This episode of Illusion is a special presentation of Birth of a Con Man, Part 1. The story first appeared on Pretend Radio, hosted by Javier Leiva. Learn more at pretendradio.org.
In the early 1900s, magician Max Malini was invited to a fancy dinner party in the Philippines. The host tried to play a prank on him, and learned an important life lesson: don’t mess with a magician!
In 1917, two girls in the Yorkshire village of Cottingley took photos of themselves and what appeared to be fairies. Three years later, they found themselves the unwitting perpetrators of a widespread hoax and the source of hope and vindication for an entire religious movement.
Gina Tonic is a drag performer in New York City. We had a wide ranging discussion covering the history of drag, creating the illusion of gender, and drag as a performing art.
In the 18th century, a Roman professor of mathematics demonstrated the latest scientific discoveries with dazzling demonstrations. There was just one problem: he was really performing magic tricks.
In 1892, in a small Parisian theater at the back of a wax museum, inventor Charles-Emil Reynaud presented his “Luminous Pantomimes” and introduced the world to a new art form: the animated cartoon.
Cassie Chadwick was a career criminal who conned her way into high society and spent money like she was a Carnegie…which she claimed she was. What happened next was a $20 million swindle that collapsed a bank.
In a remote New York farm town in the nineteenth century, two sisters claimed they could speak with the dead. But what started out as a childish prank ended with the accidental creation of a new religion.
Kayla Drescher has been performing magic since the age of seven, and first performed onstage in her second grade talent show. She is now a professional magician in Los Angeles. She performed a delightful illusion in season 4 of Penn & Teller: Fool Us on the CW.
Ghosts have appeared in drama for at least 2,500 years, with many innovations in stagecraft to make them appear more believable — and spooky. In 1862, Professor John Henry Pepper perfected a new technique that ushered in a new age of special effects.
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