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Will B. Wood

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Will B. Wood
Borncirca 1861
Shamokin, Pennsylvania
DiedJanuary 20, 1908 (age 46)
drowned at sea

Will B. Wood (c.1862-1908) was an illusionist and ventriloquist, who toured South America and Europe with his own company, sometimes called "The Kellar of South America."


Wood received his stage training under the tutelage of Kellar, with whom he traveled until 1890, when he branched out for himself. His wife was the original "Edna, the Human Orchid" as a member of Kellar's company. His wife joined him duringhis South American trips until 1906, when failing health forced her retirement. The couple had one, Bertha, who was later an assistant in his show.

His most famous effect was the "Pistol Shot Vanish", in which he would cause Bertha to vanish with a pistol shot.

Wood's also created and patented[1][2] a levitation he called "Edna" in which a lady would be lifted up in mid-air and stay there, during which she walked, turned around, turned over while in the air. After Wood's death Herrmann used this illusion under the name of "The Maid of the Moon". [3]

Will B. Wood was forty-six years old in 1908 when he and his twenty-year-old daughter were on their way from Frontera, Mexico, to Il Progresso, Yucatan, on a big tug boat, when the ship foundered. On the night of January 20 a violent tropical storm arose and The 'Cuneto Bulnes,' as the tug was named, had a schooner in tow. The tow line was cut and the little vessel tried to ride the storm out unhampered. It is related as a curious circumstance that when the vessel foundered the captain and crew managed to save themselves while Wood and his daughter, the only passengers aboard, were lost. Neither body was recovered and the baggage, fifty trunks besides other property, was entirely lost. [4]

Some alleged they were killed by pirates and others that they were killed when sailors broke into Wood's equipment to search for the clues to his Pistol Shot Vanish". When caught, a struggled ensued, they overpowered him and threw him overboard to drown.

In the Magician Monthly (April and May 1908), it was reported that the S.A.M. adopted a resolution urging the Government authorities and to President Roosevelt to investigate Wood's death (although he was no a member of SAM) as there appeared ample ground for the suspicion that foul play had been resorted to. Later the State Department replied that there was no evidence of foul play.

Their luggage however washed up on shore and was recovered but no trace was ever found of the Woods. One of Wood's theatrical trunks had survived and been shipped to Mrs. Wood but she was so distraught that she had it shipped to the Wood's friend Frederick Eugene Powell. When Powell died, he left most of the trunks to John Petrie. Wood's trunk consisted of some large ventriloquist figures together with a number of lithographs depicting "Woodita" (a fantastic balance), "La Mariposa" (the human butterfly) "Edna" (the girl from the flames) and a stock portrait of Wood for his proposed Mexican tour (with the legend "The Real Devil" in Spanish beneath his picture).[5]


  1. 1889 Patent 415,084
  2. 1889 Patent 415,085
  3. WITH THE OLD MASTERS By W. W. DURBIN, Linking Ring, September 1933.
  4. obituary, Variety March 7, 1908
  5. Ask the Doctor, MUM MARCH 1975
  • Variety (March 1908)
  • THE NIELSEN GALLERY WOOD, THE WORLD'S GREATEST VENTRILOQUIST, by Richard Hatch (great-nephew of Wood's manager Hastings Clawson), MUM, July 2006
  • Article Did Anyone Steal the Floating Lady? by John Booth in Genii 1980 February