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Courtesy of the Norm and Lope Nielsen collection

G ere ··· i b e c i`   Journal of The Conjuring Arts Research Center    >  ?


The Conjuring Arts Research Center Board of Directors William Kalush Dr. David Singmaster Steve Cuiffo Philip Varricchio David Blaine

This issue sponsored by Bella Mondo Gourmet Food available from Wholefoods and fine grocers nation-wide.

Š 2010 Printed in China. ISSN 1558-8149 Gibecière is published semi-annually by The Conjuring Arts Research Center 11 West 30th, 5th Floor, New York, N.Y. 10001 212-594-1033

CON TEN TS Pocket Notes—Stephen Minch  7 Nellie Bly on Magnets, Mind Readers & Fakirs! Fakirs! Fakirs!— Barry H. Wiley  9 Tragic Magic—Joshua Jay  71 About the Sloane 424 Manuscript— Stephen Minch and William Kalush  131 Sloane 424—Anonymous translated by Lori Pieper  141 Contributors  173

Vol. 5, No. 2 • 5

Martin Gardner was vigorously with us in the last issue of Gibecière. We were eagerly anticipating his return. That will not happen. The extraordinary gifts and intelligence of this man were quietly cancelled on May 22, 2010. Mr. Gardner spent ninety-five years earning the respect and admiration of a wide-ranging cast of intellectual readers. “Polymathâ€? seemed to have been coined for him, as his name seldom appeared without the word escorting it. Mourning his end is fit and proper for all mankind; as is the enduring appreciation of the huge literary legacy he has left us.

••• ••• PO CKET N OTES

••• ••• These covers embrace a young, fresh contributor, a seasoned, returning one, and one more, so old he’s been dead for at least three centuries. It has been a year and a half since Barry H. Wiley appeared in Gibecière. When he told me about one of his recent subjects of research, I promised him eternal fame and vast riches if he would cast his findings into an article for us. So we are asking each of our subscribers to sit down now, pen Mr. Wiley a timely encomium and post it to him with a dollar. Please don’t make me lose face. Mr. Wiley’s subject is an amazing woman named Nellie Bly. Ms. Bly was the first genuine female newspaper reporter in America. Further, she was also what was called a “stunt reporter.” That is, she went after sensational stories in a sensational way. While these things alone make Nellie Bly a fascinating study, she had one quirk that puts her solidly into Gibecière territory: She was an arch skeptic (that arch intends a double meaning) of the supernatural. As cocksure as a Maskelyne or a Randi, Bly exercised her debunking talents in the pages of New York’s The World. Her targets were thought readers, magnetic girls, fortunetellers and fraudulent spirit mediums. Wiley introduces us to the amazing Ms. Bly, then blows away more than a century of dust as he lets her tell her own stories, quoting extensively from her articles. There is a lovely final twist to this tale, in the person of Abdulla the fortuneteller, the one purveyor of the supernatural who beat Nellie Bly, perhaps more cunningly than she realized. Joshua Jay is a newcomer in these pages, though certainly not in the world of magic. Mr. Jay has composed a necrology of conjuring. While

Vol. 5, No. 2 • 7

Gibecière unquestionably morbid, such prodding into the topic of sudden and often bizarre deaths never fails to fascinate and occasionally amuse in a dark, cautionary way. The subject is grim, but I predict with a feeling of near certainty that readers will find this survey of death in the cause of conjuring...well...entertaining. After examining the demises of magicians and the company they keep, we finish the issue with the disinterment of a long dead fragment of conjuring literature. Concealed in the vast paper wealth of the British Library, William Kalush discovered a manuscript on conjuring composed by an unknown author sometime, it is believed, in the 1600s. It was written in Italian, which CARC’s prized translator, Lori Pieper, has adapted to English. Thereby, we are given a more accurate peek into the state of the art than is generally found in literature of the time. What Ms. Pieper reveals is a collection of secrets very likely written by a performer, as the selection of effects is little diluted by the parlor puzzles and amusements common to the period, and advice is given that displays the fruits of experience. For such a short work, a unusual number of historical insights and surprises are found, making this brief and almost completely unknown manuscript an unusual and important record in conjuring’s history. Finally, if you notice fewer instances of creative spelling and grammar in this issue, your appreciation should be directed, as is mine, to Andrew Pinard, who kindly volunteered his expert proofreading skills Stephen Minch editor

Gibecière • Summer 2010

•Nellie Bly on Magnets,

Mind Readers & Fakirs! Fakirs! Fakirs! •

Nellie Bly, 1890


•• ••• •• •• •• • BARRY H. WILEY


If one would become great two things are absolutely necessary: the first is to know yourself; the second is not to let the world know you. —Nellie Bly

he famous, notorious, adventurous, courageous, skillfully outrageous reporter, Nellie Bly (Elizabeth Jane Cochrane, called Pink by her family) was on a constant prowl for suitable targets for her well-honed exposés and, at times, merciless attacks. In the 1880s and ’90s, Nellie, or NB as she was often labeled, was the quintessential woman reporter and would become the role model for generations of women journalists to come. The name “Nellie Bly” was given to Cochrane in 1885 by George Madden, managing editor of the Pittsburgh Dispatch. He wanted something “neat and catchy” for his new hire. Female reporters of the time never used their own names, so a pen name was necessary. The name, among others quickly tossed around by the men in the city room, was originally “Nelly Bly” from a popular 1855 song by Stephen Foster; but Madden was in a hurry and misspelled it as Nellie, and so it remained.1 Nellie Bly was attractive, five feet five, 112 pounds, blue-eyed and with delicate features. One fellow reporter remarked that her hands seemed too small to hold a pen for her writing.

Vol. 5, No. 2 • 11

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