Wednesday, March 19, 2014


Baltimore’s own librarian-lawyer-journalist-mason-magic historian extraordinaire!!!
  Considered one of the 20th Century’s preeminent magic historians (before that kind of thing was popular) offering students of magic esoteric observations and psychological insights into magic history. His ability to write and record benefits the magic profession to this day!
  Henry Ridgely Evans was born November 7th 1861 in Baltimore, Maryland and raised in Georgetown. When living in downtown Washington DC he was first bitten by the “magic bug” at seventeen, while attending Robert Heller’s Wonders Show at the Old National Theatre.

Then, in March at Ford's Theatre in DC , he sat in the audience for Harry Kellars first appearance in the Nation's Capital.

 Henry had intending on becoming a lawyer, then changed professions to journalism. In1892 he married Florence Stevens and moved into a small but respectable row home at 1430 V St. NW. The turn of the century found the couple moving to Baltimore and then to Virginia. It was during this period that he became a prolific writer of both books on magic and magazine articles; his most famous work probably 'The Old and the New Magic' published in 1906. (see book list below)
An article by Evans from the Ladies Home Journal
  That same year Evans who wrote an article for STANYON’S MAGIC predicting KELLARS’s successor would be THURSTON! This hit the magic community by storm for Paul Valadon was touring with Kellar and considered the shoe-in; while Thurston wasn’t a contender! Can you believe it? We all know what happened there...
In 1908 at Ford's Theater in Baltimore
Kellar retired, turning his cape over to Thurston !!!

How do you like those apples?
  Houdini had a strange and inexplicable connection to Evans having first slammed Evans in ‘The Conjurers Monthly’ magazine for his book 'The Old and the New Magic' where Evans printed an expose on how the handcuff escape was accomplished. Houdini was openly in the pisser about it, which makes it very odd that in early 1917 he gave to Evans what had been compiled for his upcoming book to be called ‘History Makers in the World of Magic’!!!  Houdini knew that Evans was writing a similar book and this certainly denoted the respect Houdini had for Evans.

Evans was also a member of the Pyramid Magic Club in Baltimore.

1930, he and Florence were again living in DC at a stately apartment building on Eye St. NW. Evans worked for a number of Baltimore Newspapers during thee years and also wrote books such as 'Old Georgetown On The Potomac' in 1933. The couple never had children.

A view of the Aqueduct Bridge on the Potomac
which Henry crossed every day near his home.

Like Houdini, Evans was interested in the paranormal, and embarked on a long crusade to expose fraud in the pursuits by alleged spirit mediums and a critic of theosophy. He wrote and spoke so much about this subject it was quoted that “Henry touched elbows and hobnobbed with spooks almost since infancy.”
   Evans staged many interesting spirit photographs.

 The explosion in popularity of magic also gave rise to spiritualists, mediums, and others that claimed to possess true magical abilities, such as contacting the dead and predicting the future. Many magicians took issue with these practices and set out to expose those that they felt were charlatans preying upon audiences. They felt that it should be widely understood that the illusions performed were exactly that— illusions created by sleight-of-hand and tricks of perception, not special powers. Harry Houdini dedicated as much of his career to this as to performing magic. Baltimore-born Henry Ridgely Evans, a former journalist and amateur magician, gained acclaim writing books spilling the secrets of spiritualists. In his books, Hours with Ghosts, Or, Nineteenth Century Witchcraft and The Spirit World Unmasked, Evans revealed how many standard practices of spiritualists were performed, such as table tilting, spirit photography, and telepathy. He walked his readers through the processes step-by-step and unmasked some of the most famous offenders.

Henry Ridgely Evans died at Union Memorial Hospital in Baltimore on March 29th, 1949 and is buried in Washington DC at the Oakhill Cemetery.

Of course these days, you can buy Evans complete works...

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