Hiding The Elephant: How Magicians Invented the Impossible and Learned to Disappear

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Harry Houdini was the greatest escape artist in history, yet known to his contemporaries as a terrible stage magician. Nevertheless, in 1917 he performed a single illusion that has been hotly debated ever since: Under the bright spotlights of New York's Theatre Hippodrome, he made a live elephant disappear.

Hiding The Elephant

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Where did he learn this amazing trick and how did it work? The answers lie in magic Jim Steinmeyer's chronicle of over half a century of illusionary innovation, backstage chicanery and espionage, elevated showmanship, and keen competition within the world of magicians. In narrating performers' attempts to make things vanish, Steinmeyer has captured the cultural history of magic during its 'Golden Age' in America and abroad. Learn the secrets and life stories of the fascinating personalities behind optical marvels such as floating ghosts, appearing onstage and interacting with live actors, disembodied heads, and vanishing ladies. Steinmeyer demystifies such tricks as 'Pepper's Ghost,' 'The Sphinx' of Colonel Joseph Stodare, Harry Kellar's 'The Levitation of Princess Karnak,' and Charles Morritt's 'Disappearing Donkey.' The people and events surrounding each step toward 'The Vanishing Elephant,' reveal how simple principles - optics, lighting, pulley systems, and mechanics, all diagrammed in the book - mixed with ingenious psychology, can entertain and deceive. Houdini's great feat of invisibility was based on a secret passsed on to him by Chalres Morritt, and the trick remained their secret (kept even from other magicians) for more than eighty years. In this book, Steinmeyer reveals Houdini's mystery and more, while narrating the dramatic mix of science and history that is the backstage story of magic.

Additional Information

Author Jim Steinmeyer
Publisher Da Capo Press
Page Count 362pp
Publication Size 5.5 x 8.25
Publication Notes softcover
Publication Date 2004
ISBN 978-0786714018

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