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27 Illusions
by Howard Ray Lawrence


(2 reviews, 9 customer ratings) ★★★★

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27 Illusions by Howard Ray Lawrence

This PDF would not exist, if it were not for one of those rare coincidences. The content of this ebook was locked away on a set of 16 microfiche since the mid-70s under a title and categorization inaccessible to magic keyword searches. No more than 50 people have seen it or are aware of its existence. And since most of those 50 folks have nothing to do with magic it is a publication completely unknown in the magic community.

It is a remarkable set of plans for 27 illusions which 27 students of architecture at Penn State University under the guidance of Prof. Howard Ray Lawrence produced during a one of a kind 1976 class. The aim of the class was to teach some of the basics of architecture through the exploration of magic illusions. Each student had to design a magic illusion, build it, and then perform it on stage.

One of the great features of this ebook is that each illusion is accompanied with beautiful to scale drawings, including enlarged details. Additionally, which is a first in magic, each illusion comes with a stage lighting plan. These drawings also show the stage set ups of illusions for each act. Each illusion is also described by effect, gimmick and materials used. Prof. Lawrence dug out a couple of photos of the performance and these photos are added to the respective illusions. There is also a sound and lighting cue plan as well as the list of music accompanying each illusion. In other words, you are not only getting the construction plans for the illusions but also all the information of how they were staged and presented. Something like this has never been offered to the magic community. It is both a remarkable historical document as well as a great resource for illusion builders and magicians who want to incorporate a stage illusion into their act.

The illusions themselves are a mix of classic illusions such as sawing a woman in half and completely new illusions specifically created for this class. But even if the illusion is a classic one, the way it is realized and the details of its construction are often novel and unique. Keep in mind these are architecture students who come with a completely different set of skills and ideas than the typical magic illusion builder.

The 27 illusions are:

  1. Talking Death Mask
  2. Noah's Ark
  3. Drinking Water from Barrel Suspended in the Air
  4. Girl from a Big Balloon
  5. Production of a Woman from a Trunk
  6. Removal of the Center Portion of a Person
  7. Decapitation with Suspension of Head
  8. Dissembling and Reassembling a Person
  9. Transposition of a Woman
  10. Clown Gets Death Penalty
  11. The Elastic Lady
  12. Talking Head
  13. Diagonally Sawing a Woman in Half
  14. Woman Changes into a Cat
  15. Light Bulbs Through Body
  16. Person Through Glass
  17. Packing Crate Escape
  18. Paper Box Escape
  19. Switch of Magician with Assistant
  20. Milk Can Escape
  21. Floating Light Bulb
  22. Vertical and Horizontal Rotational Levitation
  23. Dancing Silks in Magic Bottles
  24. Levitated Woman Vanishes in Midair
  25. Vanish of a Woman Behind Dressing Screen
  26. The Magical Palanquin
  27. Voodoo Vanish

1st edition 2015, 163 pages.
word count: 12527 which is equivalent to 50 standard pages of text

Reviewed by Frederic Clement (confirmed purchase)
★★★★   Date Added: Friday 05 April, 2024

If you are looking for a good illusion book, this one is not for you. The project was surely original and cool for the architecture students, but these "illusions" have been totally thought by amateurs, in an amateur way, for amateurs. Most methods are so simplistic that anyone in the audience will figure them out immediately. But the worst is that all the pictures are about 1 inch by 1 inch and are blurry and taken from 75 feet away, so you can't see anything. And the plans are hard to understand without good explanations to come with them. If the price was set at $3, then, maybe it would deserve 2 stars, but at $20, it is a big waste of money!

Reviewed by Simon Unwin (confirmed purchase)
★★★★★   Date Added: Sunday 07 January, 2024

This book is fascinating! It provides a completely original approach to the multi-dimensional and ever-engaging challenge of designing architecture. Many think architecture is just about the appearance of buildings, but this book presents the surprising idea that it can also be (is) a forum for magic! Magic in the dramatic sense, but also, by extension, magic in more subtle senses too. The magic possibilities of architecture inescapably involve the emotional and imaginative as well as the narrative and aesthetic factors in human experience. I would have enjoyed being a member of Howard's class for this project!!!

Simon Unwin, Emeritus Professor of Architecture and author of 'Analysing Architecture: the Universal Language of Architecture'.