Julius and Agnes Zancig

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Julius and Agnes Zancig
The Zancigs magicians.png
Occupation Mentalists

Julius and Agnes Zancig were stage magicians and authors on occultism who performed a spectacularly successful two-person mentalism act during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Julius Zancig (1857–1929) – born Julius Jörgensen in Copenhagen, Denmark – and his wife Agnes Claussen Jörgensen (c.1850s −1916) – also born in Copenhagen, and known as Agnes Zancig – were the originators of the routine.

The Zancig's managed to fool many spiritualists into believing they had genuine psychic powers. Julius later confessed that their mentalist acts were based on a complex code that they had utilized.[1][2]

Career[edit]

Julius Zancig in his early career worked in iron smelting. He later became interested in mentalism and with his wife Agnes, took a mind reading act to the stage.[3] Several versions of the Zancigs' act appeared over the years:

  • From their first professional appearance in the 1880s, until her death in 1916, the act consisted of Julius Jörgensen Zancig and his wife Agnes Claussen Jörgensen Zancig. Julius and Agnes were very close to one another in real life as well as on stage. In 1907, Julius authored a book that supposedly illustrated the psychic relationship between husband and wife, entitled "Two Minds With But a Single Thought." They had been childhood sweethearts in Denmark but grew apart, then met and fell in love again after both had emigrated to the United States. They were married in 1886. Theirs was the most popular and famous version of the act, and was successful for 30 years.
  • As a performing duo, The Zancigs toured the world, visiting England, India, China, Japan, Australia, and South Africa. After several years of travel, they again settled in the United States.
  • During the early 1900s, Julius Zancig wrote articles for magazines. Both individually and as a pair, Agnes and Julius also wrote and published several books on such occult methods of divination and fortune telling as cartomancy, palmistry, and scrying with a crystal ball. On the title pages of these books, they styled themselves "Prof. Zancig" and "Mdme. Zancig."
  • In 1916, at around the age 59, Agnes died. Julius remarried to a schoolteacher named Ada, who had been born in Brooklyn, New York, and she became his new partner in the mentalism act.
  • By 1917, Ada's dislike for public appearances had become so strong that Julius hired Paul Vučić (a.k.a. Paul Rosini) to take her place, under the stage-name "Henry."
  • In 1917, Vučić, born in 1902 in Trieste to Serbian parents, decided to join the armed forces when the U.S. entered World War I and was replaced by David Theodore Bamberg (1904–1974), the teenaged son of the stage magician Theo "Okito" Bamberg. David Bamberg performed the Zancigs' mind-reading act with Julius under the stage name "Syko the Psychic".
  • In 1919, the Bamberg family left for Europe and Ada rejoined the act.

Retirement and private work for clients[edit]

During the 1920s, the Zancigs retired from touring. Julius was in his mid 60s, and the couple settled down to a quiet life as professional astrologers, tea leaf readers, crystal ball seers, and palmists, working for private clients. For a while they resided in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Julius was a member of the Society of American Magicians.[4]

He wrote his last book, on crystal gazing, in 1926. They were living in Ocean Park, California (now Santa Monica, California), when Julius died in 1929, at the age of 72.

Method[edit]

The Zancigs worked their stage act by means of an extremely elaborate and undetectable verbal code, which in later years became known as the Zancig Code. In 1921 a small (but by itself essentially useless) portion of the Zancigs' methodology was published by their friend and fellow mentalist-magician, Alexander the Crystal Seer.

In 1924, the psychical researcher Harry Price claimed that Julius had revealed to him his method of using a code.[5] Price later commented:

The Zancigs' performance took years of study to perfect, and several hours practice daily were needed to keep the performers in good form. I have the Zancigs' codes in my library and know the hard work that both Mr. Julius Zancig and his wife put into their 'act,' a matter which I have discussed with Mr. Zancig himself.[6]

The spiritualists Arthur Conan Doyle and W. T. Stead were duped into believing that the Zancigs had genuine psychic powers. Both Doyle and Stead wrote that the Zancigs performed telepathy. In 1924, Julius confessed that that their mind reading act was a trick and published the secret code and all the details of the trick method they had used under the title of Our Secrets! in a London newspaper.[7]

Writing in 1929, the year of Julius Zancig's death, the British magician Will Goldston described their methods.[8]

The pair worked on a very complicated and intricate code. There was never any question of thought transference in the act. By framing his question in a certain manner, Julius was able to convey to his wife exactly what sort of object or design had been handed to him. Long and continual practice had brought their scheme as near perfection as is humanly possible. On several occasions confederates were placed in the audience, and at such times the effects seemed nothing short of miraculous. All their various tests were cunningly faked, and their methods were so thorough that detection was an absolute impossibility to the laymen.[8]

In the 1940s, Robert Nelson published a simple stage code which superficially resembled that of the Zancigs, but it did not permit the diversity of expression they had achieved.

To this day, the Zancig Code, also known as "Two Minds With But a Single Thought," is considered by many professional mentalists to be the most dauntingly complex two-person communication system of its type ever devised.

In popular culture[edit]

When Stan Laurel, of the comedy team Laurel and Hardy, was approached by the fans who were starting the Laurel and Hardy fan club, "Sons of the Desert," he was asked to supply a motto for the lodge's logo and suggested a parody of the Zancigs' famous tag-line, "Two Minds Without a Single Thought!"

Influence[edit]

In 1908 Julius Zancig met Edward Cyril De Hault Laston who became the stage performing mnemonist known as 'Memora'. It was Julius Zancig who promoted Laston's talents to W. T. Stead.[9]

Julius had influenced many magicians. In 1924, Harry Houdini wrote that "Mr. Jules Zancig is a magician, a member of the Society of American Magicians of which I have been the President for the past seven years. I believe he is one of the greatest second-sight artists that magical history records. In my researches for the past quarter of a century I have failed to trace anyone his superior. His system seems to be supreme."[10]

Publications[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Anderson, Rodger. (2006). Psychics, Sensitives and Somnambules: A Biographical Dictionary with Bibliographies. McFarland. p. 188. ISBN 0-7864-2770-1 "Zancig confided that he and his wife were using a code perfected after years of practice, an extremely complex system of signals composed of audible and visual cues. He further explained how he had fooled Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, W. G. T. Stead, J. Hewit McKenzie and other prominent spiritualists into thinking him a real psychic."
  2. ^ Lamb, Geoffrey. (1982). Magic, Witchcraft and the Occult. Hippocrene Books. p. 175. ISBN 978-0882547053 "The Zancigs were guarded in their claims, but they convinced many of those who tested them that their telepathic powers were real. In the twenties, however, Julius sold his secret code to the popular British weekly, Answers. When his first wife died he was fortunate enough to find another clever wife and assistant (Ada). Julius himself died in 1929."
  3. ^ Maskelyne, Jasper. (2009 edition, originally published in 1936). Maskelyne's Book of Magic. Dover Publications. pp. 46-47. ISBN 0-486-47177-2
  4. ^ Mulholland, John. (1938). Beware Familiar Spirits. C. Scribner's Sons. p. 211. ISBN 0-684-16181-8
  5. ^ Price, Harry. (1936). Confessions of a Ghost-Hunter. Putnam. p. 258. "In 1924 Zancig revealed to me his method of using the silent code. Zancig died in the Santa Monica (California) hospital on July 27, 1929, aged seventy-two, after a two years' illness."
  6. ^ Price, Harry. (1930). Rudi Schneider: A Scientific Examination of His Mediumship. Methuen & Co. p. 44
  7. ^ Booth, John. (1986). Psychic Paradoxes. Prometheus Books. p. 8. ISBN 978-0879753580
  8. ^ a b Goldston, Will. (1929). The Truth About the Zancigs. In Sensational Tales of Mystery Men. London.
  9. ^ "A New Memory-Man". May, 1908.
  10. ^ Houdini, Harry. (1924). A Magician Among The Spirits. Harper and Brothers. p. 210

Further reading[edit]

  • Fixen, Laura G. (1911). The True Secret of Mind Reading as Performed by the Zancigs and other artists including Carter the Magician and Abigail Price aka Mind Reading or Second Sight. Diamond Dust.
  • Goldston, Will. (1929). The Truth About the Zancigs. In Sensational Tales of Mystery Men. London.