Have you ever wondered what treasures from the world of Doug Henning are hiding out in the unlikeliest of places?
If so, then the following was sent to me by John Harrison, author of the excellent 2009 biography “Spellbound: The Wonder Filled Life of Doug Henning.”
Take it away John!
I have always been fascinated by stories of the giant illusions from the Golden Age of Magic ending up in a barn or some other forgotten location, and not being able to imagine how these sacred old relics ended up abandoned.
Mike Caveney’s book on Carter the Great tells the intriguing story of how the props from Carter’s show were moved about after his death, and how Mike and Bill Smith ended up discovering and owning them. I’ve always wished that I could somehow make a similar discovery. A few weeks ago, I did.
Thom Rubino, my friend, and illusion-builder-to the-stars, was excited about a new illusion he had just finished and asked me to come by to see it in the shop behind his home. I pulled into his driveway, and walked to the front door. As I was about to ring the doorbell, I spotted something through the corner of my eye under a large tree in his front yard. The size and the shape of the object were incredibly familiar, but the color was wrong. I walked over to the object to get a better look, and it confirmed my suspicion. I was standing in the middle of the desert (we’re in Las Vegas), and staring at Doug Henning’s Things-That-Go-Bump-In-The-Night illusion.
It looked a little worn, it had been repainted, and there was a small hole cut in the front doors. But, I was certain I was right. When Thom came to the front door, he confirmed that it was, in fact, Doug’s illusion.
So how did this particular sacred relic end up as a desert lawn ornament? Thom told me the story: Siegfried & Roy purchased it from Doug privately when Doug sold off his props upon his retirement. They modified it by adding a hand hole in the front doors to suit their performance. It was used a few times, and then left to gather dust in S&R’s warehouse. It was loaned to Jarrrett & Raja for a single performance on one of the Masters of Illusion television shows.
Later, S&R were looking to clean out portions of their warehouse and, without further need for Doug’s Bump box, they relegated it to Thom, where it now stood in his front yard awaiting Thom’s gentle touch to freshen it up and gift it to a mutual friend in Vegas… You can see in the picture a set of interlocked rings, which are a part of another of Doug Henning’s illusions that were used in his seventh television special.
When I told Thom how exciting it was to happen upon this prop in the most unlikely of places, he said, “Then you really need to see this!” At which point he opened his garage, and tucked behind the cars and under a pile of typical garage “stuff” was the beautiful disk cutting in half from Doug’s seventh special. This was used to cut his assistant Nancy in half, with the assistance of actress Ann Jillian.
Thom came by this illusion several years earlier, also out of the S&R warehouse, and had recently reached out to John Gaughan, the original builder of the illusion, to let him know that he now owned it. Johnny gave Thom some inside tips on the illusion, and Thom has now taken on as a personal project the loving restoration of this illusion to its former glory.
So there you have it, two real-life anecdotes about how some of the most wonderful illusions performed by the most famous of magicians end up in the oddest places. It’s nice to know that these two props will end up in good homes.