In 2015, I was fortunate to be asked to portray the master magician Harry Kellar for what turned out to be the final Los Angeles Conference On Magic History. The biennial event, which began in 1989, has showcased some of the rarest and greatest treasures of magic for an esteemed audience of notable performers, collectors and magic history buffs. P
Using genuine Victorian-era props (though not those
belonging to Kellar, himself) and intricate reproductions created by John Gaughan and Jim Steinmeyer, the performance was a snapshot of what it must have been like to attend Kellar’s show at the turn of the century. My wife, Kinga, also joined me in the performance, portraying Kellar’s wife Eva. Among the illusions we presented were The Fairy Flowers, The Marabout Mocha, Kellar Rope Tie, and Kellar’s Self Decapitation.
Several months later, Jim asked me to revive the performance for a week at The Magic Castle. It was fantastic to return to the Palace of Mystery after almost ten years since we performed there! Again, Kinga portayed Eva Kellar – but this time around, we presented a new, never before seen illusion based on Kellar’s Queen of the Roses. The illusion was an appearance of “Eva” in a full, Victorian gown, brilliantly researched, resolved and designed by Jim Steinmeyer, based on notes from Guy Jarrett for a proposed illusion for Kellar that was never realized!
Below, you can enjoy one of the performance from that week at The Magic Castle.
One of the things I will always cherish about these incredible shows was the opportunity to work alongside Jim Steinmeyer as we developed and rehearsed the act. It was a rare opportunity to see his creative genius in action. His knowledge and resourcefulness in formulating deceptive and entertaining solutions to any given problem were incredible. I can only hope to find another opportunity to work with him onstage again. Until then, it has been a privilege to have him consult and provide effects for My Box Of Magic and The Night Academy as one of our esteemed professors!
Born Heinrich Keller in Erie, Pennsylvania, young Harry experienced many difficulties in life before eventually being named the greatest magician in America.
At age 10, he worked for a pharmacist (it was allowed for kids to have grown-up jobs in those days). The job involved mixing chemicals, but he soon got bored making the prescriptions and started to mix chemicals for the fun of it. He caused a huge explosion that damaged the store, and to avoid the fury of his father, he hopped a train and never went home again.
He became interested in magic after seeing a show by the Fakir of Ava, and a short time later took a job as his magic assistant. By age 24, Harry had become a professional magician, and he and his performing partner, William Fay, embarked on a world tour. They were a huge success, and the shows in Mexico alone earned them $10,000 (that’s over $200,000 in today’s money!) Unfortunately, on their way to England, the ship they were on sank, and Kellar lost everything – his props, his clothes, and all of his money from the shows. He sent for help from his bank but while he was traveling, his bank had failed. He was penniless, and far from home.
He and Fay split up, but Kellar didn’t give up. He borrowed some money from a friend, and immediately set up a new show. In time, Kellar returned to America with his show featuring illusions like The Levitation Of Princess Karnac, The Spirit Cabinet and The Blue Room, and enjoyed tremendous success until his retirement in 1908.