Fakir of Ava

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Isaiah Harris Hughes (25 December 1813 – 24 May 1891), better known as the Fakir of Ava, was a 19th-century stage magician, the teacher of Harry Kellar.


Hughes was born in Essex, England, but moved to the United States and became an illusionist. He would wear dark makeup, exotic clothing, and claim to come from Ava in Burma. He billed himself as "The Fakir of Ava, Chief of Staff of Conjurors to His Sublime Greatness the Nanka of Aristaphae". He performed standard European magic tricks, but attempted to bill them as great Oriental feats. He later gave up his costume and performed in formal evening dress. [1]

In 1857, Hughes came up with the idea of a "gift show", a gimmick that was later used by many magicians in the 19th century. In his gift shows, Hughes would, in addition to performing magic, give away door prizes. The gifts were inexpensive trinkets such as second-hand watches or brass jewelry. Nonetheless, the concept excited audiences and was highly profitable because of the large crowds it drew — "I quickly put South again and coined money," said Hughes later.[2]

Harry Kellar[edit]

When Harry Kellar, later known as the "Dean of American Magicians", was a youth, he saw Hughes perform, and immediately decided that he wanted to be a magician himself. He became Hughes' assistant, and thus began his career as a traveling stage magician.[3]


The Fakir of Ava's grave, in Forest Lawn Cemetery, Buffalo

Some of the effects Harris performs included (from playbills)[4][unreliable source?]

  • The Enchanted Canopy
  • The Aeriel [sic?] Bank or Mysterious Treasury in the Air
  • Hindoo Cup Trick
  • The Mephistophole’s Hat
  • The Card Printer
  • The Fairy Star
  • The Great Orange Trick
  • The Chinese Plate Illusion
  • How to Cook an Omelet, and Produce Game and Ring
  • The Bank Note and Enchanted Candle
  • The Flying Watches
  • The Enchanted Fishery
  • The Express Laundry
  • The Wonderful Hat
  • The Witches Pole or the obedient Mysterious Blood Writing on the Arm
  • Vanishing Cage, Balls and Game
  • Laughable Ribbon and Paper Trick
  • The Great African Box and Sack Feat (Mysterious Appearance and Disappearance)
  • The Sealed Packet Or Wonders of Supernatural Vision
  • Angel’s Flight through Mid-Air!
  • The Elements
  • Dove of Buddha
  • Wizard Portfolio
  • Mystic Clock
  • Japanese Butterfly Trick
  • Aerial Couch
  • Gun Feat
  • Bottle Feat
  • Great Second Sight Mystery


  1. ^ Lamont, Peter (2005). The Rise of the Indian Rope Trick : How a Spectacular Hoax Became History. Thunder's Mouth Press. ISBN 1-56025-661-3. 
  2. ^ Gary Hunt. "Origin of the Gift Show". Magical Past-Times. Retrieved 2006-06-08. 
  3. ^ "People & Events: Harry Kellar (1849-1922)". The American Experience: Houdini. Retrieved 2006-06-08. 
  4. ^ "Fakir of Ava". MagicPedia. Retrieved 2010-02-27.