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John Nevil Maskelyne

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John Nevil Maskelyne

Cover Sphinx (Aug. 1902)
BornJohn Nevil Maskelyne
December 22, 1839
Cheltenham, England
DiedMay 18, 1917 (age 77)
London, England
Resting placeBrompton Cemetery, London
CategoriesBooks by John Nevil Maskelyne

John Nevil Maskelyne (b.1839-d.1917) was an English stage magician, inventor and a co-lateral descendant of the Astronomer Royal Nevil Maskelyne. He was the first in a long line of Maskelyne magicians.


Maskelyne first became interested in conjuring after watching a performance of the Davenport Brothers. With the help of friend and cabinet maker George Alfred Cooke, they built a "Spirit Cabinet". Together, they exposed the Davenport Brothers to the public at a show in Cheltenham in June 1865.

Inspired by the acclaim they received, the two men decided to become professional magicians. William Morton, who saw their show in Liverpool, offered to finance a tour. Morton ended up as their manager for twenty years and helped them become firmly established on the national stage, including residencies as the Egyptian Hall in Piccadilly from 1873 to 1904.

When the Egyptian Hall was demolished, Maskelyne moved to St. George's Hall in 1905, where he presented "Maskelyne's Theatre of Mystery".

Maskelyne and Cooke invented many tricks still used today. Maskelyne was adept at working out the principles of illusions, one of his best-known being a levitation.

Upon Cooke's death in February 1905, Maskelyne started a partnership with David Devant. Devant had first joined Maskelyne's team in 1893, when he auditioned as a replacement for Charles Morritt, a conjurer and inventor who had worked with Maskelyne at the Egyptian Hall but left to set up his own show.

Maskelyne was a member of The Magic Circle and worked to dispel the notion of supernatural powers. To this end, in 1914, Maskelyne founded the Occult Committee to "investigate claims to supernatural power and to expose fraud". In particular, the committee attempted to prove that the Indian Rope Trick has never been performed.

Maskelyne was also a prolific inventor, amongst other thing he created a typewriter, a machine for printing cash receipts and famously a lock for toilets, which required a penny to operate, creating the first pay toilets.

The founder of the longest-running magic show in British history died of pneumonia and pleurisy. He is buried at Brompton Cemetery, London.[1]




  1. Findacadabra - World map of magic places
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