Theodore Annemann was one of the great mentalists in the history of the art. I would never ascribe the term “greatest” to anyone in any performance art. Muhammad Ali may have been the greatest fighter of all time but in any performance art greatness is about how a person enriched another person’s life and it is highly individual and subjective.
Annemann is great to me because he has enriched my life. A number of his innovations are in my act. In fact, I close with a piece inspired by him. He was unquestionably a genius albeit a tragic one.
He is known by Theodore Annemann or Theo or Ted, but to me he will always be just Annemann. He was born Theodore John Squires on February 22, 1907. As a Pisces his personality was defined by intuition and imagination, that wonderful combination of gifts that makes a mentalist great.
He invented enough original material to fill years of journals and volumes of books. To put that in perspective many magicians and mentalists go through their entire career without inventing a single genuinely original piece. Annemann was an endless font of originality. While his most creative period was over 70 years ago, his creations are still performed by the mentalists of today and they still amaze and inspire audiences.
His golden age was the 1930s. In 1934 he began publishing The Jinx. I have them in my library and read them often for inspiration. Some of the best pieces from the magazine were later published in Annemann’s Practical Mental Effects, a classic and must have for every aspiring mentalist.
William Rauscher, magic historian, said that Annemann did more to popularize mentalism than any other performer in history.
He suffered from stage fright. Some said he was moody and perhaps prone to depression. I don’t think it would be a stretch to say he was an introvert. So am I, so perhaps that is wishful thinking but we certainly share common characteristics and interests. Sadly, on January 12, 1942 at the young age of 34, and two weeks before he was scheduled to perform his famous bullet catch, Theodore Annemann took his own life.
Suicide is a tragedy for everyone.
Who knows what this man might have invented in the later years of his life had he endured into his old age. But please don’t remember Annemann for his tragic end but for his lasting contribution not only to mentalists but to the audiences that continue to enjoy his work even if they never realize it is his work they are watching.