Illusionists in the Late 19th Century

Photo of John Nevil Maskelyne, Illusionist

By Sharon K. Gilbert

I’m currently working on Book Two (Blood Lies), and I decided to add a scene where Paul Stuart visits an informer at a west end music hall. Originally, I’d planned to use the Canterbury Music Hall, which was extremely popular and lay close to Westminster (just across the bridge in Lambeth), but I found a very interesting place yesterday called the Egyptian Hall in Piccadilly, which featured the stagecraft of a resident illusionist named John Nevil Maskelyne (and his partner George Alfred Cooke). Maskelyne and Cooke perfected the art of the cabinet illusion as well as ‘levitation’. Some in London even began to believe that Maskelyne’s talents were not so much illusory as spiritual in nature. Of course, since I’m writing about spiritual warfare, setting a scene here with this ‘magic’ act will provide for an interesting plot twist.