A Death in the Family
A Death in the Family
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A Death in the Family

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This effect is best used in a dark environment with only candle light. You will also need quite a large space to lay the plates out. Please be aware of those factors before purchasing. 

Whilst clearing out the loft of a recently deceased aunt, I chanced upon something that made me pause in my task.
I was lifting a pile of grimy newspapers, when the string holding them shifted, removing years of gathered dust from the topmost page.Through the grime I caught a glimpse of something familiar, something that I remembered seeing long ago.
I set the papers down and cut the string with a rusty pen knife, blew away the thick grey dust, and found myself peering into a window to the past.
There, caught in a moment of the height of her fame, lay the faded image of the music hall legend Miss Tilly Harte.
Even though faint and grubby, the picture was an arresting one. Not just for the loveliness of her face, but for something else, something sad and rather distant, for she did not grin boldly out at the viewer, as most music hall stars did, but rather she looked away into the distance as if looking for something, or someone.


With Death in the Family, you have a full routine which can be played out in half an hour or so, or can be made into a full evening's performance.
You tell the story of the enigmatic Edwardian music hall star; Miss Tilly Harte. You then attempt to recreate a séance that was held to contact her spirit, soon after her disappearance. You do this with the aid of strange photomorphic plates. These are used in an attempt to contact the spirit and record her thoughts, memories and dreams.

As the story of Miss Heart is never adequately explained, your guests are thrown into the role of detectives attempting to piece the disturbing clues together and reach their own conclusions.

A séance is held, one that you already know the outcome of.

So why do I think this to be one of my strongest performance pieces?
The routine is genuinely unsettling. The main protagonist is both mysterious and sympathetic.
The audience becomes emotionally involved and if played right, you can have the audience really connecting with the story and the unfolding supernatural drama.
The routine uses a well known and self working principle of card magic. So you can concentrate all of your energy on the performance itself.

However, this principle is taken so far from it’s roots that it is totally transformed into a multi climax drama, where each climax builds upon each other.

The ‘trick’ is easy to perform and foolproof, it forms a backbone for the performance. Around this, the performer is free to explore the telling of the story and the many psychological aspects explored in the routine. Because you know that the central routine will work every time, you can take a few risks and take the magic to a higher level.
As with most of my work, the intention is to provide a solid working routine and layer this with ideas that will extend your performance and develop your magic.
Importantly, the routine will haunt your guests, long after the performance is over.

So what are Photomorphic Plates?

Photomorphic plates were invented by the enigmatic photographer, inventor and all round charlatan, Theadore J Grab. What Grab had claimed to have achieved was a highly inert photographic surface which was sensitive to certain wave lengths associated with human thought , more especially dream states and memory. An equally dubious gentleman by the name of John Edwards. Saw the potential application of Grab’s invention in the context of a séance.

After several seemingly successful experiments, Edwards and his wife arranged a séance to contact the beautiful and tragic Music-Hall singer, Miss Tilly Harte, with whom Edwards had developed something of an obsession.

During this séance, Edwards claimed that several of these plates did in fact develop, although the images were quite indistinct and ambiguous.

With Death in the Family, you are presented with 34 of these plates with which you can attempt to contact Miss Harte and see if you can cause images to appear on the dark ‘photomorphic’ surfaces.

You offer to show these plates to the intrigued audience. You say that you are sure that they are inert and somewhat damaged. However, you ask them to treat them with respect as they were difficult to obtain and also clearly very delicate. As a precaution you urge that they put the plate down if strange images or ideas start to form in their minds, as a precaution, you do not want any of them developing before conducting the experiment you propose.

A volunteer, or Medium is chosen from the audience and a séance is held.
The medium ‘contacts’ the spirits and Tilly Harte indeed does appear and seems to whisper the hour of her death to the medium.
The magician is also contacted by the spirit and independently confirms the hour of death.
Tilly being present, the séance is conducted. The hour of the death is confirmed in the most chilling manner, as one of the plates has clearly developed!
The plate depicts a picture which far from resolving the mystery, only serves to deepen it!
What is more, is seems that the remaining photomorphic plates are developing before the eyes of the company!
From these half seen images and from the cards which have developed in the sitters hands, the company begin to piece together what they can of the tragic tale.
But what of the large photo of Miss Harte that has been in the centre of the séance all of this time -
what secrets does it hold!