Distinct from the round bowl productions described above, the production of rectangular aquariums swimming with fish is also well documented. One could view Fu Yandong’s finale as a variant on this theme.
- FECHNER, Christian. Soirées Fantastiques. Paris: F.C.F. Jean-Guy Fechner. 1988. First edition. 437 pp. 2 Vols: 1 Book + 1 case containing 3 flickbooks and illusion plans. Cover | Full Title
Fechner Describes and contains illusion plans for an “Appearance of Water and Fish in an Empty Aquarium” on p. 100-105. Though I don’t believe this illusion made it into his FISM prize-winning stage act, the idea is sound. On element of fish did make it into the act, however, the videos displayed on his vanishing television sets was that of an underwater aquarium, as seen in the illusion plans.
Albo Volume V (referenced in Part I) has an aquarium fish production. As does The P&L Book (also referenced in Part I) which describes on Page 154 a hand-held rectangular aquarium to produce 4-6 goldfish. The instruction sheet for which provides one of the few, brief glimpses into fish-handling among all the references: “In securing the fish for this effect, they should be about 21/2 inches long and have straight tails. Before handling the fish – wet your hands thoroughly.”
I think Devant takes the title for this effect with his chapter “With Fish and Letters. The Educated Fish” in
- MASKELYNE, Nevil and DEVANT, David. Our Magic: The Art in Magic / The Theory of Magic / The Practice of Magic. Berkeley Heights: Fleming Book Company. 1946. Second Edition. 318 pp. Cover | Full Title
“Fish spell words” is our plot for the illusion we are about to describe, and the title we give it is “The Educated Fish.”
In Act III of Fechner’s Soirées (See above) – “Magic for those I admire” – Christian “gifts” a triptych of effects for Gaetan Bloom, Ali Bongo, and Juan Tamariz – all involving fish. Though sorely lacking detailed modis-apparandi, the last effect for Tamariz dreams of fish jumping through hoops on command.
Other Fish tricks
Devant follows the educated fish trick with one involving Doves and Rats – yes Rats – but that is a story for another time…
Tarbell, Vol. 5 includes a trick in Lesson 68 “Magic of the Bambergs” in which frogs transform into fish, which then vanish entirely…
In 1999, Gary Darwin marketed a Zombie-like Floating Fishbowl.
Penn & Teller produced a bowl of water..underwater in their “Off the Deep End” special in 2005 (Jump to 4:15 here). A great interview on the making of this special by Richard Kaufman can be found in the March 2006 issue of Genii. You can find videos of the entire special here.
I can think of no better way to end our tour than with the penultimate Goldfish illusion – starring magician David Blaine as the goldfish.