Sunday, May 5, 2013

A new twist in Houdini vs. Houdina


The story of Houdini's altercation at the Houdina Company in New York is well-known. It's a Rashomon-like tale in which, according to the owners, Houdini burst into their office wild-eyed, accused them of using his name, and started to break the place apart.

Houdini's version of the story is that he and his secretary, Oscar Teale, went down to the Houdina office to object to the use of the name because he was receiving their bills. He was threatened by four "Gorillas" and a scuffle broke out.

Said Houdini, "Two of the men started towards me and two were behind. Teale was thrown up against the wall, staggering. Had no idea I was smashing up chandeliers. All I thought was to save myself. I picked up a chair and acted in real life the scenes that I have portrayed before the camera."

The incident made the New York Times on July 22, 1925:


But now our friend Dean Carnegie at The Magic Detective has uncovered a remarkable third version of the story. Dean has been in contact with the son of Francis P. Houdina (a fictitious name) who says the entire thing was staged!

You'll have to visit Dean's site to read the details of this latest twist in our Rashomon tale, but this is a major discovery. My only reservation is that, as you can read above, the incident resulted in legal action. Sure, Houdini frequently staged events...but to involve the legal system in a publicity stunt? Seems even Houdini wouldn't have crossed that line.

Nevertheless, Dean's evidence is compelling and this is a true scoop, so click on over and read Clearing the name of HOUDINA at The Magic Detective.

9 comments:

  1. Nice still image(298-26)from the GG and great detective work by Dean! Thanks for sharing.

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  2. John, the legal action was a red light to me too, but in the end, when Houdini went to court, no one from the Francis Houdina business showed up, so the charges were dismissed. Or at least that is the story that appeared in the newspapers.

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    1. It's interesting that it was probably a more beneficial publicity stunt for the Houdina Co. and their invention. Could have also been a way to stop the confusion, if that really was an issue. Great stuff, Dean! With this you've gone a step beyond Silverman and Kalush. That's saying something.

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  3. Houdini wrote a letter to T. Nelson Downs on July 30, 1925 describing this incident. It includes the episode with the "gorillas" that attacked him and the smashed up chandeliers. The letter is on page 126 of Walter Gibson's Original Houdini Scrapbook.

    If this was a hoax, then Houdini lied to Downs. Why would he lie to Downs about this in a private letter?

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    1. Oh, that letter is in Gibson? Thanks. I culled quotes for the above from Silverman and Kalush.

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  4. If Houdini wrote a private letter describing the incident there is no way this was a publicity stunt. There would be no reason to mention it if this was all it really was. I'd like to know after so many years ...88 years ........how does any relative know anything about it? Are there written documents/correspondence between Houdini and the owner of the company that definitively points to a fix?

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  5. This is no new news, check out the Emporia Gazette july22,1925, page two. It states in there that it was known this was staged!

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    1. Nice find, but I don't see where it says that. That article seems to be saying pretty much same thing as the one above.
      http://newspaperarchive.com/emporia-gazette/1925-07-22/page-2

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  6. See scoundrelsform.comphp?topic=829.0wap2( Scoundrels form,Houdini's Voice)scroll down to Associated Press. States Handcuff King Is Accused of Staging off-stage performance.

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