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


Among the acts advertised for a show in the Isle of Wight in 1849 by the “Unparalleled Necromancer Rhia Rhama Rhoos” were the Pudding Wonder and the Pyramid Wonder. The latter, it was noted, had been bought for five thousand guineas from “a Chinese Mandarin, who died of grief immediately after parting with the secret.” The performer and author of the ad copy was Charles Dickens.

Everything that deceives does so by casting a spell.

—Plato, c. 375 BC