Charles Reynolds, inventor of magic, RIP

Charles Reynolds, one of the world's greatest "backroom boy" magicians who advises other conjurors and invents illusions, has died. Reynolds's accomplishments included helping the likes of Doug Henning vanish a white horse and rider and Harry Blackstone Jr. buzzsaw his wife in half. Reynolds was 78. From the New York Times:
 Images 2010 11 08 Arts Reynolds-Obit Reynolds-Obit-Articleinline He lived in a little house in Greenwich Village crammed with magic books, mummy cases and antique posters, including a dozen of the American magician who went under the Chinese name Chung Ling Soo and who became an instant legend in 1918 when he died by muffing the trick of catching a bullet in his teeth.

Mr. Reynolds’s knowledge of magical history was deep and quirky. He could tell you all about one Professor Lamberti, a vaudeville and burlesque performer who did magic tricks in addition to being the “world’s daffiest xylophonist.” As a stripper squirmed behind the professor, he welcomed the audience’s applause as his own.

Mr. Reynolds said that since Victorian times there have only been a dozen or so real tricks, with limitless variations. Magicians succeed, he said, by manipulating people’s own assumptions – call it misdirection – and never by lying.

“People don’t particularly enjoy being made fools of,” Mr. Reynolds said at a seminar on theatrical illusion in 2008.

"Charles Reynolds, Magicians’ Magician, Dies at 78" (Thanks, AnthroPunk!)

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  1. Reynolds’s accomplishments included helping the likes of Doug Henning vanish a white horse and rider and Harry Blackstone Jr. buzzsaw his wife in half.

    Big deal, sawing people in half is easy. Putting them back together is the hard part.

  2. I’m pretty sure we aren’t allowed to use the word “muffing” to refer to a “clumsy performance” anymore.

  3. Magicians succeed, he said, by manipulating people’s own assumptions — call it misdirection — and never by lying.

    Sounds a lot like what politicians do. Except they get to lie as well, as long as it’s for purposes of national security.

  4. “Magicians succeed, he said, by manipulating people’s own assumptions — call it misdirection — and never by lying.”

    A magicians “misdirection” is an intentional form of deception. Intentional deception **is** lying. Magicians are professional liars, as are fiction writers. But James Randi calls magicians “honest” liars–as opposed to phony psychic spoon benders, who use magician’s tricks but claim they aren’t. However, many magicians do use lies, to boost the effect of their tricks, claiming, for instance, to be using expert psychology and observation when divining a person’s card or what not when, in fact, they are using standard magician’s methods to do the trick.

  5. It’s always painful to see the passing of any profession’s educators, but it’s good to see it’s recognized. As for the lying part . . . only true magician’s are honest liars. Carp-eating dorkmeisters like Chris Angel who flatly lie and use shills to also lie about what they are seeing on camera . . . yeah, they’re scumbags who give magic a bad name. True illusionists like this guy are one in a million.

  6. > Did he also solve locked-room murders?

    Ha. Yes, that’s more or less what I was thinking as soon as I read the description of what he did and where he lived. I wonder if he was the direct inspiration, or if there are other similar characters around?

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