The History of the Candelabra Trick

Candles and candlesticks have long been popular props for gentlemen jugglers, who used items that might be found in a proper Victorian gentleman’s home. Kara (1867-1939), who is debatably the first gentleman juggler, performed a trick where he flipped a candle out of a candlestick and lit the candle in midair before catching it back in the candlestick. His friend and rival Salerno (1969-1946) flipped a candle out of a candlestick and caught it balanced on his forehead.

Salerno

It was another German gentleman juggler, Charles Hera (1881-1931), who invented what is now known as the Candelabra Trick. This trick involves flipping multiple candles out of a candelabra with many branches on it. Hera performed the trick using seven candles, as you can see in the following two photographs.

Charles Hera

Charles Hera

As you might imagine, this is a remarkably difficult trick. There are many ways that the trick can go wrong. The fact that very few other jugglers took on the challenge of learning this feat testifies to the difficulty of the trick. However, those that did managed to make the trick even more difficult.

One such imitator was famed gentleman juggler Felix Adanos (1905-1991). As you can see in the following two images, Adanos flipped eight candles and caught them back in the candelabra.

Felix Adanos

Felix Adanos

The French juggling troupe The Mongadors featured one member who flipped and caught twelve candles.

The Mongadors

The Mongadors

The Mongadors also featured the trick of flipping three candles from one candelabra to another candelabra.

The Mongadors

Little-known juggler and magician Gy Coross could apparently perform the trick with either hand.

Gy Coross

The king of the Candelabra Trick was most likely the second person to do the trick, Ferry Mader (1884-1971). Mader flipped up to twenty candles and caught them.

Ferry Mader

Ferry Mader

Ferry Mader

Ferry Mader

Ferry and his daughter also passed candles.

Ferry Mader and his daughter

The trick was apparently gone from any performer’s repertoire by the 1940s, but it was included in the book The Art of Juggling by Nikolai Ernestowitsch Bauman, which was published in 1962.

In 2017, I included the trick in one of my Dream Trick Challenge articles. No one submitted a video attempting it, so I decided to give it a try. Below is my best result. Right after getting this, one of the funnels broke in half and the prop was done.

As I quickly discovered, the candelabra trick is very difficult. I doubt that any performer will take on the challenge of learning it for their act any time soon.

David Cain is a professional juggler, juggling historian, and the owner of the world's only juggling museum, the Museum of Juggling History. He is a Guinness world record holder and 15 time IJA gold medalist. In addition to his juggling pursuits, David is a successful composer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and singer as well as the author of twenty-four books. He and his children live in Middletown, OH (USA).

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