Barton Turner was an escapeologist and magician known as "The Great Deville".
Born Henry Barton Edwards, his mother remarried when he was age 3, and his surname was changed to Turner. Throughout his life, he referred to himself as "Barton Turner" in personal life.
His show business life started as a 22-year-old escape artist billing himself as "Leo Houdeen", a name he was quickly persuaded to change.
As "Henri Deville", he continued to promote himself as a Houdini-like escape artist, with publicity photos that were similar to Houdini's.
Like Houdini, he was also an athlete, a skill that helped him in his escape performances.
In 1915, he joined the military service for Great Britain, and served into 1919. When he was discharged, he went back into show business. Val Walker, another English escape artist, was having a successful career as "The Wizard of the Navy", so Turner billed himself as "The Great Deville, Wizard of the Army".
Assisted by his sister-in-law, Pat Parker (who performed as "Mdlle. Victoire), his show was a combination of illusions and escapes. Perhaps the most spectacular routine was his "Electrocution Chair Escape", in which he escaped from inside a tank of water while seated in an electric chair, surrounded by an electrified cage.
From the mid-1930's until his retirement in the 1960's, Turner vascillated between show business and "regular" jobs. At times, he was an insurance salesman and an aircraft mechanic. He manufactured and sold magic tricks and books from his home. But he always seemed to come back to the magical stage.
During the last years of his performing career, he was a favorite feature at Manchester's Belle View Amusement Park, giving thousands of people cherished memories of "the magician I saw when I was a child".
Credit: This biography originated on MagicTricks.com. Please credit this source if you use this information.
Credit: The photos used here are courtesy of Romiley Arts Federation.