A magic act is sort of a joke we're all in on, right? We may not know how it's done, but we know it's an act.
This was not always that case with magic -- especially in the day when magicians were just as likely to be known as "conjurers." In 1856, Napoleon III's Second French Empire sent the magician Jean Robert-Houdin to Algeria with the idea that he would perform tricks more dazzling than the miracles that Islamic leaders were said to do -- miracles that were stirring up rebellion. By some accounts, this really worked. Robert-Houdin inspired not only awe but fear, especially when he let an Algerian Muslim fire a pistol at him and then "caught" the marked bullet in his teeth. Robert-Houdin has a legitimate claim as the father of modern magic, the guy who took it off the street and public square and onto the stage. But in his day, magic seemed more like magic. Leave your comments below, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or Tweet us @wnprcolin.