Review: Hiding the Elephant by Jim Steinmeyer

This book chronicles the golden age of magic from the mid 19th century through to the mid 20th. Its connection is a Doylean one in so far as the book devotes a fair number of pages to Harry Houdini who, as we know, was a friend and enemy of Conan Doyle.

There is also another link in that many of the tricks described were those deployed by spiritualists when fooling the public about their ability to contact the departed. Beyond that this is a fascinating book chronicling the progression of magic over the best part of a century. How the tricks developed and how the different magicians did (and did not) get on. The rivalries and the outright theft of tricks are all detailed.

To a Doylean like me the book is useful for not only the insight it offers into Houdini but also the background to the tricks related to spiritualism. The skill with which these were accomplished goes some way to explaining Conan Doyle's credulity. However it is also refreshing to read how often these tricks were exposed by magicians and also by members of the public.

Written by Alistair Duncan Buy my books here