Nevil Maskelyne, the Davenport Brothers and Spiritualism.
Nevil Maskelyne has gone down in history as one of the greatest
stage magicians to have ever lived. In his heyday he was known
throughout the world for his illusions and his book on stage magic
is still considered a classic today. Strictly speaking, Maskelyne
was not a conjurer, as he specialised mainly in mechanical illusions.
It was on the effects of these that he built his reputation. The
height of Maskelyne's fame coincided with the rise of spiritualism
in England, and Maskelyne lost no time in joining the ranks of
spiritualist debunkers. He was also violently opposed to theosophy,
in all its forms, and sold books and pamphlets at his shows which
he had written in the hope of bringing his customers to his views.
Most famously he is reputed to have shown the Davenport brothers
to have been frauds. By 1873 he had established his own theatre,
with his partner, George Cook, performing shows which blended
comedy, illusion and conjuring tricks. They billed themselves
as 'Royal Illusionists and Anti-Spiritualists', to make it clear
that they were in the business of illusion. They influenced countless
magicians and many of their techniques were adopted into stage
shows, and later, the cinema.
Nevil Maskelyne was born 22nd December 1839, in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire,
the only boy of eight children. He was descended from Nevil Maskelyne,
the astronomer. Maskelyne showed a taste and aptitude for mechanics
at a young age, which was to develop into a taste for intricate
mechanism. In 1851 he attended the Great Exhibition in Crystal
Palace and was enchanted by Droze's "Piping Bullfinch". He became
a watchmaker's apprentice in Cheltenham at the age of thirteen
and soon became adept at his business. After three years he was
able to execute the most difficult works with great skill. Most
of his free time was spent in the construction of mechanical apparatus,
devising optical illusions and inventing conjuring tricks. Before
the age of seventeen, he often entertained a party of friends
with conjuring tricks and illusions, many of his own invention.
Whenever a conjuring entertainment or a mechanical exhibition,
was announced he would attend to study the mechanism as far as
he was able.
1864 Maskelyne met George Alfred Cook, (born 1825). Maskelyne
was a keen musician and as well as being a member of a church
choir he played the cornet in the band of the Volunteer Rifles.
Cook, a cabinetmaker or tailors apprentice, depending on sources,
was a member of the same band and also had an interest in conjuring.
At this time magic was no more than a hobby to the two, and they
didn't consider themselves sufficiently expert to earn a living
by it. However, a year later, on February 9th 1865 Maskelyne would
make his first appearance in public as an amateur conjurer. Cook
has agreed to become his partner and as well as being Maskelyne's
assistant on stage, he had charge of all the costumes and sceneries
in the act.
was at this time that his suspicions in spiritualism were fired.
A piece of apparatus was brought to him for repair. It was a small
machine for making raps on a table. The American who brought in
the machinery was evasive about its true use. Maskelyne was paid
well for his work and the stranger said after paying him handsomely
'I'm sure a smart young fellow like you could use the loose change.
And in return, just forget you ever saw me.' 1
Maskelyne saw posters going up in town announcing the appearance
of the Davenport Brothers at the Celtenham Assembly Rooms. He
recognised the picture of Ira Davenport as the American who had
brought in the apparatus for repair.
Davenport Brothers actually were sons of a police official in
Buffalo, US. They were selling papers on the streets, when in
1848 the Fox sisters began their spiritual manifestations. It
didn't take long until the strange happenings in the Davenport
household began to be talked about. Ghosts, dancing furniture
and floating in the air were only a part of what was on offer.
It didn't take long until the Davenports began to give seances.
Their favourite trick was to be tied up in an apparently helpless
condition and then produce spiritualistic manifestations. From
1855 to 1864 they toured the States and Canada. When the Civil
War put a stop to their activities there they accompanied a Reverend
Dr J B Ferguson to England. Their first seance was given in London
on September 28th 1864. 2
the next months the Davenport Brothers toured England. Not all
of their performances were successful: " the Davenport Brothers
appear to have come to grief at Liverpool and Huddersfield the
"tom fool" knot having at each of these places so frightened their
"spirits" that they even gave up the attempt to undo it"3
Whilst often met with astonishment, they were also met by many
who sought to expose them as frauds. This was nothing new, magicians
had been seeking to expose the Davenport Brothers, along with
others for a number of years. . Houdini wrote of the magician
John Henry Anderson, "He was amongst the first performers to expose
the Davenport Brothers whose spiritualistic tricks and rope tying
had astonished America. Directly on witnessing a performance and
solving their methods Anderson hurried back to England and exposed
the tricks."… 4
March 1865 the Davenport brothers appeared in Cheltenham, and
Maskelyne had the opportunity to see them. "Mr Burtonshaw presided
at last Mondays entertainment…At the close of the recitations
& the "Davenport Mystery" was introduced by Messrs. Weston and
Seymour. After a few remarks on the "art" by Mr Stearn, 2 gentlemen,
Messrs. Hyett and Lewis were selected from the audience to the
performers. This having been done, a screen was used as a substitute
for a cabinet, and after a lapse of a few minutes, they came forth
amidst a burst of applause from the audience." 5
is clear from this report that the legend of Maskelyne exposing
the Davenport Brothers on their first performance in Cheltenham
is simply untrue. At the time of their performance in Cheltenham
they were at the height of their fame, and exciting a lot of interest.
They were performing their celebrated "spirit seance", believed
by many to be a genuine display of psychic phenomena. They were
bound to chairs with their wrists tied, and their hands filled
with flour. They entered a cabinet and a stool was placed between
them on which stood a glass of water, a number of musical instruments,
a board, a hammer, and some nails. The theatre lights went out
and the stage was plunged into darkness. A sound of hammering
was then heard from the cabinet. The musical instruments were
played. Once the lights were turned back on it could be seen that
the nails were driven into the board, the water had gone and the
instruments appeared undisturbed. The brothers were still bound,
with their hands full of flour, and their coats had been turned
never claimed to have exposed the Davenport Brothers at this performance
although he was in the audience. As he was known as a conjurer
he was selected as a member of a committee, who were set the task
of watching the Davenports performance for trickery. The Davenports
were claiming that they had nothing to do with the performance,
having been rendered helpless by their bonds. They said that they
were mediums through who the spirits were able to manifest.
morning seance was held at the Town Hall to investigate the claims
of the Davenport brothers. The room was semi darkened. Maskelyne
was seated at one side of the stage with a row of windows behind
him. A small part of the curtain fell from its place and the light
cast on Ira Davenport made it easy for Maskelyne to see what he
was doing. He saw Him with one hand free of his bonds and then
after throwing instruments about etc he gave a wriggle and again
seemed to be completely secured. The ropes were so tightly bound
that they were marking his wrists.
the end of the seance Maskelyne announced that he had discovered
the trick. Ferguson tried to get him to leave, but with no success.
He challenged Maskelyne to prove his assertion, saying he had
seen nothing of the kind. As Maskelyne believed the trick to be
based on a feat of dexterity, he said that he would need practice,
and undertook to present a replica of the entire performance at
the own hall.
months later, with Cook's assistance, Maskelyne redeemed his promise.
On Monday 19th June 1865 Maskelyne and Cook made their first public
appearances as professional magicians at Jessop's Aviary Gardens,
Cheltenham. Their advertising bills read: "Messrs. Maskelyne and
Cook, the only successful rivals of the Davenport Brothers, will
give a grand exposition of the entire public séance in open daylight,
showing the possibility of accomplishing, without the aid of spiritualism,
not only all the Davenports' tricks, but many others, original
and more astounding, including escaping from a box." The attention
they gained from their performance enabled them to give up their
businesses and become professional conjurers. The tricks they
performed were described by David Devant in his book My Magic
There was no looking back for Maskelyne and Cook. After eight
years in the provinces the pair began to perform in London. The
idea was to run a show for two or three months, and then return
as "Maskelyne - The Great London Magician.". But he and Cook made
so much money from their short stay at St James' Hall that they
decided to take a long lease of the Egyptian Hall, Piccadilly.
theatre was ideally suited for magical entertainment. By calling
it "England's Home Of Mystery", Maskelyne heightened its atmosphere.
Built in 1811, the premises, which were previously a museum, had
shops on the ground floor and a hall with a gallery on the first
floor. Between two and three hundred people attended performance,
which were held at 8 o'clock each evening and alternate afternoons.
Originally his shows were gaslit but Maskelyne soon took advantage
of electric lighting.
1905 the lease expired and Maskelyne moved to St George's Hall.
Cook had died in 1904 and Maskelyne teamed up with the magician
David Devant. The two of them had performed together in 1893 at
the Egyptian Hall and Devant was a long time admirer of Maskelyne.
"Soon after this I discovered England's home of mystery at the
Egyptian Hall, Piccadilly, where Maskelyne and Cook's gave shows
twice daily. I shall never forget the joy the first performance
gave me and the rapture, with which I saw their feast of magic.
From then onwards Maskelyne and Cook's was my Mecca, and I determined
some day to appear behind the footlights of this hall of mystery.
This was in 1883, and in 1893, after ten years of hard work, I
had attained the object of my ambition." 7
was commonly recognised as the greatest stage illusionist of the
era, becoming President of the Magic Circle in 1905. This partnership
was even more successful and ended in 1915, shortly before Maskelyne's
death. Apart from taking a little time out to marry his assistant,
Elizabeth, Maskelyne spent his life giving performances and trying
to debunk spiritualism.
or not the Davenport Brothers had genuine powers, or they were
simply brilliant illusionists was hotly debated at the time. The
brothers themselves were never that clear on the issue. In a letter
to the magician and escapologist Harry Houdini in 1909, Ira Davenport
said: - : 'We never in public affirmed our belief in spiritualism,
that we regarded as no business of the public, nor did we offer
our entertainment as the results of sleight of hand, nor on the
other hand as spiritualism, we let our friends and foes settle
that as best they could between themselves.' 8
it is worth remembering that the brothers were only five and seven
years old when they began to produce the phenomena. Whatever their
skills at a later date, it seems highly unlikely that they would
have the knowledge and skill to produce trickery at such a young
1910 Houdini befriended Ira Davenport, a year before his death.
Popular legend has it that Ira passed on his stage secrets, but
there is no actual record of this. In a letter to Conan Doyle
dated 17 March 1920 Houdini stated: - 'I can make a positive assertion
that the Davenport Brothers never were exposed.....I know for
a positive fact that it was not essential for them to release
these bonds in order to obtain manifestations.'. Conan Doyle pressed
him on the matter , "I had meant to ask you, in my last, and I
will do so now, whether you, with your unique experience, consider
that the Davenport phenomena were clever physical tricks, or whether
their claim to occult power was a true one". Houdini answered
"I am afraid that I cannot say that all their work was accomplished
by the spirits.' 9
professional life is well documented elsewhere. Here we are more
concerned with his relationship with the world of spiritualism.
The episode with the Davenport Brothers had made his career. But
Maskelyne was not going to let spiritualism and spiritualists
rest in peace. His book Modern Spiritualism was published in the
mid 1870's, this attack on spiritualism and it's proponents discusses
many of spiritualism's early pioneers and contains information
about such events as Daniel Homes conviction for fraud. At approximately
the same time as The Fraud of Modern Theosophy was published.
Both books were sold to customers at the Egyptian Hall. There
was no way after this that Maskelyne could be regarded as less
than an enemy of the spiritualist movement. Light delighted in
taking every opportunity to slate him. "Mr Maskelyne...will be
wise to make hay while the sun shines. The taste for marvels is
on the decline and he cannot very well give the Egyptian Hall
people anything else..." 11
was also the year that Maskelyne performed at a Royal command
Performance, in front of the Prince and Princess of Wales.
continued fight against spiritualism led to a strange libel case
being brought against him by Archbishop Colley. The Archbishop,
a staunch believer in psychic phenomenon, said that he had attended
a seance in which he had seen the form of a woman materialised
from a mans side. The séance too place at a house in Bloomsbury,
London. A medium had stood in the middle of a twilit room, and
vapour was seen to come from his side, finally forming a golden
haired spirit. This creature then stepped to the ground and spoke
to the Archbishop before returning the way she came. Archbishop
Colley offered £1,000 to anyone who could reproduce the effect
using only natural means. Maskelyne had already derided this story
by the time the offer was made, and the challenge was expressly
sent to him. David Devant and Maskelyne's son Nevil, persuaded
him to take up the challenge. At a stage performance in St George's
Hall he performed the effect. The press and public acclaimed the
even as an exact duplication of the description given by the Archbishop.
However, when Maskelyne applied for the thousand pounds, the Archbishop
refused to pay up. Maskelyne sued for the money and Colley put
in a counter claim for libel. He also claimed that although the
ghost had been produced correctly, Maskelyne had not caused it
to return through the medium's side. On these counts Maskelyne
lost the case and had to pay damages and costs. However, it turned
out to be the best publicity Maskelyne could have had, and people
flocked to see "The Side Issue of the £1,000 Ghost".
acknowledged the influence of theosophy and followed the arguments
about the Theosophical Society in the press. His pamphlet, The
Fraud of Modern Theosophy, disputed the existence of the Masters
and was strongly critical of Helena Blavatsky. Maskelyne was convinced
that hypnotism was used by Helena Blavatsky to further her own
ends. He claimed that when in Paris in 1848 Blavatsky learned
hypnotism. This was the time that Blavatsky was allegedly in Tibet.
According to Maskelyne, Blavatsky was introduced to spiritualism
by Daniel Dunglass Home in London. He said the in 1858 she claimed
to be a medium to gain attention from her lover, who was a close
friend of Home's. Maskelyne also claimed that she had two husbands,
besides those who are commonly known about.
arguments about where Blavatsky was at any given time, and what
she was doing there, continue until this day. Maskelyne was convinced
that theosophy and Blavatsky were frauds, and he sought to discredit
her as far as he could. He had a strong belief in the power of
hypnotism, believing that Annie Besant was hypnotised by Blavatsky
to persuade her to join the Theosophical Society. To support his
claim he wrote in the pamphlet "even level headed Press reporters,
when describing my performances from memory, have often credited
me with performing impossibilities"
1894, the fight for the presidency within the Theosophical Society
following Helena Blavatsky's death, had led to a scandal involving
claims of forged letters amongst other things. As one of the Theosophical
Society members had given relevant papers to the press, the whole
story was covered in the Westminster Gazette. Maskelyne followed
29th 1894 saw the first production of the illusion Oh under the
title of The Mahatmas Undone. It was the joint invention of Nevil
Maskelyne and Charles Morritt. In this a man was seated in a slender
cabinet which had curtained sides, and although he seemed securely
held by the hand and his legs strapped (with one hand tied to
a cord held by an observer) he vanished. He eventually re-appeared
in the auditorium. An advance notice of this effect was announced
by Maskelyne as follows: On Monday the Hall will be closed to
the public and kept in Egyptian Darkness, the day being set apart
for the special training and self denial of the performers, to
render them in a fit frame of mind to receive a knowledge of the
secret forms of nature etc etc J.N. Maskelyne, President of the
Mystical Society Of the Egyptian Hall adepts in Occultism…Caution…This
is the original and only miracle society extant. All are invited
to join the outer or paying circle, irrespective of creed, caste,
sex, size or weight. Entrance fees strictly moderate" 12
Steel Olcott, Blavatsky's close friend and co-founder of the Theosophical
Society couldn't resist seeing for himself the burlesque based
on theosophical shenanigans. "For over a year Maskelyne and Cook
had been coining money at their theatre in the Egyptian Hall with
a disgraceful libel on the Theosophical Society and HPB introducing
into their play Modern Mystery a number of very clever illusions
and indications of psychical phenomena...there is also the phenomenal
dropping of letters or written messages composed in the audience
by a man dressed up to represent our dear HPB...in collusion with
her was a person called Professor something, a learned German
chemist...my name was brought into the dialogue it being intimated
that they could not depend on my standing by them if I should
discover their trickery but the representative of HPB said that
they could use my name for some time yet and that it behoved them
to hasten the plucking of the pigeon in question..." 13
role in perpetuating the scandal is barely mentioned in contemporary
accounts. But it is clear that the extra fuel he threw on the
fire was typical of the public derision suffered by the Theosophical
Society. He continued to fight against the spiritualist movement
for the rest of his life. "What a strange world it is that Mr
Maskelyne has revealed for us! England in his boyhood, went mad
over the crude spiritualism of those gifted impostors, the Davenport
Brothers, and it remained for a lad hardly out of his teens to
restore the nation to common-sense - not to say sanity. It was
this, which proved the turning point in his life...Mr Maskelyne
has ever since devoted his life to natural magic, with the results
that all the world knows. Nor has he ceased to keep a lynx-eye
on the spiritualistic impostors who have arisen since his first
Blavatsky herself was scathing in her treatment of Maskelyne "Now
Maskelyne and Cooke, two clever English jugglers, have been keeping
the mouths and eyes of all London wide open with their exposures
of Spiritualism. … All the tricks of the trade are familiar to
them; where can science find better allies? But we must insist
upon identical conditions. The "Tree-Trick" must not be performed
by gas-light on the platform of any Egyptian Hall, nor with the
performers in full evening dress. It must be in broad daylight,
on a strange grass-plot to which the conjurers had no previous
access. There must be no machinery, no confederates, white cravats
and swallow-tail coats must be laid aside, and the English champions
appear in the primitive apparel of Adam and Eve-a tight-fitting
"coat of skin," and with the single addition of a dhoti, or a
breechcloth seven inches wide. The Hindûs do all this, and we
only ask fair play. If they raise a mango-sapling under these
circumstances, Dr. Carpenter will be at perfect liberty to beat
therewith the last remnant of brains out of the head of any "crazy
Spiritualist" he may encounter. But until then, the less he says
about Hindû jugglery the better for his scientific reputation….
Will the white-cravated and swallow-tailed gentlemen of the Egyptian
Hall, please show the Royal Society how either is done?" 15
business ventures outside magic were often failures. For Queen
Victoria's Jubilee procession he undertook to erect a certain
number of stands. All his money was lost when he misjudged the
route of the procession.
first typewriter to be produced in Britain was designed by Maskelyne
and produced by the Maskelyne British Typewriter & Manufacturing
Co Ltd of London in 1889. It had two unusual features - a shift
key that could be operated either by hand OR foot according to
the customer's preference and differential spacing which allowed
each character to occupy a space appropriate to its width, as
in printing. He invented a cash register in 1869, which won him
an award in Paris. He had at least forty patents covering numerous
inventions including the coin operated lock for toilets, wireless
telegraphy and railway signalling. His typewriter can be seen
at the Science Museum in South Kensington, London.
Nevil Maskelyne died 18th May 1917 in London. His son and grandchildren
continued the family tradition. In March 2000 Mary Maskelyne died
aged 94. She and her brother, Jasper performed for some years
at St George's Hall. With Mary Maskelyne's death the Maskelyne
dynasty in the world of magic ended.
http://www.psyzone.freeserve.co.uk/davports.htm Peter Duffie
the upper end of the apartment was placed what might be called
a skeleton wardrobe. The portion in which the drawers of a similar
piece of furniture are usually to be found was empty. A seat
or bench, perforated here and there with holes, was fitted to
the back and ends. The doors consisted of three panels, which
shut inside with a brass bolt; thus when the middle door is
open any person could put his hand in and bolt the side doors;
the bolt of the middle door was shut by some invisible agency
from the inside.
brothers Davenport, having seated themselves vis-à-vis on the
end bench, their hands and feet were securely tied by those
present so as to prevent the possibility of them using those
members. A guitar, a tambourine, a violin and bow, a brass horn,
and a couple of bells were placed on the seat inside, and the
doors were shut. At the top of the panel of the centre door
is a diamond-shape opening about a foot square, with a curtain
secured on the inside. Instantly on the centre door being dosed,
the bolt was secured inside and "hands" were clearly observed
through the opening. A gentleman present was invited to pass
his hand through the opening, and it was touched by the "hands"
instruments and the bells commenced making all sorts of noises
and knockings, snatches of airs were distinctly heard, when
suddenly the centre door was burst open, the trumpet was thrown
out into the room and fell heavily upon the carpet. The doors
were subsequently closed by persons who, when doing so, were
touched by invisible hands, and a noise of undoing the cords
was distinctly heard. A moment or two afterwards the brothers
were found sitting unbound with the ropes at their feet.
next illustration was more curious still, for after an interval
of perhaps two minutes the brothers were found to be securely
bound with the same cords, the ends of the ropes being some
distance from their hands. One of the company present was then
invited to take a seat in the cabinet so as to assure himself
that whatever might be done it could not be accomplished by
gentleman having volunteered to be imprisoned in such mysterious
company, his hands were securely tied to the knees of the Davenports,
whose hands were fastened behind their backs by cords passed
through holes in the bench. Their feet were also tied together
with a sailor's knot. A tambourine was then laid on the gentleman's
lap, on which a guitar and violin were placed, as also the trumpet
and a couple of hand bells. Any interference with these articles
by the gentleman on whose lap they were deposited was rendered
impossible by reason of his hands being tied. He states the
instant the door was closed hands were passed over his face,
his hair was gently pulled, and the whole of the musical instruments
were played upon. The bells were also violently rung close to
his face, and the tambourine beat time on his head.
the musical instruments were flung behind him and rested between
his shoulders and the back of the cabinet. During these manifestations
one of the gas burners of the chandelier was lighted and two
wax candles were burning in different parts of the room, several
other manifestations having taken place in connection with the
Ferguson explained that it would be desirable that the company
should clasp hands and the lights should be altogether extinguished.
small writing-table had been previously placed in the centre
of the room, with a chair at either side. The musical instruments,
bells, etc., were placed on the table. The brothers Davenport
were manacled by the hands and feet and securely bound to the
chairs by ropes. A chain of communication (though not a circular
one) was formed, and the instant the lights were extinguished
the musical instruments appeared to be carried about the room.
The current of air which they occasioned in their rapid transit
was felt upon the faces of all present.
bells were loudly rung, the trumpet made knocks on the floor,
and the tambourine appeared running round the room jingling
with all its might. At the same time, tiny sparks were observed
as if passing from south to west. Several persons exclaimed
that they were touched by the instruments, which on one occasion
became so demonstrative that one gentleman received a knock
on the nasal organ which broke the skin and caused a few drops
of blood to flow.
manifestations having been repeated two or three times with
nearly similar results, the Davenport brothers joined the chain
of communication, and Mr. Fay was bound to the chair.
hands were tied tightly behind his back and his feet were firmly
secured, as in the cabinet. A gentleman present was then asked
to desire him to take off his coat the instant the light was
extinguished. This was done. A whizzing noise was heard.
off!" exclaimed Mr. Fay. The candle was lighted, and the coat
was found lying in the middle of the room.
though this appeared to be, what followed was more extraordinary
Ferguson requested a gentleman present to take off his coat
and place it on the table. This was done. The light was extinguished,
a repetition of the whizzing noise was heard, and the strange
coat was found on Mr. Fay, whose hands and feet were still securely
bound, and his body tied almost immovable. A gentleman present
then enquired whether, if he were to place two finger rings
on the table, they could be transferred to the hand of Mr. Fay.
Ferguson said that he could not undertake that this feat would
be accomplished, but that an essay would be made. The rings
were deposited on the table, the candle extinguished, and Mr.
Fay immediately exclaimed, "They are on my fingers!" and surely
enough they were. The owner of the rings then expressed a wish
that they might be restored to his fingers. As soon as the room
was darkened the musical instruments commenced their mysterious
concert, and after an interval of about thirty seconds a gentleman
(not the owner) exclaimed the rings had been placed on his fingers.
This was found to be the case.
lady next expressed a desire that a gold watch which she held
in her hand might be conveyed to some distant portion of the
room. Immediately afterwards the concert was resumed, the bells,
tambourine, and horn became excited, and the lady exclaimed
that the watch had gone. On the candle being lighted it was
found at the feet of Dr. Ferguson. One of the bells was also
found in the lap of a gentleman sitting near him.
doubt having been expressed as to whether it was possible for
the brothers Davenport to have moved chair and all in the darkness,
so as to elevate the musical instruments in the air and make
them play, another illustration was volunteered by Dr. Ferguson.
Mr. Fay took his place among the visitors, holding a hand of
each, as before.
gentleman present then sat between the Messrs. Davenport and
placed his hand upon the head of each, while he rested either
foot on the feet of the Davenports, which were placed close
together in a parallel direction to each other. The Davenports
then clasped the arms of the gentleman, and in this position
it would have been absolutely impossible for one of the group
to have moved without disturbing the others.
pose having been arranged to the satisfaction of all present,
the light was extinguished, and the guitar was again heard as
if moving in the air close to the faces of all present. Mr.
Fay, as before stated, was seated in a row, clasping hands with
the persons right and left of him, while Dr. Ferguson was similarly
placed in another portion of the room.
the last-named illustration the séance terminated. It had lasted
rather more than two hours, during which time the cabinet was
minutely inspected, the coats examined to ascertain whether
they were fashioned so as to favour a trick, and every possible
precaution taken to bind the hands and feet of the persons whose
presence appeared to be essential to the development of the
Cheltenham Free Press 25 February 1865
The Unmasking of Robert Houdin - Harry Houdini 1908 The Publishers
Printing Co. New York
Cheltenham Free Press 18 March 1865
David Devant - My Magic Life (1931) The Birmingham Gazette gave
a full description of this, in which it will be seen how fully
the brothers' tricks were duplicated, and even excelled. I quote
a small portion of this, which describes Maskelyne's own addition
of the box trick:
the most astonishing part of the programme had yet to be accomplished.
Mr. Maskelyne announced that he would be locked in a box, three
feet long, by two feet wide, and eighteen inches in depth--the
box should be corded according to the fancy of anyone present--and
that he would escape.
ordinary-looking deal box of the dimensions stated, with a few
holes drilled in it at either end, was placed in the cabinet,
and in this Mr. Maskelyne voluntarily immured himself.
box was locked and the key given to a gentleman called from
the audience, who corded up the box--an operation which occupied
fully six minutes. This having been done to his satisfaction,
bells were placed upon the box, and the doors of the cabinet
were closed. The click of the bolt had scarcely died away ere
the bells began to be tremulous and gradually increased to a
clatter, till at length they were pitched through the aperture
on to the platform, and in less than ten minutes from the closing
of the doors they were again thrown open and Mr. Maskelyne was
coolly seated in the box, and smilingly bowing his acknowledgments
of the applause with which he was greeted.
is a trick which the Davenports never attempted, and (as Barnum
somewhere has it) must be seen to be believed!
Maskelyne and Cook were then bound by Mr. E. Lawrence and Mr.
Dallon, the first-named being, we believe, one of the gentlemen
whose knot-tying somewhat perplexed the Brothers Davenport during
their visit here, an operation which occupied nearly twenty
minutes, but the exhibitors managed to free themselves from
their bonds in about fifteen minutes. Mr. Lawrence then explained
to the audience that he had seen the Davenport Brothers tied,
and had, indeed, assisted in that operation, but he could venture
to assert that those worthies were not tied nearly so securely
as their rivals had been. The performance throughout was loudly
applauded, and gave the greatest satisfaction.
report, incidentally, proves without doubt that Maskelyne's
famous box trick was presented in public before Dr. Lynn or
any other performer in any other country.
David Devant - My Magic Life p1 http://www.doremi.co.uk/dd/career.html
http://occultopedia.tripod.com/d/davenport.htm Peter Duffie
http://occultopedia.tripod.com/d/davenport.htm Peter Duffie
The publication of the College of Psychic Studies, still in
Light 12 November 1887 p537
Maskelyne and Cook, Egyptian Hall, London - George A Jennes
Old Diary Leaves V 225
Light May 13 1899. Reprint of comments by TP O'Connor.
OR MAGIC? From The Religio-Philosophical Journal, Dec. 22nd,
Nevil Maskelyne and David Devant -http://www.terravista.pt/nazare/1194/neville2i.html
D V E N T U R E S in C Y B E R S O U N D http://filament.illumin.co.uk/svank/biog/maskcook/maskcook.html
John Nevil Maskelyne a Genius? - http://www. The learnedpig.freeservers.com/goldston/46.html
Maskelyne Typewriter, 1893
Devant - My Magic Life (1931) and Secrets of My Magic Life (1935)
Unmasking of Robert Houdin - Harry Houdini 1908 The Publishers
Printing Co. New York
and Cook, Egyptian Hall, London - George A Jennes 1967
Fraud of Modern Theosophy - JN Maskelyne G Routledge and Sons
Modern Spiritualism - John Nevil Maskelyne Frederick Warne &
http://occultopedia.tripod.com/d/davenport.htm Peter Duffie
by Massimo Polidoro