Arthur C. Clarke said, “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”
I’ve just finished Jim Steinmeyer’s excellent book, “Hiding the Elephant: How Magicians Invented the Impossible and Learned to Disappear,” which nicely meets the standard of being both educational and entertaining.
Steinmeyer walks us through the history and characters of the Golden Age of magic (roughly mid-1800s to mid-1900s) and gives a peek behind the curtains to explain the evolution and development of the great magical illusions. But, what’s great is that his explanations do not diminish your admiration for the illusions. In fact, I am left with a deeper appreciation of the classic magic tricks that fall into the category of illusions – sawing the woman in half, making ghosts appear, floating people, and making even elephants disappear.
And, I’ll be darned if mirrors actually do play a role.
It’s a fascinating world of large personalities, patented tricks, stolen tricks and an effort to create bigger and bigger illusions. The history leads up to Houdini making an elephant disappear on stage, which the author was later to replicate in a tribute to historical magic.
In a sense, any sufficiently advanced magic is explicable by technology, but it still stays magical. That is, unless your rival magician reveals the secret to your audience and they run you out of town.
A very good book that you might want to read for a nice change of pace.