Magician-turned-experimental psychologist Matthew L. Tompkins investigates the arts of deception as practised and popularized by mesmerists, magicians and psychics since the early 18th century
Organized thematically within a broadly chronological trajectory, The Spectacle of Illusion investigates and presents the deceptive arts of hypnotists, magicians, mediums and illusionists since the early 18th century, and exposes the mechanisms and the fakery behind the claims.
After discussing the art of the trick, the power of suggestion and what magic can tell us about memory, belief and perception, the book examines the practices of mesmerism and spiritualism, and the misuse of hypnotism and magic tricks to fool people. It highlights how mediums and psychics have been challenged over the last 200 years by magicians and scientists, and examines some of the scientific investigations into the paranormal. It is highly illustrated throughout with entertaining and bizarre drawings, double-exposure spirit photographs and photographs of spoon-bending from hitherto inaccessible and unmined archives, including the Wellcome Collection, the Harry Price Library, the Society for Physical Research and, last but not least, the Magic Circle’s closely guarded collection. The book also features newly commissioned photography of planchettes, rapping boards, trick tables, ectoplasm, automata and illusion boxes.
Concluding with a modern-day analysis of anomalistic psychology, including sleep paralysis and hallucination, and the psychology of illusion – illusions of omission and commission, change and choice blindness, and the art of misdirection – this enthralling volume highlights how unreliable the mind is, and how complicit in the success of the illusion.
The Spectacle of Illusion is a remarkable book. Even if you didn't read a single word, the remarkable images seem to lift a lid on the Magic world. This book both reveals the inner workings of the extraordinary and yet seems to keep all its secrets too. It s wonderful. --Andy Nyman
What a treasure trove. You can get lost forever in the trance of the fascinating photos and illustrations, but make no mistake. The real gems are in the scholarly text. In providing an elegant and informative history of all things magical, it also conjures the deepest mysteries and puzzles about the human mind. Brilliant. --Professor Kia Nobre, Head of Department of Experimental Psychology, University of Oxford
Wonderful book that demystifies the mystics, and illuminates the weird history of psychics and their investigators … Highly recommend this beautifully written and illustrated book to anyone interested in science, magic or who simply enjoys good stories about weird pieces of forgotten history. --Dr. Gustav Kuhn, Reader in Psychology at Goldsmiths, University of London. Head of the MAGIC Research Lab
About the Author
Matthew L. Tompkins gained a BA in Psychology at the State University of New York at Geneseo and an MSc in Psychological Research at the University of Oxford, where he is currently a member of Department of Experimental Psychology. His research focuses on the cognitive psychology of illusions. Before Matthew began his academic career he worked as a professional magician and is a member of The Magic Circle.