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by a writer in the _Strand Magazine_ (London):

“An assistant is introduced, laid upon an ottoman, and then sent
off into a hypnotic trance (?). The performer takes an ordinary fan
and fans the body while it rises slowly about four feet in the air,
where it mysteriously remains for any length of time desired. A large
solid steel hoop is given for examination, and after the audience is
satisfied as to its genuineness it is passed over the body from head
to feet, behind the body and over it again, at once dispelling the
idea of wires or any other tangible support being used, the body,
as it were, journeying through the hoop each time. The suspended
assistant is now fanned from {244} above and gently descends to
the ottoman as slowly and gracefully as he rose from it. He is then
brought back to his normal state out of the trance, and walks off
none the worse for his aerial pose.

[Illustration: FIG. 2.—“LEVITATION”—HYPNOTISM OR MECHANISM?—WHICH?]

“This seeming impossibility is performed by the aid of a cranked
bar (Fig. 2 and A, Fig. 3) and a pulley to raise it, the bar being
pushed through from the back at the moment when the performer is
‘hypnotizing’ the subject, and in the act of placing a light covering
over him he guides a clamp (B, Fig. 3) and fixes it to the top of the
ottoman upon which the subject rests, and which rises, unseen, with
him, the edges being obscured by the covering. The bar being the same
color as the back scene cannot be noticed, and resting upon a stand
(C, Figs. 2 and 3) behind the scenes the same height as the ottoman
it is kept firm by the aid of strong supports. Being also double the
width (D, Fig. 3) at this part greater leverage is obtained to hold
the board upon which the subject rests secure from tilting either
way. By means of a pulley arrangement (E, Fig. 2) the assistant
behind raises and lowers the body, looking through a small hole in
the scene and timing the performer’s movements with exactness. Fig. 1
shows the illusion as it appears. Fig. 2—a side view—shows the {245}
means of suspension and the pulley for raising the bar and telescopic
stand. Fig. 3 almost explains itself. It shows the method of passing
the ring over the body. By putting it on at (1) and passing it as
far as the center of the bar (A) it can be brought around and off
the body at (2), apparently having passed right over it, although
not free from the crank; it is then passed behind the body as far as
(3), when it can again be placed over the end (1) and drawn across
once more, this time being, of course, quite free, having made an
apparent circle right around and across the body. It seems evident
to the audience that the subject is so raised and suspended by the
performer’s magic power alone.

“The sleeping subject is now lowered, and in the act of being
‘dehypnotized’ the performer slips the crank off, which is
immediately drawn in from behind, the subject and performer sharing
the applause. It is almost needless to explain that the ‘hypnotism’
is mere sham to heighten the effect and admit of an excuse to stoop
in order to fix the cranked bar.”

[Illustration: FIG. 3.—“LEVITATION” HOW THE HOOP IS PASSED OVER THE
BODY.]

So far, so good. The above method was undoubtedly the one used in Mr.
Kellar’s original presentation of the illusion. But he has since made
numerous improvements in it which have puzzled not only the public
but the conjurers as well.


III.

Kellar has been an extensive Oriental traveler. He has hob-nobbed
with Hindoo Rajahs, smoked nargilehs with the {246} turbaned Turk,
and penetrated into darkest Africa. In India he witnessed many
exhibitions of thaumaturgy. Concerning the high-caste magic, such
as hypnotic feats and experiments in apparent death, he speaks with
respect, but the magic of the strolling Fakirs he characterizes
as inferior to that of our Western conjurers, with, perhaps, the
exception of the Hindoo Basket Trick, which is a clever illusion.
When we contemplate the fact that this startling trick is always
performed in the open air, amid a circle of spectators, we must
give due credit to the histrionic ability of the native conjurers
and their powers of misdirection. Robert-Houdin and Col. Stodare
introduced this experiment to European theatre-goers, but they were
aided by all the accessories of the modern stage and the audience sat
at a respectable distance. Let us hear Kellar’s explanation of the
feat (_A Magician’s Tour_, Chicago, 1886).

“At Allahabad I saw a juggler who made a specialty of this trick.
Having explained to the spectators what he proposed to do, he allowed
them to select a spot on the turf in the open air where the trick
should be performed. Here he stationed himself with a basket with
a hinged lid at his feet, a little boy at his side, and a sharp
sword in one hand. He wore nothing but a breech clout. The company
surrounded the conjurer in a circle so close that there was no
possibility for any person to pass it without detection. The juggler
placed the child in the basket, closed the lid, and began muttering
a seeming incantation. While still praying he wound a large white
cloth about his arm, and suddenly threw it over the basket, binding
one end. He then drew the cloth towards him, brought it up around
his waist and tucked the end in his clout, leaving a portion to hang
down in front in graceful folds. This much done, he plunged the sword
through the basket. As the child’s agonizing cries were heard, the
man drew back the sword all dripping with blood. Again and again
was the sword thrust into the basket, the child’s heart-rending
screams growing fainter and fainter until they ceased altogether.
The Fakir asked that the basket be examined. It was opened and found
to be empty. A gleeful shout was heard. The spectators looked in
the direction from whence it came, and there sat the child on the
limb of a small {247} tree, waving his arms and seeming as happy as
a bird. I paid the thaumaturgist two rupees (one dollar) and the
secret of the trick was explained to me. I marveled at first that
the man was willing to reveal the mystery for so small a sum, but
I soon discovered that only those who wore the Indian juggler’s
costume, the breech clout, could perform it. The trick is done in
this way: When the cloth is spread the boy slips out of the basket
under the friendly cover of the linen, and crawls under the Fakir.
Grasping a strap about the man’s waist, he draws himself up between
the juggler’s legs. The cloth when brought about the Fakir’s waist
hides the little fellow, who, from his unexpected retreat, utters the
piercing shrieks of the dying child. With a sponge saturated with a
red liquid the conjurer produces the blood stains. When the people
rush forward to look into the basket, the boy slips from his place
of concealment and makes his presence manifest wherever he has been
directed to go.”

[Illustration]

{248}

Herr Willmann describes practically the same trick under the title
“Spirit box,” designed to prove the permeability of matter. A
medium is placed in the box, and after some hocus-pocus the manager
reopens it and declares it to be empty; for the purpose of proving
his assertion he turns it over toward the public, and when the lid
is opened, the medium, who remains all the while in his place, has
become invisible, because he is hidden by the interior part of the
double wall, which now seems to be the bottom of the box. The box
stands upon a podium, in order to show that the medium could not have
escaped through the floor. The adjoined illustration reveals the
secret of the trick, the explanation of which is as simple as the
effect is surprising.

On stages which allow the prestidigitateur to use traps, a trunk
is placed so as to allow the prisoner to escape through the floor.
The movable wall of the trunk in such a case swings round an axis
which lies parallel with the rope that is afterwards fastened around
the trunk. The movable wall in the trunk connects with a trap in
the floor, and while visitors from the audience closely watch the
fastening, the enclosed person makes his escape with the greatest
ease.

[Illustration: THE MYSTERIOUS TRUNK OPERATED THROUGH A TRAP IN THE
STAGE.]

Kellar is an expert in the rope-tying business, which the notorious
Davenport Brothers exploited under the guise of spiritism. When
I first saw Kellar at Ford’s Opera House, Washington, D. C., in
February, 1879, his cabinet act, a burlesque on the Davenport séance,
was a feature of his entertainment. After playing a disastrous
engagement in Philadelphia, he came to Washington, where his
business proved no better, and being “flat broke,” as he expressed
it, he advertised in sheer desperation a Sunday night lecture on
Spiritualism, to be delivered at the old National Theatre. The
theatre and advertising were furnished by Mr. Ford, who took half
of the gross receipts. I was present on the occasion and recall the
excitement. Everything passed off without special incident, until
the magician came to the Davenport cabinet test. At this juncture
a venerable gentleman arose in the audience and challenged Kellar
to permit him to do the tying in the same manner that he had tied
the Davenports years before. The gentleman was very much in earnest
and remarked: “If you fail to get {249} loose when tied, you are a
colossal humbug; if you do get loose, it will be by spirit agency.”
Kellar joyfully accepted the challenge. The old gentleman came upon
the stage and pinioned the magician’s hands behind his back with
many intricate and subtle knots. So tightly did he draw the rope
that sympathetic {250} people in the theatre cried, “Shame.” Having
completed his job, he turned to the spectators with a self-satisfied
look on his face, as much as to say, “I have trapped the fox.” But
he reckoned without his host. No sooner was his back turned to the
magician than the latter slipped one hand from its lashings and
tapped the skeptic on the shoulder. “If you have two of my hands tied
behind my back,” said Kellar, “I must have been royally endowed by
Nature with a third hand.”

Thunders of applause greeted the scene. Even ladies rose from their
seats and cheered. “Bravo, Kellar!” was heard on all sides. The old
gentleman joined in the demonstration, and acknowledged himself
beaten. This episode caused so great a sensation in Washington that
two more Sunday evening lectures were given to crowded houses, and
Kellar was enabled to pay his debts and get out of town.

It is now pretty well known to conjurers that the Davenports
accomplished their feats by secretly taking up slack in the rope
while it was being tied, thereby getting a loop hole in the bonds
through which to work one hand loose. Frequently they cut the cords
with knives secreted up their sleeves, and after the alleged spirit
manifestations were gone through with, exchanged the cut ropes for
genuine ones, and came out of the cabinet with these, making the
spectators believe that some occult agency had freed them from the
knots.

There is a conjurer named Joad Heteb who claims to have dropped from
the eye of the Sphinx in the form of a tear, and was immediately
metamorphosed into the Wizard of the Pyramids. According to his
account the spirits of the sorcerers and soothsayers of the olden
Pharaohs left their rock-cut tombs and painted mummy-cases to be
present at the event. Joad Heteb has a clever press-agent. If Joad
fell from the Sphinx’s eye in the shape of a tear, Kellar must have
dropped from the fabled monster’s mouth in the form of a _word_, and
that word “Mystery.” Kellar is ably assisted by Herr Valadon, an
Anglo-German professor of legerdemain, formerly of Egyptian Hall,
London. Valadon, upon his entrance on the stage, takes off his
gloves, vanishes them, by apparently throwing {251} them in the air,
whereupon a white dove flutters upwards. It is a very pretty effect.

[Illustration: X-RAY PHOTOGRAPH OF KELLAR’S HAND.

(In Possession of Mr. Francis J. Martinka, New York.)]

{252}

I give one of Kellar’s programmes (Proctor’s Theatre, New York City,
September, 1904):

KELLAR
THE PEERLESS MAGICIAN.

Special Engagement of
PAUL VALADON

From England’s Home of Mystery, the Egyptian Hall, London. Tour
under the management of DUDLEY MCADOW.

FIRST PART.

KELLAR
In a series of original experiments in pure sleight of hand,
thoroughly up to date. A display of marvelous digital dexterity,
surpassing anything heretofore achieved in the field of magic.
Novel, unique, original, including:

OLD GLORY,
THE DYEING ENIGMA,
AND THE GREAT HYPNOTIC SCENE,

The Levitation of Princess Karnac

The most daring and bewildering illusion, and by far the most
difficult achievement Mr. Kellar ever attempted. Absolutely new in
principle. The dream in midair of the dainty Princess of Karnac
surpasses the fabled feats of the ancient Egyptian sorcerers, nor
can anything more magical be found in the pages of The Thousand
and One Nights, and it lends a resemblance to the miraculous tales
of levitation that come out of India. This {253} illusion is
acknowledged by critics and historians of the goetic art to be
the profoundest achievement in either ancient or modern magic.
Its perfection represents fifteen years of patient research and
abstruse study, and the expenditure of as many thousands of
dollars. The result of these labors is a veritable masterpiece of
magic, the sensational marvel of the twentieth century and the
crowning achievement of Mr. Kellar’s long and brilliant career.

PART SECOND.

By Herr VALADON
The most accomplished exponent of pure sleight of hand ever
seen in this or any other age, introducing his entirely new and
original mystery, entitled:

A Drum That Can’t Be Beaten
—AND—
Well I’m⸺⸺!!!

PART THIRD.

KELLAR

THE YOGE’S LAMP,
MIND POWER,
THE SIMLA SEANCE,
FLY TO, OR THE PRINCESS OF KARNAC,

An astonishing illusion, exploiting the theosophic theory
of projection of astral bodies through the air. An original
conception so startling in effect and so nearly approaching the
supernatural as to seem miraculous. Affinity with an unseen power
seems plausible, and scientific minds marvel at the production.

{254}




A GENTLEMAN OF THIBET.


“I could not remember any more than that the hero [Cagliostro] had
spoken of heaven, of the stars, of the Great Secret, of Memphis, of
the High Priest, of transcendental chemistry, of giants and monstrous
beasts, of a city ten times as large as Paris, in the middle of
Africa, where he had correspondents.”—COUNT BEUGNOT: _Memoirs_.


I.

When Madame Blavatsky, High Priestess of Isis, died, there followed
a long interregnum during which magic languished. Finally there
appeared in the East a star of great magnitude—the five-pointed star
of the Gnostics and the Oriental Mahatmas, heralding the coming of
another mystic. Madame Blavatsky had set the fashion for Thibetan
adepts, and had turned the current of modern occultism towards the
Land of the Lamas, so it was quite natural that the new thaumaturgist
should hail from the Holy City of Llassa. His name was Monsieur le
Docteur Albert de Sarak, Comte de Das, who claimed to be “the son of
a Rajah of Thibet and a French Marchioness,” and to have been born in
the land of marvels.

Monsieur le Comte, in his circulars, described himself as “General
Inspector of the Supreme Council of Thibet.” He carried about with
him a voluminous portfolio of papers containing “the numerous
diplomas which he possessed as member of several orders of knighthood
and of scientific and humanitarian associations.” He also exhibited
a Masonic diploma of the Thirty-third degree, which bore the
endorsement of all the Supreme Councils of the Rite to which he
belonged in the countries through which he had traveled. But he was
not a {255} Fellow of the Theosophical Society. On the contrary, he
claimed to have been persecuted by the members of that Brotherhood;
to have been frequently arrested and denounced by them as a pretender
to the occult, as a false magician, etc., etc.

The Count made his début in Washington, D. C, in the year 1902,
where he founded one of his esoteric centers, described as follows
in the organ of his cult, _The Radiant Truth_, of which he was
editor-in-chief:

“Oriental Esoteric Head Centre of the United States of America,
under obedience to the Supreme Esoteric Council of the Initiates of
Thibet. Social object: To form a chain of universal fraternity, based
upon the purest Altruism, without hatred of sect, caste or color; in
which reign tolerance, order, discipline, liberty, compassion and
true love. To study the Occult Sciences of the Orient and to seek,
by meditation, concentration and by a special line of conduct, to
develop those psychic powers which are in man and his environment.”

The Count also gave private séances, as we see by his advertisement
in the above-named journal:

“Science of Occultism, Double Vision, Telepathy, Astrology,
Horoscopy, etc. Doctor Albert de Sarak, Count de Das, General
Inspector of the Supreme Council of Thibet.

“Office hours: 3 to 5 p. m.

“Address, 1443 Corcoran Street, Washington, D. C.”

Dr. Sarak’s first public exhibition of his alleged psychic powers is
thus described in the _Washington Post_ (March 16, 1902):

“Dr. A. de Sarak, occultist and adept, a professor of the mystic and
the sixth sense, gave a demonstration last night before a Washington
audience. Several hundred persons gathered in the beautiful assembly
hall of the House of the Temple of the Supreme Council, Southern
Jurisdiction, 433 Third street, last evening, to witness his weird
exhibition of occult powers. After three hours spent in the presence
of the East Indian, the audience filed out with apparently something
to think about and ponder.

“Professor Sarak, while master of fourteen languages, does not
speak fluently the English language. Last evening he spoke {256}
in French, and a very charming young woman, also an adept, but of
English birth, acted as his interpreter. The Easterner, a man of
medium height, was attired in a gorgeous gown of white silk, across
the breast of which hung certain mystic emblems of gold and silver.
A loose, pale-yellow robe covered this garment during most of the
evening. He wore a white turban. The adept wears a pointed black
beard, which, with large, languid brown eyes, gave fully the effect
that one expects in a student of the mystic schools of Thibet.

“The interpreter stated that Professor de Sarak was born in Thibet
and was descended from a noble French family. He had devoted his
life, she said, to the study of the occult, first in the Thibetan
schools and later with the ascetics hidden in the mountains. He had
visited almost every country on the globe, spreading the occult
science, which, she declared, some time would bring a rich harvest to
all mankind.

“As the professor finished his rapidly spoken French sentences the
young woman translated them to the hearers. Dr. de Sarak described
the sixth sense in man, saying that it was second-sight, a latent and
undeveloped force. He said he merely wished to present the facts of
his religion. He explained the wonderful fluid force that existed.
He said it is the force that raised the huge stones in building the
pyramids and is the same force that brings the bird from the egg, the
force which gives man the power of rising as if filled with a buoyant
gas, a power which can be concentrated in a tube. He stated that
occultism was absolutely nothing but the powers of the will.

“ ‘It is nothing supernatural,’ the doctor said, ‘but is merely the
hastening of nature’s work.’

“A small table stood by a leather chair, and on this burned a tiny
candle from the mouth of a brazen asp. The professor stood over the
table and busied himself with a pungent incense in an odd burner. A
glass plate, with a number of fish eggs, was shown and examined. A
large glass bowl was filled with water, and one of the members of
the audience was told to carefully brush the eggs into the water.
In the meantime three men from the audience had with strong ropes
securely bound {257} the hands of the adept behind his back as he
sat in the chair. Broad, clean, white cloths were wrapped about the
seated figure, leaving the head free, and the three men selected held
the cloths in place. Music rolled from a deep organ, and the head of
the adept sank back and a strange light appeared to cross his face.
According to the directions of the interpreter the bowl of water
containing the fish eggs was placed by one of the three beneath the
cloths on the lap of the adept.

“After a period of straining and soft moaning from the white-wrapped
figure, for perhaps ten minutes, the cloths were removed, and from
the lap of the apparently insensible man was lifted the bowl of
water, but instead of the eggs which it contained a few moments
before there swam about a dozen of tiny, new-born fish.[28]

[28] This reminds one of the experiments of Prof. Jacques
Loeb, of the University of Chicago, with the unfertilized
eggs of the sea urchin. There was nothing occult, however,
in the professor’s researches.

“Dr. Sarak was then blindfolded with a half-dozen bandages pressing
against absorbent cotton, which rested before the eyes. For a while
he remained in his chair, while the vibrating tones of an organ
filled the room. Then the adept suddenly arose and walked surely
and steadily down the room, turning into narrow aisles through the
audience as safely as a man might who had his sight. This experiment
was to demonstrate double vision at a distance and through opaque
bodies. A blank canvas stood on an easel near the adept. Apparently
in a trance, he walked to the easel, mixed colors, and in ten minutes
a finished picture was the result. A game of dominoes was played with
a member of the audience, and previous to the beginning of the game
the doctor wrote something on a bit of card and his assistant handed
it to someone in the audience to keep. Blindfolded and standing, the
adept played the game perfectly, and at the conclusion the card was
found to contain the numbers of the last two dominoes played by both
the adept and his opponent.

“Experiments were given at the close in the disintegration and
restoration of matter, of psychic perception, in which he aroused the
wondering admiration of the audience.” {258}


II.

Not many months after this exhibition the Esoteric Centre was
founded, and the following extraordinary circular sent out to
prominent people in Washington:

DIRECTING COMMISSION OF THE ORIENTAL ESOTERIC CENTRE OF WASHINGTON.

UNDER OBEDIENCE TO THE SUPREME ESOTERIC COUNCIL OF THE INITIATES OF
THIBET.

We address ourselves to those who truly desire to read—to those who
truly wish to understand!

For those whose time has not yet come, this page has little value—it
will but be scorned and rejected.

But we and our work go onward, with few or with many—Forward, ever
forward.

We will, then, be brief, but logical and clear!

THE SUPREME COUNCIL OF THE ADEPTS OR MAHATMAS RESIDES * * * WHERE IT
DESIRES! * * * since it possesses powers still unknown in the West;
but it has, in fact, its centre of action in a region _not yet_ (!)
explored, in the North of Thibet.

This Council, composed of Masters who watch that the _Law of the
Lotus be not revealed to the vulgar, has its General inspectors in
the West as_ in the East, who, invested with the necessary powers to
demonstrate the truth of that which they teach and propagate, have
different missions, which they must fulfill strictly; and although
misunderstood and insulted by those who do not understand them, yet
they continue to work actively to serve worthily the Holy Cause
of True, Veritable Fraternity, having ever before their eyes this
device: “Forward, ever forward!”

They may suffer all manner of pain and torments, but none of
these—no, nothing can touch them; for the Occult Hand sustains,
saves and protects them!

The Supreme Council of the Mahatmas of Thibet has, then, given
powers to its Representatives, that they may use them, not to enrich
themselves, but to call the attention of every man or woman of high
ideals who desires “To go forward, ever forward, and ever higher!”


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Online LibraryHenry Ridgely EvansThe Old and the New Magic → online text (page 21 of 28)