Dai Vernon was born in 1894 and died as recently as 1992. He was known as “The Professor” and “The man that fooled Houdini” but at his birth in Ottawa he was known simply as David Frederick Wingfield Verner. As a youth he was extremely keen on sports and even became the captain of his local hockey team but along the way developed his fascination with magic and when he eventually decided that a career in magic would be for him, he set out in New York City arriving there in 1913.
At that time the magic fraternity did not take him seriously as there were so many magicians competing for the same work but this did not deter him and gradually he gained a reputation as an excellent card magician. While he was in New York his name: David Vernon changed into Dai Vernon due to a misprint of his first name and also due to another popular actor named Vernon Castle were already a little well-known.
It is a little-known fact that Dai Vernon, considered by many as one of the most adroit and skilful card experts in history, supported himself a lot of the time by cutting silhouettes in Atlantic City, Chicago and Miami. It was on one of these trips to Chicago that an event which occurred was to provide Vernon with valuable publicity for the rest of his life. The famous magician Harry Houdini had always boasted that no magician could fool him three times in a row by performing any trick. However in Chicago in 1919 Dai Vernon took up the challenge and did what is now known as the “ambitious card trick” eight times without Houdini once managing to figure out how it was done. From this time onwards, Vernon used the strapline: “He fooled Houdini” in his posters and advertisements.
Vernon was a great original – he believed that it was no good copying anyone because if a person creates a trick then it is that persons own creation and no one will ever do it better than the original performer.
In later years Vernon left the east coast of California and became involved with the Magic Castle in Hollywood along with Bill Larson and Milt Larson. He died in San Diego California.