Sunday, May 28, 2017

Magic comes to the McCord Museum in Montreal

This weekend magic came to the city of Montreal with the opening of the McCord Museum's "ILLUSIONS: The Art of Magic" exhibition and "The 44th Magic Collectors Weekend." There was plenty of Houdini to be found during the 3 days of events. Houdini biographer and weekend honoree William Kalush gave a talk in support of the idea that Houdini was as great a magician as he was a showman and escape artist (now that's a Bill Kalush theory I can get behind). There were also several original Houdini posters on display at the McCord exhibition.

The McCord museum is housed in a building that was once the McGill University student union. This is where Houdini spoke in 1926, the day before the fateful dressing room encounter with McGill student J. Gordon Whitehead (and where he is also said to have successfully demonstrated his ability to take a punch). 

Magic Collector's Weekend attendees were treated to a private display of original Houdini artifacts in the very room where Houdini spoke (which has since been subdivide). In 2015, the McCord received a large bequest of magic memorabilia, including over 1000 individual items related to Houdini. 

Other weekend speakers included: Andrew Pinard ("Jonathan Harrington"), Dr. Joe Culpepper ("Doctoring Magic"), David Ben ("Downs' Masterpiece"), Max Maven ("Torn Roots"), Michael Grandinetti ("A Young Person's Guide to Doug Henning"), Lesley Fitzpatrick-Walker  ("Metamorphosis: The Last Unicorn"), Brian Lumley ("According to Plan") and Mike Caveney ("Egyptian Hall").

The 44th Magic Collectors Weekend was hosted by David Ben and Julie Eng of Magicana. I'm story I wasn't able to attend this year. Looks like it was a great event in a location steeped in Houdini history.

"ILLUSIONS: The Art of Magic" runs through January 7, 2018. For more information visit the McCord Museum. A book devoted to the exhibition will be released in June and can be pre-ordered at Amazon.

Thanks to magician and Houdini lecturer William Pack for the photos. Lecture information thanks to Phil Schwartz of the great Thayer Magic.


LINK: Houdini At The Wintergarten

Dean Carnegie once again has a terrific post about Houdini on his blog The Magic Detective. This time Dean investatges Houdini's early performances at the famous Wintergarten theater in Germany. A highlight is Dean shares a seldom seen Wintergarten/Houdini poster from the collection of Norm and Lupe Nielsen.

"This latest adventure began when I accidentally stumbled upon the poster image above. I realized I didn't know a lot about Houdini's time at the Wintergarten and decided to put on the Detective hat and dig up whatever I could find..."

Click the headline to see the full poster and have a read at The Magic Detective.


Saturday, May 27, 2017

New Houdini biography in September

There's a new Houdini biography headed our way in Fall. Houdini: The Life and Times of the World's Greatest Magician by Charlotte Montague runs 208 pages and will be relased by Chartwell Books on September 26.

Based on contemporary reports and diaries and supported with historic photographs and period posters, Houdini is an intriguing biography of the world’s greatest magician and escape artist. Ninety years after his death, this brings both the man and his magic back to life again for one last performance.

In the early 1900s, Houdini’s handcuff show was a huge sensation which toured the best venues in the USA and Europe, and when audiences demanded more, so he introduced straight-jackets, water-filled tanks, and nailed shut packing crates.

His outdoor spectaculars became increasingly elaborate. In the early winter of 1906, he leaped manacled from the MacArthur Bridge in Detroit, MI, freeing himself from two pairs of handcuffs beneath the icy waters. Houdini's mega-star status allowed him to fly airplanes, star in his own movies, write and publish his own books, and even become president of the Society of American Magicians.

This biography is an authoritative view from accomplished biographer Charlotte Montague, and belongs on the shelf of any lover of magic, escape artistry, and enigmatic figures.

Montague has also penned biographies of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and H.P. Lovecraft released by Chatwell.

You can pre-order Houdini: The Life and Times of the World's Greatest Magician from (U.S.) and (UK).

Below are links to a few other books coming up in 2017.


Friday, May 26, 2017

Original Houdini-Doyle artwork by Luis Dominguez

This beautiful original artwork by Luis Dominguez sold at Heritage Auctions last year for $1,553.50 (including buyer's premium). This was created for the cover of a Ripley's Believe It Or Not comic book in 1979, but what a great piece of standalone Houdini-Doyle artwork this makes.

Luis Dominguez Ripley's Believe It Or Not #89 Arthur Conan Doyle and Houdini Cover Original Art (Gold Key, 1979). The creator of Sherlock Holmes was actually friends with the world's greatest escape artist, Harry Houdini... Believe it... or not! This fantastic cover by Luis Dominguez is painted in gouache on illustration board with an image area of 12.5" x 17". The colors are bright and vibrant and it is in Excellent condition.

You can see this artwork on the finished comic book cover in this post: Houdini & Doyle - Believe It or Not!


Thursday, May 25, 2017

Houdini appears in Vanish

An article by magician Alexander May titled "A Visit To Houdini" appears in the May 2017 issue of Vanish the International Magic Magazine. The issue can be purchased as a hardcopy or viewed digitally for free at the Vanish website.

The article chronicles Alexander's visit to Houdini-Weiss family plot at Machpelah Cemetery in Queens, which last year celebrated its 100th anniversary.


Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Spring Heel'd revealed

The fans over at HouDoyle and the Houdini & Doyle Fan Group on Facebook are having a Houdini & Doyle one year rewatch party. This week they are watching episode 4, "Spring Heel'd Jack", and group organizer Traci Porczynski has linked to the special effects house that created the Spring Heel'd Jack costume. You never really get a good look at this in the show itself, so it's cool to see it here.

Applied Arts designed and built this steampunk mask and gloves for the character of Spring Heeled Jack in ITV’s Houdini and Doyle. We made three separate masks that were suited to a variety of filming requirements, a hero one, a light weight stunt version and one that could breathe fire.

Check out more photos at the Applied Arts website.

You can join the rewatch party on Facebook and HouDoyle. All the season one episodes can be streamed via Amazon Video.


The Doug Henning Project goes WILD

Neil McNally's new blog The Doug Henning Project is going strong with terrific interviews with Milt Larsen, John Gaughan, and Jim Steinmeyer. This week Neil is sharing a multipart interview with, gasp, me!

So only after you finish reading Neil's interview with those far more interesting and deserving members of the magic community, check out my blather. Neil and I did have a great time conducting this interview over Friday Lunch at the Magic Castle.

Thank you Neil.


Monday, May 22, 2017

How Houdini didn't vanish an elephant

As a follow up to my post about the German Houdini booklet and Modern Mechanic' bogus explanation of Walking Through A Brick Wall, I thought I'd share that magazine's equally incorrect explanation of Houdini's vanishing elephant. This appeared in the December 1929 issue as the conclusion of a three part series by the mysterious "R.D. Adams."

Unlike Walking Through A Brick Wall, we actually don't know for certain how Houdini vanished his elephant. But we know it wasn't as shown above. In fact, even the presentation is incorrect here. Houdini vanished his elephant from a large cabinet, not from behind a screen. The best theories of how Houdini may have accomplished this feat appear in Jim Steinmeyer's brilliant Hiding The Elephant and Patrick Culliton's essential Houdini The Key.

Curiously, even though "R.D. Adams" offered explanations that today appear to be false, both Leonard Hicks and Houdini's close friend Joseph Rinn claimed Adams' did indeed reveal the correct methods.


Saturday, May 20, 2017

The Master Mystery Episode One lantern slide

An original glass slide for Houdini's The Master Mystery Episode One sold at Heritage Auctions last weekend for $1,015.75 (including buyer's premium). A terrific image that I've not seen before.

During the days of silent cinema, glass "lantern slides" were used to announce coming attractions and advertise products while film reels were being changed on the projector. For more on the history of lantern slides, check out the excellent Silent Cinema Society.


LINK: When Harry Met Teddy: How Houdini Fooled a President

While there's nothing new here for the seasoned Houdiniologist (hey, word invented!), this is still a well-done article by Sean Braswell about how Houdini fooled President Theodore Roosevelt aboard the SS Imperator in June 1914.

Click the headline to have a read at


Thursday, May 18, 2017

Hardeen appeared on television in 1945

Reader Bill Carter recently sent in a discovery that I'm excited to share today. On Thursday, January 25, 1945, Hardeen made a television appearance on station WCBW. I don't believe this has ever been mentioned anywhere before. Below is a review from the January 27 issue of The Billboard.

Bill points out that WCBW was a local New York area broadcaster. In early 1945 there was not yet a CBS Television network. WCBW later became WCBS-TV.

This was only five months before Hardeen's death on June 12, 1945. One wonders where this stands as far as a first appearance by a magician on television?

As with Houdini's radio broadcasts, this was probably too early in the history of the medium for us to have any hope that a recording was made. The criticism of Hardeen's speaking voice is interesting. I'm not sure what the reviewer, Marty Schrader, didn't like about it, but you can hear Hardeen's voice for yourself in this 1939 radio broadcast.

Vaudeville, Broadway, radio, film, and now television. Dash did it all!

Thanks Bill.


Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Houdini in Heavy Metal #286

Houdini is featured in the new issue of Heavy Metal magazine (#286). Below is one of three variant covers of this "Magick Special" along wth a preview of "The 1,000 Deaths of Harry Houdini" by Neil Kleid, Michael Avon Oeming, and Taki Soma.

Since mankind's earliest days and stories told around campfires with the darkness of night encroaching on the light, the stories we tell one another have been tinged with magic. From mighty warlocks commanding the forces of nature to gentle fables of urban fantasy, magic is all around us, and in this issue, Grant Morrison and the writers and artists he select explore the magic that touches our souls and fills our nightmares.

You can buy Heavy Metal at the official website or in stores.


Tuesday, May 16, 2017

LINK: An expose on the King of Card act of Harry Houdini

The great Dean Carnegie has a must read post about Houdini's card work on his blog The Magic Detective. Anything the sheds light on Houdini's magic is always welcome, and Dean has uncovered some terrific info from a wealth of sources.

"It's very clear by viewing existing video of Houdini presenting card flourishes that the man had skills! There are some moves he was known to do that seem impossible today, this to me is thrilling!"

Click the headline to have a read at Dean's site. While there, you also might take a look at his report on the recent Obscura Day Houdini event in Washington DC: HOUDINI Takes DC 2017.


'The Book of Houdini' combines the books of Houdini

Three works by Houdini have been collected and published as The Book of Houdini by Nevetz Azraz. I normally don't buy (or cover) public domain reprints, but I do like how Nevetz has put effort into creating a book with a unique title and cover, so this one might make it to my shelf. Here's the description.

The Book of Houdini contains three publications, all focusing on magic, and the great work of Harry Houdini. The first volume was authored in 1922 and is titled Houdini, The Adventurous Life of a Versatile Artist, and is a glance at just that. The second installment was written in 1908 by Houdini, who penned a work on The Unmasking of Robert Houdin, a study of Robert Houdin's alleged magical abilities. Book III, written in 1920, and the final volume in The Book of Houdini, is called Miracle Mongers and Their Methods, where Harry again analyzes and exposes the tricks behind magic, while sharing the secrets behind some of his own.

You can purchase The Book of Houdini at (U.S.) and (UK).


Monday, May 15, 2017

Look what's inside David Blaine's magic lair

The New York Post has an article about David Blaine's "magic lair" in New York City where he creates his illusions and is currently preparing his upcoming tour (begins May 30 in San Diego). The article also contains the following photo and a paragraph that will be of interest to Houdini buffs.

Fifteen years ago, he bought his Chinatown den, the walls of which are covered with vintage posters featuring his favorite magicians, including one that pictures Harry Houdini and that Blaine purchased for an undisclosed, record-setting price. Hidden out of sight are treasures such as Houdini’s handwritten and unpublished show notes.

I expect the poster they are referring to is the Water Torture Cell poster directly behind David and his team. That poster sold in a Potter & Potter auction in February for a record breaking $114,000. So now we know who got it! As for those "unpublished Houdini show notes"...interesting.

David Blaine is a self-acknowledged Houdini fan. He credits seeing the straitjacketed Houdini on a book cover as the thing that sparked his interest in magic -- "the beautiful struggle."

You can read the full article online at The New York Post.



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