MIRACLE MONGERS AND THEIR METHODS
A COMPLETE EXPOSE' OF THE MODUS
OPERANDI OF FIRE EATERS, HEAT
RESISTERS, POISON EATERS, VENOMOUS
REPTILE DEFIERS, SWORD SWALLOWERS,
HUMAN OSTRICHES, STRONG MEN, ETC.
AUTHOR OF "THE UNMASKING OF ROBERT HOUDIN," ETC.
TO MY LIFE'S HELPMATE,
WHO STARVED AND STARRED WITH ME
DURING THE YEARS WE SPENT
AMONG "MIRACLE MONGERS"
"All wonder," said Samuel Johnson, "is the effect of novelty on ignorance." Yet we are so created that without something to wonder at we should find life scarcely worth living. That fact does not make ignorance bliss, or make it "folly to be wise." For the wisest man never gets beyond the reach of novelty, nor can ever make it his boast that there is nothing he is ignorant of; on the contrary, the wiser he becomes the more clearly he sees how much there is of which he remains in ignorance. The more he knows, the more he will find to wonder at.
My professional life has been a constant record of disillusion, and many things that seem wonderful to most men are the every-day commonplaces of my business. But I have never been without some seeming marvel to pique my curiosity and challenge my investigation. In this book I have set down some of the stories of strange folk and unusual performers that I have gathered in many years of such research.
Much has been written about the feats of miracle-mongers, and not a little in the way of explaining them. Chaucer was by no means the first to turn shrewd eyes upon wonder-workers and show the clay feet of these popular idols. And since his time innumerable marvels, held to be supernatural, have been exposed for the tricks they were. Yet to-day, if a mystifier lack the ingenuity to invent a new and startling stunt, he can safely fall back upon a trick that has been the favorite of pressagents the world over in all ages. He can imitate the Hindoo fakir who, having thrown a rope high into the air, has a boy climb it until he is lost to view. He can even have the feat photographed. The camera will click; nothing will appear on the developed film; and this, the performer will glibly explain, "proves" that the whole company of onlookers was hypnotized! And he can be certain of a very profitable following to defend and advertise him.
So I do not feel that I need to apologize for adding another volume to the shelves of works dealing with the marvels of the miracle-mongers. My business has given me an intimate knowledge of stage illusions, together with many years of experience among show people of all types. My familiarity with the former, and what I have learned of the psychology of the latter, has placed me at a certain advantage in uncovering the natural explanation of feats that to the ignorant have seemed supernatural. And even if my readers are too well informed to be interested in my descriptions of the methods of the various performers who have seemed to me worthy of attention in these pages, I hope they will find some amusement in following the fortunes and misfortunes of all manner of strange folk who once bewildered the wise men of their day. If I have accomplished that much, I shall feel amply repaid for my labor.
I. Fire worship.—Fire eating and heat resistance.—The Middle Ages.—Among the Navajo Indians.—Fire-walkers of Japan.—The Fiery Ordeal of Fiji
II. Watton's Ship-swabber from the Indies.-Richardson, 1667.—De Heiterkeit, 1713.—Robert Powell, 1718-1780.—Dufour, 1783.—Quackensalber, 1794
III. The nineteenth century.—A "Wonderful Phenomenon."—"The Incombustible Spaniard, Senor Lionetto," 1803.—Josephine Girardelli, 1814.—John Brooks, 1817.—W. C. Houghton, 1832.—J. A. B. Chylinski, 1841.—Chamouni, the Russian Salamander, 1869.—Professor Rel Maeub, 1876. Rivelli (died 1900)
IV. The Master—Chabert, 1792-1859
V. Fire-eating magicians. Ching Ling Foo and Chung Ling Soo.—Fire-eaters employed by magicians: The Man-Salamander, 1816.-Mr. Carlton, Professor of Chemistry, 1818.—Miss Cassillis, aged nine, 1820. The African Wonder, 1843.—Ling Look and Yamadeva die in China during Kellar's world tour, 1877.—Ling Look's double, 1879.—Electrical effects, The Salambos.—Bueno Core.—Del Kano.—Barnello.—Edwin Forrest as a heat-resister—The Elder Sothern as a fire-eater.—The Twilight of the Art
VI. The Arcana of the fire-eaters: The formula of Albertus Magnus.—Of Hocus Pocus.—Richardson's method.—Philopyraphagus Ashburniensis.—To breathe forth sparks, smoke and flames.—To spout natural gas.—Professor Sementini's discoveries.—To bite off red-hot iron.—To cook in a burning cage.—Chabert's oven.—To eat coals of fire.—To drink burning oil.—To chew molten lead.—To chew burning brimstone.—To wreathe the face in flames.—To ignite paper with the breath.—To drink boiling liquor and eat flaming wax
VII. The spheroidal condition of liquids.—Why the hand may be dipped in molten metals.—Principles of heat resistance put to practical uses: Aldini, 1829.—In early fire-fighting.—Temperatures the body can endure
VIII. Sword-swallowers: Cliquot, Delno Fritz, Deodota, a razor-swallower, an umbrella-swallower, William Dempster, John Cumming, Edith Clifford, Victorina
IX. Stone-eaters: A Silesian in Prague, 1006; Francois Battalia, ca. 1641; Platerus' beggar boy; Father Paulian's lithophagus of Avignon, 1760; "The Only One in the World," London, 1788; Spaniards in London, 1790; a secret for two and six; Japanese training.—Frog-swallowers: Norton; English Jack; Bosco; the snake-eater; Billington's prescription for hangmen; Captain Veitro.—Water spouters; Blaise Manfrede, ca. 1650; Floram Marchand, 1650
X. Defiers of poisonous reptiles: Thardo; Mrs. Learn, dealer in rattle-snakes.—Sir Arthur Thurlow Cunynghame on antidotes for snake-bite.—Jack the Viper.—William Oliver, 1735.—The advice of Cornelius Heinrich Agrippa, (1480-1535).—An Australian snake story.—Antidotes for various poisons