Wednesday, November 23, 2011

SOLD! Houdini straitjacket captures $46,980 at Christie's

The Houdini straitjacket which first surfaced on the popular TV show Pawn Stars sold today at Christie's in London for $46,980 (including buyers premium).

The straitjacket -- which Houdini used for several of his outdoor suspended escapes -- was given to Paul J. Campbell, a salesman for Fleetwood Coffee, by Houdini's brother, Theo. Hardeen, in late 1927 or early 1928. It remained in the Campbell family and was unknown to the Houdini world until last May when it appeared on Pawn Stars. There it was authenticated by magician Murray SawChuck using a photo of Houdini (below) from which he was able to match specific stitching on the jacket.

Pawn Stars star Rick Harrison made an offer of $25,000, but the owner refused and instead listed it on eBay with a starting price of $149,000. There it cycled twice without selling. The jacket was then entered into Christie's Pop Culture: Film & Entertainment Memorabilia auction in London, where it ended its journey today.

One question that remains for me is why Hardeen would give this important Houdini artifact to Campbell, who doesn't appear to have been a magician or even a magic buff. The seller of the jacket says he played with it as a kid, not understanding the value or significance. Maybe in 1928 Hardeen didn't realize the value of his brother's props just yet and was simply looking to get rid of a straitjacket that didn't fit him? Or is it possible that Dash, who was known to be a gambler, gave Campbell this as payment for a gambling debt? If so, it paid off today!

The auction also featured several other Houdini items, including a green sack, also given to Campbell by Hardeen. The auction simply described it as being "used by Harry Houdini for escapology tricks", but I'm wondering if this could have been one of the sacks Houdini used during Metamorphosis? If so, its final auction sale price of $1,958 was a steal!

Congrats to the buyer of this major Houdini artifact.



  1. Sid Radner had told me at one point the story you are now detailing
    that Theo Hardeen had a Cronic gambling problem . i believe at one point in time Hardeen had promised him the Jacket .

    ...Some where in all of this Radner & Hardeen had a brief "falling out and Hardeen gave/Sold the jacket to Campbell .
    Radner attempted to locate p.J. Cambell attempts to trade cuffs or other Houdini menmoriablea in exchange for the jacket.
    .Im not sure what ever happened after this .

    Michael Lee

  2. Really? That's interesting. The seller says Campbell got the jacket from Dash in 27/28. I don't think Sid came to know Dash until the 1940s. But it could be that Sid knew Dash had given away the jacket early on and tried to find Campbell. Or maybe Campbell didn't get it until later. Interesting to know Sid coveted this jacket.

    BTW, the seller says his father got the jacket, the sack, AND a pair of Houdini handcuffs that are now lost.

  3. I am pretty sure the lost Houdini handcuffs are in my collection.

  4. I met Radner in the 80s when he had mentioned this to me ,memories fade in time but this must have been a sore spot for him to bring it up...
    Still from his stories about Houdini & Hardeen it was very obvious he was an admirer of both men.

    Michael Lee

  5. I love harry . For Halloween I was him as a tribute to hos death. If I could touch his jacket it would fill me with joy I talk to him every night I love him

  6. As a young man, I idolized HH, then one Halloween night, my appendix burst. I was sure that I was going to die...

  7. Hi John, Any idea who bought the jacket?

  8. Hey, I know that jacket! Paul J. Campbell was my great grandfather.

    1. Really? Cool. So you've been in he jacket, I take it?

    2. I'm willing to pay 100k for jacket! 8009876711 Gerald Lasowski

  9. One item Jon Oliver did not get his hands on.

  10. That mannequin torso is also guilty of Straitjacket Fail!



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