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Joe Karson

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Joe Karson
BornJoseph Alexander Chrzanowski
November 12, 1912
Providence, Rhode Island, USA
DiedNovember 6, 1980 (age 67)
Resting placeSt. Michael's Cemetery in Springfield, Massachusetts
Known forZombie illusion
CategoriesBooks by Joe Karson

Joe Karson (1912-1980) was owner of the mail order business "Karson Xclusives", a had magic shop in Springfield, Massachusetts, and was the inventor of the Zombie illusion.


Karson was born Joseph Alexander Chrzanowski in Providence, Rhode Island. He changed his name after his parents separation. Early on, he performed for several years with a Chinese magic act called "Chan Lin and Company."[1]

In the late 1930s, he started a mail order business "Karson Xclusives" and a had magic shop in Springfield, Massachusetts where he built much of the magic he sold. Joe was also one of the founding members of the Magic Dealers’ Association.

Karson's most famous invention is the Zombie illusion. The inspiration came to him when he was fooling around with the simple impromptu trick where the magician interlocks the fingers of both hands and a lighted match appears to magically suspend in air behind it. He patented the Zombie in 1940.

Due to alcoholism, he started to slip into obscurity, loosing touch with the magic community starting in late 1950’s. Karson died penniless and was buried in an unmarked grave in St. Michael's Cemetery in Springfield, Massachusetts. During the Magic Collector's Weekend in 2000, Mike Rose help collect over $500 to purchase a headstone.


  • Zombie (1945)
  • Vodoo - A one-man routine for the dancing handkerchief (1949)
  • Chinese Egg Bag (1955)
  • The Magic Vision Tester
  • Rubberneck (Head Twister)
  • Submerged Card Mystery
  • Mismaide Girl Illusion
  • The Witch of the Pumpkin Illusion
  • Tea Chest Illusion
  • Mystery of the Open Screen
  • Battle of the Toy Soldiers


  • Complete Club Act (1933)
  • Illusion Magic (1933)
  • Miniature Mysteries (1934)
  • Sensational Poison Swallowing Act (1934)
  • Complete Mental Club Act (1935)
  • Magic A La Mode (1939)
  • Hypnotricks (1941)
  • Karson's Rope Thru Body (1943)
  • Tips on Zombie (1946)
  • World's Fastest Card Trick (1948)
  • Trix with Round Cards
  • On the House
  • Mentalia Superba
  • Chan Lin Chinese Magic Mystery Series
  • Illusion Secrets
  • Joe Karson - Beyond Zombie By Michael E. Rose (1999)


  1. By Thompson, Jr., J.G.. "My Best", 1945, p. 364