Harry Kellar was one of America’s greatest magicians. He was famous for his “Levitation of Princess Karnac” considered a “marvel of the 20th century.” According to his contemporaries, Kellar got to the top of our profession not because he was considered a great magical talent but due to his dogged resolve.
His tenaciousness appeared early. At 18 years old Harry arrived in South Bend, Indiana with his prop filled suitcase. There he met a man named Baily who offered to “manage” his budding career. Together they booked a hall and Harry packed the house. Unfortunately, before the end of final performance Baily skipped town with all of the receipts.
Penniless, Kellar boarded a freight train to Chicago. He arrived in the windy city on a cold and snowy evening. His plan was to make it make it to Waukegan where he would “pitch” the Phoenix Hall on giving him a short run. He boarded a Chicago and Northwestern train bound for Milwaukee, hoping that he could “work” the conductor for a free ride. The conductor wasn’t interested and kicked Kellar off the train right in front of The Rose Hill Cemetery just a bit north of Andersonville. Stranded, broke and cold, the ever determined Kellar trudged along the snowy tracks on foot for 40 miles to Waukegan.
Kellar recounts this story in his autobiography and notes that being dumped off right in front of the cemetery had a most depressing effect, but that he had no intention of laying his magical ambition in the grave just then. I visited Todd Karr in Los Angeles this past winter while I was performing at the Magic Castle in Hollywood. Todd took me down the street to the Angelus-Rosedale Cemetery where we paid our respects at Kellar’s grave.