Sunday, November 19, 2017

Did Houdini secretly announce his return date?

Here's some speculative Sunday fun. While watching The Man From Beyond last night, I had a (wine induced) thought when this shot appeared on-screen. This is when Jane Connelly shows Howard Hillary the current date: March 14, 1922.


It's then Howard realizes he's been in the "Great Beyond" for 100+ years (apparently cars, telephones, and the clothing did not alert him). So this his return date, which makes for a great Houdini trivia question. But could it mean something more?

The Man From Beyond was Houdini's baby. It was the first movie for his own Houdini Picture Corporation and he wrote it himself. So might this actually be an embedded message code for the future? Was Houdini using this to communicate his next 100 year return from the great beyond? Might we finally hear from Harry on March 14, 2022? Mark your calendars and remember:


Okay, so why did Houdini really choose this date? Well, it's likely it wasn't a choice at all, it was simply the date on the newspaper that he had on hand. But, interestingly, that means this shot could not have been done during the making of the actual movie. The Man From Beyond was shot in 1921. Houdini immediately went into production on Haldane of the Secret Service and went about the business of trying to find distribution for The Man From Beyond. This took longer than he may have anticipated.

It was 1922 before Houdini decided to release the movie using the States Rights model. So to bring the movie up to date (it premiered on April 2, 1922), Houdini appears to have created a new insert shot. Further evidence that this is an insert is the fact that it's clearly not Jane Connelly's finger pointing at the date. That's Houdini's finger. And Houdini was performing at the Riverside Theater near Buffalo on March 14, 1922 where he'd have access to a Buffalo newspaper. So there we go.

Houdini did have some fun with other dates in this movie. Early in the story, the Arctic explorers discover a note written by Hillary during his final days in the 19th century. Look at the date Houdini uses here:


For more on the making of The Man From Beyond, check out the links below.

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Newspapers remain wild about Harry

Houdini's great fame was in no small part due to the rise of the mass media newspaper industry. Now, in the waning days of physical newspapers, it's interesting to see that Houdini is still a friend to the old form.

As evidence, here is a local San Diego area newspaper called simply, The Paper, which early this month ran a lengthy front page feature about Houdini by Friedrich Gomez.

I always enjoy seeing Houdini in newsprint, if just for nostalgia's sake. But finding this outside San Diego might be the real magic trick. Good thing you can download a PDF HERE.

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Saturday, November 18, 2017

LINK: Harry, Larry and Violet: Safe Bind, Safe Find

Alison Young on her blog Music Hall Alice ("All things Music Hall…") has posted a photo of a terrific personal Houdini artifact handed down from her great grandfather, Larry Lewis, as well as the story of Houdini's performances at the Bristol Empire in the UK in 1909.

Click the headline to have a read.

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Friday, November 17, 2017

June Horowitz remembers a visit from Houdini

The American Museum of Magic in Marshall, Michigan, has shared news of a very special visitor; June Horowitz, who at age 104 has experienced a remarkable life in magic, and even once had Houdini visit her home! That make June the only person that I am currently aware of who has a first hand memory of the great magician.

Below is an image from June's visit and description from the American Museum of Magic Facebook page.

June Horowitz visited the museum this morning, remarking that almost 39 years have passed since the first time she visited. As is often typical, she attracted the attention of local magicians eager to see her yet again and to hear her marvelous stories. 
June became the first woman president of the International Brotherhood of Magicians (IBM) in 1987. A former math teacher at Ottawa Hills High School, both her husband and her father were also famous magicians of their era. Indeed, when June was a child, her father was visited by the best known magician of all time, the great escapist Harry Houdini. June says she was somewhere between seven to twelve years old at the time, but she remembers it well. 
June said she enjoyed everything in the museum this morning, including the tricks a few members of Ring 89 performed for her (and she performed one for them, as well), but she seemed most taken with our copy of The Discoverie of Witchcraft, the first English book on magic published in 1584. It was very clear to those present that June's love of magic is as strong now as it has ever been. 
Our thanks to June Horowitz, her long-time friend Sylvia Herman, and June's care-giver Cathy, for making the trip from Grand Rapids to Marshall. 
A few months ago, in September, June turned 104. She may well be the most loved magician in all of Michigan and it was an honor to welcome her again to the American Museum of Magic.

The American Museum of Magic in Marshall Michigan is located at 107 E Michigan Ave, Marshall, MI 49068. It's open April through December. For more information visit their website and Facebook.

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'Houdini: My Hero, Magic Show' in Bergenfield, NJ

The Bergenfield Public Library in Bergenfield, NJ, will host a special event "Houdini: My Hero, Magic Show!" this Sunday, November 19 at 2:00 PM.

Fun for the entire family! Professional Escapist, Tom Yurasits demonstrates a few of Houdini’s famous feats. As you are entertained you will learn more about Houdini and even hear him speak on a recording made more than 100 years ago!

For more information visit the Bergenfield Public Library website and Facebook page.

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Thursday, November 16, 2017

Meet the new Houdini: Iñaki Ruiz de Galarreta

Spanish Illusionist Iñaki Ruiz de Galarreta plays Houdini in the new Disney Channel series, Club Houdini. Galarreta is known professionally as the Sun Wizard and is the winner of the National Magic Award in 2011. Below is a Q&A interview that appeared in elPeriódico. The interview is in Spanish, but I've translated (as best I could) so we can all get to know our latest Houdini.

How was it playing the most mythical magician in history in a children's series?
I loved it. Houdini is one of my role models, even in my shows I pay tribute to one of his most risky effects, so to be able to do this TV project has been very interesting for me. In the series, Houdini is a mysterious character, perhaps at first a little serious with the children and closed, but as he progresses, the character opens up a little and becomes more friendly with the little ones, and he even becomes a mentor and gives them hints to look for the treasure. 
At what age did you begin dedicating yourself to magic?  
I started at 12 or 13 years old. 
How did your passion for illusion come about?  
I saw a small show in my hometown and I was amazed when the magician made a person disappear. At the moment, I became fascinated with magic. I started to study and to travel to competitions. I started to assemble my own act, and I went to a championship and won the National Magic Award, which motivated me a lot. Then I participated in a television program and from there made the great leap in the Gran Vía show. 
What was it like working with children in 'Club Houdini'?  
Being able to work with children has been fantastic. For me it has been very fun. For example, I made a game for them in the series that we had to repeat several times where a string was broken into pieces and then recomposed, and I saw how they were watching all the time. These children are the result of a very good casting.
  
You've made television appearances with your shows, but this is your first role in a fiction series. How did it feel to be an actor?  
It has been a very enriching experience because they have opted to cast a magician and not an actor, as is usually the case on these occasions. This means the magic is treated with a special affection, in a legitimate way with real props, doing the effects that Houdini did. 
Do you think 'Club Houdini' will make children want to become magicians?  
I think so, in fact magic is fashionable nowadays. When I go to see performances, I see many mothers who tell me that their children want to be magicians. The series will convey a lot of mystery and that will awaken interest in magic and the unknown. 
Do you think that new technologies help make more magic shows more spectacular, or make the public more and more aware that there is always a trick behind each effect?
Technology advances and magicians must also be up to date. Maybe there are tricks that no longer surprise and we have to give them a twist. We even do magic with technology, with mobile phones, for example. Yes it is true that it is increasingly difficult to surprise because of the great technology that surrounds society.

Club Houdini airs on the Disney Channel in Spain. The first two episodes, La Bola del Mundo and Aventura en el Museo can be found at the DC15 TV YouTube Channel.

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Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Dash for cash

This photo sold on eBay today for a $159 Buy It Now. The seller notes that written on the back is: "Ferenc Dezso Weisz - 1880 Appleton." So is this really a photo of Houdini's brother Hardeen?

Well, this is the fourth time this same seller from Italy, using different eBay IDs, has magically produced an unseen image of what is claimed to be a Weiss family member. Each listing has offered the same vague details and none have bore any resemblance to the subject. So I'm skeptical.

You can see the seller's other offerings via the links below. One wonders who might be produced next?

Thanks to Kevin Connolly for the alert.

UPDATE: To see an undoubtably legit unpublished photo of a very young Dash, check out David Saltman's post at The Houdini File.

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The Girl Who Handcuffed Houdini #1 released

Today sees the release of the first issue of Minky Woodcock: The Girl Who Handcuffed Houdini by Cynthia von Buhler. The adult comic from Titan and Hard Case Crime comes in four variant covers, as you can see below.

Unappreciated at her father's detective agency, the fabulous, rabbit-loving Minky Woodcock straps on her gumshoes in order to uncover a magical mystery involving the world-famous escape artist, Harry Houdini. Created by acclaimed artist, author, director, and playwright Cynthia Von Buhler.

Issue #2 is due for release December 5. A collected edition will be released in June 2018 and can be pre-ordered at Amazon.com.

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Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Houdini manga from 1991

Here's an interesting international discovery by, who else, Arthur Moses. This Japanese Houdini manga biography was published by Jump Comics in 1991. The book is 260 pages, with the first 183 pages devoted to Houdini and the second half about soccer stars. Below is the cover and look inside (click images to enlarge).



Below are links to some more unique international Houdini bios.

Thanks Arthur.

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Monday, November 13, 2017

Disney Channel Spain launches 'Club Houdini'


The Disney Channel in Spain has launched a new series called Club Houdini. The series features a group of kids in search of treasure with the help of Houdini himself, played by real-life Illusionist Iñaki Ruiz de Galarreta.

In an interview with elPeriódico, Galarreta said, "Houdini is one of my role models, even in my shows I make a tribute to one of the riskiest numbers, so to make this TV project has been very interesting for me. In the series, Houdini is a mysterious character, perhaps initially a little serious with children and closed, but as you go along, the character becomes more of a friend and mentor and gives them clues to find the treasure."

Club Houdini premiered October 28, 2017. The first two episodes, La Bola del Mundo and Aventura en el Museo can be found at the DC15 TV YouTube Channel. Below is a trailer.



This isn't Disney's first foray into the world of Houdini. In 1987 they produced Young Harry Houdini starring Wil Wheaton as a "Disney Sunday Movie."

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Sunday, November 12, 2017

Houdini mystery sack sells in auction

A green canvas sack said to have been used by Houdini sold last week in a Bloomsbury auction for £1,500 ($1,978). Below is the auction description.

A green, oversized, canvas sack used by Harry Houdini (1874-1926) as a prop for some of his escapology tricks. The sack, which measures 76" x 46", is thought to have been used by Houdini circa 1915. The sack was a gift from Houdini's brother, Theo to a mutual friend following Houdini's death; then in possession of the mutual friend's family; Christie's "Pop Culture: Film & Entertainment Memorabilia" sale, 23 November 2011

So is this really a Houdini prop? Could it even be the sack Houdini and later Hardeen used in Metamorphosis? We now know the trunk Hardeen used was Harry's, and that was also green. And a straitjacket owned by the same gentleman who originally owned this sack was positively identified as being the straitjacket Houdini used in many of his suspended straitjacket escapes. (Both the straitjacket and this sack sold at Christie's in 2011, see link below.)

However, all the known images of the Houdini and Hardeen doing Metamorphosis show their sack did not have drawstrings as this one does. The Metamorphosis sack was tried shut with a small length of rope or cloth that was marked for later identification. So this doesn't appear to be a Metamorphosis sack. But could it have been used for something else? I can't recall any other Houdini escape or magic effect that involved a sack. Unless this is gaffed, my best guess would be this was used behind the scenes...as a sack.

The mystery remains.

Hardeen doing Metamorphosis.

Thanks to Joe Long for the news.

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Saturday, November 11, 2017

Houdini Museum of New York teases expansion

Today the Houdini Museum of New York at Fantasma Magic posted the following to their Facebook and Instagram pages.


Now, I don't think they've found the original Automaton from The Master Mystery. I think it's more likely they've acquired John Gaughan's terrific "working" reproduction that he created for the 2015 Los Angeles Magic History Conference. That's exciting. But what I'm even more excited about is this "new venue" and what sounds like a major expansion of the museum. "Several hundred new items!?" This is good.

When I know more, so will you.

You can check out photos and film of John Gaughan's Automaton in action below.

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Read HOUDINI UNBOUND's original framing story

David Saltman is offering on his website The Houdini File the original "framing story" for his just released novel, HOUDINI UNBOUND: Espionage in Russia. According to David, the framing story was popular among editors, but ultimately deemed too complex and unnecessary, so it was cut.

I would have loved to have seen this stay in as I think it very nicely establishes the "true fiction" approach of the book. It tells the story of David's discovery of the manuscript for this "untold tale" by way of Harry Houdini Kukol, the son of Franz Kukol. This reminds me of how many Sherlock Holmes pastiche novels open with the discovery of some long lost manuscript written by Dr. Watson. David even consults with Milbourne Christopher!

As with the rest of the novel, it's great fun, and it's loaded with Easter eggs for the true Houdini buff, so click to read the original framing story PART I and PART II.

HOUDINI UNBOUND: Espionage in Russia can be purchased as a hardcover, paperback and eBook from at Amazon.com (U.S.) and Amazon.co.uk (UK).

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Friday, November 10, 2017

LINK: The WILD Life of Houdini - Year by Year

Click the headline to go to a new standalone page in which I spell out my plan, approach, and progress in documenting every year of Houdini's life, year by year. And watch for 1903 coming soon.

Russian researchers offer "Harry Houdini Prize"


The BBC reports that a group of Russian researchers will call out TV shows about clairvoyants for promoting "fake science". The group, led by scientist Alexander Panchin and skeptic Mikhail Lidin, say they will use YouTube to show viewers why they shouldn't believe everything they see on their TV screens.

The group also administers Russia's own "Harry Houdini Prize," which regularly invites the stars of psychic shows to replicate their feats under controlled conditions for a prize of one million roubles.

Lidin says, "These programs lead to people using faith-healers and fortune-tellers, signing up for worthless or even potentially harmful psychic training courses, and handing over money to swindlers." He points to the consistently high levels of belief in the paranormal in Russia, especially since the fall of he Soviet Union.

But not all TV mediums get away with it. Yuri Oleinin, a contestant on the show "Battle of the Clairvoyants" is now serving three years in prison for defrauding 20 people via a radio call-in program.

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