Who better to solve an 'impossible crime' than someone does the impossible for a living? The Magician Detective is a Stage Magician
who uses his skills with illusion to solve crimes
It is important to note that the Magician Detective does not have any actual supernatural powers and usually doesn't even believe in the supernatural. It is his disbelief that allows him to look at an 'impossible crime' and realise that there must be a logical explanation and he possesses the skills to work out how it was done.
Not to be confused with the Occult Detective
who has actual magical powers and deals with crimes that truly are supernatural. Although it's not impossible for them to overlap...
Anime and Manga
- Kaitou Kid from Magic Kaito and Detective Conan. At times, he has been known to use his intellect as a thief to solve things. Main example - the Golden Eye heist. Plus various other incidences.
- Mysto, Magician Detective from The DCU who ran as a back-up feature in Detective Comics in the 1950s.
- Blackstone (see Radio examples below) also had a comic series in the late 1940s.
- Harry Houdini made several films, some featuring himself solving mysteries, and usually showcasing his escape acts. Houdini was, in real life, very good at exposing false mediums and psychics due to his magician background. However, his motivation was a genuine interest in finding a real one, rather than skepticism.
- The Great Merlini is a fictional detective created by Clayton Rawson. He is a professional magician who appears in four locked room or impossible crime novels written in the late 1930s and early 1940s, as well as in a few short stories. He also appeared in a two movies and TV pilot.
- Rawson also wrote four short stories about a very similar character called Don Diavolo.
- Norgil the Magician, a pulp hero created by Walter B. Gibson, creator of The Shadow.
- For a time Weird Tales was closely associated with Harry Houdini, publishing several short stories (one of which, Under the Pyramids, was written by HP Lovecraft!) that portrayed Houdini as an investigator and adventurer.
- The title character of the Mediochre Q Seth Series is - or was, it's unclear - a Member of the Inner Magic Circle. He loosely counts as an example of this trope, in that he does use his gifts with misdirection and escapology to help in his investigations, but never in an attempt to disprove the existence of magic, because he knows damn well that magic exists.
- Harry Dresden is most definitely not an example himself, but he's apparently had enough trouble with people getting this trope and Occult Detective mixed up in-universe to feel compelled to put a line about "no children's parties" in his ad in the Yellow Pages.
- Jonathan Creek: Jonathan is not a stage magician, but he does design illusions for one and has, on occasion, demonstrated a few close-up magic tricks. He also showcases a few secondary skills in the field (usually when they will be important to the plot later); he knows how to pick locks, for example.
- Blackes Magic was a short-lived American TV show about a magician, Alexander Blacke (played by Hal Linden), who, with some help from his con-man father, Leonard (Harry Morgan), solves mysteries that get in the way of his performances.
- The Magician was an American television series that ran during the 1973 - 1974 season. It starred Bill Bixby as stage illusionist Anthony "Tony" Blake, a playboy philanthropist who used his skills to solve difficult crimes as needed. One of the big hooks in this series was that Bixby, a rather talented amateur illusionist, performed all the illusions without camera tricks of any kind.
- Naoko Yamada, played by Yukie Nakama, the main character of the Japanese drama Trick.
- Shawn Spencer from Psych is probably close enough to count here. He claims to be a psychic but actually solves crimes through his keen powers of observation.
- The Mentalist: Patrick Jane was a professional psychic before his family was murdered. He admits that it was all fake.
- Rollie Tyler, the special effects expert from F/X: The Series, ought to qualify for this trope, as he uses similar techniques of deception and misdirection to fool suspects. Hey, movie magic is still magic.
- Blackstone The Magic Detective was a 15-minute radio series which aired from October 3, 1948 until March 26, 1950. The series, starring Ed Jerome as "the world's greatest living magician," was based on real-life magician Harry Blackstone Sr. Storylines usually opened with Blackstone (Jerome) telling his friends John (Ted Osborne) and Rhoda (Fran Carlon) about an experience from his past, and this mystery story was then dramatized in a flashback. At the end, Blackstone challenged the audience to find a solution to the magical mystery. Each show concluded with Blackstone outlining a trick that listeners could perform for the amusement of their friends. The scripts were written by Walter B. Gibson, the ghostwriter of Blackstone's books.
- Somewhat in Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney, where Apollo's assistant Trucy is a practicing stage magician. However, it doesn't come in particularly useful.
- She does work out a magic trick that's vital to solving the case very quickly, but refuses to tell you.
- James Randi, aka "The Amazing Randi," was a professional magician before turning his attention to debunking claims of supernatural ability. He has a long-standing $1,000,000 reward set aside for anyone whose abilities withstood his investigation. No one has yet to collect. He is perhaps most famous for exposing Uri Geller as a fraud live on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, who also had magician training and an interest in debunking Geller.
- Randi also maintains that magicians are really necessary when debunking these charlatans, since they are a lot better at catching deliberate fraud than other researchers and scientists.
- Harry Houdini is perhaps the patron saint of this trope having a Determinator-like passion for exposing psychics and mediums. Paradoxically, that was because he dearly wanted to find the real thing, and the phonies wasting his time really ticked him off. He even arranged a password with his wife so that she would know if a medium was really channeling his spirit after he died. She tried, but never received the code.
- Penn and Teller, good friends of James Randi, also frequently explain how various supernatural cons such as faith healing and mentalism are performed with sleight of hand and cold reading techniques.
- British illusionist Derren Brown has made several television specials investigating supernatural claims and eventually concluding that they are false; though he tends to leave the audience to decide for themselves what they believe, he will at that point have argued that all the evidence presented to him looks mundane and that he doesn't buy it. In other shows on TV and stage, he replicates precisely the kinds of things charlatans claim to do while explicitly stating that he has no paranormal abilities.