A local magician has completed a book about conjurors who performed on the island during the nineteenth century.
Mike Clague, secretary of the Magicians of Mann and a member of The Magic Circle, has spent over three years researching them, and says; "I expected to find a small number, but was surprised to find over 80 magicians, the first being Thomas Ingleby in 1805. The stories about their acts are really fascinating. For instance, Madame Gerardelli advertised herself as the 'Anticombustible Lady' in 1812 and 1827. She would hold a red hot shovel against her head, put molten lead into her mouth, and generally perform tricks that would definitely not be attempted by most magicians today!"
The first 'mind reading' act seen locally was in 1852, years before the Davenport Brothers caused a sensation in America. Professor Barnado Eagle and his daughter performed effects still seen today, and they paved the way for modern magicians such as Derren Brown.
John Henry Anderson, the self-styled 'Great Wizard of the North,' came to the Island on several occasions in his later years, after he he had toured the world. In 1873 he was so rude to an audience member, calling him "as great a fool as ever I met" when he said he believed in alleged spiritualism, that many people rose and left the theatre.
Mike explained; "As the tourism industry developed alongside improved transport links, magic acts were regularly featured in the numerous purpose - built venues, and the illusions they performed became even more amazing. The French entertainer and magician Felicien Trewey brought the first cinematograph to the Isle of Man, along with two 'operatives' who took what are likely to have been the very first movie films of the island."
He added; "It would have been very difficult to write a book like this without the wonderful resources now available through the iMuseum and the Manx Museum Library and Archives."
The illustrated 200 page softback book is available from local bookshops, including the Bridge Bookshop in Port Erin, the Lexicon Bookshop in Douglas, St Paul's Bookshop in Ramsey and Kirk Michael Post Office.
Photo - The book cover, showing Mons. Trewey.