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The Top Magicians of All Time

Criss Angel, David Blaine, Mindfreak

I have always loved magic. In fact, if I’d been born a boy, chances are good that I might have pursued magic as a career. Unfortunately, it has never been an arena that was very open to women, although that is beginning to finally change.

I suspect that my obsession with magic stems from the many times, as a child, when I wished to disappear so that my father could never find me. I actually did manage a few tricks of my own in that I could figured out how to hide in very small confined places where most people wouldn’t even bother to look.

My great-grandfather is the one who introduced me to magic and magicians. He, like my other grandparents, understood me and always went out of his way to understand where I was coming from.

Just recently, I had the opportunity to pass my love of magic along to my grandson. He, like me, has a unique ability to hide in very small places. I discovered that early on during long games of hide and seek. He, like me, also loves to make things magically disappear.

He has asked for a magic kit for his upcoming birthday and already made plans for me to be his “beautiful assistant.” I suspect that I will get as much joy out of his present as he will.

While I was shopping for the gift, however, I began wondering: Who are the greatest magicians, not only now but for all time? I decide to do some research and here is my list I was able to compile:

Number 1 – Harry Houdini. Sure, I agree that David Blaine is very likely the greatest living magician of our time and I also agree that he very likely will go on to surpass Houdini at some point. Having said that, however, there is no denying the impact that Houdini has had on magic. Without him, newer artists like Blaine and Criss Angel would have had a much more difficult time.

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Houdini’s escapes from handcuffs, ropes, chains, vaults, and various other boxes and bottles that would have easily held any common man, set the standard by which today’s magicians match their expertise. More than that, however, his showmanship established the way that magicians needed to package their skills so that they would be more readily accepted.

Number 2 – David Blaine. Like Houdini, keeps reinventing both himself and his so called “tricks.” In the late 90’s, Blaine captured the attention of millions by having himself buried underneath tons of water, in a plastic box, for seven days. Just a year later, he had himself entombed in ice for more than 63 hours; a feat he has publicly stated he will never try again.

Although some think that Blaine has a death wish, others remain in awe of his creativity, his moxy, and his obvious skill. Unfortunately, an equal number of anti-fans detest the endurance artist and would love to see him fail. As sick as that might be, Blaine claims to understand it. However, it doesn’t dissuade him for continuing to find new ways to surprise and entertain his audience.

Number 3 – David Copperfield. A controversial figure still under investigation for claims of sexual misconduct, Copperfield can’t be denied his place in the magician’s hall of fame. His magnificent illusions, like making the Statue of Liberty disappear, have never been duplicated.

Number 4 – Harry Blackstone Sr. With his elegant style and his white tie and tails, Blackstone made magic fun and fanciful. He supposedly sawed beautiful women in half made them levitate. But he also did tricks with flowers, birds, rabbits, and scarves that were geared more toward children. Blackstone always seemed to understand his audience and knew exactly how to play to them. However, he always did it with class and just a hint of sass that made him fun, entertaining, and more than memorable.

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Number 5 – Doug Henning. Like Copperfield and the many magicians that have followed him, Henning made magic a staple for television. For years, his yearly magical shows captured the attention of entire families and more than 60 million viewers.

Henning’s natural charm, sense of humor, and natural ability led him to Broadway and film as well as television. Although he very seldom actually invented anything brand new, Henning had the ability to reinvent old tricks and make them seem like something never seen before. Maybe it was is charm, his stunning smile, or his colorful style, but whatever it might be, Henning is definitely a magician that will not be forgotten.

Number 6 – Criss Angel. One of the newest magicians on the scene, and widely popular among younger and older generations alike, Angel’s Broadway show Mindfreak, gained the young magician a cult-like following. It also led him to an offer to bring the show to television. This year, Angel is set to begin a new show in Vegas this fall.

Number 7 – Mark Wilson. I grew up watching Wilson and his beautiful wife (and assistant) on television in the 60’s. I even attempted to copy a few of his tricks here and there. He’s the one who taught me how to “disappear” when I needed to escape my father. I suppose I even fell a bit in love with him for his ability to take me away from it all when the going got to rough.

Wilson went on to produce several different magic shows, travel the state fair circus, and teach his son in the field. He even experienced a slight resurgence in popularity during the 80’s when his earlier TV specials hit syndication.

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Number 8 – Siegfried and Roy might have finished higher in my list if I had ever seen them perform. Unfortunately, I have to admit that I have not. However, I do know enough to believe that they belong on this list so they landed at number eight.

Number 9 – Lance Burton was a mainstay in Vegas for nearly 10 years early on and another 13 year stint beginning in the mid 90’s. He has been featured on Johnny Carson, Jay Leno, and the Late Night Show with Craig Ferguson. In ’82 he entered a prestigious international magic competition and walked away with the top prize. He is the first American to win the European competition.

Number 10 – Richardi, another magician I never had the opportunity to see, heavily influenced some of todays best – – including Criss Angel. Although he performed many standard illusions such as sawing a woman in half, his introduction of fake blood and realistic sound effects added another dimension to the same old tricks. While I personally might not have cared for Richardi’s gory effects, they have definitely left a lasting impression on audiences for decades.

Honorable mentions also go to Blackstone, Jr., Cardini, Dai Vernon, Dante, Paul Daniels, David Devant, Alexander Herrmann, Robert Houdin, Ricky Jay, Quick Change, Shimada, Slydini, Howard Thurston, and Tihany.