100 years ago a magician cut a woman in half for the first time. In a way, it’s surprising this trick isn’t even older. It feels like an absolute classic of magic. It reminds us how brief the history of modern day magic really is. Magic has been around for thousands of years but up until 150 years ago, it felt quite different from the magic you see performed today. The heyday of magic was the 1910s – 1920s. We had magicians like Houdini, Thurston, Carter, etc., all world-wide celebrities often quite openly competing for the crown of world’s greatest magician. And this time period ushered in some of the famous tricks we all associate with stage illusions, many of which are still performed to this day.
At the time, putting women in boxes and then doing dangerous things to those women in boxes was all the rage. They cut them in half, turned them into tigers, put swords through them. Lit them on fire. It was weird. Fortunately those effects are rightly considered passe. The irony of these older, sexist illusions, is that most often if the trick took any skill, it was the skill of the female assistant in the box and not the (almost always) male performer.
Anyway, the “cut the woman in half and put her back together again” trick is officially turning 100 years old this weekend. Read more about it here.