Imagine the kind of man who is capable of stepping onto a stage, with the ability to create a memory of a lifetime. Imagine a man whose presence is like a magnet, pulling spectators from every corner, all converging with a singular purpose: to be mesmerised by the magic he’s about to create…
Imagine him standing there, under the spotlight, his nature so commanding that thousands hang on his every gesture, every word. Picture him holding the audience in thrall, not for mere moments, but for hours that defy time. Through rain, hunger, and discomfort, his spellbinding showmanship can make the world feel like it’s faded away…
I want you to envision this man creating not just tricks, but unforgettable experiences. With every sleight of hand, every theatrical gesture, he ignites a fire of joy, amazement and roaring laughter! I want you to envision a man, who understands the art of performance and showmanship like few others, a man who can make a heart surgeon late for work..
I believe Howard Thurston was the greatest stage magician EVER!
In the classic book ‘How To Win Friends and Influence People’, Dale Carnegie discussed his experience meeting the great magician Howard Thurston.
Here’s what he said:
“I asked Mr. Thurston to tell me the secret of his success…
Thurston had a genuine interest in people. He told me that many magicians would look at the audience and say to themselves, “Well, there is a bunch of suckers out there; I’ll fool them alright.”
But Thurston’s method was totally different. He told me that every time he went on stage he said to himself: “I am grateful because these people come to see me. They make it possible for me to make my living in a very agreeable way. I’m going to give them the very best I possibly can.”
A few thoughts:
Approaching magic by asking “what can this do for my audience?” rather than “what can this do for me?” is a beautiful way to look at the craft.
(and it’s an attitude we’ve seen in many of the great magicians we admire.)
We also think that Thurston was spot on in his expression of gratitude for his audience.
As magicians, our art lives in that space between us and our audience.
While we provide the raw building blocks—the sleights and techniques—our audience provide the ground on which they come together to create the experience of magic.
In much the same way, we’re very grateful to our readers for making The Daily Magician more than just a collection of words on a page.
To paraphrase Thurston: “We’re grateful that you read our articles. You make it possible for us to make our living in a very agreeable way. We aim to give you the very best we possibly can.”
Today we’ll be talking about the amazing life of Howard Thurston, this man is literally a legend – he’s the personification of stage magic in the 20th century!
Howard Thurston: The Man Who Actually Ran Away To Join The Circus…
Howard Thurston (1869–1936) was arguably the greatest magician of the century.
Here’s his story:
Thurston was born in Columbus, Ohio (now home to Magifest, one of the biggest conventions in magic) and had a rather difficult childhood.
He ran away from home at a young age and was eventually taken in by a family of traveling performers.
(a lot of people joke about ‘running away to join the circus’…but Thurston literally did that.)
This experience exposed him to the world of show business and the art of illusion, setting him on a path that would make him one of the most celebrated magicians in history.
As luck would have it, the great Harry Kellar was also performing in this circus, and he would go on to become a mentor to Thurston.
Harry Kellar, upon retirement, named Thurston his successor and passed him the ‘mantle of magic’.
(Thus, beginning a hotly debated tradition called ‘The Royal Dynasty of Magic’, where the mantle would continue to be passed down to this day, currently residing with Lance Burton.)
Known as the ‘King of Cards’, Thurston is perhaps best known for his card manipulations and the “Rising Cards” trick, in which selected cards would mysteriously rise from the deck.
(chances are you’ve learned a version of this routine at some point—we can thank Thurston for popularizing it)
Unlike Houdini, who focused primarily on escape acts, Thurston’s show was a dazzling display of vibrant costumes, grand illusions, and a skilled team of assistants, drawing huge crowds that would even include US presidents.
(what’s super interesting is that before I got super into magic, I’d never heard of Howard Thurston but I had heard of Houdini – he’s kind of underrated)!
He astounded audiences by making a horse vanish from a platform high above the stage, disappearing an automobile, conjuring up a troupe of dancing girls, and performing the classic sawing-a-lady-in-half illusion, all while a group of audience members watched closely from the stage!
Yet, despite these grand spectacles, what truly cemented Thurston’s legacy was his impeccable skill with playing cards.
His card act, where cards seemed to materialize at his fingertips before he skillfully threw them across the stage and into the audience, was a highlight of his shows. This act, performed in every show for over 40 years, was what truly built Thurston’s renowned reputation!
His traveling magic show was the biggest one of all time—so large that it needed eight train cars to transport his roadshow!
Howard Thurston Quiz (True or False)
True or false?
Thurston’s childhood claim to fame was setting a record in the hundred-yard dash while a student at the Dwight L. Moody School!
True or false?
Thurston ended up in Syracuse to see Herrmann the Great perform after mistakenly receiving a train ticket there when he was trying to get to New York City. This experience was so strong he decided to become a professional magician!
True or false?
Howard Thurston started his career as an escape artist and was the first magician to successfully escape from a straitjacket while suspended upside down over Niagara Falls.
True or false?
In Copenhagen, Thurston caught the attention of King Edward VII and several other monarchs with a clever card trick!
True or false?
During a performance for the Queen of England, Howard Thurston made the Crown Jewels disappear from their glass case in the Tower of London, sending the kingdom into panic for over 24 hours.
True or false?
Early in his career, Thurston traveled to India and performed magic shows in a large tent that he brought with him even to remote northern provinces.
True or false?
Thurston’s magic show operation grew so large at the height of his fame that it required a crew of over 60 people and 30 tons of equipment that traveled on eight railway cars as his show toured across America. It even had ANIMALS!
True or false?
Howard Thurston mysteriously vanished after a show one night when he successfully pulled off his greatest illusion, never to be seen or heard from again by cast, crew or family members.
The Books He Left Us With…
Want 24 FREE classic magic books, including this one? CLICK HERE
Want 368 dusty moth-eaten magic books (30,000+ pages of content, 91 professional commentaries, an extensively detailed index with 4429 effects, authors featuring, Houdini, Erdanase, Tarbell, and Hugard) CLICK HERE
Want 138 Classic Magic Tricks (36 hours of video, 1,000’s of hours work, hidden gems from Vernon, Annemann, Cardini, Erdnase, Hugard, Thurston and more…)? Click HERE
I am very grateful that Howard shared some of his most treasured secrets with the next generation of magicians to continue his legacy. I am also thankful that these books are so old they are now public domain – FREE TO READ!
Here is a collection of Howard Thurston’s best books, that you can read for free on the internet…
1: “Thurston’s Easy Pocket Tricks: The A-B-C Of Magic” by Howard Thurston, published in 1915. This book provides insights into various magic tricks that can be performed easily!
2: “400 Tricks You Can Do” by Howard Thurston, published in 1940. As the title suggests, this book offers a comprehensive guide to a large number of magic tricks.
3: “Fooling Millions” by Howard Thurston, published in 1928. This book is another interesting resource that delves into the world of magic as performed by Thurston.
4: “300 Tricks You Can Do” by Howard Thurston, published in 1948. This is another extensive collection of magic tricks and illusions.
You can find these books on the Internet Archive and download them for free. They provide a great resource for anyone interested in magic or the history of one of the most famous magicians, Howard Thurston!
Did you know?
Two years ago, we discovered that many of the best magic books EVER WRITTEN—Tarbell’s course on magic, Expert at the Card Table by Erdanase and Bobo’s Coin Magic are ALL public domain.
Yes, you heard us right, just between these three books nearly 3,000 pages of incredible magic content is simply bouncing around the internet.
(and hardly anyone is using or knows about it…)
- The content isn’t easy to find (you have to know EXACTLY what to search for and be aware of which sources are reputable and which aren’t)
- Many magic companies make NO effort to ensure this stuff is readily available (but they do profit off product after product that uses effects taken directly from these books and given a ‘modern twist’)
- People don’t know where to start (300 classic magic books is an overwhelming number, and it can be hard to find the really good stuff)
- The magic companies that HAVE collected these books sell them at a ludicrous price and they’re vastly behind the times ($80 for a CD ROM is kind of a joke…)
Here’s what we’ve done to tackle this issue…
- We’ve put all the books in one place (let’s not even talk about the 1000’s of hours this has taken, we’ll get PTSD…)
- We’ve written a commentary for all the ones we think are worth starting with (91 to be exact)
- We’re making this accessible to the entire magic world (let’s just say our price tag doesn’t even get close to $80…)
Here are just 3 out of the veritable 1000’s of effects and routines you’ll learn from this treasure trove of content…
- An incredible force by Theodore Annemann found on page 3 of ‘202 Methods of Forcing’ that is not only invisible but would make a fantastic ‘out’ for any good magic routine…
- A collection of stunning flourishes and fancy card work taught by T. Nelson Down’s on page 29 of his book ‘The Art of Magic’ that has been flabbergasting audiences for over a decade.
- A mentalism routine from Houdini himself found on page 52 of his book ‘Paper Magic’ that’s so audacious your audience would never even believe the method if you told it to them…
As we said, 3 of THOUSANDS of effects, routines, and pieces of theory you’ll pick up studying under the greatest magicians who’ve ever lived right at your fingertips below…
All sounds to good to be true right?
But than we ran headfirst into another problem, and it was very frustrating!
That project sold in the thousands—but ever since we created it we’ve been acutely aware of one big problem….
For a lot of people these books are difficult to read, and so bulky it’s hard to find the really good stuff.
Our friend Danny Goldsmith (considered by many the world’s best coin magician) recently lamented to us that he learns better from video and struggles with classics such as Bobo—that would otherwise undoubtedly hold so much power for him.
So we came up with an even bigger and better idea…
We’d create a VIDEO collection of 138 of the BEST tricks from our library of 368 classic magic books!
…and we did!
First, we spent hours upon hours pouring over these books, sifting through the material, and finding the very best ‘hidden gems’.
And there were a LOT of them.
In fact, while creating this project we quite literally found the method for one the best selling magic tricks of 2023 in a single throwaway paragraph written by Theodore Annemann.
(this is no exaggeration, check out trick 39 of this project upon purchase to see the proof!)
Next, we spent nearly two weeks practically living in our studio, filming high quality videos going over each of these tricks and making them as EASY to understand as possible.
Our goal was to do ALL the hard work for you.
We’ve taken these tricks, added our own modernizations, touches, alternate handlings and most importantly brought them into the modern age in the form of video.
We’ve also made sure the original excerpts are right below the video because reading and watching can create an even better experience!
This was a mammoth task (have a sneak peek)…