On this day in 1922, the Athens Daily Banner ran the following advertisement:
The previous week, the Colonial Theatre had featured a magician, but not one who did this particularly startling new illusion of sawing a woman in half. The performance was offered as a bonus feature to the real attraction, a comedy-romance silent movie titled Lessons in Love starring actress Constance Talmadge.
The Daily Banner included an article republished from a national weekly about "Pitroff, the Miracle Man," that began
Magic--the Black Art--never seemed any blacker than when Pitroff, master of bewildering mysteries declared that without sheding [sic] any blood he could cut a person in half and put him together again--alive, none the worse for the experience. People gasped and mumbled their astonishment. Was he crazy? Surely the law would intervene.
The piece goes on to describe Pitroff's selection of a young woman from the audience, gaining her permission to saw her in half, promising to pay her nearest relative $10,000 if she were killed during the illusion.
Pitroff likely did not have $10,000 to give anyone. He had started out as an escape artist vaudevillian, similar to Harry Houdini, but on a much smaller scale. As vaudeville gave way to moving pictures, there were fewer opportunities for his style of entertainment. The "sawing in half" illusion was not his invention. It was first done publicly in the United States in 1921 by magician Horace Goldin, who later patented his method for the trick.
- Athens Daily Banner, Nov. 1921 - Feb. 1922 on Microfilm in the Heritage collection.
- Encyclopedia of Magic and Magicians by T. A. Waters in the Reference collection.
- Encyclopedia of Vaudeville by Anthony Slide in the Reference collection.
- Silent Stars by Jeanine Basinger in the general collection.
- The Silent Clowns by Walter Kerr in the general collection.
- Mysterious Stranger: A Book of Magic by David Blaine in the general collection.
- Hiding the Elephant: How Magicians Invented the Impossible and Learned to Disappear by Jim Steinmeyer in the general collection.
- Flim-Flam! Psychics, ESP, Unicorns and Other Delusions by James Randi in the general collection.
- The Amazing Book of Magic: A Step-by-Step, Illustrated Guide to a Host of Simple Yet Spectacular Tricks by Jon Tremaine in the general collection.
- Knack Magic Tricks: A Step-by-Step Guide to Illusions, Sleights of Hand, and Amazing Feats by Richard Kaufman in the general collection.
- The Complete Beginner's Guide to Magic by Walter Brown Gibson in the general collection.
- Sleights of Mind: What the Neuroscience of Magic Reveals About Our Everyday Deceptions by Stephen L. Macknick in the New Books collection.
- The Life and Many Deaths of Harry Houdini by Ruth Brandon in the Biography collection.