Magic Trick: Anti-Spiritualistic Tricks

In the introduction I referred to the impositions practised by the ancient priests and others on the minds of an unenlightened people by means of what were merely conjuring tricks, but which were made to appear before the ignorant in the guise of supernatural manifestations. Few will require to be reminded of the excitement that has of late years existed concerning spiritualism. One would have thought that, in these days, people would have been above believing that the spirits of the departed would be permitted to return to the earth for the sole purpose of answering questions and indulging in tomfoolery; but such is the simplicity of mankind, that those who have had the boldness to declare themselves capable of raising the dead, and to dress up themselves or others in muslin or newspaper, have not lacked faithful followers. The malpractices have been going on for years, and many shameless impositions have come under my notice. The victims, it will not cause astonishment to hear, were mostly weak-minded ladies, and the spirits have had the remarkable discernment to visit only those who were well provided with worldly comforts, backed by an amount of confiding simplicity wonderful to contemplate. The exertions of several amateur, and some professional, conjurors have succeeded in proving to all minds open to the workings of common sense that all those professing spiritualism as a means of gaining a livelihood are neither more nor less than scoundrels. But of course there are still thousands who would be as much imposed upon as ever by any white figure seen after dark, and, in a private way, the spiritualists are still reaping a rich harvest. Towards clearing away this darkness, conjurors, both amateur and professional, can do a great deal, and there is a definite and worthy task before them, which they can best perform by exhibiting such phenomena as are produced by spiritualists at their exhibitions by avowedly natural means. By this means ridicule, which nothing can survive long, will be thrown upon the black art, which is merely conjuring put to base uses. A performance consisting entirely of sham spiritualistic manifestations I have found take exceedingly well, especially with audiences who have seen something of conjuring, and who are not averse to a change in the programme. I do not agree with pretending to call spirits to one's aid, for it smacks of irreverence: the performer should merely explain that what he is about to do or has just done by simple dexterity is brought about by the spiritualists with the asserted aid of familiar spirits. A simple trick which seems well to commence with is—

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