Sunday, 23 June 2019

David P Abbott in The Open Court + #FreeBook

David P Abbott in The Open Court, edited by Katherine Nabity
First published in America in The Open Court magazine between 1905 and 1919. Collection edited by Katherine Nabity republished by Entangled Continua in 2016.

One of my 2019 COYER Summer Challenge reads

How I got this book:

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

From 1905 to 1921, magician David P. Abbott wrote articles for The Open Court. about the methods of fraudulent spiritualists. Unlike some of his contemporaries, Abbott focused on explaining the tricks of mediumship to his audience rather than haranguing the cheaters. Included are "Half Hours with Mediums," "The History of a Strange Case," and "The Spirit Portrait Mystery: Its Final Solution."

This collection of a dozen essays was a fascinating read for me. Abbott was a magician himself so publicly performed many of the tricks he was later to explain via his The Open Court essays. The difference, he is often a pains to point out, is that his performances are physical tricks and clever misdirection - with absolutely nothing supernatural going on at all - and he always stated this. At the time he wrote, spiritualism was very fashionable though. Convincing mediums, of whom there were thousands touring America alone, could make themselves very wealthy from presenting exactly the same tricks as true communications from the dead and it seems that deception without audience consent is what Abbott really disapproved of.

I loved the inventiveness and ingenuity of many of the illusions. In fact I am sure I've seen some being performed by TV and stage magicians over 100 years later, and still to great effect. In several cases I was more impressed by knowing the skill needed to convincingly perform a particular effect than I might have been just by witnessing the trick itself. I can only imagine the effect on an audience of true believers at the time. Abbott's essays aren't an instruction manual although they do give a good sense of each trick and I liked his authoritative but enthusiastic writing style. Abbott obviously thoroughly enjoyed deciphering the tricks just for the joy of knowing how each worked and it's wonderful that Katherine Nabity has taken the time to collect together and republish his writings on the subject.

Search Literary Flits for more:
Books by David P Abbott / Nonfiction books / Books from America

1 comment:

  1. Wow! This sounds brilliant. I've read historical fiction involving spiritualists both real and fraudulent, but a non-fic would be fab. I loved the memoir I read about Harry Houdini thought that's a different type of magic show of course. This sounds great, too.