the very dome of St. Paul’s bent
towards him most humbly.

“At the bottom was the inscription,


“Regarded seriously, this picture would be found a puff in very bad
taste: but, as a caricature, it is excessively comic. Besides, it had
the double result of making the London public laugh, and bringing a
great number of shillings into the skillful puffer’s pockets.

“When Anderson is about to leave a town where he has exhausted all
his resources, and has nothing more to hope, he still contrives to
make one more enormous haul.

“He orders from the first jeweller in the town a silver vase, worth
twenty or twenty-five pounds; he hires, for one evening only, the
largest theatre or room in the town, and announces that in the
Wizard’s parting performance the spectators will compete to make the
best pun.

“The silver vase is to be the prize of the victor.

“A jury is chosen among the chief people of the town to decide with
the public on the merits of each pun.

“It is agreed that they will applaud if they think a pun good; they
will say nothing to a passable one, but groan at a bad one.

“The room is always crowded, for people come less to see the
performance, which they know by heart, than to display their wit
publicly. Each makes his jest, and receives a greeting more or less
favorable; and, lastly, the vase is decreed to the cleverest among
them. {176}

“Any other than Anderson would be satisfied with the enormous
receipts his performance produces; but the Great Wizard of the North
has not finished yet. Before the audience leaves the house he states
that a short-hand writer has been hired by him to take down all the
puns, and that they will be published as a Miscellany.

“As each spectator who has made a joke likes to see it in print, he
purchases a copy of the book for a shilling. An idea of the number of
these copies may be formed from the number of puns they contain. I
have one of these books in my possession, printed in Glasgow in 1850,
in which there are 1091 of these facetiæ.”

Here is one of Anderson’s typical programmes, dated 1854:



20,139 of the inhabitants of Leeds have SURRENDERED to Marshal
Professor Anderson during the past Fortnight.




☛ In order to avoid being incommoded, Visitors to the Front Seats
are respectfully requested to secure places at the Hall during the


Begs respectfully to inform the inhabitants of Leeds, that in
consequence of having made arrangements to perform in St. George’s
Hall, Bradford, on Monday, October 23rd, he cannot possibly appear
in Leeds after Saturday, October 21st.—The following will be the
order of

The Last Eleven Days of Wonders

This Evening, MONDAY, Oct. 9th, 1854, LAST NIGHT but 10.
(Wednesday, October 18th, No Performance, the Hall being pre-engaged.)

☛ REMEMBER you cannot look upon his like again!


Professor Anderson begs to inform his Patrons that his
performances are not Superhuman, as supposed, but the result of
Science, applied in a new way to produce the delusive results,
in connection with his Ambidexterological Powers, which make the
“Eyes the fools o’ the other senses,” and will this evening be the
“Head and front of his offending.”

With Original and Yankee Scraps showing the Economy of Space.
With the Crystal Casket, vulgarly called the Devil’s Box.
THE GREAT CHEMICAL ANALYSIS with Evaporating Handkerchiefs
Great Pot Pourri of Handkerchiefs in the Magic Laundry, and
The New Cradle, or Mesmeric Sleep,
Strongly recommended for the Nursery, where there are “squalls.”


During the Interval, the Wizard’s Handbook of Magic, price
1s., with an explanation of upwards of 250 Magical Delusions,
an Exposee of Gambling, Spirit Rapping, Table Turning, &c.,
illustrated with upwards of 100 Diagrams, &c., showing the
construction of the necessary Apparatus; ALSO, The Wizard
in Paris, being Professor Anderson’s Narrative of a Recent Visit
to the French Capital, descriptive of the place, and throwing new
light upon the people.—A guide for all who are going there, and
a pleasant book for those who have been. May be had of Professor
Anderson’s Assistants

The Wizard will again enter his “PSYCHOMANTEUM,” and commence Part
Two with his Great

Or FORTUNE TELLER, in connection with the SPIRIT RAPPING BELL and

Although the Wizard is not a great Orator or Lecturer, he will
deliver a few remarks on what is called

Or Humbug of the First Water, proving that there are still greater
humbugs in England than himself, for which he is very sorry, he
thinking that he was the Ne Plus Ultra in that particular line of



Proving the thickness of some skulls, with the Astounding Miracle,
“Anderson’s” (not Pandora’s) Box. The whole of
this Unparalleled Entertainment will conclude with the

Magic Evaporation, or Disappearance Extraordinary



Signor Antonio Blitz was born June 21, 1810, in a little village of
Moravia. At an early age he picked up, unknown to anyone, “a few
adroit tricks from certain gypsies, who visited his native town.”
He began to exhibit these feats for the amusement of himself and
friends. He made his professional début at Hamburg when but thirteen
years of age, and was known to the public as the “mysterious boy.”
His first appearance in this country was at the Music Hall, Broadway,
New York. He had many imitators. Not less than thirteen people
traveled the United States using his name, circulating a verbatim
copy of his handbill and advertisement—“not only assuming to be the
_original_ Blitz, but in many instances claiming to be a son or
nephew.” “I have been,” says Blitz, in his memoirs, _Fifty Years in
the Magic Circle_, (Hartford, Conn., 1871), “in constant receipt of
bills of their contracting, for, not content with taking my name,
they have not even honor enough to pay their debts.” The thirteen
impostors exhibited under the following and other names:

Signor Blitz.
Signor Blitz, Jr.
Signor Blitz, The Original.
Signor Blitz’s Son.
Signor Blitz’s Nephew.
Signor Blitz, The Wonderful.
Signor Blitz, The Great.
Signor Blitz, The Unrivalled.
Signor Blitz, The Mysterious.
Signor Blitz, By Purchase.
Signor Blitz, The Great Original.

Blitz was not only a magician, but a ventriloquist and trainer of
birds. He relates an amusing encounter with the great but eccentric
genius, the Italian violinist, Paganini, whose romantic life is
known to all lovers of music. The adventure took place in the city
of Glasgow, Scotland, where Paganini was giving a concert. Says
Blitz: “He, Paganini, was tall and awkward-looking, cadaverous in
features, ungainly in form, with long {179} black hair, said to be
very wealthy, and characterized as extremely penurious. No instance
was ever known of his contributing a penny to the distressed, or to
a benevolent institution. One morning I called and found him quietly
seated in his room alone. After conversing with him a short time I
noticed his violin case lying upon the table, when suddenly the cry
of a child issued from therein.

[Illustration: PLAY BILL.

(From the Collection of Mr. Ellis Stanyon, London, England.)]


“ ‘Who is that?’ said Paganini, quickly looking around.

“ ‘It is _me_, with the babe,’ answered a womanly voice.

“ ‘My God! what is this?’ inquired the astonished violinist.

“ ‘You well know,’ plaintively answered the woman, at the same time
the infant again commenced crying.

“ ‘We know you are a bad woman,’ vehemently declared the excited man.

“ ‘And did you not make me so, you old Italian fiddler?’

“After this there was apparently a commotion in the box, when
Paganini became alarmed and was about to leave the room when I
unmasked myself and explained that he had been a victim to the
vagaries of ventriloquism; which, on hearing, delighted him
prodigiously, and grasping me by the hand he exclaimed, ‘Bravo,
Signor!—bravo!’ ”

Signor Blitz retired from the stage with a fortune and settled in
Philadelphia. His home was on Green street near 18th street. He
taught magic and gave private entertainments for some years before
his death, which took place February, 1877. One of his daughters was
the famous opera singer, Madame Vanzant, who at the present writing
lives in Europe. These facts I obtained from Mr. Thomas Yost.


Alexander Heimbürger was born December 4, 1819, in Germany. He
performed under the _nom de théâtre_ of Herr Alexander. He toured
Europe, North and South America with great success for a number of
years, and retired to his native land with a large fortune. He is
at present residing at Munster, an old man of eighty-four, with
snow-white hair and beard, and bent over with age. He was long
supposed to be dead by the fraternity of magicians, but Mr. Houdini,
in his tour of Germany in 1903, discovered that he still lived, and
his whereabouts. Alexander had many strange stories to relate of his
adventures in America and other places. He was personally acquainted
with Houdin, Frikell, Bosco, Anderson, Blitz, the original Bamberg of
Amsterdam, etc. He performed several times at the White House before
President Polk, and hobnobbed with Henry Clay, Webster and Calhoun.
{181} With letters from Polk he visited Brazil, and was admitted
into the most aristocratic circles. On leaving New York in 1847 he
was presented with a heavy gold medal, cast in the United States Mint
at Washington. This medal has his portrait on one side, and on the
reverse the following inscription:

“Presented to Herr Alexander as a token of esteem from his friends.
New York, 1847.”


Mr. Houdini writes as follows about the old magician (_Mahatma_,
June, 1903): “He was a welcome guest at the Palace of the King of
Brazil. He showed me letters to him from King Pedro II and his
wife, dated Brazil, 1850. After an absence of ten years from his
native country he returned, and married. He is blessed with six
children, two sons and four daughters. {182} One is in New York at
the present time. While in New York, Alexander was approached by an
illusionist named Orzini, who had a cabinet of mystery. He was in
hard circumstances and came to Alexander for assistance. The genial
German gave him ten dollars. Orzini secured an engagement at the Park
Theatre, but alas, only played one night, as his act did not suit,
so he was closed after his first performance. Said Alexander to me,
and the statement caused me infinite surprise: ‘This Orzini was the
man who threw the bomb at Napoleon III in Paris, trying to kill the
Emperor, but was himself killed; also blowing up several bystanders,
and wounding the horses of Napoleon’s carriage. The reporters
discovered that Orzini had just arrived from America, and in his
lodgings they found some kind of a mysterious glass house, which must
have been the Illusion Cabinet. In this affair Napoleon escaped with
his life and a few scratches.’ ”

This is a strange story. I am of the opinion that Herr Alexander is
laboring under a mistake in trying to identify the illusionist Orzini
with the celebrated revolutionist Orsini. In the first place, there
is the different spelling of the names—“Orzini” and “Orsini”; but
Mr. Houdini may have incorrectly reported Alexander in this respect.
There is no record of Orsini having come to the United States. Again,
he was not killed in the attempted assassination of Napoleon III, in
the rue Lepelletier, Paris, January 14, 1858. He was captured and
suffered imprisonment, and was guillotined March 13, 1858. While in
prison he wrote his memoirs.

Herr Alexander is the author of a work entitled _Der Moderne
Zauberer_ (“The Modern Magician”).



(As Exhibited Before Queen Victoria at Windsor Castle.)]

Wiljalba Frikell was born in Scopio, a village of Finland, in 1818.
His family was well-to-do and gave him advantages in the way of
education. He graduated at the High School of Munich in 1840, in his
twenty-second year. During his scholastic days he became interested
in legerdemain, and read with avidity every work on the subject he
could find. He attended {183} the performances of all conjurers who
came to Munich. Refusing to study for one of the learned professions,
greatly to the disappointment of his parents, he went on the stage,
and visited the principal cities of Europe, after which he journeyed
to Egypt. In the land of the pyramids Frikell had the honor of
performing before Mehemit Ali, who presented him with a gold medal.
Returning to Europe he visited Greece, Italy, and Spain. Subsequently
he went to India and investigated the thaumaturgy of the fakirs. He
made his first appearance in London in 1851, and performed before
Queen Victoria and the Royal Family, at Windsor Castle. His broken
German and peculiarity of manner caused him to be described by
_Punch_ as “a comic Charles Matthews.” The same journal also compared
him to “a monster raven in full dress for evening party.” His success
was marked. The Czar of Russia presented Frikell with a diamond
ring of great value, and the King of Denmark made him a Knight of
Dannebrog. Just when this remarkable man retired from the stage I
have been unable to ascertain. In his old age he became {184} a
recluse and denied himself to visitors. In fact, it was supposed by
the profession that he was dead, until Mr. Houdini discovered his
whereabouts in Krotschenbroda, a few miles from Dresden, Germany,
February, 1903, and called at his villa, but did not succeed
in obtaining an interview. Nine months later Frikell died. He
contemplated writing his memoirs _à la_ Robert-Houdin, but, alas,
death cut short the undertaking. That they would have been extremely
entertaining and full of curious incidents of travel, admits of
no doubt. An extract from a letter written by Mr. Houdini to his
American friend, H. S. Thompson, of Chicago, will prove of interest
to the reader.

“Dresden, Oct. 20, 1903.

“I have some news for you that may be of interest. You may remember
that I sought an interview last February with Dr. Wiljalba
Frikell, but was unable to meet him. Since then we have been in
correspondence, and he wrote me that if I ever came to Dresden he
would be pleased to see me. On arriving in Dresden I sent him word
that I would call upon him on October 10th last. I accordingly went
to the Villa Frikell about 1 o’clock, and you can imagine with what
sorrow and astonishment I learned that Dr. Frikell had died of heart
failure three hours before. He was awaiting my arrival at the time.
Fate willed it that I should see Herr Frikell, but that we should
not speak to each other.

“He was buried on October 13th. I attended the funeral and laid two
large wreaths on his grave; one on behalf of the Society of American
Magicians, and the other from myself. The S. A. M. wreath was the
largest and handsomest there.

“Herr Frikell was 87 years old and had made all arrangements to live
to 100. He always claimed he would live to over 100 years and would
tell why he expected to reach that age. Too bad we could not have
held a conversation ere he departed this life.

“Sincerely yours,


Frikell was an innovator in the art of magic. He dispensed with
apparatus. In his _Lessons in Magic_, he says: “The use of
complicated and cumbersome apparatus, to which modern conjurers
have become addicted, not only greatly diminishes the amount of
astonishment they are enabled to produce,—a defect which is not
compensated by the external splendor and imposing effect of such
paraphernalia,—but the useful lesson, how fallible our senses are, by
means the most ordinary and at everybody’s command, is entirely lost.
It has been my object {185} in my performances to restore the art to
its original province, and to extend that to a degree which it has,
I believe, never yet hitherto reached. I banish all such mechanical
and scientific preparations from my own practice, confining myself
for the most part to the objects and materials of every day life. The
success I have met with emboldens me to believe that I have followed
the right path.”

There is more or less truth in what Frikell says. But one can go to
extremes in the avoidance of magic paraphernalia. The happy course
is the middle one—a combination of sleight of hand and apparatus. I
quote, as follows, from an article by Prof. Hoffmann (_Mahatma_):
“The scientific school of conjuring, of which Robert-Houdin was the
originator, had its drawbacks. It involved the use of costly and
cumbersome paraphernalia, which grew and grew in quantity, till we
find Anderson, the Wizard of the North, traveling with seven tons
of luggage! Further, a trick, which, like Robert-Houdin’s automatic
figures, obviously depends upon ingenious mechanism, palls upon
the spectator. Such figures, at the present day, would be no more
regarded as magic than the Strasburg clock. Lastly his electrical
tricks produced an extraordinary effect, because very few persons
in his day were acquainted with the properties of electricity, but
now that there are electric bells in every household, and electrical
motor cars in every street, its magical prestige exists no longer.

“Hence a reaction to a severer and simpler school of conjuring,
of which Wiljalba Frikell was the earliest exponent, the school
which professes, so far as the public is concerned, to work without
apparatus and which in fact reduces its apparatus to the smallest
possible dimensions. Many high class performers now give what is
known in England as a ‘carpet bag’ show, and will keep an audience
wonder bound for a couple of hours, using no more apparatus than can
be carried in an ordinary gripsack.


(LONDON, 1854)

Appointed Physicien to their Majesties the
Emperor and Empress of Russia



1.—The Secret Power and Wonderful Appearance
2.—You Shall and Must Laugh
3.—The Drunken Bracelet
4.—Something for Everybody and the Pleasant Pastime
5.—Time in a Fix


1.—The Little Devil and the Secret Dispatch
2.—Aladdin’s Magic Lamp
3.—Grand Military Manœuvre, or the Courage of Prof. Frikell
4.—Das Geheimnisz, and Flight in the Air
5.—The Children’s Delight and Christmas Presents of
Prof. Wiljalba Frikell


“Broadly speaking this is undoubtedly an advance, for of two

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Online LibraryHenry Ridgely EvansThe Old and the New Magic → online text (page 16 of 28)