82 years since Annemann

jinx 1
A harder look on his passing

This is not an easy article for me to write and I hope neither for you to read. My intention is far from sensationalism or morbidness. I just think that many times we are a bit simplistic when explaining what makes a fellow magician take the “easy” way out. Mental health being one of the big diseases of our time deserves a profound analysis in our field of “entertainers”.

The story surrounding Theodore Annemann’s tragic end is often attributed to his stage fright, but a closer look reveals a broader narrative of challenges that led to this unfortunate event.

Many people who knew him manifested that he was a one-on-one person. In such meetings he could be himself. But in larger groups he would close off. Or he would start doing trick after trick. This reveals a level of social anxiety, and his friends stated that he usually looked worried.

Annemann was not in his best state during his last times; his demise marked the culmination of a prolonged period of decline. Alcohol abuse, legal entanglements, and financial issues were significant contributors. Also there were the constant fights with his wife, Jeannette, who, unfortunately, was also tied to the bottle.

It is usually stated that he committed suicide by inhaling gas. The image is way grimmer than we typically picture.
I reproduce here Jeannette’s statement just to understand that it was a very determined action, not just a spur of the moment. “
I found him on the couch with a bag over his head and a pipe from the gas stove under the bag.

This tragic episode unveils a more complex story than just stage fright. Annemann’s life was marked by a series of hardships that eventually took a toll on his well-being. By understanding the multifaceted nature of his struggles, we can appreciate the depth of the challenges he faced and the importance of compassion when discussing mental health issues within the magic community.
Sometimes behind the cheerful tricks of our peers hides a pain that maybe we should pay closer attention to.

A legend is born… or created

Nobody in his right mind would deny that Annemann is the godfather of modern mentalism.
Well, or what it was modern in the 1920’s… It is a different topic of discussion the fact that one century after his prime we are still performing the same tricks with the same techniques for the same effects with very similar presentations.

His fascination was ignited at 10 when some friends showed him the Ball and Vase trick from a Mysto Magic Box. His obsession with magic interfered with his studies to the extent that his mother Flavilla burnt his magic materials more than once. This beef was carried for many years. That is reflected on the letter that Theodore sent his mother, together with a bundle of the first 50 issues of The Jinx magazine:

Dear Mama;
When you look through these pages I hope you’ll remember when you burned my magic books in the furnace. That made me try to write one myself.
Have you got a match for this?
Theo.

His connections with big names, his myriad of performances for fellow magicians in the Magic clubs, the outstanding advertisements for his tricks, the books, the tricks, the brilliant methods, the 151 issues of the invaluable Jinx magazine… this alone places him as one of the greatest of our art.

But would his name, his legacy, and his legend have endured if it hadn’t been for external factors geared towards posthumous marketing?

Short after Ted’s death, Max Holden bought the rights of his publications for a moderate amount from Jeannette Annemann.
He then started to flood the magic magazines, his huge mailing list (5,300 magicians in 1942), his three magic shops (Boston, New York and Philadelphia) with advertisements of Annemann’s publications. Praising them as the best stuff ever to have happened.

Even barely three years after his passing, Holden released the goldmine ANNEMANN’S PRACTICAL MENTAL EFFECTS, later renamed by Dover as Annemann’s practical mental magic in 1983 (and somehow showing Dante’s portrait), one of the greatest bestsellers of all magic literature.
This book is just a compilation by Paul Crimmins of tricks from several different authors already published in the Jinx Magazine. A shorter book is easier to sell than a whole magazine collection. (It is nonetheless one of the best mentalism compilations ever).

The name was so hyped that many magicians started to publish their tricks like they were collaborations from the author and Annemann to increase their own reputation. Or even “this routine includes some tips that Annemann shared with me” kind of comments…

Theodore Annemann is indisputably one of the greatest minds of all time in magic. But, as so often happens with great geniuses, their success, their aura of eternity, and their post-mortem reputation were largely constructed by shrewd individuals who saw a goldmine in their legacy.

Fernando Figueras

Fernando Figueras

Campus Magico director

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