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The Right Chemistry: A magical connection between Houdini and Lincoln

The Right Chemistry: A magical connection between Houdini and Lincoln

Being a great admirer of Abraham Lincoln, Harry Houdini was angered by mediums who claimed to have made contact with the late president.    JOE SCHWARCZ, SPECIAL TO THE MONTREAL GAZETTE

One day in the early 1900s, Robert Todd Lincoln, son of the assassinated president, was surprised to receive a photograph from Harry Houdini, the most celebrated magician of the times. In the picture, Houdini is seen apparently conversing with “Honest Abe.” Since Lincoln was assassinated in 1865 and Houdini was born in 1874, the only way they could have appeared together in a photo was if Lincoln’s image was a manifestation of his “spirit.” Basically, the photo purported to show Houdini conversing with the ghost of the slain president!

Such spirit photos were quite the rage at the time. The Civil War had brought spiritualism to the forefront with distraught relatives of soldiers who perished in battle hoping to communicate with their spirits. Mediums capitalized on such folly by duping the gullible with photographs that were obviously taken after a soldier’s death but nevertheless clearly showed their image, which was claimed to be a spirit apparition. Please read more at:


Sven Pro Deck – Invictus Magic – A Review

Sven Pro Deck – Invictus Magic – A Review

SVEN PRO Deck –  Invictus Magic – A Review

Suit&Tie Magic kicks off their world-wide product debut by perfecting a classic in card magic! Presenting the Sven Pro! The gimmicked deck like you’ve never seen it before!

It’s difficult to reinvent a classic–especially one as solid as the Svengali deck–but teaming up with Invictus Magic, Suit&Tie has done it! Delivering the world’s smallest cut (to date) in this type of deck!

Expertly crafted with the working magician in mind, these cards are precision-cut to bring magicians the Svengali deck the way it was meant to be made.

Suitable for beginners and professionals alike, these decks boast the best handling on the market! … And did we mention that they handle sideways, too?!


– Professional-grade Svengali deck
– Full step-by-step instructions, from the very basic handlings to advanced routines
– Mind Reading Effect
– Prediction Effect
– Card to Impossible Location
– Ambitious Card with Variations
– Acaan
– Svenwich
– Finger Tip Change (Our Favorite)

My Thoughts:

I’ve been a fan of Svengali decks since… a long time ago. I’m sure many of you bought one near the beginning of your careers, played with it for a while, and then let it slide to the bottom of your junk drawer. I think now one of the main reasons for that happening is we realized you had to perform magic with Bicycle decks, probably rider backs, and these Svengali decks, bridge sized and cheaply made, didn’t fit the bill. I know that was my case.

That said.. I have bought a Bicycle brand Svengali deck or two through the years and, although they felt much better than my earlier decks, I still relegated them to someplace outside my happy place.. ne’er to be used in actual performances.

That’s sad… because the concept is a good one, and you would think someone, somewhere, would create a solid Svengali deck.. one knowledgeable magicians would actually want to use.

SVEN PRO, by Invictus Magic, is THAT deck. Seriously..

Magicians are a picky bunch. There are always a few though who lead the way, and dictate what the majority wants.. or thinks they want. I wish one of the influencers would push the Svengali deck as the next great advent in magic, but it’s not going to happen. What IS going to happen though.. is.. a smart, talented group of performers will buy this deck, master an array of effects not possible with conventional decks, and fool the dickens out of magicians and lay folks alike who do not understand the possibilities of this classic deck.

One of the reasons for this is the care and skill that goes into creating each deck of Sven Pro. Unlike the older decks we’re accustomed to, Suit& Tie Magic, the developers, carefully cut each short card thinner than traditional cards.. and then rounded the edges to make them match the ungaffed cards. When aligned in a deck, you cannot notice the different lengths… at least not during normal use and typical handling.

The other reason, aside from the micro-cut of the short side of the card, is the micro-cut of the LONG side of the gaff cards. Imagine being able to cut the deck from the top OR the side. Imagine being able to dribble the cards. Imagine being able to riffle shuffle the cards or let the spectator freely cut the cards, from any angle. Now your repertoire is greatly enhanced, and one of the major drawbacks of ‘conventional’ svengali decks, the awkward handling, has been eliminated.

Before writing this review I spent about a week informally handling the Sven Pro deck. I sat in my favorite chair and cut, and cut, and cut.. top cuts and side cuts, to see if the shorter cuts affected the outcome. It didn’t. I fanned them, spread them, riffled them and dribbled them.. looking to find that weak point that made a liar out of the ad copy. Again… I didn’t. What can I say?

The one drawback of the svengali deck has always been that it could not be freely examined. I think that one fact alone prevents more magicians from using it than any other. Suit & Tie Magic includes a twenty-five minute instructional video with each deck that includes careful instructions for fanning, shuffling, and spreading the deck to prevent the spectator from feeling a need to manhandle the deck. The video is posted on the Invictus site and you do not have to download it. The url is provided inside the deck packaging wrapper. You won’t learn everything you need to know.. but you WILL learn enough to whet your appetite and send you on a little search for more in-depth info. Now would be a good time to go to Google and search for ‘svengali deck tutorial’ and you should find a couple of good instructional videos. (Magic Makers and Daryl have both made in-depth videos solely teaching effects with svengali decks..)

The instructions are good, considering the overall cost of Sven Pro is less than twenty dollars. Remember, this is a deck that has to be created by hand in a very time-consuming way. I have NO problems with the price, the deck itself, or the quality of the instructions. All effects are taught by Brandon Williams, a very likable and talented guy, and I appreciated the extra efforts put into the video instructions. They didn’t have to.. but they did.. so there…

I want to make one suggestion of my own… Find ways to incorporate the svengali deck into routines with standard decks. You don’t have to pull a hidden deck switch; keep it all out in the open. I usually have three decks on the table when I perform, if space allows, and I’ll tell anyone asking ‘why’ that each deck handles differently and I want to be as professional as possible. Each deck DOES handle differently, so I can say that with confidence.

I will use this deck. I will find ways to incorporate it into routines with conventional decks. I will surprise a few nimble minds who should know better, and I’ll leave them confounded.. and I ain’t telling them nothing… This Svengali Pro thing.. it’s going to be my little secret.

$19.95 From Murphy’s Magic and Dealers who carry their line of products.

Review by Rick Carruth



Derren Brown SECRET – A Review

By Rick Carruth

Derren Brown’s latest, and perhaps greatest, show just opened on Broadway. I have watched many of his tv specials, originating from the UK, and read several of his published works.. so.. when I was invited to attend a pre-opening show at the Cort Theater in New York, I couldn’t resist..

My wife and I were met at the theater by his publicist and given our press passes. Thankfully, we were seated about seven rows from the stage, so we had an excellent vantage point to watch a performer at his peak. I say that because in 2017 Derren finished a run at the Atlantic Theater Company, performing each show to a sold-out audience. This show was the same show performed in 2017, except on Broadway.. and to a much larger audience.

Written and directed by Andy Nyman and Andrew O’Connor, with writing by Derren as well, the show certainly featured a proven trio of both actors, directors, and writers. All are highly respected actors and award winners. SECRET is produced by J.J. Abrams, ( Regarding Henry, Forever Young, Armageddon, Cloverfield, Star Trek, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and the upcoming Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, and Thomas Kail and Jeffrey Seller of the wildly popular ‘Hamilton’.

Derren frequently calls himself a “psychological illusionist,” and accomplishes his feats with a combination of mind reading, persuasion, and psychological illusion. He prefers to tell the audience most of what he accomplishes is through the art of muscle reading, gesture interpretation, and subliminal suggestions, among other non-psychic feats. He does not claim to be psychic.

I particularly enjoyed watching and listening to the audience as the show progressed. I could hear the whispers and profound theories. Being a fair to middling proponent of magic and mentalism, I had a distinct advantage over most of my neighbors, and yet I was thoroughly entertained throughout the show.

Derren performed a classic array of effects. A couple were effects you might be familiar with; adapted to the stage.. and a couple more were large scale effects designed for a big audience and utilizing several audience members at once. One I recognized as a card effect he changed to use with various photos of audience members.. and another segment, about 20 minutes, entailed Derren interacting with various audience members, giving mini-psychic readings, disclosing facts about their lives he couldn’t reasonably know. Everything ended with the two best effects of the night… his famous ‘drawing’ effect and a grand finale that served one surprise after another, ending with THE SURPRISE.

The audience is ‘sort of..’ sworn to secrecy.. to preserve the integrity of the show for those to follow.. so I don’t think I can be too specific. I did recognize a couple of the earlier effects in the show as being effects I had seen performed on videos. That said.. it didn’t matter. I was involved in watching how he handled the audience, how he spoke to the audience and ‘explained’ some of the supposed psychological nuiances he employed, and how he avoided ‘patter’.

The latter was important to me. It takes a special skill to make an entire show appear as if you’re performing it ‘off the cuff’.. but with special skill and handling. That is a very difficult combination.. and demonstrates a level of professionalism achievable by only a handful of performers.

What I’m saying is… Derren Brown is one of those performers. He is a pro is every sense of the word. And his show is as good as any mentalism type show you will ever attend. If you’re like me.. you missed the Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, Dunninger, Scarne and Harry Blackstone… Do yourself a favor and DON’T miss Derren Brown..