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Famous Magic Feuds

Professional Rivalries and Clashes

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The world of magic has its share of magicians who were at odds with each other. Whether it was professional rivalry or personal conflicts, these magicians certainly were passionate!

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The Arguments Over the Sawing a Girl in Half Illusion

In 1921, magicians Horace Goldin and P.T. Selbit were locked in a legal battle over who owned the rights to perform the Sawing a Girl in Half illusion. Though each magician performed a different version of the trick, both were determined to prevent the other from using such a wildly successful illusion.

In Selbit's version, the girl was completely enclosed inside the box, which was cut into two parts. Goldin's version let the audience see the girl's head and feet, which protruded from the box. (This is the version that comes to mind with modern audiences).

Legal wrangling between the two magicians went on for several years, but it really made no difference. By late 1921, dozens of magicians were performing their own versions of the trick. In fact, Thayer Manufacturing Co. was marketing the blueprints for its version of the Sawing illusion.

Ironically, in 1921, Alexander printed these blueprints in his book, The Life and Mysteries of the Celebrated Dr. Q, making for a lively feud between Floyd Thayer and Alexander.

In mid-1921, Charles Carter approached Horace Goldin and offered him $500 for the right to perform the illusion in the Carter show. Goldin refused; Carter put it in his show anyway. Later, in a letter to magician Will Goldston, Goldin said that "Carter offered to buy the Sawing in Half illusion from me. When I refused to sell it, he pinched it".