Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Murray poster at auction

Ever hear of Murray?

Murray was an Australian escape artist who claimed to have coined the word, "escapologist." He really did some spectacular escapes (such as being bound in a straightjacket and thrown into a lions cage). Murray's career kicked-in after Houdini's death in the late '20s. In many ways, he was a very worthy successor. In 1974, Val Andrews wrote a nice biography of Murray, which I devoured as a kid.

Yeah, I've always had a minor thing for Murray.

Currently there is a signed Murray poster on eBay. Too bad it doesn't feature any escape imagery (but he is drinking a beer, so...). When I saw this this morning, it brought back some memories. Think I'll dig out that Andrews bio and give it another read.

16 comments:

  1. I took one of these with me to the Cannon's Convention last year, it was signed by Murray to David Deval. I can't remember who bought it from me though!

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  2. I'd love to find a Murray poster that features some escape imagery. I could maybe even afford one (which is certainly not the case with Houdini posters).

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  3. He invented a word ... he has a beer in his hand ... he can only be an Australian. I've never heard of this person before so will need to do some reading.

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  4. Oh yes. I knew the old crook very well. He was a wonderful man. I have written a fair bit about him in my memoirs entitled "The Lives of a Showman"

    Mark Lewis

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  5. Ah, cool! Thanks Mark. I'll have to get your book.

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  6. In that case I suppose I had better do a plug for it. I am a pitchman after all. The Murray stuff is on pages 114-121
    http://www.marklewisentertainment.com/html/magicians.html

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  7. http://www.marklewisentertainment.com/html/magicians.html

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  8. Excellent. Thank you for the link, Mark.

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  9. Brian James SmithApril 12, 2011 at 3:00 PM

    I met Murray in the mid-Eighties when he had a magic shop in Blackpool, England. I used to do a bit of magic as a kid and would visit his shop for some tricks. The shop was amazing!

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  10. That's sensational, Brian. You met a legend! I never knew he had a magic shop in Blackpool. Interesting. Thanks.

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  11. I met him at Murray's Magic Mart in Blackpool as a kid in 1974 and bought my first set of linking rings there. I ended up doing odd jobs at his house in the school summer holidays as he and his wife (Marion?) were quite frail. He showed me thick scrap books full of cuttings, and I remember him saying that he had performed in 92 countries! I recall that he said that he had coined the term 'escapology', and recently we checked on this on the UK TV word-based gameshow 'Countdown' which I guest on, and the origin seemed to be Australia in the 30's, although I know there is some disagreement about that. Apparently he was known as Murray as he originated from the Murray River district. I'm guessing that as a kid he would be about the right age to have seen and been influenced by Houdini on his 1910 tour down under. I still have a copy of this poster which he signed to me.

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  12. Thanks for the memory, Stranger. Great story!

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  13. Just to comment on this old post further. Since this is a Houdini blog I have to mention that Murray really had an intense dislike of Houdini. If you mentioned him he would snort "Who is Houdini? Is he an acrobat?" In Murray's heyday the press would refer to him as "a second Houdini" which used to infuriate him. He used to say, "I am NOT Houdini the second. I am Murray the first!"

    He would complain that all sorts of biographies were written about Houdini and that the authors never actually knew him. He would complain that Houdini was really a card magician more than anything else. He also claimed that one of the reasons he detested Houdini is that he would arrange to have awkward challengers on stage taken backstage and beaten up.

    Nevertheless he told me that he got first interested in escape work after seeing Houdini perform when he was ten years old. I challenged him on this wherupon he responded, "anyone impresses you when you are ten years old". He had conveniently forgotten that he had previously told me that he had seen Houdini perform and wasn't the slightest bit impressed.

    One day I was astonished to see on sale in his shop something called "The Houdini card trick". I ribbed him about this because the very name "Houdini" used to irrite him. He snorted and said, "Well, I haven't sold any and I am not surprised"

    I actually met John Mulholland when I was a young magician who was very uncomplimentary about Houdini whom he knew well. He said, "Houdini was mishandling the funds of the S.A.M and I was the only one brave enough to speak out about it". I have no idea what he was referring to but there it is for what it is worth.

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    Replies
    1. Thank you, Mark. Very interesting info.

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  14. I first met Murray in 1956 when I was only seven at his shop which was then situated in King Street, opposite the stage door of the Hippodrome Theatre (which later became the ABC, then the Syndicate Nightclub). From that early meeting I became a regular weekly visitor to ‘Murray’s Magic Mart’ (which eventually relocated to larger premises on Cookson St.) and a friendship evolved between us that lasted up until his death.

    After him helping me to develop a prop magic act it was he who decided that I should do a publicity escape stunt to get my name known, namely the Under Water Packing Crate escape. He regarded the fact that I could not swim as only a minor detail. I did the ‘escape’ in Blackpool’s Stanley Park lake and realised that escapology was what I wanted to specialise in and Murray was more than willing to give me sage advice and ideas, especially when I started doing suspension escapes.

    Bearing in mind his dislike for Houdini as mentioned by Mark Lewis, Murray was quite gleeful when I secured permission to do three suspension escapes whilst hanging upside down from the top of the Blackpool Tower as Houdini had been refused permission to hang from the Tower when he appeared in Blackpool (June1905). I was honoured that Murray insisted on watching my escapes at the Tower (1983) and my wedding hanging from the Blackpool Tower in 1985.

    Over all the years Murray and I talked, he would mention some of the exciting things he had done during his career and I was privileged to read (and make copies) of his press books which substantiated his accounts. Murray had two wonderful sayings he often used, “I am the worlds second greatest escapologist --- well as everyone else in the business claims to be the world’s greatest then I must be the second greatest” and “self promotion is no recommendation”.

    As for Murray posters, the only ones that seem to have been produced for him were the one as shown on this page, a really large one coloured orange, grey and B&W showing him holding a pair of handcuffs. I have both of these (for sale too). There was another, in full colour which contained a montage of some of his breathtaking escapes. It is shown in the Val Andrews book. There was only one surviving copy of this, which used to be on display in his first shop and I think his family now have it.

    As this wonderful website is primarily dedicated to Houdini I should mention that Houdini appeared at the Blackpool Hippodrome from June 12th –17th in 1905. Having been refused to hang from the Blackpool Tower he settled on doing a police cell escape and on Wednesday the 14th he accepted a challenge and escaped from a packing case on the Hippodrome stage. I have a copy of the original flyer which includes all the details of the challenge.

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