Discover more from Marty's Magic Ruseletter
Monthly Update #10 (October 2023) 🎃
An episode of The Real Ghostbusters, rare books from Houdini's personal library, and a Halloween treat in the form of a new trick for you to learn!
Happy Halloween! 👽🤡👻🤖🧛🧟
I hope everyone enjoyed a spooktacular Halloween! Yesterday, my family had a great time carving pumpkins. However, I couldn't take my three daughters trick-or-treating this year, even though they wanted to go. Unfortunately, our neighbourhood doesn't really celebrate Halloween, making it difficult to go door-to-door.
When I was a child, my parents didn’t allow me to go trick-or-treating because they were concerned it might frighten the elderly residents in our neighbourhood, and they were probably right. Halloween doesn't have quite the same cultural prominence in the UK as it does in the US, even though its roots probably lie in Celtic harvest festivals, such as the Gaelic festival of Samhain. As a kid, I learnt about Samhain from an episode of the classic 1980s cartoon The Real Ghostbusters. The show was one of my favourites, and although it is aimed at children, the writing was more sophisticated than you might expect. The show incorporated a lot of supernatural entities inspired by mythology and folklore from diverse cultures from around the world. Who says cartoons can’t be educational?
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The full episode is available on YouTube and is still worth watching all these years later! (I find shows like this inspirational in the way they depict magic and the supernatural; they often help me develop new and interesting presentations for my magic.)
While it’s a shame I couldn’t take the kids out this year, we still had a ghoulishly good time together at home. Instead, we’ve put up some spooky decorations in the house and plan to enjoy a whole “Halloweek” of scary movies, creepy television shows and lots of sugary treats! And there’s always next year—maybe we’ll head to another neighbourhood to get the full trick-or-treat experience.
Houdini’s Library 📚
I recently stumbled upon a thought-provoking quote by philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer. He laments a problem that many amateur magicians face, myself included (the emphasis is mine):
“As the biggest library if it is in disorder is not as useful as a small but well-arranged one, so you may accumulate a vast amount of knowledge but it will be of far less value to you than a much smaller amount if you have not thought it over for yourself; because only through ordering what you know by comparing every truth with every other truth can you take complete possession of your knowledge and get it into your power. You can think about only what you know, so you ought to learn something; on the other hand, you can know only what you have thought about.”
I own a large collection of magic-related items, including tricks, props, packs of playing cards, and a plethora of hefty magic books. In addition, I have an extensive digital library filled with electronic manuscripts, ebooks, and instructional videos. The reason I started my magic blog and this Ruseletter was to motivate myself to read, watch, understand and contemplate the magic learning material that I already own. Many amateur magicians fail to utilise the magical knowledge locked away in their personal libraries. I don’t want to be one of those magicians!
This quote also got me thinking about other people’s magic libraries. The most famous is arguably the one compiled by Harry Houdini during his lifetime. He amassed a large and impressive collection of antique books on magic, spiritualism and other mystical topics, as the following quote highlights:
I have accumulated one of the largest libraries in the world on psychic phenomena, Spiritualism, magic, witchcraft, demonology, evil spirits, etc., some of the material going back as far as 1489, and I doubt if any one in the world has so complete a library on modern Spiritualism.
— Harry Houdini, A Magician Among the Spirits2
Much of Houdini's personal library has been preserved by the Rare Books & Special Collections Division of the Library of Congress. In 1927, the Library received 3,988 volumes from his collection as part of Houdini's bequest. The Houdini Collection includes a number of rare magic books that are inscribed or annotated by well-known magicians, although it is strongest in nineteenth and twentieth-century publications on spiritualism.
Houdini died on Halloween in 1926 at the age of 52, so it seemed fitting that I highlight his library in this monthly update. I suggest you spend some time reading through some of his books. They make for a fascinating read and tell us a lot about the man behind the myth.
Now, I’m off to spend some time sorting, organising, and categorising all of the physical and digital books in my magic library!
Developing Daley & Great Magicians Grow Moustaches
As we are discussing magic books, I wanted to remind you that you can read the two books that I am currently writing while I write them! The drafts of Developing Daley and Great Magicians Grow Moustaches are both available to Ruseletter subscribers to read.
Developing Daley is a book solely dedicated to Dr Daley’s Last Trick. Once I’ve finished it, it will include over fifty variations of this classic card plot! Great Magicians Grow Moustaches and Other Curious Card Tricks, as the name suggests, will feature approximately sixty quirky card tricks for you to learn and perform.
A Swindle of Souls 👻
I wanted to end this newsletter by sharing a little treat with you all in the form of a trick! Yesterday evening, I spent some time writing up a self-working card trick that has been sitting in my notebooks for many years. The trick is called “A Swindle of Souls” and is based on an ingenious idea by Paul Curry. Despite its simplicity, this card trick is really impressive. If you're interested, click the button below to learn how to perform it!
I plan to include this trick in Great Magicians Grow Moustaches in a chapter called “Speak of the Devil”, which will focus on tricks that have a Faustian feel and feature presentations inspired by the folklore surrounding demons and the Devil. Any feedback is greatly appreciated.
Wherever you are, I hope you had a safe and happy Halloween and a blessed Samhain! 🎃
P.S. This update is only a few hours late. No that’s what I call progress! 😉
Authur Schopenhauer, “Thinking for Yourself”, in Essays and Aphorisms, (London: Penguin Books, 1970), 89.
Harry Houdini, “Introduction,” in A Magician Among the Spirits, (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1924), xix, https://archive.org/details/1924HoudiniAMagicianAmongTheSpirits.