(12th November 1912 - 1980)
Born in 1912 in Providence, Rhode Island, Joe Karson (his real name at birth was Joseph Alexander Chrzanowski) was bitten by the “magic bug” at the age of 10 after witnessing a local magic performance. By the age of 16 he was working in a magic shop in Springfield, Massachusetts and perfecting his own performing skills. Within a year he began performing one-nighters around New England with his Chinese theme magic act called, “Chan Lin and Company.”
During the decades of the 1930’s and 1940’s Karson established himself as a comedic performer, now mostly performing as himself in western clothes (only occasionally performing the Chinese act for magic conventions). But it was also at this time that he made his mark as a magic dealer. He was one of the founding members of the Magic Dealers’ Association and invented and built much of the magic he sold in his shop in Springfield, Massachusetts. It was in 1943 when he first advertised the trick that he is most remembered for today, Zombie. Although Zombie is very common today, when it first appeared on the scene in 1943 it was quite a sensation. Karson was also a prolific writer and penned many booklets that he self-published through his company, Karson’s Xclusives.
Joe Karson made quite a name for himself as a magic dealer and popular performer, frequently stealing the show when he appeared at magic conventions. However, due to his battle with alcoholism, he slipped into obscurity during the late 1950’s and 1960’s and all but disappeared from the magic community by the time of his death in 1980 at the age of 67.
Coauthors: Michael E. Rose