10 of History’s Most Legendary Magicians

by Neha Bansal8 months ago
Picture 10 of History’s Most Legendary Magicians

It takes years of practice, dedication, and skill to top the list of History’s Greatest Magicians. These mentalists, sorcerers, sleight-of-hand artists, illusionists, escape artists, and magicians have elevated the art and raised the bar for the younger magicians of today’s era. Performing magic at a time when few resources were available, these artists were believed to have actual paranormal powers. In the recent decade, magic has revealed itself to be an act of clever deception, but despite this fact, it still amazes us to watch these mind-boggling tricks. Here is a list of 10 of History’s Most Legendary Magicians who have given this art a new level and form. 

1 Robert Houdin (1805 – 1871)

Jean-Eugene Robert-Houdin was a master illusionist who was quite advanced for this time. He was known for exposing the fakes who claimed to have supernatural powers. His most applaudable magic feat was the “floating boy” trick in which he had used a concealed metal frame structure.

Robert Houdin
Robert Houdin (Image to the left), Lithograph or engraving of the ethereal suspension illusion as performed by Robert-Houdin. Image Credits: themagicdetective.com, Anon/leafpdx.com via Wikimedia.org

French magician Jean-Eugene Robert-Houdin’s initial training as a watchmaker helped him use those skills to craft labyrinthine illusions and tricks. He was quite advanced for his time, and he had to reveal some of his tricks to the authorities who were otherwise accusing him of witchcraft.

The French spellcaster was also the first magician to use electricity. Once he convinced the king of his tricks, Napoleon III sent him to Algeria to dominate the Arabs in that area with his French “miracles.”

Houdin exposed many “fakes” who relied on supernatural explanations for their tricks. His “floating boy” trick achieved by using a concealed metal support structure had created quite a sensation at the Palais-Royal, where he used to perform his feats in an evening dress as opposed to the strange costumes worn by other magicians. His most applaudable magic feat was to make an orange tree blossom in front of an audience. 

Jean-Eugene Robert-Houdin was born in Blois, France in 1805 and died in St. Gervais near Blois in 1971. He has written several influential books, where he has explained magic tricks and gave step-by-step lessons. (1, 2)

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2 P.C. Sorcar (1913 – 1971)

P.C Sorcar was a famous Indian magician who managed to make the “Taj Mahal” vanish for two minutes and also made the “Victoria Memorial” disappear on the 300th anniversary of Calcutta.

P.C. Sorcar
P.C. Sorcar (Image to the left), Sorcar is best remembered for his Indrajal show that was premiered in Paris in November 1955. Image Credits: Saileswar Mukherjee/bbc.com, New York Public Library/bbc.com

P.C. Sorcar, an Indian-origin magician, achieved international fame at the peak of his career from the 1950s to the 1960s. Audiences used to wait eagerly for his magic show that Indrajal aired live on television.

He gained acclaim when he performed his magical illusion trick of cutting a woman in half on live TV, but the show went off air soon and the scared audiences called in to find out if the woman was alive or not. The media was full of news headlines the next day, reading “Girl cut in half – Shock on TV,” but it was soon clear that it was his neat trick.

He was critically acclaimed as “India’s Maharaja of Magic,” who took his art to a different magnitude. He received several awards, including the “German Goldbar,” the “Dutch Tricks Prize,” and the “Sphinx”. 

Born in a small village Ashekpur in Bengal in 1913, P.C. Sarkar was a math prodigy as a child, but he soon realized that magic was his true calling. He later changed his name to “Sorcar” because that sounded like “sorcerer.” He died at the age of 58 in 1971 of a heart attack while performing on a stage in Hokkaido in Japan. (1, 2)

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3 Cardini (1895 – 1973)

Renowned as the greatest magician with sleight-of-hand tricks, Cardini was loved by magicians all over the world for his card tricks. His manipulation acts with cards were presented with elegance and flawless technique.

Richard Valentine Pitchford, fondly known as “Cardini,” was three times the President of the Society of American Magicians. He is credited by magicians all over the world with originating playing-card magic. Cardini had developed a manipulation act with cards, cigarettes, and billiard balls with flawless technique and elegant style.

His style is imitated much today, and he is even known to be the most imitated magician in the world. He was even invited to the Royal Palace eight times for entertaining the King and Queen of England with his card tricks.

Cardini grew up in Wales and practiced magic tricks in the trenches of World War I. After the war, he traveled across America and Australia, stunning other magicians with his showmanship.

He was the second person to have his name put up in lights at Radio City Music Hall. The Magic Castle in Los Angeles bestowed upon him the distinction of “Master Magician” in 1970. He died in 1973 in Gardiner, New York. (1, 2

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4 Alexander Hermann (1844 – 1896)

Alexander Hermann was renowned for his sleight-of-hand and card tricks. His bullet-catch trick and live-rabbit-being-pulled-out-of-a-hat trick are remembered by magicians even today.

Alexander Hermann
Alexander Hermann (Image to the left), theatrical poster for Herrmann the Great. Image Credits: Harvard Theatre Collection, Harvard University/Wikimedia.org, Wikimedia.org

Hailing from a family of magicians, Hermann had magic running in his veins. His magician brother, Compars Herrmann, trained him, and the duo later traveled across the globe showcasing their tricks. Alexander Hermann began performing solo when his brother died. This master illusionist performed skillful sleight-of-hand tricks, elaborate stunts, and card tricks.

One of his other renowned magic tricks was the bullet-catch trick, where it appeared that a fired bullet was caught in his teeth or between his hands. He was renowned for his card and sleight-of-hand tricks. He was one of the first magicians to pull out a live rabbit from a hat.

Born in 1844, this French magician was also known as “Hermann the Great.” He was married to another master magician, Adelaide Hermann, who is also known as the “Queen of Magic.” He died in 1896 while traveling from Rochester to Bradford. (1, 2

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5 Harry Kellar (1849 – 1922)

The perfectionist Harry Kellar was known for the expertise and perfection with which he would plan his every move. His levitation-of-a-girl-in-mid-air trick earned him international fame.

 Harry Kellar
Harry Kellar (Image to the left), One last poster for American magician (Harry) Kellar, stitched together from three pieces. Here he gets some supernatural help in lifting the lady. Kellar: levitation. Promotional poster for Kellar by the Strobridge Lithographing Co., Cincinnati, New York, 1900. Image Credits: natedsanders.com/Wikimedia.org, trialsanderrors/Flickr.com via Wikimedia.org

One of the most popular magicians of the United States, Harry Kellar reached the peak of his career from 1896 until 1908. Kellar was a perfectionist who carefully planned each of his actions and words. Soon, he had grown famous and was considered a rival to Alexander Hermann.

He received recognition in 1896, after the death of Hermann. He presented large stage shows during the 19th and early 20th century and mostly relied on the Martinka Magic Company to build his illusions, sets, and even the “Blue Room.”

One of the most legendary magicians of his times, he amazed his fans with different types of magic tricks like sleight-of-hand, duplications of feats claimed to be performed by ghosts, and illusions. His presentation of the show was his greatest strength, and audiences loved him.

His shows also incorporated an aspect of spiritualism. Harry Kellar’s renowned trick, “The Nested Boxes,” which he performed at the White House for President Theodore Roosevelt and his children, gained him much acclaim. This “Dean of American Magicians” was most popular for his levitation-of-Princess-Karnac trick.  

Born in 1849 in Erie, Pennsylvania, Harry Kellar learned magic from the age of 12 to 18 from his mentor, I.H. Hughes. He was a predecessor of Harry Houdini and successor of Robert Hellar and Isaiah Hughes. He died in 1922 due to a pulmonary hemorrhage caused by influenza. (1, 2)

Also Read:
10 Lesser-known Facts About Famous People

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