Alan Wakeling

Alan Wakeling

Alan Wakeling (1926 - 2004) was an American magician and inventor who is known in the magic world for devising classic illusions and routines used by some of the top performers in the business. Some of his most successful work was done in association with leading television magician Mark Wilson.

Early life

Wakeling was born in Hollywood, California, but at an early age went to live with his grandparents in Winslow, Arizona, where he grew up during the Great Depression. He took an interest in magic at an early age as the result of seeing travelling magicians who passed through the small town. One that left a particular impression was J. B. Bobo, who performed at his school. In addition he was inspired by finding the work of 19th century magic expert Professor Hoffman in his local library. Wakeling then began performing magic with improvised props. His family returned to Los Angeles in 1938 and Wakeling later studied drama at the University of Southern California.citation
url =
first = Joan
last = Lawton
title = Web Extra: Alan Wakeling
journal = Magic magazine
date = January 2005
accessdate = 2007-06-14


Following university, Wakeling did some acting but continued to seek a career in magic. He worked as a demonstrator at two magic shops in Los Angeles, the Thayer Magic Company and the Magic House of Charles. He was also employed by magic inventor and manufacturer Merv Taylor. A chance meeting with magician Roy Benson in the early 1940s gave Wakeling the beginnings on an idea for a routine with billiard balls, which later became something of a signature piece for him. For a while he did an act with long-time friend Marvyn Roy, who later went on to be known as "Mr Electric". Wakeling gradually became a regular performer at clubs in the Los Angeles area, doing a range of acts with titles such as "Rhapsody in Blue" and "Hollywood Cowboy" as well as the "Fan Act", which he began performing with his soon-to-be wife Helen shortly before they were married.

Wakeling worked as a performing magician until 1966 when he was offered a behind-the-scenes job with Mark Wilson, who had recently become famous across America for transforming magic into a successful format for network television. He served as Wilson's creative director for many years, contributing to Wilson's television shows, including "Magic Circus", as well as to live productions in Las Vegas and major venues around the world. He also contributed to the work of other famous magicians including Channing Pollock, John Daniel, Marvyn Roy, Norm Nielsen, Dick Zimmerman, Peter Reveen and Earl Nelson. Channing Pollock said of him: "Alan is a one-of-a-kind genius. I see him as one of the best kept secrets in magic, someone who was so good at what he accomplished that you’d want to keep him a secret".cite web
url =
title = News - number 230
publisher = Magic Week
date = 2004-11-20
accessdate = 2007-06-14

Among Wakeling's inventions is at least one distinctive version of the "Sawing a woman in half" effect. One version of this illusion, which bears his name, takes certain elements of the first ever sawing trick performed by P.T. Selbit and incorporates them into a new and very effective illusion.cite web
url =
title = The Wakeling Sawing
publisher = Wellington Enterprises
accessdate = 2007-06-14
] However, while Wakeling performed and perfected that variant of the effect, the origins of the so-called "Wakeling Sawing" have been attributed to another magician Virgil Harris Mulkey (aka The Great Virgil), who first performed it in 1942.citation
url =
first = David and Julie
last = Charvet
title = The Great Virgil
page = 78-79
publisher = Charvet Studios
date = 1991
] A version that is fully attributed to Wakeling is the "Double sawing in half" routine for Channing Pollock. Among the illusions he devised for Mark Wilson were "Backstage", "Girl Through Glass", "The Spiker", and "Excalibur". He was also responsible for Wilson's "Circus Act" routine, which involved the "Gorilla crush" illusion.cite web
url =
title = Magic Circus
publisher = Mark Wilson
accessdate = 2007-06-14

Wakeling died peacefully on 10 November 2004 in hospital in his hometown of Westlake, California.


Further reading

* Jim Steinmeyer, "The Magic of Alan Wakeling: The Works of a Master Magician", Carroll & Graf (2005), ISBN 0786718072

External links

* [ Obituary] by Jim Steinmeyer

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