WHO was the WIZARD OF THE SOUTH? He exhibited 100 illusions, with money, cards, balls, rings, knives, fire, birds, insects, chemical preparations, patent apparatus etc. Amongst his wonderful performances was the cabalistic art of the Gun Trick! This he accomplished by allowing any person in the room to load the piece (the gun) with powder and a marked leaden ball, and upon discharging the same towards his (the performer’s) mouth, catch the ball between his teeth, together with similar unrivalled novelties and amusement, but the advertisement went on to propose, these were far too numerous to mention.
The Wizard also challenged anyone in the Colonies to compete with him for the sum of ₤100. The Adelaide Observer of the 5th September wrote that the Wizard of the South had the honour of exhibiting his feats of legerdemain before a large party as well as His Excellency and Mrs Grey, who expressed great satisfaction at the amusement which the Wizard’s sleight of hand tricks had afforded him. The Wizard was greeted with three cheers at the close of the performance.
According to the General License and Authority to hold Theatrical Entertainments, Exhibitions, etc the name of the Wizard of the South appeared to be Thomas Arnott and the license gave him authority to perform illusions, imitations, theories, logic, ventriloquism and other entertainments of stage in public for a period of six calendar months in a theatre house, room, building, garden or place. Arnott claimed he was ‘the first person in these Colonies who applied for a Theatrical License’. Governor Charles Hotham signed the licence on 23 October 1855 which gave Arnott the permission to travel around the Colony of Victoria.
Arnott, a literate man with fluent handwriting, had performed in Tasmania, Adelaide, Tarrangower and Simpson’s Ranges before coming to Ballarat. Music was played throughout his performances, and he also advertised to undertake private parties at the residences of wealthy people. Arnott resided in Ballarat around 1855 for at least three years with his wife and three children.