The Fakir of Oolu: Illusionist

Alfred Silvester (1831 – 1886) was a magician who first appeared in London in the 1860s with Pepper’s Ghost, a transparent ghostly illusion created by reflecting an image onto a sheet of glass. A special effect, similar to the holograph, it’s still used today in amusement rides such as Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion. Silvester ran into... Continue Reading →

Trapeze: A Visual Spectacle?

  Watching my daughter’s video of the recent P!nk concert in Auckland, the breath-taking thrill for both performer and audience of P!nk soaring at speed above the crowd was obvious. Something that’s easier to capture on film than in words, but following on from my previous post about 19th-century aerialists here are some books that... Continue Reading →

Vade Mecum: 19th-century tourism

Before Lonely Planet and Trip Advisor, travellers in the 19th century would use a handbook or guide titled Vade Mecum (translation from Latin = go with me). For example, The New Zealand tourists' vade mecum: being a handbook to the services of the Union Steam Ship Company of New Zealand Limited (4th edition, 1891) is... Continue Reading →

Six Books about Ballooning

While I was writing and researching The Aerial Queen I read quite a few books about ballooning because I reasoned that if I read enough books, then there was no need to take an actual balloon flight was there? Here are some of my favourites: Enduring Love (Ian McEwen): Who can forget the horror of... Continue Reading →

Leila Adair at Palmerston North

Within minutes the balloon started to collapse. Frank hastily emptied it, and Lillian returned to her dressing room. In no time at all Frank was pounding on the door, ‘Leila, they’ve stopped the cab and locked the gates. The crowd is hooting.’ ‘Didn’t you tell them we needed more chemicals?’ ‘Dunk says the shops will... Continue Reading →

Social Issues of the 1890s: Larrikins

Her debut, if measured by the reaction of the larrikins up in the gallery, was a huge success. They cheered, stamped their boot heels on the floor, catcalled over the heads of the more respectable crowd below, and made some rather indecent remarks. Lillian, her cheeks flushed by her exertions and with the same unreal... Continue Reading →

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