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Copyright © Christine A. Corcos 2010

Law and Magic Blog

last updated 06/03/2016

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Fox Plans Psychic Reality Show

According to this April 4, 2007 Hollywood Reporter story, the Fox News Network and a co-creator of the hit comedy series Friends are going ahead with a series to test applicants for the "most gifted" psychic. Perhaps they should start, though, by testing whether psychic ability really exists.

Read Joe Nickell's account of assisting with a new big screen film, The Reaping, here (from CSI Online).

A Texas appellate court has overturned the conviction for theft by coercion of fortune teller Jennifer Nicole Evans, ruling that the prosecution failed to show that Evans "never threatened to hurt anyone", a required element of the crime. The prosecution will appeal to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. Was the appropriate crime with which to charge Evans crime by deception? See an account of the appellate court's ruling at Maro Robbins, Tarot Card Reader Wins Appeal, San Antonio Express-News, Dec. 28, 2006, at 1B. The case is Evans v. State, 2006 Tex. App. LEXIS 11016.


Criss Angel Sued Over Unpaid Royalties

For other news, see the Law and Magic Blog.




La Celestina

Allen, Charlotte Vale, Night Magic (New York: Atheneum, 1989).

Baum, L. Frank, The Wizard of Oz

Christie, Agatha, The Blue Geranium, in The Thirteen Problems (1932). Also published as The Tuesday Club Murders (in the US). Filmed and broadcast on PBS in the Miss Marple V series with Julia McKenzie as Miss Jane Marple.

Christie, Agatha, Motive Vs. Opportunity, in The Thirteen Problems (1932). Published as What's the Catch in The Tuesday Club Murders (in the US).

For more supernaturally themed Christie stories see here.

Clarke, Susanna, Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell (Bloomsbury, 2004).

Douglas, Carole Nelson (author website). Ms. Douglas writes books featuring a mystery solving cat. One of the human characters is a magician.

Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von, Faust

Gold, Glen David Carter Beats the Devil (2001). A novel featuring the (real life) magician Charles Carter ("Carter the Great"). Gold is married to the novelist Alice Sebold.

Hoffman, Alice, Practical Magic

Kelley, Patrick A.  Kelley's protagonist is magician Harry Colderwood.

Rawson, Clayton

Rowling, J. K., Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

Magicians in Literature

Claxton, Michael Jay, The Conjurer Unmasked: Literary and Theatrical Magicians, 1840-1925 (Dissertation, University of North Carolina, 2003). Discussion of Elizabeth Gaskell’s Cranford; Robert Browning’s Mr. Sludge, the Medium; Mark Twain’s A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court and their treatment of magicians.

Hoppenstand, Gary, Crime and the Magician Detective as Symbols in Patrick A. Kelley’s Sleightly Murder, 12(1) Clues: A Journal of Detection 57-72 (Spring/Summer 1991).

Harry Potter

Barton, Benjamin H., Harry Potter and the Half-Crazed Bureaucrazy, 104 Mich. L. Rev.-- (2006).

Schwabach, Aaron, Harry Potter and the Unforgivable Curses: Norm-Formation, Inconsistency, and the Rule of Law in the Wizarding World, Roger Williams Law Review (2005).

Spitz, Laura, Wands Away (Or, Preaching to Infidels Who Wear Earplugs), 41 Law Teacher -- (2007).


Harry Potter and the Law: Symposium, Texas Wesleyan Law Review 2006.


Spiritualists in Novels and Mysteries

Brownstein, Gabriel, The Man From Beyond (Norton, 2005). Arthur Conan Doyle and Harry Houdini battle over whether a medium is genuine.

Bowen, Rhys, In Like Flynn (St. Martin's Press, 2005). Heroine of the series (Molly Flynn) goes undercover to investigate two mediums.

Chance, Megan, The Spiritualist (Crown Publishing, 2008). A widow is suspected of murder after her husband attends a seance.

Gooden, Philip, The Durham Deception (Severn House, 2011). Set in Victorian England. The two married sleuths (husband a lawyer) set out to investigate a spiritualist.

Harwood, John, The Seance (Mariner Books, 2009). A woman tries to discover the truth behind the sinister reputation of a house.

Llewellyn, Caroline, False Light (Simon & Schuster, 1996). A biographer investigates a mystery surrounding a long dead spiritualist.

Lovesey, Peter, A Case of Spirits (Soho Press, 2009). Reprint. Sergeant Cribb investigates thefts and seances.

Rogow, Roberta, The Problem of the Spiteful Spiritualist: A Charles Dodgson/Arthur Conan Doyle Mystery (St. Martin's Press, 1999). Pairs the two historical figures in tracking down the murderer of a spiritualist medium.

Tallman, Shirley, The Cliff House Strangler (St. Martin's Minotaur, 2007). A nineteenth century lawyer tries to solve a murder during a seance at Cliff House, near San Francisco.




Hundreds of films have featured magicians as characters. Here is a sampling in which magicians, psychics, fortunetellers, astrologers, clairvoyants, palm readers, witches and wizards and spiritualists have played key roles.

The Amazing Mr. X (1948).  Turhan Bey is a medium who puts a widow in touch with her late husband. Many twists and turns in this low budget but well acted thriller.

The Clairvoyant (1934). Claude Rains is a fake clairvoyant whose predictions suddenly seem to come true.

Columbo Goes to the Guillotine (TVM 1989). Lieutenant Columbo (Peter Falk) deals with a psychic (Anthony Andrews) who murders a magician who could reveal his trickery (Anthony Zerbe).

Death Defying Acts (2007). A psychic enters into an affair with Harry Houdini. Stars Catherine Zeta-Jones and Guy Pearce (as Houdini).

Family Plot (1976). Barbara Harris and Bruce Dern as a hapless medium and her accomplice, a would-be actor, trying to find a missing heir (William Devane). Alfred Hitchcock's last film. Both Family Plot and The Amazing Mr. X reveal how mediums conduct seances.

The Great Houdini (TVM 1976). Paul Michael Glaser as the fabled magician and Sally Struthers as his faithful wife Bess.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (2001). The first of a string of films based on the J. K. Rowling fantasies, this movie plays the magic "for real."

Houdini (1953). The classic biopic starring Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh.

The Illusionist (2006). Edward Norton as a magician in turn of the century Vienna. Based on a Steven Millhauser short story, "Eisenheim the Illusionist."

New York Stories (1989). Three short films about the city. One, "Oedipus Wrecks", directed by and starring Woody Allen, features Allen as a lawyer whose magic trick goes awry.

Practical Magic (1998). Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman as two sisters with magical powers who discover that love has powers greater than their own.

The Prestige (2006). Hugh Jackman, Christian Bale, and Michael Caine star in this film about competing magicians in turn of the century London.

Smokin' Aces (2006). Hired killers chase after a third-rate Lake Tahoe magician.

Scoop (2006). Woody Allen is a third rate magician and Scarlett Johanssen is an aspiring journalist on the trail of a serial killer in this comedy drama set in London.

The Wizard of Oz (1939). Judy Garland, Ray Bolger, Frank Morgan, Bert Lahr, and Jack Haley star in this classic, an adaptation of L. Frank Baum's novel about a little girl's trip to a fantastic land populated by witches, Munchkins, flying monkeys, and a wizard who can make dreams come true.




Columbo Goes to the Guillotine. Psychic Elliott Blake (Anthony Andrews) murders magician Max Dyson (Anthony Zerbe). Columbo enlists the assistance of a magic shop owner and a young magician to help him figure out the trick and trap the killer. First telecast February 6, 1989. Available on DVD in the US.

Columbo: Now You See Him. The "Great Santini" (Jack Cassidy) murders Jesse Jerome (Nehemiah Persoff). Columbo is soon on Santini's trail. First telecast February 29, 1976. Available on DVD in the US.

The Defiant One. Grady practices his magic act on Fred and Esther and inadvertently shackles them together because the instructions to the trick are printed in Chinese. First telecast Jan. 21, 1977. Also called "Chinese Torture."








Many practicing magicians and theorists have explained the philosophy of magic. See the following books and articles for clarification of the principles of magic.

Lamont, Peter, and Richard Wiseman, Magic in Theory (Hatfield: University of Hertfordshire Press, 1999; reprinted 2005).

Mauss, Marcel, A General Theory of Magic (2001). Other editions available.



Comparisons of Law and Magic

In General

Baird, Peter, Corpus Juris Hocus Pocus, Arizona Attorney, October 1989, at 23. Peter Baird is one of the attorneys who was involved in the Miranda case (Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436 (1966), after which the "Miranda warning" was named). He is also a noted novelist (Beyond Peleliu).

Lax, Rick, Fool Me Once (St. Martin's Press, 2011). Rick Lax investigates the world of magicians, con artists, and hustlers.

Lax, Rick, Lawyer Boy (St. Martin's Press, 2008). Although Lax's book is primarily a memoir of his law school experience, he does discuss his decision not to become a professional magician and to pursue a law degree. References to magic crop up in the book.

Pradell, Steve, Family Law: Magic in the Courtroom, 26 Alaska Bar Rag 27 (September/October 2002).




Allen, Jessie, A Theory of Adjudication: Law as Magic, 41 Suffolk University Law Review 773 (2008).

Barnhizer, David, and Daniel Barnhizer, Myth, Magic, and Mystery: Defending the Hidden Order of the Rule of Law

Barshack, Lior, The Totemic Authority of the Court, 11 Law and Critique 301 (2000).

Carneiro, Rafael Prince, A César o que é de Deus: magia, mito e sacralidade do direito (Thesis, Faculty of Law, 2008).

Cotterill, Roger, Emile Durkheim: Law in a Moral Domain 96-99. (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1998) Discussing the intersection between law and magic.

Gurvitch, Georges, La magie et le droit (Paris: Dalloz, 2004). Reprint.

Gurvitch, Georges, La magie, la religion, et le droit, in 2 La Vocation Actuelle de la Sociologie (Paris: PUF, 1963).  

Nelms, Hennings, Magic and Showmanship: A Guide For Conjurers (Dover Publications, 1969). Reprint. Henning Nelms was also an attorney, so his discussion of magic is of interest both to practicing magicians and to lawyers.

Huvelin, P., La magie et le droit individuel, 10 Annee sociologique 1-47 (1905-1906).

Lee, Blewett, The Conjurer, 7 Virginia Law Review 370 (1921).

Lee, Blewett, The Fortune Teller, 9 Virginia Law Review 249 (1923).

Lee, Blewett, Psychic Phenomena and the Law, 34 Harvard Law Review 625 (1921).

Lee, Blewett, Spiritualism and Crime, -- Columbia Law Review 439 (1922).

Peters, Edward, The Magician, the Witch, and the Law (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1978). Essential to a study of this topic. Extensive bibliographies after each chapter.

Schreiner, Agnes, and A. K. J. Strijbosch, Recht en magie (‘s Gravenhage: Vuga, 1988).

Stone, Suzanne Last, Rabbinic Legal Magic: A New Look at Honi's Circle as the Construction of Law's Space, 17 Yale Journal of Law and the Humanities 97 (2005).

Woodhall, Edwin T., Crime and the Supernatural (Kessinger Publisher, 2003). Reprint of the 1935 publication.

Roman Period

Ando, Clifford, and Jörg Rüpke, Religion and Law in Christian and Classical Rome (Stuttgart: Steiner Verlag, 2006). See here for review.

Beckmann, Franz, Zauberei und Recht in Roms Frühzeit :ein Beitrag zur Geschichte und Interpretation des Zwölftafelrechtes (Munich: 1923).

Cramer, Frederick H., Astrology in Roman Law and Politics (Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society, 1954)(Memoirs; 37). Reprinted by Ares Publishers, Chicago, 1996.

MacCormack, Geoffrey, Formalism, Symbolism and Magic in Early Roman law, 37 Tijdschrift voor Rechtsgeschiedenis 439 (1969).

Pharr, Clyde, The Interdiction of Magic in Roman Law, 63 Transactions of the American Philological Association  269-295 (1932).

Rives, James B., Magic in Roman Law: The Reconstruction of a Crime, 22(2) Classical Antiquity 313-339 (October 2003). (abstract only).

Byzantine Period

Marie-Theres Fögen, Balsamon on Magic: From Roman Secular Law To Byzantine Canon Law (Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, 1995).

Troianos, Spyros N., Mageia kai dikaio sto Vyzantio (Athenai: Ekklesiastikon Epistemonikon kai Morphotikon Hidryma, 1997)(Seira Dialexeis).

European History

Byloff, Fritz, Das Verbrechen der Zauberei (crimen magiae): ein Beitrag zur Geschichte der Strafrechtspflege in Steiermark (Graz: Leuschner & Lubensky, 1902).


Sörlin, Per, "Wicked Arts": Witchcraft and Magic Trials in Southern Sweden, 1635-1754 (Brill Academic Publishers, 1998)(Cultures, Beliefs and Traditions, Medieval and Early Modern Peoples; 7).


Business and Corporate Law

Chen, Ron C. and Jon Hanson, The Illusion of Law: The Illegitimating Schemas of Modern Policy and Corporate Law, 103 Mich. L. Rev. 1 (2004).

Freedom of Thought, Speech, Religion

Kohnert, Dirk, On the Renaissance of African Modes of Thought: The Example of Occult Belief Systems, in Witches, Witch-Hunts, and Magical Imaginaries in Modern Africa 40-62 (Burghart Schmidt and Rolf Schulte eds.; Verlag Dokumentatation & Buch, Hamburg, 2007).

Intellectual Property Law

Assaf, Katya, The Magic of Trademark Law

Fleury-Legros, Pierre, La protection du secret de l'oeuvre de magie par le droit de la propriété intellectuelle, Chroniques, 10 Novembre 2005, at 2808.

Fleury-Legros, Pierre, Si j'avais un piano...., Jurisprudence, 2004, at 1589-1591.

Loshin, Jacob, Secrets Revealed: How Magicians Protect Intellectual Property Without Law


Internet Law

Fairfield, Joshua, The Magic Circle


Real Estate Law

Cheever, Federico, Public Good and Private Magic in the Law of Land Trusts and Conservation Easements: A Happy Present and a Troubled Future, 73 Denver U. L. Rev. 1077 (1996).


Tax Law

Hanna, Christopher H., The Magic in the Tax Legislative Process

Hu, Henry T. C., Faith and Magic: Investor Beliefs and Government Neutrality, 78 Tex. L. Rev. -- (2000).

Willis, Steven G., Masks, Magic, & Games: The Use of Tax Policy as a Policy Tool, 4 Am. J. Tax Pol'y 41 (1985).



Law and Magic in Specific Countries

Aleck, Jonathan, Law and Sorcery in Papua New Guinea: A Reconsideration of the Relationship Between Law and Custom (Dissertation, Australian National University, 1996).

Kaetzler, Joachim, Magie und Strafrecht in Suedafrika (Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang, 2001).

Mboussi, Mouyol à, Sorcellerie en justice au Cameroun (Yaoundè, Cameroun: Presses de l’UCAC, 2004).

Pacéré Titinga, La magie et la sorcellerie: (fait et droit)(Ouagadougou: Fondacion Pacéré, 2001).

Savage, John, Black Magic and White Terror: Slave Poisoning and the Provostial Court in Restoration-Era Martinique.

Schreiner, Agnes, and A. K. J Strijbosch, Recht en magie (‘s-Gravenhage: Vuga, 1988).

Slaats, Herman and Karin Portier, Sorcery and the Law in Modern Indonesia, in Understanding Witchcraft and Sorcery in Southeast Asia 135 (C. W. Watson and Roy Ellen eds.; University of Hawai'i Press, 1989).

Collections of Essays on Law and Magic

Law and Magic: A Collection of Essays (Christine A. Corcos, ed. Carolina Academic Press, 2010). Twenty four essays on various topics.




International Brotherhood of Magicians (IBM)

Society of American Magicians (SAM)

Scientists, Skeptics, Researchers, Research Organizations, and Skeptical Organizations


Henri Broch, Professor at the University of Nice-Sophia Antipolis

James Randi

The Judge as Gatekeeper



Henderson v. Nagler, Civil Action No. 08-CV-10493 (U.S.D.C., E.D. Mich.)(decided July 2, 2008)(defamation lawsuit dismissed as protected opinion).



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