The best audiences were those who would willingly trade common sense for distortion. It was good if they’d encountered science at some time, though briefly, just enough to spark their imagination. People yearning for new visions sought him out as eagerly as he sought them. These were the half-educated souls who needed to know that the universe was truly a wondrous place, and that each of them occupied a prominent seat in the scheme of things. I am the counterfeiter of knowledge, DeLavoy thought, serving up a rehash of science in a form that suits their appetites.
This was what he was teaching to Petey, to all his acts: Feed their imaginations with stories of far-away places. Bring magic into their ordinary lives. Make them feel
special. Entice them with the promise of healing--but keep the elixir bottles out of view so they appeared to be in short supply. If you can’t give them what they need, then give them what they want. Give them theater.
When I think of some of the photos, videos and text postings that I have seen on Facebook, it seems we are often at that same place. Many of the people of the 1840s were aware of the shysters and at least suspected there was some kind of trick behind the bearded ladies and people who levitated or survived being sawn in half. But they wanted to believe that the impossible might be possible. Even though we are well aware what can be done with Photoshop, we too want to believe. We want simple explanations, and if that takes magic, so be it.
For a great example of Hoing and Hileman's work, check out Hammon Falls, a wonderful and highly rated family saga centered around Cedar Falls and Waterloo, Iowa. And watch for Shun the Heaven.