The Spell, by William Fettes Douglas, 1864. © National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh, Scotland, The Bridgeman Art Library.

Magic Shows

Volume V, Number 3 | summer 2012


On April 2, 1877, at London’s Royal Aquarium, a fourteen-year-old girl with the stage name Zazel became the first female to perform the human-cannonball trick in public. She later worked for P. T. Barnum, who, in response to the “Dangerous Performances Bill” under consideration by British Parliament, wrote defensively to the New York Times in 1880 that he paid Zazel $250 a day—“I should never have invested this large sum in any feature, however attractive, had I not known it was placed beyond the chance of accident.”

Everything is a miracle. It is a miracle that one does not dissolve in one’s bath like a lump of sugar.

—Pablo Picasso, 1929