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Magic, Charles Fort, & Open Lines

Date: 06-17-11
Host: George Noory
Guests: Jim Steinmeyer, Open Lines

In the first half of the show, George welcomed magic historian and illusion designer Jim Steinmeyer for a discussion on the art of magic. Steinmeyer compared magicians to actors who must play two roles simultaneously, noting how masters of the craft can "charm an audience, while at the same time deceive them." Great sleight of hand artists even fool other magicians, he added. Steinmeyer listed some magicians he admired from Harry Houdini's era, including Englishman David Devant, Belgian Servais LeRoy, and American Howard Thurston.

According to Steinmeyer, Thurston was the last of a generation who could truly claim the title 'World's Greatest Magician'. Unlike Houdini, who set out on a crusade to expose psychics, Steinmeyer said Thurston was open-minded about spiritualism, often weaving mystical elements into his act. Thurston was known for his elaborate illusions as well, including one that involved levitating a young woman above the stage. The trick required several tons of apparatus to pull off, Steinmeyer revealed. Although technology has augmented how contemporary illusions are done, today's magicians use the same theories and principles as magicians of yesteryear, he explained.

Steinmeyer spoke about the reason magicians guard their secrets, how new illusions are engineered, and why magic does not translate well to modern media, such as video. Three-quarters of a magic show takes place in the mind of the audience, so it must be experienced live to have its full impact, he said. Steinmeyer also shared a brief history of the Magic Castle (a private club for magicians opened in 1963 by Milt Larsen and Bill Larsen, Jr.), performed a card trick that listeners could try at home, and discussed his fascination with researcher Charles Fort. He wrote about mysterious creatures, strange phenomenon, and UFOs before anyone else did, and in such a unique style, he noted.

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The remainder of the program featured Open Lines, with a special line for people who have been 'pushed to the brink'. Mary in Salt Lake City, Utah, recalled the time she caught her first love with another woman. Mary said she returned home angry and inebriated, found her boyfriend sleeping on the couch, and seriously contemplated shooting him with a rifle. Thankfully, Mary did not go through with it. Josh from Everett, Washington, expressed bitterness with his former spouse and the 9 members of her family that lived with them during their marriage. Josh said the family scammed him out of $36,000 in a real estate deal, and his ex-wife "turned" lesbian and took everything else from him. Dev in Memphis, Tennessee told George that whenever he has had enough and cannot take it anymore, he thinks back to an out-of-body experience he had as a child and it helps re-center him.

News segment guests: Susan Smith Jones / Jonathan Emord

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