Herman L. Weber (Namreh the Great)

Herman L. Weber

From the cover of The Sphinx magazine (15 October 1920)

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Herman Ludwig

Weber (17 June 1900-23 February 1953) was a nationally known magician who performed under a variety of stage names including “Namreh,” “Namreh the Great,” “Weber the Wizard,” "The Wizard Weber," and "Mr. Hocus Pocus.” A magician since age 18, he was a friend of other famous magicians such as Harry Blackstone Sr., Howard Thurston and Harry Houdini. Weber published several books about magic in his lifetime.

== Early life ==

Born in Allentown, Pennsylvania, United States, the son of Daniel George Weber and Bertha V. Ludwig, Weber later recalled that he first became interested in magic at the age of five or six when he saw a magic show at Central Park in Allentown. When he was seven, a magic catalog from Schwartz & Co., Reading, Pennsylvania further roused his interest in performing magic tricks. (25 February 1934, “Allentown Magician Who Fooled His Brother Men of Mystery Tells How the Whole Thing Began,” The Morning Call (Allentown, PA)) An order to Sears, Roebuck and Co. brought him a set of tricks and his first magic wand for the grand sum of $4.98. In those years, Allentown was a hotbed of magic and young Weber received encouragement and advice from many older magicians. At the age of fifteen, he was giving magic shows in the front parlor of his house on North 17th street. Soon he was good enough to appear at the Hotel Allen.

His first full evening performance occurred when he was eighteen on the stage of Allentown High School from which he graduated in 1918. He also joined the Society of American Magicians that year as a junior member. Membership in the society gave him access to magicians like Harry Blackstone Sr. when they came to Allentown for shows.

Weber attended Lehigh University, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania where he earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in English. From October to November in 1918 he was enrolled in the Student Army Training Corps at Lehigh University. After graduating from Lehigh University in 1922, he taught English for a short while at the Allentown Preparatory School, which was a private preparatory school run by the Lutheran Church of America and owned by Muhlenberg College. Later in 1934 he also briefly taught magic at the Pennsylvania Institute of Music and Allied Arts in Allentown, Pennsylvania. (9 September 1934, “Herman L. Weber to Teach in Magic School,” The Morning Call (Allentown, PA))

== Magic Career ==

Beginning in 1919, Weber, usually under the stage name of “Namreh,” (his name spelled backwards) performed locally in the Allentown area. He began performing professionally in 1921, specializing in the Chinese linking rings (Namreh’s Lincoln Rings). In 1926 he met with Houdini to discuss his version of the linking rings trick. (30 October 1983, “Big Names Came to Allentown's Lyric Theater,” The Morning Call (Allentown, PA)) He participated in several traveling circuit Chautauqua shows in the 1920s, including the Redpath Chautauqua circuit through the west and southwest in 1921-22.

For a short time in the 1920s, he settled in Chicago, Illinois, where he worked at Montgomery Ward & Co. and then later at National Bellas Hess Co. He also ran Namreh’s Magic Shop in the city. While there, he married Marian Maybee (4 August 1896-4 July 1933). They had two sons, Robert and William. Throughout the decade, he also contributed columns in The Sphinx and The Linking Ring, the two important magic magazines at the time.

In 1934 Weber received the Sphinx Award, the top honor in the professional world of magic at the time, sometimes called the “Nobel Prize of Magicdom." It was awarded by The Sphinx magazine for the best published magical effect that year. Weber received the award for "The Secret Panel" which the magazine called “an ingenious addition to the technique of invisibility.” Weber was acclaimed as a man “whose efforts in the field of research and invention…conspicuously advance the art of magic.” (22 April 1934, “Herman Weber, Allentown's Wizard, Wins Mystery World's Highest Prize,” The Morning Call (Allentown, PA).

After the death of his wife in 1933, Weber returned to Allentown where he continued to perform in the area and on the local Chautauqua circuit and play a prominent role in the development of magic performers in the area. For example, in 1934 he was master of ceremonies for the state convention of the International Brotherhood of Magicians, (28 January 1934, “Local Silk Hat and Rabbit Men Will take part in Meeting of State Magicians in Phila,” The Morning Call (Allentown, PA)) and in the following year he reprised that role for the Grand Congress of Magicians, meeting in Allentown. (30 March 1935, “Hardeen First Magician Here,” The Morning Call (Allentown, PA)) He also hosted, in his own home, magicians like Howard Thurston and Harry Blackstone Sr. when they were performing at the Lyric Theatre (now Miller Symphony Hall) in Allentown. (Michael Molovinsky, MOLOVINSKY ON ALLENTOWN: Weber, the Wizard, https://molovinskyonallentown.blogspot.com/2008/12/weber-wizard.html, 21 December 2008, accessed 7 May 2020)

Between 1941 and 1943 Weber toured the country four times with his spook show, "The Midnight Voodoo Party." Spook, or ghost, shows “were magic shows presented on the stages of movie theaters across America throughout the first half of the twentieth century.” They reached their peak of popularity in the 1940s, and they could be very profitable for performers. Beth A. Katelman, “Magic, Monsters, and Movies: America’s Midnight Ghost Shows,” Theatre Journal 62 (2010): 23–39) Weber examined the history of spook shows and explained their logistics in his short book Out of the Spook Cabinet' (1946) and offered to consult with performers about their own shows. (Beth A. Katelman, “Magic, Monsters and Movies: America’s Midnight Ghost Shows,” Ph. D. dissertation, The Ohio State University, 1999) In the book he also explained some of his most successful “spook” tricks that he employed in his shows, such as the “The Ghost’s Kiss” or “The Ethereal Spook.”

After the war, Weber retired from touring but continued to perform his magic routines at local events. He died in 1953 from a brain tumor and was buried in Greenwood Cemetery, Allentown. (24 February 1953, “Herman Weber Dies; Nationally Known Magician,” The Morning Call (Allentown, PA); 7 March 1953, “Herman L. Weber,” The Billboard; 4 March 1953, “Herman L. Weber,” Variety; “Final Curtain: Herman Weber,” Genii volume= 17 (March 1953): 288)

== Magic Tricks ==

Weber was the creator of numerous magic tricks, many of which were described in articles in The Sphinx, published by the Society of American Magicians, The Linking Ring, published by the International Brotherhood of Magicians, and Hugard’s Magic Monthly, published by Jean Hugard.

Weber specialized in the Chinese linking rings magic trick, which he explained in his book, Namreh’s Lincoln Rings (1932). In this traditional trick, solid metal rings appear to link and unlink, pass through each other, and form chains and other complex patterns and configurations.

“The Adventures of Diamond Jack” was a magic story trick based on a deck of cards, “a little story based on a deck of cards” in which Weber manipulated the cards while telling the story of the jack of diamonds getting married. (“Namreh’s Adventures of Diamond Jack,” Jean Hugard, Encyclopedia of Card Tricks (Oxford, 1974): 243-44)

In the "Secret Panel" trick, Weber built a box with a secret panel "that allows the magician to have bowls, ducks or what you will appear as if by magic. (Milbourne Christopher, The Sphinx Golden Jubilee of Magic: A Selection of Tricks from the Pages of the Magazine (New York, 1955): 129)

In Weber’s spook shows, he performed various illusion effects. Some were simple like “swamp spiders” in which bundled, paper straws were wrapped with luminous tape and then dropped from the ceiling in a completely darkened theater. Other illusions were more complicated, such as the “floating soul” in which a disembodied head floated around an eerily-lit stage. (“Weber's Emergency Routine,” https://www.magicalapparatus.com/silk-handkerchief-3/webers-emergency-routine.html, accessed 1 October 2020)

== Publications ==

Namreh's Lincoln Rings (1932), “probably the most brilliant treatise ever written on the linking rings” (30 October 1983, “Big Names Came to Allentown’s Lyric Theater,” The Morning Call (Allentown, PA))

Money from Magic: Business Strategy, Exploitation, Showmanship, Booking (1936), “Magicians, as a rule, want only tricks and pass by advice. For once, however, they have the chance of getting a book which has taken much time and thought, and which contains much valuable advice for the man who has the tricks but needs a way to get them before the public at a profit.” (Theodore Annemann, “Money from Magic Book,” The Jinx 24 (September 1936))

Out of the Spook Cabinet (1947)

In addition to the columns that he published in The Sphinx and The Linking Ring, Weber published two long articles on magic and literature. (4 March 1934, “Hocus Pocus 1934 II. Magic and Science,” The Morning Call (Allentown, PA); 11 March 1934, “Hocus Pocus 1934 III. Magic and Literature,” The Morning Call (Allentown, PA))

== Other External Links ==
Herman L. Weber, Magicpedia, https://geniimagazine.com/wiki/index.php, access date 7 May 2020
Herman L. Weber, Lybrary, https://www.lybrary.com/herman-l-weber-m-579458.html, access date 7 May 2020

See the entry in Magicpedia.