This weirdo is the main character in the Masked Magician; a relatively short lived TV program that made a sensation by revealing the secrets behind the most popular magic tricks through history.
Grand illusions, sleight of hand, card tricks; nothing was sacred.
At the heart of it all was that
smarmy mysterious character pictured above who was violating his sacred oath to keep the secrets of magic.
The mask was to protect him from the wrath of magicians.
Imagine you saved money for months to finally buy a prop or an illusion for that one show you have this year. A couple weeks before some idiot on TV explains exactly how it works.
Now, when you show up, every 10 year old kid is pointing and telling his friends exactly what you're doing.
Not exactly the ideal situation.
And, at the time, magicians were understandably furious.
As with most things, however, there's a deeper level to the story that makes it more interesting.
Turns out, the masked magician truly loved magic. He loved it so much that he found a way to make money off of it (selling secrets to TV producers), while keeping the secrets safe (selling the wrong secrets to the TV producers).
Valentino (as his magician name was) came up with plausible explanations for how tricks were performed that a member of the audience would totally believe, but didn't actually explain the most popular real methods used by working professionals.
It was all a double con.
Sure, there were some real methods, but like any lie there has to be enough truth to make the rest believable.
Ultimately, The Masked Magician was able to get magic back in the limelight with the sensationalism of revealing secrets, when really the secrets on display were complete fabrications that worked as a smokescreen for the real methods.
The producers and the public at large were completely unaware of the grift, and were smug in their access to forbidden knowledge.
Unfortunately many in the magic community lacked the experience to appreciate that it was all a con; they were taken in, too, and they were the ones to take up pitchforks, too.
Such is the case with a sophisticated double con, there are rubes on every side.
THE SAME STORY WITH WORLD WIDE IMPACT
Strangely, this experience is not an isolated incident in time. There is another example of a long con like this and it involves Hitler.
There are plenty of articles and books written about the occult influence in the upper echelons of Nazi Germany, but few really understand how and why that came to be, nor the greater impact it had on how world events unfolded.
I am firmly convinced a mentalist helped create (and ultimately) destroy Hitler.
Enter Erik Jan Hanussen, an Austrian-born Mentalist who was, by the way, Jewish.
In the time between World War I and World War II he made a name for himself with a mind reading show performed in Berlin. He was incredibly famous, rubbed elbows with the who's who of the German military and industry, and (as is the case with most performers) was friendly with anyone and everyone who held power.
Not only did Hanussen know Hitler, Hanussen taught Hitler about showmanship and dramatic presentation.
Everything Hanussen had learned in front of thousands of audiences was a gold mine for Hitler. The energy, the gestures, the passion?
All taught to Hitler by a Jewish nightclub act.
Now, while this might seem like Hanussen was acting against his own self interests, remember the Masked Magician. There's more going on than what you can see at face value.
Hanussen was a very effective Mentalist. He wasn't just known for telling fortunes (which he did). He was also famous for predicting the future.
One of the most well known instances was predicting the outcome of a race in 1932. Hanussen was hanging out with the drivers who would be competing the next day, and after enough coaxing from everyone, he was persuaded to write down his intuition for who would win. Hanussen scribbled something on a slip of paper, sealed it in an envelope, and that envelope was given to a trusted third party with instructions to keep it safe until after the race.
The next day, during the race, there was a terrible accident. The crowd favorite to win was killed.
Eventually the envelope is opened and everyone could see that Hanussen had written "One of us at this table will win tomorrow, another will die."
It was an abosolute sensation. Mentalist predicts the death of a celebrity!
This is career-making publicity, no doubt. Ignore the macabre nature of benefitting from the death of someone you were friendly with…
This "prediction in an envelope to be revealed later" act is a classic in the Mentalism world known as a Headline Prediction.
I have used it to great success, myself, over the years to get meetings with executives and important contacts.
I'll mail a letter to my client weeks before the show, and the contents describe events that would be impossible to know beforehand.
It's a very good trick, but a trick none the less.
So you can see why Hanussen would be a "person of interest" to anyone interested in power.
With these believable demonstrations, it's perfectly reasonable for someone like Hitler to believe the hype.
You can almost hear him thinking, "If Hanussen knew about the death of Lobkowicz the driver, he surely knows other things about the future."
This is quite possibly the seed of belief planted in the mind of Hitler for his belief in the Occult.
Over the next couple years Hanussen teaches Hitler the secrets of effective communication, and Hanussen continues his Mentalism tricks.
A mere 5 years later, however, the thing that made Hanussen a valued advisor became the reason he was treated like a threat.
Hanussen predicted the Reichstag fire, which is what Hitler used to lock in his power as the Chancellor Germany.
The fact that Hanussen (apparently) knew about the fire before it happened meant that he knew too much, and as a consequence he was assassinated in a field outside Berlin.
I don't believe that's the end of the story for Hanussen, however.
I think that Hanussen instilled an unshakeable belief in the power of the occult in Hitler with Mentalism tricks .
This belief became a reliance on occult advisors throughout World War II, and ultimately led to strategic and tactical mistakes that continued to undermine Hitler's effectiveness.
In this way, I like to think Hanussen had his revenge.
But is it enough to balance out what kind of impact Hanussen had on the world for teaching Hitler how to be such a powerful public speaker?
It might be too little, much too late.
It is also a similar story for the Masked Magician.
When Valentino ran out of false explanations, and refused to continue the series, the executives simply fired him and hired magic consultants who didn't have the same moral compass.
Later seasons actually do reveal the real deal.
Anyone can wear the mask, it turns out.
Such is the story when it comes to power.