Lounging Around


As we are moving towards a slight relaxation of lockdown restrictions we’ve taken another look at how this might affect Magick.

So, from Monday 1 June we’ll be available for collections during our normal opening hours. You will need to ring me during these hours on 0114 276 0482 to check we have what you need in stock. I’ll then get things together for you to collect. Appropriate social distancing will be maintained.

From 15 June we’ll be open for you to call in. Until further notice, one customer at a time, please, and I’m afraid that extended browsing sessions will be discouraged. (And it’s still probably best to ring first.)

This means that there will be no Saturday Sessions at the moment. Sorry about that. I’ll post updates on our blog and Facebook page, where you’ll also find details of new additions to our stock.

Our website is still open, of course, at http://www.magick2go.com and you can still contact us by email: russell@magick2go.com

With love and very best wishes to you all from Russell, June and Julie.

Mermaid Poster-400

When the Doomsday sessions were held in Whitby I was a regular visitor for several years. We always stayed on an extra day or two to enjoy the town and its surroundings. I usually took time, too, to explore the local antique and junk shops for suitable additions to my collection of oddities and strange artefacts.

It was on one such trip that I came across, in the furthest, dustiest reaches of such an emporium, ‘The Whitby Mermaid’. I was immediately intrigued. Of course I’d heard of P T Barnum’s infamous ‘Feejee Mermaid’, reportedly cobbled together from the upper half of a monkey and the lower half of a fish. Its Whitby relative, however, seemed a little better constructed (assuming it was ‘constructed’ and not an example of some hitherto unknown aquatic species!).

I engaged the shopkeeper in conversation, hoping to discover more about this fascinating creature. He told me that he’d purchased it as part of a ‘job lot’ several years ago, and that it had apparently been featured in a small exhibition of ‘fantastic creatures from the sea’ which had closed some time in the 1890s. The ‘mermaid’ and other items had been part of a fairground touring exhibit for a while then eventually ended up back in its home town and had been stored in a warehouse ever since. The stuffed fish, cases of sea-shells and a narwhal’s tusk (apparently labelled ‘Horn of a Sea Unicorn’) had been sold quite quickly (a pity, I’d have liked a narwhal’s tusk) but ‘The Whitby Mermaid’ had been passed over.

He seemed quite eager to get rid of it. In fact before I showed any further interest he offered me a substantial discount — a rare event, I’ve found, in such emporia. He then went on to say that he had a couple of related items he’d throw in with it. Behind the ‘mermaid’ was a tatty brown envelope. He took it out and from inside withdrew a few sheets of even tattier paper. One was a poster advertising ‘The Fantastic Creatures from the Sea Museum’ and another two pages seemed to bear a song or rhyme entitled ‘The Whitby Mermaid’. Unfortunately the latter was torn and bits were missing or illegible. I’ve reproduced below what I was able to discern.

I said I was interested in purchasing the ‘mermaid’ and the accompanying materials, but was keen to hear of any further information he may have. I’ve used an outline of the story he told me to fill in the gaps in the song:

‘Twas one night in Whitby, sir,
The story still is told
A boat set out from Whitby Bay
With crew and captain bold.

The night was dark, the sea ran high
With waves that topped the mast.
“Stand to, my lads,” the captain cried.
“And prepare the nets to cast.”

“This is no night for fishing, sir,”
The bosun soon replied,
“We must return to Whitby Bay
To wait the morning tide.”

“The morning tide will be too late,”
The captain did retort,
“For what we fish, at midnight swims
And rides the waves to sport.”

Apparently this old song refers to a local legend concerning Jack Tyler who, with son, Billy, and crew, sailed from Whitby harbour in his boat ‘Prosper’. Returning late with little to show for his sailing, he ordered the nets to be cast one last time. On hauling them in, the story goes, caught in the meshes was a strange creature, part man and part fish ‘of aweful visage and hellish reek’. This creature leapt thrashing and spitting from the net and latched itself onto the neck of the captain’s son, tearing at the flesh. Before anyone could react, it had drained the lad half of blood and wholly of life.

There is another tale, clearly drawing on the local vampire myths, that states that the boy did not die but over the following nights became transformed into a ‘Whitby Mermaid’ himself before disappearing into the sea… and that the miniature monster later found washed ashore in the neighbouring village of Sandsend following a winter storm was in fact the captain’s own transmogrified son!

Whichever may be nearer the truth, it is said that for many nights thereafter Tyler would sail out seeking revenge on the monster that caused the death — or transformation — of his son. The song ends:

The boat was never seen again,
The wreckage never found,
The crew was listed missing,
Though all presumed them drowned.

The Abbey bells are silent now,
Though when the wind comes from the East
Some say you’ll see the stricken ship
And the mermaids at their feast.

Town Cryer

The photograph above shows the Whitby Town Crier displaying a poster advertising the ‘Fantastic Creatures from the Sea’ poster with its image of the Mermaid.

‘The Whitby Mermaid’ is now on display in our Broad Street studio in Sheffield. You’re welcome to call and take a look when things get back to normal. And you’d be even more welcome if you were able to provide a little more information on this strange creature. I’ve been in touch with The Whitby Gazette but, although the newspaper has been around since 1854, they were unable to throw any further light on the matter. In fact I got the impression that they were somewhat sceptical about the whole subject!

The ever-popular Christmas Magic Quiz featured at last week’s Sheffield Circle Christmas Social. Here are the questions for those who missed it (no Googling please!):

1. What magic word is derived from a Latin phrase spoken during the most sacred moment of the Catholic Mass.

2. Who is the Egyptian goddess of magic?

3. The 1785 translation of 1001 Nights from French into English gave us a popular phrase used to unlock closed and hidden doorways. What’s the phrase?

4. This magician was awarded longest contract ever given to a Las Vegas performer, even longer than Elvis!

5. In the Harry Potter series, this governing body is led by Cornelius Fudge through the fifth book.

6. In the tarot each card of the Major Arcana has its own number. The Wheel of Fortune, for example, is generally associated with the number ten. Which card is is traditionally linked to the number one?

7. Where would you wear a Swami Gimmick?

8. In a famous illusion the magician’s assistant is shackled, put in a bag and locked inside a box or trunk. The magician stands on top of the box and raises a curtain. Then instantly the magician and assistant change places. What was the original name of this illusion?

9. Which famous magician performed at The Egyptian Hall and was the first Honorary President of the Sheffield Circle of Magicians?

10. As I’m sure you all know, next year is the Sheffield Circle of Magicians’ centenary year. The first meeting was held in 1920. But in which month?

Tiebreaker: The inaugural meeting of the Sheffield Circle of Magicians took place in [*******] 1920. But on what date? (If no exact date is given, the nearest takes the prize.)

In a closely-run contest first prize of a £10 Magick token went to Julie Hall with nine correct answers! (And no, she hadn’t seen the questions before.) Luke Robson was runner-up with eight. How well did you do?

Answers next week.

I’ve had a couple of calls asking if we’re open on Saturday and/or is The Lounge accessible without a boat or scuba gear. Check your local conditions, of course, but we’re fine here (open as usual today, incidentally) no puddles and traffic seems to be moving OK on Parkway. But soothing tea will be available as usual.

June did suggest we offer a 1p discount on all purchases to encourage attendance, but I felt that such an extreme reaction could set a dangerous precedent.

Nevertheless, to err on the safe side, Paul Voodini’s Recollections of a Society Clairvoyant event on Saturday evening has been cancelled. We’ll reschedule when the stars align.

Here are the answers to the Sheffield Circle of Magicians 2017 Christmas Quiz. How many did you get?

1. What magic word was formerly inscribed on pendants worn around the neck as protection from illness and evil.

Answer: Abracadabra.

2. Who invented the Zig Zag Girl?

Answer: Robert Harbin. (Real name Ned Williams.)

3. Who was the Canadian ‘professor’ who was often billed as “The Man Who Fooled Houdini”.

Answer: Dai Vernon. The title came about after the two met and Houdini challenged Vernon, claiming that he could figure out any card trick if he saw someone perform it three times in a row. Dai Vernon proceeded to perform a card trick over seven times without Houdini being able to work out how he did it.

4. What is the connection between Charles Dickens and the disappearance of the Statue of Liberty?

Answer: Magician David Copperfield (real name David Kotkin) performed this illusion on one of his early tv specials.

5. One of Harry Houdini’s most popular escapes involved him hanging upside down from a rope while bound in a Straitjacket. Which Sheffield magician invented this presentation.

Answer: Randini. Real name Randolph Osborne Douglas. The idea was born on one of Houdini’s visits to the Douglas family home when he was playing The Empire Theatre in Sheffield. According to his stepmother, Douglas demonstrated the idea of being suspended upside down in locks, chains and a straitjacket.

6. Balducci, and Asrah are both types of which commonly seen magic effect?

Answer: Levitation.

7. For whom did Thomas Edison design and build the famous “Floating Light Bulb” illusion?

Answer: Harry Blackstone. After Blackstone’s death in 1965, his son (Harry Blackstone, Jr.) donated the actual light bulb to the Smithsonian. The illusion was later licensed to Dutch magician Hans Klok and American illusionist Darren Romeo, a student of Siegfried & Roy.

8. In card magic, what does ATFUS stand for?

Answer: The Anytime Face Up Switch, credited to Edward Marlo.

9. In this illusion the magician makes his assistant vanish from a four-compartment box after apparently penetrating her with several large blades. Clue: Its name references an early American civilisation.

Answer: The Aztec Lady. An assistant steps into a large box. The magician inserts various panels or blades into slots that separate the box into four sections. He then folds the sections apart. The box is then put together again and the front opened to reveal the assistant alive and well. (If you’d like one, I have one for sale…)

10. Once part of a magic duo, The Eldanis, with an act set to rock ’n’ roll music in which they both dressed in lurex, this magician went on to find fame as a solo artist.

Answer: Paul Daniels.

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Very best wishes for a jolly good 2018 from all at Magick.

Chairs

Regular Loungers will know that the chairs we use for the Saturday Sessions, Lectures, etc., are showing signs of age and wear. (As are some of the Loungers, but we can’t do anything about that…) A few days ago we had to throw quite a few away (chairs, not Loungers).

Julie jokingly mentioned a couple of weeks ago that for our 40th Anniversary (Saturday 18 November!), regulars could buy their own chairs, which we would label appropriately, or put their names on if they prefer. To our surprise this was greeted with enthusiasm and very little hilarity.

We’ve done a little research and there are some suggestions above. We’ll be making a visit to Ikea in the near future (the things we do for our ‘customers’!), so let us know if you want us to make a purchase on your behalf. As I said above, if you’d like to provide your own chair, feel free. Size is important so any chairs must fold flat, so no Game of Thrones replicas, Jared. Or the ones with the leather restraints… you know who you are.

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Here are the days we’ll be open over Christmas and the New Year:

Thursday 24 December    Closed
Friday 25 December    Closed
Saturday 26 December    Closed
Monday 28 December    Closed
Tuesday 29 December    Open
Wednesday 30 December    Open
Thursday 31 December    Closed
Friday 1 January    Closed
Saturday 2 January    Open

Then back to normal, opening daily from 11:00 to 17:30, closed Thursdays and Sundays.

I’ll probably be around most of the time so if you’re truly desperate for modelling balloons, several really expensive books to sustain you during the holidays, etc., you could always try ringing the shop: 0114 276 0482.

Have a good one!

I’m sure my esteemed reader will have answered all the questions correctly. But just in case…

1. Who was the first Honorary President of the Sheffield Circle of Magicians?

Answer: David Devant.

2. What would you use a French Drop for?

Answer: To vanish a coin or other small object.

3. What was Houdini’s real name?

Answer: Erik Weisz.

4. How many cards are there in a standard tarot deck?

Answer: 78. (22 in the Major Arcana, 56 in the Minor.)

5. The motto of the Sheffield Circle of Magicians is “Ars est celare artem”. What does it mean?

Answer: Literally, it is art to conceal art. In other words, true art conceals the means by which it is achieved. (It’s a maxim from Ovid’s Ars Amatoria, which means that in the best works of art the audience is not distracted by the artist’s technique, but responds instead to the power of the work.) T. Nelson Downs also used a similar phrase in The Art of Magic: “Let art conceal art.”

6. Who is generally credited as the inventor of the Olram Subtlety?

Answer: Ed Marlo (Olram is Marlo backwards).

7. Who said, “A conjurer is not a juggler, he is an actor playing the part of a magician.”

Answer: Jean-Eugène Robert-Houdin.

8. Who was the Sheffield magician who gave Houdini the idea for the upside-down suspended straitjacket escape?

Answer: Randolph Douglas (Randini). In June 1914 Houdini was appearing at the Nottingham Empire. The teenage Douglas was at the show. Houdini was his hero and they had been corresponding for some time. They met after the show and it seems that Houdini was intrigued with the ideas of this enthusiastic young man. He travelled to Sheffield after his second show, to Carrington Street where Douglas lived with his mother. After supper Randolph took Houdini up to the attic, had himself strapped into a straitjacket, his feet tied, and then winched upside down on a block and tackle which hung from the roof. He struggled out of the jacket, which thudded to the floor leaving the teenage escapologist gently swinging upside down with his arms outstretched… Houdini recognised the image as a surefire publicity icon and continued to use Randolph’s idea throughout his career, as has just about every other escape artist ever since. (Source: Beedham, Ann. Randini: The man who helped Houdini, Youbooks, 2009. Kalush, William, and Sloman, Larry. The Secret Life of Houdini, Atria, 2006.)

9. Who wrote The 13 Steps to Mentalism?

Answer: Tony Corinda.

10. Balducci and Asrah are both types of which commonly seen magic effect?

Answer: Levitation.

11. Under what name did the stage magician, debunker, and scientific skeptic Randall James Hamilton Zwinge perform?

Answer: The Amazing Randi.

12. In magic a ‘restoration’ is an effect in which something is seemingly destroyed or multilated, and then magically reconstituted. What well-known restoration trick was patented by Horace Goldin in 1923?

Answer: The ‘Sawing in Half’ illusion. The first time this was seen, historically, is a matter of discussion. Robert-Houdin wrote in his Memoirs of a magician named Torrini who performed the trick in front of Pope Pius VII in 1809, but there is no other record to support that claim.

Horace Goldin, in an effort to keep exclusive his rendition of the illusion, patented the format that many people would recognize, using a box with the woman’s head and feet showing, and using metal plates to insert into the box at the cut sections. In the end, his patenting efforts only served to document how the trick was performed, rather than maintain its secrecy.

13. Who invented The Curzon Envelope?

Answer: Roger Curzon. (Anyone naming D**** R**** will have two points deducted.)

Tie-Breaker: In what year was the inaugural meeting of the Sheffield Circle of Magicians held?

Answer: 1920 (18 May).

That’s it. How many did you get right?

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As is traditional, the December meeting of The Sheffield Circle of Magicians was a social evening for members and their partners. There were nibbles, a little magic, and a magic-related quiz (replacing the Christmas Puzzle Sheet of previous years following complaints from certain quarters that this required a level of thought and concentration unfamiliar to some of those attending…).

So the quiz included some general magic questions and some SCM history questions; most were fairly easy, especially for anyone with a little basic knowledge of their craft and their Circle. If you missed it, here’s a chance to try it for yourself:

1. Who was the first Honorary President of the Sheffield Circle of Magicians?

2. What would you use a French Drop for?

3. What was Houdini’s real name?

4. How many cards are there in a standard tarot deck?

5. The motto of the Sheffield Circle of Magicians is “Ars est celare artem”. What does it mean?

6. Who is generally credited as the inventor of the Olram Subtlety?

7. Who said, “A conjurer is not a juggler, he is an actor playing the part of a magician.”

8. Who was the Sheffield magician who gave Houdini the idea for the upside-down suspended straitjacket escape?

9. Who wrote The 13 Steps to Mentalism?

10. Balducci, and Asrah are both types of which commonly seen magic effect?

11. Under what name did the stage magician, debunker, and scientific skeptic Randall James Hamilton Zwinge perform?

12. In magic a ‘restoration’ is an effect in which something is seemingly destroyed or multilated, and then ‘magically’ reconstituted. What well-known restoration trick was patented by Horace Goldin in 1923?

13. Who invented The Curzon Envelope?

Tie-Breaker: In what year was the inaugural meeting of the Sheffield Circle of Magicians held?

The winner of the cheap bottle of wine was Ashton Carter with 11 correct answers. Can you beat that? (Without the aid of Google!) Answers will follow with an appropriate minimum of alacrity.

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