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performers, the one who can produce by the magic of his own fingers
the same degree of illusion for which the other needs elaborate
apparatus, the former is surely the greater artist. But {187} the
striving for simplicity may be overdone. The performer is apt to lose
his feeling for breadth of effect, and to fritter away his skill
over illusions too minute and too soon over to make any permanent
impression. One of the most skilful sleight of hand performers we
have ever seen throws away half the value of his work by going
too fast, and producing small effects, individually brilliant, so
rapidly that his audience has not time fairly to appreciate one
before another is presented. The spectator, under such circumstances,
takes away with him a mere blurred impression, rather than a clear
mental photograph of what he has seen, and the show suffers in his
estimation accordingly.

“Another danger attending the non-apparatus school lies in the fact
that the performer is apt, by carrying the principle to needless
lengths, unduly to limit his methods.

“On the whole we are inclined to think that the most successful
magician of the future will be one who judiciously combines apparatus
and non-apparatus tricks; such apparatus, however, to be of a simple
and homely kind and not made admittedly for the purpose of the trick.
The ideal entertainment, from the standpoint of the spectator, will
be one in which feats of dexterity or supposed dexterity, are worked
in conjunction with brilliant stage effects of a more spectacular
kind, such as are exhibited by Mr. Maskelyne at the Egyptian Hall,
London.”

And so I ring down the curtain on the old-time conjurers. They played
their parts in the great drama of life, and enriched the history of
the stage with their adventures. What could be more romantic than the
career of the incomparable Bosco?

The prestidigitateur makes things appear and disappear to our great
wonderment, until finally Death, the greatest of all necromancers,
waves his wand, and the mortal fades away from view, amid the shadows
of the tomb. Tom Masson, that charming writer of _verse de societé_,
says—

We are like puppets in some conjurer’s hands,
Who smiling, easy, nonchalantly stands
And says, amid the universal cheers:
“You see this man—and now he disappears!”[26]

[26] Munsey’s Magazine, August, 1905.

{188}




THE SECRETS OF SECOND SIGHT.


“Then _second-sighted_ Sandy said,
‘We’ll do nae good at a’, Willie.’ ”

—_Child’s Ballads_, VII. 265.


I.

I went on one occasion to dine with Mr. Francis J. Martinka, and
while waiting for the repast to be served, seated myself upon an
old-fashioned sofa in his drawing-room.

[Illustration: ROBERT HELLER’S MAGIC SOFA.]

“Pardon me,” said my host, gaily, “while I put a bottle of wine on
ice. I will be back in a little while. In the meantime, you may amuse
yourself looking over these photos of eminent conjurers. And, by
the way, you are seated on the very sofa {189} which Robert Heller
used in his second-sight trick. Examine it carefully and you will
see where the wires and electric battery were located. I came into
possession of the relic after the death of Heller.”

So saying he went out to look after the wine.

And so the piece of furniture I was seated on was the veritable
up-to-date tripod of that High Priestess of Delphi, Miss Haidie
Heller, who assisted Robert Heller, acting the part of clairvoyant.
It called up a flood of memories to me.

The magician of the Arabian Nights transported himself from Bagdad to
Damascus upon a piece of carpet. In imagination that old sofa carried
me back thirty years into the past. I was seated in the gallery of
the old National Theatre, Washington, D. C., at a _soirée magique_ of
the famous Heller. I shall never forget his second-sight trick. It
was the most wonder-provoking, the most mysterious experiment I have
ever seen. In his hands, it was perfect. Robert Heller saw Houdin
give an exhibition of this feat of mental magic in London. His acute
mind divined the secret, and he set about devising a code for working
the experiment. He added many new effects. Nothing seemed to puzzle
him and his assistant.

At an entertainment given in Boston, and described by Henry Hermon in
his work on Hellerism, a coin was handed to Heller. He glanced at it
and requested Miss Heller to name the object.

“A coin,” she quickly answered.

“Here, see if you can tell the name of the country, and all about
it?” he next asked.

Without a moment’s hesitation she replied: “It is a large copper
coin—a coin of Africa, I think. Yes, it is of Tripoli. The
inscriptions on it are in Arabic; one side reads ‘Coined at Tripoli;’
the other side, ‘Sultan of two lands, Sultan by inheritance, and the
son of a Sultan.’ ”

“Very well,” said Heller, “that is correct. But look, what is the
date, now?”

“The date is 1‐2‐2‐0, one thousand two hundred and twenty of the
Hegira, or Mohammedan year, which corresponds to 1805 of the
Christian year.” {190}

Tremendous applause greeted this feat.

Mr. Fred Hunt, who was for a number of years Robert Heller’s
assistant, revealed the secret of second sight soon after Heller’s
death. The performer has first to be initiated into a new
alphabetical arrangement, which is as follows:

A is H; B is T; C is S; D is G; E is F; F is E; G is A; H is I; I
is B; J is L; K is Pray; L is C; M is O; N is D; O is V; P is J; Q
is W; R is M; S is N; T is P; U is Look; V is Y; W is R; X is See
this; Y is Q; Z is Hurry. “Hurry up” means to repeat the last letter.
For example, the initials or name in a ring is wanted. Say it is
“Anna.” By the alphabetical arrangement H stands for A. D for N. The
exclamation “Hurry up” always means a repetition of the last letter,
and again H will give the answer when put as follows:

“Here is a name. Do you see it? Hurry up. Have you got it?”

Attention is paid only to the first letter of every sentence, and it
will be perceived that the name of Anna is spelled.

After the alphabet we have the numbers, which are arranged as
follows: 1 is Say or Speak; 2 is Be, Look or Let; 3 is Can or Can’t;
4 is Do or Don’t; 5 is Will or Won’t; 6 is What; 7 is Please or Pray;
8 is Are or Ain’t; 9 is Now; 10 is Tell; 0 is Hurry or Come. “Well”
is to repeat the last figure. Now for an example: The number 1,234 is
needed. The conjurer remarks: “_Say_ the number. _Look_ at it. _Can_
you see it? _Do_ you know?”

Suppose the number called for is 100.

“_Tell_ me the number. _Hurry_!”

So much, dear reader, for the spelling of proper names and conveying
numbers to the clairvoyant on the stage. In regard to colors, metals,
precious stones, countries, materials, fabrics, makers of watches,
playing cards, society emblems, coins, bills, jewelry, wearing
apparel, surgical instruments, etc., etc., Heller had them arranged
in sets of ten. The first question he asked gave the clue to the set;
the second question to the number of the article in the set. Thus
but two short questions were necessary to elicit the proper reply
from the assistant. {191} Miscellaneous articles were divided into
nineteen sets. I will give examples of two:

FIRST SET.

_What article is this?_

1. Handkerchief.
2. Neckerchief.
3. Bag.
4. Glove.
5. Purse.
6. Basket.
7. Beet.
8. Comforter.
9. Headdress.
10. Fan.

SECOND SET.

_What is this?_

1. Watch.
2. Bracelet.
3. Guard.
4. Chain.
5. Breastpin.
6. Necklace.
7. Ring.
8. Rosary.
9. Cross.
10. Charm.

Supposing a spectator handed a _Rosary_ to the conjurer. He would
call out to his assistant, “_What is this?_” (Clue to the second
set.) Then he would exclaim, “_Are_ you ready?” The word _are_ would
give the clue to number 8. And so on.

The clues to the sets were worded very nearly alike, so as to make
the spectators believe that the same questions were being constantly
asked.

Evoking the aid of electricity, Robert Heller was enabled to convey
the cue words and numbers of the sets to Miss Heller _without
speaking a word_. It was this wonderful effect that so puzzled
everybody. A confederate sat among the spectators, near the center
aisle of the theatre, and the wires of an electric battery were
connected with his chair, the electric push button being under the
front part of his seat. Heller gave the cue to the set in which
the article was, its number, etc., by some natural movement of
his body or arms; and the confederate, rapidly interpreting the
secret signals, telegraphed them to the clairvoyant on the stage.
The receiving instrument was attached to the sofa upon which Miss
Heller sat. The interchangeable use of the two methods of conveying
information—spoken and unspoken—during an evening, completely
bewildered the spectators. It was indeed a sphinx problem.

[Illustration: ROBERT HELLER.]

Robert Heller, or William Henry Palmer, was born in Canterbury,
England, in 1833. At the age of fourteen he won a scholarship at the
Royal Academy of Music. In the year 1852 {192} he made his début
in New York City at the Chinese Assembly Rooms. On this occasion
he wore a black wig and spoke with a Gallic accent, believing that
a French conjurer would be better received in this country than an
English magician. He failed to make a success, and eventually drifted
to Washington, where he taught music for a number of years. All this
time he was perfecting himself in legerdemain. Finally he reappeared
in New York and won unbounded success. He visited Europe and India,
returning to the United States in 1875. His last performance was
given at Concert Hall, Philadelphia, on November 25, 1878. He died in
the same city on November 28, 1878. Soon after his death an absurd
story went the rounds of the {193} press that he had directed his
executors to destroy his automata and magical paraphernalia. Such
is not the case. Mr. Francis J. Martinka, of New York, possesses a
number of his tricks. Heller was a magnificent pianist and always
gave a short recital of his own compositions and those of the masters
during his entertainment. He used to append the following effusion to
his posters:

“Shakespeare wrote well;
Dickens wrote _Weller_;
Anderson was—
But the greatest is Heller.”

The following is one of Heller’s programmes (Salt Lake City, Utah,
May 23, 1867):

FOURTH PERFORMANCE OF THE RENOWNED
CONJURER, ILLUSIONIST AND PIANIST

MR. ROBERT
HELLER!

The selections of
WONDERS AND MARVELS!
For these performances will embrace many of his
Most Famous Inventions in Magical Art!

THE MUSICAL SELECTIONS
Will be rendered upon Chickering’s Grand
Piano, attached to the Theatre.

MR. ROBERT HELLER
Will make his FOURTH Appearance
THIS EVENING

PART I.—ILLUSORY.

1.—WITH A CANDLE.
2.—WITH A WATCH—The Watches of the Audience made to strike the hour.
3.—THE CANNON BALLS.
4.—WITH 30 PIECES OF SILVER.
5.—MOCHA—an utter impossibility.
6.—A PHOTOGRAPH.

PART II.—MUSIC.

1.—Caprice on Airs from “Il Trovatore,” including the famous
Anvil Chorus.—HELLER.
2.—“Home, Sweet Home.”—HELLER.
3.—“Storm and Sunshine.”—a musical story.

PART III.—THE GREAT MYSTERY OF
SECOND SIGHT!

The Most Startling Phenomenon of this Country.

PART IV.—FUN.

Heller’s Original and Wonderful Band of

WOOD MINSTRELS

The most perfect set of Blockheads in the world, who will
introduce their most popular Overtures, Choruses, &c.

{194}


II.

A curious exhibition of silent second sight was that of the Svengali
trio. The effect as described by the _New York Herald_, August 11,
1904, is as follows:

“Two persons (lady and gentleman) are on the stage, both with their
backs toward the audience. A third one goes into the auditorium, with
his back towards the stage, to receive the wishes of the audience.
If the name of any international celebrity is whispered to him, with
lightning rapidity the thought is transmitted. The gentleman on the
stage turns round immediately and appears in features, bearing and
dress as the desired personage—with wonderfully startling resemblance.

“One can likewise whisper to the gentleman in the auditorium the
name of an international opera, operetta or international song. The
thought flies like lightning, and the lady sings what is wanted,
instantly accompanying herself on the piano.

“The secret of this trick is as follows: When the curtain rises,
the master of ceremonies walks to the front of the stage and in a
pleasing voice begins: ‘Ladies and gentlemen—I have the pleasure of
introducing to you, etc., etc. I will call your attention to the
fact that the spectators must confine their whispered wishes to
international celebrities, names of well-known personages, songs and
operas of international fame,’ etc.

“This limitation of choice is the key to the performance. They have
lists of these ‘international celebrities,’ rulers, statesmen,
diplomats, great writers and musical composers; songs of world-wide
reputation, popular selections from the operas, etc. And the secret
of the evening is that all of these carefully selected names, titles,
etc., are numbered, as in the following examples:

STATESMEN AND RULERS.

1. Bismarck.
2. King Humbert of Italy.
3. Napoleon Bonaparte.
4. King Edward VII.
5. Paul Kruger.
120. Lincoln.

POPULAR SONGS.

1. “Home, Sweet Home.”
2. “Last Rose of Summer.”
3. “Marseillaise.”
4. “The Jewel Song in Faust.”
5. “Walter’s Prize Song.”
101. “Comin’ Thro’ the Rye.” {195}

OPERAS.

1. “Faust.”
2. “Lohengrin.”
3. “Bohemian Girl.”
4. “Lucia di Lammermoor.”
5. “Carmen.”
120. “Trovatore.”

GREAT WRITERS.

1. Thackeray.
2. Victor Hugo.
3. Dickens.
4. George Eliot.
5. Shakespeare.
101. Dante.


HOW THE SIGNALS ARE CONCEALED.

“The manager reiterates that if only names of international
reputation are given the responses will be correct nine hundred and
ninety-nine times in a thousand. Then he descends from the stage,
and, smiling right and left, inclines his ear to catch the whispered
wishes as he moves slowly up the aisle, generally with his back to
the stage. An auditor whispers to him, ‘Bismarck.’

“Herr Svengali, gesticulating freely but naturally, pressing his
eyes with his fingers for an instant as if going into a momentary
trance—only a second or two, just enough to impress the audience—then
thrusts a hand into the air, wipes the moisture from his face with
his handkerchief or leans toward a spectator, seeking his attention,
when a voice from the stage says, ‘Bismarck.’

“ ‘Right,’ responds the man who whispered that illustrious name. Then
there is a craning of necks and crushing of programmes, all eyes
fixed on the stage, where the impersonator, standing before a cabinet
of costume pigeonholes, with the aid of an assistant has donned wig
and uniform in his lightning change and whirls around disguised as
Bismarck, while the girl at the piano plays ‘The Watch on the Rhine.’
It is all the work of a few seconds and makes a great impression upon
the spectator.

“The next man calls for an opera air, ‘Bohemian Girl,’ and the
piano plays ‘I Dreamt That I Dwelt in Marble Halls,’ etc. Another
man suggests the magic name ‘Sheridan.’ It is echoed aloud from the
stage, while the audience applauds and the girl plays ‘The Star
Spangled Banner.’

“The few experts present pay little attention to the stage. Their
eyes are fixed on the man Svengali in the aisle, noting every move he
makes. It is observed that his numerous gestures, his frequent use of
his handkerchief, the pressure of his {196} fingers on his eyes, as
if to hypnotize his assistant on the stage, are natural movements,
attracting no attention, yet necessary to hide the vital signals in
the cipher code of the show.

“In the programme and show bills it is emphasized that the lady
and gentleman on the stage have their backs to the audience, while
Svengali, down in the aisle, has his back to the stage, making
collusion apparently impossible. This makes a profound impression on
the public.


“A CONFEDERATE BEHIND A SCREEN.

“But not a word is said of that curious screen panel, bearing a
double-headed eagle—the Austrian coat of arms—surmounting a large
cabinet of costumes occupying so much space on the stage. The
programme does not explain that this screen panel is transparent from
behind and that an accomplice with a strong magnifying lens reads
every move made by Svengali and repeats his signals to the pretty
girl at the piano and the impersonator at the cabinet.


“THE SYSTEMS EXPLAINED.

“Here is an illustration of how the figure system can be worked. As
explained above, the famous personages, popular songs and operas are
on numbered lists. Svengali in the aisle, with his code of signals,
has all these numbers committed to memory.

“When a spectator whispers ‘Dickens’ Svengali knows it is No. 4, and
he signals accordingly.

“But how?

“By touching his head, chin, or breast, or that particular part of
his body designated in the signal code of the Svengali Company.
The diagram given herewith illustrates the system of communication
by numbers, nine figures and a cipher (0), by which all the wealth
of the world may be measured, and any number of words may be
communicated without a word of speech. One has but to map out a
square on his face, breast or body, and number it with these nine
figures, with an extra space for the cipher, to be ready for the
Svengali business. That is, when he has memorized the names and the
numbers representing them. {197}

“Say the human head is used for this purpose. Imagine the top of the
head, right hand side, as No. 1, the right ear as No. 2, the jaw as
No. 3, and the neck as the cipher; the forehead No. 4, the nose No.
5, the chin No. 6, the top of the head on the left side as No. 7, the
left ear No. 8, and the left side of the jaw No. 9.

“Thus you have the code system by which operators can communicate
volumes by using a codified list of numbered words or sentences.

[Illustration]

“If you label the Lord’s Prayer No. 4, and the Declaration of
Independence No. 5, you may instantly telegraph the mighty literature
through wireless space—enough literature to save all Europe from
anarchy—by two natural movements of the hand.

“You can label your eyes, your movements or even your glances, making
them take the places of the nine omnipotent numbers. Again: Glance
upward to the right for No. 1, straight upward for No. 2, and upward
to the left for No. 3. Repeating, glancing horizontally for Nos. 4, 5
and 6. Repeating the same again, by glancing downward for Nos. 7, 8
and 9, and stroking your chin for the cipher (0).

“With your back to the audience, you can telegraph in a similar way,
using your arm and elbow to make the necessary signals. Let the right
arm, hanging down, represent No. 1; the elbow, projecting from the
side, No. 2; elbow raised, No. 3. Repeat {198} with the left arm for
Nos. 4, 5 and 6; with either hand placed naturally behind you, on the
small of the back, above the belt and over your shoulder for Nos. 7,
8 and 9, and on the back of your head or neck for the cipher (0).”


III.

It is an interesting fact to note that the Chevalier Pinetti was
the first exhibitor of the second-sight trick. Houdin revived (or
re-invented) it.

[Illustration: SECOND-SIGHT TRICK.—SIGNALING.]

On the 12th of December, 1846, he announced in his bill, “In this
programme, M. Robert-Houdin’s son, who is gifted with marvelous
second sight, after his eyes have been covered with a thick bandage,
will designate every object presented to him by the audience.” In his
memoirs he thus describes how he came to invent the trick:

“My two children were playing one day in the drawing-room at a game
they had invented for their own amusement. The younger had bandaged
his elder brother’s eyes, and made him guess at the objects he
touched, and when the latter happened to guess right, they changed
places. This simple game suggested to me the most complicated idea
that ever crossed my mind.

“Pursued by the notion, I ran and shut myself up in my workroom,
and was fortunately in that happy state when the mind {199} follows
easily the combinations traced by fancy. I rested my head in my
hands, and, in my excitement, laid down the first principles of
second sight.”

Houdin never revealed his method of working the trick.

Robert Heller’s successors in mental magic are Max Berol and wife,
and the Zancigs. Among other feats Berol is able to memorize over
two hundred words called out by the spectators and written down on a
slip of paper by some gentleman. Berol will then write these words
backwards and forwards without hesitation and name any one of them by
its number in the list. The Zancigs are marvels in the art of second
sight. They were born in Copenhagen, Denmark, but are naturalized
citizens of the United States. Clever advertisers, they lay claim to
occult powers, as the following notice in the Washington Post, April
30, 1905, will testify:

“Although Prof. Zancig and Mme. Zancig, who will be at Chase’s
this week, are naturalized Americans, they come from Denmark. They
first developed their transmission of thought from one mind to
another—or what is known as telepathy—while journeying through the
Orient. They found that quite a number of the Orientals had found
it possible to control ‘thought waves’ and transmit them to the
minds of others, just as Marconi, with his wireless telegraphy,
controls electric waves and transmits them to an objective point.
Prof. Zancig discovered that Mme. Zancig was inceptive, and he could
readily transmit to her mind the thoughts of his own. The tests were
continued, and became so positive and conclusive that it was decided
to give public exhibitions.

“While in India, Prof. and Mme. Zancig saw some astonishing
telepathic exhibitions, which encouraged them to still greater
efforts. They gave exhibitions before the Maharajah, near Delhi;
before the Chinese minister at Hongkong, and before the Japanese
officials of highest grades, who took great interest in the mental
tests. One remarkable incident occurred at Potchefstroom, South
Africa, where the natives are extremely superstitious. The exhibition
had been extensively advertised, and the house was full. The
entertainment created a sensation. As long as Prof. Zancig remained
on the stage everything was all right, {200} but when he went among
the audience and read dates of coins, inscriptions on letters, and
performed other remarkable feats, the audience suddenly became
panic-stricken, and there was a mad rush for windows, doors, or any
other means of exit. In five minutes the hall was empty, and nothing
could induce the people to return. After concluding his tour abroad,
Prof. Zancig and his wife returned to America, and began an American
tour which has been uninterruptedly successful and will extend to
every section of the United States.”

Two clever performers of the second-sight trick are Harry and Mildred
Rouclere. Mr. Rouclere gives a very pleasing magical entertainment.

{201}




THE CONFESSIONS OF AN AMATEUR CONJURER.


“If this be magic, let it be an art.”—SHAKESPEARE.


I.

At the theatre not long ago, I heard the orchestra play Mendelssohn’s
exquisite “Spring Song,” and immediately I was carried back in
fancy to my boyhood days under the old roof-tree at Glen Willow, on
the heights of Georgetown, D. C., where I spent such happy years.
The rain is gently pattering upon the shingled roof; the distant
woods are waxing green under the soft influences of the season; the
blackbirds are calling in the tree tops. O sweet springtide of youth,
made more beautiful still by the associations of books, by the free
play of the imagination in realms of poetry and fantasie—

“A boy’s will is the wind’s will.
And the thoughts of youth are long, long thoughts.”

The intervening years are all blotted out. I am young again, and have
just returned to the old home, after witnessing an exhibition of
magic by Wyman the Wizard at the town hall. To a boy fresh from the
delights of the Arabian Nights this is a wonderful treat. My mind is


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