Kalanag, Polaroid and the magic of the moment

After more than two years of joint research, I am very happy to report that Jonathan Allen‘s and my article has just been published in the ambitious Cabinet magazine!

In it, we trace the story of a rather fascinating yet mostly overlooked magic trick created in 1948 by German magician Helmut Schreiber (1903-1963), known to the world as ‘Kalanag’ in his time. By secretly employing the brandnew Polaroid Land camera, which was still unknown to the public, he added an extra “kicker” to an already astonishing trick, the Broken and Restored Watch, by handing the helping spectator a souvenir photo that had been taken on stage only a moment ago.

Until now, Kalanag’s pioneering role as a creative Polaroid artist seems to have gone unnoticed amongst historians of both photography and magic. This is even more surprising, as some early programs of his magic revue “Simsalabim” indicate that Kalanag already had a Polaroid camera in secret use several months before its official market launch in the U.S.!

You can read the compelling story for free here.

(1954 Polaroid stage photo, courtesy Reinhard Müller)



Sundry Summer Surfin’

Look at me and you will get dizzy, very dizzy!

Here’s an amazing new optical illusion that sucks you right into its black hole! According to some research done, about 86% of people looking at it do realize that eery, pulsating movement. I do, and I hope you do, too! The illusion was created by Japanese psychologist Akiyoshi Kitaoka at Ritsumeikan University in Kobe. You can find some background on the phenomenon here in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience.


It’s only a tiny ad in the current issue of Genii (July 2022), but it announces something virtually greater than great: Richard Kaufman‘s revised and updated edition of Greater Magic from 1938, scrapping outdated stuff and adding the greatest mysteries of the second half of the 20th century from all magic genres. It seems like The New Greater Magic will consist of 3 volumes with about 900 pages each. Phew, that’s certainly some heavy-lifting! I should start saving money and doing some workout soon!

Many sections and chapters seem to be written already, but now Richard is looking for an illustrator who would like to do 1,000 or more drawings swiftly and quickly, which means there is no official publication date yet. As long as it’s before 2038, I’m fine with that!


Jim Steinmeyer must be one of my favorite illusioneers, imagineers and magic authors. He is super knowledgeable, super creative, and a superb writer as well. Recently, he has refurbished his website, and he is regularly adding blog posts now under the heading “What we hide”. I find them (you guessed it) super interesting and insightful. Discover them here!


Another master mind of our art and craft is David Berglas, “the international man of mystery”. I must have missed its start, but the David Berglas Scrapbooks website is another exciting discovery for the magic history aficionado. You can watch, hear and learn a lot about his career and some of his biggest publicity stunts, including the legendary vanishing piano.


In this context, I also have to mention magic historian James Edwards again. Amazing what stories – some heartbreaking, some uplifting – he keeps digging up for his blog on Magic at War! His latest piece is on The Great Cortini, a Dutch-Indonesian magician (spelled Cortiny in other sources and not to be confused with his contemporary, German coin manipulator and illusionist Cortini). He also has just announced an upcoming book. Besides, James runs a separate website dedicated to Jasper Maskelyne.

Another recent article on Jasper Maskelyne struggling with war and truth can be found here. It includes a number of interesting photos.


Now here’s an encore I guess nobody would have expected: Supreme Magic is back on the scene! Founded by Edwin Hooper in 1953, Supreme quickly became a household name for magicians all over the world, due to their colorful and imaginative line of props and tricks, an endless flow of publications of value, and excellent customer service. Now they are back as Magic Supreme Ltd., and it seems that they still have a warehouse full of old tricks to sell! They say they own all publishing and manufacturing rights, but they won’t manufacture anything again. Once the crates are empty, the story’s over. So take a look around their new website and see what you may have missed 30 or 60 years ago, or just marvel at the simple beauty and innocence of a magic era long gone!

Old logo, new again


Speaking of the good old days of magic, more than a 100 wonderous items have been added recently to the vast Davenport Collection, which you can easily access online. They have also just launched the Davenport Instagram Collection. Oh, and then there is the Davenport Film Collection YouTube Channel as a companion, just in case you were wondering… Happy browsing and watching!


With the Magic Castle property and rights being taken over by entrepreneur, millionaire and magic buff Randy Pitchford in April, it is hoped that the legendary California club home of magic is leaving behind some problem-ridden years and steering into a bright and safe future! However, there may be more trouble ahead: Joe Furlow, the Castle’s general manager from 2012 to 2020, who left / had to leave over accusations of misconduct, discrimination and sexual harassment within the staff, has announced “to reveal the truth” in his upcoming book, Behind the Curtain: Intrigue at the Palace of Prestidigitation. There is no publication date yet, but a full website full of dramatic PR blurb, finger-pointing and self-aggrandizement. This will get interesting… and likely dirty.


UK Magician and artist Jay Fortune keeps creating some lovely artwork for your magic den or living room. Here’s his latest work on Dai Vernon, which will be published in a limited edition. You can check out his website here.

Dai Vernon studying Ed Marlo’s “Tilt” (?)


The Brooklyn Rail is a U.S. non-profit organization that publishes a journal which serves as “an independent forum for arts, culture, and politics throughout New York City and far beyond.” The June 2022 issue features a highly interesting section on the phenomenon of Disappearance, examined from very different angles by more than a dozens authors. Our friend Jonathan Allen has contributed a magic piece on “What the Spectators See” and has pointed me towards this issue, which I thoroughly enjoyed.


The folks from SoMA (Science of Magic Association) have just released their summer newsletter, and it’s full of interesting stuff on, well, magic and science. Their next conference is also coming up soon. It will be held at the University of London on July 21 and 22.


Congratulations to all winners of this year’s Allan Slaight Awards, administered through Magicana:

  • Lifetime Achievement: Goldfinger & Dove
  • Sharing Wonder: Dani DaOrtiz
  • Sharing Secrets: Kayla Drescher for her podcast, “Shezam” / Lawrence Hass for his work on Eugene Burger: Final Secrets
  • International Rising Star: Mikayla Oz
  • Canadian Rising Star: Neil Croswell


This video of an alleged “Starbuck Scam” has gone a bit viral here and there. I may be wrong, but isn’t that Gregory Wilson underneath that baseball cap? It sure sounds like him to me, and given his long series of coffee house magic with his fellow David Gripenwaldt it would make sense… Check it out:

Scam or simple, but effective magic trick?


The Ehrlich Brothers, Germany’s leading illusionists today, will be playing London again for a one-nighter on August 13 at the OVO Arena in Wembley. Their claim of featuring “The World’s Biggest Illusion Show” may sound rather bold, but honestly, I have yet to see a bigger one touring today. You’re in for a treat with this high-speed mix of modern illusions, family entertainment and lots of fun!

Ehrlich Brothers ad


Old & New: Just came across this nice quote from Jon Racherbaumer:

“Today’s audiences, born and raised in an electronic environment, want dynamic action, tight direction, different kinds of dazzling stimuli, and a sense of immediacy.”

Well, we’d all agree to that, right? Funny thing is, Racherbaumer is not referring to today’s online video and social media here; he actually wrote this back in 1984, in his book At the Card Table, and he was referring to the “fast-paced time-sense used by television” (remember MTV?). And here we are, almost 40 years later, still bungling and idly dealing down piles of cards… Onwards, and enjoy the summer!


The Magic Circle History Day 2022

Now here’s an upcoming event I’m really looking forward to! It will be both an honor and a great pleasure to share the stage with magic artist and fellow researcher Jonathan Allen. Our presentation will shine a light on a creative, yet mostly overlooked kicker ending of a Kalanag routine and share more than a few background information.

Stay tuned for more!

Advert for what will certainly be a great and inspiring day!

Merry Christmas / Frohe Weihnachten!

Admittedly, I have been rather busy with other projects over the last few weeks, both in my day job and with a task for our German Magic Arts Foundation. But I will resume posting interesting news, historical bits and fun stuff over the next few days and weeks (promise!).

For now, please enjoy the festive season with your loved ones , some golden moments of reflective silence and share the magic of hope and giving!

(Sources: Pabular / Genii / Magicana)

Nothing New in Magic?

Here’s a lovely cartoon I came across in a 1928 issue of “Magie”, the magazine of the Magic Circle of Germany (MZvD).

Keep the Linking Rings, replace the Die Box with a Rubik’s Cube and the Egg Bag with a Floating Table, and you will get a good impression of the general state of magic in 2020, 2030 and likely 2050…


Kalanag, Time-Bent

History has her own ways of creating, reshuffling, and reevaluating facts. In January 1964, Helmut Schreiber/Kalanag, who had passed on December 24th, 1963, was mourned, hailed, and fondly remembered on the cover of Genii magazine and within its pages (and rightfully so).

Fast forward 57 years: The latest issue of Genii reprints the same cover photo, but this time Kalanag is stamped with a blood-red Nazi swastika across his face. A 37-page story presents selected chapters and unmasking photographs in Nazi company from Malte Herwig‘s detailed Kalanag biography, which was published in German a few weeks ago.

Genii covers from 1964 and 2021

The cover’s subline, “Hitler’s Magician,” feels somewhat ambiguous to me, though. On the one hand, it clearly describes what Kalanag strived for and how he wanted to be perceived at the time: as the Third Reich’s leading and undisputed magician and magic officer, who was on friendly, powerful terms with the Führer and his henchmen. On the other hand, it falsely suggests permanent, personal ties of Schreiber and Hitler, maybe even the status of a court jester or a gray eminence. Among others, the Führer had his deputy, his spokesperson, and his architect; he certainly never had ‘his” magician.

I feel that neither an “all black” nor an “all white” approach will do justice to the man who was both a great showman and a great egotist and opportunist in times of greatest turmoil. Malte Herwig, an Oxford-trained historian, appropriately avoided this ideological trap in his mostly descriptive, balanced, and heavily footnoted biography. Thus, a red swastika pin on Kalanag’s lapel may have been a better and more subtle cover choice.


For more facts on the book and Kalanag’s remarkable life, read my recent interview with Malte Herwig here.

You may also want to check out Richard Hatch‘s four-page, in-depth review of Malte’s book in the latest issue of Marco Pusterla‘s fine little history journal, Ye Olde Magic Mag.


A Lovely Cardboard Illusion

Here is a lovely DIY illusion which I came across recently over at Magic Center Harri.* It cost me a mere 5 Euros, and I had some fun assembling the pieces (it only takes some cutting and glueing). When you turn the cardboard wheel on the right with your fingers, the right arm holding the top hat comes down on the rabbit, moves up again, and–poof!–the rabbit is gone.

Obviously, this trick is not precision-made from wood or metal, but with a slight bend here and there the cardboard mechanics work pretty accurately. This little illusion will make a nice display on my magic bookshelf. Oh, and I love the way the rabbit is looking up towards calamity!

*This post might be considered as advertising, but if so, it was unpaid and unsolicited. I bought the prop and enjoyed it, so for me this is news from the magic & art department and sort of a mini review.


Tricks & Ideas: The Wrong Card … Right!

As some of you may have noticed here, I’m a sucker for exploring the more subtle or hidden features of playing cards, especially of the Court cards. I have opened secret back doors on cards, have pierced pips of selected cards with the sword of a King, etc. This weekend I have finally gotten around to cut and glue together a new (?) form of prediction card. Have you ever noticed that both the Queen of Spades and the King of Hearts have their hands in perfect position to either hold a miniature playing card, an envelope or any other kind of prediction?

There are basically two ways of creating such extra cards: with our without an extra layer. Without is easier and slightly quicker to accomplish. That’s what I’ve done here. Simply take a small but sharp pair of scissors and cut the card around the two hands and arms (but not along the blue line that frames the image). Then cut out a matching mini prediction card (in my case the center pip of an Ace of Diamonds) and insert it between the hands, which you have to bend slightly upwards. The disadvantage of this method: You cannot put the card face down on the table because the cuts will be visible through the back. To avoid this, cut out the hands and arms you need from another spare card and glue them onto the Queen or King. But use glue only on the arms, so the hands are free to receive the prediction card.

To use this card in play, all you need is a sw***h and a f***e. You may even want to present the Queen of Spades as a wrong prediction first. Then toss it aside (and sw***h it), try again, fail again, and then come back to your original prediction and discover that this card is now holding another prediction, which of course then turns out to be correct. It’s a matter of taste whether you want to shove this prediction right into your spectator’s face or show it face down first. If it’s face down, you will have a double effect: first, the surprising appearance of this tiny prediction, and second, the correct prediction on the other side. In addition, you can use the corny joke first that you have correctly predicted the back design of the chosen card… Hey presto!

Just another thought. Have fun trying this or exploring it further!


Busts of Famous Magicians on Kickstarter

Screenshot from Kickstarter project website

Juan Luis Rubiales, who has been mentioned on this blog before as a fine caricaturist, is now turning his drafts into small busts to decorate your magic den or bookshelf. Some of the busts, like Juan Tamaríz, Eugene Burger or Harry Houdini look very adorable to me. Some may even have a little magic trick up their sleeves.

Check out this project on Kickstarter here!


Zwei magische Aufmerksamkeitstests / Two Magic Tests of Attention

Bist du aufmerksamer als ein Hund? Schau genau hin, wie der junge Mentalist Timon Krause versucht, seinen Hund mit Fingerfertigkeit zu täuschen und zähle mit, wie oft du richtig liegst! Du wirst sicher staunen…


Young mentalist Timon Krause will try to fool his dog with sleight of hand with dog biscuits. Are you smarter than the dog? Then watch closely and count your hits and misses! You may be in for a surprise… (You don’t have to understand German to enjoy this test. Just keep watching, it’s short and it’s sweet!)

And here is an older experiment by Radalou. Try to remember the cards as quickly as you can and see some change! (Again, you don’t have to understand German to enjoy this test. Just keep watching.)


Und hier ein älteres Experiment von Radalou. Versuche dir die Karten möglichst schnell zu merken und staune über die Veränderungen!