It is a curious commentary on the public's love of the occult that people wish to believe that magicians are mediums. If a magician poses as a medium and presents his effects as spiritualistic phenomena, his earnings are greatly enhanced. Even if later (as has been done by the Davenport Brothers, J. S. Davies, George Leo Wilkins, and others), he exposes his methods and explains in detail how he fooled his audiences, many spiritualists will continue to believe him to be a genuine medium.
In spite of the campaign of the late Houdini against fraudulent mediums in Chicago and his exposes from the stage of the Princess Theater, many people were convinced that Houdini was a true medium and was only using exposures as a means of throwing people off the track from the real methods of accomplishing his other effects. Many people today still think that Houdini was a medium and that he escaped from his many manacles by dematerializing himself into spirit form and then materializing again.
Ernest F. Mansfield, of Chicago, a well-informed magician and inventor of magical effects, has had numerous apparently supernormal experiences and has made a deep study of spiritualism. Since 1905 he has been close in touch with the movement and is well known to mediums and lay spiritualists and scientific psychic investigators as a lecturer and investigator. For investigating purposes, he specialized in the methods of counterfeit mediums and is today probably the best informed man in America on that subject. His own original spiritualistic effects have mystified magicians as well as counterfeit mediums. Many of the latter sought to buy his secrets, but Mr. Mansfield refused to divulge them except to legitimate magicians. Because of that, many spiritualists believe his magic to be genuine psychic phenomena. In spite of his knowledge of magic and its divorce from spiritualism, however, Mr. Mansfield believes in the reality of certain phases of physical and mental spiritualistic phenomena, gained through some peculiar experiences.
Howard Thurston, as part of his show, presents "materialization" in a spirit cabinet in a manner that convinces many spiritualists that he is a real medium. Some honestly believe that they recognize in the "spirit"
a dead relative and go to the stage door to so inform Thurston and seek his advice on spiritualistic matters. Needless to say, Thurston disclaims mediumship in his performance.
Harry Blackstone has a performing handkerchief that suddenly seems to become alive, apparently possessed of spirit power. In another effect — his shadow illusion — he walks away from his shadow and it seems that unnatural power of some sort is at work. Likewise, his famous rope tie, in which his wrists are securely bound together behind his back by a spectator and yet his hands are free in about two seconds and back again in the rope as quickly, suggests invisible aid. However, Blackstone is a magician and his spook effects are produced only by magical means.
Robert Gysel, of Toledo, Ohio, is another magician who has spent years in the study of spiritualistic magic. His performances are weird and uncanny and seem to include ghostly manifestations. Yet Gysel performs pure magic and is strongly opposed to the pretenses of the fraudulent mediums.
Joseffy, of Chicago, has a mysterious skull which he calls Balsamo. He places it on a piece of plate glass and suddenly the skull starts to look around and click its jaws. By clicking and opening its jaws, it answers questions. It performs as though endowed with life and operates under the most exacting conditions, even while resting on a spectator's lap. This would lead some people to believe that Joseffy is a medium, but he is only a magician.
A number of years ago, Ralph W. Read and Phillip H. Meyers, of Chicago, became interested in "spook" effects and brought out a telephone into which one could talk to and hold a conversation with a spirit, apparently. The instrument was without wire connections, and it produced a good effect. Then they built a tea kettle that would talk and answer questions. They presented this tea kettle to David P. Abbott, of Omaha, Nebraska, author of "Behind the Scenes with the Mediums." He modified it and gained a great reputation with his kettle presentation. The way Mr. Abbott presents it is uncanny. He also has another "spirit" effect. He takes pieces of canvas and produces spirit paintings on them, starting with a dim coloring and finally producing the finished picture.
Anna Eva Fay some years ago made a profitable tour of the country with "spirit" ties, cabinet manifestations, and mind reading.
In England, Maskelyne, Cook, and Devant produced mysterious "spirit" effects from time to time.
So you see, spiritualism and magic have had a close relationship for some time. The difference, however, between the fake medium and the magician is that the former deceives for fraudulent gain and the latter merely entertains and is paid for entertainment.
Was this article helpful?
Magick is the art and practice of moving natural energies to effect needed or wanted change. Magick is natural, there is absolutely nothing supernatural about it. What is taught here are various techniques of magick for beginners. Magick is natural and simple and the techniques to develop abilities should be simple and natural as well. What is taught on this site is not only the basics of magick, but the basics of many things.