Hiding the Elephant

I just finished reading a fascinating book, Jim Steinmeyer’s “Hiding the Elephant”. While superficially about how turn-of-the-century magicians did some of their more famous illusions, like Houdini’s famous disappearing elephant stunt, it was at least as interesting (if not more) as sociology and history of magic with a nifty epistemological overlay.

I was particularly fond of Steinmeyer’s book-long quest to uncover the secret of Charles Morritt’s classic illusion, called the Disappearing Donkey.

Alan was certainly right about the style of illusion. I knew ways that I could make a donkey disappear in a box. Alan probably knew several different ways. But that wasn’t the point of the exercise. We were trying to figure out how Morritt had done it, based on the principles that were in use in the early 1900s, the secrets he was familiar with then, and the fashion of magic being created and performed then.