Thursday, January 27, 2011

J. Gordon Whitehead-The Man Who Killed Houdini

Mt. Royal Cemetery Montreal Canada

Joscelyn Gordon Whitehead was not a magician. He was the college student (who was in his 30s at the time) who punched Houdini several times in the abdomen in his dressing room in Montreal. This led to a ruptured appendix and Houdini's eventual death on October 31, 1926. Investigations following Houdini’s death don't accuse Whitehead of any wrong doing, but in an affidavit to the insurance company Whitehead willingly admits to punching Houdini several times. Books continue to be published that point the finger at Whitehead and a possible conspiracy of Spiritualist Mediums who were out get Houdini for his exposure shows which revealed that Mediums were fake. I don't think any positive connection has been made so far, these are only theories.

Whitehead was an odd figure. After the Houdini incident he left college. He became a recluse and a hermit. He died of malnutrition in 1954. He is buried in Montreal Canada at the Mt. Royal Cemetery in an unmarked grave. The exact location is the Hawthorne Dale Annex Plot, lot # 188, grave 75. It is an unmarked grave.

J. Gordon Whitehead, today

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

David Devant's Grave

David Wighton, known professionally as David Devant was an English Conjurer during the early part of the 20th Century. He had already become a well known name in his country before he teamed up with John Nevil Maskelyne at St. Georges Hall.

He was born in Holloway London on Feb 22, 1868. Besides being a magician he was a pioneer filmmaker. He had one of the very first movie projectors in England and would show his movies along with his magic shows.

David Devant was the first president of the Magic Circle. He wrote several books that I know of 'My Life in Magic''Secrets of My Magic', 'Woes of a Wizard' and 'Our Magic'. There is another book I found by Devant called 'Tricks for Everyone' which was probably more of a pitchbook sold after his shows or in the theatre lobby. All of Devant's writings are available from S.H. Sharpe wrote a book about Devant called 'Devant's Delightful Delusions'. If you look into the works of Jim Steinmeyer you'll see that he is heavily influenced by Devant.

David Devant died at 6:30 p.m. on October 13th, 1941 after having suffered for years from a debilitating form of paralysis. He is buried at the Highgate Cemetery in North London.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Dante's Final Resting Place

Harry August Jansen better known as DANTE was according to some the successor to Thurston.  Dante traveled the world with his show 'Sim Sala Bim' and was a striking performer. He appeared on stages all over the globe and in the 1942 Laurel & Hardy film 'A Haunting We Will Go'.

© original artwork by Dean Carnegie
In 1955 Harry Jansen, known professionally as DANTE the Magician died at his home. Arrangements were made to have his body cremated. Apparently, his ashes and those of his wife remained in a cardboard box in the basement of the Chapel of the Pines Crematory for forty some years. I’m not sure  why or what the situation was that caused that to happen. 

There is good news though. People in the magic community raised money to get the remains moved to a proper resting place. Donations came from magicians all over the world and with the help of the Society of American Magicians they were able to have the remains of Harry Jansen and his wife Edna moved to The San Francisco Columbarium where they received a proper resting place.

Harry August Jansen was born on October 3rd, 1883 in Copenhagen Denmark. He died of a heart attack at his ranch in Northridge CA June 15, 1955.

Dante's remains are at the San Francisco Columbarium 1 Loraine Ct. San Francisco CA

This is another example of the kindness and generosity of the magic community. See also Joe Karson's Grave

Joe Karson's Grave

Joe Karson was the inventor of one of the classics of magic, The Zombie. Joe was also the inventor of a number of other magic effects which include 'The World's Fastest Card Trick and a one man floating handkerchief routine called "Voodoo". Magician Mike Rose wrote a biography about Karson a few years back which is sold out but available in e-book format through

Apparently, Mike Rose also took it upon himself to start up a Memorial Fund to raise money for a marker for Joe Karson's grave. Through his efforts we now have the headstone that you see above.

Joe Karson died on November 6, 1980 and is buried in the St. Michael's Cemetery in Springfield Mass.

To find out more about Joe Karson and the history of magic please visit:

The Grave of Erik Jan Hanussen

photo courtesy of Hans Noordam

His real name was Hermann Steinschneider and he was born June 2, 1889 and died March 25th 1933. He was the clairvoyant to Hitler and the Nazis. Hanussen was Jewish by birth but clearly hid this fact by changing his name.

The story goes that he was in the German Military and during some expedition or tour when his fellow soldiers had been without water for some time, he pointed to the ground and told them that by digging water would be found in this spot. Water was found and word of his ability traveled throughout the military. He came to the attention of generals and began doing shows and no doubt private readings for the troops and military officers.

In the 30's he purchased a building that he turned into his "Palace of the Occult". He did fortune telling readings and presented stage shows in the theatre.

He obviously was a charismatic figure. Looking at his photos he always seemed to have a very hypnotic look in his eyes. He was a magician, mentalist, and hypnotist who used his abilities to give people the idea he was truly clairvoyant. I believe he is the person credited for creating the technique known as Contact Mind Reading or Muscle Reading.

On March 25th, the SA (German Stormtroopers) took Hanussen to the woods outside of Berlin and shot him. The speculation was that either they discovered he was actually Jewish, or they felt he knew too much and needed to get rid of him, or because he loaned a great deal of money to various SA officers they got rid of him rather than repay him. In any event, he was killed. His body was found in April by a farmworker, the discovered body was buried in a shallow grave and riddled with bullets.

The grave is located at Stahnsdorf, Berlin: S├╝dwestfriedhof, Bahnhofstrasse Block Charlottenburg, Gartenblock III, Gartenstelle 50

Hans Noordman kindly gave me permission to use the image above. To learn more about Hanussen please go to Han's site at There are more links at that site as well.

Harry Collin's Grave

(photo by Jonas S. Wilson)

Here is a remarkable grave. It’s in the Cave Hill Cemetery in Louisville,  Kentucky and it belongs to Harry Collins. Harry performed for years as the official Frito-Lay Magician. He actually started work with the company as a salesman in 1952. In the 70s he was given the job as corporate magician for the company.

He played a bigger role in magic than that however. He was the mentor to Lance Burton. No doubt the inspiration and the guiding light that helped to create one of the most incredible magicians of the 20th Century.

Harry Collins died in 1985.

original photo at

Georges Melies Grave

George Melies is one of the more famous magician’s to grace my blog. Though he was not famous as famous as a magician as he was a pioneer filmmaker. You see George Melies is credited with being the father of special effects in relation to film.  His best known film is “A Trip To The Moon” which was made in 1902.

He started his foray into films when he attended an exhibition of the Lumiere Brothers Cinematograph, one of the very first movie projectors. Shortly after, Melies purchased a movie camera from the Lumiere Brothers and began making his own films. His studio was none other than the Theatre Robert-Houdin in Paris (Robert Houdin’s old Theatre that he sold to Melies).

Many of his early movies were actually his magic tricks recorded on film. But he added the use of his own special effects in the movies to make the magic even more spectacular. Melies eventually gave up film making and towards the end of his life was running a concession stand at a train station in Paris. It wasn’t until years later that the movie industry took note of Melies contributions and he is now an icon of movie magic.

His life was covered in a somewhat fictional way in the book The Invention of Hugo Cabret which I believe is being made into a movie.

The grave is located in Cimetiere du Pere Lachaise, in Paris France, Plot: Division 64

Update: I was made aware of an interesting little film staring magician Peter Snow called 'Searching for Melies'. In the film, Mr. Snow locates the grave of Melies while blindfolded. It's a short film and you get a number of good shots of Melies grave.

UPDATE: The photos are courtesy of Carnival of Illusion, aka Roland and Susan Sarlot.

Dr. James Elliott's Grave

photo courtesy of Scott Grassette

Dr. James Elliott was an interesting character in the annals of magic. From 1913-1917 he travelled with the show LeRoy Talma and Bosco-The Monarchs of Magic, playing the part of Bosco. But his major claim to fame was as a card manipulator. Many people of his time consider Dr. Elliott the finest manipulator of playing cards of his time. He is credited as the creator of a special palming move that is still today the back bone of many card manipulation routines. In fact that one move created quite a sensation in his day and many a magician built a career out of it. Even Howard Thurston had his own pet routine based upon Elliott’s clever sleight.

He was in the process of writing a book on card manipulations when he passed away. On his deathbed James asked Harry Houdini and Clinton Burgess if they would complete the book. A short time later his book was published under the title “Elliott’s Last Legacy”.
Dr. Elliott was from Rumford Maine and is buried in a family plot in the Abbott’s Mills Cemetery on the outskirts of Rumford.  Most of this information, including the photos were provided by Scott Grassette of IBM Ring#362. A Card Magic Contest is held every April in Rumford in memory to Dr. James Elliott. He was born April 27th 1874 and died from intestinal nephritis on January 28th, 1920 in Boston.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Kratky Bashik Grave

I will admit to not being familiar with this individual. He was the third magician buried in the Viennese Central Cemetery along with Hofzinser and Herrmann. Anton Kratky Bashik was born January 11, 1810 and died August 28, 1889. The book The Annals of Conjuring says that Bashik was a better musician than he was a conjurer.

In 1864, Kratky opened a magic theatre in Vienna and then nine years later opened a newer one. This newer Kratky Bashik Theatre was a very popular attraction in Vienna. After, Kratky died the theatre was taken over by Ottokar Fischer. Mr. Fischer was a student of Hofzinser and kept extensive notes on the masters work that allowed his magic to continue into today. The Kratky Bashik Theatre remained until 1911 and was then demolished.

His grave is near that of Hofzinser in the Viennese Central Cemetery.

The Hofzinser Grave

photo courtesy of Magic Christian

This is the grave of Johann Nepomuk Hofzinser (born June 19,1806, died March 11th 1875)  he was a great Viennese Magician. He has been referred to as the most important card conjurer of all times. He was also one of the early Salon performers and as I suspected after so much of my research on Robert-Houdin, he was probably just as influential in Austria as R-H was in Paris. Both of their contributions to magic are still felt today!

Hofzinser was a cousin of Ludwig Dobler. Dai Vernon held  Hofzinser in high regard. He even gave one of his sons the middle name of Nepamuk. Hofzinser’s card work lives on today in many ways. His effects are still popular as are his sleights and even a number of his gimmicks. In fact, even I use one of his forces and spread cull. The charming ‘Everywhere and Nowhere’ card routine is Hofzinser’s and I’m wondering if it wasn’t first called “To Think and Forget”. One famous piece of magical apparatus that I am familiar with was called ‘The Rose Mirror’. I have seen the Rose Mirror in person as it is in the collection of Ken Klosterman. There are a number of Hofzinser’s apparatus pieces in the collection as a matter of fact. His ‘ink to goldfish’ is there as well.

As I continue down the road researching Victorian magic, I look forward to learning more about Johann Hofzinser. By the way, the photo above and much of the biographical information here is courtesy of Magic Christian who gave me permission to use the above photo. Please visit his website at to learn more about this wonderful Viennese magician. Ottokar Fischer wrote two books on Hofzinser which were translated into english by S.H. Sharpe which is no doubt how much of his card magic survived. Magic Christian has also written a couple books on the card magic of Hofzinser. For those that might not have these books, try ‘Greater Magic’ as there are several references to Hofzinser in the pages of that book.

He died March 11, 1875

The grave is located at the Vienna Central Cemetery, Group 4, Row 2, Tomb 16

J.N.Hofzinser's grave is in the same cemetery that Compars Herrmann is buried in.

(most of this is a reprint from a previous blog post I did at

Dead Magicians/Conjurers

I don't know why but I am fascinated with the final resting places of the dead. Kind of a strange thing really. Maybe it was seeing photos of Houdini by grave sites when I was younger that put that into my brain, who knows. But today it's sort of a hobby, finding these graves and collecting images of them.

For the record I wanted to go with 'Dead Magicians Society' but someone had already used it and had quite a successful blog it appears. Though I think they stopped it in May of 2010, I didn't want to use a title that had been used prior. So instead I went with ' The Dead Conjurers'. Maybe I should have taken the 'dead celebrities' because I know I'll have graves of people that are not magicians on here.

I think it's important to remember these folks even though they have passed. They came before us and laid a foundation of magic that we stand on today. We should celebrate their lives even though they are not with us.

I hope you enjoy the samplings. The tomb above belongs to the man who published The Conjurers Monthly Magazine, was the first person to fly an airplane in Australia, was the highest paid act in vaudeville and is still the most famous magician of all time. Harry Houdini.

He is buried in Machpelah Cemetery in Ridgewood, Queens along with the rest of his immediate family. A more extensive piece on the Houdini burial site can be found here.