It should go without saying that devotees of magic as a performing art will love this book. Even today, Harry Houdini (1874-1926), who came to fame during the Vaudeville era, is still regarded as the greatest magician of modern times. This book, published posthumously, is Houdini's personal account of his most famous escapes and feats. The secret workings of forty-four of his best stage tricks are revealed in this book.
More than a book of magic tricks, this volume gives Houdini's perspective on the history of magic and tells about Houdini's efforts to expose the fraud being perpetuated in his day by spiritualists and mediums.
From my point of view as an amateur magician, my favorite chapter is number 6, "Houdini on Tricks." In this chapter, Houdini tells how to perform what became my best-loved impromptu magic trick, the Four Coin Assembly. It is perfect for those occasions when someone asks you unexpectedly to do a trick. The props -- a handkerchief, four coins, and two postcards -- can be borrowed. No preparation is necessary. The magician spreads the handkerchief flat on the table. The four coins are laid on top of the four corners of the handkerchief. Postcards are used to cover two of the coins. One of the exposed coins is picked up by the fingers of the right hand, its corner of the handkerchief is raised by the left hand, the coin is slipped beneath the raised corner, fingers are snapped, the right hand is removed, shown empty, and then picks up a postcard to reveal a two-coin assembly. The postcard is returned to cover those two coins. The second coin still on display is picked up by the right hand, its corner of the handkerchief is raised, the coin is slipped beneath the raised corner, fingers are snapped, and again the right hand is removed, shown empty, picks up the postcard, and reveals a three-coin assembly. The postcard is laid back down on top of the three coins. Then, with a wave of the hand over the card shrouding one coin, followed by a wave of the hand above the card screening three coins, the first card is lifted to reveal handkerchief only and no coin. The second card is lifted to show all four coins assembled in one place. Yes, this Four Coin Assembly requires sleight-of-hand, but the level of difficulty is easy. With practice, you, too, can perform one of Harry Houdini's favorite close-up tricks.
About the Editors. (1) Walter B. Gibson (1897-1985), a professional magician and writer, was hand-picked by Harry Houdini, Howard Thurston, Harry Blackstone, and Joseph Dunninger to ghost-write several of their magic books and exposés. Gibson came to fame in his own right under the pen-name of Maxwell Grant as the creator of The Shadow during the golden age of radio. Gibson wrote 282 Shadow novels and more than 100 books on magic, psychic phenomena, true crime, mysteries, rope knots, yoga, hypnotism, and games. Under the pen-name of Andy Adams, Gibson authored several mystery adventure novels in the Biff Brewster juvenile series of the 1960s. (2) Morris N. Young (1909-2002) was an ophthalmologist whose life, it seems, was devoted to the letter "M." His life-long interests were Medicine, Magic, Mnemonics, Music, and Marriage. He lived in Manhattan. His parents named him Morris. He Majored in chemistry at MIT. He served in the Military during WWII, reconstructing the faces of wounded soldiers. He wrote books on Mentalism and Mindreading. He collected hymn books featuring Methodist songs. Dr. Young's wife, Chesley, insisted that the most important M in Dr. Young's life stood for their Magical Marriage of fifty-four years.