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Joseph Vanek

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Joseph Vanek
BornJuly 31, 1818
Pest, Hungary
DiedDecember 11, 1889 (age 71)
Budapest, Hungary

Joseph Vanek (1818-1889), born in Hungary, was a scientist, then politician before becoming a professional magician that toured the world. His most well known illusion was taking the head off an assistant, even passing the decapitated head among the audience.


In 1843, was appointed professor at the Pester Seminar and was decorated by the Hungarian Government with the Silver Medaille de l'lndustrie for his work.

In 1849, Professor Vanek, fled to Turkey after his part in a failed coup in Hungary. Having to start anew, he decided to try performing. He was an immediate success began touring the world. In 1855, Vanek was finally able to return to his homeland after the Hungarian government declared amnesty. He performed throughout Hungary. Bartholomeo Bosco met Vanek in Budapest and adopted some of his tricks for his own program.

In 1868, he had built a magical pavilion in Calcutta which could hold five thousand, where he gave performances for several months.

In 1873, as part of another world tour, he included performances in the United States.

Vanek gave his farewell performance in Budapest on October 12, 1878.[1]


  1. The Sphinx, Vol. 36, No. 5, July 1937, Professor Joseph Vanek by Ottokar Fischer, page 143
  • The Sphinx, Vol. 33, No. 1, March 1934, Austrian Magicians, by Ottokar Fischer – Joseph Vanek, page 9
  • The Magic Circular, Vol. 29, No. 329, April 1935, Professor Joseph Vanek. A forgotten Magician of the Nineteenth Century, by Ottokar Fischer, page 107
  • The Magic Circular, Vol. 29, No. 330, May 1935, Professor Joseph Vanek. A forgotten Magician of the Nineteenth Century (continued), by Ottokar Fischer, page 117
  • The Sphinx, Vol. 37, No. 8, October 1938, Professor Joseph Vanek, by Vilmos Leonard President of M.A.M.E. Budapest, page 198
  • The Linking Ring, Vol. 66, No. 2, February 1986, Memoirs Of A Magician's Ghost, by John Booth, CHAPTER 199 – Three Famous Austro-Hungarian Magicians, page 58
  • The New Tops, Vol. 31, No. 6, June 1991, Man of Magic, by Robert Olson – Joseph Vanek, page 40
  • Bio-bibliographisches Lexikon der Zauberkünstler Edition Volker Huber, April 2002, Vanek, Josef, (Prof.) ungar. Zauberkünstler (*31.07.1818 Pest; †11.09.1899 Budapest), page 351