Eric C. Lewis: Personal Magic

Jf16 coverEric Lewis was a performer, a creator, an author, an artist, and a skilled craftsman. His first book, Well I Never, was published in 1937; his last book, The Genius of Robert Harbin, was published in 1997. In between came the Studies in Mystery series, the Miracle series (A Choice of Miracles, A Continuation of Miracles, The Crowning Miracles, and Martin’s Miracles), and a cornucopia of marketed effects and contributions to magic magazines.

Eric was born in 1908 in Northampton, a city about seventy miles northwest of London. His interest in magic was sparked by a performer in a Wild West Show who did some simple magic tricks along with rope spinning and whip snapping. His first magic book was Simple Tricks and How to Do Them by Will Goldston, part of the Pearson’s “Yellow Peril” series. At the time, these books sold for one or two shillings apiece. Eric saved for weeks to purchase the book; his first act consisted of tricks from the book.

Of those early days, Eric recalls, “I had little money in those days, and what bit I could scrape together went to pay admission to the wonderful, old New Theatre whenever a magician appeared, which was very frequently in those days. Here I saw the greats: Lafayette, Chung Ling Soo, Carlton, Carmo, Horace Goldin, Chris Charlton, Gus Fowler, David Devant, Chefalo, and dozens of lesser lights. All passed through this theater and sent me scampering home to try to work out how they did their wonders. I had no other way of finding out – no experienced magic friends, no magicians’ club. And so I began to invent my own tricks. Daydreaming, I would visualize some marvelous trick, and then set to work to find a way of doing it. There were impossible pipe-dreams galore, but every now and again something reasonably useful would emerge.” Eric had his first magic effect published in the March-May 1931 issue of Magic Wand.

In 1945, after his war responsibilities were finished, Eric founded the magic manufacturing company Magikraft. The company employed four people: Eric, Reg Gayton (who was an amateur magician and an experienced engineer), a stenographer, and a young man who handled odd jobs. The company manufactured only new effects, which was difficult in post-war England because materials were in short supply. Eric had to scour the country for scrap plywood.


Eric closed down the Magikraft business in 1950 and became a professional performer. He created a comedy-magic stage character called “The Great Zonzo” (zonzo is a South American slang term describing a person who is a “nut”). He also did club dates and children’s parties as his normal persona. His performing career only lasted four years; the decline of music halls made it difficult to find work. He restarted Magikraft Studios, but without the magic. Magikraft Display Studios utilized Eric’s skill as an artist, designer, and craftsman; the company designed and built display units and offered screen printing.

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