Tony "Doc" Shiels

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Tony "Doc" Shiels
Shiels at a pub in Killarney, Ireland, in November 2015
Born1938 (age 8283)
City of Salford, England, UK
Occupationartist, magician, writer, busker, psychic entertainer, hoaxer
Spouse(s)Chris Shiels

Anthony "Doc" Shiels (born 1938) is a Salford-born artist, magician and writer. After attending the Heatherley School of Fine Art in London, he moved to St Ives, Cornwall where in 1961, following the resignation of Barbara Hepworth, he was made a member of the committee of the influential Penwith Society of Arts. [1] In St Ives he ran the progressive 'Steps Gallery', where he showed artists like Brian Wall and Bob Law. [2] He had several solo exhibitions in London before then leaving St Ives following a drunken incident, in which he threatened police with a gun that he had obtained from painter-friend Terry Frost.[ citation needed ]



In the late 1960s after moving to live in Ponsanooth near Falmouth, he rediscovered stage magic - something he had been taught as a boy by his father and grandfather - and wrote articles for The Linking Ring and The Budget magazines. This included interviews with Ray Harryhausen and Ray Bradbury. He also published a trio of magic books: 13, Something Strange and Daemons Darklings and Doppelgangers which were sold in both the UK and the US and led to him being associated with 1970s bizarre magic. [3]

Between 1970 and 1974 he performed as 'Doc Shiels: Wizard of the West' at festivals and fayres in Cornwall, UK. [4] This, presented with the help of friend Vernon Rose and the rest of the Shiels family, was a magic show that incorporated illusions such as the headless woman, the sub-trunk and the buzz-saw.

In 1975 he set up 'Tom Fool's Theatre of Tom Foolery', which started as a troupe of 'mummers', before worked closely with the Footsbarn theatre.[ citation needed ]

He was involved in a series of 'monster-raising' exploits in 1976, which gave him considerable media attention, particularly when he began 'invoking' the monsters with the aid of a coven of nude witches. His attempts to 'raise' Morgawr the Cornish sea monster, were covered by BBC TV, Fortean Times , local newspapers, and appeared in national newspapers such as the Reveille and News of the World . At around the same time he reported on sightings of the 'Owlman' of Mawnan. In 1977 he obtained photos claimed to be of the Loch Ness Monster which appeared on the front page of the Daily Mirror newspaper. [5] This and his associated 'Monstermind Experiment' appeared in other media outlets including The Daily Telegraph and Radio One's Newsbeat. [6]

Alongside the monster-raising, Shiels continued to perform both as Doc Shiels and as a member of Tom Fools Theatre, and he wrote several plays including Spooks, The Gallavant Variations, Nightjars, Cloth Owl the Winking Curtain and Dr Beak Hides his Hands. One of his plays, Distant Humps, was co-produced by Ken Campbell and co-starred Christopher Fairbank. He also had other magic books published, including The Shiels Effect, Bizarre and The Cantrip Codex.

The events of the 1970s and 1980s were covered in his own book, Monstrum, [7] and in the 1996 book Owlman and Others by Jon Downes.

During this period and in the years since he continued to paint and have exhibitions. [8] He considers himself an artist first and foremost, and his life's work to be a form of surrealism that he refers to as 'surrealchemy'.[ citation needed ]

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  1. Cousins, Steven (1995). Tony Shiels. Mark Space Publications. ISBN   1871315549.
  2. Whybrow, Marion (1994). St Ives 1883-1993 Portrait of an art colony. Suffolk: The Antique Collectors Club. ISBN   1851491708.
  3. White, Rupert (2015) Monstermind: The magical life and art of Tony 'Doc' Shiels Antenna Publications ISBN   978-0993216411
  4. Shiels, Tony 'Doc' (Summer 1974). "The tent-show summers". The Cornish Review (26): 43.
  5. "Daily Mirror". September 6, 1977.
  6. Downes, Jonathan (1997). The Owlman and Others. Bideford: CFZ Press. ISBN   9781905723027.
  7. Shiels, Tony 'Doc' (1990). Monstrum: a wizards tale. Fortean Tomes.
  8. White, Rupert Monstermind: The magical life and art of Tony 'Doc' Shiels. Antenna Publications ISBN   978-0993216411