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:
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.