“It would be lovely if a magician was fooled as well”*…
… taking place via the medium of a series of letters between W.F.P (the author William Frederick Pinchbeck) and a mysterious A.B., the recipient of the former’s knowledge. The epistolary unveiling begins with arguably the most enigmatic of the tricks listed, that of the “Learned Pig”, or as the excellent frontispiece refers to it “The Pig of Knowledge”. In this trick, which took London by storm in the 1780s, a pig is taught to respond to commands in such a way that it appears to be able to answer questions through picking up cards in its mouth. Several years before the publication of his Expositor, Pinchbeck had himself toured his own “Pig of Knowledge” to all the major towns of the U.S. Union including, so he claims, once introducing the pig to President John Adams to “universal applause”. In addition to the pig trick, as the brilliantly lengthy title of the book declares, other tricks unravelled by Pinchbeck in subsequent letters include “invisible lady and acoustic temple”, “penetrating spy glasses” and the rather marvelous sounding “philosophical swan.”
* Ricky Jay
As we say “shazam,” we might recall that it was on this date in 1972 that John Wojtowicz attempted (with Salvatore Naturale and Robert Westenberg) to rob a Brooklyn branch of the Chase Manhattan Bank. The heist, meant to pay for Wojtowicz’s lover’s (Ernest Aron’s) sex reassignment surgery, went sideways; Wojtowicz and Naturale ended up holding seven bank employees hostage for 14 hours (Westenberg had fled before police swarmed). Wolfowicz was arrested; Naturale, killed. The episode was the basis of Sidney Lumet’s Dog Day Afternoon (for which screenwriter Frank Pierson won an Oscar), in which Wolfowicz was played by Al Pacino. (The real) Wolfowicz made $7,500 selling the movie rights to the story and 1% of its net profit– which he used to finance Aron’s surgery.