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Brad Burt
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I have a legit “enhancing” reason for this next story. Beyond the fact that I think it is oddly compelling it also illustrates something about the ‘how’ of making magic memorable.

When you are behind a magic counter for 33 years you are bound to meet some odd folks. Some day I’ll tell you about the witch! But, one of the most startling experiences I had was during the two year period when all I was doing was mentalism. It was a great time and my hero was Ted Anneman. I devoured everything by Anneman that I could find. My used copy of Practical Mental Effects is annotated throughout and fulsome with folded corners marking effects of interest.

What I am telling you is that I was INTO Anneman and was quite aware of his life, work and how he died. For those that do not know, he killed himself, but at the time I had no idea how.

So, there I am standing behind the counter of the Magic, Magic Shop working on a new demo item and in walks an old guy in a worn suit. Frankly he looked like a bum, but despite his look he didn’t hit me up for a handout. Nope. He came over and asked me “Do you know who Ted Anneman was?” O.kaaaay.

I told him that I did and that I was a big fan of Mr. Annemans. Then came the bombshell, “I was Ted’s manager right up ‘til he killed himself. You know he committed suicide right?” I again answered in the affirmative.

“Do you know how and why he did it?” He asked. I said that I didn’t. At this point he reached into his pocket and pulled out a wallet. From the wallet he removed a small square of browned paper that he unfolded and lay on the counter. It was an actual newspaper account of the death of Ted Anneman! I’m sorry to say it, but this was way to cool. I wasn’t even 21 years old and this was totally cool.

I read the article to find out that Anneman had taped a natural gas pipe to his mouth and turned the gas on. But, I still didn’t know why. My new friend looked sad, folded up the paper and put it away. He looked at me and said, “Ted was a little high strung. You know he did the Bullet Catch right?” Yes, I answered back.

“Well,” he continued, “the method was a little nerve racking. You see he actually had a real bullet fired past his head. The switch was made long before and he always asked for help from someone who was marksman in the service. But, the only way he could get up the nerve was to drink a fifth of gin before the show.”

I asked him if he thought that doing the bullet catch was what caused him to take his life and he said that not that specifically, but it was part of the web of things that probably caused his death.

He ended up looking around a little and then left and that was the last time I saw him. But, what I always remembered was thinking that to do the bullet catch in the manner in which Anneman did it, drunk or not, took an immense amount of commitment to the ultimate nature of the effect itself.

I appreciated this for the following reason: If you can find a copy of the publicity still of Anneman just after he has caught the bullet you will see what to this day I consider the finest picture of a magician ever shot. Anneman is on the ground up on one hand with the bullet between his close set teeth a tiny rivulet of blood down his chin. He looks off to one side as if stunned. He had eyes that could have fried Houdini. I have never seen a picture that had the dramatic effect of this one of Ted Anneman. It’s the kind of publicity still that grabs you by the throat and shakes you up.

I learned this: That the best magic will always be done by those willing to fully commit to the illusion not matter how large or how small and whether you are a hobbyist or a pro. You have to commit to making the magic happen.

Another suggestion: Whether you ever do anything in it or not I strongly suggest getting Practical Mental Magic (as it is called in the Dover edition) and read it. It’s inexpensive. Just read it and every time you see that Anneman created the effect read it extra carefully. It is a wonderful, magnificent education in how to make magic with very little. He was an tortured genius and unlike some tortured genius’s he left us with a legacy of brilliance that should be studied now and into the future. Take care,
Brad Burt
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