Spirited Away

Abstract

At first sight the fields of magic and science do not have much of an overlap. This notion however is completely untrue for the fairly long period between 1860 and 1930. A surprisingly high number of scientists and inventors of this time were fascinated by spiritualism and believed in the existence of paranormal forces. Marie Curie for example regarded mediumistic séances as "scientific experiments" and thought it possible to discover in spiritualism the source of an unknown energy that would reveal the secret of radioactivity. Thomas Ava Edison for his part announced an extension to his phonograph in 1921 that would extract thoughts and feelings from dead bodies in order to store and play them back. He claimed that this was possible due the existence of "life units" - tiny energy particles that are the scientifically proved equivalent to the human soul Away from ideological judgment these examples illuminate an interesting crossover between the utopian vision of a boundless technology that helps to reveal even more mysteries of the immaterial world and an anti-modernist thought-space that is filled and nourished by ghost stories, an animistic world outlook and a dazzling array of esoteric philosophies. In this context the praxis of the commercial magical show plays a very interesting and intermediate roll that connects and correlates these two assumed opposite spheres.

How to Cite

Reinhart M. (2015) “Spirited Away”, Journal of Performance Magic. 3(1). doi: https://doi.org/10.5920/jpm.2015.3125

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Martin Reinhart

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This article has been peer reviewed.

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