The room you are in darkens. Strange noises,
“Ladies and gentlemen,” the voice would say, “boys and girls of all ages, please welcome…”
You and the audience become entranced – your minds fall open to the new and the wonderful, your belief in the impossible fades away, all of your bodily senses fooled by the secrets of the 20th Century’s Greatest Magicians…
Unfortunately, we can only imagine what it would be like to witness this kind of real magic.
In a world where television is an alien novelty, where radio rules supreme and the internet, smart phones and touch screens are unfathomable science fiction, the real professionals of magic were lorded as the kings and queens of entertainment.
Nowadays, most their legacy are grainy clips found on YouTube. But once upon a time, these were household names across the UK and America, having tens of millions tune into their weekly broadcasts. Yet now, these magicians are in danger of being forgotten.
So, I’d like to take you on a journey and introduce you to some of The Professionals. Starting with…
The Man Who Knows
How to introduce the force of nature that was The Man Who Knows? Perhaps it’s best not to start with the man, but to start with the myth.
Joseph Dunninger, a.k.a. The Man Who Knows, was the such as killed showman that, by the end of his long career, he would put forward$10,000 to anyone who could prove he was using professional confederates in his shows. No measly sum now, but adjusted for inflation from the dollars of 1940,it would be near the equivalent sum of $180,000 today, or about £142,000.
You might think that’s a reckless thing to do, and for most people, you would be right. However, for Dunninger, it was a mere pittance. He was the very first Magician Millionaire, making his money from lucrative advertising deals to his millions of fans.
And where, you may ask, did he gather such a huge number of fans? Well, remember, this was in the days before television – Dunninger made his name, built his reputation for a stellar mind-reader, created a stir in the media and blew people away, all through his radio shows!
Imagine having the gall to read people’s minds on the radio and get away with it!
You can watch one of the rare examples of Joseph Dunninger being filmed below. In this clip, you’ll get a feel for how he presented himself as The Man Who Knows. His level of brazen authority is something to behold, even now.
In the clip you just watched, you will have seen Dunninger give away three secrets of the Spiritualism trade. These methods were ancient,even by the standard of the late 1930’s. However, as far back as then, you can see that revealing the methods behind such devious tricks are highly educational.
This, not coincidentally, is the idea that Mindsways was built upon: once you can see the trickery behind the tricks, you get an entirely new perspective on what’s possible. You can see more of this in our digital kits, the Mindsways Kit (www.mindsways.com/MSK/) and the Psychological Artistry Kit (www.mindsways.com/PAK/).
There are a few of Dunninger’s radio broadcasts available too, if you’re so inclined to listen to them. One of them is available here:
Not only can you hear his methods for making millions of dollars from his radio shows, you can also witness the amazing relaxed confidence he has in asserting false true hoods.
Joseph Dunninger was truly a master of magic. His commanding voice, his ballsy attitude and his willingness to warp reality to his will are just a few of the things that made him great. And all without a sleight-of-hand in sight.
But the next pair of magicians, well… they are rather a different speed…
The Kept The Millions Guessing
Sydney Piddington led a life that reads more like an extract from an Ian Fleming novel than that of a magician.
Shot down over Singapore in the Eastern theatre of World WarII, Piddington spent his time in the Prisoner of War camp channelling his experience as a young magician into transferring secretive messages. Under constant supervision by the guards and with threat of decapitation if they were caught, Piddington and other prisoners devised sly methods of silen tcommunication to help them survive the tremendous strain of the infamous camps.
After the war, he and his wife Lesley, moved from Australia to London. Sydney continued to develop their act and take it to the stage,altering his life-saving system to become an enigmatic treat for millions of listeners across the globe.
Lesley would become the focus of hugely publicised and impressive feats of silent transmission. For the most part, these too were transmitted across the BBC’s radio stations, but British Pathe created a special news-reel for The Stratocruiser Broadcast. You can watch this astonishing experiment below.
Sydney Piddington died in 1991, and Lesley Piddington passed in 2016. It’s well documented that both Piddingtons were incredibly strict about their routines and made sure to never write a thing down about their methods. Even in the later years of her life, Leslie suffered from severe dementia and could not or would not be coaxed to reveal how they had achieved their greatest stunts.
To this day, how these stunning pieces of magic (or were they real?) are still hidden from us, and we may never truly know.
But from someone’s who’s life echoed James Bond, to someone who’s life is inextricably linked to 007’s on-screen adventures…
The Real International Man of Mystery
History is, on the whole, about a time we cannot touch. It is, for many, about stuffy volumes sitting in dusty rooms, full of the names of people who were dead long before they were born. The history of magic goes even further – in the great annals of magic, we have entities who we’re not even sure existed. Quoted often are the likes of Moses, Merlin and Morgan le Fay.
This abstraction of the past is damaging for so many reasons, but is doubly so to the legends who are still living with us today.
David Berglas, who was performing unique and powerful mental magic effects in the days just after the Piddingtons, is still with us by the end of 2018.
The scale and accomplishments of David Berglas’s career are hard to overplay. From his first gig following the likes of Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin to advising Orson Welles in the original Casino Royale and many other James Bond films, to creating one of the world’s most mystifying card tricks (the Berglas Effect) and working with Derren Brown and Dynamo to secure this generation’s magical figureheads are still making people gasp with delight today, Berglas has been at the centre of British magic for well over six decades.
The following clip might be familiar to anyone who’s seen Derren Brown’s Enigma show. Even if you haven’t, the swarve man of mystery will fry your mind with his amazing mental magic.
Not only is this living legend still with us, but he’s still telling his stories to this very day. Below is just one example of the time he spent as the consultant for Octopussy:
And Where Do We Come In?
I would never, never be so bold as to compare us with the likes of Joseph Dunninger, The Piddingtons or David Berglas. You can see our own tribute to these greats by watching the videos below:
And, if you want to find out more about mentalism, mind magic and how to use mystery for yourself, you can pick up either the MindswaysKit (www.mindsways.com/MSK/),the Psychological Artistry Kit (www.mindsways.com/PAK/) or come and attend one of our live days throughout 2019 in both Birmingham and London,more information available at www.mindsways.com/promo/
People often ask us “does revealing tricks get you in trouble with the Magic Circle?” Well, whilst magicians are a secretive bunch, if we kept these ideas to ourselves, our beloved magical art would die off. We have to have ways of teaching new people, whatever their age, background or experience is.
I think it’s also incredibly vital to not just teach new people the ways of magic, but to pass on the lessons from the great professionals of magic. I hope you’ve watched some of these clips and had your mind blown open by these new possibilities.
I know if you did, then these great magicians would be very happy indeed.