- By Jim Steinmeyer Teller

Hiding the Elephant: How Magicians Invented the Impossible and Learned to Disappear

  • Title: Hiding the Elephant: How Magicians Invented the Impossible and Learned to Disappear
  • Author: Jim Steinmeyer Teller
  • ISBN: 9780786714018
  • Page: 456
  • Format: Paperback
  • Hiding the Elephant How Magicians Invented the Impossible and Learned to Disappear Now in paperback comes Jim Steinmeyer s astonishing chronicle of half a century of illusionary innovation backstage chicanery and keen competition within the world of magicians Lauded by today s fin

    Now in paperback comes Jim Steinmeyer s astonishing chronicle of half a century of illusionary innovation, backstage chicanery, and keen competition within the world of magicians Lauded by today s finest magicians and critics, Hiding the Elephant is a cultural history of the efforts among legendary conjurers to make things materialize, levitate, and disappear SteinmeyerNow in paperback comes Jim Steinmeyer s astonishing chronicle of half a century of illusionary innovation, backstage chicanery, and keen competition within the world of magicians Lauded by today s finest magicians and critics, Hiding the Elephant is a cultural history of the efforts among legendary conjurers to make things materialize, levitate, and disappear Steinmeyer unveils the secrets and life stories of the fascinating personalities behind optical marvels such as floating ghosts interacting with live actors, disembodied heads, and vanishing ladies He demystifies Pepper s Ghost, Harry Kellar s Levitation of Princess Karnak, Charles Morritt s Disappearing Donkey, and Houdini s landmark vanishing of Jennie the elephant in 1918 The dramatic mix of science and history, with revealing diagrams, photographs and magicians portraits by William Stout, provides a glimpse behind the curtain at the backstage story of magic.

    1 thought on “Hiding the Elephant: How Magicians Invented the Impossible and Learned to Disappear

    1. If you have any interest in the secretive history of magic, this is your book. Jim Steinmeyer is an ideally qualified author: he is not only an historian of magic, but has professionally designed illusions for some of the top names in stage magic. The list includes Doug Henning, Siegfried and Roy, David Copperfield and Lance Burton, among others. Remember the disappearing Statue of Liberty? Yep, that was his. I'd seen Steinmeyer perform at the Magic Castle a while back, where he resurrected some [...]

    2. A history of magic from 1850-1925, told by a modern magician. Heavy on biography, but many sharp insights on the big questions of a small subculture. When is deception in good faith? Are secrets entertaining in themselves? In the new millennium, do people even expect to understand how things work?

    3. When I first started reading this book, I didn't quite know what it was trying to accomplish, but along the way, I enjoyed the ride. I learned things about 19th-century magicians, audiences, and entertainment trends. When reading such a book, one is struck that 19th-century audiences had no radio, TV, or movies, neither social media or computers, and because of that, there was a rabid hankering for vaudeville and live performance. Today, we are so blase about seeing live performance. We prefer s [...]

    4. I thought this book was ambitious in scope, but ultimately failed to deliver. This "history of magic" seemed to me little more than a jumble of results from the author's no-doubt extensive research and experience.The format is kind of a mess. I got worried when I saw the little oval pictures and bio information of the various magicians listed in the front -- "He's lumping a lot of basic info up front, in this 'cast of characters,'" I thought. "I bet the structure of this book is going to be all [...]

    5. This dense book about the Golden Age of magic is no doubt the result of author Jim Steinmeyer's years exhaustive research. Yet, it can at times read like a history textbook. It is clear that Steinmeyer is not the greatest non-fiction writer out there. His chapters do not work like chapters should because they are not divided by topics of themes. For example, for the chapter titled Houdini, we get eight pages (I counted) on Charles Morritt and his mirror illusions before Houdini even makes an app [...]

    6. Recommended for fans of Erik Larson's style, amateur magicians, and anyone who preferred David Copperfield (remember him?) to David Blaine.A decent, if somewhat tangled, history of mostly American and English magicians of the later 1800s and earlier 1900s. So many of the stories intertwine that I had some difficulty in keeping who's who straight, especially towards the end when Steinmeyer is wrapping up his loose threads and jumping around a bit in time. That said, the personal background to the [...]

    7. Like the magicians he chronicles, Steinmeyer provides the reader with both too much and too little detail to actually reproduce the illusions he describes (I'm not sure if this really matters, however, since I won't be making my own elephant disappear anytime soon).Interesting look at early 20th century magic. Some of the concepts involved, mirrors, light tricks, trapdoors, are now hundreds of years old but to see them in the hands of a great magician would still make your jaw drop. I'd recommen [...]

    8. If you're looking for a book on how to do magic tricks, there's plenty of those, but this isn't one of them. Without wishing to diminish Mr. Steinmeyer's work, I'll warn you up-front that it's of almost no practical use if your interest is learning how to do magic tricks. That's not to say however that it isn't an interesting and enjoyable read.This book covers the development of stage magic, primarily in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, and is particularly focused on the dominan [...]

    9. A really interesting look at the recent history of stage magicians. The author uses each chapter to describe a certain magician's style and, in some cases, secrets. One of the more fascinating aspects is to consider how much mass entertainment has changed in the last 150 years. Also interesting is how little it has changed: people have been and still are taken in by scandalous performances and mysticism.My favorite part of the book was the technical description of how the tricks were performed, [...]

    10. Like a good magic trick, Steinmeyer's book lets you think you're in-the-know about some of the most famous stage illusions of all-time without revealing any true secrets. Steinmeyer creates a compelling read more fascinating for its evocation of the great rivalries of the Golden Age of magic than for technical how-to.

    11. An enterprising book on a really interesting topic, full of lofty promises: intrigue, mystery, razzle-dazzle. Steinmeyer's passion for stage magic is earnest and his research is thorough, but his personal anecdotes tend to be stilted and strained. When he tries to connect on a personal level, he seems to be trying too hard. But to his credit, Steinmeyer quickly corrects his pacing and manages to make what might be dry subject matter (patent law, rights to illusions, and competition for original [...]

    12. Filled with the history of magic. Chapter biographies of magicians of the past. Some tricks are explained.

    13. This is a history of stage magic from the 1800's through about World War II. It discusses who invented various illusions, the personalities of the magicians, their rivalries and connections. It also carefully traces the changes in style through the decades. It covers Robert-Houdin, John Pepper (of Pepper's Ghost), Houdini, and is especially focused on Maskelyne and his collaborators, as well as several others who I hadn't heard of before. There were a few clever illusions (like the elusive moth) [...]

    14. Lent to me by my Hungarian finder of wonders Andras. A historical introduction to the famous illusionists. Harry Houdini, another Hungarian, was a prominent Magician included. I enjoyed how the author himself was a person who invented magic tricks for others to use. With all his research it led him to this book that is a historical presentation that reminded me of "The Devil in the White City" in how it would build up amazing attractions without disclosing what they were. It all led to the final [...]

    15. Tough to give a star review for this. Author has designed illusions for many of the best stage magicians of the last 30+ years and has great passion for the history of magic. Plus, the book was blurbed by no less than Ricky Jay and Glen David Gold (author of Carter Beats the Devil, an excellent novel set in the world of magic). The personalities of the performers, how they came to be magicians and the lengths they would go to to steal tricks was so interesting. The mechanics behind the illusions [...]

    16. A fascinating walk through the history of magic and the showmanship that went with it from the late 1800's through the end of magic's golden era in the 1930's. Although the book explains the mechanics of many great illusions, it's much more than just a "how they did it" book. There are compelling character studies of magicians and the entire magic community as well as an in-depth look at European and American theater of the era. The magicians' stories intertwine as illusions evolved and theater [...]

    17. Speaking as a layman, I found this a very good history of late 19th/early 20th century magic, primarily in the US. Steinmeyer cites his sources meticulously, both in the body of the text, and in an extensive notes section. The writing is engaging and I appreciated the occasional sketches. There's some drawing back of the curtains; (including the titular trick) however, learning how it's done makes me appreciate the artistry of the performances even more. I found the ingenuity of these men compel [...]

    18. Beginning with a mystery-to-this-day Houdini miracle from the pinnacle of his career, The Vanishing Elephant, Steinmeyer jumps backward in time, in a hybrid of a James Burke "Connections" episode and historical biography, to trace the evolution of an ever-mystifying-to-audiences class of stage illusion.Each chapter documents a step, whether incremental progress, set-back, near-miss, or breakthrough, by the contributing magicians, ranging from world-renowned larger-than-life personalities to the [...]

    19. Read this if you have even the slightest bit of interest in magic! The extent of my interest was a sort of "whoa, how'd they do that?" reaction to the movie The Prestige, and I whipped through this book in about two days, so It gives away just enough secrets to be interesting and keeps just enough secrets to remain mysterious. Excellently presented.From the forward: "Hiding the Elephant is less like a history book than like an unforgettable all-night conversation with a fascinating stranger."Ve [...]

    20. A fascinating history of how magicians have created illusions starting from back in the days of fake spiritualists who manifested ghosts, through the complex inventions of levitators and, of course, Houdini's feat of making a circus elephant vanish, which gives the book it's title. There's lots of background on various magicians, details on how they constructed their paraphernalia, and the reader comes away with an heightened understanding and appreciation of magic as an art with its past master [...]

    21. This is a delve into the history of magic shows and showmen in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. You learn along the way how various magic tricks are done but that's not the whole point of the book. The trick here (if you'll excuse the pun) is that unlike the kind of exposé you see on TV - the kind that leaves you thinking "is that all?" - this book goes into how the illusions were conceived, invented and perfected. So you're left thinking how neat, clever and complicated it al [...]

    22. So good I've read it more than once. Steinmeyer is a a fixture in the world of magic. He's a top illusion designer, a performer, and as a historian and author he's top notch.This book takes you from the origins of illusions through Houdini vanishing an elephant from the middle of an empty stage. You learn plenty of magic secrets in this book. But the best part is seeing how one illusion builds on another and how the personalities, rivalries, and plain ingenuity of magicians throughout the 1800s [...]

    23. A really, really outstanding book, both a history of magic from about 1850 to the 1930s, as well as a technical examination of how many of the finest illusions were performed. It focuses on "optical illusions" - a better title might have been "Done With Mirrors" - but it reveals as much about the personalities of the magicians, and their rivalries, as it does about the actual tricks. It's also extremely well-written. If you're interested in magic, I can't recommend it enough.

    24. This is a wonderful history of the high points of stage magic, centering around the early 1900s, within a framework of explaining how Houdini vanished an elephant on the stage of the Hippodrome. Woven throughout are real-life stories of intrique, espionage, jealousy, creativity and love (of magic) - along with the secrets of how some of the most memorable stage illusions actually work. Very readable and edifying.

    25. A fairly interesting history of magicians from 1800 to the 1930's. He also explains lot of illusions like how to make someone levitate, an elephant disappear, and how they do that ghost scene in Disney's Haunted Mansion (okay, I know you all knew how to do that one). It was slow going, so I only recommend it if you really want to drain the magic out of illusions and find out that Houdini wasn't a great magician, just a great escape artist.

    26. A thoroughly entertaining and informative history of the golden age of magic - the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Packed with fantastic characters and anecdotes, this was the most fun I've had from a non-fiction book for some time. Steinmeyer excels at explaining the technological innovations that drove the developments in the magic business. And yes, it's true, it was (almost) all done with mirrors. C

    27. Whilst not a gripping read, I enjoyed this book. It gives an interesting account of the development of magic over the last 200 years with lots of focus on the characters and the technological breakthroughs that allowed new tricks to be created.It doesn't give away all the tricks but does explain some of the common principles and mis-directions.Worth reading if you want a change from regular fiction.

    28. From when I was very young I have had a keen interest in magic history and the secrets behind magic tricks. This is just the book for someone like me. The author helps us step inside a time when many popular magic tricks were invented. He gives plenty of fun anecdotes about legends of magic history and leaves the reader fascinated with some secrets behind amazing tricks of the age. Pure joy to read for a magic enthusiast.

    29. A fascinating book that takes you through the various decades of magic through the illusions and those who performed them. I read this after visiting & having a guided tour of the Magic Circle HQ in London so a few of the names were already familiar to me. Nonetheless I found this a thoroughly enjoyable read!

    30. Affectionate account of the history of magic. This book illuminates the wonder of the innovations and the personalities behind them, while never once making us feel as though we are worse off for knowing their secrets. I did however, during the course of this book come to realize that many magicians are rather awful, and the history is loaded with intense racism.

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