Though the origin of National Smoke and Mirrors Day, March 29, is unknown, it most likely is intended both to promote appreciation of the art and skill of magicians who specialize in illusions and to remind us all to be wary of deceptive practices in daily life. Today, “smoke and mirrors” usually means that we’re being hoodwinked into believing something is true or that it is functional when it really isn’t. It’s a reminder that unlike Dorothy, we shouldn’t wait until the end to pull back the curtain to see if what we thought is real is actually masterful fakery.
When is National Smoke and Mirrors Day 2024?
Magic, the unseen, and the unknown are celebrated on Smoke and Mirrors Day on March 29.
History of National Smoke and Mirrors Day
Skill, secrecy, and deception have been driving the practice of the magical arts for centuries. Archaeologists have found the elementary cup and ball trick depicted on the wall of an Egyptian tomb. Priests were the main practitioners of magic in pharaonic Egypt, where they were seen as guardians of a secret knowledge given by the gods to humanity to ‘ward off the blows of fate’.
Real lector priests performed magical rituals to protect their king and to help the dead to rebirth. By the first millennium BC, their role seemed to have been taken over by magicians (hekau). Amulets were a source of magic power, obtainable from ‘protection-makers’, who could be male or female. Metal wands representing the snake goddess Great of Magic were carried by some practitioners of magic.
The classic technique of “smoke and mirrors” was in use by the 1770s in Germany. Johann Georg Schröpfer manipulated these elements to make it appear that an entity was hovering in the air. Schröpfer relied on a magic lantern, a primitive precursor of the slide projector, which paired a concave mirror with convex lenses and a candle for illumination, to create images.
Schröpfer had established a breakaway Freemason lodge in Leipzig, founded on the assertion that only his group knew the true Masonic truths and only he could communicate with the spirit world. He bought a coffeehouse and renovated it as a venue where he held séances. After his death, other showmen carried on for him, serving up what came to be called Phantasmagoria shows. These shows specialized in supernatural sensationalism.
In 1865, a British academic created one of the most famous mirror tricks, the Sphinx Illusion, which was popularized by magician Colonel Stodare. The illusion claimed to reveal the disembodied head of the Sphinx, which had been cursed by a pharaoh. The underpinning of the illusion is two contiguous mirrors angled so that they reflect a surrounding background material, while the subject merely kneels behind with the head presented above the whole artifice. The detached head appears to float. This fundamental principle of reflection is still essential to deception.
National Smoke and Mirrors Day timeline
Zoroaster is the first person to perform magic, according to legend.
The use of smoke and mirrors to create illusions is invented by the German magician Johann Georg Schröpfer, who is also a Mason.
Scottish philosopher and scientist Sir David Brewster, inventor of the kaleidoscope, debunks and demystifies apparitions in "Letters on Natural Magic," explaining that the eye can't be trusted to make sense of our world.
British Scientist John Henry Pepper first demonstrated "Pepper's Ghost," a special effects technique still used today in haunted houses and theaters to produce ghostly images by reflecting them off a sheet of plexiglass.
One of the most well-known mirror tricks, Colonel Stodare's famed Sphinx Illusion, is created by a British professor.
"Modern Magic," by Professor Hoffmann, published in London by George Routledge & Sons, is the first book in English that explains how to perform magic, from coin and card tricks to large stage illusions.
Bill and Milt Larsen continue their late father's dedication to the performance of magic by opening The Magic Castle in Los Angeles as an exclusive private club for members of The Academy of Magical Arts.
Criss Angel's professional career begins with the show World Of Illusion at Madison Square Garden, which is followed by the show Criss Angel Mindfreak, which continues until 2003.
National Smoke and Mirrors Day FAQs
What is Smoke and Mirrors Day?
Also known as the Festival of Smoke and Mirrors Day, things that cannot be explained or are deceptive to the human eye are observed and celebrated on this day.
What does “smoke and mirrors” mean?
In the English language, the term describes actions and things that are not what they seem — manipulation, deception, or what simply cannot be explained.
What does “blue smoke and mirrors” mean?
The smoke and mirrors used by magicians to create illusions is known as blue smoke and mirrors.
Can anyone learn magic?
Yes. What skills you already have can affect your ability to learn magic, just like they can affect any other skill. A competent magician can study and enhance their craft in a variety of ways, too.
What skills are needed to learn magic?
To become a great magician and distinguish yourself, you need skills such as but not limited to manual dexterity, presenting skills, memory, a thorough understanding of psychology, memory, inventiveness, and tenacity are all required.
How to Celebrate National Smoke and Mirrors Day
Show us some tricks
Every town used to have a magic shop where kids bought their starter tricks and learned to develop some manual dexterity. It's never too late to learn! Most of the shops are gone now, but you can go online and watch a video to learn the Spoon Bending trick and other classics.
Watch a magician movie
There are several movies about magic you can watch either alone or with friends and family. Movies like “Now You See Me” and “Now You See Me 2” or even series like “Lupin.”
Attend a magic show
Shows about magic are well magical and can transform your ideas of illusions. Watching a live magic show is a great way to celebrate the holiday so go out, keep an open mind and be ready to be mesmerized.
5 Facts About Magicians That Will Blow Your Mind
Dai Vernon fooled Houdini
Dai Vernon bested Houdini's boastful challenge that no one could fool him with the same trick three times in a row by fooling him eight times in a row.
Houdini swallowed keys
Harry Houdini performed many tricks that involved escaping from handcuffs by regurgitating keys he had swallowed backstage.
Criss Angel tops YouTube
Criss Angel is the most-watched magician on YouTube, with more than 60 million people worldwide viewing his "Walk on Water" illusion.
David Copperfield makes more money
With 18 Emmy Awards for his TV specials, David Copperfield is considered the most commercially successful magician working today.
Siegfried and Roy produced cartoons
The illusionists who rocked Las Vegas with their big cats were executive producers of an NBC animated sitcom, "Father of the Pride," about a white lion who gets a gig in the famous act.
Why We Love National Smoke and Mirrors Day
Magic recalls childhood
As a young kid, you probably went to a birthday party where a magician pulled a quarter out from behind a friend's ear. Nothing ever replaces that sensation of being innocent and experiencing something you can't believe is possible.
Many magicians are superstars today
Celebrity magicians and illusionists including Penn & Teller, Criss Angel, David Copperfield, Mat Franco, and David Blaine perform on television specials and in elaborate Las Vegas shows. Lance Burton's Las Vegas show ran for more than 30 years.
Being fooled challenges us
Even though we know that the magician's tool kit of "smoke and mirrors" contains misdirection, duplication, false bottoms, and manual dexterity, we enjoy knowing we've been deceived and trying to figure out how that happened. Magic makes our brain refuse to accept what our eyes claim to have seen.
National Smoke and Mirrors Day dates