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Devil Worship: Feverish Posters From When Sinister Stage Magicians Harnessed The Occult

Do you believe in ghosts? Do you believe in the Devil, that He makes mischief for idle and clever hands? No? You should do. And you will when you see Harry Kellar, the “Dean of American Magicians”,  a smartly dressed, sedate embodiment of a sound character. The Devil told him to cut off his own head as a ritual. He did. And he lived.

Around the joint of the 19th and 20th centuries, stage tricks were a mainstay of theater entertainment. To seduce the crowd there were posters, each fashioned with feverish, hallucinatory images of death, evil, the Beast, phantasmagoria and the darkest magick. The occult was a big lure. The subconscious was pricked.

Howard Thurston could suck the soul from a dead man’s skull.

Charles Joseph Carter could cut a woman in half. She need not be dead at the time.

Kitty R. Baldwin was a “modern witch of Endor” able to summoned the prophet Samuel’s spirit, at the demand of King Saul.

Rudyard Kipling wrote in 1916:

Oh the road to En-dor is the oldest road
And the craziest road of all!
Straight it runs to the Witch’s abode,
As it did in the days of Saul,
And nothing has changed of the sorrow in store
For such as go down on the road to En-dor!

Now. Dim the lights. And watch the demons and ghosts at play – if you dare:

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UNITED STATES - CIRCA 1894:  Kellar and his perplexing cabinet mysteries  (Photo by Buyenlarge/Getty Images)

UNITED STATES – CIRCA 1894: Kellar and his perplexing cabinet mysteries (Photo by Buyenlarge/Getty Images)

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UNITED STATES - CIRCA 1870:  A perfomance by Kitty R. Baldwin  (Photo by Buyenlarge/Getty Images)

UNITED STATES – CIRCA 1870: A perfomance by Kitty R. Baldwin (Photo by Buyenlarge/Getty Images)

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UNITED STATES - CIRCA 1920:  Harry (Heinrich) Keller (1849-1922) was a predecessor to Houdini and was considered the dean of American magicians. When he retired, he gave his tricks to Howard Thurston in 1908. He was most famous for the levitating woman.  (Photo by Buyenlarge/Getty Images)

UNITED STATES – CIRCA 1920: Harry (Heinrich) Keller (1849-1922) was a predecessor to Houdini and was considered the dean of American magicians. When he retired, he gave his tricks to Howard Thurston in 1908. He was most famous for the levitating woman. (Photo by Buyenlarge/Getty Images)

Poster for Charles Joseph Carter (1874-1936) american stage magician with assistants dressed up as nurses for act of sawing a woman in half, 1922. (Photo by APIC/Getty Images)

Poster for Charles Joseph Carter (1874-1936) american stage magician with assistants dressed up as nurses for act of sawing a woman in half, 1922. (Photo by APIC/Getty Images)

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UNITED STATES - CIRCA 1870:  Samri S. Baldwin performed between 1848 and 1924.  (Photo by Buyenlarge/Getty Images)

UNITED STATES – CIRCA 1870: Samri S. Baldwin performed between 1848 and 1924. (Photo by Buyenlarge/Getty Images)

UNITED KINGDOM - CIRCA 1910:  Alexander, sees your life from the cradle to the grave. The magicians of the era liked the mysticism of the far east as a gimic for showmanship. The turban because a trademark of Alexander. Claude Alexander performed feats of mind-reading and psychic prediction that defied explanation. Some magicians argue he used a hidden microphone under the turban to "listen in" on the audience.  (Photo by Buyenlarge/Getty Images)

UNITED KINGDOM – CIRCA 1910: Alexander, sees your life from the cradle to the grave. The magicians of the era liked the mysticism of the far east as a gimic for showmanship. The turban because a trademark of Alexander. Claude Alexander performed feats of mind-reading and psychic prediction that defied explanation. Some magicians argue he used a hidden microphone under the turban to “listen in” on the audience. (Photo by Buyenlarge/Getty Images)

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GERMANY - CIRCA 1900:  RECHA  (Photo by Buyenlarge/Getty Images)

GERMANY – CIRCA 1900: RECHA (Photo by Buyenlarge/Getty Images)

UNITED STATES - CIRCA 1914:  Kar-mi performing the most startling mystery of all India  (Photo by Buyenlarge/Getty Images)

UNITED STATES – CIRCA 1914: Kar-mi performing the most startling mystery of all India (Photo by Buyenlarge/Getty Images)

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