Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Lives of the Conjurers, Volume Three

Houdini is one of four performers profiled in the new paperback Lives of the Conjurers, Volume Three by Professor Solomon. The book also contains a profile of Larry Weeks. Here's the description:

* Houdini (Part I)--The story of the escape artist who became the highest-paid performer in vaudeville. From his early days as a newsboy, to his years struggling in beer halls, sideshows, dime museums, and other lowly venues, to his success as the Handcuff King, to his rise to international fame. 
* Larry Weeks--A master juggler, he dwelt amidst a chaotic collection of magic memorabilia--including the sole surviving copy of "The Grim Game," Houdini’s lost film.
* Martin Sunshine--Every summer for 35 years, he donned a fez and performed at a resort as Kismet the Magician. 
* Lung Tung--Once the Court Magician to the Empress of China, he had been reduced to passing the hat in hotel lobbies. But he could still hear the sounds of the court and the reverberations of the gong.

You can purchase Lives of the Conjurers, Volume Three at Amazon.com (U.S.) and Amazon.co.uk (UK). Free PDF downloads of the first two volumes are available at professorsolomon.com.

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Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Watch Houdini's 'Timeless' appearance online


Houdini appeared on the NBC series Timeless last night in an episode called "The World's Columbian Exposition" set during the 1893 Chicago World's Fair. It was great fun. Actor Michael Drayer played the young Houdini as fearless, resourceful and heroic. The episode also contained a few surprises, including an appearance by Dash played by Leo Beckwitt (now the 6th actor to portray Hardeen on screen), and even a mention of Bess; a heads-up for Harry from our time travelers.

For those who missed it, the good news is the full episode is available on the Timeless page at NBC.com through May 25, 2017.



As far as the history goes, Houdini did indeed perform at the Columbian Exposition in 1893 at the start of his career, although it was with his first partner Jacob Hyman and they were billed as The Brothers Houdini. The set designer created some mock-up posters based on King of Cards and Metamorphosis, mixing in images of Houdini from later in his career. Houdini being forced to unlock a door at gunpoint reminded me to his Coffeyville exploit. And for those who felt bad for Harry when Lucy rejected his proposal to "team up" at the end, know that Bess will come into his life the following year (1894).

The episode also featured Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, J.P. Morgan and serial killer H.H. Holmes. But Houdini was clearly the favorite of the team.


Timeless is about a team of time travelers who protect the present in the past. It airs on NBC on Mondays at 10/9c.

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    Monday, January 16, 2017

    Houdini on 'Timeless' tonight

    Just a reminder that Houdini will appear on the NBC series Timeless tonight at 10/9c. The episode is called "The World's Columbian Exposition" and is set during the 1893 Chicago World's Fair. Houdini is played by Michael Drayer.


    Timeless is about a team of time travelers who protect the present in the past. Episodes have featured Abraham Lincoln, Benedict Arnold and Bonnie & Clyde.

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    Saturday, January 14, 2017

    A new vanishing elephant pic appears

    Check out this image of Houdini with Jennie his vanishing elephant on stage at the Hippodrome theater. This comes from Houdini's The Adventurous Life of a Versatile Artist pitchbook and is an image that we are all familiar with. Or is it?


    Now look at the image below. This is actually the familiar photo we see in books, etc., and it's pretty clear that it's not the same image as the above. Houdini is in a very different position. However, Jennie is in the exact same pose, although she's in a different position in relation to the background. That means she's one well trained elephant, or this famous shot is not what it seems.


    I've always looked this photo with some skepticism. Not only does it seem like an improbable moment to capture on camera, but the light on Houdini, Jennie, and the cavernous Hippodrome does not seem achievable. The Hippodrome appears to be a backdrop. But is Jennie herself artificial? That is not as clear to me, but these two photos seem to suggest that she is.

    This photo is credited to the famous White Studio, and was likely taken in the studio itself. In the un-cropped version one can see a person standing just off the edge of frame. The audience directly behind Jennie's right foot also appears to be painted, possibly onto the negative itself. So what's going on here? Break out the magnifiers!


    No matter how the photo was created, it's still a great shot, and it's exciting to see an alternate version (which has been hiding in plain sight). These two images remain the only known photos of Houdini's vanishing elephant illusion.

    Thanks to Perry from New Jersey for bringing this photo to my attention.

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    Friday, January 13, 2017

    Houdini's Hidden Theater

    Houdini's Hidden Theater is a Houdini-themed magic show inside a "hidden room" at Mandolin's restaurant at The Radisson Hotel Celebration ​in Orlando, FL. Shows are held at 8:00pm every Saturday.

    Comedy magician Erick Olson mixes magic with Houdini history during the 60 minute show. Erick tells some whoppers in a video clip at the official website, so let's hope those aren't part of the history lesson. But his wrist breaking gag is great.

    The Radisson Resort and Mandolin's Restaurant is located at 2900 Parkway Blvd, Kissimmee, FL, 34747.

    For more information and tickets visit houdinistheater.com.

    Wednesday, January 11, 2017

    Kevin Mitnick's secret identity

    Some of you will remember Kevin Mitnick, the infamous hacker who evaded the FBI for years before finally being arrested in 1995. While watching the 2016 documentary Lo and Behold, Reveries of the Connected World, I discovered something about Mitnick that I never knew. Check out the clip below.



    Mitnick appears to still be a Houdini fan. When Google celebrated Houdini's birthday with a Doodle in 2011, he tweeted out the following:


    Lo and Behold, Reveries of the Connected World can be streamed on Netflix and Amazon Video or purchased on DVD.

    Tuesday, January 10, 2017

    Houdini/LeRoy signed souvenir sells on eBay

    Here's a unique one. This souvenir card from a 1925 Cleveland Magicians Club event with Houdini and Servais LeRoy sold on eBay over the weekend for $2,080. The card is signed by Houdini, LeRoy, and Bess "(me too)." Houdini was performing at the Palace Theater in Cleveland at this time.

    Seller description: For your consideration is this rare original signed card from the Cleveland Magicians Club featuring Harry Houdini and Servais LeRoy.

    LeRoy was a Belgian magician, illusion designer and businessman. He was credited as the inventor of the classic levitation illusion called Asrah the Floating Princess. He performed for many years in Belgium, London, and the US, among other places. He was a true innovator and inventor in the field of magic.

    It is rare to find signed Le Roy items, but in combination with Houdini's and Bess's signatures, this makes this a historic and likely a one of a kind piece of history. It would make a fantastic addition to your collection.

    Well, it appears it did make a fantastic addition to someone's collection! (Our friend Dale from Cleveland perhaps?) Congrats to the winner.

    Monday, January 9, 2017

    LINK: Harry Houdini Was an Ingenious Inventor, He Just Didn't Want Anybody to Know

    Check out this excellent article by Jackson Landers about Houdini the inventor. The piece includes some good observations by Teller and a few scatterbrained quotes from yours truly (I need to get better with phone interviews). It also includes some very nice photos from National Air and Space Museum Archives, including the infamous "photo Houdini didn't want you to see."

    Click the headline to read at Smithsonian.com.

    Sunday, January 8, 2017

    Houdini Museum announces HOUDINI-OPOLY

    Our great friends Dorothy Dietrich and Dick Brookz of the Houdini Museum in Scranton, PA have launched a Kickstarter campaign for their new HOUDINI-OPOLY board game. Below is a pic and description.

    Houdini-Opoly is an exciting hero board game for 2-6 players built around the life of one of the most exciting personalities in history. To make the game more thrilling and up to date all of the prices and values throughout the game have been increased proportionally. The largest bill is now $5,000! As you go around the board you will learn about the life of this great icon of the entertainment field, in a fun way. The real estate properties on the board are the actual key places in Houdini's life in chronological order. Each of the property deed cards has additional fun historic information about that particular time and place in Houdini's life. Each time you play you will get different deeds and land on different spots so both the both the enjoyment, and your knowledge about Houdini will increase. It is fun, educational and a parody all rolled into one. Donors will be able to get their names on the deed cards, chance cards, the play money, the box and even the game board itself. Their names will be part of Houdini history forever!

    Every donor will get at least one game. It will be a very limited edition. We only intend to manufacture as many games as we sell through this program. As with all items Houdini over time it will become collectible and rise in value. Many we have spoken to have said they will be buying a game or games to play as well as games to save intact as collectibles. You Can’t Escape The Fun!

    You can learn more, see a video of Dorothy and Dick explaining the game, and check out a whole host of special premiums at the Houdini-Opoly Kickstarter page.

    Saturday, January 7, 2017

    Houdini/Margery exhibit extended to April 16

    Tony Oursler's Imponderable exhibition at MoMA in New York City, which had been scheduled to close on January 8, has now been extended to April 16. On display is Margery's original seance kimono and chair from the Libbet Crandon de Malamud Collection. This is the first time these rarities have even been publicly shown. The exhibition also includes some cases of Houdini memorabilia.


    Tony Oursler is the grandson of Houdini's friend and colleague Fulton Oursler. His modernist film Imponderable, which is part of the exhibition, features Houdini (played by Mark Mitton), Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Margery among others. His work and collection also appears in the book Imponderable: The Archives of Tony Oursler.

    The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) is located at 11 West 53 Street, New York, NY 10019. For more info visit their website.

    Photos from Blouin Artinfo.

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    Bringing Houdini to life

    The mighty Arthur Moses alerts us to issue No. 4 of the UK publication Bringing History To Life which contains 4 pages on "Houdini's Best Tricks."

    What...they couldn't get Houdini on that cover? Or is that "Yar the Primeval Man"? Memo to magazine editors: Houdini sells!

    This came out last year so it might be a trick to find. But you can start at the website Newsstand.

      Friday, January 6, 2017

      ROUGH RIDERS collected volume and second series

      Over the Christmas break the collected edition of Adam Glass's ROUGH RIDERS was released by Aftershock Comics. Also came news that there will be a second series, ROUGH RIDERS: RIDERS ON THE STORM, starting in February. Below is a description.

      Great jumping on point! Three years have passed since the Rough Riders' last adventure, but when an assassin's bullet takes President William McKinley's life, Vice President Theodore Roosevelt is thrust into the role of Commander in Chief. As a country mourns the loss of their leader, Roosevelt believes that the assassin is part of a bigger conspiracy, one whose tentacles reach back to Europe and whose intentions are to destroy humanity through world- wide ANARCHY. 
      To stop them, Roosevelt must convince Harry Houdini, Jack Johnson, Thomas Edison and a surprisingly very alive Annie Oakley to band together again. But time has strained the bonds that once united them and the ideologies of their enemies may have already seeped into one of their own. Welcome to ROUGH RIDERS: RIDERS ON THE STORM.

      The trade paperback edition of ROUGH RIDERS Vol. 1 can be purchased at Midtown Comics.

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      Thursday, January 5, 2017

      LINK: Harry Houdini, David Abbott and Johnny Carson: Omaha has a long history with magicians

      Somewhat lost amid all the activity around the 90th anniversary of Houdini's death was this very good article by Kevin Coffey in the Omaha World Herald about Omaha's relationship to Houdini and other famous figures in magic. Among them is David P. Abbott, pictured here with Houdini in the 1920s.

      Wednesday, January 4, 2017

      'Timeless' Houdini episode will air January 16

      Houdini will appear on the NBC series Timeless on Monday, January 16 at 10/9c. The episode is called "The World's Columbian Exposition" and is set during the 1893 Chicago World's Fair. Houdini is played by Michael Drayer (below). Here's the official synopsis.

      LUCY’S KIDNAPPED BY FLYNN AND TAKEN TO THE 1893 CHICAGO WORLD’S FAIR IN PURSUIT OF RITTENHOUSE, AND HARRY HOUDINI MAY BE THE ONLY PERSON WHO CAN SAVE HER. Lucy’s (Abigail Spencer) situation grows desperate after she’s taken captive by Flynn (Goran Visnjic) and brought to the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair. In their dogged pursuit of Lucy, Wyatt (Matt Lanter) and Rufus (Malcolm Barrett) fall into a sinister trap. Also starring Sakina Jaffrey, Paterson Joseph and Claudia Doumit. Guest starring Michael Drayer, Joel Johnstone, Chad Rook and Katherine Cunningham.

      In regards to Houdini, they have their history right. Houdini did perform at the 1893 Chicago's Worlds Fair early in his career. Below is a photo of Houdini with his first performing partner Jacob Hyman said to have been taken at the fair. Eerily similar to the photo of Drayer, isn't it?


      Timeless is about a team of time travelers who protect the present in the past. Episodes have featured Abraham Lincoln, Benedict Arnold and Bonnie & Clyde. A similar Spanish series, El Ministerio del Tiempo, aired their own Houdini episode last year.

      Timeless photo: Sergei Bachlakov/NBC. Houdini-Hyman photo from The Magic Detective.

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      American Pinball redesigning their Houdini game

      American Pinball, makers of the upcoming "Houdini Master of Mystery" pinball machine, have updated their Facebook with the following image and message. It appears they have "started fresh" on a new design, so what was shown in Las Vegas and Chicago last year will not be the final game.

      Happy Holidays everyone. As the new year is upon us we too have something to be grateful for. We're happy to say that we've made some great progress on Houdini, our first original pinball machine. The rumors are true, we have started fresh, from the ground up, with our new team and reimagined the game in ways we never thought possible.

      While it's too early for pictures to share just yet, we felt it was important to share that our American Pinball team is growing and we're proud to say that we've added some well-respected experienced pinball professionals to our American Pinball family.

      Thanks for all your support so far and please keep a look out for more details and another update later this week.

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      Tuesday, January 3, 2017

      Houdini gets fooled on 'Mysteries at the Museum'

      The Travel Channel's Mysteries at the Museum will once again feature a segment about Houdini. The new episode will air January 12. No firm details yet, but from the description, I'm guessing this is about Houdini and Dai Vernon.


      This marks Houdini's fifth appearance on the show. Other episodes have explored the Mirror challengeMargery, Conan Doyle and Eleanor Fletcher Bishop. Hey, that's enough to put together a full Houdini episode, isn't it? Ideas.

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