Harry Kellar

Harry Kellar

Famous American illusionist
Date of Birth: 11.07.1849
Country: USA

  1. Biography of Harry Kellar
  2. Early Life
  3. Childhood
  4. Meeting with the Fakir of Ava
  5. Partnership with William Fay
  6. Establishing a Solo Career
  7. Reputation and Controversies
  8. Later Years and Legacy

Biography of Harry Kellar

Early Life

Harry Kellar, a famous American illusionist, was actively performing in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. He learned the craft of stage magician from Robert Heller, and later became the mentor of Harry Houdini. Kellar is often referred to as the Dean of American Magicians. He had a long career and performed on all five continents.

Harry Kellar


Not much is known about Henry Kellar's childhood. His real name was Heinrich Keller, and he was born in a German immigrant family in Erie, Pennsylvania. As a child, he enjoyed dangerous activities, such as crossing the railroad tracks in front of passing trains. Kellar worked as an apprentice to a pharmacist for some time and experimented with various chemicals in his free time. One of his experiments resulted in a serious explosion, leading him to run away from home.

Meeting with the Fakir of Ava

Fate brought Kellar to New York, where he met a British priest. They became friends, and the priest even considered adopting Kellar and passing his congregation to him. However, Kellar's encounter with the traveling magician Isiaiah Harris Hughes, also known as the Fakir of Ava, changed his life. From that day on, Kellar was drawn to magic like a magnet. He started studying literature on magic and eventually left his priest friend to pursue a career in illusion.

Partnership with William Fay

Kellar began his career as an assistant to Isiaiah Hughes, but at the age of 16, he tried performing on his own with little success. Two years later, he made a more successful attempt and continued to work as a magician. In 1869, Kellar joined the traveling spiritualist group "The Davenport Brothers and Fay." After the Davenport brothers separated from Fay, Kellar chose to continue working with him. They embarked on a tour in Mexico, earning $10,000, and performed in Rio de Janeiro for Emperor Dom Pedro II before heading to England.

Establishing a Solo Career

Unfortunately, their ship sank in the Bay of Biscay, causing Kellar to lose all his belongings except for a valuable diamond ring. He later discovered that the bank holding his savings had collapsed, forcing him to sell the ring and start his solo career. Kellar found inspiration in the Egyptian Hall, owned by John Nevil Maskelyne and George Alfred Cooke in England. He bought one of their illusions and returned to the United States, forming his own troupe based on their principles.

Reputation and Controversies

Kellar traveled extensively, performing in South America and Australia. However, his career was not without controversies. He was accused of trying to profit from the similarity of his name to the popular magician Robert Heller, who had passed away. Despite Kellar's attempts to defend himself, the public remained unforgiving, and he had to return to Brazil for a while. Kellar's reputation was also marred by his association with fraudulent spiritualists, which led to his exclusion from the Society of American Magicians.

Later Years and Legacy

In 1910, Kellar's wife Eva passed away, leaving him feeling lonely. Young aspiring magicians frequently visited him in an attempt to learn his secrets. One of his most famous pupils was Harry Houdini, who convinced Kellar to return to the stage for a memorial show organized by the Society of American Magicians. Kellar continued to perform until his retirement in 1908, after which he mentored Howard Thurston. Harry Kellar died on March 3, 1922, from pulmonary hemorrhage, leaving a lasting legacy in the world of magic.