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Jim Alfredson
Yankee Gathering XIV

By Andrew J. Pinard

This is a condensed review. The full article premiered
in Magicol No. 185, September 2013.

The invitations went out and almost two hundred showed up. On November 8-10, 2012, the New England Magic Collectors Association held its biennial event, The Yankee Gathering, at the Doubletree Hotel in Westborough, MA. This year’s guest of honor was editor, author and collector, Jim Alfredson.

After the wine and cheese reception, attendees filed into the ballroom for the first talk. Outgoing President of NEMCA David Haversat welcomed everyone and formally opened the proceedings, introducing our emcee for the event Tom Ewing. While the scheduled talk was unfortunately cancelled at the last minute, George and Sandy Daily filled in with a wonderful talk, reading and slideshow featuring Thomas Chew Worthington III, Baltimore magic collector, historian and friend of Howard Thurston who was the founder of the Demons Club (of which Thurston was a member) and Society of Osiris (which continues to this day).

Following the presentation (and also on short notice), I gave a short introduction and slide-show on the history of Troublewit as an introduction for Leland Faulkner who presented his remarkable “Paper Man” act. This performance, featuring a masked character who performed Troublewit to music, was utterly charming.

There was one final event on Thursday evening. At midnight, I moderated an informal panel discussion on “Capturing Magic: Becoming a magic author”. We had 37 attendees including many notable magic authors and researchers who participated in the discussion which lasted over an hour.

Tom Ewing auctioning a Houdini piece

One highlight for me was the Thurston exhibit curated by Rory Feldman (with help from Pat Colby). The display filled approximately a third of the room and dominated the space. From floor to ceiling the exhibit featured costumes, paper, posters, props, scenery and illusions all seemingly rolled off the stage from the Thurston Show. The colors of the costumes and scenery, the wear and tear on the props, the staging of the exhibit all contributed to a breath-taking sensation of walking back in time to join the cast and crew of the Thurston company. The scale of the display was incredible, but the attention to detail truly was inspiring.

Friday evening brought on two talks. The first was by Bill Spooner whose talk “Inexhaustible Vessels in Ancient and Modern Times” presented a chronological history of the humble lota bowl as well as describing other related methods for presenting the endless production of liquid. Tom Ewing followed with a detailed presentation on Marshall the Mystic, a Philadelphia area chiropractor and health-food specialist of the early 1900s who, prior to his life as a pioneer in healthcare, was a contemporary of W.C. Fields.

Then on to the Friday night entertainment! Perennial Gathering favorite Johnny Fox presented Cups and Balls, sword swallowing (“what else?”) and “Shooting the Cracker” in which Johnny and his assistant, Andrea Adam, performed their version in front of the iconic “KAR-MI: Swallows A Loaded Gun Barrel” poster.

Johnny Fox and Andrea Adam performing Shooting a Cracker

Saturday is traditionally the busiest day for lectures and this year was no different. There were six lectures on Saturday. Dean Arnold described how a viewing of the BBC Antiques Roadshow led to a joint collaboration between the speaker and the great-grandson of the fascinating Dr. Lynn—travelling magician, one of the first Western magicians to perform in the Far East..

Dr. Loren Pankratz presented a captivating presentation on the 15th and 16th-century origins of con games and a list of “coney catching pamphlets” documenting the techniques and scams perpetrated by early con men. Dr. Pankratz shared many examples from the pamphlets in his slide show that surprised many in attendance with the age of some of the scams we consider relatively modern.

Renowned magical scholar Edwin Dawes educated the audience on some remarkable new information regarding Henry Dean, author of The Whole Art of Legerdemain, or, Hocus Pocus in Perfection. He shared recent research into the background of Henry Dean, including discoveries regarding his profession, home, practice, and details about how Dean was not only a magic author, but dealer and bookseller.

On more recent literary topics, Mark Horowitz (optometrist, magician, collector and father of Lee Asher), shared some colorful stories and examples of magic in comic books from his collection of magic comics.

Richard Hughes talked about R.S. “Rudy” Schlosser, the 1920s-era magic manufacturer from New York who led the way in modern manufacturing techniques and who developed and patented his process for making feather flowers.

The final presentation was an illustrated lecture by William Rauscher on Milbourne Christopher. The premiere of Rauscher’s latest book, Milbourne Christopher: The Man and his Magic, was scheduled to coincide with Yankee Gathering XIV.

Saturday night brought the closing gala banquet, presentation of honors and performances. Following the banquet, Tom Ewing introduced David Haversat who presented a plaque to the guest of honor Jim Alfredson for his many contributions to magic. Jim was clearly moved by the honor and expressed his appreciation eloquently and succinctly in a way that brought a lump to my throat.

Ray Goulet and David Bull

David Bull was also recognized when Ray Goulet used the opportunity to present Bull as NEMCA’s most recent Honorary Lifetime Member.

Following the presentations, the crowd was entertained by Leland Faulkner presenting shadowgraphy to music to terrific reactions from the audience. After a brief stage reset, John Carney performed in three guises: first as his mentor Faucett Ross, then as the awkward and somewhat creepy (in an endearing way) Mr. Mysto who brought up David Haversat to teach him a lesson in magic and finally as himself presenting an elegant and amusing Miser’s dream with a member of the audience. The final act was Peter Pitchford in his tribute performance to Cardini. Pitchford’s performance was not a recreation of Cardini’s act, but rather a touching original homage that balanced magic, theater and love in a way that rounded out the show well.

The Yankee Gathering XIV proved to be a very full three days of magic, history, collecting, passion and camaraderie that left attendees eager for the next conference. I can’t wait to see what they come up with!