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Carnegie: Magic Detective: Amedeo Vacca

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Amedeo Vacca was born in Cantalupo new Sannio Italy on June thirtieth 1890, this in accordance with Ancestry.com. Many magic periodicals give his birthplace as Campobasso Italy. Apparently, he was enthralled with magic ever since a younger boy. He would catch each efficiency of magic that he might. He absorbed magic. Clearly, this younger man was destined to turn out to be a magician. Each touring magician that got here to his city was certain to seek out younger Amedeo within the viewers. After which when he had witnessed sufficient magic, he placed on his personal present for the neighborhood youngsters. You needed to have a ticket to attend his reveals, even at this early age. However thankfully the price of a ticket was a mere button. Amedeo would later promote these buttons to his father who labored as a tailor. That may be a bit of selling and enterprise genius. He knew the kids had no cash, however they certainly had buttons. And he knew his father wanted buttons. Win win! (1)

His older sister had moved to America and at one level despatched for Amedeo to maneuver there too. 

He got here to America in 1906. He lived in Bridgeport Connetticut, and shortly started to witness the American model of magic with such notables as Blackstone, Jarrow, Hardeen, and extra. I’m certain this gave younger Amedeo a sense of confidence that he made the suitable transfer coming to the US. He was engaged on varied factories round Bridgeport throughout the week, and saving his cash to put money into his future profession in magic.

He would buy props from Martkinas and others to construct his present. Ultimately, he was loaded with gear, a rabbit, and extra. He examined his materials out on the native expertise contests. After which he made that troublesome choice, he determined it was time to show professional. What he quickly found was the quantity of props he was touring with, required an assistant. Between the rabbit, the props and the assistant, Amedeo’s earnings was reducing continually. So the fast resolution was to downsize the props and he was capable of drop the assistant and ultimately the rabbit. (2)

His skills introduced him to Chicago  and to the workplaces of The Western Vaudeville Managers Affiliation. With the boldness and brashness which may even make Harry Houdini jealous, Amedeo went straight to the top booker and proclaimed, “ I’m VACCA the worlds GREATEST magician, and if you will get me my worth, I could take into account allowing you the respect of reserving me.”  And identical to that, they booked him. Granted it was a trial reserving however he bought in. And his efficiency on the  Allstate theatre was successful, he obtained good evaluations which meant he was on his method.  HIs worth by the way in which was  $75 per week. He continued to work on his act. He even downsized it once more. However that didn’t imply he downsized the general impression of the magic. He launched all types of fantastic results, they only didn’t require large props.  And with every successive change, his act improved and so did his weekly earnings.  Earlier than lengthy he was working the highest spots and bringing residence $200 per week! (3)

His act was distinctive at this level: hearth consuming, paper tearing, twentieth Century silks and extra. It was sufficiently small to hold very simply however massive sufficient to be seen all through a theatre. He was the epitome of packs small performs huge. His act was so huge at one level he adopted Eva Tanguay because the headliner of a theatre. After which he started to headline in every single place. He went on the street, and once more, high of the invoice. Amedeo was driving excessive.

THEN one thing occurred. A go to to a magic store would turn out to be a life altering occasion. The considered this makes me chuckle. What number of a teenager’s life is modified after their first

go to to a magic store? No less than there was a time for that. And here's a seasoned skilled and it occurs to him as nicely. He went to August Roterberg’s store. It was not his first time right here by any stretch. It’s simply that this present day, there was another person within the store. Now, take into consideration this, right here is Vacca, enjoying high of the invoice in every single place he went, however he walks into this magic store and he's dumbstruck. He can’t hardly converse. There a number of toes in entrance of him is

HOUDINI. 

August Roterberg launched the younger man….I say younger man, he was a minimum of 30 years outdated on the time. Houdini greeted Amedeo pleasantly after which confirmed him a trick. I have no idea what trick it was he confirmed, doubtless one thing easy. After which Amedeo, who moments earlier than was as shy as a church mouse, instantly proclaimed that he might do this trick and do it higher than Houdini. This brought on a lot laughter amongst Houdini and Roterberg, however the younger man proceeded to do the trick for them and Houdini was impressed. 

I've to cease there for a second. We're all the time bombarded with these tales of Houdini’s large ego and but right here he's standing in entrance of a a lot youthful performer and acknowledging his ability. And I do know this was the actual fact, as a result of Houdini then invited him to go to him at his residence the subsequent time he was in NYC. 

It will take Amedeo Vacca two years earlier than he would present up at Houdini’s doorstep, however present up he did. The yr was 1923. Little did Vacca know, his life was actually going to alter now.  Houdini and Vacca actually hit it off. Houdini acknowledged the brilliance and intelligence of Vacca and put him to work. Actually, he put him on the payroll and put him to work. However his was to be a secretive work. Houdini didn’t need anybody to know of their relationship. In reality he hid Amedeo in plain website, by setting him up in his personal barbershop not removed from Houdini’s residence. Vacca could be the top barber. Not realizing something about being a barber, Houdini despatched Vacca to nighttime faculty to be taught the commerce. The 2 would meet nearly each day for a shave, and to debate their varied plans (4). And within the magic commerce magazines, Amadeo is also known as ‘The Magic Barber’. And it’s that little tip that makes me imagine that he presumably continued to carry out in some method or one other. In spite of everything, he was a headliner again in Chicago and areas of the US. So he might simply proceed his engagements with out ever exposing his relationship with Houdini. 

Now earlier than I get too far into this. Vacca was NOT Houdini’s secret barber. That was an alias. Amedeo Vacca did a number of issues for Houdini, but it surely was all behind the scenes. He labored as an advance man when Houdini was touring along with his present. Once more, a secret advance man. What’s humorous is, he was principally secret from Houdini’s personal employees. Hardeen didn’t learn about Vacca, Bess didn’t learn about Vacca. However typically theatre administration would know. And right here is why. 

Try this letter fromBF Keith Vaudeville Alternate-Edward Albee President, to Managers of the Alhambra Theatre and the Regent theaters in NYC.

“Pricey Sirs, This may introduce you to Mr. A Vacca, who's related with Mr. Harry Houdini’s act. We have now agreed with Mr. Houdini that Mr. Vacca is to be permitted to make sure experiments on the stage of both  of your theatre at night time, after the present is out. These experiments are crucial as a way to have new issues in Houdini’s act, and they're to be performed in absolute secrecy. Nobody must be in the home besides the watchman. They may want one small mild on the stage. When Mr. Vacca presents this letter to you, will you please prepare in order that he can acquire entry to the stage at night time, by making use of to the watchman. Very really yours….”(5)

Houdini apparently stated to Amedeo Vacca, “Now I've positioned myself, my whole life and salvation, in your palms.” This was in reference to their upcoming warfare on the mediums that may play out in Houdini’s 3-in-1 Reveals. 

Certainly one of Amedeo Vacca’s jobs was to set-up the theater with all of the wanted ‘secret’ issues to ensure that Houdini to do his present. One other one in every of his jobs was to assist Houdini along with his magic.

And he was tasked with creating and constructing objects for the present, principally within the spiritualist class. 


Amedeo went as far as to rewire Houdini’s home for sound. The unique work had been executed by one in every of Houdini’s nephews Louis C. Kraus, who labored for the Treasury Division. The thought was to wire the home with a form of dictaphone system so that individuals speaking in a single room may very well be heard in one other after which the knowledge may very well be translated to Houdini. Vacca had an uncanny creative potential and he rewired the home making the system even higher. Houdini used it, to not spy on mates, however as a part of an elaborate ESP/Thoughts Studying routine. It by no means did not astound the attendees. Quick ahead to present instances. The brand new homeowners of Houdini’s home lately had executed some drywall work and located that the home was full of these uncommon wires that that they had no concept what they had been for!!!! (6)

One particular focal point is that Houdini shared with Vacca his work on the Needle Trick.
And Vacca later confirmed Houdini a particular twist to the ending. Houdini beloved this twist and was going to incorporate it in his performances however he died earlier than he was in a position to take action. (7) After Houdini died and Amedeo Vacca went again on the street performing, he turned recognized for a time as The Needle King. 

Now, I imagine this subsequent factor goes to be a significant revelation, a minimum of I’ve not seen in print however in a single place. Amedeo Vacca created the underwater breath-taking coffin that Houdini used to nice have an effect on. Now, let’s again observe a bit. The precise coffin got here from the Boyertown Casket Firm. Within the e-book, Houdini, His Life and Artwork by Randi and Sugar, they are saying the casket was made in accordance with Jim Collins design. On the day that Houdini used it on the Shelton Resort Pool, Jim Collins was there in control of all proceedings. There's a {photograph} of the Shelton Pool Stunt with Amedeo Vacca within the background as nicely (see above), although technically he was undercover. So if I learn the paragraph accurately, Vacca created the stunt, however that doesn’t imply he constructed the prop, solely that the concept for the stunt was his concept. (8)

For these unfamiliar, it began when Hereward Carrington began touring with Rahman Bey, a so known as ‘Egyptian Fakir’.  Bey claimed amongst different issues he might survive for lengthy durations of time in an air tight coffin by going right into a cataleptic trance. This bought below Houdini’s pores and skin. And if the story is correct, Vacca got here to Houdini with the concept of the problem within the submergible coffin. On August fifth, 1926, after quite a lot of testing and rehearsal, and weight reduction on Houdini’s half, he ready to do the stunt on the Shelton Resort Swimming Pool in NYC. After being checked by a doctor, Houdini climbed contained in the steel coffin and was the lid was then sealed in place. It took 8 swimmers to face on high of the casket to ensure that it to be submerged. 

Houdini remained within the casket longer than Rahman Bey. He stayed submerged for greater than 1 hour and a half. He was 52 on the time. When he emerged from the casket he was exhausted and his very important indicators had been: nicely one supply says they had been fairly regular, and one other stated they had been all over. He most likely would have killed himself had he stayed below for much longer. However one level must be made, he didn’t want to enter any form of cataleptic trance as a way to full the take a look at, he simply used pure will energy, in addition to managed respiratory and laying completely nonetheless. 

It's inconceivable to say what different concepts, ideas, or props Amedeo Vacca had a hand in. I have to be trustworthy, once I started to take a look at a few of Vacca’s magic creations, one in every of my earliest ideas was the Vacca most likely constructed the Bell Field that each Margery and Houdini used, despite the fact that I’ve seen it attributed to Dr. Comstock, however the place he bought it nobody is aware of. (11) Additionally, there was multiple Bell field, so if Amedeo did not make the primary one, he might have made others….simply speculating on my half. It would clarify why there have been two completely different designs to the bell containers. And now I’m fairly sure he had a hand within the creation of the Margie Field.  It’s solely hypothesis on my half, however Vacca was working for Houdini throughout this time interval and one in every of his jobs was the creation of distinctive objects and secretive work. And at the moment, an important work Houdini was doing was the anti-spiritualist work. 

Amedeo Vacca created a number of magic, however a few of it concerned both electrical energy or electronics. That Shelton Pool Casket was not digital, but it surely did have a phone-line in-built that Houdini used to speak with Collins. That feels like Vacca. The bell containers are run off of batteries, once more, feels like Vacca. 

ONe be aware I discovered fascinating. Amedeo swore to Houdini to maintain the connection secret, but by 1930, if not sooner, the cat was out of the bag, so to talk. In Billboard Journal Nov 1930, there's an article about Vacca being a secret assistant to Houdini. Although I can’t assist however surprise if it wasn’t some theatre supervisor who first revealed this secret to the press. The theatre managers had been a number of the few that knew of the key working relationship between Vacca & Houdini. And but, the magic world appeared silent on the topic, possibly they missed the article in Billboard. As a result of it wasn’t till 1947 that the reality of Vacca’s relationship with Houdini was revealed, and even then, a lot was held again. 

After Houdini’s surprising loss of life in Oct 1926, Amedeo Vacca left the barbershop in pursuit of his magic profession. Over the course of his life he could be recognized by many names. Early on they known as him VACCA, later he was Amedeo. However he was often known as the Human Volcano due to a loopy smoke act he created. He would apparently eat cigarettes and matches and produce unbelievable quantities of smoke from his mouth. Ultimately he reproduced the objects! Sounds related in some methods to Tom Mullica’s act.

Here's a write-up from the MUM journal in 1953. “Amedeo Vacca has been touring in Europe. He had journeyed to England, France, Germany and Switzerland. Lately, he has been showing in night time golf equipment in Italy. In September, Compeer Vacca deliberate to be in Milan to look on tv. After this, Naples was subsequent on his itinerary, then England once more for TV and membership dates. IN every nation he attended as many magic capabilities as attainable and spent a lot time with the native magicians. He'll return to New York in December.”

One other charming creation of Vacca’s was the Acrobatic Matchbox. There's a fantastic story within the MUM that George Schindler shares about occurring an early morning TV present with Frank Garcia and Amedeo Vacca. They had been there to advertise a present for the general public and Frank did some superb card methods. George gave the main points of the present. And 80+ yr outdated Amedeo Vacca offered the Acrobatic Matchbox to a shocked TV crew. Later that morning, in accordance with George, the three of them had been going to breakfast within the metropolis when a lady got here as much as Amedeo saying “didn’t I see you on television with the matchbox” and she or he was so excited to fulfill a ‘actual superstar’, lol. She paid no consideration to both Frank or George. 


Amadeo carried out in 23 international locations and was energetic in magic for 65 years. He headlined in each the usa and in European international locations as nicely. He even carried out on the ill-fated Andrea Doria Cruise Liner. He by no means appeared to unfastened his potential to carry out even into his 80s. Certainly one of his final gigs was a magic lecture at Al’s Magic Store in Washington D.C.. George Schindler drove him right down to DC to do the lecture. Although Al’s was my go to magic store for years, this lecture was earlier than my time. 

I used to be lucky sufficient to get a primary hand account of Amedeo Vacca from somebody who was very near him in his final years, Ron from Ronjo.com. Ron was only a teen ager when he first met Amedeo. It was at a Tannen’s Jubilee and a few magician had simply carelessly ran into Amedeo and it brought on him to drop his can. Younger Ron, then 14 I imagine, picked it up and gave it again to the elder gentleman. And that was it. The 2 bonded throughout the course of this conference and have become quick mates. 

Ron informed me that as an individual Amedeo was extraordinarily type, extraordinarily beneficiant and was an exquisite storyteller. He informed me Amedeo was in Ripliys Consider it or Not for his Human Volcano routine & additionally for his Swallowing Needle routine. Amedeo was an avid inventor of methods, in addition to gimmicks. He created a stomach change and foot change earlier than anybody. He created hand flashers, typically with the only of provides. Ron carries a few Amedeo’s objects as we speak in his store. He was given permission by Amedeo to proceed to construct and promote them. Gadgets akin to Fortunate Lite & Sneaky Snake. The previous, is a wierd monte form of impact executed with a small black field that has a pair switches on it. Completely diabolical. 

I had requested Ron about what sort of props Amedeo made for Houdini and he stated seance and electrical. Once more, that makes me consider the Bell Packing containers, despite the fact that they're attributed to another person. 

There was one factor Ron stated about Amedeo that actually made me snort and likewise made me admire the person much more. He stated, “Amedeo hated card methods! Wow. Such a artistic and creative man and he prevented card methods, thats unbelievable. 

Within the Seventies Frank Garcia and George Schindler met with Amedeo on a e-book on his life and magic to be known as Amedeo's Continental Magic. They met quite a few instances at his residence, placing the textual content collectively. I ought to point out, that Frank and George had written plenty of books, Million Greenback Card Secrets and techniques, Tremendous Delicate Card Miracles , and In a Nutshell, and there was one factor that made every of these books distinctive. Each had a recipe on the finish of the e-book. Sure, a meals recipe: there was a Hen dish, a Meatloaf Dish, and a Baklava dish. When the manuscript for Amedeo’s e-book was executed, they confirmed it to him and he hated teh e-book. Why? “It has no recipe!!!!” lol. In order that they included a recipe by Amedeo!  (9) and by the way in which, younger Ron was there too.

Ron and Amedeo spent a number of time collectively, sharing magic, constructing props, having fun with every others firm. They'd a Grandfather / grandson relationship. There is just one remorse that Ron has and that's he was alleged to inherit Amedeo’s scrapbook after he handed. However the e-book was apparently given to Invoice White from Queens by Amedeo’s spouse. 

Amedeo Vacca, a person who began out in humble beginnings, labored his method as much as headliner in Chicago, went to work for the nice Houdini in a particularly undercover vogue, then returned to magic and toured the world, performing for Kings and Queens, and enjoying all the perfect theaters and resort venues throughout the Globe along with his personal distinctive model of magic. He was named Magician of the Yr by the SAM in 1972. Whenever you discuss to people who knew him, they mild up when speaking about him. They had been blessed folks to have recognized him. 

There's a video on-line of Tony Spina discussing Amadeo Vacca. He says that at one time, Amedeo manufactured magic results for Lou Tannen. And by the way in which, Amedeo additionally made stuff for Max Holden's Store as nicely.  He mentions that Amedeo labored as Houdini's ‘entrance runner’. He additionally mentions that Amedeo would cover secret issues within the theater like keys and picks. And that he could have had one thing to do with Houdini's Jail Escapes. I do not suppose that half is appropriate, I do not suppose Amedeo had something to do with Houdini's Jail escapes and so far as picks and keys, nicely, that one we simply do not know. I are inclined to lean in the direction of  it is much less doubtless he was hiding keys, as a result of the true emphasis of that present was the spirit stuff partially 3. Houdini's escapes partially 2 had been a mix of his best hits, and likewise routines that had been protected. However that is solely my opinion. Houdini could have executed some handcuff work as nicely. (10)

Amedeo Vacca handed away on Dec fifth 1974.

Meeting #125 in Suffolk Cty NEW YORK was renamed the Amedeo Vacca Meeting. This was executed by Ron, it was a suggestion by his mom. A becoming tribute to his pricey buddy.

Please go to ronjo.com to take a look at his website of magic. Ron nonetheless sells a number of of Amedeo's creations. Ron has one of many few brick and mortar buildings left within the US, and it will actually be superior of you would drop by or possibly order one thing from the store. 

Additionally, If anybody has any information as to the wereabouts of Amedeo Vacca’s scrapbook, might you contact me and let me know. I'll move the data on to Ron. We all know it was within the possession of a Invoice White from Queens. No concept if he's nonetheless alive or if he nonetheless has the scrapbook. So if you recognize, get in contact please.

(This final picture is from his lecture at Al's Magic Store. I borrowed from the Alcohenics Fb web page)

  1. From the Linking Ring Journal Vol 27 #10 pg 24 
  2. MUM, March 1971, Vol 60, pg 6

3.   Liking Ring Journal Vol 27 #10

4.  Houdini’s Closing Unbelievable Secret by Bob Loomis pg 119

5.  MUM, July 1982, pg 20

6. https://www.wildabouthoudini.com/2019/06/houdinis-secret-mind-reading-system.html

7.  The Magic Round March 2006, pg  76

8.  Likning Ring Journal Vol 27, #10 pg116

9.    MUM, Vol 98 Jan 2009, pg 92

10.  http://magictimes.com/tony-spina-reveals-amedeo-and-houdini-secrets/

11.  HOUDINI by Ken Silverman, web page 326

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