A Brief History Of Magic Tricksters

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We’ve all heard the term “magic.” Some of us use it in our daily lives. But what really is magic? Well, the formal definition of magic is something like this: Magic is the performance of illusions meant to entertain, baffle and amaze. The purpose of magic is to give the illusion that the impossible or supernatural has been achieved. Although magic deals with the illusion of the supernatural, no ghostly beings or entities actually have any part in a magic act. Truly entertaining magic is always done by a skilled performer who knows how to use natural means to create the impression that something next to impossible has been done.

Early magic was most likely probably used for cheating in gambling games such as cards or in times of war like the use of the Trojan Horse. But during the 18th magic became less of a series of seemingly pointless deceptions and more of a respectable activity done by professional illusionists.

The earliest recorded modern practice of magic tricks was done by Jean Eugene Robert Houdin in the mid-1800s. In fact, many consider Houdin the father of modern magic. Houdin, originally a trained clock worker, switched to the practicing of magic when he opened a magic theater in Paris in the 1840s. Houdin’s special magic trick of the time was creating small mechanical pieces that seemed to move and act as if they were alive.

After that the popularity of magic continued to grow. In 1873 two men, British performer J. N. Maskelyne and his partner Cooke established their own theatre, the Egyptian Hall in London England’s Piccadilly. The magic tricks these two men were best known for performing were hiding special mechanisms in their stages to control audiences’ points of view. So, the magic was in people and items suddenly disappearing and reappearing, or being distorted in some way.

The late 19th century brought on celebrity magic and celebrity musicians. This was the time of the world-famous Harry Houdini, whose real name was Erich Weiss. Houdini’s magic tricks were based on the ability to escape impossible situations. Today this term is referred to as escapology.

Depending on whom you talk to today, magic is a trivial passtime for children, or magic can be a real source of entertainment. At least that was the common attitude towards magic in the 1980s and 1990s.

Today magic seems to be in vogue again. But most modern workers of magic follow a strict code of ethics. For example, those who perform on television don’t use camera tricks and videotape editing to create the illusion of powerful magic. Magic workers today use only traditional forms of magic. This means they use the same forms of magic for television as they would for a live magic show.

The old saying about magic being smoke and mirrors is true. The art of magic tricks is all about fooling the audiences’ eyes and getting them to think they are seeing something that really isn’t happening. That’s what true magic and the practice of good magic tricks is all about.
 

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