Jack Gwynne’s Magic Carpet!
From Abbott’s TOPS Magazine, October 1963: (Editor’s note: This story took place in Calcutta, India during World War II. Jack Gwynne, a prominent member of the U.S.O., was flying around the world on his “Magic Carpet”. Jack and Eddie Joseph had been friends for over twenty years but had never met; it took a war to bring them together. Eddie Joseph who was then living in Calcutta wrote this story at that time.)
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“On a Saturday afternoon while I was admiring a picture of Jack, Ann and Bud Gwynne in a magic magazine, a mysterious American suddenly appeared on my threshold … how could he appear … to use a conjuring term … at the “psychological moment”? It seemed as if he had stepped right out of the magazine. This, indeed, was magic of the highest caliber. Jack Gwinne was at my threshold. Everything comes to him who waits. To me the waiting brought its reward. While the two of us were engaged in giving vent to our long nourished desires, minutes fleeted like seconds and hours like minutes.
It soon got time for Jack’s first performance in Calcutta. As his special guest I enjoyed every second of this 90-minute fast-moving show. Jack proved that a magician doesn’t have to carry a wagonload of stuff to create a furor. He not only lived up to his status of a front-line performer but dominated the entire production besides.
His captivating smile, his elegant stage debonairness and his graceful manipulative abilities stamped each of his offering with a 24-caret Jack Gwynne “Hall-mark”.
But … Jack landed his “Magic Carpet” on Indian soil not only to bring enjoyment to audiences. He had another important mission to fulfill. He came her to investigate the mysticism of this wonderland.
Before bringing his “Magic Carpet” to rest in this large city, Jack visited many remote points in the country to contact Specialists. At Allahabad, for instance, he encountered an aged “Jadoowala” and the last keeper of the genuine Indian Levitation secret. Jack is a far-sighted performer. He bought the secret outright. I was given privilege of witnessing it in partial operation. Jack is taking it to the States and when he chooses to put it on there, you … too … will agree you have not witnessed its parallel.
Then … from Benares, the holy city of India, Jack acquired the only true secret of the famous Hindu Rice Bowl suspension. So confident Jack is of this late acquirement, that he offers an unconditional reward of 1,000 dollars to any person who could prove that he has recourse to any hidden connection, mechanical or otherwise. He works it right under one’s nose.
JACK ORGANIZES INDIAN MAGIC CONVENTION
During his stay in India, Jack broke magical traditions. He actually organized a “Jadoowala” convention for the first time in Indian Magical History. In accomplishing this, he had done what no other visiting magician had attempted. The rounding up of over a hundred “Jadoowalas” (magicians) was unheard of. When it was suggested to me, I ridiculed the idea. Jack wanted a real Indian Magic Convention … and like all Americans he wanted it “Juldi” (quick). Engaging messengers and drumbeaters, he sent them in different directions. On the fourth day, at the quite village some miles outside the city, what appeared at first a preposterous undertaking, took its shape.
Before the convention opened, Jack said through interpreters how glad he was to be with them. For years, he continued, he had been reading and hearing of them and always nurtured the burning desire to meet them. He then explained, he was introducing an American Magic custom into India. He said for the first time he was bringing to the East the custom of the West. At a given signal from Jack the trumpeter blew his horn. The convention was under way.
The Magicians and Snake Charmers assembled on the ground in different groups, each with his bag of tricks laid out in front of him. It was a sight worth seeing and something not easily dismissed from the mind. Over a hundred “Jadoowalas” entertaining each other.
Jack visited each group in turn. Squatting on the ground in real Indian fashion he sprung a surprise for each group. The first group he approached was busy looking at Karim Bux, a 70-year-old performer of repute, doing the famous Indian Rupee trick. Specks of dust were being gathered from the ground and converted into real hard rupees. Jack borrowed some of the dust and rubbed it between his hands. When he opened his digits slowly, instead of the expected rupee, all were surprised to see a glittering “Gold-Mohur”. “That’s for you.” Said Jack, tossing out the precious yellow metal.
When Jack approached another group the celebrated Indian dove basket trick was in progress. After it was concluded Jack remarked “This must be a wonderful basket.” Repeating the exact moves of the “Jadoowala” Jack later lifted the cover and who should pop out but Elmer … his pet Rooster. Jack brought Elmer all the way from the States. A real Cosmopolitan blend. An American Rooster from an Indian Basket. “Where did you hide that Rooster?” one of the Jadoowala enquired, and Jack retorted, “In my match pocket.”
Thus Jack resumed his round from group to group. In each group he did something not only to the astonishment of those watching but to the delight of all present. It was a rare sight indeed to watch this stalwart figure doing the familiar tricks in an unfamiliar manner.
At another group the magicians drooped a number of rupees inside a bamboo container and asked Jack to uncover it. All expected to see the usual live reptile shoot out of it. Instead … a harmless little bird came chirping out.
After completing his round Jack took his position right in the center of the field and asked for some rice and a Lota. These were easily procured and Jack proceeded to suspend that Lota of rice and walked with it right in front of him around the field. It was then announced that anyone was at liberty to grab that Lota at any stage in the demonstration and should anyone discover any hidden connection, Jack was willing to forfeit 1,000 dollars.
Borrowing a “pugree” (turban) from the oldest Jadoowala, from behind it, Jack produced a real live chicken. That … Jack added with a smile … is “Elmer, the Great.”
GWYNNE OFFERS 15.000 RUPEES
Before the convention finally closed, Jack repeated in person his press offer of Rs. 15,000 to anyone who could perform the Indian Rope trick. This was the first occasion anyone made the offer in the presence of over a hundred Jadoowalas. Those who wished to accept the challenge were asked to record their names. The time limit fixed by Jack is limitless and who knows, we may yet see the Indian Rope Trick in the near future. A few told Jack that this trick was definitely performed and many came forward to testify this statement. Jack persisted in his offer. He said, “If I’m going to lose this money it’s worth it. I will gladly pay 25,000 rupees to see the Indian Rope Trick.”
THE WHITE SNAKE CHARMER HOLDS UP TRAFFIC
During Jack’s stay in this city of Palaces, he stirred a great deal of curiosity. It was not an unfamiliar sight to see him in crowded places with a deadly looking cobra entwined around him. On one occasion at a busy crossing he encountered half a dozen snake charmers. Getting them to stop, Jack called for the largest Cobra. Holding the reptile container in his left hand he aroused it from slumber. The cobra did not take long to shoot straight on to Jack’s shoulder. The owner of the reptile stood aghast. He knew that he was the only one to exercise any power over it. He contemplated certain disaster. Slowly but surely the cobra started to wind itself around Jack’s torso … With this formidable dressing he paraded the busy thoroughfare with hundreds following him. Hundreds from housetops were gazing on this unusual spectacle. A White Snake Charmer leading a procession.
JACK GWYNNE TURNS DOWN RECORD OFFER
It is needless to mention that the outcome of Jacks multifarious activities resulted in several offers of engagement. One of these surpassed anything yet paid to any visiting magician. Jack turned them all down. He said, “I am here to entertain the boys, and when I am not entertaining I am busy investigating the mysticism of this wonderland.”
Jack promised to return, when this conflict is over, with a bigger and greater magic show.
And when that happens … at least Jack and Ann can be sure of one thing … a rousing welcome.”
Jack Gwynne (1895–1969) appeared at Abbott’s Get Together in 1961, 1962, 1965, and 1969.