Ben was also a big fan of one of the greatest magic hoaxes of his day-
the chess playing automaton known as The Turk.
This life-size robot created a sensation by playing chess matches
against celebrities like Napoleon and Franklin, and winning.
The mechanical man could move his arms and fingers with great skill,
and seemed to "think" as he played the chess game seated at his table. Many years later, it was discovered that the mechanical man
was actually an elaborate magic illusion,
cleverly operated by a living man (a chess expert, of course),
hidden inside the base of the table.
In his personal library, Ben kept a souvenir book from his match
with The Turk, and proclaimed that the robot was "the most enjoyable and clever opponent" he had ever played.
And Ben was known to pull off a magic trick or two on his own.
Legend has it that he was standing at the edge of a creek with some children when he suddenly waved his cane in the direction of the water, and suddenly the water near him went calm.
The children were, of course, delighted.
Ben had merely secretly dipped his cane into a puddle of oil, and then spread the oil over the water by waving his cane.
He understood that the greatest trick of all is misdirection!