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Buffalo’s Magic Man: The Fakir of Ava

By Sandy Starks:

He wore dark makeup and exotic clothing as he performed his magic tricks. He was the first professional magician to do “gift” shows, where he would give away inexpensive trinkets as door prizes in between magic acts.  His audiences in the mid 1850s loved it, and “The Fakir of Ava” as he billed himself became very wealthy.

Join us on March 13 in the chapel at Forest Lawn, 1411 Delaware Avenue in Buffalo, at 2:00 p.m. as presenter Charity Vogel, Ph.D., a journalist in Buffalo who writes for national magazines on historical subjects and is completing a book for Cornell University Press, will detail the life history of Isaiah Harris Hughes. Starting with his birth in England shortly after the turn of the 19th century to his climb to the heights of fame as a magician and illusionist in 19th century America, Charity will enlighten the audience as to why, in Victorian-age America, the Fakir of Ava was often the first — and sometimes only — entertainer many Americans encountered. She’ll tell us why he was one of a very few men to carve out fame and wealth for themselves in this period as professional magicians. Hughes became the forefather of Houdini and was one of the richest men in Victorian-age Buffalo. He delighted, amused and amazed audiences by his opulent lifestyle and headline-making antics., such as performing in full evening dress.

Upon his death in 1891, Hughes was laid to rest in Forest Lawn…or was he? He was, after all, one of the most skilled magicians in history, so who really knows?

Come learn more at this entertaining and enlightening talk, which is part of Forest Lawn’s Sunday In The Cemetery concert and lecture series.  The Ladies First Jazz Trio will entertain us with several musical numbers to honor Women’s History Month, observed every March in the United States.

Tickets are just $15.  Seating is limited, reservations are required (and these events have been selling out fast!).  Tickets can be purchased by calling the Forest Lawn office at (716) 885.1600.


Written by David Steele

David Steele

Architect ( a real one, not just the armchair type), author of "Buffalo, Architecture in the American Forgotten Land" ( ), lover of great spaces, hater of sprawl and waste,
advocate for a better way of doing things.

View All Articles by David Steele
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