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Charles Joseph Carter

Charles Joseph Carter (June 14, 1874 – February 13, 1936) was an American stage magician, also known as Carter the Great.

Charles Joseph Carter
Carter the Great Magician.jpg
Born(1874-06-14)June 14, 1874
New Castle, Pennsylvania, United States
DiedFebruary 13, 1936(1936-02-13) (aged 61)



He was born on June 14, 1874 in New Castle, Pennsylvania.

Carter began his career as a journalist and lawyer. As time passed, he grew an interest in magic. Due to stiff competition from the number of magic acts on the American stages at the time, Carter opted to pursue his career abroad, where he achieved his greatest fame. Among the highlights of Carter's stage performances during his career were the classic "sawing a woman in half" illusion (an elaborate surgical-themed version with "nurses" in attendance), making a live elephant disappear and "cheating the gallows", where a shrouded Carter would vanish, just as he dropped at the end of a hangman's noose.

Carter's first theatrical experience occurred at the Herzog's museum and Pat Harris' Masonic Temple in Baltimore at the age of 10, where he appeared as "Master Charles Carter the Original Boy Magician".

Carter purchased the famous Martinka Magic Palace in 1917, a time when he was unable to continue his world touring magic show. The story goes that he kept his lion, Monty in the back room of the shop and when it would roar, the startled customers would run for the door.

He died on February 13, 1936, aged 61, in India.


Carter's home in San Francisco was rented by the Sumitomo Bank of California in the 1980s-90s and used as a residence for the Bank's President. Carter used to put on shows in the basement and people still discover occult references in the stained glass windows. The house is in the Seacliff District of San Francisco near the Pacific Ocean. It is sometimes mistakenly referred to as the "Houdini Mansion". It is now used as a foreign consulate.

Following Charles Carter's death from a heart attack in 1936, his son Larry Carter took over as Carter the Great.

A variety of vintage posters, advertising his shows, are on display at the House on the Rock in Wisconsin.

A highly fictionalized account of his life can be found in Carter Beats the Devil (ISBN 0-7868-8632-3) by Glen David Gold.

Timeline - touring datesEdit



  • Carter the Great, by Mike Caveney (1995) Magic Words
  • Carter Beats the Devil, by Glen David Gold (fictional version of Carter's life)
  • "The Carter Scrapbook", by Gary R. Frank and Phil Temple (1992)

External linksEdit