John Anderson, the Aberdeenshire magician who inspired Houdini – interview for “A history” magazine
Last month I was contacted by “A history” magazine, who were looking into one of the most influential Scottish magicians of all times – John Anderson. Anderson was a professional magician, born in The Mearns, Scotland. He is credited with helping bring the art of magic from street performances into theatres and presenting magic performances to entertain and delight the audience. Anderson was also one of Harry Houdini‘s (one of the most famous magicians of all times) idols. The photo to the right shows Harry Houdini (left) standing next to John Anderson’s grave in Aberdeen.
Below you will find the interview part. For the full article scroll to the bottom of the page or follow this link
Conjurer Radek Makar sits across the table. He pulls out poker chips and silver dollars from his pocket.
“So, you know what gravity is?” he asks AH. “Of course you do. I’m going to make this poker chip defy it.”
With that, he places the chip in one hand, plainly in view, with the other hand hovering above it. Then, in an instant, the chip floated up into the other hand.
“You see, every sleight-of-hand trick takes months or even years of practice to master. I keep coins, chips, cards on me at all times so that I can practice wherever I am.”
Radek is one of the few full-time illusionists in the UK who focuses on adults. He believes, like Anderson did, that entertainment is at the heart of the trade.
“Have you ever seen The Prestige? It’s quite true in its depiction of magicians back-stabbing and stealing tricks from one another back in the days of those like Anderson and Robert-Houdin. Now the industry has changed massively. We now actually have conferences in Blackpool (and across the world) where magicians will share their secrets. There really is a strong magic community now.”
But why would you give away your secrets?
“Well, anybody who goes to a magic show today can almost always go online and immediately find out the secret. But it’s not that what makes a magic performance good. It’s the delivery – the suspense, the entertainment – that sets the fine line between amateurs and professionals. This is what Anderson believed in and it’s still relevant today.”
The differences between magic then and magic now can be seen through modern performers like Radek. Many now see magic, as Anderson did, as a business and are not only going to performance venues but are also working for corporations to help with team-building and even working on companies’ advertising projects, something that wouldn’t have been considered in Anderson’s time. (Radek mentions he thinks Anderson “was one of the first magicians to see magic as a business or a product. Before him, magicians were largely seen as conmen trying to trick you”)
Now magicians, like Radek, follow Anderson in many ways, with tours, advertising and the use of tricks (albeit variations) similar to what Anderson used. AH noted how Radek, like Anderson, does trick involving pulling things out of thin air.
Interview by Allister Thomas (“A history” magazine)
To read the full article about John Anderson, please click here (pages 20-24)
Till the next time!
Radek Makar: Conjuror