Where Magic and Warfare Meet

EMHC Vienna 2019 Head

Today’s the day! I am humbled and excited to speak at the 8th European Magic History Conference (EMHC) in Vienna, Austria. You can download the full program brochure here.

I’ll be pursuing some of the many roads where magic and warfare intersect, which is quite a fascinating and multi-layered topics. These aspects include

  • the surprisingly military lingo of magicians
  • the constant “wars” some magicians are fighting
  • some magicians who were also involved in military deception (like Robert-Houdin, Jasper Maskelyne, John Mulholland, and Barton Whaley)
  • how, particularly during the Second World War, entire “ghost armies” appeared and disappeared; trucks turned into tanks and vice versa; dummy planes, trains, tanks and explosive sheep (!) helped to mislead or surprise the enemy; and deception plans were used successfully in at least five major operations of the War
  • the fact that the concept of deception has been rooted deeply in strategic and tactical warfare for thousands of years
  • the main similarities and differences between military deception and our friendly art of deception for entertainment purposes
  • some magic victims of warfare and
  • some truly “magical” war anecdotes.

I have read and acquired way too much material to put it all into my 25 minute presentation, so I guess I’ll be sharing quite a few bits and pieces here over time. Stay tuned!

Here’s my favorite picture from the presentation:

TankIllusion


 

 

A Few Great Opening Lines

Card DevilNon, non, mon ami, we’re not talking “Hello, I’m the house magician” here. We’re talking world literature – great artists with consummate skills, both in commanding their subject-matter and in chiseling their gleaming semantic profile and persona from the gorgeous marble quarry we call language. Ah!

These are some of the best opening lines from magic books which I am aware of:

Jasper Maskelyne was drinking a glass of razor blades when the war began.
(David Fisher, The War Magician)

It is late afternoon on the beach, and this would look like paradise but for the silhouette of a fat woman in baggy shorts.
(Peter Lamont, The Rise of the Indian Rope Trick)

The history of female magic is short of names, achievements, and clothes.
(Irmgard Kleine-Nothdurfft, Box Jumpers and Bra Tricks: A Feminist Study of 20th Century Conjuring)

I loathed myself again.
(Derren Brown, Confessions of a Conjurer)

I’ve been talked into it.
(Harry Lorayne, Quantum Leaps)

On my seventh birthday I ventured into serious billard ball magic, but soon I dropped it.
(The Brilliant Bernardo Braggadocio, Me, Myself & I in Magic, Vol. II)