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Herman L. Weber

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Herman L. Weber
BornHerman Ludwig Weber
June 17, 1900
Allentown, Pennsylvania
DiedFebruary 23, 1953 (age 52)
CategoriesBooks by Herman L. Weber

Herman L. Weber (1900 - 1953) performed as Namreh (Herman backwards).

Biography

Herman Ludwig Weber (17 June 1900-23 February 1953) was a nationally known magician who performed under a variety of stage names including “Namreh,” “Namreh the Great,” “Weber the Wizard,” "The Wizard Weber," and "Mr. Hocus Pocus.” A magician since age 18, he was a friend of other famous magicians such as Harry Blackstone Sr., Howard Thurston and Harry Houdini. Weber published several books about magic in his lifetime.

Early life

Born in Allentown, Pennsylvania, United States, the son of Daniel George Weber and Bertha V. Ludwig, Weber later recalled that he first became interested in magic at the age of five or six when he saw a magic show at Central Park in Allentown. When he was seven, a magic catalog from Schwartz & Co., Reading, Pennsylvania further roused his interest in performing magic tricks.[1] An order to Sears, Roebuck and Co. brought him a set of tricks and his first magic wand for the grand sum of $4.98. In those years, Allentown was a hotbed of magic and young Weber received encouragement and advice from many older magicians. At the age of fifteen, he was giving magic shows in the front parlor of his house on North 17th street. Soon he was good enough to appear at the Hotel Allen.

His first full evening performance occurred when he was eighteen on the stage of Allentown High School from which he graduated in 1918. He also joined the Society of American Magicians that year as a junior member. Membership in the society gave him access to magicians like Harry Blackstone Sr. when they came to Allentown for shows.

Weber attended Lehigh University, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania where he earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in English. From October to November 1918 he was enrolled in the Student Army Training Corps at Lehigh University. After graduating from Lehigh University in 1922, he taught English for a short while at the Allentown Preparatory School, which was a private preparatory school run by the Lutheran Church of America and owned by Muhlenberg College. Later in 1934 he also briefly taught magic at the Pennsylvania Institute of Music and Allied Arts in Allentown, Pennsylvania.[2]

Magic Career

Beginning in 1919, Weber, usually under the stage name of “Namreh,” performed locally in the Allentown area. He began performing professionally in 1921, specializing in the Chinese linking rings (Namreh’s Lincoln Rings). In 1926 he met with Houdini to discuss his version of the linking rings trick.[3] He participated in several traveling circuit Chautauqua shows in the 1920s, including the Redpath Chautauqua circuit through the west and southwest in 1921-22.

For a short time in the 1920s, he settled in Chicago, Illinois, where he worked at Montgomery Ward & Co. and then later at National Bellas Hess Co. He also ran Namreh’s Magic Shop in the city. While there, he married Marian Maybee (4 August 1896-4 July 1933). They had two sons, Robert and William. Throughout the decade, he also contributed columns in The Sphinx (magazine) and The Linking Ring, the two important magic magazines at the time.

In 1934 Weber received the Sphinx Award, the top honor in the professional world of magic at the time, sometimes called the “Nobel Prize of Magicdom." It was awarded by The Sphinx magazine for the best published magical effect that year. Weber received the award for "The Secret Panel" which the magazine called “an ingenious addition to the technique of invisibility.” Weber was acclaimed as a man “whose efforts in the field of research and invention…conspicuously advance the art of magic.”[4]

After the death of his wife in 1933, Weber returned to Allentown where he continued to perform in the area and on the local Chautauqua circuit and play a prominent role in the development of magic performers in the area. For example, in 1934 he was master of ceremonies for the state convention of the International Brotherhood of Magicians,[5] and in the following year he reprised that role for the Grand Congress of Magicians, meeting in Allentown.[6] He also hosted, in his own home, magicians like Howard Thurston and Harry Blackstone Sr. when they were performing at the Lyric Theatre (now Miller Symphony Hall) in Allentown.[7]

Between 1941 and 1943 Weber toured the country four times with his spook show, "The Midnight Voodoo Party." Spook, or ghost, shows “were magic shows presented on the stages of movie theatres across America throughout the first half of the twentieth century.” They reached their peak of popularity in the 1940s, and they could be very profitable for performers.[8] Weber examined the history of spook shows and explained their logistics in his book Out of the Spook cabinet (1946) and offered to consult with performers about their own shows. [9] In the book he also explained some of his most successful “spook” tricks that he employed in his shows, such as the “The Ghost’s Kiss” or “The Ethereal Spook.”

After the war, Weber retired from touring but continued to perform his magic routines at local events. He died in 1953 of a glioma brain tumor and was buried in Greenwood Cemetery, Allentown.[10],[11],[12],[13]

Magic Tricks

Weber was the creator of numerous magic tricks, many of which were described in articles in The Sphinx, published by the Society of American Magicians, The Linking Ring, published by the International Brotherhood of Magicians, and Hugard’s Magic Monthly, published by Jean Hugard.

Weber specialized in the Chinese linking rings magic trick, which he explained in his book, Namreh’s Lincoln Rings (1932). In this traditional trick, solid metal rings appear to link and unlink, pass through each other, and form chains and other complex patterns and configurations.

“The Adventures of Diamond Jack” was a magic story trick based on a deck of cards, “a little story based on a deck of cards” in which Weber manipulated the cards while telling the story of the jack of diamonds getting married.[14]

In the "Secret Panel" trick, Weber built a box with a secret panel "that allows the magician to have bowls, ducks or what you will appear as if by magic.[15]

In Weber’s spook shows, he performed various illusion effects. Some were simple like “swamp spiders” in which bundled, paper straws were wrapped with luminous tape and then dropped from the ceiling in a completely darkened theater. Other illusions were more complicated, such as the “floating soul” in which a disembodied head floated around an eerily-lit stage.[16]

Publications

  • Namreh's Lincoln Rings (1932), “probably the most brilliant treatise ever written on the linking rings”[17]
  • Money from Magic: Business Strategy, Exploitation, Showmanship, Booking (1936), “Magicians, as a rule, want only tricks and pass by advice. For once, however, they have the chance of getting a book which has taken much time and thought, and which contains much valuable advice for the man who has the tricks but needs a way to get them before the public at a profit.”[18]
  • Out of the Spook Cabinet (1947)

In addition to the columns that he published in The Sphinx and The Linking Ring, Weber published two long articles on magic and literature[19] and science.[20]

References

  1. Allentown Magician Who Fooled His Brother Men of Mystery Tells How the Whole Thing Began, The Morning Call (Allentown, PA), 25 February 1934
  2. Herman L. Weber to teach in Magic School, The Morning Call (Allentown, PA), 9 September 1934
  3. Big Names Came to Allentown's Lyric Theater, The Morning Call (Allentown, PA), 30 October 1983
  4. "Herman Weber, Allentown's Wizard, Wins Mystery World's Highest Prize," The Morning Call (Allentown, PA), 22 April1934
  5. "Local Silk Hat and Rabbit Men Will take part in Meeting of State Magicians in Phila," The Morning Call (Allentown, PA), 28 January 1934
  6. "Hardeen First Magician Here," The Morning Call (Allentown, PA), 30 March 1935
  7. Michael Molovinsky, MOLOVINSKY ON ALLENTOWN: Weber, the Wizard, https://molovinskyonallentown.blogspot.com/2008/12/weber-wizard.html, 2008-12-21, access-date=2020-05-07
  8. Beth A. Kattelman, Magic, Monsters, and Movies: America's Midnight Ghost Shows, Theatre Journal, 62 (2010), pages=23–39
  9. Beth A. Kattelman, Magic, Monsters and Movies: America's Midnight Ghost Shows, Ph.D. dissertation, The Ohio State University, 1999.
  10. Herman Weber Dies; Nationally Known Magician, The Morning Call (Allentown, PA), 24 February 1953
  11. Herman L. Weber, The Billboard, 7 March 1953
  12. Herman L. Weber, Variety, 4 March 1953
  13. Final Curtain: Herman Weber, Genii, 17 (March 1953) page= 288.
  14. Template:Cite encyclopedia
  15. The Sphinx Golden Jubilee of Magic: A Selection of Tricks from the Pages of the Magazine {{{author}}}
  16. Webers Emergency Routine
  17. Big Names Came to Allentown's Lyric Theater 30 October 1983 [{{{url}}} link]
  18. Money from Magic book The Jinx Vol. 24 (September 1936)
  19. Hocus Pocus 1934 II. Magic and Literature 4 March 1934 [{{{url}}} link]
  20. Hocus Pocus 1934 III. Magic and Literature 11 March 1934 [{{{url}}} link]