Conjuring Credits

The Origins of Wonder

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Death by Shadow

Beginning in the 1500s and continuing for more than 200 years, magicians featured a cruel stage effect in which a live bird was mysteriously killed—later visually decapitated—as the performer drew the tip of his sword across the neck of the bird's painted image or shadow. Reginald Scot—in Discoverie of Witchcraft, 1584, book 13, chapter 13, pp. 308-9—reported that the conjurer Brandon performed this effect. The piece was still in conjuring repertoires in the 1700s, as shown by a 1757 souvenir sheet issued by the conjuring team of Johann Antoni Barth and Gottlieb Riediger.

Unaware of this old effect, In the early 1980s, Teller (of Penn & Teller) invented a very similar but far more humane one, "Shadows", in which he slowly slices off the leaves and petals of the shadow of a rose in a bud vase, to have the real leaves and petals fall in sympathy from the actual rose.