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Chevalier Gustav Agoston

Ghost Shows, Riverboats and Starvation

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Chevalier Gustav Agoston
  • 1821-1876
  • Real Name: Carl August Bohm
  • Birthday: November 5
  • Birthplace: Germany
  • Buried: ?

Chevalier Gustav Agoston was imaginative, creative and rather high-strung. He was a performer, a magic inventor, and a producer of stage spectaculars, with a career that spanned the greatest heights and the lowest depths.

As an inventor, his greatest illusion was the Flying Bird Cage, a long round cage which vanished from his bare hand.

As a performer, he was always looking for the next great mystery. Like many magicians, he exploited the public's interest in spiritualism, and put together a number of breathtakingly convincing "spook shows" that combined parlor magic with the materialization of ghostly figures.

It was his idea of making a floating magic show that was his greatest genius, and his financial ruin. During the 1860's, Agoston and his troupe travelled up and down the Rhine River on a barge converted into a floating theater. Patrons could board the vessel and enjoy an evening's performance of Agoston's signature blend of magic and ghostly mystery. Ever enthusiastic, Agoston equipped the vessel with extravagant decorations and amenities. Unfortunately, this venture failed to produce a profit, and drained Agoston's finances completely.

Not one to give up easily, Agoston rallied the necessary backing to put together a tour of Swiss theaters. His wife and part of his troupe, however, did not share his expectation of success, and left him. Unfortunately, the theater tour was not successful, either.

Emotionally defeated, he sold the theater as well as all of his magic props and retired to a small flat in Berlin, alone, where he died of self-neglect and starvation in 1876.

After his death, his wife, Berta Bohm, and his son, Willy Bohm, continued to perform, though not as a team. Berta performed as an Oriental male character, and Willy was a magical clown.


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