Thursday, November 7, 2013

[Resources] Jasper Maskelyne

Jasper Meskelyne was a successful stage magician in the 1930s. Then WWII started and he used his magic skills for England.

Or did he? Accounts of his exploits vary, a mix of some myth and some reality. Which was which? David Fisher wrote The War Magician (1983) extolling his abilities, as Meskelyne had done himself in his ghost-written book Magic: Top Secret (1949).

Others weren't as kind. Magician Richard Stokes, in a series of 21 articles published in issues of Genii Magic Journal, compared Meskelyne's and Fisher's books with military sources and concludes that most of it never happened. Another article in Wired by David Hambling was equally critical of the fables.

So what do we really know? Maybe not even this:

In 1940, while in the Royal Engineers, Jasper found himself at the Camouflage Development and Training Center in Farnham Castle. While his stage show was popular among the trainees, he was unsuccessful at camouflage.

Posted to Cairo, he was transferred to a variety of posts, one to design hidden escape equipment for captured soldiers and one to develop new camouflage techniques.

By 1942, he was back to doing what he did best: magic shows for the troops. After the war, he tried unsuccessfully to revive his career and ended up in Kenya.

Jasper would make a great contact in a game set during WWII or the Interwar period. Whether a fake or a real wizard, he'd make a good fall guy to blame, an innocent bystander that distracts the party, a master villain with a nefarious plan or an occult boss in-the-know for the PCs to interact with.

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