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Dr. James William Elliott

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Dr. James William Elliott

Cover of Sphinx (May 1909)
BornApril 27, 1874
Milton Plantation, Oxford County, Maine
DiedJanuary 28, 1920 (age 45)
Boston, Massachusetts
Resting placeAbbott’s Mills Cemetery, near Rumford

Dr. James William Elliott (b.1874-d.1920) was a physician from Rumford, Maine who went on to become an accomplished magician.


While attending college in Boston he befriended Harry Houdini. He worked with Servais Le Roy and Felix Herrmann. He gave up medicine for ten years to tour as the part of Bosco in the magic act Le Roy, Talma and Bosco. Even after returning to medicine he continued to practice and perfect card tricks as an amateur.

He was the treasurer for the Magic Mystic Fraternity, one of the only magical society in existence at the time in 1898. He contributed to "New Era Card Tricks" and amongst professional card players of his time he was called "The Boston Kid."

In September of 1898, he published in "Mahatma" a challenge in which any-man in the world to dispute his claim to the title "Champion Card Manipulator of the World". He offered up to a $10,000 prize, a claim which was never accepted nor disputed.

He is believed to be the inventor of the Back Palm with cards which he taught to T. Nelson Downs. According to Dai Vernon in his Vernon Touch column for Genii 1982 March, Elliott was the first to see the Back Palm performed by a Mexican gambler in Beadles' Magic Ship in New York, then went on to create his version.

Elliott died in Boston of intestinal nephritis before he could finish a book he was planning to write, but Houdini and Clinton Burgess filled in some of the missing explanations from Elliott's notes. He was buried in a family plot in the Abbott’s Mills Cemetery on the outskirts of Rumford.

IBM Ring #362 holds a Card Magic Contest every April in Rumford in memory to Dr. James Elliott.