Le Grand Henri - Legendary Magician
True to its mandate, the Beaulne Museum presents exhibitions that highlight key events in local history. The tribute to the characters who shaped this story is an essential part of this approach. The character chosen to inaugurate this series is none other than Grand Henri, the famous magician whose notoriety has crossed all of Quebec.
Henri Brousseau was born in Coaticook on December 19th 1921, the eldest of a family of 6 children.
Torture cabinet, 1951
From an early age, he started making predictions and thought that everyone could do the same. He said that he inherited this gift from his mother.
He became interested in magic around the age of 13 after attending a magic show in Coaticook. From that moment, he knew he wanted to do this with his life. On the back of the souvenir program he found an address for purchasing magic equipment. It was in a store in New York where he bought his first books about magic. He began to make a few towers from the diagrams in the books. He presented his tricks to his father who was amazed to see what his son could do. As for his mother, she was not very enthusiastic to see her son so interested in magic because at that time, the church did not approve of their parishioners practicing magic which was considered as black magic. He gave small performances in the shed behind the family home and as an entrance fee, he asked his friends to bring boards and nails, which allowed him to make other magic tricks.
At the age of 19, he moved to the town of Magog and found a job at the Dominion Textile industry as a security guard, but his dream of becoming a magician was not over. In addition to his work, he presented performances periodically in the nearby parish halls.
Little by little and with a lot of determination, he entered the professional world of magicians in 1944 by presenting his first show to the public at the Sacré-Coeur College in Coaticook under the name of RICONI.
In 1945, he changed his stage name RICONI and became SATANI. In the same year, he met Marguerite Goyette who was 22 and they were married. His wife will become his full-time assistant on stage. From this union, 4 children were born: Monique, Claude, Pierre and Nicole.
Working very closely with the clergy who hired him to give his shows, his beginnings were very difficult due to this new name SATANI which was too similar to the word SATAN. It was said that he practiced black magic or that he was “talking to the devil". Therefore, in 1952 he changed his name from SATANI to "LE GRAND HENRI".
The One-Man Band And His Career
He traveled mostly in the North East of North America where he was appreciated by many admirers. During these years he perfected his show by introducing more and more of his creations. He was the first to involve spectators on stage in his magic tricks. With time, his popularity grew day by day which made him one of the best magicians of that time. He was so well known and recognized throughout Quebec that even his mail was sent to him without a civic address. During his performances, his slogan was "Alabazifi Alabazibi".
Clairvoyance And The Practice Of Hypnosis
He was initiated into hypnosis, para-psychology and para-normal phenomena. At that time, he was the first to introduce hypnosis into his show. He paved the way for many of today's magicians.
In early 1966, he made predictions on television, radio and newspapers about upcoming events while continuing to perform his magic and hypnosis. Two of his most popular predictions were the crisis of October 1970 when they suspected him of being a member of the FLQ which caused him many problems, and predicting the scandal of pedophile priests.
The Artist, The Politician
In addition to being an artist, Le Grand Henri was interested in politics. He ran for the Ralliement des Créditistes in the riding of Stanstead in the federal election in 1965. One last prediction that still hasn't happened: Western Canada will separate before Quebec does.
He was the first magician to make a living solely with his art.
The exhibition was on display in the Museum's largest hall from March 2020 to February 2022.
Visitors raved about it and expressed their wonder at the career and the work of the Great Henry.