David P. Abbott (1863-1934)
David Phelps Abbott
Amateur magician, Author, Inventor,
Place of Birth
Falls City, Nebraska, USA
Abbott possessed a genius in mediumistic lore and in inventing some of the greatest effects in magic. He was master in the field of spiritualism, authoring numerous essays and books exposing many methods used by psychics.
David Abbott was born in Falls, City, Nebraska. September 22, 1863. As a child, his elementary education consisted of three months a year in a country schoolhouse on Nebraska prairies, and a final nine months in Falls City HIgh School.
Though Abbott took great interest in science and philosophy, he followed the trade of a money lender.
However, one of his hobbies became a primary passion yielding many contributions in the field of spiritulaism. He also had a love for the art of magic and had success in that field as well.
Abbott built his work of magic and deception on the devious principles he learned from spirit mediums, who could not afford to get caught. Abbott, fascinated with the concept of contacting disembodied souls from the departed, decided to study and research the phenomena.
Abbott published numerous essays and several books on psychical subjects. His book "Behind the Scenes with the Mediums;" written in 1907, exposed many techniques of fraudulent mediumship, including "slate writing" and "billet tests".
In spite of his skepticism regarding the claims of mediumship, however, he did not rule out the possibility of genuine phenomena.
In the Magic department, Abbott would perform only at his house in Omaha Nebraska. Many of the greats in magic–Kellar, Thurston, Horace Goldin, Theo Bamberg, Ching Ling Foo and Houdini among others–made pilgrimages to Omaha "Mystery House" to be baffled and to learn.
The "Floating Ball" routine made world famous by Bamberg was devised and taught to him by Abbott.
The "Talking Teakettle," invented by Abbott, could be shown empty, yet when the spout was held to a spectator's ear it would answer a question of which the spectator had been thinking; this effect was performed well before the advent of radio.
The "Spirit Paintings" was Abbott's duplication of a trick performed as a genuine phenomenon by a pair of mediums known as the Bang Sisters.
Having devised an excellent stage presentation for the effect, Abbott revealed the method to a Dr. Wilmar, who promptly sold it s his own to Selbit and Kellar, who featured it in their performances.
Still performed today, it is a mysterious and beautiful effect; the slow appearance of a thought-of image on the examined canvas is truly eerie.
Abbott wrote a second full-length book, describing not only the "seances" given in his home but many magical feats which had astounded top professional performers; he died before it could be published, and for a long time the manuscript could not be found. It was discovered by Walter Graham and published as "David P. Abbott's Book Of Mysteries" in 1977.
In 2005, "House of Mystery: The Science of David P. Abbott" was published in two volumes. It is a collection of Abbott's greatest miracles which stumped the greatest minds in magic.
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