Alexander: The Man Who Knows
One of the World’s Greatest Magicians
Perhaps the most colorful image of the classical mind reader is that of the turban bedecked swami , staring into a crystal ball, answering the unspoken questions of his audiences. While there have been many flamboyant psychic entertainers over the years—including an array of Priestesses of Delphi’s, White Mahatmas, and gypsy fortune tellers—none is perhaps so ingrained in the visual culture of the mystery arts as is the image of Claude Alexander, a conman, magician, and tax cheating bootlegger who performed under the name Astro the Seer and then later as The Great Alexander.
Alexander was one of the world’s greatest magicians; he was a super star. Through hard work, determination, and a near sociopathic attitude toward his own self-advancement, Claude Alexander rose from being a two bit hustler working for the Soapy Smith gang to become a vaudeville headliner earning over 1 million dollars a season (in 2015 money) performing for the legendary Pantages theater chain. His shows were presented to sold-out audiences. His afternoon “Ladies only matinees” often saw queues snaking around the block, lined with women hoping to find guidance from the Great Alexander.
Alexander’s productions were filled with beautiful women wearing gorgeous costumes surrounded by lavish sets—the materials for which were hand selected, at great expense, by Mr. Alexander during his completely fabricated and utterly fictitious trips to the Far East. Claude was a master showman who realized early on that the story was more important than the truth. His stunning advertising posters were each marked as having been printed in Bombay, India – another white lie to create the illusion that Alexander was the exotic world traveler he claimed to be.
Beginning with a program of magic and illusions, the feature of the Alexander show was the Simla Séance, or as it is known in the industry, the question and answer act. Members of the audience would write down their most pressing concerns and Alexander, without ever opening a single sealed envelope, would consult his crystal or metal scrying orbs for the answer they needed to hear. Of course, private readings were available after the show, and Alexander had a booming mail order side business answering questions and providing astrological guidance for those who would merely enclose two one dollar bills in a self-addressed envelope. At one time, Claude had three private secretaries in his employ whose only job was to provide the answers and send the charts which had been ordered.
Legal troubles plagued Claude throughout his life, but somehow he always managed to come out on top. Even an arrest for smuggling liquor into the states on a high speed motor boat couldn’t stop The Great Alexander. In no time at all, he was a free man carousing with women one-third his age, hunting and fishing at his favorite spots, and enjoying the life of the retired showman.
If you would like more information on The Great Alexander, check out The Life and Times of the Great Alexander by David Charvet and John Pomeroy available from Mike Caveney’s Magic words publishing house.
To see a modern interpretation of the classic mind reader’s act, email firstname.lastname@example.org. Austin magician Brad Henderson is considered one of the world’s leading experts on mind reading and hypnosis. He would love to share his art with you and your guests.