14 fun facts about magic and magicians

Before Jean-Eugène Robert-Houdin earned his reputation as the father of modern theatrical illusion, he was a humble clockmaker in early 19th century France. It’s Robert-Houdin we have to thank for helping to shift the public’s perception of magic from something understated to a veritable art form (and also for popularizing the trend of wearing a smart suit during representations).

Today, Robert-Houdin’s vast contributions to the field are remembered primarily by historians, magicians, and magic enthusiasts. But a much wider audience could quite easily identify the illusionist who borrowed his surname: Harry Houdini.

Although Houdini (birth name Erik Weisz) chose this stage name as an homage to Robert-Houdin, he went on to publish an entire book lambasting everything his once honored predecessor did. In this episode of The List Show, Mental Floss editor Erin McCarthy shares how it all happened, along with other fascinating tidbits from the history of magic.

Find out how the word conjuring came to be, why medieval spectators of the goblets and balls illusion had to watch their pockets, and more below.

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Brian L. Hartfield