Saturday, October 21, 2017

Houdini here!

Here's a terrific photo of a theater adorned with three mammoth Houdini posters. I love shots like this because I always learn something. Here we learn that there existed giant sized "Slander in Germany" posters. The only surviving examples of this poster (one of which sold in 2011 for $25,000) are half sheet size. And if you're curious about that poster on the far left, you can get a better look at it here.

Because there's a Milk Can poster present, I'd date this photo between 1908-11. And I believe that is Harry and Bess themselves on the balcony.


By the way, I have no idea where I got this image. So if you sent it to me and would like credit, just give me a shout.

Below are links to photos of some other Houdini theater fronts.

UPDATE: An eagle-eyed reader points out a sign in French over the doorway, so I'm guessing this is Barrasford's Alhambra Theater in Paris in 1909.

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Thursday, October 19, 2017

Official Séance looks to lock up Houdini in Cleveland

Today I have details on the 2017 Official Houdini Séance in Cleveland. This year attendees will gather for a 3-course meal, entertainment, and the official seance inside a former bank vault! The vault is today part of the Crop Bistro & Bar in downtown Cleveland.

Here is your chance to experience the 90th consecutive Official Houdini Séance on the anniversary of Houdini's Halloween death in the intimate, candle-lit Vault under the old United Bank and Trust Building in Ohio City, now home of Crop Bistro & Bar. 
Enjoy cocktails and an exceptional three-course dinner while enjoying Houdini talks and up-close magic performed by Paul Gallagher
Then the séance will begin with medium Marianne Goldweber, who'll also perform individual audience readings throughout the session. 
Houdini often performed in Cleveland, so maybe this year he will come through! 
Ticket price includes one drink ticket, dinner and entertainment. Valet parking is available for $9. 
SCHEDULE OF EVENTS:
7 p.m. - Cocktails & Light Hor D'Ourves
7:30 p.m. - Dinner, Houdini Talks and Close-Up Magic by Paul Gallagher
8:30 p.m. - Formal Parlor Show
9 p.m. - The Official Houdini Séance with medium Marianne Goldweber, owner of The Village Personal and Spirtual Development Center
Magician Paul Gallagher and Medium Marianne Goldweber.

The Official Houdini Séance traces its linage back to Houdini's brother Hardeen who passed the tradition to collector Sidney Radner. Sid held seances until his death in 2011. Today his son Bill Radner and Tom Boldt carry on the tradition. In 2012 the Official Seance was opened to the public.

You can purchse tickets to the 2017 Official Houdini Seance for $80 via Eventbright.

UPDATE: It appears the event is now SOLD OUT.

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Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Original Houdini Seance to be held in New York

The Houdini Museum in Scranton will once again hold their "Original Houdini Seance" at Sojourn Restaurant in New York City on October 31. The seance this year will be conducted by Dorothy Dietrich herself. It begins at 11:30 AM and runs until the exact time of Houdini's death at 1:26 PM. The seance is free for magicians and fans of Houdini. Complimentary food will be provided by Sojourn.

Table from last year's Original Houdini Seance at Sojourn.

Sojourn is located at 244 East 79 St., in a building that was once Mrs. Loeffler's Boarding House. It was here that young Ehrich Weiss and his family lived when they first arrived in New York in 1887.

This year's seance will commemorate the 100th Anniversary of Houdini becoming president of the Society of American Magicians. Houdini helped expand the S.A.M. into the national organization that it is today with hundreds of local chapters and thousands of members.

The Original Houdini Seance seance (not to be confused with the Official Houdini Seance which this year is being held in Cleveland) traces back to Walter B. Gibson, who suggested to Dorothy Dietrich that she carry on the annual seance tradition. Last year's seance at Sojourn attracted members of the Hardeen family and garnered national press attention.

For more on Dorothy Dietrich, the Original Houdini Seances and the Houdini Museum of Scranton, visit their official website. The full press release can be viewed here.

Below are some other Halloween events for this 91st anniversary year.

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Tuesday, October 17, 2017

'Speakeasies and Spiritualists' rediscovers Rose

There seems to be a resurgence of interest in Houdini's favorite "spook spy" Rose Mackenberg in recents years. Here's the latest, Speakeasies and Spiritualists.

Rose Mackenberg is unjustly forgotten. 
She was Harry Houdini's chief investigator. She testified before congress about psychic fraud, and discovered all the tricks of the seance trade. 
We proudly present the first fiction featuring Rose Mackenberg and her spook-busting career by award-winning mystery author M.H. Norris and James Bojaciuk. 
Speakeasies and Spiritualists also presents eight stories inspired by Rose Mackenberg and the spiritualists' Jazz Age milieu. 
Psychic investigators on the trail of the trail of a jazz musician who seems to have crawled from the grave. Amateur, livingroom seances going very wrong when mixed with grief for those who died in the war. Strange men warning out of Florida storms. Dream Demons stalking Chicago, feeding off bar-dwellers, and floors painted with mystic stars. 
FEATURING STORIES BY M.H. Norris, James Bojaciuk, Peter Rawlik, Josh Reynolds, John Linwood Grant, Jon Black, Donald J. Bingle, Aaron Smith, Brendan Foley, and William J. Martin. As well as original articles by Rose Mackenberg herself.

Purchase Speakeasies and Spiritualists from Amazon.com (U.S.) and Amazon.co.uk (UK).

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    Monday, October 16, 2017

    Report from Sunday's 278 open house

    Yesterday was Open House at Houdini's former home at 278 West 113th Street in Harlem. This was the third open house since the brownstone went on the market in June. Our friend Janet Davis was there and provides this wonderful report.

    Beverley Draggon invited me in around 12:45 ("Welcome to 278, come on in," words I never imagined really hearing) and gave me a one-on-one tour of the entire building, starting at the 4th floor and ending in the basement. She showed me that there's a ladder leading up to the roof, but we didn't go up there. I can confirm that the second tub, piano, and bookcase are gone, but the wheel is still in the basement. Beverley even took me into the boiler room. Detria Davu arrived late in my visit and both women were extremely welcoming and patient with my questions. 
    At around 1:20, the doorbell started buzzing with new arrivals and I didn't feel like I should take any more of Beverley's time. She gave me a print-out of the floor plans and the real estate hand-out for 278. And then I basically floated home! I feel like I was hardly breathing the whole time I was in the house. Again, I can't thank you enough for the Open House alert, your enthusiasm and encouragement. This was a memory I'll keep forever.

    The sale of 278 is being handled by Douglas Elliman Real Estate. Asking price is $3,999,000.

    Thanks Janet!

    Related:

    'Houdini's Secret Life' with Joe Mantegna

    Every Now and Then Theatre has produced a Halloween inspired radio drama, "Houdini's Secret Life", hosted by actor Joe Mantegna. It will be broadcast on NewsTalk 1590 KVTA October 28, 29 and 31.

    Co-presented with Conejo Players Theatre, we bring you the radio drama, “Houdini’s Secret Life,” the hidden side of America’s first super hero. Based on recent research, diaries, congressional records, Houdini’s writings, and a bit of speculation. Celebrity Host JOE MANTEGNA reveals insights. PLUS, within the show, Magician Paul Dwork attempts reading listener’s minds. “Tune in early for best seats!” 
    As always, our broadcasts help benefit foster children by providing broadcast copies in trade for donations from cast, crew and public. 
    BROADCAST TIMES for our Halloween radio drama, "Houdini's Secret Life" are: Sat Oct 28 5pm & 9pm; Sun Oct 29 10am, 3pm, 9pm; Tue Oct 31 6pm & 9pm. Show airs on NewsTalk 1590 KVTA, heard along the CA Goldcoast. Not Streamed.

    For more information check out the Every Now and Then Theatre website and on Facebook.

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    Sunday, October 15, 2017

    Chris Bremner co-writing Lionsgate Houdini movie

    It's been a while since we heard anything about Lionsgate's Houdini movie, but now comes word that screenwriter Chris Bremner is co-writing the movie along with Noah Oppenheim. Oppenheim is president of NBC News and is currently caught up in the Harvey Weinstein scandal.

    Dan Trachtenberg is currently attached to direct.

    Liongate's Houdini movie has been gestating for eight years with multiple writers and directors having come and gone. It's based on The Secret Life of Houdini by William Kalush and Larry Sloman and is said to play up the (fictional) idea that Houdini worked as a spy.

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    Saturday, October 14, 2017

    Astral Theatre Collective presents 'A Houdini Séance'

    The Astral Theatre Collective is bringing "A Houdini Séance" to the West Virginia State University Capitol Center Theater in Charleston for two midnight performances on October 21 and 28.

    With the assistance of Charleston based magician Professor Sinister, audiences will be thrilled by a midnight séance in honor of Harry Houdini. “A Houdini Séance” brings to life one of the key ceremonies used by Spiritualists, bringing theatre, magic, and history together in a unique way. The event will culminate in figures from Houdini’s life sitting around the table in proper style calling on the spirit of the late Master of Magic. Will Houdini return from the beyond?

    For tickets call the theatre at 304-342-6522 or visit the Facebook Event Page for more details.

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    Friday, October 13, 2017

    Guest Blog: The Bobby Handcuffs come home

    Today our good friend Fred Pittella shares the story of a special pair of handcuffs that were precious to both Houdini and their long time owner Larry Weeks (who passed away three years ago today). Here's the strange tale of the Bobby Handcuffs.

    There are good people out there...

    It has been three years since Larry Weeks has passed “Houdini’s Biggest Fan”.

    Amongst the many items missing from Larry Weeks apartment was the famed “Bobby Handcuffs” if you weren’t aware the Bobby handcuffs were named after Houdini’s fox terrier dog Bobby the only Handcuff King Dog. Houdini was said to have had trained Bobby to escape from ropes, handcuffs and even a miniature straight jacket. In 1918 Bobby performed for the Society of American Magicians Annual dinner escaping from a specially made pair of an English model Darby handcuffs (see photo above). According to a Houdini quote “He was a Dog-gone Hit”. Those handcuffs today are referred to as the Bobby handcuffs.

    The Bobby handcuffs are featured in the 1996 Houdini Documentary “Houdini: People Came to See Him Die” where Larry had trained his fox terrier “Spanky the Wonder Dog” to Escape from the very same pair of handcuffs used by Houdini’s dog Bobby.

    Larry was very proud to have in his collection these very rare and special handcuffs. Larry had brought the Bobby handcuffs to a few of Sid Radner’s “Official Houdini Séances” and to the many interviews he had done.

    Larry was distraught when the Bobby Handcuffs one day turned up missing from his apartment.

    Larry didn’t know who to blame, he was beside himself, he confronted a magician and a juggler who were his so called friends with no results. At the time Larry didn’t really trust them in and out of his apartment but had no choice his health was failing and he needed some help I had been traveling a lot. So I had worked hard fighting with an agency to hire someone to take care of Larry when I was out of town. Who knew this decision I would later come to regret.

    After Larry had passed and it became public knowledge that I was to inherit his estate I received a strange call from a blocked phone number the gravel voice on the other end saying that if this was really true and if I was the true owner of these special handcuffs they will be returned to me. It took a very long time for the court to grant Larry’s last wishes. I had forgotten all about the anonymous phone call but one day to my surprise in my mailbox was the only stolen thing returned and that was the Bobby handcuffs.

    So in this small collecting world of ours there are some decent people. Who know how to do the right thing!

    Not knowing who this person is I just wanted to take this opportunity to thank them publicly being that I never had the chance to extend my gratitude!! So Thank You!! And of course Larry Weeks for always being there for me thank you!

    -Fred Pittella

    Related:

    Amazon uses Houdini clip to promote 'Lore'

    Aaron Mahnke's popular podcast Lore is now a series on Amazon. Episode 4, "Passing Notes", deals with spiritualism and features Houdini. Below is a promotional clip for the series featuring part of the Houdini segment.



    One interesting mistake this clip makes is saying that Bess held her annual seances "every Halloween." At some point I'll get into this in more depth, but not only am I skeptical that Bess ever did "annual" seances in the 10 years after Houdini died, but the few I'm aware of were not done on Halloween. In fact, it's possible the first Halloween seance was actually the Final Houdini Seance of 1936. But, as I said, we'll save that for another time.

    Lore starts steaming today at Amazon Video. The series is free for Prime members.

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    Thursday, October 12, 2017

    New Houdini Pin from Castle Thunder Graphics

    Dan Cleri's Castle Thunder Graphics has produced a new Houdini Pin. They are calling it "The Handcuff King" and it looks pretty darn nice if you ask me! Price is $10.00.

    Illusionist, escapologist, stunt performer, actor, historian, film producer, pilot, debunker and now a pin! 1.5" soft enamel.

    Purchase at Castle Thunder Graphics.

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    Wednesday, October 11, 2017

    What would Houdini's resume look like?

    The 1996 book Historic Resumes of Famous Americans by Timothy Doe imagines what the resumes of some famous Americans would look like, including Houdini. (Yes, Houdini was actually Hungarian, but I won't tell if you don't.) As you can see, our boy makes the cover.

    If the most famous and admired people in American history submitted their resumes, this is what they would look like. Thoroughly researched and colorfully written by Tim Doe, the owner of a L.A.-based resume company, each entry is written as if it were actually composed by its subject. Among those featured are P.T. Barnum, Edgar Allan Poe, Huey Long, Amelia Earhart, Jackie Robinson, and Harry Houdini. 60 photos.

    You can purchse Historic Resumes of Famous Americans at Amazon.com (U.S.) and Amazon.co.uk. (UK).

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    Tuesday, October 10, 2017

    HISTORY brings back 'Houdini' for October

    HISTORY will repeat their two-part Houdini miniseries starring Adrien Brody and Kristen Connolly on Wednesday, October 18 at 8:30am (Part 1) and 10:30am (Part 2). Proceeding the miniseries will be repeat of Brad Meltzer's Decoded (7:00am) and the "Houdini Handcuffs" episode of Pawn Stars (7:30am).


    Houdini originally aired in September 2014. The version HISTORY shows is edited. The unedited International version is available on DVD and Blu-ray. Houdini can also be streamed on Amazon and Netflix.

    But if you are going to watch just one Houdini biopic this month, I'd recommend the Tony Curtis classic Houdini (1953) which airs several times on MOVIES. While both dabble in fictionalizations, the Curtis film is a better movie about magic and a much more affectionate portrait of Harry and Bess.

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    Monday, October 9, 2017

    Open House at 278 this Sunday, October 15, 1-3pm

    There will another Open House at Houdini's former home at 278 West 113th Street in Harlem this Sunday, October 15 from 1-3pm.

    This will be the third open house since the brownstone went on the market in June. The sale of the house is being handled by Douglas Elliman Real Estate. Asking price is $3,999,000.

    Thanks to Adam Steinfeld for the heads up.

    Paul Zenon's Linking Rings at the Secret Cellar in London

    Magician Paul Zenon's one-man show Linking Rings will play at the Secret Cellar, "London's hidden theatre of close-up magic", October 18-22. According to Paul, this will likely be the last season for the show in London.

    Houdini's right-hand man deals with the death of his boss. A half century later, a Blackpool joke shop proprietor takes on a wide-eyed young protégé. An affectionate look at a misspent youth and unsung heroes; a touching true story of interlocking lives. 
    This acclaimed self-penned work is an exciting change of direction for Paul Zenon, who has made regular appearances everywhere from Countdown to La Clique and is known as the UK pioneer of Street Magic.

    Not a magic show, but magical nonetheless.

    For more information and to buy tickets visit the Secret Cellar.

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