Symposium Session – Stage Magic in the Age of Steam

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Stage Magic in the Age of Steam: Houdin, Houdini, and the Maskelynes

Presented by Edward von Hegner

From its first recorded appearance in the court of the ancient Egyptian pharaohs until the Victorian Age stage magic was associated with con artists who used sleight-of-hand to separate suckers from their money. Then came Jean Eugène Robert-Houdin, the father of modern magic, who established it as a form of entertainment. Join us as we take a look at the development of modern stage magic through some of its most famous founding fathers. The presentation will be illustrated with period appropriate illusions.

This session is a combination of lecture and performance. The lecture starts with Robert-Houdin, who, among other things, created the association of stage magic and the top hat. It goes on to mention the dynasty of the Maskelynes beginning with John Nevil Maskelyne, who established the first successful theater dedicated to the performance of stage magic, and was, surprisingly, known for his inventions. The lecture includes mention of the most famous magician of all time, Harry Houdini. It ends with Jasper Maskelyne, who is purported to have made the entire city of Alexandria disappear during WWII. The performance consists of illusions that were used or first developed during the Victorian Age. Also included are illusions which, due to extensive cultural changes, have been updated.


Edward von HegnerDr. Edward von Hegner has been a practicing magician since he received his first book on the art of illusion at the age of 12. During his years teaching anthropology, von Hegner regularly gave workshops on the relationship of stage magic to occult magic

To learn more about other sessions, workshops, and special events please visit the International Steampunk Symposium Schedule . . . your invaluable guide to getting around the world in 48 hours!


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