|Bess and her ice man in 1927|
A year after her husband's death, Bess took to the Vaudeville stage with an effect that Houdini is said to have been working on but could never perfect -- Frozen in Ice.
The act was more of a physical endurance test rather than an escape, not dissimilar to what David Blaine would perform in 2000. Bess oversaw as a Sioux Indian named "Waka Tanka", clad in a rubber suit, was frozen in a large container of ice. The container would be taken away to reveal a solid block. After 15 minutes, a hole would be chopped to expose the man's face, proving that he really was Frozen in Ice.
Bess previewed the effect for press in a vacant store at 420 West Fifty-third Street in Manhattan in late December 1927, which is where this photograph was taken. The New York Times reported that Bess planned to combine the trick with an act that included escaping from handcuffs and a straitjacket.
|David Blaine's version|
72 years later
Patrick Culliton in his book The Tao of Houdini revealed one last wrinkle to Bess's Frozen Alive stunt. The "Sioux Indian" in the ice was supposedly Charles Myers aka Edward Saint.
This weekend we are Wild About Bess.
UPDATE (4/14/11): Pat Culliton tells me he's discovered the man in the ice was not Ed Saint afterall.