Zina B. Bennett (Oct 30, 1891 – July 2, 1965)

Zina Braden Bennett was a Detroit physician and magician. Born October 30, 1891, Bennett was known for his giant card manipulations and as a collector of magic memorabilia. A true magic enthusiast, it is claimed that Bennett held memberships in nearly 200 magic organizations.

According to Bennett, his interest in magic began as a child, when a friend received a magic kit. Some accounts state that he traded with his friend for the magic kit, but other stories do not explain how he acquired his first magic apparatus. Either way, during high school, he set magic aside for several years. He always expressed regret that he hadn’t stuck with it during those years.

While magic was his hobby and not his profession, Bennett found ways to combine both. In 1916 he opened his private medical practice and worked as a surgeon at Michigan Mutual Hospital. In an interview with the BBC in 1956, Bennett said, “Now I found that by teaching simple magic I could not only entertain patients, but in many cases it acted as a form of therapy…”. In a letter written to Mary Lou McDonough on June 26, 1947, Bennett wrote:

“For the past 7 or 8 years, I have devoted considerable time to the entertainment of patients in hospitals. During the war period, I worked many U.S.O. shows and entertained a number of times at the Percy Jones Hospital. I find that the most beneficial results are obtained from individual entertainment in magic. Many of the sleights with cards and coins when taught to the patients enable them to more quickly regain the use of their hands and also stimulates their morale.”

Zina’s strength in magic performance, was working with giant cards. His routine was quite unique and he once performed a show on Broadway. He also performed in Chicago, Pittsburgh, and St. Louis. Abbott’s, the well-known magic company, carried a card deck called the Z B fan deck. One of his most earnest fans was Suzy Wandas, who eventually became his second wife.

Zina’s first wife, Edna, died in 1955. Suzy, who had met the Bennett’s at the annual Abbott’s Get-Together in Colon, wrote in 1956 to express her condolences. The two continued their correspondence and were married in 1959 in Belgium, where Suzy lived. Reports of the wedding mentioned that the local magicians formed an arch with their wands for the wedding couple’s departure after the ceremony.

Suzy was not Zina’s only correspondent. In 1941 he became the Chairman of the Welfare Committee for the International Brotherhood of Magic. As part of his duties, he would write to all of the sick magicians in the IBM. When Bob Lund arranged Bennett’s letters, he counted over 6,000.

Zina Bennett was described as a generous man and the “great fraternal magician of his time.”
He died on July 2, 1965.