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John Anderson – magician

John Henry Anderson was born into a family of humble means near Kincardine O’Neil, west of Aberdeen, in 1814 and was orphaned at the age of 10. After working as a herdsboy and then a blacksmith he started working in a travelling theatre company when he was only 16. Here he started to develop his skills as a magician. At the age of 23 he performed magic tricks for Lord Panmure at Brechin Castle, who was very impressed and encouraged him in his career. So John Anderson decided to set up his own touring show which lasted for 3 years. He settled in London, opened the New Strand Theatre and was dubbed ‘The Great Wizard of the North’ by no less than Sir Walter Scott. Sometimes he used the stage name of Professor Anderson.

Not only was he an expert showman, he was very good at publicity and advertising making him one of the first magicians to achieve world renown, including a command performance for Czar Nicholas 1. He toured widely in Europe, North America, Australasia and Russia. His repertoire included many tricks and illusions covering a wide range. Some of these were his own invention, whilst others he took and developed from others. One of his most popular was to appear to catch a bullet fired from a gun. He is, however, given the honour of devising the ‘rabbit out of a hat’ illusion together with a number of derivatives from it, such as flowers appearing from his fingers and a goldfish bowl, complete with water and fish.

John Anderson died in 1874 a few months short of his 60th birthday. He was buried next to his mother in the St Nicholas Kirkyard. 1874 was also the year of the birth of Harry Houdini the famous escapologist who was a great admirer of the work of John Anderson. Indeed he described him as one of his inspirations. On a visit to Aberdeen in 1909 he visited the grave which had fallen into disrepair, so he made arrangements for its upkeep. The two photographs show the grave as it is today and a press photograph of Harry Houdini at the side of the grave after it had been repaired.


Post 49 (b) John Anderson
Harry Houdini (left) at John Anderson’s grave
Aberdeen Art Gallery and Museums Collection
John Anderson’s grave today

St Mary’s Chapel opening times 2015

Post 17 (b) Fendour wood in desk in St Mary's Chapel Close up view DSCN0362St Mary’s Chapel will be open on Saturday, 30th May 2015 between 10 and 12.30.

The Chapel is one of those ‘hidden gems’ of Aberdeen, dating back to the 1440s it has a vaulted ceiling, fascinating carved bosses, the largest collection of carved wood from pews in Scotland, beautiful stained glass – yet is not often seen by people.

DSCF0045The OpenSpace Trust are opening the Chapel on the last Saturday morning of May, June, July and August between 10 am and 12.30 pm. There will be people available to explain what there is to see or to answer your questions, and for those who want to test themselves there is a quiz (with a prize!).



Entry will be through the door at the top of Correction Wynd, opposite Marks and Spencer and between Starbucks and GAP.

Entry is free, but we would welcome any donations towards the Mither Kirk Project.