Posted by mike as Weird People
Brooklyn is alive with weird and wild people, places and stories. It’s also been home to some of the leading practitioners of the very unusual profession of magic. Contemporary magicians from Brooklyn include David Blaine and Ricky Jay. Mr. Blaine grew up in Kings County, New York before launching into an odd career that consists mainly of card tricks and public displays of endurance. He’s been frozen, buried, submerged and otherwise self-abused for the annoyment of millions. Mr. Jay who is recognized as the premier scholar on all things weird (author of “Learned Pigs and Fireproof Women”, “Cards as Weapons,” and “Jay’s Journal of Anomalies”) is also an accomplished oddball. He held the Guinness World Record for throwing a playing card 190 ft at 90 miles per hour.
But Blaine and Jay appear dull when compared to Brooklyn’s infamous magicians of the early 1900s. Sigmund Neuberger and William Ellsworth Robinson may be two of Brooklyn’s most unusual citizens. Neuberger, who emigrated from Munich as a young boy, was said to have taken his stage name, “The Great Lafayette,” from the Brooklyn avenue started his career in magic by imitating a famous Chinese magician, Ching Ling Foo.
At the turn of the 20th century Americans were fascinated by the mysteries of the Far East. When Chinese illusionist Ching Ling Foo appeared briefly in the States he created a swarm of Caucasian conjurors dressing up in silk robes and donning pony tails. The Great Lafayette began his shows with a stereotype recreation of what Americans believed to be Chinese theater. But it was never more than a scene in his evening show. William Robinson took it further. The New York City magician decided to disguise himself as actually being Chinese. Robinson created an alter ego called Chung Ling Soo and lived the part in public at every opportunity. Soo could be seen at the beach
in full body make-up and even grew a ponytail. He was accompanied by a translator whenever he spoke the press. It made little difference that Soo did not speak Chinese, as his translator didn’t either. The translator was in fact, Japanese.
At a 1902 matinee at The Orpheum Theater in Brooklyn, Lafayette was seriously injured on stage by a heavy cage that held a lion. The lion effect was a sensational money maker for Lafayette, well worth being mauled on another occasion.
Chung Ling Soo knew that danger sold tickets. He regularly performed a bullet catching trick where he’d stand before a soldier with a loaded muzzle that was fired at his head. Soo’s head would lurch backwards seemingly from the bullets impact. Soo would waddle to the footlights and display the bullet between his teeth.
Chung Ling Soo met his maker on stage when the bullet catching trick went seriously wrong. Soo caught a bullet for real, just once. The subsequent coroner’s inquest revealed that Chung Ling Soo himself was an illusion.
Houdini, who started out doing shows in Coney Island, wrote this about Soo: Of Foo’s thousand imitators the only positively successful one was William E. Robinson, whose tragic death while in the performance of the bullet-catching trick is the latest addition to the long list of casualties chargeable to that ill-omened juggle. He carried the imitation even as far as the name, calling himself Chung Ling Soo. Robinson was very successful in the classic trick of apparently eating large quantities of cotton and blowing smoke and sparks from the mouth. His teeth were finally quite destroyed by the continued
performance of this trick
Lafayette, well loved on stage (and being the highest paid magician of his time) was anti-social and difficult to work with. He insisted that his cast members salute him, and was known for how much he hated people and loved animals. His most
loved companion was a dog that Houdini gave him as a present. When the dog died suddenly in Edinburgh, Lafayette went into a deep depression. He insisted that the dog be given a proper burial at a cemetery. The Edinburgh City Council resisted but eventually permitted the dog’s grave, on the condition that Lafayette would be buried there too.
This wasn’t the end of Lafayette’s bad luck. A few days later in the middle of his show the theater burst into flames. While the cast, crew and audience fled the theater, Lafayette bravely attempted to rescue the many animals he used in the show. Workers searched the burnt out building for the magician’s remains and believed they had removed the body of Lafayette. Two days later, the magician’s body magically reappeared in the basement.
Lafayette, eager to keep the secrets to his illusions secret, had kept the fact that he used a body double for many of his tricks. Lafayette’s ashes were laid to rest with Beauty, his beloved dog. As for the remains of the body-double? That detail is lost to history.
Submitted by Hijinx The Long Island Magician, who is originally from Brooklyn.
Leave a Comment:
Submit A Story
Have a weird Brooklyn story? Let us know: firstname.lastname@example.org
- China Education Network Resources in 2013 May coll | I Believe Animals Think on The Yellow Submarine at Coney Island
- Xi Jinping speech _ news celebrate Labour Day Conference | www.tomsoutletshoes188us.comD3B0d on The Yellow Submarine at Coney Island
- see Li Taotao don’t | I Believe Animals Think on The Yellow Submarine at Coney Island
- mcjd74oyvg on The Yellow Submarine at Coney Island
- mcjd61bcxd on The Yellow Submarine at Coney Island