jasper-maskelyne

Jasper Maskelyne: Gentleman, Soldier, Magician

Jasper Maskelyne was one of an established family of stage magicians.

In January 1941, General Archibald Wavell created A Force for subterfuge and counterintelligence. Maskelyne was assigned to serve in it and gathered a group of 14 assistants, including an architect, art restorer, carpenter, chemist, electrical engineer, electrician, painter, and stage-set builder. It was nicknamed the Magic Gang.


The Magic Gang built a number of illusions. They used painted canvas and plywood to make jeeps look like tanks — with fake tank tracks — and tanks look like trucks. They created illusions of armies and battleships.


His largest illusion was to conceal Alexandria and the Suez Canal to misdirect German bombers. He built a mockup of the night-lights of Alexandria in a bay three miles away with fake buildings, lighthouse, and anti-aircraft batteries. To mask the Suez Canal he built a revolving cone of mirrors that created a wheel of spinning light nine miles wide, meant to dazzle and disorient enemy pilots so that their bombs would fall off-target.

He died in 1973 after having moved to Kenya.


My interest in Jasper comes on the heels of learning about HBO’s new series, Hobgoblin.

The potential series centers on a group of magicians and con men who use their skills at deception to battle Hitler and his forces during World War II.

The classic story of magicians fighting nazis. I’m guessing this is somewhat inspired by Jasper. 

Supposedly, this show is to be written by Michael Chabon and directed by Darren Aronofsky.

I hope this sees the light of day. 


[Jasper Maskelyne’s] largest trick was to conceal Alexandria and the Suez Canal. He built a mockup of the night-lights of Alexandria in a bay three miles away with fake buildings, lighthouse, and anti-aircraft batteries. To mask the Suez Canal he built a revolving cone of mirrors that created a wheel of spinning light nine miles wide, meant to dazzle and disorient enemy pilots so that their bombs would fall off-target. (source)

If this Magic Gang TV show gets made, they had damn well better stay on the air until they can show this, because I will have a nosebleed, grab the nearest person, and scream.

HOW A MAGICIAN MADE A HARBOR VANISH..

Jasper Maskelyne was, depending on who you ask, integral to the war effort or marginally successful at best.

Born into a family of established stage magicians in 1902, Jasper Maskelyne followed in his family’s footsteps, carving out a fruitful career as a stage magician. Prior to World War II, Maskelyne was performing in London. One of his most famous tricks—“swallowing” a handful of razor blades without ill effect—had the crowds flocking to watch his act. When not swallowing sharp objects, he was also skilled in a range of tricks from sleight of hand, card and rope tricks, as well as supposed “telepathy”.

When the war broke out, which surely brought down Maskelyne’s ticket sales, he began to wonder how to best utilize his considerable magical talents. Well, the front lines were not the best stage for picking pockets or chomping shaving implements, so Maskelyne decided the camouflage unit may have a place for him. Read more of this interesting article at:

https://wargaming.com/en/articles/blog/insights/jasper_maskelyne/

Married writers Ayelet Waldman (Love & Other Impossible Pursuits) and Michael Chabon (The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, Wonderboys) have just pitched a new drama series to HBO in which a group of con men and magicians battle Hitler. Yes. You read that right. Magicians vs Hitler. HBO has greenlit the series, titled Hobgoblin, which is stated to be in ‘early production’. 

Fun fact: Jasper Maskelyne was a British stage magician who did tons of work for British secret intelligence during WWII. I’m seeing a huuuuge connection to Kavalier and Clay, everybody.

Image source, text source

Watch on esotericcoteries.tumblr.com

“Pathetone now has pleasure in presenting. The Famous Illusionist. Jasper Maskelyne in one of his mystifying specialities”. [x]

I think Tumblr would like Jasper Maskelyne. He was basically an enormous troll.

Unfortunately all the information I know about him is some huge academic book that we had to get on inter-library loan from Iowa or something, a video-taped documentary series I watched incessantly when I was twelve, and Churchill’s Wizards, my copy of which I cannot find.

TO THE INTERNET!