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The Instant Illusionist and the Cleveland Bunch: Dreams of a Vaudeville Life

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While vaudeville-era Cleveland, Ohio always brings first to the minds of magicians the legendary Karl Germain, Cleveland had a remarkable number of professional magicians and vaudeville aspirants at the beginning of the 20 th Century. Among them was John Grdina, who with no prior experience witnessed a chance performance by a leading 19 th century illusionist and then leapt right to attempting his own two-hour stage show, embarking on a vaudeville career and marrying his assistant the same week. He had plenty of friendly competitors right nearby. The Instant Illusionist and the Cleveland Bunch provides a visually rich overview celebrating the lives and work of this close-knit group of hopeful Houdinis with a lifelong love of magic.

Jim Hagy has been interested in conjuring history for more than 55 years. He has written extensively about 19 th and early 20 th century performers, including biographies of Henry Evanion, James Savren, William Henry Young, and Edwin Dearn. He is most recently the co-author (with his spouse, Sage) of Fair Tricks: The Magicians at the Columbian Exposition, Chicago 1893. He has also been the editor and publisher of Perennial Mystics and its predecessor publications for collectors and is a Member of the Inner Magic Circle (London). In real life, he is Distinguished Lecturer in Residence at Loyola University Chicago and founder and director of The Rooftops Project for the international charitable sector.


“It is writings such as this which will make future collectors bless [Jim’s] name. If you are a collector then it is a must for your library. If you are just an interested magician you’ll derive pleasure from the anecdotes and descriptions of the life and times of a magician working in that period in England.”  Billy McComb, in Genii, The Conjurors’ Magazine

“James Hagy has produced a most valuable addition to the biographical literature of magic and his delightful monograph is unreservedly recommended.”  Dr. Edwin A Dawes, in The Magic Circular

“The picture of Evanion the collector comes alive . . . entertaining, carefully researched, and fully annotated.”  James Alfredson, in Magicol

“An excellent monograph....”  Dr. John Henry Grossman, in The Magic Circular

“I can now join the magic collectors who doubtlessly have already expressed their appreciation of your contribution to the sum total of our knowledge . . . in a well-crafted exposition.”  Dr. Leonard N. Beck, The Library of Congress

“I am most impressed . . . it has given me a terrific insight into the fascinating history of Evanion. It is an outstanding treatise...” John Salisse, Member of the Inner Magic Circle (London)

“I enjoyed the Evanion/Savren book very much . . . . Congratulations on a job well done!”  Ricky Jay

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