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Magic Facts & Figures

copperfieldHighest Annual Earnings by a Magician
David Copperfield had the highest earnings of any magician in 2002 with $70 million, according to the 2003 Forbes Celebrity 100 list. The star of TV shows for both ABC and CBS, Copperfield has performed illusions such as making a jet plane disappear and walking through the Great Wall of China.

Oldest Magic Society
Houdini was one of the most famous illusionists in history. Nicknamed the King of Handcuffs, he was especially well known as an escape artist. Apart from inventing and performing illusions, he owned a share in Martinka's Magic Shop in New York City, and he was the president of the Society of American Magicians from 1917 until his death in 1926. This is the oldest magic society in the world and was founded in Martinka's on May 10, 1902 with only 24 members.

Most Expensive Magic Show ever Staged
Siegfried and Roy at the Mirage, starred the German illusionists Siegfried Fischbacher and Roy Horn and cost over $35.7 million to stage when opened on February 1, 1990, in Las Vegas. The show, with dozens of wild animals, a giant fire-breathing mechanical dragon, and a cast of 60, closed after its 5750th performance on October 3, 2003 when Roy was seriously injured by a white tiger.

Highest viewing figures for a TV Magic Show
Canadian magician Doug Henning attracted more than 50 million viewers for the first of his eight World of Magic one-hour specials. The show, directed by Walter C Miller, was the first transmitted live on NBC on December 26, 1975. guest starring Gene Kelly. Henning performed spellbinding illusions including a re-creation of Harry Houdini's famous water torture cell.

Longest running TV Magic Show
Dick "Mr Magic" Williams presented 1200 programs of WMC-TV's Magicland, a weekly half hour magic show that aired for 23 years between January 1966 and January 1989.

Most Living Creatures produced during a Magic Performance
Penn & Teller produced more than 80,000 bees during their television special Don't Try This At Home filmed in 1980.

Most Copied Stage Illusion
Invented by South African Robert Harbin in 1965, the Zig Zag Girl is the most popularly performed stage illusion in the world. A girl, standing in an upright cabinet, is apparently cut into three pieces with the middle of her body pulled to one side. It was copied so quickly that Harbin published a highly priced book in 1970 (limited to 500 copies) that allowed each purchaser to build one version of the prop. It is estimated at least 15,000 Zig Zag illusions have been built to date. Thus 14,500 of them are unauthorised.

Most Escapes from Handcuffs
Nick Janson from the UK has escaped from handcuffs locked on him by more than 1760 different police officers around the world the world since 1954.

Lowest Death Dive Escape
In 1997, Australian Robert Gallup was leg-manacled, handcuffed, chained, put into a secured mail bag and then locked in a cage with a .74sq m floor area before being thrown out of a C-123 transport plane at 5485m above the Mojave Desert in California. With less than a minute before impact and travelling at 240km/h, he escaped from the sack and cage to reach his parachute secured on the outside of the cage and deployed in time to land safely.

Fastest Transformation illusion
American illusionist the Pendragons present, Houdini's metamorphosis illusion at a speed that would have fooled its inventor. Jonathan Pendragon is locked in a trunk on top of which his wife Charlotte stands. She hides herself behind certain which drops after just 0.25 seconds to reveal her transformation into her husband.

Largest Magic Society
Founded in 1968 in New York, USA, The International Magician's Society boasts 37,000 members worldwide, including among others, David Copperfield.

Largest Illusion Ever Staged
The largest illusion ever staged was presented by American magician David Copperfield, who created the illusion of vanishing the Statue of Liberty in New York, on his fifth television special, The Magic of David Copperfield, aired on CBS in 1983. The illusion was invented by American Jim Steinmeyer and constructed by another American John Gaughan.

-This article was published in a special publication prepared by the Sunday Telegraph, Called 'Guinness World Records.'


It may not be the oldest profession in the world, but it's got to be close to it!

Researchers have found evidence of magic being performed many centuries ago, and it doesn't take much imagination to realize that magicians in those days were seen as being very powerful. Medieval royalty had jesters and conjurers to entertain, and it was around that time that playing cards may have been invented. In fact the fashion of the day remains; as today's court cards (King, Queen, Jack) are dressed in clothes representative of when playing cards first came in to being during the 1300's!


However, the entertainment value of magic was sometimes overlooked and a more dangerous mood sometimes gripped the audience. More than a few witches were killed in the old days, even when they didn't do magic (fortunately this isn't something you'll need to worry about today!)


Naturally it didn't take long for magic to also be used to swindle people. Three-card Monte and its variants soon became a classic scam that cost plenty of victims plenty of money. As long as there's gambling, there's probably someone looking to cheat the system and someone else who is looking to deceive the punters - both parties relying on card slights and moves, some of which are adapted for use in modern close up magic.


These days magic is found in every culture around the world, for audiences it's an entertaining experience, and for many performers it proves to be a rewarding career. Broadly, magic can be grouped into one of four types - and these categories are in many ways driven by the size of your audience; a group of 2000 people can't easily watch you perform some coin tricks, but make an elephant disappear, and they'll all notice that!

Illusions - a stage show using large props. Typical effects include people being sawn in half, made to vanish, or swap places with caged animals. These kinds of effects are often accompanied by dry ice, spooky lighting and music, bad costumes, and an overly dramatic flourish by the performer. There's no denying the appeal of this kind of magic (many sharp acts have run for years in Las Vegas), but the audience know the trickery is in the props; therefore illusion magic can sometimes lack the "knock their socks off" appeal of close up magic.


Small stage/Stand-up - generally using smaller props than illusion based magic, stage work is the staple of many professional and advanced amateurs. Rabbits from hats and doves from pockets are the TV image of stand-up magic, but these days much of stage magic is based on some very natural looking props and slights. This style of magic needn't be expensive, and it's fun to learn, and even more fun to perform!


Close-up - also known as "Walk around" magic. This type of magic uses everyday props such as playing cards, business cards, pens, matches, rubber bands, coins, cigarettes and bank notes. TV has popularized David Blaine and other experts in this field, and being able to do this kind of magic in pubs and on the street (right under the spectators eyes) means that close-up magic packs a very powerful punch.


Children's magic - There's some great magic designed just for entertaining children. Performing to a juvenile audience can be very rewarding, after all kids will interact with your show without hesitation, this means you can get some big effects and some big laughs (and hey, their parents enjoy the break too!) This can also be a profitable part-time job for experienced amateurs.


Within each style of magic you'll find many variations and specialties. For example, there's a great range of magic that uses small brass props such as coin vaults, rings, nuts & bolts, and so on, and some people like to focus on these. For others it might be ropes and silks, and for others it might be card magic - or even the fine art of stealing people's watches!


Old routines are constantly being revised, and new magic is invented by clever minds all the time - something that makes the world of magic so interesting. Therefore, whatever your area of interest, Hey Presto can help with lessons and supplies. Just ask!