Magic has a long and varied history and has captivated and enthralled people for over 2,500 years. The first recorded magic act was by the magician Dedi who performed his tricks in Ancient Egypt in 2,700 B.C. He is credited with the first cups and balls magic trick. While there is some dispute over whether he actually performed this trick or not, he was renowned for bringing birds back to life by first decapitating them and then reattaching their heads!
The cups and balls magic trick, using stones and small vinegar cups, was definitely performed in Roman times between 50-300 A.D. by a group of magicians known as the Acetabularii. It is also around this time that sleight of hand-of-hand tricks were performed. Since then, over the centuries, this type of magic has been used to entertain people at fairs and shows, but it was also used by con artists to trick people out of their money.
Increasingly, magic became associated with the occult and as a result, fell into disrepute. Magicians were thought of as sorcerers and witches; they were not approved of and consequently, they were persecuted by the church and the authorities.
Over time, the publication of two books helped to dispel the belief that magic and witchcraft were linked. In 1584 Reginald Scot published The Discoverie of Witchcraft to try and dispel notions of witchcraft, but although he achieved this by revealing many of the magicians’ secrets, unfortunately, magicians were then thought of as dishonest charlatans. Later in 1655, Thomas Ady published A Candle in the Dark and wrote that believing magic was linked to witchcraft was a result of people’s ‘foolish imagination’.
Magic continued to evolve over the decades. In the early 1800s, Richard Potter became the first stage magician in the USA. Some of his tricks included passing coins through a table, breaking and restoring broken watches and placing his hand in a bowl of molten lead – not a trick to be tried at home!
Magic gradually came back into favour, and the start of the 1800s also saw magic being introduced to the big stage. The founding father of modern magic shows is Jean Eugene Robert-Houdin. He took magic from the street onto the stage and into mainstream entertainment. Since then it has become a staple act of the variety show. Other famous names include Harry Houdini, who performed some amazing and sensational escape acts including being shackled in chains and placed in a locked and weighted box that was submerged in water. Without any help, Houdini freed himself from his underwater prison to return to the surface.
The advent of television saw magic introduced to mass audiences with big names like David Copperfield and later David Blaine and Dynamo. Magic shows have become bigger, better and more glamorous, with brilliant illusions and seemingly impossible performances.
Modern magic is not all about the big acts with bright lights, smoke and disappearing animals – close-up magic can enthral audiences just as much as the big shows. Magic captures peoples’ natural curiosity as they are determined to figure out how the trick is done. There is something about the proximity of the trick that drives the sense of disbelief. This makes close-up magic the perfect entertainment for events like parties and weddings because people cannot but help be drawn into the performance; it feeds their curiosity, makes it a great talking point and creates wonderful, lasting memories.
Check out this fun video compilation of Christopher Whitelock in action to pique your interest and give you a taster of what he could be performing at your next event!
Take a look at my gallery and videos to see for yourself what kind of tricks I perform and how delighted guests are when I perform them. Magic is such a fun form of entertainment and knowing a few tricks for yourself is well worth it to amaze your friends and family next time you get together.