top of page
  • Nicholas J Johnson

The Greatest Magicians Of All Time (you’ve probably never heard of)

Everyone knows the big names in magic. Copperfield. Angel. Penn. Teller. Johnson. But what about those magicians who’ve made an incredible impact on the art of magic even if they aren’t household names outside of the magic community?

Here are four magicians you’ve probably never come across unless you’re a rabbit-grabbing card-wrangler like me.


The father of modern close up magic, Canadian Dai Vernon took card magic to new levels by learning from card cheats and swindlers rather than magicians.

In his youth he performed a card trick for Harry Houdini. Houdini boasted that he could watch a magic trick three times and no exactly how it was done. Vernon performed a trick in which a signed card jumped from the middle of the deck to top over eight times before Houdini was forced to admit he was bamboozled.

A curmudgeon for most of his life, he struggled to hold down a full-time job for more than a few months. He rarely made money has a magician, instead working in jobs ranging from blueprint reader to silhouette cutter.

He spent his later years at The Magic Castle in Hollywood, entertaining audiences and giving generations of magicians stories of his antics.

His remains are on display at the Castle in a cigar box.


British Magician Tony Corinda was also never much of a performer, preferring to teach magic from his magic shop in London and through his booklets. While he served all magicians, he catered to mind readers and mentalists. His book 13 Steps To Mentalism is the basis for most of the modern mentalism you see.


First performing at the age of 17 in 1831, Scottish magician Anderson was known as the ‘Wizard of the North.” His greatest contribution to magic was the invention of the ‘rabbit in the hat’ trick. Anderson believed that magic should, first and foremost, be entertainment. If an audience was not entertained by one of his illusions, he would remove it from his act, regardless of how amazing or baffling it was. Anderson declared: “It is the duty of all magicians to give entertainment.”

Anderson was also a master of publicity and one of the first magicians to reach super-stardom in his day. Despite once burning down a theatre in the middle of his show, he was famous until in died in 1874.


Adelaide Hermann is, like great women in history, overshadowed by her husband, Alexander. In the late 19th century it was difficult for women to work as magicians and so Adelaide began her career as an assistant to Alexander. They married shortly after in New York and continued working together on stage performing escape tricks, bullet catches and other death defying stunts.

When Alexander passed away in 1896, Herrmann continued performing. Without her husband to overshadow her, she soon became a star in her own right. She was the only woman to perform the famous “bullet catch” despite reports that she had always hated her own husband performing the dangerous stunt.

Hermann was still performing his her 70s in the 1920s until her warehouse of props and animals was destroyed in a massive fire. She died a few years later and was buried near her husband.


bottom of page