Taylor, Nik (2007) England's Home of Mystery. In: England's Home of Mystery, 17-18 December 2007, Milton Theatre, University of Huddersfield.

Magic is about deception, it is also about lying. As Eugene Burger states; Magic is an art form that allows you to live without guilt.

In the 19th century the Theatre of Magic took many forms, the Legitimate, the Scientific and the Spiritual. But real magic blurs the boundaries between these forms. An audience could see performance of magic as magic, or the performance of magic as reality.

Professor Pepper, who first performed his ghost on Christmas Eve 1862, had intended to give a scientific lecture on the ghost’s principles and secrets after every show. Instead he saw the audience’s stunned looks and heard their wild applause and cut the explanation from the performance. He had made Pepper’s Ghost into a magical illusion. He had turned a scientific demonstration into a Magic Show.

The Davenport brothers performed their magic as a lecture demonstration proving the existence of spirits. They would never make it clear that they were magicians which infuriated their audiences who did not respond well to the blurring of forms. They would often cause near riots where ever they played were chased out of Huddersfield during the February of 1865.

The Egyptian Hall was at the centre of 19th and early 20th Century Magic. Initially an Egyptian themed building that would house an ever-changing series of curiosities and exhibits, it later came under the control of the great magic family the Maskelynes and soon became England’s Home of Mystery. Here they would present, along with a programme of theatrical magic and illusion, illustrated lectures about the charlatanry of spiritualism.

The blurring of forms is something that the magician relies on and can still be seen today in the work of such conjurers as Derren Brown, Uri Geller and Derek Acorah.

Tonight’s performance is the culmination of a process of devising through research into the Egyptian Hall, magic and its related arts The journey has taken us from Professor Hoffman’s early work in codifying for generations that stereotypical Victorian conjurer. We moved on to looking at other conjurers and characters, magical developments and magical places. Finally, we sorted the wealth of material generated and this is our performance. The characters and events you see tonight may have existed/happened or they may not have. We are not going to tell you when we lie or when we tell the truth. It is magic so it doesn’t matter and we keep our secrets.

Remember, everything we tell you is a lie. Oh, and so was that.

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