The Shadow’s magic

On radio and in the 1994 film, The Shadow uses a telepathic ability to “cloud men’s minds so that they cannot see him.” In the pulps, such was not the case, though he did display hypnotic talents.

The Shadow becomes a human fly.

Instead of mind-over-matter tricks, The Shadow used tricks of another sort — magician’s tricks — to help him battle evildoers.

Walter Gibson, who played the major role in creating The Shadow, pulled from his varied background in magic and illusion when he wrote The Shadow adventures.

As Gibson explained in The Shadow Scrapbook, even the pen name Maxwell Grant was derived from the names of two magic dealers Gibson knew — Maxwell Holden and U.F. Grant.

Gibson wrote in the preface to the Dover reprint The Crime Oracle/The Teeth of the Dragon of how The Shadow came about: “I needed an outstanding character and I had been thinking of one who would be a mystery in himself, moving into the affairs of lesser folks much to their amazement.

“By combining Houdini’s penchant for escapes with the hypnotic power of Tibetan mystics, plus the knowledge shared by Thurston and Blackstone in the creation of illusions, such a character would have unlimited scope when confronted by surprise situations, yet all could be brought within the range of credibility.”

Among the magician’s tricks employed by The Shadow in his fight against crime were:

  • The “Devil’s Whisper,” powders that exploded in a startling, blinding flash when The Shadow snapped his fingers (“Treasures of Death,” Dec. 15, 1933; “The Crime Oracle,” June 1, 1936; and others adventures);
  • Suction cups used for scaling walls like a human fly (“Gems of Doom,” July 15, 1940);
  • The illusion of walking on burning coals (“The Salamanders,” April 1, 1936);
  • A trick packing crate (“Dead Men Live,” Nov. 15, 1932);
  • Escaping from a Chinese torture device (“Green Eyes,” Oct. 1, 1932) and other Houdini-like escapes;
  • And making himself appear to be in one place, while actually being in another.