SPOOKSTERS OF MAGIC PAST AND PRESENT
Francisco The Magician
by Abbott Magic
Editors Note - One of the first magicians in the 30's to use scary and creepy magic in his act was Francisco. His act leaned more toward cerebral magic than gore, however each show (as was the tradition in those days) ended with a spook show blackout. Below is a combination of two articles from the 1939 Tops magazine.
Francisco, the Magician, appeared at the Orpheum Theatre for a midnight show on October 28th (1939), to break a two year theatre magic delinquency in Omaha. He was gretted by a full house. The audience was in an appreciative, but heckling mood, as there was the Creighton University homecoming and the two colleges in Omaha both won football games. Francisco's show was one of the most unusual ever to appear here because of its spiritualistic nature.
The show opened with the Torn and Bestored Newspaper and a Pigeon Vanish. He then had "the spirits" write answers to questions on cards and slates held by a boy from the audience. The boy was rewarded by having his head cut off and receiving an ice cream cone which eventually ended in Francisco's assistant's hands. Then for the first time in at least twenty years in this city there was a fifteen minute interlude of black art that kept the auditorium ringing with laughter, Very good. A version of the Strung Razor Blades was next presented. Back to the Spirits with an uncovered method of Spirit Painting. This was met with a lot of enthusiasm because Francisco gave credit to the inventor -— the late David P Abbott of Omaha.
Then followed some manifestations from a spirit cabinet, and a comedy version with a bottle of whisky which ended with a rat in the bottle. One of the "stiff" spectators (and there were a lot) insisted "Use Schenley's— It's better"! Substitution Trunk was next and then the Spirit Bell and Handkerchief ended the lighted portion on the stage. The lights were then turned off for a spook show which had to be cut short because of the uncooperative spirit of the audience. All in all the show was pleasing and was enjoyed by everybody.
Francisco the Magician is actually Arthur Bell.
Arthur is one of those rare magicians who possesses both magical ability and excellent business judgment. Equipped with an hour-one-half stage show, one hour spook act and ten minutes of Black Art, he makes magic pay good dividends. And he blames his success on hard work.
Constantly busy rustling dates and playing them, he gets the cash where and while other magicians are twiddling their thumbs. And no wonder! He knows how to sell his show to theatre owners; he knows how to sell an audience his stuff. Still he hasn't changed a trick in his show for years.
All of his magic is old but well presented. Arthur says when you work a trick one hundred times you'll do it good, but when you work it a thousand times you'll do it better. His show is fast, too fast some claim. It is debatable. But, anyway, there is not one dull or slow moment from his opening with the torn newspaper to his closing stunt, a trunk substitution. To see him work you wouldn't think that he had ever been afflicted with stage fright. But he was, probably one of the most serious cases among magicians.
In the magic-mill, Arthur has made his share of blunders, which he relates cheerfully. All are packed with a bonehead-preventive.
In one Arthur was using a medium-sized box which had a secret compartment. The door to this space was on the outside, held in place with a flimsy catch, weak, badly needing repairs. Arthur knew it was haywire, but all he did was promise himself to fix it.
Playing to a packed house one night, he went through the customary routine of dropping three-dozen rubber balls into the box, causing them to vanish and producing a cage, which was apparently the size of the box, full of pigeons. The production over, his assistant picked up the box and started off the stage near the footlights. He only started, for at that moment the catch gave way and balls bounced, rolled and fell all over the stage, into and over the orchestra pit into spectators' laps.
Spectators went cuckoo with laughter. But Arthur outlaughed them, not faked but real his laugh hit a high key, was heard above the rest and persisted long after the audience had quit.
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