About Joseph Dunninger

Joseph Dunninger, known as “The Amazing Dunninger”, was one of the most famous and proficient mentalists of all time. Born on April 28, 1892, in New York City, he was the son of poor German immigrants. His interest in magic was sparked at a young age when he saw Kellar, a famous magician, perform in 1898. This led him to learn magic from a book and by 1909, he was a semi-pro magician performing magic, illusions, and mentalism.

Dunninger was not just a performer, but also a pioneer. He was one of the first performers of magic on radio and television. His performances were so captivating that he was invited to perform at the homes of Theodore Roosevelt and Thomas Edison, both of whom were avid admirers of Dunninger. Even President Franklin D. Roosevelt invited Dunninger to the White House on several occasions to demonstrate his mentalist skills.

In addition to his performances, Dunninger was also known for his work as a debunker of fraudulent mediums. He claimed to replicate through trickery all spiritualist phenomena1. His book, “Inside the Medium’s Cabinet” (1935), exposed the tricks of mediumship1. He also explained how the Indian rope trick could be performed by camera trickery. 

Dunninger had a standing offer of $10,000 to anyone who could prove that he used confederates or "stooges". Through Scientific American magazine and his own organization, the Universal Council for Psychic Research, he also made an offer to any medium who could produce by psychic or supernatural means any physical phenomena that he could not duplicate or explain by natural means. No medium ever won the reward.

Dunninger was a good friend to many notables in the magic community including Harry Houdini, Francis Martinka, and Tony Slydini. He maintained a lifelong friendship with author of The Shadow, Walter B. Gibson, who guest wrote or co-wrote a number of books for Dunninger on magic, psychic phenomena, and spiritualism.

In 1937, Max Holden considered "Dunninger the foremost magician and showman of the present day". He acted as a technical adviser as just “Dunninger” in the 1953 biopic film Houdini starring Tony Curtis in the title role. Dunninger appeared on radio starting in the 1920s, and had his own weekly show in 1943. In 1948, Dunninger and Paul Winchell were featured on Floor Show on NBC TV.

Dunninger passed away on March 9, 1975. His legacy lives on as one of the most influential figures in the world of magic and mentalism. His contributions to the field have shaped the way magic is performed and perceived today. He was not just a performer, but a pioneer, a debunker, and a legend in his field. His life and work continue to inspire magicians and mentalists around the world.


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