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Eddie Joseph – Magician Par Excellence

Jael Silliman

The Eddie Joseph Ring is named after probably one of India’s most famous magicians. In 1951 the Governor of Bombay awarded him the title “Dean of Magic.” Eddie represented India at the International Brotherhood of Magicians (IBM) in 1928 and was very active in the Society of Indian Magicians. While much is known about his magic, I learned about his family background from his cousin Solomon (Sol) Bekhor.

“I had no idea that my cousin was a genius. He was humble and kind and everyone loved him. I wish I took an interest in magic then. He performed a lot of tricks for me.” Contrary to Wikipedia which states: “Born in Calcutta, India to British parents in 1899…” Eddie was from the Baghdadi Jewish community. Sol explains: “Eddie’s mother, Habiba, was my father’s sister.”

Eddie had an international presence and was writing for international publications regularly in the late 1920s. His first contribution to the Linking Ring was in the September 1927 issue. Subsequently he authored of over 70 books and pamphlets and contributed to leading international publications including the Genii and The New Tops. He was a prolific author for Abbott’s and Max Andrews.

Eddie was the first magician to practice magic over the radio making over 30 appearances on the airwaves. He performed in the official celebrations of the Silver Jubilee of King George V in 1935. During the Second World War he traveled as Eddie Jason, the “Prattling Trixter” across India to entertain British and American servicemen. After the War he served as Editor of The India Magic Digest. He opened his own school of magic in Bombay before emigrating to the UK where he worked in the field of magic till his daughter, Esther, died in 1965.

Eddie’s mother was the grand-daughter of Hacham Schlomo (Solomon) Bekhor, a notable Rabbi and scholar in Baghdad. “Some of his writings are preserved in the archives of the Hebrew university,” Sol tells me. “He opened the first printing press in Baghdad.”

The community was called the “Baghdadis” because they followed the liturgy of Bagdad, however the community included Jews from across the Middle East. The Baghdadis were enterprising and good at business. Thus Moshe Jacob was able to set up shop rather quickly in the mercantile city that offered them many opportunities. While never more than 4,000 in Calcutta, much less in Bombay, they made an important mark on the City’s scape spanning business, arts, theater, film, media as well as the administrative services. A few also became important politically and in the Armed Services (for more on notable members of the community see www.jewishcalcutta.in).

Eddie married Sarah and the couple had two daughters. Esther studied violin from a very young age and became quite a famous concert solo violinist in Calcutta and played at the New Empire Theater. His sister, Hazel was a singer and pianist. She played at the Greens Hotel but never turned professional. She emigrated to Vancouver.

It was Esther’s premature death that led Eddie to give up his career. Eddie died in the UK in 1974. His magic effects and techniques are still used today.

For a full version of the article see The Telegraph, Weave Magic at Home and Abroad, August 2nd, 2018.