Jim Steinmeyer (born 1 November 1958) is an internationally respected designer of magical illusions and theatrical special effects. His best known illusions include Origami, Interlude, and Walking Through a Mirror. He is also an author, consultant and producer.
For a number of years, Steinmeyer was the magic designer to Doug Henning, and invented illusions for Henning's television specials and two Broadway shows. He has served as a magic consultant to Siegfried and Roy, David Copperfield and Lance Burton, as well as creating magic effects for Orson Welles, Harry Blackstone, The Pendragons, Simon Drake, Ricky Jay, Jason Bishop, and many others.
For David Copperfield, Steinmeyer created the illusion of the Vanishing Statue of Liberty, which was featured on a live television special in 1983. Musician Alice Cooper used a Steinmeyer-designed effect in his 2009 tour, where at one point he is confined inside a polished metal torture device, then impaled with a rack of sharp spikes.
Other notable stage illusions designed by Steinmeyer include:
- Origami  - an effect performed by both Doug Henning and David Copperfield and which has since been widely imitated. It was performed by an America's Got Talent contestant in 2010. An oriental-themed box is seen on a thin table, backed by a mirror. The magician's assistant steps into the box, which folds down into a small cube, 12 inches square. The cube is penetrated by three swords before being unfolded, allowing the assistant to emerge unharmed.
- Interlude  - originally titled Permeability, this illusion was performed by The Pendragons for many years as Interlude and is now commonly known as such. The magician is held in a metal frame and the magician's assistant passes through from back to front, appearing to pass through the magician's torso.
- Modern Art  - in which the magician's assistant enters a cabinet, the top half of which then slides across a blade, appearing to cut the performer in two through the waist.
- Osmosis - in which a performer seems to disappear inside the magician.
- Op-Art - the magician's assistant seems to gradually disappear behind a number of square panels, leaving only the head visible.
- The Lady in the Puzzle  - comprises a number of large puzzle pieces which are inserted into an empty frame and rearranged several times to display different images. Finally they are removed to reveal the magician's assistant.
As a researcher of magic history and a designer of special effects for the theatre, Steinmeyer's work has been featured in theatrical shows such as Beauty and the Beast, Into the Woods and Mary Poppins. He also created several enhanced effects for the Las Vegas production of Phantom of the Opera, including a special version of Christine's dressing room mirror in Act I and Raoul's torture cage in Act II.
Television and other media
Steinmeyer has worked as a producer and magic consultant for many magic television shows, and as a consultant and concept designer for Walt Disney Imagineering, where he developed theme park attractions for The Walt Disney Company.
He was the writer and producer of the A&E Network's The Story of Magic, a documentary on the history of magicians.
In 2014 Steinmeyer served as a magic trick consultant/ghostwriter on Neil Patrick Harris's book Choose Your Own Autobiography.
Steinmeyer lectures on magic and creating other theatrical effects at a variety of places including The Magic Castle, The Magic Circle in London, F.I.S.M. (the international association of magicians), and TED (1998) Conference in Monterey, California.
In 1991 "The Academy of Magical Arts" (The Magic Castle) awarded Steinmeyer The Creative Fellowship, recognizing his continuing inventions. The Fellowship awards were created in 1968, and are the magic industry's equivalent of the "Oscars". At that time Steinmeyer was 32 and was the youngest person to ever win a fellowship.
In 1996 Steinmeyer received the Milbourne Christopher award in recognition of contribution to magic design and in 2002, he received his second Fellowship award from "The Academy of Magical Arts" - this time collecting the Literary Fellowship Award.
He has written many books on magic's history and technical books on techniques of illusions. Recent works include:
- The Complete Jarrett, Hahne (2001) ASIN: B0014JAOXO
- Jim Steinmeyer's Impuzzibilities Strangely Self-Working Conjuring, Hahne (2002) ASIN: B000HAUEH2
- Hiding the Elephant - How Magicians Invented the Impossible and Learned to Disappear, Carroll & Graf (2004) ISBN 0-7867-1401-8
- The Glorious Deception: The Double Life of William Robinson, Aka Chung Ling Soo, the "Marvelous Chinese Conjurer" Carroll & Graf Publishers (2005), ISBN 0-7867-1512-X
- The Magic of Alan Wakeling: The Works of a Master Magician, Carroll & Graf (Nov 2006), ISBN 0-7867-1807-2
- Art and Artifice: And Other Essays of Illusion,Carroll & Graf (Nov 2006), ISBN 0-7867-1806-4
- Charles Fort: The Man Who Invented the Supernatural, Heinemann (May 2008), ISBN 0-434-01629-2
- The Last Greatest Magician in the World: Howard Thurston Versus Houdini & the Battles of the American Wizards. New York: Jeremy P. Tarcher/Penguin, a member of Penguin Group. 2011. ISBN 978-1-58542-845-8. OCLC 646111788.
- Hologram Illusion, Issued March 1, 1994, US Patent No. 5,291,297.
- Origami Illusion, Issued March 29, 1994, US Patent No. D345,595.
- "Jim Steinmeyer" at the Internet Movie Database
- "Designer and inventor of illusions and theatrical special effects for magicians and Broadway shows". Jim Stienmeyer. Retrieved 2007-04-17.
- T. A. Walters, "Jim Steinmeyer: Deviser of Illusions", MAGIC Magazine, September 1996