Monday, December 31, 2007

Houdini book conjured for Amazon's new Kindle

The first Houdini book made for download to Amazon’s new Kindle electronic reader device is Houdini on the Secrets of Magic.

But don’t get too excited. This isn’t a new book, just good old Miracle Mongers and Their Methods repackaged for a digital age.

Still, being on the cusp of technology...Houdini would love it!

Friday, December 14, 2007

Crown buys Houdini vs. Margery book

The New York Observer reports that Crown has acquired rights to a major new book about Houdini and Margery called The Witch of Lime Street. The book will be released in 2010. Click to read the original story below.

Click to enlarge.

This will be the first book devoted solely to Houdini's battles with the celebrated Boston medium.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

"Death expert" Bill Bass to examine Houdini's corpse

If the controversial plans to exhume Houdini's body come to fruition, one of the men on the case will be Bill Bass, one of the top "death experts" in the United States. Bass spoke to Wired about his involvement in the Houdini case.

Wired: For the moment, you have another goal -- digging up Harry Houdini. What's the status of that case?
Bass: There are descendants, and they have agreed to the exhumation to settle some of these theories that are out there.
I'm a member of the committee that is supposed to exhume him, once they get all of the legal things taken care of.
A book suggests that instead of dying from a ruptured appendix, he was poisoned. The committee consists of toxicologists, dentists and anthropologists. The toxicologists will take samples to see if there are any chemicals that shouldn't be there.
I'm the one that's supposed to make the positive identification. When he was living, he apparently fractured one of his ankles. Along with other data, we want to make sure there's a healed fracture to the ankle.
Wired: Is there a question about whether the body is really his?
Bass: I don’t think so, but you want to make sure that the person is the person you're supposed to have dug up. You want to make sure that if you're looking for Houdini, that it is Houdini. You don’t want to do all that and then a year from now hear from someone who says they dug up the wrong body.

Houdini's grave in Queens, NY

UPDATE: The Houdini exhumation is back in the news.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Rare Water Torture Cell presentation piece up for auction

A unique Houdini Water Torture Cell related item has gone up for auction via eBay Live Auctions. Rather than me trying to explain, I’ll let the auction description speak for itself. I think this is something very special.

1912 Harry Houdini "Water Torture Cell" Presentation Piece from Circus Busch Containing the Original Concept Art for the Performance's Famous Poster

Offered is the unique Chinese Water Torture Cell Presentation. A solid brass testimonial given to Houdini to commemorate the escape's first public performance. ... The first public performance of the Water Torture Cell was at Circus Busch in Berlin, Germany, on September 21, 1912. The Busch owners, grateful for being selected as the venue for this impressive stunt's debu presented this very heavy, solid brass frame as a testimonial (measuring 11-1/4"-wide by 13-1/4"-tall by 1" in thickness). The front is beautifully engraved, complete with an oval door that displays the circus' name and the performance date in raised letters on its facing, and when opened reveals the original artist's water color concept that was used in preparation of the finished form seen on Houdini's famous 1912 poster for this act. The obverse has been inscribed with the year "1912" above and the words "UPSIDE DOWN IN THE WATER TORTURE CELL" below a large oval window of heavy glass. The glass protects what initially appears to be a plain black and white lithograph of Houdini, both entering the cell and being fully immersed in that same device, while a Teutonic giant secures the lid. This image morphs into full color when the brass handle-fitted divider insert is raised, creating an illusion of its own! (This wooden divider's brass handle section is engraved with the performer's name, as well.)

UPDATE: SOLD for $37,500.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Norman Mailer dies

Mailer as Houdini
Pulitzer Prize winning author, actor, director and personality Normal Mailer has died at age 84 from kidney failure.

Mailer’s many works and accomplishments are well known, but less known is the fact that Mailer played Harry Houdini in the avant guard film Cremaster 2 (1999).

Mailer also wrote the bestseller The Executioners Song, the story of murderer Gary Gilmore who claimed he was an illegitimate descendant of Harry Houdini. Much was made of the Gilmore-Houdini connection when the book was first released in 1979.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Unlocking the truth of the Mirror Handcuff challenge

Master Locksmith and Houdini historian Mick Hanzlik has published a terrific booklet, Houdini’s Mirror Handcuff Challenge, Getting Closer to the Truth, which lays out his investigation of the 1904 Mirror Handcuff Challenge, one of Houdini’s most famous and celebrated challenge escapes.

Hanzlik helped authors William Kalush and Larry Sloman research the Mirror Challenge for their book, The Secret Life of Houdini: The Making of Americas First Superhero. The authors concluded that the escape was a set-up, citing evidence that the cuff was made a full year before the escape and appeared to be custom-made for Houdini’s wrists.

Hanzlik has now gone on to discover the man he believes actually manufactured the Mirror cuff, Thomas Froggatt, and has found evidence that Froggatt was indeed a friend of Houdini.

It’s all terrific stuff, but the full truth is still elusive. Mick says he’ll continue his investigation and will publish an updated book with new findings.

UPDATE: Mick has released a new book about the making of his Mirror replica: Looking into the Mirror.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Metamorphosis poster conjures $50,000 at auction

What is said to be the only known copy of The Houdini's Metamorphosis poster sold today for $50,000 at Swann Galleries Christian Fechner Collection of English and American Magic, Part III.

The poster beat its auction estimate of $30,000/$40,000.

Metamorphosis is one of Houdini's earliest posters. It was printed by the National Printing & Engraving Co. in Chicago in 1895.

An original King of Cards poster grabbed $11,000.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The Arcanum gets a director

Looks like we’re one step closer to getting another (fictional) movie featuring Harry Houdini. Cinematical reports that writer/director Randall Wallace (The Man in the Iron Mask) has signed aboard Gold Circle’s The Arcanum.

Based on Thomas Wheeler's fantasy-adventure novel, The Arcanum finds Houdini, Arthur Conan Doyle, H.P. Lovecraft and Marie Laveau teaming up to fight demons in 1919 New York.

Wheeler penned the screenplay which was first purchased by Miramax in 1999. Gold Circle acquired the property in 2004. Wallace will now polish the script before sending it out to casting.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Sleeping With Houdini

A Houdini inspired book of prose poetry, Sleeping With Houdini by Nin Andrews, has been released by BOA Editions. Here is a description of the book from Amazon:

Nin Andrews is arguably the leading female voice in American prose poetry. In Sleeping with Houdini, Andrews speaks as a little girl who wishes she could vanish at will, just as Houdini did. As she grows, Houdini becomes a personal icon, a magical being, a muse, an ultimate lover, and a metaphor for longing.

Purchase Sleeping With Houdini from Amazon.com.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Houdini Speaks Out

A new book Houdini Speaks Out by Arthur Moses (who last year released Houdini A Periodical Bibliography) is released today.

Revealing new insights, Houdini Speaks Out vividly recreates Houdini's solitarian lectures which he presented from 1922 until his untimely death in 1926. The reader becomes involved in understanding his struggles to reach into the afterlife to contact his deceased mother during an era filled with deceptive spirit mediums. Each of the fifty glass lantern slides that Houdini used to highlight his lectures are painstakingly recreated and matched to his original lecture text.

Houdini Speaks Out is available in hardcover ($79.99) and softcover ($45.99). For free shipping (U.S. mail only) contact the author directly at Houdini.magic@gmail.com.

There is also a deluxe leather bound limited edition ($185.00) only available from the author.

UPDATE: You can now purchase Houdini Speaks Out on Amazon.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Kid Houdini comes to life this Halloween

Internet publisher Chemistry Set has announced the launch of online comic Kid Houdini and the Silver Dollar Misfits, slated to start on the 81st anniversary of the magician's death.

The series follows a young Houdini after his running away from his family in Appleton, Wis., in 1886. He joins the circus, and he and the other circus youths will take on any task, no matter the danger, for the price of a silver dollar.

“I have wanted to do this series for quite some time,” says creator Dwight L. MacPherson. “Imagine Scooby Doo meets HBO’s Carnivale, and that gives you an idea as to the feel of the story. There are supernatural aspects to the stories, but they are also grounded in good old-fashioned Sherlock Holmes-styled detective work. Regardless of age, I’m certain that readers will find something to enjoy in these new detective stories.”

The first page of Kid Houdini and the Silver Dollar Misfits will go live on October 31, with a new page posted each Wednesday thereafter.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Tony Curtis at Hollywood Collector's Show


Houdini himself, Tony Curtis, appeared at the Hollywood Collector’s Show in Burbank this past weekend. It was Mr. Curtis’ first appearance at the show and he proved to be incredibly popular; signing autographs and greeting a never ending line of fans.

If you are visiting this site, I doubt I need to remind you that Tony was the first actor to play Houdini on screen. He starred along with his then wife, Janet Leigh, in Paramount’s 1953 biopic HOUDINI.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Houdini art exhibition in Los Angeles


A new exhibition of life-size Harry Houdini portraits by artist Whitney Bedford is now appearing at the Cherry and Martin gallery in Venice, California. The exhibition opened on September 12 and runs through October 27, 2007.

According to the gallery’s website, “these life-size works, based on iconic photographs, compliment the “adventure of death” found in Bedford’s previous shipwreck series. Here, however, the possibility of death is condensed into this enigmatic persona who enraptured audiences with dangerous feats and uncompromising artistry during a tumultuous time in our country’s history.”

Cherry and Martin is located on the west side of Los Angeles at 12611 Venice Boulevard, four blocks west of Centinela Avenue. Phone: (310) 398-7404.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Princess Theater closes its doors

Canadian blog coolopolis reports that the legendary Princess Theater building in Montreal has finally shut its doors.

Of course, Houdini buffs know the Princess as the theater where Houdini was punched in the stomach by McGill University student J. Gordon Whitehead. That punch played a role in the great magician’s death.

The Princess building is located on St. Catherine Street, just east of Phillips Square. It operated under several different names. In its later days it hosted the first Montreal Film Festival and then became a discount cinema that showed non-English language movies.

The site also also posted this photo of the long gone Prince of Wales Hotel where Houdini is said to have been struck a second time in the lobby while reading a paper.

Plans posted on the now shuttered Princess building show that it will be converted into a food court. Frankly, I'm amazed the original building lasted as long as it did.

Site of the Princess Theater today

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Bask in 'Houdini’s Shadow'

Whoops! This one slipped right past me. A new book, Houdini's Shadow, by Leo Brent Robillard was released in March of this year.

Houdini's Shadow tells the story of Jake O'Sullivan, a young man possessed by a fatal childhood fascination with Harry Houdini. After seeing one of Houdini's 1912 performances in New York City, Jake realises that to "escape – to tempt death – is to live. Is to understand existence." While it's hard to believe that someone as young as Jake could come to such a substantial realisation, it becomes clear that he does not simply wish to escape from sealed milk containers, or unlock the chains around his wrists at the bottom of the St. Lawrence. Rather, he hopes to escape from his past, the failures of his pugilistic father, the failures of his own life as he grows into a young man, clinging helplessly to his dream of becoming a famous escape artist.

Houdini's Shadow can be purchased from Amazon.com.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Second Houdini & Nate novel released

The second book in Tom Lalicki’s Houdini & Nate Mystery series, Shots At Sea, is released today.

Shots At Sea finds young Nate Fuller and Houdini in action aboard the Lusitania, where a cunning killer tries to assassinate former president Teddy Roosevelt. Nate and Houdini must race to find and foil their suspect before he makes a second attempt.

The first Houdini & Nate novel, Danger in the Dark, was included in the The Bank Street Children's Book Committee’s 2007 edition of "The Best Children's Books of the Year."

Shots At Sea can be purchased on Amazon.com. Details on the entire Houdini & Nate series can be found at the official Houdini & Nate website.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Melville Shavelson dies at 90

Variety reports that writer-producer-director Melville "Mel" Shavelson died Wednesday of natural causes at his home in Studio City. He was 90.

Houdini buffs will best remember Shavelson as the force behind the 1976 ABC TV-movie The Great Houdinis, starring Paul Michael Glaser and Sally Struthers. Shavelson wrote, directed, and produced the 2-hour tele-film. He also penned the novelization.

For my money, Shavelson’s The Great Houdinis is probably the best of all the films made about Houdini. While at the time the movie seemed to be steamy collection of fictionalization, over the years many of the themes and incidents portrayed in the film have been revealed to be fact; such as Houdini’s affair with Daisy White and Bess Houdini’s alcoholism.

Shavelson’s film career saw him work with many famous faces, including Jimmy Cagney and Frank Sinatra, Cary Grant and Sophia Loren. Shavelson directed Cast a Giant Shadow, starring Kirk Douglas and Yours, Mine and Ours, starring Lucille Ball. His 1956 film, The Seven Little Foys, and his 1958 romantic comedy Houseboat were both nominated for Oscars.

Shavelson also served three terms as president of the Writers Guild of America, West.

Recently, Shavelson served on the faculty of USC's Master of Professional Writing Program; he funded a special closed-circuit television network for the Motion Picture and Television Fund Home in California; he established a film scholarship fund at Cornell U. (his alma mater); and he was acclaimed for his contributions to the Shavelson-Webb Writers Guild Foundation Library.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

LINK: The man who taught Houdini to make an elephant disappear

The Daily Mail has a very interesting profile of Charles Morritt, who made several illusions for Houdini, including his famous Vanishing Elephant:

While Houdini performed his illusions, Morritt spent World War I touring the provinces. One evening he appeared in Houdini's dressing room. "Of course," he said, as Houdini peered in the mirror, applying greasepaint for the stage lights, "if you really want to make headlines with your magic, you shouldn't bother with little tricks like rabbits and pigeons. Make an elephant disappear."

Houdini remonstrated that even if the necessary equipment could be devised, having an elephant on stage would hardly be practical.

"I've got a very efficient way to do it," retorted Morritt.

Click on the headline to read the full story at The Daily Mail.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Houdini handcuffs at Comic Con

A pair of Mattatuck handcuffs used by Harry Houdini are currently on display at the Profiles in History booth at the San Diego Comic Con.

The Con -- the worlds largest gathering of all things pop culture -- started on Thursday and runs through Sunday at the San Diego Convention Center. Attendance is expected to top last year’s 200,000.

The cuffs are auction lot #664. Bids can be placed via eBay. Price estimate is $7,000 to $9,000.

The Mattatuck cuffs were first sold at Butterfields Houdini auction in Los Angeles in 1999 as part of the Sidney Radner Houdini Magical Hall of Fame collection.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Jail time, fine for Houdini collection arsonist

The man convicted of burning a priceless collection of Harry Houdini memorabilia might have to conjure up $100,000 as part of his sentence.

Jarrod Frederick pleaded guilty to the arson charge Wednesday and said he would attempt to pay the money as part of his proposed three-year prison sentence.

Frederick is accused of destroying Dr. Randall Wolf’s collection of the magician’s memorabilia when he broke into an Indian Hill home on Dec. 30 and set a fire that caused more than $1 million damage.

Prosecutors said Frederick, who once did lawn work in Indian Hill and knew the area, was looking for an out-of-the-way place to smoke crack cocaine.

He went into the Park Road house, prosecutors said, and set the fire while attempting to light his crack pipe.

The proposed sentence would give Frederick a choice of serving three years and attempting to pay $100,000, or serving five years and paying none.

Hamilton County Common Pleas Judge Dennis Helmick became irritated with Frederick when he asked a question about paying the money.

“I have absolutely no sympathy for you,” Helmick said. “I’m asking you to pay 10 cents on the dollar. If you don’t want to, OK, you’ll go to the penitentiary. You were the one who caused the loss.”

The judge will decide whether to accept the proposed sentence Aug. 21. If he does, Frederick would be expected to begin making payments for the first five years after his release from prison.

His attorney, Hal Arenstein, said the hope is Frederick will be able to pay something, although it’s unlikely he will be able to repay anything close to $100,000.

If he makes an effort, Arenstein said, he should be able to avoid going back to prison.

Helmick said insurance companies already have paid $500,000 to cover property lost in the fire and would likely pay much more.

“Do you want to tell me … why you have a right to screw somebody else’s life up?” the judge asked.

“I have no right,” Frederick answered.

“You seem to be doing it,” Helmick said. “Every time you decide to use crack, it was a conscious decision. Nobody held a gun to your head.”

by Dan Horn
Cincinnati.com The Enquirer

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

AICN reviews Death Defying Acts

The first review of Death Defying Acts starring Guy Pearce as Houdini and Catherine Zeta-Jones has appeared over at Ain’t It Cool News. While the review isn’t exactly glowing, the reviewer did note that some in the focus group he attended liked the film...so that’s something.

Click to read: Bobo Vision Wants To Escape From DEATH-DEFYING ACTS

Death Defying Acts is a “supernatural romantic thriller” that tells the fictional story of Houdini’s relationship with a Scottish psychic played by Zeta Jones. It will be released by The Weinstein Co.

Houdini Lives! on Amazon

First published in October 2006, Houdini Lives! by Al Blanchard and Adam Steinfeld is a fun fictional novel that finds Houdini alive and well and living in Miami Beach in 1966. Originally available only as an eBook or print on demand, Houdini Lives! is now available on Amazon.com.

It's 1966, and world famous magician, escape artist, Harry Houdini, did not die 40 years ago as people thought. He's has been in hiding from his political enemies and is planning a dramatic comeback. Who are these enemies from the 1920's, and why are they still trying to kill him? Can Stanford, the young, hip, up-and-coming magician, and his sultry assistant, Solea, save his life? A magician creates a world of wonder and asks people to believe in that world. It is the highest form of entertainment. What is Houdini's secret identity? Will this be his final illusion? Ladies and Gentlemen, prepare for a tall tale of murder, mystery, romance, and political drama. Houdini lives or dies is only a matter of time.

Purchase Houdini Lives! from Amazon.com

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Pamela Anderson gets signed Houdini book for her 40th

Pamela Anderson received a twice-signed copy of Houdini’s A Magician Among The Spirits for her 40th birthday. The book was a gift from magician Hans Klok.

The former Playboy playmate and Baywatch star celebrated her birthday last Saturday at the Planet Hollywood Hotel in Las Vegas where she is currently assisting Klok in his show The Beauty of Magic.

Pamela is reported to have let former husband Tommy Lee and photographer David LaChapelle touch the signature for good luck.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Von Teese is “Houdini of Burlesque”

Burlesque star Dita Von Teese has likened herself to Houdini because of the speed at which she can remove her clothes.

The former wife of rocker Marilyn Manson believes she can disrobe in just 15 seconds. "No one's ever timed me with a stopwatch but it would be interesting to find out. I do consider myself to be a Houdini of burlesque. I can remove my clothing very quickly if I choose to but, of course, part of the art of burlesque is taking your time."

On that last count, Dita may very well share a key performance philosophy with the great magician. While Houdini could escape his constraints very quickly, he would sometimes delay making a reappearance until the tension in the audience reached its zenith. Indeed, legend has it that Houdini would even read the newspaper while the audience fretted about whether he’d escape from an air-tight safe.

And now, another pic of Dita.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Houdini mobile phone game coming

PRESS RELEASE: Tag Games today signed an agreement with Oasys Mobile which brings Tag's critically acclaimed debut title Dead Water to North America, where it will be released as Houdini: Escape from Dead Water.

Paul Farley, the managing director of Tag Games, said, “The Houdini license is not only a great fit in terms of the titles theme and game-play but also comes at an opportune time with Houdini's controversial demise is back in the news.”

Houdini: Escape From Dead Water is scheduled for release in Q3 2007. The title will be available from all major North American carriers.

Dead Water was released in Europe in early 2007, to widespread critical acclaim. The game was awarded 81% from MobileGameFaqs.com, 8/10 from MidletReview.com and prompted MobGames.tv to proclaim, “With brand new original innovative game-play, designed specifically for your mobile phone, could this be a glimpse of what's to come from Tag Games and for the industry as a whole?”

Tag Games has a number of games in development to follow Houdini: Escape from Dead Water. These include Rock’n’Roll - an innovative casual action/puzzle title that features unique one button game-play and Granny In Paradise, which brings Sandlot Games' popular casual PC franchise to mobile for the very first time.

“We're delighted to be working with Oasys to release Houdini: Escape From Dead Water to the American market,” says Farley.“We've had a great response to the game throughout Europe and we believe its combination of simple, fun gameplay and the unique setting of a sinking ship– with the constantly rising water, will prove just as popular with an American audience.”

Oasys Mobile CEO, Doug Dyer commented, “We are excited about our partnership with Tag Games to release Houdini: Escape From Dead Water. We believe, together, we will release a successful and compelling game with large appeal in the American market.”

Monday, June 18, 2007

‘Mein Training’ nabs $1,400 on eBay

A copy of Houdini’s first German pitchbook Mein Training and Meine Tricks shot past its auction estimate of $300 to $400 and sold for $1,400 on eBay.

At 80 pages, Mein Training is substantially longer than most of Houdini’s pitchbooks. In fact, it could be considered a proper Houdini book in the vein of Handcuff Secrets.

This eBay copy came from the library of the famous Mentalist Joseph Dunninger, a close personal friend of Houdini who later served as technical advisor on the 1953 Paramount movie HOUDINI.

'Biography for Kids' captures Houdini


The Biography Channel series "Biography for Kids" recently added Houdini to its lineup of hour long profiles.

Unfortunately, this is not a new documentary, but is the 1994 A&E produced, Houdini The Great Escape, re-recorded with a young person reading the narration.

Still, this is one of the better Houdini biographies and one that Houdini fans young and old will enjoy.

Check your cable listings for air dates.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Last photo...no! True location revealed


Thanks to reader Mike Castle, we can now firmly establish that the above picture is not the last photo ever taken of Houdini at McGill University in 1926, as was claimed in a recent eBay auction. This is actually a photo of Houdini posing outside the White House in Washington D.C.

Check out the postcard below. There can be no doubt that Houdini is standing in the pathway of the West Wing at approximately the area of the red dot (determined by counting off 12 windows along the wing).

Red dot marks where Houdini is standing

This suggests the photo was taken in either February or May of 1926 when Houdini traveled to the capitol to testify before Congress on a bill to outlaw fortune telling in the District of Columbia.

But this hardly takes the shine off this image. Sure, it isn’t Houdini’s “last photo.” But it is the only image I know of showing the master magician at the White House.

Thank you Mike!

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Last photo of Houdini?

A recent eBay auction offered up what it claims is the last photo taken of Harry Houdini. The auction describes the photo as taken in a “University area in Canada” shortly before Houdini gave a lecture there. The description goes on to explain that Houdini was then “beaten by a group of students in his dressing room” and died shortly after.

Considering Houdini was not “beaten by a group of students” (the perpetrator was a single student from McGill University and generally considered a freak accident), I’m not sure I’m willing to buy all the auction’s claims about this pic.

Also, having been to McGill, I don’t recall any buildings in that style. To my eye, that looks a lot like the White House in the background, suggesting this was possibly taken during Houdini’s trip to D.C. to testify on a bill outlawing fortune telling (but now I’m the one who’s just guessing).

Still, it’s a nice pic, and one I can’t recalling seeing elsewhere.

The starting price was $1,250.00 and ended with no bids.

UPDATE: Last photo...no! True location revealed.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

The Arcanum resurrected

Harry Houdini, Arthur Conan Doyle, H.P. Lovecraft and Marie Laveau team up to fight demons, including a serial killer of angels, in 1919 New York.

That's the setup for Thomas Wheeler's fantasy-adventure novel The Arcanum which has just been picked up for big-screen adaptation by Gold Circle Films. Wheeler also penned the the script.

The movie rights to the 2004 novel were preemptively purchased by Miramax in 1999. The studio had Warren Zide and Craig Perry set to produce the project, but nothing ever became of it.

Gold Circle head Paul Brooks told Daily Variety that the search is on for a director. "We see this as a potential franchise property," he added.

Source: IGN.com

Monday, June 4, 2007

Maroon 5 gets help from Houdini’s ghost

FemaleFirst.co.uk reporters that Maroon 5 frontman Adam Levine is glad he recorded his new album at the former mansion of legendary magician Harry Houdini - the ghosts there helped them write "some great songs".

The singer insists the band shared the mansion with things not from this world - but far from being scared they turned to the spirits for musical help.

He says, "I'd show up, do my work and leave before I could see the blood coming out of the walls "If there were spirits in Houdini's old house they were benevolent.

"We came out with some great songs so they must have helped us. And we did have a pretty epic Halloween party there."

Of course, we won’t tell Mr. Levine that the house in which he was recording is not actually the property known as the “Houdini Mansion.” (The Red Hot Chili Peppers also recorded in this house and also believed it to be Houdini’s former home.) Nor will we tell him the sprawling gated property across the street -- which is known as the “Houdini Mansion” -- was never actually owned nor occupied by the great magician.

Now, Houdini did rent a smaller house in Laurel Canyon, which sat between these two properties, while he filmed his two silent movies for Paramount-Lasky. After his death, Bess Houdini later lived in that same house with Ed Saint for a time. But according to local Houdini expert Patrick Culliton, the house was demolished when the bluff on which it sat was graded back to widen Laurel Canyon Boulevard in the 1960s.

But we won’t tell anyone. Rock on!

Site of the real Houdini house.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Harry Handcuff Houdini reporting for duty

The website ancestry.com has launched a new section devoted to the military records of U.S. citizens from the Revolutionary War through World War II. Included among the 90 million records is a draft card filled out by Harry Handcuff Houdini (yes, he put “Handcuff” as his middle name).

Click to enlarge

Houdini registered for the draft in 1918 when he was 44-years-old. Obviously, the magician was too old to serve and was never called, but Houdini worked tirelessly during the war performing at benefits raising money for War Bonds. He also gave U.S. soldiers lessons in how to escape from German handcuffs.

The website has made much of the Houdini draft card, featuring it on their main page (below) and including it in press stories announcing the launch of the new service. Last night it was featured on The News Hour with Jim Lehrer on PBS.

www.ancestry.com

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Burglar destroys "priceless" Houdini collection in arson fire

The Cincinnati Enquirer reports that Jarrod Frederick allegedly made a priceless collection of Houdini memorabilia vanish. But the trick had nothing to do with magic. Prosecutors say it was arson.

Frederick is accused of burning down an Indian Hill home, causing $1 million damage and $350,000 in damage to property inside, including owner Dr. Randall Wolf's collection of Houdini memorabilia, said Stephen Ashbrock, chief of the Madeira and Indian Hill Joint Fire District.

"He lost nearly everything," Assistant Hamilton County Prosecutor Gerald Krumpelbeck said. Prosecutors called the collection extensive.

"There was no past contact" between Wolf and Frederick, said Indian Hill Rangers Detective Carl Watts. "He just thought it was a good house to burglarize."

Frederick's lawyer, Greg Cohen, said, "This was a total random of act of drug-induced delusion resulting, unfortunately, in the destruction of somebody's home."

Frederick, who once did lawn maintenance for Indian Hill homeowners and knew the area, dropped his wife off at Kenwood Towne Centre on Dec. 30 and headed into Indian Hill looking for an out-of-the-way place to smoke crack cocaine, Krumpelbeck said.

He found it at Wolf's $1 million, six-bedroom home on Park Road and broke in, court records say. When Frederick had trouble lighting his crack pipe, he lit a box of paperwork, hoping that would help, Krumpelbeck said. The flames quickly got out of control, reports say.

Frederick, who had parked in the garage, fled so quickly he drove through the garage door, trailing parts of it, Watts said. Police spotted Frederick driving erratically in a park.

After a brief meeting in Hamilton County Common Pleas Court this morning, Judge Dennis Helmick set the 26-year-old Clifton man's aggravated arson and burglary case for a hearing Friday.

Monday, May 7, 2007

Poster for Death Defying Acts

A new one-sheet for Death Defying Acts starring Guy Pearce and Catherine Zeta-Jones has appeared over at the Myriad Pictures website. You’d never know this was a movie about Houdini, would ya?


Death Defying Acts is a “supernatural romantic thriller” that tells the fictional story of Houdini’s relationship with a Scottish psychic played by Zeta Jones. It will be released by The Weinstein Co. sometime in 2007.

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Houdini watercolor by Robert Nelson

Robert Nelson, a highly respected contemporary painter, printmaker and collage artist, presents "Harry Houdini's Water Escape in New York City's East River 1914." This colored pencil/watercolor is part of a collection of Nelson’s work at the Beppu Wiarda Gallery in Portland, Oregon.


Nelson’s work has been the subject of over one hundred and fifty one-man shows in Philadelphia, Washington and elsewhere. His art has been included in prime contemporary exhibitions in Washington, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Philadelphia and Chicago. He was also awarded the Cezanne medal from the government of France in 1961.

Harry Houdini's Water Escape in New York City's East River 1914
Colored pencil, watercolor, mixed media on paper
42 x 29.5 inches
$2550 framed

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Houdini returns to Winston-Salem

PRESS RELEASE: In November, 1924, the world famous Harry Houdini performed at Reynolds Auditorium. On May 31, 2007 Houdini returns to Winston-Salem.

Tom Foolery Productions presents The Houdini Show a new play by Michael Huie. Performances will be May 31, June 1 and June 2 at 8 p.m. and June 3 at 2 p.m in the McChesney Scott Dunn Auditorium at SECCA at 750 Marguerite Drive in Winston-Salem, N.C. Tickets are $10 for adults and $7.50 for seniors and students, and are available at the door. Reservations are not being accepted.

Houdini died on Halloween in 1926. His secrets were closely guarded after his death, but his greatest secret was how he became Houdini. In a show that combines magic, escape and theatre, The Houdini Show reveals how a man born into poverty in a family of immigrants became one of the most famous men in the world.

The Houdini Show is directed by Wake Forest University assistant professor Brook Davis and former WFU and North Carolina School of the Arts instructor James Dodding. The play features Huie and veteran North Carolina Shakespeare Festival actor Michael Kamtman. The show is appropriate for all ages. Tom Foolery Productions also premiered their shows Jack and 3 Hats at SECCA. For more information about the show visit www.tomfoolerytheatre.com.

The Houdini Show is supported in part by a grant from the Arts Council of Winston-Salem and Forsyth County and the North Carolina Arts Council.

Monday, April 30, 2007

The Master Mystery screening in L.A., May 3

Attention all LA-based Houdini buffs. The Silent Movie Theater in West Hollywood will screen episodes from The Mastery Mystery as part of their special "Serial Queens of the Silent Screen" program this Thursday, May 3, at 8:00.

The Silent Movie Theatre is the only silent theatre in the USA. It is a vintage art deco theatre built in 1942 that has been fully restored to its original 40's deco design. Ticket can be purchased in advance from The Silent Movie Theater website.

UPDATE: It’s a little unclear from the advert above whether The Master Mystery will screen at the Silent Movie Theater itself or at a book signing at Family Bookstore before the event. I sent an email requesting clarification, but have not yet received a reply.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

A restoration that’s a revelation

Houdini fans were pleased last year when Alpha Video finally released a DVD of Houdini’s 1922 film, The Man From Beyond. However, I’m here to tell you the Alpha release this is by no means a definitive version of this film. Not by a long shot.

That distinction belongs to Bruce Cardozo’s new The Man From Beyond Restored, which offers the best quality and the most complete print of this movie ever presented.

I’ll let Bruce -- an expert in silent cinema and a film professional with over 30 years visual effects and restoration experience -- explain how he tackled his first Houdini film:

“Alpha Video's version is basically off the British release which is missing the original Main Titles, several other titles and a few scenes. The American Release of the film (which is what is being sold by my eBay competitors) is in worse shape than the Alpha Video release and had several scenes censored that were in the British Release. They include: the sexual innuendo during the chess scene, the shots of the hypodermic needle and the ghost scenes. These scenes may have been censored when the film was re-issued.
The source material was so poor that most companies won't even touch it. Early on the project, I brought it to one of the top restoration companies in Hollywood. They put parts of it thru a $250,000 piece of equipment. I thought the project was beyond what I have in my home office. Well, the results were terrible! So bad, in fact they gave me money back! That's when I invested in additional software to tackle the project here.
I used very high end software that seeked out almost every piece of dirt. Then I spent months doing hand repairs and stabilization. The restoration was 6 months very grueling work. There are some shots I redid many many times. But the final results are worth it!
The film literally comes alive with the restoration and music. I used a special Music program called Sonic Fire that literally composes music to film. And I based the composition on the music notes in the pressbook. People have told me it is like watching a different movie. Houdini is riveting with a proper presentation!”

Having just watched this DVD alongside the Alpha version, I concur! Highest praise goes to the new music and the stabilization. This really does make it a new experience. And it’s GREAT to finally see the original main title cards.

My one and only quibble is the recreation of some title cards. While this does make some unreadable cards readable and the font matches exactly, I’m a purist in this sense and want to see the original titles as photographed, regardless of quality. I miss those big looping question marks.

As a bonus, Bruce has included the full The Man From Beyond pressbook as 300dpi PDF, and a rare program flyer for The Master Mystery. Also, this DVD includes complete and uncut footage of Houdini escaping from a straight jacket in Dayton, Ohio. I’ve see bits of this footage, but never the whole escape, start to finish, filmed in long shot. What’s cool is at one point we can see a cameraman set up on the ledge and shoot the closeup footage that we see most often in documentaries.

The escape is followed by dynamite footage of a very happy Houdini taking bows to the cameras as Jim Collins tries to hustle him away (pic below). This bonus footage alone makes this DVD a must!


The Man From Beyond Restored can be purchased on Amazon.com.

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