Sunday, August 5, 2012

Shelton pool test anniversary

Today is the anniversary of Houdini's famous test in the pool of the Hotel Shelton in New York City on August 5, 1926. In a bid to outdo and expose the "mystic" Rahman Bey, Houdini remained sealed in a submerged casket, which contained only a limited amount of air, for a full 91 minutes. He attributed his survival to remaining calm and controlled breathing and not to any trickery or supernatural power.

The Shelton Test is sometimes called "Houdini's last trick", although we now know he repeated the test at the Worcester YMCA and did a non-submerged version at Summerfield's department store. Still, it was certainly Houdini's last wildly covered publicity stunt, and anticipated the public endurance tests of modern magicians like David Blaine.

The New York American, August 6, 1926

A wonderful first hand account of test written by Houdini himself can be read at the blog Letters of Note. The Hotel Shelton is today the Marriott New York East Side, but the hotel restaurant still bares the name "Shelton Grill." The pool where Houdini performed his famous test was filled in in the early 2000s.


Houdini's Shelton test is being recognized today on other blogs such as Slice The Life and Jewish Currents, who I have to thank for reminding me of this anniversary.

10 comments:

  1. Another great blog, John! Thanks for posting the link to Letters of Note. I had a swell time reading Houdini's letter to Dr. McConnell.

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  2. I wonder if the theory is true of Houdini getting some air from the phone line connected to his submerged casket. Do you think that theory has some merit?
    Thanks and keeping up the great work.

    Pete

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    1. That was actually brought up within days of the event. To disprove it, he planned to use a casket with a glass top for the Worcester test and use hand signals instead of a phone.

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  3. Has anyone come up with anything concerning the Worchester stunt? There must have been at the very least local coverage and along with it newspaper articles. Also would it not make sense that additional stunts took place between Sept 30 and the date Houdini fractured his ankle doing the USD? Assume no stunts occurred after his ankle was broken.

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  4. http://www.houdinisghost.com/worcesterymca.html
    From John Cox's blog.

    Pete

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  5. I should of said the link was on John's site to houdinisghost.com

    Pete

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  6. I'm talking about the stunt in front of Summerfields store. The question is....is that a dead Houdini in the glass topped box or Houdini doing his last buried alive stunt in front of Summerfields? I say the evidence indicates the pic was taken during the stunt. Only question is what Houdini is wearing inside the box.....strange to me. We need a newspaper clip from that day to be sure.

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    1. No newspaper account of the Summerfields stunt. The photo may or may not be from that event.

      Worcester stunt:
      http://www.wildabouthoudini.com/2010/01/uncovering-houdinis-forgotten-second.html

      Summerfields stunt:
      http://www.wildabouthoudini.com/2011/07/uncovering-houdinis-third-air-tight.html

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  7. Yes....I've read these excellent posts. Can't someone in the area from where that last stunt cured check out a city library for a newspaper article?

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