The Greatest Illusion

The Greatest Illusion
The Greatest Illusion
The Greatest Illusion
The Greatest Illusion
The Greatest Illusion
The Greatest Illusion

The Greatest Illusion

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Written by Matthew L. Tompkins, a former magician who converted to experimental psychology, and published in collaboration with the prestigious Wellcome Collection, this evocative volume reveals to us how unreliable and even complicit our minds can be in the perpetuation of illusions.

The great illusion is an investigation of the art of deception as it was practiced and spread since the beginning of the 18th century. After a first section dedicated to the phenomena of mesmerism and spiritism, including magnetic healers, psychographic séances and unscrupulous mediums, the book takes into consideration the work of some legendary illusionists at the turn of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries such as John Nevil Maskelyne and Harry Houdini, who pledged to challenge and debunk the claims of charlatans and supporters of the paranormal. It also illustrates the relationships between illusionists, psychics and scientists over the last 200 years, revealing how the same researchers who have investigated paranormal and magical phenomena have themselves been fooled.
Organized on a thematic basis and with a in-depth historical contextualization, The great illusion also illustrates how the phenomena of illusionism practiced by fraudulent magicians and psychics, in addition to deceiving our senses, can teach us a lot about the functioning of our mind, to the point that modern scientists are increasingly making use of magic tricks to develop new techniques that allow them to examine the mechanisms of perception, memory and faith.
Rich in illustrations from hitherto inaccessible and unexplored archives - including the Wellcome Collection, the Harry Price Library, the Society for Physical Research and, last but not least, the jealously guarded collection of Magic Circle - this book reviews flamboyant magic show posters, double exposure spirit photographs, and shots of bending spoons, as well as specially made images of planchettes , spirit hands for striking blows, tables levitating, ectoplasm, automata and magic boxes. A modern analysis of the science of magic and illusion concludes the volume and takes into consideration strange and surprising phenomena such as the ideomotor effect, sleep paralysis, choice blindness and the psychology of diversion.

The author
Former American illusionist who converted to experimental psychology, Dr. Matthew L. Tompkins holds a PhD from the University of Oxford. He previously earned a BA in Psychology from the State University of New York at Geneseo and an MSc in Psychological Research from Oxford. His research focuses on cognitive psychology applied to illusion and has appeared in various publications internationally, including Washington Post and BBC Future . Before embarking on an academic career, he worked as a professional illusionist: the experience accumulated during his performances continues to influence his research. He recently became the first admitted member of the Magic Circle based on a peer-reviewed scientific publication. In addition to his empirical research, he writes articles on historical subjects and the science of esotericism, dealing among other things with hauntings, witch trials, four-dimensional spirit entities and Pokémon hallucinations.

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