I’m sure that by now all my astute readers, and even the less astute one, will have answered most if not all of the questions in this year’s SCM Christmas Quiz. In case you haven’t, here they are:

1. The badge of the Sheffield Circle of Magicians is known as the Scaratika. What two magical symbols does it incorporate?

Answer: A Scarab and a Swastika. To the Ancient Egyptians, the scarab was a symbol of Khepri, a manifestation of the sun god Ra, from an analogy between the beetle’s behaviour of rolling a ball of dung across the ground and Khepri’s task of rolling the sun across the sky. They accordingly held the species to be sacred. The swastika is an ancient Indian religious symbol of peace and continuity. It is considered to be a sacred and auspicious symbol in Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism and dates back at least 11,000 years.

2. Bess Houdini held annual séances on Halloween for ten years after her husband’s death in 1926. Which secret phrase did her husband Harry promise to use to prove that his ghost was actually trying to contact her?

a) Flowers do not fade.
b) I am Erik.
c) Rosabelle believe.
d) It’s the kiss that holds the key.

Answer: c). “Rosabelle” was a song that Bess used in her original act at Coney Island. Harry Houdini spent much of his later life trying to disprove spiritualism and expose phony mediums. The agreement with his wife was his ultimate means of proving that a return from the dead was impossible. The séances were supposed to continue each year for the rest of her life.

In 1929 a medium reported that the special phrase had been uttered during a séance, but Bess claimed that the news was false – she had been ill during the séance and the secrecy of the phrase could have been compromised. Bess held annual séances for 10 years, and then gave up on waiting and passed responsibility on to magician William B. Gibson.

3. David Wighton was born in London, England in 1868. He is best known for the Mascot Moth illusion in which a woman vanishes into thin air. What is his stage name?

Answer: David Devant. Incidentally,  Devant was the first Honorary President of the Sheffield Circle of Magicians.

4. Who is generally credited as the inventor of the Sawing in Half illusion?

Answer: P. T. Selbit (Percy Thomas Tibbles). A description of the illusion was published by the great French magician Jean Robert-Houdin in 1858, but Robert-Houdin’s idea remained just that, a written description of an effect. Selbit is generally recognised as the first magician to perform such a trick on a public stage, which he did at the Finsbury Park Empire theatre in London on 17 January 1921. In fact, Selbit had previously performed the illusion in December 1920 before a select audience of promoters and theatrical agents at the St. George’s Hall

5. Considered by many to be the father of modern magic, this French magician was originally a watchmaker but later performed throughout Europe during the 1840s and 1850s. The “Light and Heavy Chest” was one of his most famous tricks.

Answer: Jean-Eugène Robert-Houdin.

6.  What was the stage name of famous British magician Newton Edward Daniels?

Answer: Paul Daniels.

7. These two German magicians were famous for their work with big cats.

Answer: Siegfried & Roy.

8. A magician makes a coin vanish from his or her hands. Which European country is connected with this sleight?

Answer: France (French Drop).

9. Invented by Theo Bamberg some time in the early 1900s, this little container is a classic prop for coin magic.

Answer: Okito Coin Box (Okito was Bamberg’s stage name).

10. The inaugural meeting of the Sheffield Circle of Magicians took place on 18 May. But what year?

Answer: 1920.

There was also a tie-breaker question, which we didn’t have to use. It was:

Tie Breaker: Claude Conlin was a mind-reading magician with a disreputable past. He had been married seven, eleven or even fourteen times, depending on who you believe. He was a con man, possibly a murderer and was imprisoned for fraud. Nevertheless, he was probably the highest paid mentalist of his time. What was Conlin’s stage name?

Answer next week.

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A recent addition to our our burgeoning range of second-hand books. Actually, this is no longer for sale as a few minutes after putting it on the shelf someone grabbed it and waved his wallet. Briefly remembering the essential function of a magic shop, I succumbed.

(Just so long as it doesn’t turn up on eBay for twice the price, as happened recently.)

Nice cover though! (Didn’t he used to come into the shop and complain that he’d bought that £20 prop in Davenports for 3/6 a few years ago?)