Taylor, Nik (2015) Impersonating Spirits: The Paranormal Entertainer and the Dramaturgy of the Gothic Séance. In: New Directions in 21st-Century Gothic: The Gothic Compass. Routledge, pp. 163-174. ISBN 1138810614

Magician Bob Neale talks about the notion of monkey movement in the practice of performing magic. For Neale the experience of performance magic is a playful movement between illusion and disillusion. The magician is the manager of this process playing a trickster by presenting magic (the illusion) but framing it as tricks (the disillusion). This chapter examines what happens when the disillusionment is taken out of performance magic, that is, when magic is performed as real within the frame of the Gothic Séance.

The paranormal entertainer, who leads the séance, can be seen as coming out of a wider movement of performance magic known as the Bizarre. Bizarre magicians sought to re-enchant performance magic with the mysterious and the spiritual, (re)discovering meaning through storytelling and theatrical character. Many practitioners of the Bizarre would perform their magic tricks as real, a number choosing to remove any notion of trickery within their practice. Performers borrowed freely from goetic, pagan, psychic and Gothic cultural sources. Often known as hard bizarre this practice ultimately came under scrutiny by the magic community through ethical concerns of fakery and deception. The paranormal entertainer treads the fine-line of ambiguity within their performance practice.

This chapter focuses specifically on the Gothic séance practice of the paranormal entertainer and the creation, through trickery, of a visceral experience of the dark and Gothic within the performance space. Borrowing from the folklore notion of ostension and by examining the staging of collective delusion; the paper will explore the creation of magic, spirits, the supernatural and the Gothic within the performance space of the Séance.

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