Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The Double Fold's inspirational journey to auction

Among the big Houdini news this month has been the reappearance of the custom made box Houdini used in his famous Double Fold Death Defying Mystery (which was an enhanced version of his Milk Can escape). That box will be going up for auction as part of Potter & Potter's massive sale of Houdiniana set for this Saturday, August 23.

But the box has not been as hidden as I first thought. In fact, it's been out on the road as part of a Gospel magic act by Gary Collins and his family. Ironically, Gary may have used the prop more than Houdini or Hardeen! Says Gary:

"My wife and I traveled for 30 years performing in churches across the U.S. I started in '71, sold my house, bought an Airstream trailer and van to pull it. As we acquired more equipment out tow vehicles got larger.

Wendy and I were married in August of '74 and in Sept I received a list of used magic from. LaWain's House of Magic. On the list was a trunk that he said was Houdini's. I wrote and asked if it was real and he said it was so I bought it.

We would be in a church from Sunday through Wed/Thur. We would display the trunk and mention that I would be escaping from it one of the nights during the week. I asked them to bring padlocks. I would get in the trunk and be handcuffed or have stocks put on my wrists or both, it changed over the years. Wendy and our daughter would put the top on, lock the hasps, have the people put their padlocks on. We would say that I would escape in 60 seconds. If possible I would do a run a round to the back of the church. I would not be out in 60 seconds, so Wendy would have the people get their padlocks off, open the lid and I would run in from the back. It was fun and the people enjoyed it. Thousands of people saw it over the years.

You mentioned that it was rumored that the trunk existed but nobody knew where it was. Because I performed in churches, never at a convention, never wrote a book or lectured, to the magic community, I didn't exist.

We stopped traveling in 2000 and now I am in the process of selling all of my equipment.  [...] Since we used the box for 30 years, I am assuming we used it more that Houdini and Hardeen combined. We just never had the water can. But we got a lot of enjoyment out of it and the people had fun."

Below is a terrific clipping Gary sent me about one of his many appearances with Houdini's Double Fold box. Below that is a letter from the previous owner, Jack La Wain, explaining how he came into possession of the famous prop.

Click to enlarge.

Click to enlarge.

A very big thank you to Gary Collins for sharing his story with us. While I doubt the next owner will be performing the escape, let's hope they will enjoy and cherish it as much as the Collins family.

You can see the Double Fold Death Defying Mystery box for yourself starting TODAY at Potter & Potter's auction exhibition preview at 3759 N. Ravenswood Ave., Suite 121, Chicago, IL 60613.

You can view and bid on all the items in the Potter & Potter auction now at Live Auctioneers.

Related:

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Houdini DVD and Blu-ray will include extra footage

Lionsgate has announced the details of their Houdini Home Entertainment releases. The miniseries will first be made available on September 3 as an HD digital download on all digital platforms, including Amazon Instant Video, Netflix, and Apple TV. This is especially good news to those who don't have cable and won't be able to see it when it premieres on HISTORY September 1 & 2.

Then, on October 7, Lionsgate Home Entertainment will release a 2-disc DVD and Blu-ray that will include the televised version as well as an extended cut with 24 minutes of extra footage! Here is the press release:

Prepare To Be Captivated

Oscar® Winner Adrien Brody Stars In An Epic HISTORY® Event
Available On Digital HD September 3rd From Lionsgate Home Entertainment

Extended Edition Available On Blu-ray and DVD October 7


SANTA MONICA, CA (August 18, 2014) – Following HISTORY®’s broadcast airing of the larger-than-life miniseries event on September 1st and 2nd, Houdini will be available on Digital HD the following day on September 3rd. Then, unveil even more of the secrets behind the greatest magician of all time in the extended version of Houdini on two-disc Blu-ray (plus Digital HD) and two-disc DVD (plus Digital) October 7 from Lionsgate Home Entertainment. Boasting an all-star cast including Academy Award® winner Adrien Brody (Best Actor in a Leading Role, The Pianist, 2002) as The Great Harry Houdini, Kristen Connolly (Netflix’s House of Cards) and Evan Jones (Gangster Squad), the scripted four-hour event chronicles Houdini’s extraordinary life as he finds fame while defying death with his incredible stunts and illusions.

His ability to escape from handcuffs, strait-jackets and water tanks is legendary - breaking the shackles of his past proved more challenging. HISTORY®’s Houdini follows the world-renowned master of escape’s transformation from immigrant into the world’s first superstar. Driven, disciplined and actively chasing the American Dream, Houdini constantly pushed his physical limits to accomplish feats of strength that amazed audiences in an age of spectacle. And though they saw what he wanted them to see, his reality was more elusive than his escapes.

The Houdini two-disc Blu-ray and two-disc DVD feature both the original HISTORY® televised version as well as a brand-new extended edition with over 20 minutes of additional film footage of the captivating series. The Houdini Blu-ray and DVD also include four behind-the-scenes featurettes and will be available for the suggested retail price of $29.99 and $26.98, respectively.


Houdini is based on the book Houdini: A Mind in Chains: A Psychoanalytic Portrait by Bernard C. Meyer, M.D., and written by Academy Award®-nominated screenwriter Nicholas Meyer (The Seven-Per-Cent Solution, Best Adapted Screenplay, 1976) and directed by Uli Edel, who directed the Academy Award®-nominated film The Baader Meinhof Complex (Best Foreign Language Film, 2008). Houdini is a Lionsgate/A+E Studios co-production.

BLU-RAY/DVD SPECIAL FEATURES*
  • “The Great Escapes” Featurette
  • “The Real Houdini “ Featurette
  • “Cheating Death” Featurette
  • “Houdini the Greatest” Featurette
*Subject to change

PROGRAM INFORMATION
Year of Production: 2014
Title Copyright: Houdini © 2014 Lions Gate Television, Inc. and A&E Television Networks, LLC. All Rights Reserved. Artwork & Supplementary Materials © 2014 Lions Gate Entertainment Inc. and A&E Television Networks, LLC. All Rights Reserved.
Type: TV on DVD
Rating: NOT RATED
Genre: Adventure; Drama; History; Biography
Closed Captioned: English SDH
Subtitles: English
Feature Run Time Original Broadcast Version: 150 minutes
Feature Run Time Extended Version: 174 minutes
Blu-ray Format: 1080P High Definition 16x9 Widescreen (1.78:1)
DVD Format: 16x9 Widescreen (1.78:1)
Audio Status: 5.1 Dolby Digital

Monday, August 18, 2014

Preview and pre-order the Houdini soundtrack

The soundtrack to HISTORY's Houdini miniseries is now available for pre-order on Amazon. The soundtrack by John Debney comes on two volumes (one for each night) and will be available as an MP3 on August 26 and on CD September 30. The MP3 pages offer previews all the tracks of Debney's highly electronic score.



Houdini stars Adrien Brody and Kristen Connolly. The 4-hour miniseries premiers September 1 at 9/8c on HISTORY. Watch the trailer here.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Bus stop ads dare you to challenge Houdini

Bus stop ads have begun to appear for HISTORY's Houdini miniseries, and some come with a highly original twist! The photos below from Red Eye Chicago shows an ad in Chicago that fills with water as you test your ability to hold your breath as long as Houdini.


These breath testing Houdini ads can be found at:

300 N Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL 60601
105 S Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL 60603
259 N State St, Chicago, IL 60654

And if any of you are tut-tutting about this being a vulgar publicity trick, remember that Houdini once hired seven bald men to sit on a city street, and as pedestrians would pass by they'd remove their hats and bow their heads to reveal: H-O-U-D-I-N-I.

Houdini premiers September 1 at 9/8c.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Jim Bentley selling Houdini handcuff collection

Jim Bentley channeling Houdini.
Jim Bentley, a true legend of the Houdini world (he had played Houdini on stage and on TV numerous times), is selling his amazing collection of Houdini handcuffs and locks. The collection including working replicas of Houdini's Mirror Handcuff, the French Letter Cuff, and the Russian Manacle. These were made by master locksmith Ian McColl for the 1998 TNT biopic Houdini. The collection also includes genuine handcuffs from Houdini's time, and an assortment of antique locks and restraints.

The entire collection is housed in two cases which are themselves beautiful replicas the Houdini display cases made for the 1953 Houdini movie, and now part of the David Copperfield Collection. Jim also has letters and material related to the creation of the Houdini cuffs for the TNT movie, along with other Houdini related movie material.

Below are photos of the cases as they were recently displayed at the Malibu Playhouse during the run of Flim Flam: Houdini and the Hereafter.



Johnathon Schaech models the McColl/Bentley cuffs in Houdini (1998).

Jim would like to keep the collection together if he can. This is a very rare chance to own an amazing collection of handcuffs, and also a good way to help out Jim and his lovely wife Suzanne at a time when they could use some assistance.

If you are interested, email Jim at jbmagic123@gmail.com.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Houdini's "Cologne Papers" at auction

Here's another incredible Houdini artifact from Potter & Potter's auction of Houdiniana set for August 23. I think this has the potential of being a recorded setter because of its importance to Houdini history. I'll let the auction description speak for itself.

Lot 60: Houdini’s German Slander Trial Archive, known as “The Cologne Papers.” Being a file of documents from the famous 1902 German court case in which Houdini successfully sued Cologne Patrolman Werner Graff and newspaper editor Johann Merfeld for slander. Graff alleged Houdini was not the “genius of escape” he claimed to be. Merfeld published the allegations. Houdini was vindicated in a court of law, and the judgement was upheld on appeal. The most significant item in the archive is a folio containing a nearly 50-page-long handwritten transcript of the court proceedings, in German. This is bound in cloth with marbled endsheets, elaborately gilt stamped on the front board with old German text which roughly translates to “Public Apology! In the Name of the King against the policeman Werner Graf of the Cologne Police. Harry Houdini.”

No Houdini biographer to date has had access to this folio. Many passages have been boldly underlined or marked in pencil, presumably by Houdini, who habitually made notations of this sort, and who would use scenes from the trial in his own publications in following years. Also bound in is a handwritten notice in which the plaintiff is identified as “Weiss” as opposed to “Houdini”; and a short summation of the judgement, typed and signed on three legal-size sheets and signed by a German official. Tipped on to various blank leaves are scattered newspaper clippings in both German and English, and other official documents. Two typescripts contemporary to the trial, one in German, the other its English translation are also included. These reproduce the handwritten account and detail the proceedings, which included escapes by Houdini from locks and chains, as well as a demonstration of how to escape handcuffs. Three telegrams are part of the archive. The first, dated February 26, 1902, was sent to Hardeen by Houdini. The message is one word: “Victory.” Below this is Houdini’s typed note, “I cabled this to Dash from Cologne Germany, when I won my lawsuit. H.H. [Signed] Houdini.” The telegram has been laminated.


The second is a telegram of congratulations sent to Houdini by his friend James Bard. Houdini’s typed note on the telegram states, “Wire from Jim Bard and Schelessinge[r] when I won my law suite in Cologne. H.H.” The third, in German, bears Houdini’s typed note: “Wire received from Herr Dr. Althoff when I won my lawsuit... . HH. And this is written in 1914.” As biographers Kalush and Sloman explain, “Houdini’s sweetest revenge came when the court ordered a public apology from the Kaiser be issued to Houdini….” This, then, is the most personal and lasting relic of that sweet revenge, and an important historic artifact of one of Houdini’s first great publicity stunts; a unique and personal document from his early years and successes in Europe, as he rose to greater fame.
Estimate: $20,000 – $30,000
Starting Bid: $10,000

We had a ringside seat in the discovery of this important archive in 2012. Our good friend Kevin Connolly, who had been "trying to chase this down for 30 years," broke the news of its discovery in a series of posts at his blog Houdini Himself.

It's incredible to think that "no Houdini biographer to date has had access to this folio." (Although Ken Silverman in Houdini!!! The Career of Ehrich Weiss had some unique information of the trail.) What new information could we discover here? And am I crazy to think that this might bring the second highest price of any item in the auction (I expect the Double Fold box will be #1)? We'll see.

Poster Houdini had made announcing his victory in Cologne.

You can view and bid on all the items in the Potter & Potter auction now at Live Auctioneers. You can also purchase the auction catalog or download a free PDF from the Potter & Potter website.

Related:

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Houdini miniseries on DVD and Blu-ray, Oct. 7

HISTORY’s Houdini miniseries starring Adrien Brody and Kristen Connolly will be released as a 2-disc DVD and Blu-ray on October 7. Both formats are available for pre-order now on Amazon:


The Blu-ray is currently discounted 33%. I'm sure these will also be available direct from the HISTORY online shop, but at the moment, there is no listing for them.

Houdini co-stars Evan Jones as Jim Collins and Eszter Onodi as Cecilia Weiss. The 4-hour miniseries premiers September 1 at 9/8c on HISTORY. Watch the trailer here.

The Houdini miniseries poster is here

Here is the final poster for HISTORY's Houdini miniseries starring Adrien Brody. It is much different from the first poster we saw back in July. While we've already seen this key art on promotional material, this is really the first good look at the poster as it will appear on bus stops and billboards. This comes from the Houdini miniseries IMDb page.


Houdini stars Adrien Brody as Houdini, Kristen Connolly as Bess, and Evan Jones as Jim Collins. It airs September 1 & 2 at 9/8c on HISTORY. Watch the trailer here.

David Calder is Conan Doyle in Houdini

A major piece of Houdini miniseries casting has finally been revealed. Classically trained British actor David Calder will be playing Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in the 4-hour production from HISTORY and A+E Studios. Australian born actress Linda Marlowe plays Lady Doyle.

The role of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is typically a stand-out in Houdini films. Peter Cushing (fresh off Star Wars) played the famous author in the 1976 ABC biopic The Great Houdinis. In TNT's 1998 Houdini he was played by David Warner. The great Peter O'Toole played Sir Arthur against Harvey Keitel's Houdini in the 1997 feature film, FaiyTale: A True Story.

Also recently reveled is the casting of another classically trained British actor, Tim Pigott-Smith, who's role was somewhat mysterious. At first I thought (hoped!) that he might be playing Harry Kellar, but now it appears he'll be playing Houdini's "spy master" William Melville of MI5. While I knew the miniseries would include the dubious notion that Houdini worked as a spy, getting confirmation of this makes my heart sink somewhat. But I am happy to see two such fine actors added to the cast.

Houdini stars Adrien Brody as Houdini, Kristen Connolly as Bess, and Evan Jones as Jim Collins. It premiers September 1 at 9/8c on HISTORY. Watch the trailer.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Straitjacket fail

Here's something that has been driving me nuts for quite a while now, and I'm thinking I can't be alone. This is not an effort to embarrass any one performer, but hopefully to help stop what is a relatively new and distributing trend when doing the classic Houdini straitjacket escape.

There are several modern escape artists who, when doing a straitjacket escape, lace the jacket with their arm slung up over their arm. In essence, they are half-way out of the straitjacket before the escape has even begun. This is by no means how one straps on a straitjacket, and it's certainly not how Houdini ever did it. Here is a good example of this modern-day cheat (identity of the performer concealed).

Incorrect.

Now here are two shots of Hardeen showing how any self-respecting escape artist (or crazy person)  wears a straitjacket. Arms folded. Of course, this makes it much more difficult to get your arms up over your head. But that's the whole point, isn't it?

Correct.

Below is a publicity shot from the play Flim Flam: Houdini and the Hereafter, showing just how far this can go. Of course, this is a staged photo with actors and not a real escape artist, so it can be forgiven. Still. Let's be careful out there!

Fiction.

Perfection.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Scary Harry

On Sunday I had the pleasure of attending ScareLA in downtown Los Angeles where I took part in a panel discussion called "Los Angeles Horror Stories." The talk was moderated by Scott Markus and Conner Bright of LA Hauntings (who you will recall co-hosted the recent Haunted Houdini Tour of LA). Also on the panel was Richard Carradine of GOULA who discussed Valentino (definitely the #1 sighted Hollywood ghost), and James Zeruk, author of Peg Entwistle and the Hollywood Sign Suicide. My topic was, of course, Houdini!

We had a nearly full house and I was the first to kick off. Scott, Conner, and I discussed the Laurel Canyon house, the McVickers photo (the First Spiritualist Church is just blocks from the convention hall), the final Houdini seance on the roof of the Knickerbocker Hotel, and Houdini and spiritualism in general. Richard and James followed and each spoke with great expertise on their topics. Scott had done his research and had pulled several terrific photos (including some great Houdini shots) from web, which his shared on the large double screens in the hall as we talked. All in all, it was great fun and a successful panel.

Our talk was originally planned for 1:30, but it was moved to a larger hall and changed to 3:30, so I had some free time to explore the convention floor. ScareLA is a convention devoted to all things Halloween. It was filled with high-end costumes, makeup, props, and professional Haunted House technologies. There was some really wild and, yes, scary stuff!

Thanks to ScareLA and  LA Hauntings for allowing me to bring a little Houdini into the house. While I don't have a photo of our talk, below is a photo taken during a panel hosted by The Magic Castle that gives a good feel for the scene.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Take the Houdini: Fact or Fiction quiz


The official website for HISTORY's Houdini miniseries has launched an online quiz testing your knowledge of Houdini. A prefect score is 45, but be careful! They've actually made a mistake on the first bonus question. While they are expecting you to choose Houdini's Escapes and Magic (by Walter B. Gibson), there is no such book called Houdini Reveals All, so that is also a correct answer (but it will be scored wrong if you hit it).

OOPS!

Aside from this and the debatable nature of the Buster Keaton question (just always go with what you think they expect), this is very well done, with an especially good final bonus question.


It would be interesting to know whether the filmmakers could get through this with a respectable score. Hmmm...

Houdini stars Adrien Brody and Kristen Connolly and premiers September 1 at 9/8c on HISTORY. You can watch the trailer here.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

The "ghost" Houdini couldn't explain

To mark my panel appearance today at ScareLA (at 3:30), here is a Los Angeles Houdini ghost story.

Left: The photo Houdini couldn't explain. Right: Houdini ponders the spot.

On April 11, 1923, Houdini visited the First Spiritualist Temple in Los Angeles to investigate a recent ghostly phenomena that had drawn headlines. A year before, Mrs. Mary Fairfield McVickers had stated that when she die a photo should be taken of her casket at 5 o'clock on the day of her funeral and that she would appear. When McVickers did die, a photograph was taken precisely as requested during her funeral at the First Spiritualist Temple on March 23, 1923. Sure enough, on the photo appeared several smudges of light that resembled faces hovering above Mrs. Vickers' earthly remains.

Houdini was well aware of how "spirit photographs" were created using double exposure, and he believed this is what conjured the funeral ghosts. To prove his point, his visited the church with his own photographer, Nathan B. Moss of the Keystone Press Illustration Service, and 14 freshly purchased photographic plates from local Kodak representatives, Howland & Dewey. Under test conditions, Houdini had ten photos taken of a black curtain hung where the "astral projections" had appeared. (He also had photos taken of himself contemplating the spot.)

Nine photos contained nothing. But one photo contained a mysterious streak of light that some thought resembled the shroud of a small woman. Even Houdini was forced to admit: "I cannot say that this is a spirit photograph of Mrs. McVickers, nor can I deny it. Photographers who examined the plate declare that the negative was flawless and that nothing was on it to cause this white figure. I am having the plates sent to Rochester for a final examination."

Houdini never discovered what caused the mysterious light streak, and it has come down as the one spiritualistic phenomena that he couldn't explain. The great Houdini historian Patrick Culliton suspects that Houdini faked the photo himself to draw attention to a lecture he would be giving that same week at the Hillstreet Theater (it would be his first on the topic of fraudulent mediums). It's possible. The publicity for the lecture noted that Houdini would show and discuss the McVikers photos, and how Houdini did everything using a press photographer (he allowed him to pick the plates) feels suspiciously like a magic performance. But would Houdini really want to launch his career as a serious psychic investigator by perpetuating his own fraud?

The First Spiritualist Temple still stands today. It is now a Christian church. The inside has been renovated so location of where the photo was taken in no longer identifiable. However, the outside remains almost exactly as it appeared when Houdini visited in 1923 and might have had his one true encounter with a ghost.


Visit Patrick Culliton's website Houdini's Ghost to read newspaper accounts and Houdini's own written testimonials about exactly what happened that day at The First Spiritualist Temple of Los Angeles.

Related:

Saturday, August 9, 2014

30 Days of Houdini at The Magic Detective

Our good friend Dean Carnegie is holding a "30 Days of Houdini" event on his blog Carnegie: The Magic Detective. Dean is doing a new blog post about Houdini everyday for 30 days as a countdown to the September 1st premiere of HISTORY's Houdini miniseries.

A blog post about Houdini everyday!? That's madness! Oh, wait...

Dean is already several posts in with some great info on Tony Pastor's Theatre, Huber's Dime Museum, and a thoughtful series of posts called The UnMasking of Harry Houdini. So click on over and soak up some Houdini history before you get splashed with Hollywood fiction.

LINK: Houdini returns to Amherst

Here's an article from the Amherst News about last Sunday's "Houdini Day in Amherst", Nova Scotia. The event was organized by Bruce MacNab (below), author of The Metamorphosis: The Apprenticeship of Harry Houdini, and celebrated Houdini's August 3, 1896 performance at the Amherst Academy of Music.


Click HERE or on the headline above to read about the "Magical history tour of Houdini’s Amherst".

Friday, August 8, 2014

Scaring up Houdini at ScareLA


This Sunday, August 10th, I will be part of a panel discussion at this year's ScareLA in Los Angeles. I'll be joining Scott Markus, Conner Bright, James Zeruk, and Richard Carradine on a panel called "Los Angeles Horror Stories" at 1:30pm (update: panel is now at 3:30). I'll be there to field questions about Houdini haunts in L.A. Sounds spooky!

Click to enlarge.

Also on Sunday at 11:30am, there is a panel called, "Behind the Illusion: Halloween at The Magic Castle." So you can make this a full day of magic and ghosts.

ScareLA takes place on August 9th and 10th at The Reef (formerly known as LA Mart) in downtown Los Angeles. The address is 1933 South Broadway, 90007. For more information check out the official ScareLA website, Facebook, or Twitter.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Bess Houdini's tailcoat at auction

Here's another amazing piece of Houdiniana at auction August 23 at Potter & Potter. This is Bess Houdini's tailcoat which she wore onstage during the Houdinis first momentous tour of Europe. As the auction states, this is "perhaps the only costume worn by Beatrice or Harry Houdini ever offered for public sale." Here's the full description:

Lot 77. Beatrice Houdini’s embroidered tailcoat. Handsome embroidered tailcoat embellished with beadwork, lined with silk. Worn by Beatrice Houdini and later given to Katie Bard by Mrs. Houdini. Beaded trim at cuffs, collar, and along the entire exterior. 38” high. Many seams weak or separated and in need of repair, but overall condition is stable. Perhaps the only costume worn by Beatrice or Harry Houdini ever offered for public sale. Accompanied by a letter of provenance. On March 22, 1956, James Bard wrote to James Baldauf, “I have a bust of Houdini and a stage coat Mrs. Houdini used in the act, that I will sell. I am asking $10.00 for the two pieces, if you are interested let me know as I have an offer from a(?) fellow in R[eading].” In a second letter dated March 29, 1957, James Bard writes, “I am sending under separate cover…Bust and dress, hope it arrived O.K. My wife received dress from Mrs. Houdini some 30 years ago[.] Bust Houdini sent me some time before this. The dress is original Mrs. Houdini used in Houdini act in Europe.”
Estimate: $7,000 – $9,000
Starting Bid: $3,400

Now here's something a little extra. When I saw this, I knew it looked familiar. Check out this Christmas card that the Houdinis sent out in the early 1900s which appears in Houdini His Legend and His Magic by Doug Henning. Does that coat look familiar?

Click to enlarge.

You can view and bid on all the items in the Potter & Potter auction now at Live Auctioneers. You can also purchase the auction catalog or download a free PDF from the Potter & Potter website.

Stay turned for a look at more historic items from this important Houdini auction.

Related:

The Confabulist released in the UK

Steven Galloway's novel The Confabulist is released today in the UK by Atlantic Books. The novel is about Houdini's death and the life of the Montreal student who punched him -- in this case a fictional character named Martin Strauss. This is the first paperback edition. Here's the description:

"How much of our lives is real and how much is an illusion? The world's gaze is focused on the feats and daring of the amazing Harry Houdini, while not a soul is aware of down-and-out Martin Strauss. However, Strauss' fate is inextricably linked with the magician's, and as Houdini continues to rise, and Strauss continues to fall, their lives will converge in spectacular and devastating fashion... 
At once entertaining and suspenseful, historically rich and cleverly told, The Confabulist is an novel of magic and memory, truth and illusion, and the ways that love, hope, grief, and imagination can - for better or for worse - alter what we perceive and what we believe."

The Confabulist was first released in Canada and the U.S. in May and has received a lot of press and excellent reviews. With its quality writing and clever use of facts and popular conspiracy theories, I think of this book as The Da Vinci Code of Houdini fiction. And check out how the publisher sent me a review copy. Love it!


Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Unfolding the Double Fold mysteries

Last week I did a post about Houdini's Double Fold Death Defying Mystery apparatus that is currently up for auction in Potter & Potter's amazing sale of Houdiniana set for August 23. In the comments we started discussing a curious photo of the Double Fold box that appears briefly in the Gene Gamache documentary, Houdini (People Came to See Him Die).

Now our friend Joe Notaro of HHCE has uncovered a better quality image in the Harry Ransom Center (right). A point of discussion has been the wooden slats that make up the lower portion of the box. The number of slats appear to be different from what we see on the box in auction and in the famous photo of Hardeen performing the escape. (Check out those pics here.)

It's possible Jim Collins enlarged the lower portion of the box so Hardeen could better fit in the escape. Or the wood could have been swapped out during repairs. Consider how wet this device would get. Or it's possible the photo is playing tricks with the light and the box is exactly the same.

What I'm more excited about is how this photo appears to confirm something that I've suspected for some time. In the 1971 BBC documentary, The Truth About Houdini, there is a shot of two Milk Cans sitting side by side, most likely on display at the Houdini Magical Hall of Fame in Canada (which originally displayed two cans). The can on the left is clearly recognizable as the can owned by Sid Radner and now in the David Copperfield collection. But the can on the right, which remained in the museum for many years, is a bit of a mystery.


I've always wondered if this other can was the one used in the Double Fold escape. It would explain why the two cans stayed together -- one for a standalone escape and one for the boxed version. Now, looking at the Ransom Center photo, I can see an unusual rectangular lock or hasp on the rim of the can in both pics. So this does appear to be the Double Fold can, or at least the one that was in the box the day that photo was taken. But there's more.

Below is a photo of this Can in the Houdini Magical Hall of Fame that I took in 1990. At this point, a mannequin was housed inside, and Sid Radner told me Henry Mueller had "lost" the lid (Jesus). But take a good look at the base of the can. There appears to be a secondary rim and a large wing nut that drives downward. Maybe to secure the can to the bottom of the Double Fold box? Further evidence that we have our can.

Click to enlarge.


Final mystery; where is this can today? It was not among the lots in the 1999 and 2004 auctions that cleared out the museum and the Radner collection. Wouldn't it be nice to reunite this Milk Can with its Double Fold Death Defying Mystery box?

Thanks to Joe Notaro.

Related:

Monday, August 4, 2014

The full HOUDINI trailer is here

Here is the full trailer for HISTORY's upcoming Houdini miniseries starring Adrien Brody exclusively (for the moment) on the WILD ABOUT HARRY YouTube channel. This is the longest and best trailer yet. Enjoy!



Houdini co-stars Kristen Connolly as Bess and Evan Jones as Jim Collins. The 4-hour biopic is is directed by Uli Edel from a script by Nicholas Meyer and airs in two parts on September 1 & 2 at 9/8c on HISTORY.

Note: If this trailer is blocked in your country, try viewing it HERE.

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