Click for details and to buy tickets

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Time out for Hardeen

Houdini wasn't the only Weiss to star in movies. Here's an ad from the July 7, 1937 Abilene Reporter News for the Errol Flynn feature Green Light. Note the "Added Attraction" at the bottom of the page.

Shot in 1936, Medium Well Done was a one-reel Vitaphone short (Prod. #1958) directed by Lloyd French. In it, Hardeen played a "hardboiled detective" on the case of a bogus medium. The film co-starred Gertrude Mudge, Margaret Breen and Paul E. Burns, and featured the Leo Forbstein songs "Racing Luck" and "Alibi Ike" as background music. The surviving story synopsis from a Vitaphone catalogue reads:

Hardeen, brother of Harry Houdini, carries on his brother's work by exposing fake mediums.

While Medium Well Done is the only Hardeen short that we know of, there is some evidence that he made others. Click to read more about: The forgotten films of Theo Hardeen.


Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Houdini returns to 'Mysteries at the Museum' Oct. 3

The Travel Channel's Mysteries at the Museum will once again feature a segment about Houdini as host Don Wildman travels to the Houdini Museum in Scranton, PA to uncover the story of Houdini's feud with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. The show will highlight the museum's original portrait of Cecelia Weiss, which hung inside Houdini's New York home. Owners Dorothy Dietrich and Dick Brookz acquired the portrait (along with another of Houdini's father) at a 1980 auction of Houdini memorabilia in New Jersey.

This marks the fourth Houdini-themed segment on the Travel Channel series. Other episodes uncovered the Mirror Handcuffs, Margery, and Robert-Houdin. The series has also featured several other magic related segments.

This latest Houdini episode (Season 7, Episode 4: "Doyle & Houdini, The Poison Squad, The Great Imposter") airs this Friday, October 3, 2014. Check out The Travel Channel for more details.


LINKS: Terror Island - Not a Serial!

Our friend Joe Notaro over at Harry Houdini Circumstantial Evidence is running a special 7-day series featuring original full page ads from Motion Picture News for Houdini's 1920 feature Terror Island - "Not a Serial!" Below are links to each installment, including today's terrific 2-page ad showing various action highlights from the film (I'll add to this post as the ads continue to roll out).

Terror Island – Not a Serial! (Ad 1 of 7)
Terror Island – Not a Serial! (Ad 2 of 7)
Terror Island – Not a Serial! (Ad 3 of 7)

And, remember, if you'd like to see Terror Island on the (biggish) screen, know that we will be playing the film during my special "Houdini in Hollywood" event at Hollywood Heritage next Wednesday, October 8th at 7:30pm. Tickets are still available and can be purchased via brownpapertickets.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Lionsgate vs. History: Nicholas Meyer on the two versions of 'Houdini'

Looks like screenwriter Nicholas Meyer is stepping out to promote the upcoming release of the Houdini miniseries on DVD and Blu-ray (Oct. 7). And that could be because this extended edition -- or what he calls the "Lionsgate version" -- is the version he feels better represents his work. The official Star Trek website recently posted an exclusive interview with the writer-director, which includes this revealing exchange:

Let’s start in the present tense, before we dip into the past. You wrote Houdini, which just aired. How pleased were you with how that came together?

MEYER: Well, there are two versions of it. One is the international version, which is Lionsgate, and the other is the History Channel version. And I much prefer the Lionsgate version.

Really? How come?

MEYER: Well, they – you know, sort of re-cut the movie, and tore a lot of it out, and put in a lot of voiceovers and stuff that I just wasn’t crazy about. And wasn't our intention. It hadn't been written.

Having now seen the extended "Lionsgate version" myself, I must say, I'm in complete agreement with Meyer. The cuts HISTORY made to the series really hurt, and had I seen this complete version, I might have written a different review. In fact, I'm planning on giving the movie a re-review of sorts in the coming weeks (although with my Houdini talk at Hollywood Heritage looming, I'm up against the wall time-wise, so this may not happen in time for the DVD release).

Meyer also recently attended a Houdini Seance at the Magic Castle with Houdini star Evan Jones who played Jim Collins (photo above). You can read about that at Home Media Magazine.

Pre-order the Lionsgate version of Houdini on DVD and Blu-ray at Amazon.

Thanks to Neil S. Bulk.


'Houdini' review in October MAGIC

I'm proud to report that the October 2014 issue of MAGIC Magazine features a review of the Houdini miniseries written by yours truly. This is a condensed version of my full review published here on WILD ABOUT HARRY. Even though I had to drastically reduce this review (from 2400 words to 500), I was thrilled to see it still received a full page.

The magazine also features a report on the recent Potter & Potter Houdini auction in Chicago; Mike Caveney's always must read Classic Correspondence column (this time "Neil Foster to Jane Thurston"); and a terrific look at the magical effects inside Disneyland's classic Haunted Mansion ("Revisiting the Haunted Mansion: Disney’s Magic Show"). The cover features magician Yu Ho-Jin.

Thanks to Stan Allen for allowing me to share my Houdini thoughts with the readers of MAGIC. Visit the MAGIC Magazine website to buy this issue and to subscribe.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Houdini the unhappy commuter

On Wednesday I had the great pleasure of seeing Teller's Tempest at the South Coast Repertory in Costa Mesa, thanks to the generosity of magician and Magic Castle librarian Lisa Cousins and Tim Quinlan of Inside Magic. The play was as amazing as the rave reviews promised, and it was great to see it with a group of magicians from the Castle. ("What do the magicians think?" someone eagerly asked me at intermission.)

But what I want to share today was a discovery we made after the play. Our group returned to the Magic Castle to ring in the birthday of "Princess Irene" Larsen at midnight. But before the clock struck 12, Lisa and I stole down to the closed library where she wanted to show me a recent discovery in their special "locked case" collection.

It was a copy of the book The Missing Link in Modern Spiritualism by A. Leah Underhill of the Fox Family, which had belonged to Houdini. Tipped inside where two remarkable letters. The first was from Houdini to his friend and research assistant Oscar Teale. What I love about this letter is it's a great slice of life, and it reveals a different side of Houdini. And have we ever heard about this Long Island rental before?

Click to enlarge.

Now, not to get all Bernard Meyer on us, but it seems to me that this letter comes from a Houdini who is a little depressed. There's also a strong sense of abandonment here, both by Bess and Teale. Houdini was almost certainly a workaholic, and I do think he was prone to slipping into funks when he wasn't working. It's not the first time this depressed Houdini shows himself while on vacation. It's also worth noting that this letter was written the day before the 12th anniversary of his mother's death. That could be the real explanation for his mood here, even if Houdini wasn't aware of it himself.

The second letter is Teale's response, and it's just as personal and revealing. Teale seems to be going out of his way to cheer up Houdini and reassure him that he isn't alone (I unfortunately didn't photograph page 1 in which Teale explains why he wasn't able to make it to the S.A.M. meeting). Teale was an older man, and as a past National President of the S.A.M. (1908-09), he might have been somewhat of a father figure to Houdini. This unique exchange hints at that kind of a relationship.

Click to enlarge.

Teale tipped these letters into the book and it remained part of his collection until his death. Today many of Teale's books, several of which had come direct from Houdini, are housed at the William Larsen Sr. Memorial Library at the Magic Castle.

Thanks again to Lisa and Tim for the invite to the play, and permission to share this treasure here on WILD ABOUT HARRY.


Friday, September 26, 2014

Houdini haunts Sarah Winchester #1

Back in 2009 a graphic novel was announced that would feature Houdini as a devilish spirit haunting the famous Winchester Mystery House in San Jose, CA. I was never able to track down a copy of "Winchester," and I assumed it never came out. But now a helpful reader tells me the first issue did indeed come out under the new title The Secrets of Sarah Winchester. The back even featured an image of zombie Harry.

The Secrets of Sarah Winchester was planned as a series, but a Cease & Desist from the Winchester estate resulted in the series being cancelled. However, issue #1 can still be found on Amazon.

Thanks to Shannon Kane.


History Latinoamérica recruits the real Houdini

The History Channel Latinoamérica is promoting their upcoming airing of the Houdini miniseries on September 28/29 with a campaign that in some ways is superior to the U.S. promotion. Have a look art their official website. What I like is how they're mixing stories and images of the real Houdini with the Brody movie. It's what one might expect from a channel called History.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

'Houdini' behind the scenes

Lionsgate Unlocked has released this Behind The Scenes look at the Houdini miniseries as promotion for their upcoming DVD and Blu-ray release on October 7. Regardless of issues with the script, I think all can agree that the behind the scenes work by the talented crew and craftsmen was superb. This clip gives a nice look at that work. Enjoy.

Houdini haunt returns to Knott's

The Houdini themed Black Magic haunted maze attraction returns in this year's annual Knott's Berry Farm Halloween scarefest, "Knott's Scary Farm."

The veil between the living and the dead is severed when Houdini’s ghost materializes during a séance and ushers a host of demonic illusions to play tricks on anyone who intrudes on his theatre. From the prop room to the main stage this dilapidated theatre will make visitors skin crawl. Will you be part of the disappearing act?

Black Magic was designed by Daniel Miller and made its debut last year. According to the Knott's website, there will be some scary new additions this year, including "more places for monsters to hide" and a "mind-boggling hall of mirrors."

Knott's 42nd Halloween Haunt opens today and runs through November 1. For more information and to buy advance tickets visit their website.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

LINK: Houdini's Hollywood hijinx revealed @ the Barn

My upcoming Houdini talk at the Hollywood Heritage Museum on October 8 got a nice mention on the excellent Arts*Meme website. Click the headline to have a read.

Tickets to Evening @ the Barn: Houdini in Hollywood can be purchased via brownpapertickets. You can read more details about the event HERE.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

S.A.M. planning "huge restoration" of Houdini's grave

Can 2014 get any better for Houdini? Apparently, it can!

Newly elected National President of the Society of American Magicians, ICE McDonald, along with S.A.M.'s National Dean, George Schindler and one of the Society’s Senior Officers David Bowers, will visit Houdini's grave at Machpelah Cemetery in Queens on October 2 as the first step in what's being described as "planning for the huge restoration process."

"It brings me joy to visit the great city of New York, and an honor to attend the gravesite of one of magic's greatest treasures, the Honorable Past National President of The Society of American Magicians, Harry Houdini," say McDonald, who on July 3, 2014 made history by becoming the first African-American National President of the S.A.M. in the organization's 112 year history. Houdini was national president of the S.A.M. from 1917 until his death in 1926.

This is exciting news, although I'm curious what exactly these "huge" plans could be. Houdini's gravesite is actually in pretty good shape these days, thanks in no small part of the efforts of our friends Dorothy Dietrich and Dick Brookz of the Houdini Museum in Scranton. What I'm hoping is this means the missing headstones for Leopold and Gladys will finally be returned to their proper places in the Weiss family plot. That would indeed be huge.

You can read more about the new S.A.M. National President ICE McDonald HERE.

Related posts:

Houdini two volume CD soundtrack released today

The soundtrack to HISTORY's Houdini miniseries is released today on CD. The soundtrack by John Debney comes on two separate volumes (one for each night) and can be purchased on (links below).

The Houdini soundtrack is also available as a digital MP3 download Volume 1 and Volume 2. The movie itself will be released on DVD and Blu-ray October 7.

This is only the third Houdini movie to receive a soundtrack release, the others being FairyTale: A True Story (1997) and Death Defying Acts (2008).

Monday, September 22, 2014

Antiques Roadshow finds Houdini in Knoxville

A set of signed Houdini books and a letter appeared on the popular PBS series Antiques Roadshow today. The collection was discovered in the attic of a home in Knoxville, Tennessee by a woman whose grandfather was friends with Houdini. Ken Gloss appraised the collection at $7,600 - $11,600. While the segment just aired today, the appraisal was made on July 13, 2013.

You can see photos, read a transcript, and watch a video of the Houdini segment at the Antiques Roadshow webpage at

French animated Houdini TV series in the works

Variety reports that a French animated Houdini TV series is being pitched at Cartoon Forum, a Toulouse-based co-production mini-mart that runs Sept. 23-26. "Houdini" is one of 84 projects being shopped at the event. Here's the full report by Elsa Keslassy:

Master illusionist and escape artist Harry Houdini will get a youthful treatment in “Houdini,” a French animated series set to be pitched at Cartoon Forum, the Toulouse-based co-production mini-mart.

Toon series – comprising 26 half-hours – is produced by Jean-Baptiste Wery and 
Emmanuèle Pétry-Sirvin at France’s Dandelooo, which is competing for a Cartoon Tribute.

Set in 1887, the series follows the adventures of Houdini, a gifted 11-year-old illusionist driven by an urge to analyse the many mysteries of New York, which tend to get him embroiled in dubious situations.

Cédric Babouche, the co-author of the novels that served as source material for the series, is directing.

Although the series is not based on a major franchise, it still holds a large potential due to the near-cult status of Harry Houdini, explained Petry-Sirvinn who will be pitching the show at Cartoon Forum.

“Houdini was one of the first illusionist to become internationally acclaimed while alive, thanks to his talent and although kids probably don’t know him as yet, adults do and are intrigued about his mysterious and amazing innate gifts for magic.

The source for this series is "Little Houdini", a multi-platform concept by Cédric Babouche (not yet books as far as I can find). You can read more at the author's website, Cedric's little adventures.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

New German Houdini documentary

A new German Houdini documentary, Spiel mit dem Tod – Harry Houdini der Meistermagier, will air today on arte TV in Germany and also on French station TV8. Produced by ifage Filmproduktion and directed by Jens Monath, the documentary features reenactments of Houdini's escapes by German illusionist Jan Rouven. The documentary will repeat October 19th on ZDF.

The doc also features actors in the roles of Harry and Bess. Above are Paul Cimpoieru and Delia Nartea in a shot very reminiscent of this publicity photo from the recent Houdini miniseries. Below is the description of the documentary from the TV8 website (translated by Google).

Click to enlarge.

You can read more about this documentary, and read an interview with Jan Rouven, at the ARTE website.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Magic Castle members 20% discount to 'Houdini in Hollywood'

Looks like Houdini has brought two great Hollywood-based institutions together. Hollywood Heritage and The Magic Castle have teamed to offer special 20% discount tickets for AMA members to my "Houdini in Hollywood" event on Wednesday, October 8 at 7:30 pm. Tickets can be purchased at the event or via brownpapertickets (bring your AMA membership card to show at the door).

The Hollywood Heritage Museum is located at 2100 North Highland Avenue, Hollywood, CA 90068, directly across from the Hollywood Bowl (enter on Odin St.). Parking is plentiful and free. Phone is (323)-874-2276. For more visit

Friday, September 19, 2014

Houdini's last suspended straitjacket escape?

Here's a clipping from The Indianapolis News showing Houdini performing a suspended straitjacket escape above a crowd of 12,000 on April 2, 1925. This is pretty late in Houdini's career, and I'm thinking this could be his last suspended straitjacket escape. In fact, before I discovered this clipping, I would have said he didn't do a suspended jacket escape beyond 1923.

Click to enlarge.

In a follow-up article published on April 6 (Houdini's 51st birthday), the magician praised the paper for helping draw the record crowd that day:

"It is a wonderful tribute to The Indianapolis News for, with only one day's publicity exploiting my performance, The News drew between 12,000 and 15,000 people in front of its building last Thursday at noon. I have performed similar feats in cities all over the world, usually with a week's heralding. The News announced my intended public appearance in last Wednesday's issues alone. On Thursday we had the show. The pictures tell the story."

Speaking of pictures, Houdini awarded photographer Robert A. Twente $10 for the best photograph taken that day. Houdini presented Twente his prize from the stage of B.F. Keith's Theatre on the Saturday following the stunt. Runner-up prizes of $5 and $2.50 where award to Turner D. Bottome and the Coburn Photo Company respectively.

Robert Twente's prize winning photo.

I admit I haven't tried all that hard to confirm or deny whether this really was Houdini's final suspended straitjacket escape. So if someone wants to drill down deeper and find evidence for or against...Houdini may award you a $10 prize!


Thursday, September 18, 2014

Penn & Teller & Houdini's Needles

Penn & Teller are great heroes of mine, both as magicians and as thinkers (I'm excited to be seeing Teller's Tempest next week). Now The Commercial Appeal in Memphis has a nice profile of the duo -- Magicians Penn & Teller on Houdini, Graceland and their first Memphis show in 17 years -- with some great Houdini content, including this gem from Penn:

Once, after a show about 25 years ago, Teller received a compliment he's never forgotten, his partner said. This came after Teller performed "Needles," one of Houdini's most famous tricks. In the trick, the magician appears to swallow 100 needles followed by thread, then pulls them back out threaded together.

"Even when Houdini did his biggest tricks, that was his closer," Jillette said. "Teller wouldn't tell you this, but I'll tell you this. Twenty-five years ago, an elderly woman came to our show. She had seen Houdini do the needles and she'd seen Teller do the needles that night, and she said Teller was better. That's all that matters."

Teller with Houdini's original Needles at Houdini Art and Magic.

Read the full article at The Commercial Appeal, which also includes a nice newspaper clipping of Houdini doing a suspend straitjacket escape from the Commercial Appeal building on September 1, 1923.


Wednesday, September 17, 2014

NYPL shows us "America's Sensation" in color

Here is another amazing original Houdini poster from The New York Public Library's Digital Collections. While this is not an unknown poster like I shared yesterday, this is not one that you typically see reproduced in color. Gorgeous.

This poster was printed by the St. Paul's Printing Co. The NYPL dates it as 1900-1906, but according to collector Gale Molovinsky, who owns one of these rare sheets, Houdini commissioned it right after he arrived in London in 1900. This poster was part of selling the then only modestly successful Houdini to Europe as "America's Sensation," just as the "Europe's Eclipsing Sensation" posters were created to sell Houdini back to America. The size of this poster is another clue to how early it is. It's about the same size as the King of Cards poster. And the photo used to illustrate this image we now know was taken in July 1899 (see: Ebay auction dates first Houdini 'nude').

This could be the first real poster to advertise Houdini solely as an escape artist, which makes this an especially important piece of Houdini history. It also might be the only Houdini poster (or at least the only one that's currently known) to spell out his name as "Harry Handcuff Houdini." You also gotta love the red white and blue shorts. Eat your heart out, Rocky Balboa.

The NYPL did extensive restoration on this poster, which was found in a scrapbook. You can read the story of that restoration by Renée Wolcott and Grace Owen on the blog Refried Bean.

You can also purchase this poster as a high resolution digital image for publication, or as 8x10 or larger decorative print. Details can be found at the NYPL Digital Collections website.

Thanks again to Andrea Felder, Permissions & Reproduction Services NYPL, for allowing me to share this image here on WILD ABOUT HARRY.



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