Wolfgang von Kempelen (also known as Kempelen Fargas, or Farkas) was responsible for creating the most famous illusion in history - the Turk.

This site has been compiled by John Rampling


It was constructed in 1769 and presented at the court of the Empress Maria Theresa. The illusion took the form of a man in Turkish costume seated at a desk on which was placed a chessboard. After demonstrating that no one was concealed inside the 'automaton', von Kempelen proceeded to wind up the mechanism and set the machine in operation. Against all comers it would invariably win the chess game, moving its chessmen with its left hand.



The most well-known account of the secret was published in the nineteeth century by the famous magician, Jean Robert-Houdin, who ascribed the secret to a Polish amputee by the name of Worousky. This account, while extremely entertaining, was unfortunately untrue.



A more contemporaneous account was given by de Windisch in the 1790's; however he did not attempt to explain the illusion.



Another explanation was offered by Sir David Brewster in his 'Letters on Natural Magic' published in 1831



Another well-known description was published by the American novelist
Edgar Allan Poe