Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen! I will be your master of ceremonies for this informative magic a capriccio!
Do you know of Charles Morritt? Anyone? Well, I am sure you have at least heard of Harry Houdini. I hope. Well, I wanted to briefly talk about the sad history of one of Houdini’s greatest illusions. And how most people think he was the mastermind behind the famous Vanishing Elephant Illusion. You guessed right my friends. It was actually Charles.
The original illusion was called The Disappearing Donkey. Later on in 1915 he changed it to The Tally Ho Trick, where he made a woman on horseback, two huntsmen, and a hunting dog appear from a large cabinet. However this did not have the impact he wished it would with the European audiences. Knowing Harry Houdini quite well, and desperately needing money, he confided in Harry and eventually convinced him to buy his altered illusion (in addition to many others). Where the final manifestation of this trick was to vanish an entire elephant.
So, on January 7, 1918, Harry astonished New York audiences by making a 5 ton elephant disappear on the stage of the Hippodrome Theater. Houdini first had the audience examine a large square 8 foot cabinet that was suspended a good 26 inches off the stage. And then as he was speaking, his assistant walked out a 5 ton elephant on to the stage and led it into the cabinet. Then, Harry closed the door behind them and drew a curtain around the cabinet. The backstage door was opened, shedding light into the theater. Twelve men immediately walked on stage and began to rotate the large cabinet on stage. While this took place, Harry lifted the curtain and through oval holes in the cabinet, the audience could see right through the elephant’s enclosure to the open backstage door. The box was empty and the elephant was gone.
So why, you may ask, have you not heard of Charles Morritt performing this illusion before Houdini? Well, it was mainly because of popularity and unlucky circumstances. Morritt was a very talented inventor and magician/mentalist in his own right. But was plagued with financial whoa, alcoholism, health issues, and criminal turmoil. Not so well known by his stage monikers, The Professor and Morritt The Mystery Man, his touring through the European provinces between 1881 and 1927 did not bring him the kind of notoriety he craved. And after a criminal trial in 1928 where he was accused of fraud and eventually found not guilty, his health grew worst. After being hospitalized because of a problem with his bowels, he never was able to work as a magician again. In 1936 he died from tuberculosis.
In a lasting memory for Charles Morritt written in a letter to his wife Bessie, one of his close theater friends said, “The magical profession has been made poorer by the passing of Charlie. For to me, he was all that a real magician should be, and I know a lot of people who thought the same. We all regret the falling of the curtain.”
As a magician, I can say our close knit world that is somewhat shrouded from the public, is not always mystery, and exciting cloaked conspiracy. There are hundreds of thousands of professional magicians struggling all over the world every day just to make ends meet by doing what they love. They make us wonder and gasp. They keep that spark of magic alive in our hearts. They make the impossible, possible. These relentless illusionists are the true spirit enchanters of the magic industry. They are the people that keep this profession alive and vibrant.
“Never loose hope. It is this chariot of will that will take you across the starry night sky into legend.”
On Fridays and Saturdays, if you wish to have a magical experience, come on down the The RockHouse. I will be performing between the hours of 7 and 9pm.