I like Mondays. On Monday, I am refreshed from the weekend and exhilarated by the possibilities of the week ahead. I also like magic. I like its history, its intersection with technology, and its crafty use of human nature. I figured I’d combine the two and make a Monday feature that is truly me: a little bit of magic and a look at the week ahead.
Miracle Mongers and Their Methods by Harry Houdini
The legendary magician and illusionist Harry Houdini turns a critical eye to the astonishing claims of those in his own profession. Using personal research and observations, Houdini reveals the cunning techniques employed by fire-eaters, sword swallowers, and other masters of deception to mystify and amaze audiences around the world. This classic skeptical work explores and exposes the methods of such “wonders” as “The Incombustible Spaniard,” “Defiers of Poisonous Reptiles,” and many others. Originally published in the 1920s, Miracle Mongers and Their Methods scrupulously examines the direct predecessors of modern psychics and mentalists. …(via Goodreads)
Making the jump to debunking psychics and mediums misses a rather important point about Houdini. He was an incredible athlete. Near the end of his career, he did indeed pit himself against mediums, but this book isn’t about that at all. This book is a catalog of the great purveyors of physical “miracles.” While Houdini does expose the techniques, there’s a great respect in this recitation of fire-eaters, sword-swallowers, poison defiers, strong men (and women) and the like. While Houdini was sensitive about his own methods being made public, he makes an important observation about exposure: Many of these performers were debunked time and time again during their careers without it hurting business.
I would guess that the text wasn’t really written by Houdini (he had ghost writers), but the source material was curated by him and I would say that the enthusiasm is certainly his. It should also be noted that any advice given about snake bite cures in this book is *terrible*.
Publisher: Public domain edition
Publication date: Originally 1920
What Am I Reading This Week?
- Nevermore by William Hjortsberg – Arthur Conan Doyle, Harry Houdini, and the ghost of Edgar Allan Poe walk into a bar…
- Great Expectations by Charles Dickens – I always forget how much I enjoy Dickens.
- A wild card for DMI and I’m picking “Lazarus” by Leonid Andreyev
- A book of optical illusions
- Some fairy tales retold for #COYER on the weekend!
What Am I Working On?
The first week of writing in July didn’t go as well as planned. I wasn’t feeling great and I got hung up on an action scene. I hate action scenes.
Also this week, I need to update ALL THE WEBPAGES. Entangled Continua got a mini make-over this weekend and I need to update book availability.