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Tags Alexis Didier , clairvoyants , mediums

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Old 1st August 2017, 03:52 PM   #1
BillSkeptic
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Exclamation Alexis Didier French clairvoyant

Has anyone got any skeptical information on Alexis Didier?

He was alleged to have been one of the greatest clairvoyant's from France.
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Old 1st August 2017, 06:41 PM   #2
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Since clairvoyance probably isn't real, he probably was a conman.

ETA: That's usually as committed as I get, like "As the sun apparently came up every day for billions of years, it probably will tomorrow. It might not, but that's how I would bet."

Last edited by dropzone; 1st August 2017 at 06:46 PM.
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Old 2nd August 2017, 03:52 AM   #3
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...and he was active 150 years ago, plenty of time for his accomplishments to be properly "embellished".
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Old 2nd August 2017, 03:54 AM   #4
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Originally Posted by BillSkeptic View Post
Has anyone got any skeptical information on Alexis Didier?

He was alleged to have been one of the greatest clairvoyant's from France.
How about we do it the other way around: do you have any reason for us to accept his claims?
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Old 2nd August 2017, 07:56 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by BillSkeptic View Post
Has anyone got any skeptical information on Alexis Didier?

He was alleged to have been one of the greatest clairvoyant's from France.
I have never heard of this person before.

However, by using my quite normal powers and abilities I am convinced that Mr. Didier is no more clairvoyant than anyone else in the world.

I hope this helps.
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Old 2nd August 2017, 10:48 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by Crossbow View Post
I have never heard of this person before.

However, by using my quite normal powers and abilities I am convinced that Mr. Didier is no more clairvoyant than anyone else in the world.

I hope this helps.
This is not skepticism, what you are doing is anti-science.
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Old 2nd August 2017, 10:50 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by dropzone View Post
Since clairvoyance probably isn't real, he probably was a conman.

ETA: That's usually as committed as I get, like "As the sun apparently came up every day for billions of years, it probably will tomorrow. It might not, but that's how I would bet."
This is the sort of pseudo-skepticism that gives skepticism a bad name. None of you are interested in doing any real research. You just shout "conman".

You don't even know who he is, you didn't even bother to look.
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Old 2nd August 2017, 10:51 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by Argumemnon View Post
How about we do it the other way around: do you have any reason for us to accept his claims?
I have no idea. That is why I am asking. I am asking for help. Help with knowledge, not baseless accusations without even looking into the matter. I guess I will have to do my own research which I was planning on doing and am doing today. I was merely asking if anyone knew anything about Didier. All I know currently is that he was tested by several scientists in a number of experiments.

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Old 2nd August 2017, 10:52 AM   #9
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Originally Posted by BillSkeptic View Post
This is the sort of pseudo-skepticism that gives skepticism a bad name. None of you are interested in doing any real research. You just shout "conman".
Well, every person who has claimed to do these things in history has been a conman, and the claim violates the laws of physics. After a few hundreds of those claims, you wouldn't be interested in doing any more research, either.
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Old 2nd August 2017, 10:59 AM   #10
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Originally Posted by Argumemnon View Post
Well, every person who has claimed to do these things in history has been a conman, and the claim violates the laws of physics. After a few hundreds of those claims, you wouldn't be interested in doing any more research, either.
I am afraid not. Not every person in history who has claimed paranormal ability has proven to be a conman. This does not mean they had genuine paranormal abilities, many claimants for example were not tested.

Yes there have been a lot of demonstrated frauds. But we cannot say every single one was a conman by default. We should investigate, not shout fraud before investigating.
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Old 2nd August 2017, 11:12 AM   #11
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Originally Posted by BillSkeptic View Post
I am afraid not. Not every person in history who has claimed paranormal ability has proven to be a conman. This does not mean they had genuine paranormal abilities, many claimants for example were not tested.
No but it's their burden to prove that they have those abilities. It's not my burden to prove the laws of physics all over again every time a new claimant comes around.
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Old 2nd August 2017, 11:16 AM   #12
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Originally Posted by BillSkeptic View Post
This is the sort of pseudo-skepticism that gives skepticism a bad name. None of you are interested in doing any real research. You just shout "conman".

You don't even know who he is, you didn't even bother to look.
I'm a little confused by this. What "research" would you suggest on a claimed clairvoyant dead for generations? It almost sounds like you are looking for proof of a negative - a bit of a thorny issue.

But, that aside, here is something I've wondered about lately: magicians over the centuries are known to commonly claim what they do is "real"; its magic. Or to at least coyly demur when asked. But, everyone knows its all tricks and illusion and rarely do shouts of conman follow the act.

Clairvoyants are the same. Its all tricks and illusion that they pretend or delude themselves is real. But, emotions run high among the audience, some truly believing and some yelling "conman!"

I wonder why? I wonder where the bright lines are that separate the two and our reactions to them?
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Old 2nd August 2017, 12:39 PM   #13
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Didier evidently wrote a book, which can be downloaded, published in 1867 as Le sommeil magnétique expliqué par le somnambule Alexis en état de lucidité by Alexis Didier. That is, "Magnetic Sleep, Explained by the Sleepwalker Alexis While in a State of Lucidity."

Charles Dickens once went to see a show staged by a clairvoyant of that name, presumably the same person, although Dickens describes him as "Belgian" and as a "Magnetic Boy". Dickens was impressed by his seeming clairvoyant powers.

The alleged supernatural healing powers of magnetism, as claimed by another practitioner, Mesmer, were investigated by a Royal Commission in France not long before the Revolution. Benjamin Franklin was a member. THe Skeptics' Dictionary states that:
A committee of scientific investigators, including Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790), found that the energy healer did have successes, but they were due to self-delusion or illnesses running their natural course. The committee found no reason to postulate magnétisme animal or any life-force manipulation to explain the satisfied customers.
Franklin observed that "magnetism without imagination produces nothing".

I suspect that Didier the "magnetic boy" was likewise devoid of supernatural powers, but it is open to anyone who thinks otherwise to produce the appropriate evidence and impart it to us.

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Old 2nd August 2017, 12:46 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by BillSkeptic View Post
This is not skepticism, what you are doing is anti-science.
Then you are wrong.

Using natural powers is hardly anti-science. In fact, actual scientists use natural powers all of the time.

For example, you would not be able use the Forum if it were not for the work of many scientists over the years using their natural powers.
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Old 2nd August 2017, 12:56 PM   #15
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Originally Posted by Crossbow View Post
Then you are wrong.

Using natural powers is hardly anti-science. In fact, actual scientists use natural powers all of the time.

For example, you would not be able use the Forum if it were not for the work of many scientists over the years using their natural powers.
I wasn't referring to that. It is an anti-scientific outlook to dismiss something totally out of hand without investigating it first, that is what I was referring to.

That is what you did. You didn't even bother looking up the subject of this thread, you just said you are "convinced that Mr. Didier is no more clairvoyant than anyone else in the world."

Sorry for nitpicking but this forum is quite frankly useless when it comes to researching historical cases. It was a mistake asking here. You should do research first before offering an opinion.

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Old 2nd August 2017, 01:03 PM   #16
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Originally Posted by madurobob View Post
I'm a little confused by this. What "research" would you suggest on a claimed clairvoyant dead for generations? It almost sounds like you are looking for proof of a negative - a bit of a thorny issue.

But, that aside, here is something I've wondered about lately: magicians over the centuries are known to commonly claim what they do is "real"; its magic. Or to at least coyly demur when asked. But, everyone knows its all tricks and illusion and rarely do shouts of conman follow the act.

Clairvoyants are the same. Its all tricks and illusion that they pretend or delude themselves is real. But, emotions run high among the audience, some truly believing and some yelling "conman!"

I wonder why? I wonder where the bright lines are that separate the two and our reactions to them?
Well it is interesting you mention magicians.

Robert-Houdin, sometimes called the "father of modern magic", endorsed the clairvoyance of Alexis Didier after he tested him. I am just looking into sources that discuss this (Harry Houdini mentions it in A Magician Among the Spirits, 1924).

You would have to agree that if Didier duped Houdin which he probably did that this itself was quite spectacular. Robert-Houdin was no gullible idiot or unreliable witness.

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Old 2nd August 2017, 01:53 PM   #17
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Originally Posted by BillSkeptic View Post
Well it is interesting you mention magicians.

Robert-Houdin, sometimes called the "father of modern magic", endorsed the clairvoyance of Alexis Didier after he tested him. I am just looking into sources that discuss this (Harry Houdini mentions it in A Magician Among the Spirits, 1924).

You would have to agree that if Didier duped Houdin which he probably did that this itself was quite spectacular. Robert-Houdin was no gullible idiot or unreliable witness.
I would agree that if Didier succeeded in duping Houdini he was a spectacular swindler; but if he was obliged to resort to duping, then he was no clairvoyant and possessed no supernatural powers.
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Old 2nd August 2017, 02:53 PM   #18
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Originally Posted by BillSkeptic View Post
You don't even know who he is, you didn't even bother to look.
I. Don't. Care.
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Old 2nd August 2017, 02:59 PM   #19
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Originally Posted by BillSkeptic View Post
This is the sort of pseudo-skepticism that gives skepticism a bad name. None of you are interested in doing any real research. You just shout "conman".

You don't even know who he is, you didn't even bother to look.
You're the one who's doing the research. So go and do it, and if you find anything convincing, come back and tell us. Meanwhile nobody needs to believe anything improbable about somebody they'd never heard of until you started on about him.
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Old 2nd August 2017, 03:32 PM   #20
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Smile

Originally Posted by alfaniner View Post
I. Don't. Care.
Great anti-scientific attitude.
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Old 2nd August 2017, 04:21 PM   #21
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Originally Posted by Craig B View Post
I would agree that if Didier succeeded in duping Houdini he was a spectacular swindler...
He didn't. He duped Robert-Houdin, from whom Houdini got his name. Robert-Houdin was not a professional "prove what you claim" skeptic like Houdini.

And, OP, please provide a contemporary link to where Robert-Houdin was convinced. Everything I'm finding is hearsay a century later.
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Old 2nd August 2017, 05:22 PM   #22
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Originally Posted by dropzone View Post
He didn't. He duped Robert-Houdin, from whom Houdini got his name. Robert-Houdin was not a professional "prove what you claim" skeptic like Houdini.

And, OP, please provide a contemporary link to where Robert-Houdin was convinced. Everything I'm finding is hearsay a century later.
He was convinced in two letters he wrote.

Alfred Russel Wallace made reference to these letters:

Quote:
Dr. Lee, in his Animal Magnetism, pp. 162-3, gives the essential part of Houdin's two letters ; but in order to understand the full weight of this testimony it is essential to read De Mirville's detailed account of his interviews with Houdin, and of the seances with Alexis, to which Houdin went with the full belief that he could expose him. This most interesting account occupies the first chapter of De Mirville's great work, DES Esprits et de leurs Manifestations Fluidiqucs, which is in the Society's library. Houdin also tested the reading of closed books ; and Alexis informed the great expert of a fact relating to one of his most intimate friends, which Houdin declared at the time could not possibly be true, but which he afterwards acknowledged to be correct. (See DES Esprits, I., p. 26, footnote.)
https://archive.org/stream/journalof...ge/24/mode/2up


Dr. Lee printed statements from the letters in his book:

Quote:
The exhibitions of clairvoyance have often been likened by sceptics to the tricks of conjurors. The best reply to any such supposition is furnished by the result of two seances given by Alexis to M. Robert Houdin, the most celebrated prestidigitator of the day, who went accompanied by the Marquis de Mirville.* M Houdin expressed his astonishment at the result, and certified in writing that what he then witnessed bore no reference to his art. " I cannot help declaring,'* he said, " that the facts here reported are perfectly exact, and that the more I reflect upon them the more impossible do I find it to class them with those which constitute the object of my art." (May 10, 1849.)

"At the second seance I witnessed still more surprising events than at the first, and they no longer leave any doubt in my mind respecting the lucidity of Alexis. I tear off the envelope of a pack of cards I brought with me. I shuffle and deal with every precaution which, however is useless, for Alexis stopped me by naming a card which I had just placed before him upon the table. 'I have the king/ said he. But you know nothing about it, as the trump card is not turned up/ * You will see/ he replied ; * go on.' In fact, I turned up the eight of spades, and his card was the king of spades. The game was continued ; he told me the cards which I should play, though my cards were held closely in my hands beneath the table. To each of the cards which I played he followed suit, without turning up his cards, which were always perfectly in accordance with those I led. I therefore returned, from this seance as astonished as one can be, and I am convinced that it is quite impossible that chance, or any superior skill, could produce such wonderful results.' (May 16.)
https://archive.org/stream/animalmag.../n182/mode/2up

See pages 162-163.

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Old 2nd August 2017, 05:44 PM   #23
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Thank you. However, in 1848 even the most educated person was a bit of a chawbacon about the "supernatural." I regret that Barnum, who knew a good humbug when he saw it, never knew Didier.
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Old 2nd August 2017, 05:50 PM   #24
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Rationalist author Edward Clodd in his skeptical book on spiritualism (pages 152-153), suggested that Didier utilized confederates to dig up information about his clients. This is very likely but does not explain the successful card experiments with magician Houdin.

Quote:
Robert Houdin, the King of Conjurers in the middle of the last century, after paying two visits to Didier, was nonplussed. He testified "qu'il est tout a fait impossible que le hasard on l'adresse puisse jamais produire des effets aussi merveilleux." This verdict was endorsed by the Rev. Chancery Hare Townshend, a poet and well known writer on Mesmerism, who paid a surprise visit to Didier. Townshend's house at Lausanne was accurately described, and in equal faithfulness of detail his house in London, even the servants there and the horses in the stables.

Alexis had many friends to tap as sources of information; Marcillet was not his only confederate, and his chief successes were secured in card tricks in which every skilful conjurer scores.
https://archive.org/stream/questioni...e/152/mode/2up
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Old 2nd August 2017, 06:02 PM   #25
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The use of confederates in some parts of his act does not cause me to buy, "Yeah, but THIS time he wasn't faking it." Rather the opposite, that he was faking it then but nobody is sure how.
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Old 2nd August 2017, 06:22 PM   #26
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Originally Posted by BillSkeptic View Post
Great anti-scientific attitude.
Weak riposte. Being open-minded doesn't mean you let your brain fall out of its case.
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Old 2nd August 2017, 10:59 PM   #27
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Originally Posted by BillSkeptic View Post
I was merely asking if anyone knew anything about Didier. All I know currently is that he was tested by several scientists in a number of experiments.
Unless they published a paper describing the experiments and their results I'm afraid this doesn't tell us anything useful. We have scientists today (eg Gary Schwartz) who do "experiments" to test psychics but (out of either ignorance or deliberate deception) don't bother to eliminate the Forer Effect and other sources of error. This guy Didler was operating before most cognitive biases were even identified, so it's unlikely any scientists who tested him took the necessary care to methodically eliminate all the possible sources of error which are now recognised and understood.

If there really are people with paranormal abilities then there ought to be at least a few around today whose abilities can be confirmed using today's understanding of how to eliminate those sources of error. I don't see anything to be gained by digging up references to long dead claimers of such abilities who were almost certainly never properly tested.
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Old 3rd August 2017, 12:06 AM   #28
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Originally Posted by dropzone View Post
The use of confederates in some parts of his act does not cause me to buy, "Yeah, but THIS time he wasn't faking it." Rather the opposite, that he was faking it then but nobody is sure how.
In 1920 the rationalist Joseph McCabe wrote a whole book Is Spiritualism Based on Fraud? on the malpractices of Spiritualists, in which he stresses that very point. The book may be downloaded from Gutenberg here. It is worth a read.
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Old 3rd August 2017, 12:48 AM   #29
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Originally Posted by BillSkeptic View Post
This is not skepticism, what you are doing is anti-science.
Actually no. The null hypothesis is "clairvoyance does not exists". So what he is doing is placing the burden where it lies : on the claim *any* clairvoyant ever existed.
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Old 3rd August 2017, 01:05 AM   #30
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Originally Posted by Pixel42 View Post
This guy Didler
Just noticed it's Didier, not Didler.
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Old 3rd August 2017, 05:12 AM   #31
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Originally Posted by BillSkeptic View Post
I wasn't referring to that. It is an anti-scientific outlook to dismiss something totally out of hand without investigating it first, that is what I was referring to.

That is what you did. You didn't even bother looking up the subject of this thread, you just said you are "convinced that Mr. Didier is no more clairvoyant than anyone else in the world."

Sorry for nitpicking but this forum is quite frankly useless when it comes to researching historical cases. It was a mistake asking here. You should do research first before offering an opinion.
Then you are wrong again.

I did look up the subject and I could not find any data on this Alexis Didier person.

If Mr. Dider does actually have clairvoyant powers, then there should be a good bit of data on him since no one in the history of the world has had any such powers either.

However, since it has not been clearly shown that Mr. Dider does not have clairvoyant powers, then it is quite logical to assume that Mr. Dider does not have any clairvoyant powers.
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Old 3rd August 2017, 11:41 AM   #32
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Quote:
I did look up the subject and I could not find any data on this Alexis Didier person.
lol
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Old 3rd August 2017, 11:43 AM   #33
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Originally Posted by dropzone View Post
The use of confederates in some parts of his act does not cause me to buy, "Yeah, but THIS time he wasn't faking it." Rather the opposite, that he was faking it then but nobody is sure how.
There is no evidence he used confederates. It was a suggestion. As I said it was entirely likely that he did, but no proof.
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Old 3rd August 2017, 11:44 AM   #34
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Originally Posted by Pixel42 View Post
Unless they published a paper describing the experiments and their results I'm afraid this doesn't tell us anything useful. We have scientists today (eg Gary Schwartz) who do "experiments" to test psychics but (out of either ignorance or deliberate deception) don't bother to eliminate the Forer Effect and other sources of error. This guy Didler was operating before most cognitive biases were even identified, so it's unlikely any scientists who tested him took the necessary care to methodically eliminate all the possible sources of error which are now recognised and understood.

If there really are people with paranormal abilities then there ought to be at least a few around today whose abilities can be confirmed using today's understanding of how to eliminate those sources of error. I don't see anything to be gained by digging up references to long dead claimers of such abilities who were almost certainly never properly tested.
Would agree with some of your points but do you have any ideas on how he duped Robert-Houdin a professional magician?

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Old 3rd August 2017, 11:56 AM   #35
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Originally Posted by BillSkeptic View Post
Would agree with some of your points but do you have any ideas on how he duped Robert-Houdin a professional magician?
My guess would be by using tricks he'd invented that Robert-Houdin didn't know. Guessing is all we can do over a century later but new tricks are still invented by magicians occasionally, and even other magicians can't always work out how they're done, so that would seem the most likely explanation.
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Old 3rd August 2017, 03:29 PM   #36
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Originally Posted by BillSkeptic View Post
Well it is interesting you mention magicians.

Robert-Houdin, sometimes called the "father of modern magic", endorsed the clairvoyance of Alexis Didier after he tested him. I am just looking into sources that discuss this (Harry Houdini mentions it in A Magician Among the Spirits, 1924).

You would have to agree that if Didier duped Houdin which he probably did that this itself was quite spectacular. Robert-Houdin was no gullible idiot or unreliable witness.
Yes, but lets not lose sight of the fact that I linked clairvoyants and magicians via the fact that both use tricks to fool their audience.

Absent any credible evidence, there is no reason to think Didier any different. As noted - burden of proof is on the claim/claimant. Nothing thats been offered here in this thread gives any hope for finding Didier anything more than a clever charlatan.
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Old 3rd August 2017, 03:43 PM   #37
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Originally Posted by Pixel42 View Post
My guess would be by using tricks he'd invented that Robert-Houdin didn't know. Guessing is all we can do over a century later but new tricks are still invented by magicians occasionally, and even other magicians can't always work out how they're done, so that would seem the most likely explanation.
Penn and Teller have a show where magicians perform a trick and they try to figure out how it was done. Sometimes they are fooled. They have not, however, ever concluded that magic is real.
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Old 3rd August 2017, 05:55 PM   #38
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I found this quote about Robert Houdin in Houdini's book A Magician Among the Spirits.

Quote:
But I wish to say that in my estimation of Robert Houdin, despite his wonderful reputation and record as mentioned in Larousse's Encyclopedia, I cannot agree with his statements, because he misrepresented so much in his "Memoirs of a Magician." In "The Unmasking of Robert Houdin" I devoted a whole chapter to his ignorance of magic and by investigating I have found that he was not competent as an investigator of the claims of Spiritualists. (p. 252)
That is from a section of Houdini's book describing Robert Houdin's "experiments" with the Didier brothers.

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Old 3rd August 2017, 06:48 PM   #39
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*snerk!*

Interesting book, so far: https://archive.org/stream/unmasking...dgoog_djvu.txt

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Old 3rd August 2017, 09:43 PM   #40
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Originally Posted by dropzone View Post
*snerk!*

Interesting book, so far: https://archive.org/stream/unmasking...dgoog_djvu.txt
In the first few lines of the Introduction we see this devastating assessment.
Robert-Houdin's explanation of tricks performed by other magicians and not included in his repertoire, proved so incorrect and inaccurate as to brand him an ignoramus in certain lines of conjuring.
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