My fantastic book on stage magic, Hiding The Elephant by Jim Steinmeyer, is full of great tales but my favourite** is the story of how Robert-Houdin used SCIENCE to prevent a rebellion in a French colony by adapting one of his magic tricks. He put a box on the stage and challenged a local warlord to lift it – which the warlord did. He then waved his WAND saying that he had made said warlord as weak as a child, the warlord then could not lift the box O NOES. Robert Houdin restored the warlord’s strength, the rebellion was nipped in the bud, and in his memoirs he revealed that this feat had been due to a metal lining in the box and an ELECTROMAGNET under the stage! Crafty Robert-Houdin.

OK this story is hugely colonialist but I like it because it’s the kind of nonsense which would show up in a Tintin book.

* probably not, since everything else in Robert-Houdin’s memoirs turned out to be a bit of a fib, and much of it was later exposed as such by Houdini (v. oedipal since Houdini means “like Houdin”). Steinmeyer disapproves of this as bad form, and is very down on Houdini in general, because he was rub at magic and only good as escapology.

** actually my favourite story is the throwaway one about the magician who got a police summons for selling illegal booze at a show and telegraphed to say he could not attend court because he’d hypnotized 20 people the night before and it would be dangerous to leave them. The peelers were not impressed.