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Prestidigitators, Illusionists, and Conjurers: The Top Magicians of All Time

For longer than anyone can remember, people have been fascinated by magic and the appearance thereof. Conjurers, illusionists, and prestidigitators offer amazing entertainment that, if done well, defies all logic and reason. From Harry Blackstone to Siegfried and Roy, from Harry Houdini to David Copperfield, magicians are some of the most interesting people who ever lived.

Early magicians to know about

The man considered to be the father of modern magic shows was a fellow named Jean Eugène Robert-Houdin. Although Houdini passed away in France three years before the birth of Ehrich Weiss, his career was so impressive that the escape artist adopted the stage name, Harry Houdini. Today, the Houdini name is synonymous with fantastical escapes from seemingly impossible situations. Houdini’s skills were so masterful, many people who met him believed that Harry could disappear at will, according to Marvin’s Magic magazine.

Harry Blackstone enjoyed a sixty-year run as one of the most notable magicians on Earth. Dressed in a tailcoat and a bowtie, Blackstone was the first to perform the terrifying woman-sawed-in-half trick without his comely female assistant’s body hidden inside a box, according to Insider Monkey magazine. “The Great Blackstone” is fondly remembered, especially by the hundreds of thousands of US troops who were treated to his magic act at USO shows during World War II. As an infant, Harry Blackstone, Jr. served as a prop in his dad’s magic act and grew up to become a popular 20th-century magician in his own right.

Contemporary magicians of note

In the world of professional prestidigitation, few compare to New Jersey native, David Seth Kotkin. Known to millions as David Copperfield, the master illusionist performs feats of wonder that always astound. Copperfield began learning magic tricks when he was ten years old. By the time he was 12, “Davino the Boy Magician” was the youngest card-carrying member of the Society of American Magicians. Some of Copperfield’s most renowned stunts include strolling through (not over) the Great Wall of China and making the Statue of Liberty vanish before thousands of eyewitnesses. The master magician holds nearly a dozen Guinness World Records and 21 Emmy awards, as well. If you’re planning to visit Las Vegas, be sure to reserve David Copperfield discount tickets before you go.

Slated to be awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2017, magician Criss Angel raised the bar in the world of illusion. His TV show, “Criss Angel Mindfreak” ran for six seasons and is considered by many to be responsible for the 21st-century revival of public interest in magic shows. Angel holds a Guinness World Record for making one hundred people vanish into thin air in 2010.

Famous magical duos

Legendary Las Vegas magicians Siegfried and Roy met on a cruise ship in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean in the wake of World War II. Siegfried Fischbacher was a performer on the ship and Uwe Ludwig ‘Roy’ Horn worked as a ship’s steward. According to their official biography, Roy told Siegfried that he was not particularly impressed with his shipboard magic show. When asked how he could improve the act, Roy suggested he substitute a cheetah for the traditional disappearing rabbit. As it turned out, Horn happened to have smuggled a full grown cheetah on board the ship. The pair, plus a big cat named Chico, made cruise ship history and set Siegfried and Roy on a career course that would land them smack dab in the middle of the Nevada desert. Siegfried and Roy headlined at the Mirage Resort and Casino from 1990 to 2003.

Penn Fraser Jillette and Raymond Joseph Teller, better known as Penn & Teller, mix up their act with comedy routines that leave audiences rolling in the aisles with laughter and astonishment. In the late 1970s, they performed with another magician, Wier Chrisemer, as “The Asparagus Valley Cultural Society.” Chrisemer left the magic biz shortly thereafter, and Penn and Teller went on to achieve mega-fame in the 1980s, appearing on Late Night with David Letterman, Saturday Night Live and other popular television shows of the day.

Budding magicians take note

Penn and Teller are the authors of several books about magic, including Penn & Teller’s How to Play with Your Food, Penn & Teller’s Cruel Tricks For Dear Friends, and Penn & Teller’s How to Play in Traffic. The pair continues to wow audiences worldwide and occasionally headline in well known Las Vegas showrooms.

If you’re in the mood to lose your belief in reality for awhile, attend a professional magic show and prepare to be stunned, delighted and amazed.

Ellis Gilbert is now retired and enjoys spending some of his time writing articles on a variety of topics that interest him. When not writing he enjoys gardening and playing golf.