Top 10 Illusionists

5. Lance Burton

Lance Burton is a stage magician known for his exception skill and precision that he consistently brings to his performances. He has made television appearances on popular shows such as The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson and has starred in his own television specials. Lance has been bestowed the Magician of the Year award and won a number of magic competitions including the Grande Prix. He received the Gold Medal of Excellence from the International Brotherhood of Magicians, being the first American and the youngest magician to have ever been given this award. The Lance Burton Theatre was built specifically for his show at the Monte Carlo Resort in Las Vegas. He is under the longest contract for any entertainer in all of Las Vegas history.


4. Doug Henning

Doug Henning is a cheerful Canadian illusionist with a wealth of magical skills including misdirection, escapology and mentalism. He is thought to be highly influential in bringing magic back to a theatrical art. His Broadway show, The Magic Show, was popular in the 1970s. He then brought his magic to television through Doug Henning’s World of Magic, an NBC show broadcasted annually from 1975 to 1982. Henning’s show received several Emmy award nominations. He was also awarded Magician of the Year. In the 1980s, he retired from the stage and died from liver cancer in 2000. Henning has since received a star on Canada’s Walk of Fame.


3. David Blaine

David Blaine is a street performer known for his up-close, personal performances and endurance feats. Through his street acts, he has changed the way magic is performed on television by carrying out simple tricks yet focusing on the audience and their reactions. His signature move is when he levitates himself in front of mystified onlookers. He is often compared to the great, late Harry Houdini for his endurance accomplishments. Notable endurance performances include Buried Alive, Vertigo, Frozen in Time, Drowned Alive, Above the Below, and the Bullet Catch. Blaine broke the Guinness World Record for oxygen assisted static apnea in 2008 holding his breath for over 17 minutes. He has been awarded Magician of the Year. Blaine is also well known for his generous charity support.


2. David Copperfield

David Copperfield is the most commercially successful magician in history, selling more tickets than any other solo entertainer. He is best known for his combination of storytelling and illusion. He was named Magician of the Year twice as well as Magician of the Millennium, Magician of the Century and King of Magic. Copperfield won 21 Emmy Awards and holds 11 Guinness World Records. He has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. He received knighthood by the French government and was even named a Living Legend by the US Library of Congress. For all of Copperfield’s recognitions, the number one spot still goes to the most influential of all illusionists…


1. Harry Houdini

Born Ehrich Weiss, Harry Houdini took his stage name from Jean Eugène Robert-Houdin, the world’s first magician. Harry Houdini has influenced countless magicians since his time including many, if not all, on this list. Due to his continued impact even after his death, he received a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2007. The numerous magic tricks that he developed are still used by today’s magicians. As an exceptional escape artist, Houdini utilized his skills in lock picking and escaping straitjackets when developing his routines. His most popular performances include the Chinese Water Torture Cell (in which his legs were locked and he was lowered upside down into a water cell with the audience’s full view of him) and the Metamorphosis (where he is locked in a chest and swaps with his assistant in an instance at a sudden flash of light or misdirection). Many illusionists today perform reproductions of these (and other) Houdini classics.

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