Burling Hull Svengali Creator. Are you of the opinion that greatness is hereditary? If yes then it is better to be prepared for the counter-argument that some of the greatest names who have traveled the earth and left an indelible imprint have had humble beginnings. Greatness in such human beings is also attributed to their strength of character that enabled them to break away the shackles of their birth and rise above the mediocrity to scale great heights. One such name is that of Burling Hull and it was in the field of magic that he chose to exercise his ingenuity and became a household name in the process.
Born in a photoengraver’s family in New York on 9th September, 1889, Hull’s tryst with magic occurred when he was just a four-year-old and the impact was so strong that it sealed his fate as one of the most pioneering magicians of all times. Having been engaged in relentless experimentation since a tender age of four years, creating new inventions formed an integral part of his life as a youth and it was but natural for him to choose to take up magic as a profession. Thus, his first milestone as a professional magician also occurred at a rather young age namely 20 years and was in form of a first copyright ownership for a card trick filed and approved in 1909.
As he grew older, he cultivated a number of pseudonyms for himself, some of the most interesting aliases being ‘Volta’, ‘White Wizard’ and Gideon Dayn’ but there was one name that was coined for him by his admirer and that was ‘Edison of magic’. Amongst these, the name ‘Gideon Dayn’ had been concocted to act as a cover-up to expose and criticize a fellow mentalist named Robert Nelson whom Hull regarded as being unethical and dishonest. Likewise, as ‘White Wizard’, Hull used to perform magic shows in white attire wherein objects disappeared within his costume only to reappear later in higher numbers. He also interacted with some of the greatest magicians of his era namely Houdini, Dunninger and Blackstone Senior and dedicated majority of his time to pushing the limits of magic and writing books on it.
One of his inventions that particularly captured the spectators’ attention was a special deck of cards which appeared to be normal at first glance but was revealed as having been conspired on closer examination. Given its deceptive nature, Hull christened his deck as Svengali in the memory of a fictitious character bearing the same name who was evil, manipulative and relished exercising control over talented creative artists like actors or singers. Being the first of its kind, the Burling Hull Svengali deck, as it is popularly known, instantly captured everyone’s imagination and has endured till this day without any signs of fading into oblivion. True to its namesake, it is far from what it appears to be and hence should never be subjected to audience’s scrutiny.
Mentalism, blade swallowing, sightless vision and silk magic were some of the other areas of magic that Hull specialized in and wrote comprehensive books on. But an edict that he strictly adhered to not only during his career but also till his dying day was that the secret of magic should never be revealed to the audience. In his opinion, it is enigma that formed the core of any magical performance and hence was an element that needed to be preserved and closely guarded.
After having lost his wife, Burling Hull settled in DeLand and lived at ‘Franklin House’ wherein he continued to write books till he eventually lost his eyesight. But even this handicap failed to dampen his enthusiasm and anyone who intercepted him during his stead-paced walks with a whit cane always got the reply that there was yet another book on magic that was in making. He finally departed from this world in 1982 aged 93 and left behind a legacy that has earned him the honor of being regarded as one of the most inventive magicians of all times.
Burling Hull Svengali Creator will always be in a magicians forte for years to come