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Famous Magicians

Throughout the ages, the term magic had many different meanings. At first, the greatest magicians were the high priests who performed rituals to comply with the Gods. Later, astrologers and fortune tellers were called magicians because they could predict the future. During the World Wars, a Jewish magician known as Erik Jan Hanussen predicted the future of Germany. He also thought Adolf Hitler about body language and speech pathology. In the dark ages, magicians were burned and buried alive, but today if you are very good at tricking others, you could make millions of dollars per year. David Copperfield made more than 50 million dollars in 2003 and still makes an amazing living performing his magic all over the world. We may never know how the greatest tricks were performed. In this modern era, most magicians are called illusionists. There are many different types of magicians. Some are extra shocking in their performance, while others are plain street crooks who know how to hold your attention until you notice all your money’s gone. Seeing a world wide recognized magician is an astonishing experience and it’s not worth the trouble to figure out his tricks, because the aim of the show is to enjoy it. Or as Copperfield once said: Magic is about making people dream.

The Delusion of Illusionists

Almost all types of magicians fall under the category of illusionists. David Copperfield was awarded with the year, the century and the millennium greatest illusionist award and he’s the first of his kind to win a Living Legend award. He is also the first magician to have a star on the Walk of Fame in Hollywood and six states have his face on postage stamps. He is an amazing stage illusionist to be seen live, but his TV specials are groundbreaking too. In Nevada, the International Museum and Library of the Conjuring Arts has 90.000 private magic artifacts, including books, posters, props and other items. All used by Copperfield during his performances or magicians he aspired to during his career, like Houdini, Robert Houdin, Thurston and Kellar. This magician sold more tickets for his shows than Madonna, Elvis and Michael Jackson and won 21 Emmy awards for his TV specials. One of his greatest performances was the vanishing of a jet plane and the statue of Liberty, walking through the Great wall in China, making the great escape from Alcatraz and surviving in a locked safe in a burning building. All his great magic acts were performed in front of a live audience and streamed live on television. His stunts were well planned and calculated. Some of them took years of preparation, drawing sketches and blueprints to become reality. Whether you believe them to be magic or you can find a rational explanation, it doesn’t matter. Seeing them is witnessing one of the greatest minds in history breaking the laws of nature. You can call his magic tricks delusions, effects or figment of your imagination, either way they are extremely entertaining. Most of his old tricks are already partly explained or at least we think we can find logic in the middle of his magic. Since his disappearance from the stage and appearing on the beach, people say he used steel plates to lift himself up. The rest of the show is just a good movie production. On the other hand, he and his team of collaborates attest they never use camera tricks to help him in his performances. Whichever the case is, the credit for his magic is given to his well thought-out gimmick and magical skills, as well as his charisma and hypnotic personality.

Another illusionist who is David Copperfield’s equivalent from the other side of the world is the Taiwanese man named, Lu Chen. He is fairly new in the magic show business, but has already made numerous appearances in America, Japan, Korea and several countries in Europe. He won the 1st place at the Taiwan's Youth Magic Contest and his award was presented personally by Copperfield. His most amazing and still unexposed magic trick is transporting a ring into a one piece, real, intact egg. Some skeptical sources state he may have used vinegar to melt down the egg surface or artificial eggs, to begin with. However he does that, it’s still pretty amazing. Another famous magic trick by Chen is turning a three of hearts card into a blank card. Then, he can make three heart shaped cookies appear in a box, over which he did the card trick.

The Handcuffed King

Nowadays we have cameras, experts, researchers and lots of information to help us expose even the most delicate magic tricks. In the past, things were a little different. The great escape artist Harry Houdini was well known as Harry “Handcuff” Houdini in the beginning of the 20th century.

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No one could keep this man locked, handcuffed or fastened to anything. He challenged the police in every city he performed, to try and keep him handcuffed and locked in prison, but he escaped every time. Before his every performance he was usually stripped down naked and searched, but nothing was ever found to prove his fraudulence. He once held his breath in taped up milk can full of water and more than 4000 people watched him escape from chains specially ordered by the London’s tabloid, the Daily Mirror for his magic escapade. For one hour he tried to unlock the custom made chains. He asked if the handcuffs can be removed for him to take off his jacket, after which the Daily Mirror representative refused, so he cut off his jacket with a penknife he took out of the pocket. Lots of people tried to accuse him of gimmicking his stunts and magic performances, but no one ever proved his acts to be fake or sham. After an hour and ten minutes of struggle, Houdini finally unlocked the handcuffs. The cheering crowd carried him on their shoulders, while he broke down crying and pronounced the act as the toughest escape he ever had to perform. Once a police officer accused him of offering bribe to his colleagues as an exchange for his escape, but Houdini sued him and won the case by opening the judges’ safe during the inquiry. Houdini was the president of the American Magician Society and took his role and title very seriously. Anyone who pirated his work was risking to be sued and he loved exposing phony artists. He recommended magic practitioners to seize high standards to maintain the practice’s good name. Houdini started his career doing traditional card tricks but when he met his manager in 1899, he focused solely on the escape arts. At his beginnings, he performed together with his brother, but after he met Wilhelmina Beatrice Rahner, known by her stage name “Bess”, she became his stage assistant until the end of his career. Throughout his career, many spectators tried to add super powers to his skills but he never said his magic tricks had anything to do with mystical powers. He wrote many books explaining his escape tricks, where dislocating shoulders, breathing techniques, shoestrings and the use of proper force application took place, but never anything supernatural. He treasured the magician society and was known to recruit amateur magicians, sponsor magic clubs and arranging banquets at his own expense to strengthen the weak magic organization.

Levitation Specialists and Supernatural Humans

Even though, David Copperfield performs flying stunts on many of his shows, he didn’t’ actually invented the levitation trick. Servais Le Roy is the first magician who invented the flying illusion called Asrah the Floating Princess. To achieve this levitation effect, the performer must first hypnotize the assistant and make them sit on a chair, table or couch. Then he puts a cloth over their legs and they start to float. You can see the empty space between the assistant and the table until the trick is over. Once the magical accomplice floats down on the table, the magician takes the cloth off and the assistant disappears. The floating trick has many variations. They all include standing on one foot, making the viewer believe that the performer is floating with the help of optical illusions, little gimmick support and a lot of spectator reassurance. This type of magic is usually performed on a small group of people and it’s a stage act. That way, the group can be rearranged into the most suitable position, from where they can’t see the performer supporting himself on the other, outer foot. It depends on the magician of course, how the levitation illusion is performed. Some magicians don’t need supporting equipment and they can make the viewer believe they float on air for more than 15 seconds, while common amateur magicians can be spotted faking their acts. The Balducci levitation illusion can be performed anywhere because it doesn’t include any specific stage arrangement and equipment. The King levitation is very similar floating illusion to this magical attraction. Paul Harris, David Roth, David Blaine and Alex Magic together with Copperfield, know how to perform this trick flawlessly and make it seem like magic. That’s why they’re among the greatest magicians of the century. Paul Harris is more of an inventor than a stage performer. He invented many unique card and coin tricks. In 2007, he invented the ladybug trick, where he cuts his finger and a ladybug appears from the blood. David Blaine is a close up and street performer who comes from New York. Thousands of people watched him stay still in a block of ice for more than 63 and half hours, while his urine was removed with a tube and air was supplied from another tube. The platform was elevated multiple times during this show, so that everyone can see he was really in the middle of the ice block. After the team cut what was left of the ice, Blaine was taken to the hospital to recover from the shock. He said he will never again perform a magic stunt so difficult and dangerous. In the middle of May 2002, he was elevated onto a 100 foot New York pillar, with only 22 inches wide. He stayed there exactly 35 hours, under unusual circumstances like: wind, cold and vertigo. In 2003, he was sealed in a Plexiglas case, 30 feet in the air in the middle of London to perform his new endurance stunt. He stayed there for 44 days without any food, surviving only on a little less than 5 liters of water. Lots of spectators marked his performance by throwing eggs, sausages, lemons, bottles and golf balls, and at some point a hamburger was flown to his case as a tease. After the stunt, he was hospitalized where was stated that he have lost 25% of his body weight.

Famous Magic Duos

If you are the type of person who doesn’t believe in magic and magicians, a magic duo may make you change your mind. One famous duo is made of Siegfried Fischbacher and Roy Horn, of Siegfried & Roy. Both of them born and raised in Germany, but they met on an ocean liner in the United States, where Siegfried worked as a cabin steward and Roy was a waiter. Siegfried had always been an amazing magician, while Roy reinforced the duo with his love for wild and exotic animals. Siegfried started performing magic tricks for the guests and after a few successful acts, he got his own show. He took Roy as his assistant and they have been performing ever since. Their first engagements were in Las Vegas and later they will sign a lifelong contract with the Mirage hotel. They performed their magic acts until 2003 when Roy was attacked by one of the tigers involved in their show. In 2000 they were listed 9th richest celebrities in Hollywood and they also have their own star on the Hall of Fame since 1999. Michael Jackson wrote the theme song “Mind is the Magic” for the animated show about a family of white lions Father of the Pride, which is a song about Siegfried and Roy. Their appearance included scarfs flying around, doves appearing and disappearing from beneath them, canes floating and many other levitation, card and coin magic tricks. Every one of their performances included tigers, lions and other wild cats, which were Roy’s greatest adoration.

Penn and Teller are maybe the funniest magician duo that ever existed. They have been performing together since the 70s, on stage and on television shows. Other than knowing every trick in the magic book, this magic duo has a TV show called Penn & Teller: Bullshit. On their show they love exposing sham performers, and they specialized in making canny pranks and raw, extreme tricks. Their tricks embrace the use of pretend violence, shocking lines and obscene humor, which makes their magic gimmick more effective and appealing. Most of the time, when they do a trick, the trick is usually invented by the duo and their only aim is to expose it at the end. They also talk about the intellectual basis of magic, the science behind the trick and what causes the brain to be deluded into believing a certain trick is real.

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