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Wednesday, March 29, 2017

The "The Work Of The Devil" Story

It was an ordinary day.  Talking with someone about a fellow teacher who I taught with many years ago.  Guy taught metal shop in a classroom about fifty feet from my graphic arts shop.  He was well liked by his students, since he often did a magic trick or two at the end of his classes.  Tell you the truth, I enjoyed many of his magic tricks, since I could never tell how he did any of them.  In his spare time he actually was a professional magician, traveling to the Atlantic City, NJ Boardwalk each summer to perform in front of large crowds.  Called himself Professor Funfoolery and not only was a magician, but could do juggling and was a puppeteer.  His wife often assisted him in his performances.  When my youngest son celebrated an early birthday, Carol and I invited Lavelle to the house for a performance in front of the boys we invited.
Poster telling about Howard Thurston in Lancaster, PA
He eventually left teaching to concentrate on his performing and I lost track of him after that time.  Recently thought of him once again while surfing the web looking for historic photographs of Lancaster County.  Came upon a cardboard poster for one of the two best magicians of the 20th century, Howard Thurston.  At the time, magic was still a mystery and a sleight of the hand trick at times was called the work of the devil.  Mr. Thurston's biggest competitor was a fellow by the name of Harry Houdini.  Remember that name?  While Harry was thrilling audiences with his death-defying escapes, Howard captivated the attention of a nation with his spectacular shows.  
Thurston performing his levitation trick.
And, the cardboard poster I found online today was for a show being held at Lancaster's Fulton Opera House on Monday, October 23; year unknown.  It was listed as his 23rd Annual Tour with tickets costing anywhere from 25 cents to $1.50.  Mr. Thurston was born in 1869 in Columbus, Ohio.  As a child he ran away and joined the circus where he became friends with Harry Kellar who eventually became his partner.  As time went on his traveling magic show was the biggest of all and was so large that it needed eight train cars to transport his show.  His card tricks were what made him, while his floating lady illusions were what made him famous.  The trick was known as the "Levitation of Princess Karnac."  
Another Thurston poster.
He died in 1936 when he suffered a stroke due to pneumonia.  If you have ever thought of names in the field of magic, my guess is Howard Thurston wasn't on the top of the list.  Maybe Houdini or even David Blain, but not Thurston.  And, if I hadn't been searching for old photographs from Lancaster I may have never come across the cardboard poster which featured Mr. Thurston.  As far as I'm concerned, I'll still stick with Professor Funfoolery who was the best magician and illusionist in the history of Manheim Township High School where we both taught school.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

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