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A Visual History of Whispering

On Magic Posters

The Image of the sagacious magician looking knowingly at the viewer with small imps whispering the enduring secrets of magic in his ear has been often used on magician's advertising posters. This image of the magician getting the "secrets" from these underworld demi-devils apparently started with Harry Kellar (on his 1894 poster). Leon Hermann (nephew of Alexander) who overlapped the career of Kellar seems to be the first who copied the whispering imps. Not only did the Great Hermann include them, he used more imps! Several of the imitators have been satisfied with a single informant but the standard seems to be two - one per shoulder. Keen's informant is a great deal older - and may be Mr. Scratch himself.

The poster that is probably the most famous and the one most often directly copied is the splendid Kellar poster. Thurston seemed to like the idea so much he used it three times, Raymond had two slight variations. It was used once on a book cover. Although many have directly copied Kellar's imps (myself included), the wee devils show up with tails, wings, pointed ears and in the company of other underworld creatures. Banachek has updated the imps as space aliens.

I do not pretend to be a scholar on the subject of magic posters. I simply have been intrigued by the proliferation of the whispering imp images and have attempted to locate as many as I could. I am indebted to Jim Steinmeyer, James Hamilton, Scott Wells and others who have written thoughtful and helpful eMails assisting with the proper sequencing of these posters.

The accumulator wishes to ESPECIALLY thank the extraordinary contributions made to this archive by the meticulous research by Eric Swenson.

What follows is my accumulation of the variations on the theme (Currently 194 images!).

 

This small trade card of Alexander Hermann does pre-date Kellar's use of the imp/devil
images and just might have been the inspiration for their use?


 

 


Courtesy Ken Trombly (magicposters.com)


Thurston Spirits


Thurston Skull


(I know, not a poster - a throw-out card - but the imps ARE there!)


(Early Thurston Throw-Out Card)


(back of Thurston Throw-Out Card)


Howard Thurston's brother, Harry!


(I know, not a poster either - this is a pin-back button - 1.25" dia.)


(ALSO not a poster - but a cover to sheet music.)


Blackstone - Cornucopia ...courtesy of the Norm Nielsen Collection


dantemyst

DanteReview


Raymond Fun Maker


Raymond - Champagne ...courtesy of the Norm Nielsen Collection


RaymondPostCard


 

heaney1

 


(I realize this is vanity - but I am the compiler of the "Imps On Shoulders"
site and I can be allowed this indulgence.)


Mirror Card




 



Albini - 8 sheet portrait ...courtesy of the Norm Nielsen Collection



 


Scott Wells' Handi-work!


(Find the Imp)





 


(Center for Tactical Magic)

Darren Brown

Julianelly

caldwell

gordein

finot

virgil

Marlow


Hudi
AlanWatson

Watson Big

Pete Biro
Baile

Carmelli

Fredrik


Unknown

Ballentine

Simnoff


Felix


Dr S


imps

Weber2
Mirror


NicolaCard


Brewe1

ImpsCards
Whispering Imps playing cards designed and produced by Chris Chelko. (His homage to Kellar!)


GeorgesRobert


GeorgesRobert2


Portrait


Kendall


DocEason


KellarSphinx


Pasparth


PTMurphy


Spelmann


Davis


WillardThrowCard


Keller O'Neil


Rusell&Morgan


AG

Raymond Large


TomOgden


Beytien


Will Bland


DreamlandThorne


Eric Pearson

SteveValentine

 

The accumulator would be VERY thankful to anyone who shares additional magicians with whispering imps poster images with him.

 


2001 - Rhett Bryson
Last Updated 02/14/2017

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