Gibeciere, vol. 9, no. 1

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CONTENTS Pocket Notes—Stephen Minch 7 Investigation into Magic in Japan after the Opening of the Country, Part X— Mitsunobu Matsuyama  11 Moreau— Jerry Christensen  61 Tracking Slum Magic to Its Lair— Max Maven  87 Uncle Aficionado— Enrique Jiménez-Martínez  93 Curious Notices— Juan Mieg  105 Furthermore...—161 Contributors 163 Q

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Tenkatsu in the role of SalomĂŠ




rom the Taisho Era (1912–1926) to the early Shōwa Era (1926– 1989), most major countries were exposed to the tribulations of two world wars. Facing the Great Depression between these conflicts, professional magicians throughout the world found decreasing opportunities for work. In Japan, to all this was added the Great Kanto earthquake of 1923, which devastated the greater metropolitan areas of Tokyo and Yokohama. In this turmoil, most entertainers and theaters suffered not only from the earthquake, but also from the unprecedented conflagration that soon followed it. In this installment, we will look at the magicians who lived through these terrible times.

Tenkatsu Shōkyokusai: Self-Proclaimed Queen of Magic Tenkatsu Shōkyokusai launched her own troupe in May of Meiji 44 (1911), soon after splitting with Tenji Shōkyokusai, a son of Tenichi Shōkyokusai. With the division of the Ten-ichi troupe, Tenkatsu found herself lacking not only the talented Tenji, but also some capable and creative staff members who went with him. She soon realized she Q

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Tenkatsu ShĹ?kyokusai, c. 1906

M i t s u n o b u M at s u ya m a In Japan, Salomé was first presented at the Imperial Theater in Tokyo, in December of Taisho 2 (1913). Salomé was played by Sumako Matsui (1886–1919), one of the day’s top actresses. Starting on May 9, Taisho 4 (1915), Sadayakko performed in the role at the Hongo-za theater, after taking intensive dance lessons from Tokuko. Other major actresses competed for the chance to play the role in other productions around this time. Tenkatsu saw an opportunity in this trend and, taking a somewhat different approach, she added a magical touch to the play. She performed it in July of Taisho 4 (1915), at the Yūraku-za theater. Her curvaceous Salomé naturally allured audiences, but more impressively, during the climactic scene, the decapitated head of the imprisoned prophet ­Jokanaan suddenly came back to life to yell, wild-eyed, in response to Salomé’s (Tenkatsu’s) call. This unique presentation effectively amused the audience, and Tenkatsu regained her high popularity. Learning from this

Salomé played by Tenkatsu 22 2 Gibecière ‹› Winter 2014 Q

M i t s u n o b u M at s u ya m a Era (1926–1989). There seem to be several reasons for this phenomenon. The major one may be that female apprentices of the Tenkatsu troupe became independent of it, while continuing her repertoire, with her permission, when she retired. In addition to this, as has been mentioned, the changing theatrical scene from around 1910 gave many

Tenkatsu performing in “Paradise in Egypt” in Shōwa 5 (1930) 34 2 Gibecière ‹› Winter 2014 Q

A n I n v e s t i g at i o n i n t o M a g i c i n J a pa n finishing a degree, he soon suffered the loss of his father. But he continued to study magic single-mindedly, regardless of the family business. Not long after this, he married and had a child, whom he unfortunately soon lost. Subsequently, his wife left him. He eventually outlived his family and never stopped focusing on magic. Under these circumstances, he became acquainted with the Kōshaku [侯爵, a Japanese title similar to a Marquis] Yoshichika Tokugawa, and through that Tokuzō Abe connection he received the honor of a request to perform for Chichibu-no-miya [Prince Chichibu] and ­Sessho-no-miya [the Prince Regent] (who later became Emperor Shōwa). Then, he received the highest honor: to perform in the presence of the Emperor and Empress, and other Imperial families, at a private party held at the Akasaka Rikyu, a detached portion of the Imperial Palace, in June of Shōwa 5 (1930). Winning his laurels, he decided thereafter not to perform for money. In his later years, he married Oyone-san, who had waited on him hand and foot. Although he identified himself with literature, he authored hardly a thing. Instead, he apparently lived without a job, and being thoroughly uninterested in anything but magic, he spent all his days half-buried in a massive number of Japanese and Western books on magic.

Many people who knew him mentioned Abe’s peculiar countenance and related anecdotes about his eccentricity. However, his love of magic and his philosophy concerning it appear to have influenced many magicians of his time. In his essay “Kijutsu Zuisō,” published by Jinbun Q

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M i t s u n o b u M at s u ya m a professional. They first appeared, under Sakamoto’s penname, Katsuhiko Amagi, in the December issue of the TAMC newsletter, dated Shōwa 12 (1937), but were actually published the following January. 1. Never Tell Beforehand the Effect You Are about To Perform. 2. Never Repeat the Trick Just Performed. 3. Never Disclose the Secret Behind the Trick Performed. Since their appearance, these principles have been highly regarded by the Japanese magic community, and almost all older magicians are familiar with them. However, few know Sakamoto’s source for these principles of “Thurston,” and no Western magician seems familiar with a specific source that would link these elementary rules to Howard Thurston. After investigating possible sources, I believe Sakamoto’s source was likely an instruction sheet enclosed in Thurston’s Magic Box of Candy, which was marketed for children for years, beginning in 1922. This is only source I’ve found that uses precisely these three statements.11 Howard Thurston was in his heyday in the 1920s, a magical celebrity well-known throughout the US, and one of his favorite tricks was

46 2 Gibecière ‹› Winter 2014 Q

A n I n v e s t i g at i o n i n t o M a g i c i n J a pa n During this homecoming, he worked for Tenkatsu in Japan, and helped by accompanying her troupe while she toured in Taiwan. His support of the troupe lasted for roughly fifteen months.

Tenkai Ishida and his wife Okinu Q

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Pierre Moreau



oreau—the name is unknown to modern-day magicians; yet, in his day, he achieved near legendary status among French conjurers. This high regard was earned through his superb performance of close-up card magic. To the best of my knowledge, he never performed in a theater and left no written record of his repertoire. Eduoard Raynaly 1 aroused my interest in this neglected French prestidigitateur. I first encountered Moreau’s name while researching L’Homme Masqué 2 for an article Michael Edwards and I wrote for Genii magazine.3 However, my interest was really piqued when I read a piece about Moreau written by Raynaly in 1902 for the French periodical, L’Illusionniste.4 I wanted to know what Moreau had done to achieve the effusive praise he received. Almost a century before me, John N. Hilliard had also become intrigued by Raynaly’s eulogy, and translated it into English for The Sphinx.5

Introducing Moreau Substantiated facts about Pierre Moreau’s life are scant. He was born on August 19, 1849, at Gilly-sur-Loire, and died in Lyon in 1890.6 I can do no better than to quote Hilliard from the introduction of his translation of Raynaly’s article: According to the writer, E. Raynaly, this Moreau must have been a remarkable prestidigitator, a consummate artist with cards, and withal a personality that piques curiosity and compels admiration. I have ransacked various books of reference, and examined many volumes of magical miscellany, but in none of them has the name Moreau been Q

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J e r ry C h r i s t e n s e n Monsieur Odin does not claim to be the originator of the methods of handling stripper cards described in his book, and I have reason to believe that they were devised by the famous French performer Pierre Moreau who died toward the end of the last century.

In the preface to “The Odin Cards,” Farelli writes that if the material in the manuscript were Odin’s, he would have said so. Odin was not reticent in claiming he was the inventor of the Strip Change Claudius Odin Colored Handkerchiefs, or the Chinese Linking Ring routine described in The Odin Rings.41 Farelli wished to credit Odin for having recorded Moreau’s methods, which explains the somewhat misleading title of his adaptation: The Odin Cards. In August 1924, in Paris, Farelli asked Odin about Moreau and what Raynaly had written about him. Odin replied, “Yes, Moreau was a wonderful artist, really marvelous, but he was not quite so clever as Raynaly thought he see he used strippers!” 42 This revelation may raise snorts of dismissal in certain magicians’ circles; but on the contrary, this does not discount Moreau’s cleverness and skill. He was simply clever in an unexpected manner. It is especially fooling when a performer who is adept at sleight-of-hand rings in a gaff of some sort. Reflecting this, when the “The Odin Cards” appeared in Hugard’s Magic Monthly, the highly respected conjurer David Bamberg (Okito) wrote a letter in which he revealed that his father, David Tobias Bamberg, had also used strippers at times, even in performances for royalty.43 The stripper deck could go some way toward explaining Moreau’s remarkable gambling demonstrations, in which he always came up with 76 2 Gibecière ‹› Winter 2014 Q

TRACKING SLUM MAGIC TO ITS LAIR The Needle through Balloon



ften, ideas in conjuring travel so swiftly that the sources, even for relatively recent innovations, get lost. This seems particularly true when it comes to “slum magic,” tricks that have spread into the repertoire of beginners’ books and kits. The appellation suggests something that is of poor quality, and that is unfair. While it is true that a primary reason such tricks attain that status is because they involve cheap materials (often everyday household items, rather than specially produced implements), it is also the case that they are simple to learn, easy to execute and—almost always—extremely clever. We often dismiss such tricks, as they are so common. But, they are not mundane, and their histories warrant exploration. As a young adolescent performing kidshows in the early 1960s, one of my standby effects was the “Needle through Balloon,” accomplished by secretly placing a few small pieces of Scotch tape onto the side of an inflated balloon, prior to performance. During the show, several large pins could be pushed into the balloon without causing it to pop, which seemed to be a remarkable demonstration. Working with available pins, the largest of which was probably all of two inches long, did not produce an impressive level of theatrical grandeur. But, for audiences of children in suburban living rooms, it was solid material. Balloons have been around for centuries, originally constructed from the bladders of dead animals. It was not until 1824 that the first r­ ubber


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Tr a c k i n g S l u m M a g i c t o I t s L a i r those large needles along with the same type of colorless balloon that had been used by Henning. The method did not require Scotch tape, and most magicians assumed this was a new development that superseded the tape version. For example, reviewing Ken Allen’s then recent booklet T.I.P.S. in Abracadabra, no. 730, January 23, 1960, Fabian wrote that it included “a gimmickless version of the pincushion balloon.” This chronology was incorrect. In fact, the tapeless method came first. The effect of harmlessly puncturing a fully unconcealed balloon was devised by Tom Ransom of Toronto, and published in the New Phoenix of July 23, 1954, as “No Bop Balloon.” In this, a large hatpin was stuck into a balloon, and by piercing at the end of the balloon (where the rubber is thicker), the balloon would not burst.

Tom Ransom’s original method, in The New Phoenix, no. 312, July 23, 1954 Q

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From Juan Mieg’s Historia Romántica, 1841

Uncle Stork ( Juan Mieg), left, and his wife Elisabeth




wiss scientist Johann Mieg was born in Basel, Switzerland, on November 5, 1780. (Some sources mistakenly report the year as 1779.) Mieg lived many years in Spain, where he naturalized his first name to Juan. He died there in February 1859. During his lifetime, Juan Mieg authored a number of works, long and short, on the subject of conjuring. His masterpiece is El brujo en sociedad, ó sea breve instrucción para aprender a ejecutar con destreza muchos juegos de manos, y otras varias suertes curiosas y divertidas (The Wizard in Society, or brief instruction for learning to perform with skill many sleight-of-hand tricks, and several other curious and entertaining feats). This important text appeared in Madrid in 1839, bearing Mieg’s pen name, El Tío Cigüeño (Uncle Stork).1 It is arguably the second most important work on conjuring to appear in Spanish, preempted only by Pablo Minguet é Yrol’s Engaños a ojos vistas. From his early youth, Johann Mieg was interested in conjuring, and that love lasted throughout his life. Since magic was an important hobby for him, he found a way to combine it with his scientific talents. While King Fernando VII was in exile in France, living in the Châteu de Valençay, he became deeply impressed not only by Mieg’s capabilities as a scientist and academic, but also by his “special skill with sleight-ofhand tricks.” 2 He performed for the Spanish Court on several occasions, and was frequently in the audiences for conjuring shows in Paris. When King Fernando returned to Spain, he invited Juan Mieg to accompany him and vouchsafed him the position of director for the Royal Cabinet of Physics and Chemistry. In his published writings, he called conjuring “májia blanca” (white magic) and “májia natural” (natural magic), rather than the commonly


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From the copy in the collection of William Kalush

Curious Notices

Detail of figure 2 from frontispiece

­ idden person could see all that was happening in the room. Since the h machine was absolutely isolated, it seemed very difficult to explain this phenomenon. The whole world ran to see the Invisible Woman, without guessing the secret until long afterward. The young lady whose voice was heard was effectively invisible to the spectator, since she was hidden in an adjoining cabinet; but her voice was transmitted by a tin tube, through the wall corresponding to one of the inaccessible sides of the mysterious trunk, and spread until it met the air by means of an opening cleverly disguised in the wall, and another in front of it, in the trunk opposite the spectator’s horn. Many artists and aficionados of physics imitated this experiment, among others Mr. Robertson,36 whose cabinet was frequently visited by the public, who wanted to see various physics experiments, and principally the Phantasmagoria. Many of them tried to change the experiment in order to arouse public curiosity. A certain Charles37 distinguished himself the most in this art; he most likely took this name because it belonged to a true physicist whose character and knowledge Q

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J ua n M i e g

THIRD ARTICLE. About the Phantasmagoria. Somnia, terrores magicos, miracula, sagas, Nocturnos lemures, portentaque Thessala rides?39


In every age there have been different individuals who assured

others that they possessed the art of summoning dead souls in their presence, by way of different circles and hieroglyphics, spells, prayers, magic songs, etc. This supposed art was commonly called Necromancy. With it, they also claimed to discover secret or future information. Pagans and Jews principally were aficionados in this abominable kind of superstition. All this was no more than, as is now known, pure deception; and the most notable thing is that amongst Christians, and in times as enlightened as these, there are still some people so weakminded as to believe such folly. Every man of moderate intelligence will easily recognize the seal of the impostor, considering the preparations these false conjurers employ in their apparitions. Apparitions for which they always choose the night time, the fertile mother of imagination, of error and of dreams. The darkness overexcites our fantasies, and thus we are deceived more easily. These charlatans also accomplish their operations in the dark, or with the scant light of a lamp, to better hide the working of their machines, and these operations are always preceded by the same preparation in order to frighten the spectators so much 138 2 Gibecière ‹› Winter 2014 Q

Curious Notices

Courtesy of the Ricky Jay collection

to the public for money on Rue de Richelieu, with many other physics experiments, presented haphazardly more or less the same as the magic lantern shown in Paris by the Savoyards,51 or the optical machine in Madrid shown by blind people; but this famous aeronaut, whose brother accompanied by his incomparable niece gave all of Madrid proof of their dexterity and knowledge, was quickly eclipsed, for particular reasons that I will explain at a better time. Besides, they could see all of the phantasmagoric experiments in Paris, explained without any mystery, and in all the courses of physics in even in the house of Mr. Dumotiez,52 the able mechanic, and in those of other aficionados. It is known that the specters of the Phantasmagoria are not, properly speaking, more than images amplified by a great, perfected magic lantern, in which all the light outside of the contours of the figures is intercepted, hiding from the spectator all of the parts of the machine, with the exception of the canvas or the curtain on which the ghosts paint

A Phantasmagoria performance Q

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