MyMagic eNewsletter #949
July 24, 2021
Although I never met the famous bandleader/magician Richard Himber I knew many people who were his friends, that would tell me the insane stuff he used to do. Today I will tell you one story that will coincide with the original Himber item you will be able to buy at the end.
In 1951 he convinced his friends at Mercury Publications to gaff one of the popular magazines they published for the general public! They decided on the April 1951 issue of Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine which featured stories by Arthur Conan Doyle, Ellery Queen, Edgar Allan Poe, Agatha Christie, Dashiell Hammett, and others.
Himber never told anyone that the issue had a force word built into every story. You see, if you go to the beginning of any of the stories, add up the digits of the page number and count down to that word. It will always be “problems.”
The reason he didn’t tell anyone about the gaff is that he was able to buy as many copies as he wanted from any newsstand for thirty-five cents. Which he did. He basically conned a real magazine to print a book test for him… for free!
Once the magazine was off the newsstands and it became difficult to get back issues, Himber released his Thousand Dollar Challenge which was comprised of one issue of the Ellery Queen magazine, a crib sheet that would be glued to a random Reader’s Digest magazine, and written instructions.
The Reader’s Digest crib sheet contained information about each of the stories in the magazine so you can do further mindreading during the performance, before ending with the forced prediction.
I think it is a great entrepreneurial story.
For many years I used to buy the Ellery Queen issues whenever I saw them. I think I paid between $5 to $25 each. A few years ago, I was able to get a box of them from an old magic shop that was going out of business. They were basically in storage for 50+ years. Also, in the box were a few of the original Reader’s Digest crib sheets which I never saw before. But no instructions. I was able to finally get a photocopy of the original instructions which will be included with every purchase. There are two versions available: Mag & Crib which includes the original crib sheet and Mag Only which will include a photocopy of it.
Himber was also a master of hype. Read part of the original ad copy below.
►Thousand Dollar Challenge:
Once in a lifetime a trick is conceived which embodies all of the features that make a magic trick successful. This we feel, is it!
Through the courtesy and cooperation of the Mercury Mystery Magazine, Ellery Queen and Fred Dannay (all connected with Mercury Mystery Magazine) we were able to print a magazine that will send the average mentalist into ecstatic raptures.
With this magazine you can make a prediction a week or so in advance and then read a spectator’s mind the night you perform on television, radio or the stage.
Get one: HERE
A close-up routine that has photographs change multiple times and ends with the classic Bathing Beauty gag.
You start out by showing colorful promotional photos of your magic assistant wearing a kimono while posing on the beach. A wave of the hand and the short robe vanishes leaving all the photos of her wearing a bikini. When your volunteer tries to make her swimsuit disappear the tide comes in to hide her body.
Watch and buy: HERE
Stay happy, Meir
PS: Himber repeated the process over the next ten years with different magazines that he would later release as different tricks and force books.
PSS: Made a mistake in the last PS. Martin Lewis actually created the Sidewalk Shuffle.