Hooked On Classics – Suggestions & Methods for Magicians


In 1954 the Magic Circle offered the Hoffmann Memorial Lecture by Charles Harrison on “The Qualities of a Classical Feat of Magic.” In it he suggests eight widespread options of a trick which make it a “traditional.”

Not everyone seems to be on the identical web page. In his introduction to “Magic By Misdirection” Dariel Fitzkee makes the other argument; that no trick is, in itself, “nice.”

On this episode Ryan Pilling takes a have a look at either side, and asks why any explicit trick does or doesn’t turn out to be immortalized as a traditional of magic, together with one curious trick which was as soon as an everyday function, now misplaced to historical past.

Episode Transcript

Don’t fear, this isn’t a industrial for some luxurious product, this can be a podcast about magic tips.

Alright, let’s take a look on the set record for the present at the moment;

Opening with a torn and restored newspaper, accompanied with a couple of jokes taken from present headlines.

A fast billiard ball manipulation routine, with some full of life music, then the ultimate ball turns into an egg, which then transitions into an Egg Bag routine.

Eight strong metal rings are counted out then linked and unlinked in stunning methods, and made into various curiously recognizable figures, resembling a blooming flower, earlier than ending in an extended chain to triumphant applause.

Appears like an excellent workable act.  It can certainly win over the subtle tastes of at the moment’s trendy audiences.

Or was it offered for audiences fifty years in the past?

Or… a century in the past?

Or D – The entire above.

For those who throw a tomato at any magic present previously 100 years, you’re more likely to knock over a desk set for this act.

If not for the newspaper trick, probably the most trendy of those miracles – created within the Twenties, I’d say it might return 150 years.

And but, I might don’t have any disgrace in strolling on stage in entrance of my magical friends tomorrow and doing this exact same act.

It’s timeless. It’s traditional. However… why?

I’m Ryan Pilling. That is Concept & Ideas for Magicians.

In the present day I take a better look into why the classics of magic have caught round, and the way magic’s wealth of custom could also be a gilded cage.

The Magic Circle presents the annual Hoffmann Memorial Lecture award for analysis into the historical past and idea of magic. In 1954 they honoured Charles Harrison who offered his lecture; “The Qualities of a Classical Feat of Magic.”

We’re speaking the highest tier classics. Issues just like the Linking Rings, Cups and Balls, and the Substitution Trunk. In response to Harrison; ” These feats which, while being recognised as of the best order by the specialists, have additionally the widest and most lasting attraction to the layman.”

His purpose was to investigate these classics of magic to establish what that they had in widespread, to find the tangible parts which made them deserving of their classical standing.

In the long run, he declared 8 qualities of tips which earn this designation.

1. Classical feats of magic have an enduring attraction which make them well-liked by way of the ages.

2. The plot is apparent and simple, not difficult, and is well understood.

3. Little advance preparation is important and no particular equipment is used visibly.

4. Classical feats of magic go well with the type of many varieties of performer.

5. The classics could be routined in lots of unique methods.

6. The classics could be carried out by quite a few strategies.

7. The preliminary introduction to a classical feat could be transient and attention-grabbing.

8. The impact of a classical feat is cumulative and with a delayed

For my part, talking strictly as a non-Hoffmann award winner, these are admirable traits for any impact, however I’m not solely satisfied they’re make or break parts to turn out to be a traditional of magic.

Charles Harrison concludes his lecture by placing his idea to the take a look at with a prediction. In his phrases:

“We’ve got now arrived on the ultimate, and in some methods most tough, stage of our lecture. We’ve got to pick a up to date feat of magic which appears to have all of the qualities we’ve enumerated and outlined, and which, subsequently, we think about ” will in later years be ranked as a traditional.”

He singled out the Six-Card Repeat. On the time, in 1954, this impact had already survived and thrived for twenty years because it’s invention by Tommy Windsor, so it did have a sure diploma of survivor bias already. Nonetheless, he did again a profitable horse. Right here we’re seven many years additional down the road and magicians are nonetheless counting off six playing cards. It has, certainly, turn out to be a hallowed traditional feat of magic.

So, there we’ve it, eight qualities which can assure an all-time biggest hit magic impact and protect the inventor’s legacy for future generations, proper?

That’s all it takes, proper?


A most curious a part of Mr. Harrison’s lecture is the place he quotes from the introduction of “Magic By Misdirection” the place the creator, Dariel Fitzkee, dismisses the concept that a trick, in and of itself, deserves to be a traditional.

Right here is the part from Fitzkee’s e book:

” I take the place that no trick in itself has any spark of life. It doesn’t get life till the important spark is equipped by the performer through the precise efficiency.

” I quarrel with the concept that any trick is in itself nice. I really feel that these tips we time period ‘ classics’ have turn out to be so by way of the life breathed into them by those that have carried out them.

” Allow us to have a look at these classics and see what life they possess: —

” Quite a few rings, apparently strong, turn out to be linked and unlinked. That’s the trick plot of ‘ The Linking Rings.’

” A small picket ball seems. Then there are two, three, and at last 4. They disappear one after the other. Such is the plot of ‘ The Multiplying Billiards Balls.’

” An egg, positioned in a small material bag, disappears. Lastly it’s discovered to be within the bag once more. You in fact recognise the plot of ‘ The Egg Bag.’

” Be frank with your self. Can you discover the important spark of life in any of these trick plots? Can you discover the ingredient which precipitated them to turn out to be classics? I feel not.

“ These tips that are most usually adaptable to the types and talents of the common practitioners are performed so usually by so many magicians that they turn out to be widespread.

” And so a traditional is born.

“And the place is the spark of life? Within the traditional? No.”

Finish quote.

Nonetheless, Charles Harrison dismisses this concept outright.

Right here we should disagree solely with Fitzkee and say: ” I feel we are able to discover life within the traditional, in any other case there shall be no level in continuing with the lecture.”

Effectively gosh, Charles, you disagree as a result of when you don’t, your whole thesis could be mistaken. Obtained it.

Now that your lecture has run its course, I’d wish to dig somewhat deeper into Fitzkee’s opinion; {that a} trick reaches traditional standing not by the standard of the trick, however the amount of efficiency.

I’m very inquisitive about all of the tips which haven’t been inducted to the magic corridor of fame, and why they’ve been excluded. From a sensible perspective, they may match the necessities, so it appears to solely be a matter of recognition. It appears they’re solely forgotten as a result of… they had been forgotten!

I didn’t must look very far for a case examine. The printed booklet of Charles Harrison’s lecture is accompanied by a photograph of the person holding an oddly adorned ball, lined in metallic panels, concerning the measurement of a soccer.

Charles Harrison

Had the lecture been offered on the Magic Fortress, relatively than the Magic Circle, I’d say it’s concerning the measurement of a soccer ball.

The caption underneath the photograph reads: Charles Harrison, M.I.M.C with the Golliwog Ball.

Which begs the query; what the fudge is a Golliwog ball?

There you might be, relaxed into your seat, considered one of 444 members of the viewers within the Ambassador Theatre in London, having simply loved an interlude song-and-dance act. Now, England’s premier conjurer, David Devant returns to the stage for the second half of his 1916 Christmas spectacle.

The efficiency is documented within the Magic Round.

“Stage totally lighted. Curtain fit-up of black velvet and white lace.

“A protracted board, resting on a chair again, working down in the direction of footlights from mid stage. An
attendant holds a big ball, say, about 15 inches in diameter. Devant enters, takes ball and locations it on higher finish of board.

“It commences to run downwards till he instructions it to cease, which it does, after which rolls up and down the inclined airplane, in response to command.

“He holds a big ring throughout its path on the board, by way of which it passes and repasses a number of instances.

“The reason provided by Devant as to the obedience of the ball’s actions is {that a} clown or golliwog is hid inside it. However one doubts its exactitude, as a result of the ball is clearly very mild.

Finish quote.

That is the Golliwog Ball, a function in Devant’s act which grew to become considered one of his favorite openers and remained in his repertoire for over a decade.

It’s clearly a linear improvement from the Obedient Ball, changing the vertical wire with an inclined board. Devant noticed it carried out by Harry Kellar, utilizing a suspiciously thick plank, and provided to create a greater methodology in change for permission to carry out it.

Devant developed his personal methodology in 1903, which Kellar fortunately adopted. It additionally made its approach into performances by Chung Ling Soo within the decade following. Our Hoffmann lecturer Charles Harrison was performing it within the 1950’s, having realized it instantly by way of his private friendship with David Devant.

A Golliwog, the implied driver of the ball’s motion, was a preferred youngster’s toy in and across the UK for practically a century. It was a rag doll with a racially exaggerated look just like blackface minstrels. Over the course of a few years, the phrase Golliwog developed right into a racial slur. Thankfully, the character has since pale from well-liked tradition.

This doesn’t, nonetheless, clarify why the magic trick may need pale. The presentational factor of this little rag doll might simply as simply be a goblin (as in Devant’s earlier script) or a tongue-in-cheek demonstration of physics, because it was offered by Charles Waller.

The impact appears to be checking most of the traditional containers right here; We’ve acquired a number of performers, with distinctive shows, spanning many years, incorporating a wide range of sensible strategies to create an easy magical impact with a pure development and climax.

This obedient ball was on a roll after which, all of the sudden, it stopped.

It appears to have vanished solely from the stage by 1960, aside from Jim Steinmeyer presenting it as soon as as an vintage curiosity on the Los Angeles Convention on Magic Historical past in 1992.

So why is that this curious ball forgotten to all however magic historians? If it arguably shares all of Harrison’s qualities, why is it not immortalized as a traditional of magic?

People search the shortest path to success, and magicians, being largely human, do the identical.

Bringing a brand new routine on stage is a path stuffed with hazards, and we don’t need to fall flat on our face in entrance of all these individuals. It’s pure to need to decrease the chance of failure so we are going to really feel protected.

Personally, I’m a dangerous performer. I think about each present an experiment, and I’m keen to strive new issues only for the enjoyable of it. Fortunately I don’t have a lot of a profession to wreck.

I’ve had the expertise, on a couple of event, of digging up an extended misplaced impact from an outdated e book, placing it in my present, then different magicians within the space all of the sudden see the potential in that very same outdated trick and add it to their repertoire. Purely a coincidence, I’m positive!

What number of instances have you ever gone again to a routine you’ve learn earlier than, in a e book you already personal, solely after seeing it efficiently carried out by anyone else?

We’ve all performed it. We noticed it, we preferred it, and we would like a chunk of their success!

The opposite magician acquired an amazing response with that trick, and also you’re assured you’ll be able to too.

It’s not mistaken, per se, however it’s lazy.

In my case I pulled a trick out of an outdated e book as a result of one thing about it appealed to me, however it was only one trick from a whole bunch of books and 1000’s of pages. Not so completely different from throwing a dart at my bookshelf and performing the trick it landed on.

If you do that very same outdated trick merely since you noticed me do it, you’re limiting your self to my random decide when you may simply as simply throw your personal dart.

My idea is, if we hint again to the origins of the classics it might take us to an inspiring efficiency of a randomly chosen trick. It so impressed the second magician to carry out it themselves, then the third.

It turns into this kind of relay race the place every successive magician grabs the baton, whether or not handed to them or not, to hold the trick into their very own performances. The long-lasting classics, it appears, are merely these relays which have managed to not drop the baton throughout the many years.

This survival of the most well-liked has given us a whole bunch of 1000’s of magicians who carry out the identical twelve tips.

I encourage you to deliberately break the chain.

One trick, as Fitzkee suggests, isn’t inherently higher than every other. They’re acknowledged as “magic classics” solely after they’ve been arbitrarily lifted above the remaining.

It’s the efficiency that makes the trick, not vice versa.

You may flip to your personal random web page in a random e book and put your effort into performing the halibut out of that trick.

Sufficient with the magician see, magician do.

We’ll each profit from having exhibits constructed from uniquely completely different materials.

All of magic will profit from an elevated creative range, and you’ll create a your personal  traditional act, relatively than an act of borrowed classics.

And with that we’ve reached the tip of what is going to certainly turn out to be often called a traditional episode of Concept & Ideas for Magicians. It’s acquired all the weather you may hope for; idea, ideas, speaking, and music.

I simply want you to do your half, and inform everyone that this can be a traditional. If individuals hear it mentioned usually sufficient, it is going to turn out to be true. If it’s known as a traditional, new listeners pays extra consideration, and imbue it with extra worth. My informal observations shall be elevated to profound knowledge. It can turn out to be well-known for being well-known.

For those who’d like to leap forward of the gang, you’ll be able to subscribe to my quickly un-famous weekly electronic mail publication at www.MagicTipsAndTricks.com



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