Monday, May 31, 2010

Ovette Free Guessing Institute Letter


This was in an envelope by itself, and I was completely baffled to what the heck the letter writer was talking about. I understand that this was written in 1917- but did an ad for a "guessing contest" have to be worded so strangely?

Via Magicpedia, I learned: Joseph Ovette (January 20, 1885 - August 5, 1946) born Giuseppe (Joseph) Olivo in South Italy was a prolific author and top ranking magician.

I was still a bit puzzled by the letter, but I was able to track down the "terms" of the contest via google books:

So, Ovette wrote the book, Advanced Magic, and in the middle of the book he describes this new trick- The Mysterious Angel- but he does not explain the entire thing. Instead, he invited people who purchase his other stuff to have a crack at "free guesses" on how the trick works. If they guess correctly, they win the entire instructions to the trick, including illustrations.

I wonder if anyone ever won.....I could not find a single example of the winning prize anywhere!

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Mysterious Disappearances Explained


I didn't find much about the publications mentioned in this clipping- The Recreation Hour or The Pathfinder- but the mention of the name 'Thurston' sent me down a fun little path until I ended up watching this great old footage on youtube. The poster didn't allow embedding, but you can see it here.

I am going to let the person who spent so much time collecting information on Thurston introduce him to you themselves at You can honestly see how much love and attention to detail Mr. Feldman gave to honor Mr. Thurson's legacy. If you are still craving more Thurston knowledge, a DVD documentary came out this year called, "When Thurston Came to Town," and on it you can see even more awesome old footage of Thurston in action!

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Mind Reading Acts Explained!


How great is the little devil in the upper corner?!
This is the first time I have come across the name "Burling Hull," and to be honest, I thought it was some kind of brand or address. set me straight. Apparently Hull is a person- the self-proclaimed "Edison of Magic"- he created dozens of magic tricks (and held the patent on the Svengali Deck) and wrote over 50 books!

I did find this quite from Magic Nook to be very telling:

Although an important figure in magic, his often outrageous claims and many empty promises led him to be widely known as 'Hurling Bull'.

He was quite an interesting character- he even wrote an entire book just to defame a rival magician (see the wiki for more)! Mr. Hull lived to the age of 93, and if you would like to know more about him there is a biography which was published in 1977 called The Edison of Magic and His Incredible Creations.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Spirit Slates of Dr. Q


The very Edward Gorey-esque drawing was what drew me in, but after researching the inside of yesterday's advertisement, it would seem that the big draw was really the "spirit slates." In fact they are still fondly remembered (and sold) today.

Owen Magic describes them:
These slates were originally designed by Carl Owen and are positively the most ingenious slates for producing two sets of writing ever designed. The slates may be freely handled by anyone and, with nothing added or taken away will apparently produce writing on both blank slates when they are held together by a member of the audience. This is without a doubt the nearest approach to genuine spirit writing ever accomplished.
The video below is someone giving away the secret of using Spirit Slates.

Spirit Slates Magic Trick Instructional Video - The most popular videos are a click away

I was also able to link the inventor, Carl Owen, to Thayer via's "history" page:

Owen Magic Supreme can trace its roots to a June 1891 advertisement in Mahatma magazine by Floyd Thayer. In the August 1902 edition Floyd placed another ad, offering for sale the Wand of the West.

During the fall of 1913 Carl Owen entered the firm, and was later joined by his brother Emmett. When Floyd Thayer divided the firm in 1933 the Owen brothers purchased Thayer Manufacturing and absorbed other companies, the better known of these being Merv Taylor Magic.

The more I read about the men from this period, the more I learn how interconnected they were with each other.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Dr. "Q" Spirit Hand

This is side one of a two-sided ad, but I will post the first side today and leave the other for tomorrow.

I was dying to know what exactly the real "spirit hand" looked like, and was fortunate enough to find pictures of it at, and Live Auctioneers is actually selling one for way more money than I am willing to spend, but if you are looking for a fake hand that raps on a wood board and answers questions, here you go.

The strange thing is that while I found reviews for this product, no one is letting on how it works. Anyone care to chime in with the secret?

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The Magical Bulletin Subscription


The Magical Bulletin was published between 1914 until 1925, followed by a very brief revival in the late 1940's. Magicpedia has a scan of the front of the first issue here. For a small fee, Magic Nook has scanned PDF copies of several volumes you can read through on this page. I was hoping to find an actual copy somewhere, but don't see one. Sometimes looking through this stuff just makes me want to go and collect even more!

I am not sure if I prefer the devil jumping out of the hat, or the terrified small fuzzy creature.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Spirit Print Card Trick


A fun advertisement from M. Ovette.... who we will explore later, as there seems to be a ton of ads from his company in these boxes. In the meantime, you can read his MagicPedia profile. I was able to find mention of this trick via Magic Nook, and discovered it was created in 1930. Google Books has a scan from a card trick guide describing the trick in more detail, which you can read here.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Notice of Change In Prices


This made me laugh. How many of us have received this kind of notice before? I couldn't find a picture of a No. 23 Card Windlass, so if anyone can point me in the right direction, that would be awesome.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Johnny Coulon: His Occult Trick Knocks 'Em Dead


The first sentence of the article really caught me: Gay Paree continues to be the main hangout of occult boxers. The concept of "occult boxers" makes me giggle when I compare it to my ideas about modern boxing.

Johnny Coulon weighed barely over 100 pounds and yet won all but 5 of his 200 (although some say 97....and still others say 300) matches. He was the bantamweight boxing champion of the world from 1910 until 1914. He wasn't actually summoning demons in the ring and willing them to do his bidding, but apparently he understood pressure points and how to use them to his advantage. After retiring from boxing, he even took his "trick" and toured with vaudeville as "The Man They Cannot Lift". It earned him enough money to buy a gym!

I was excited to find a ton of information about Johnny around the web. Here are some great sites & articles to start with:

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Stripper Tricks


Sorry, not those kind of strippers. I had never heard of a stripper deck, but I guess if you know card tricks, it is a pretty basic term. I found this video on youtube and in it, the guy explains a 'stripper deck' for us novices and shows a great stripper deck tutorial:

Friday, May 21, 2010

Advanced Lessons in Clairvoyance and Occult Powers


This is so amazing looking, I will probably frame it and put it on my wall. The colors are so in tact and vivid. This is a folded 8x11 advertisement for the book, published in 1916 by The Advanced Thought Publishing Co. In 2007 the University of California Libraries digitized the entire book and you can read it online here.

The author, Swami Panchadasi, was actually William Walker Atkinson. He wrote over a hundred books on various occult topics, but Wikipedia points out that due to his "intense personal secrecy" and use of dozens of pseudonyms, he never really gained lasting notoriety. You can read his entire wiki bio here.
Of course it would be great to own a first edition of the actual book, but I did find that you can still purchase reprinted editions.

Below is a clip from the inside panel. The entire ad basically describes chapter-by-chapter of what you can find in the book:

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Thayer Advertisement


Via Magicpedia:

Thayer Magic Company was founded by Floyd G. Thayer in 1907 and made magical apparatus into the 1930's. The Thayer slogan was "Quality Magic".

Thayer started his Thayer Magic Co. making wands and advertised first in Mahatma as The Wand of The West. Ellis Stanyon was reported to have been his first customer.

The Thayers opened to the public their new home in western Los Angeles, named "Brookledge", in 1933. It included a Studio-theater.

In 1942, the William Larsen Sr. purchased Floyd Thayer’s Magic Company.

The Magic Castle has more on William Larsen Sr.:
During World War Two travel was restricted so Bill Larsen Sr., bought the Thayer Magic Company and operated the Thayer Studio of Magic in the Wilshire area of Los Angeles. In the April 1951 issue of Genii Larsen announced the formation of the Academy of Magic Arts and Sciences. All subscribers to the magazine became instant members and he made it very clear that the Academy would be an organization the advance the art of magic in America and to bring recognition to the magicians of the world. Over the next three years the Academy awarded fellowships and bestowed various awards. Bill Larsen Sr. passed away at the age of 48 in 1955.
You can read their entire article here.

"The Candle That Was" caught my attention. I didn't see any candles in the boxes, but should I decide to expand this collection even further, that trick would be something to look for.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Card Tricks for the Ameteur Magician


Another booklet- this one was dated from 1921! This booklet was put out by the U.S. Playing Card Company. You might recognize them, because they are the same company that makes Bicycle and Bee playing cards! In fact the back page of the book has an advertisement for both Bicycle and Congress playing cards.

The other 14 pages in the book (that I scanned a sample of below) is a chronicle of dozens of instructions on card tricks. I already recognize "The Forced Choice" instructions from yesterday's post, and this booklet was 20 years old than Card Secrets No. 5!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Thank you, internets!


Biographies A-B has an awesome listing of magic inventors.

My research just got so much easier!

Card Secrets No. 5 Methods of Forcing

This is one of the pieces from the 1940's. This is number 5, but I am having a hard time finding out if this was sold as a set, sent away for via the mail, or if it came in a larger kit. I didn't find anything on the author, Mr. Charles M. Bedford, but I did track down a mention of the booklet online, and was able to possibly locate the website of the publisher, S.S. Adams Company. Unfortunately they don't allow inquiries for anything other than wholesale, so this booklet might not be able to teach me anything more useful about it's origins.

Here is the first page of the inside instructions. I love the thought of someone actually sitting around typing all of this out- it really looks like it was done on a typewriter!

Monday, May 17, 2010

A Complete Set!

More DeLand's goodness- this time I found an envelope I have pictured below.

Next to it is the actual "card locator", which reminds me a lot of star finders with it's rotating wheel.

Also with the envelope, but it would not actually fit in the envelope, was this post card with more description of the product:

The reverse side of the information card- I love the method for remembering the suits of cards!

Finally, there was another set of folded instructions:
A seller at Worthopedia says, "REMARKS : A Rare Warehouse Find!!! This Effect is Very Hard to Find in any condition, Let alone in this Mint Condition......." I don't think mine is "mint" but I do have all of the pieces, so that is a pretty good thing. It also says the card is from 1914. I have found more items dated in this range, but also from the 1930's and 1940's.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

The Siberian Transport Chain


I love this illustration, and I hope I can find the chain in one of the boxes. Unfortunately, the entire page seemed to have ripped off a long time ago. I have been lifting things out very carefully since the pages are so fragile. Whenever this ripped, it would seem the bottom half was discarded. I found an ad for this trick in an old scan of Popular Mechanics Magazine from May of 1930. I am not sure if that is from where this particular trick was purchased, but I think it is a good start to discover where all of this came from.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Pick It Out


I was really excited that I was actually able to find something about the maker of this trick via MagicPedia:

Theodore L. DeLand, Jr. (1873- January 25, 1931) created the phenomenon of packet tricks between 1906 and 1915, during which time he marketed almost 100 tricks using gimmicked cards and decks, many of his own unique creation.

DeLand was a clerk at the U.S. Mint in Philadelphia and died in a hospital in Norristown, Pennsylvania.

DeLand's tricks involved the following principles, some of which he was the first to introduce:

* Double-faced Cards
* Double-backed Cards
* Specially Marked Cards
* Printed Fans

The large instructions are actually printed onto an envelope that contains dozens of cards that have the great back images I have pictured, even though the instructions only call for the use of three cards.

Friday, May 14, 2010

No Mummies Allowed


I was sorting out a box and found this advertisement for a catalog. They are very demanding about the greatness of their catalog and so very anti-mummy! Now if only I can figure out what the "Skinem" is. I don't recall seeing anything like it in the boxes.

Trick No. 13 The Changing Card


I found a blank small white envelope that contained this awesome card, that was really a stair-step folded conjoined series of cards. The instructions give directions for a card reversal trick. The cool looking single card with many faces on it (which I have pictured next to the instructions) was also tucked in the envelope, but I don't think it has anything to do with this particular trick. I have it here because they were kept together, and I hope to find it's correct home.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Pull


This caught my attention as it was folded into a tiny sliver of paper and was stuck at the bottom of the box. I don't see the "enclosed pear shaped mysto pull" anywhere in the box this was in, but there are 3 other boxes of things, so maybe I will discover it. The closest info I could find on this trick was via ClassicMagic.Net.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

String-and-Ball Trick


A clipping. This actually has something on the reverse, and judging by the paper, I was guessing it came from a magazine. With a little googling of the author's name, I found a reference via It looks like it appeared in an actual book: The Boy Mechanic Vol. 2 1000 Things for Boys to Do. There was a 1914 edition, and a 1940 edition, but I am unsure which edition this was cut from. If it was the 1914 edition, this collection could be a bit older than I originally thought!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Card Trick Kits


Only one of these has actual cards in it, but there are dozens of various cards in the boxes. I think on a weekend I will try and get them all into one space and maybe see if I can match anything up.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Multiple Tricks


This was the first page from box one. The boxes are all old cigar boxes. Some of them are from Chicago where I know my Grandfather lived. The page, like many I will scan and show you, seems to be clipped from a larger source. There is nothing on the other side of the page.

Welcome to my new hobby.


There are a few seemingly random occurrences that lead me to decide to take on this project.

I read my horoscope this morning, and it said something to the effect of, "You will be consumed with a new project." I blew it off. I went on with my work day.

Unfortunately, work was kind of dissapointing, and it is my 32nd birthday tomorrow. I was kind of down about those two things, and to cheer myself up, I decided to have a look in some boxes my mom had dropped off when she visited last week. I was thinking a good trip down memory lane would help me.

The boxes had been in her garage for years. Even if she moved, the boxes would simply be picked up and placed in a new garage. They sat unopened for decades.

Mom is retiring this year and decided to clean out everything. She cracked open one of the boxes and decided the contents belonged to my father (to whom she divorced) or his father. She packed them up and took them to me.

To my delight, I found boxes of hundreds of clippings, booklets, and instructions to old magic tricks. Some of these are over 50 years old.

I love ephemera, and I know others do as well. I decided that I will scan & post one of the pages every day. I want to share these in hopes that I can also learn more about them. Any insight anyone can give me would be awesome, but if not, I hope you enjoy them for their vintage goodness.