Author(s): Matthew Tompkins
In The Spectacle of Illusion, professional magician-turned-psychologist Matthew Tompkins traces the evolution of the arts of magic and illusion from the 18th century onwards. Organized thematically within a broadly chronological trajectory, the book presents the art of witches, magicians, illusionists, hypnotists, mediums and faith healers, 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, bias and perception, the book examines the practices of spiritualism and mesmerism and the misuse of hypnotism and magic tricks to sway belief and fool people. It highlights how gurus, faith healers and mediums have been challenged over the last 200 years by scientists and magicians, and examines some of the scientific investigations into the paranormal. Highly illustrated throughout with entertaining and bizarre drawings, engravings, double-exposure photographs and test sheets from the Wellcome Collection, the Harry Price Library and the Society for Physical Research, the book also features newly commissioned photography of Ouija boards, trick tables, props, automata and illusion boxes. It concludes with a modern-day analysis of anomalistic psychology - sleep paralysis, change blindness, hallucination and false memories - showing how unreliable the mind is, and how complicit in the success of the illusion.